What effect are the events of 2020 having on copywriters around the world?

I’m going to cut to the chase. The world is going through a complete shitstorm. For many reasons. But of all the shit that’s raging, the hardest felt on our day-to-day lives is COVID-19. It’s stolen jobs, kept us from family and friends and has sent the global economy into a tailspin.

To find out how the pandemic has (still is) affecting copywriters around the world, Kate Toon’s Clever Copywriting School 2020 copywriters survey has a coronavirus slant. Here’s a snapshot of what the report uncovered.

About the survey and who took part

As mentioned, the survey was organised by Kate Toon and run in collaboration with The Research Toolkit. Conducted between May 13 and May 25 2020, a total of 214 people took part. The survey asked copywriters from around the world to contribute. In previous years it’s only been open to Australian-based copywriters. A total of 35% of participants were from outside Australia.

How has COVID-19 affected the copywriting community?

With economies shutting down and companies slashing jobs and budgets, you’d think the only effect the pandemic could have is a bad one. But the survey results show this isn’t the case.

A total of 28% of copywriters reported that COVID-19 was only having a small effect on their business, while 13% said they experienced no difference at all. This is good to hear, but it’s the experience of less than half of us. For the majority of copywriters, COVID-19 has had a big impact (26%) or medium impact (33%) on business.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes is the number of hours we’re working. According to the 2019 copywriters survey we were working an average of 19 hours per week. It’s a very different picture this year.

Since the pandemic hit in March, 44% of copywriters are working fewer hours than before. For 23% the cut in work time is a staggering 50% to 69% difference.

copywriter-2020-survey-changed-working-hours

Image from The Clever Copywriting School 2020 Copywriters Survey

What are the reasons for the drop? Well, for 47% of us there’s simply less work in our diary. Clients are pressing pause on marketing projects or cancelling. But this isn’t the only reason.

Many of us have had to reallocate time. Two in five (43%) are using the working hours and days for homeschooling. I’d wage high numbers are also exchanging work time to care for family and neighbours or simply because productivity levels dropped off to make way for much-needed self-care.

Interestingly, less work and fewer hours haven’t been the story of the pandemic for every copywriter. Around one in four people have more work than they did before COVID-19. I have a couple of theories why.

  1. Businesses need COVID-19 specific messaging and the rules were changing (and continue to change) at such a pace that messages are quickly out of date and need rewriting.
  2. Lockdown laws and forced closures gave companies enough breathing room to work on projects they didn’t previously have time for.

The impact on fees, how we charge and receiving payments

Recession was inevitable. So how are we coping to meet the altered budgets and spending power of our clients, while still earning a living?

The survey reveals that a massive 76% have kept their rates the same. Rather than dropping prices, one in four copywriters has adapted to ‘the new normal’ by making changes to the services they offer or creating a lower-priced package. A service that suits the times and encourages work to keep flowing in.

There are some excellent soundbites in the report about what people have been doing to drum up business, attract new clients and make the lives of existing clients easier.

When it comes to getting paid, things still seem to be running smoothly with 65% happily saying clients are still paying on time. One in four (23%), however, have noticed some clients are late paying. With everything that’s been going on and the fact that the majority of us (74%) work for the hard-hit small business sector, this isn’t surprising.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard a handful of horror stories about clients using the pandemic as an excuse to simply not pay. Thankfully, this is the exception, not the rule. In the communities I’m part of, there seem to be lots of positive conversations happening between writer and client about ways to make paying easier.  For example, extending payment terms and setting up instalment payment plans.

See all of the results from the 2020 copywriters survey

There’s more to find out including:

  • Clients – what type of work copywriters are doing and for who
  • The positive and negative emotions we’ve been experiencing over the last few months
  • Where we’re now looking for work (some clear changes from 2019)
  • Experience and professional development – how are we improving ourselves to improve our industry.