When should a web copywriter work for free?

Giveaway signIn common with many freelance copywriters, I get quite a few enquiries from people asking me to do some free web copywriting for them. Occasionally the answer might be ‘yes’, but mostly it’s ‘no’.

That’s why I love this flowchart from Jessica Hische. She’s pretty much nailed the decision-making process I go through when considering whether I should give up my time for free.

If you’re a fellow freelancer, read it and laugh, cry or chuckle in that cynical way that only world-weary freelancers can. If you’re a potential client, take a look too – maybe it’ll give you an insight into what life working freelance is like. Or maybe it’ll just give you a laugh. Either’s good.

Large version here. Hat tip to the always-amazing swissmiss.

(Image from Newsbie Pix under a Creative Commons Attribution licence.)

Travel the Trans-Siberian from your computer

Russian train

I have a bit of a thing for train journeys. Back in 2006 I travelled from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian railway. The journey takes around a week if you do it non-stop, but I spent about a month covering the 10,000-or-so kilometres. Although the romance of the rails might be all but dead in the UK, it certainly lives on in Russia.

It was one of the best journeys I can imagine. I shared a compartment (and vodka) with a bunch of Russian wrestlers, made friends with a cider-drinking man called Vladimir who helped me buy a new camera, then discovered the greatest lake in the world before arriving in Vladivostok, a wonderful city perched on the edge of the Pacific.

However, despite having some amazing stuff to see, the Russian government seems to have next to no interest in promoting the country as a tourist destination. The visa application alone is enough to put most people off, so it’s good that Google Russia has stepped up with its amazing online tour of the railway.

What they basically seem to have done is to stick a camera out the window for the entire journey, chopped the film down into manageable chunks, then wired the whole thing up to a map with highlights marked. It means you can jump between points on the journey, get additional information, and generally experience the bits of the trip you’re most interested in, from your desktop.

Now this is never going to be as good as doing it for real (trust me on this one), but the lack of flashy graphics and tourist board-supplied hype does make it a great way to get a taste for one of the greatest train journeys in the world. Go take a look for yourself.

(There are also a bunch of photos from my trip on Flickr, but be warned – I never got round to typing in descriptions of each photo!)

Best of the web for writers: 12 February

Here are a few interesting links I’ve spotted (and, er, created myself) lately in the worlds of writing, online marketing and creative type stuff:

  • Over at True Business, Nick Saalfeld has taken a close look at the red hot competition between price comparison sites. He’s written a good breakdown of the branding efforts of the companies in this market, but do be wary of playing the Go Compare advert he’s put up. The tune will stick in your head for hours.
  • I’ve mentioned the myth of the fold before, but thanks to @paulahillier for tweeting this visual explanation of how important the fold is (or, more accurately, isn’t) in web design. Bookmark it for the next time someone insists everything must be squished into the very top of their site.
  • Finally, excuse the self promotion, but here’s a quick heads up on a couple of things I’ve done lately. First off, I’m really pleased with my plain-English copywriting contract. Grab a copy and use it however you like – maybe you can adapt it for your business. Secondly, I’ve written a similarly simple answer to the question: what is cloud computing?

Spotted anything you think I might be interested in? Let me know in the comments.