ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to learn your way around the commercial writing environment

Updated on May 12, 2012

The first thing you need to know about commercial writing is that it is as much about business as about writing. The actual types of writing vary enormously, but the big difference is that you are really providing business materials for other people. These materials can include things like ad copy, technical writing materials, magazine articles, web copy and almost anything that can actually be turned into written materials.

The absolute basics of the commercial writing environment

There’s one fundamental principle in commercial writing you must understand-

Writing for other people is absolutely nothing like writing for yourself.

If, like me, you're a natural creative writer like a book author, it can be quite hard to adjust. Although I'm a second-generation writer (my mother was a professional writer) and I did have some understanding of the commercial realities of writing, actually doing it can come as quite a shock.

The big differences are:

1. Other people’s priorities- You may be a good writer, but as a writer, you can’t know the whole story about what’s going on at the receiving end. Your editors and clients have their own issues, and you really shouldn’t try to dictate to those priorities. They may not make much sense to you as the writer, but you should respect the fact that you don’t know their side of things.

2. Business issues- Commercial writing is all about business for you and your clients. You’re not on holiday. You’re providing business materials for people whose livelihoods may depend on your ad copy, SEO articles, or whatever. Respect these very important facts, because your income may also depend on them.

3. Communications issues- There’s no such thing as perfect communication, particularly in business. Some people are terrible communicators. You’ll need to go looking for answers to your questions, because you’ll always have a few at least. Be patient and tactfully persistent, but get the answers you need.

4. Clients not understanding writing issues- Non-writers don’t understand the issues involved in writing. That’s the basic rule of commercial writing. Many clients will have some basic idea of the problems, but be prepared for total incomprehension. You’ll have to do some more “communicating”.

5. Restrictions on writing- The bureaucratic approach of non-writers to writing is to find a formula. They honestly believe that style is programmable. This rather naïve belief happens to ignore the fact that it’s unique material, not formula slop, which people read. You will have to make a judgement call on whether you can tolerate the restrictions. If intolerable, move on. If not, “communicate” again.

6. Impossible clients- These pests are simply a reality of commercial writing. My very first client on Elance changed the entire style of the articles after the first batch. He then wanted to use phrases like “easy peasy” (which I won’t use at gunpoint) in web copy. He then complained when I did five topics before deadline. Result, exit from contract.

7. Non-paying clients- Always check for any complaints of non-payment from writers about a prospective client. The rule is “no pay, no work and yell like hell”. Never break this rule.

8. Relationships are critical- Never be casual or offhand about your clients and their needs. Go into depth with your clients, understand their needs and wants, and above all be objective and positive. Even if you’re not a “people person”, make the effort. It will be worth it. It’ll keep your clients.

For the record- One of my most rewarding and most interesting relationships with a client is with a guy whose English was very shaky when I first met him online. I wasn’t sure it would last. It’s lasted for years and I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for him. He recently wrote a fascinating book in English (which I was privileged to proofread for him) and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Clients can also be very good friends and you can learn a lot from them.

One more thing, and it’s very important- You’ll always be learning more about all these issues in commercial writing. Situations vary, but knowing the basics is a good risk management tool. To be forewarned, in this case, can save you a lot of stress and often a lot of money. Learning what to look out for is the most important issue, hence this article.

I hope this is some use to aspiring commercial writers. It should be, because it all comes from experience. I had to learn these things the hard way. I hope I’ve at least saved new writers some time and perhaps some suffering.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      rahul- Give me a yell if you need any help.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      It is so nice of you to share your experiences which help newbies like me to extents I cannot express

      Thank you

    • Paul Wallis profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Wallis 

      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      xstatic and rmcleve and any other writers- Very happy to help, and drop me a line if you need any help.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I read every word and took it to heart. Thanks for the great insights and for sharing your experiences! It has been a big help to this new writer over here.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      6 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Well written and hard-earned lessons that you pass on here to those of trying to break in to a way to earn some income by writing.

      Thank You! Up & shared too!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)