ABC journalist reflecting on the mistake he made in his freelance copywriter article
Photo by Francisco De Legarreta C. / Unsplash

Two major ABC mistakes: notes from a freelance B2B copywriter

Are copywriters the AI guinea pig for the rest of the white-collar working world? Two important factors are missing from the public conversation.

Freelance B2B copywriters have time travelled to the future. We’re feeling the impact of AI tools before most of the workforce.

Why? Because freelancers generally feel the effects of labour market changes before employees and content writing is one of the most popular use cases for mass-adopted generative AI tools like ChatGPT.

This post isn’t a rant about how AI is stealing my work. I’m a big fan and use it every day to increase my productivity. I think it will be as transformative as the Industrial Revolution.

In fact, I believe any business owner not familiarising themselves with AI risks being left behind.

But I don’t think the technology, as it currently stands, is a like-for-like replacement for a human copywriter. 

This week the ABC published an article exploring how much the technology is really impacting copywriters and creative freelancers, how we’re adapting (or not), and why our experience could shed some light on the future for other white-collar workers.

But it completely missed two key discussion points…

Originality and compliance challenges. 

As a freelance B2B copywriter, these factors drive my business strategy and dominate my conversations with clients.

Original thought

Originality matters in B2B copywriting. It’s not just about standing out (although that’s important); originality helps businesses establish trust, authority and a unique brand voice.

This becomes even more important in a saturated market like fintech or property, where differentiating your brand can directly influence business success. 

When your marketing materials speak directly to your audience and highlight your perspective or specific solutions, you build credibility with potential clients. They’re more likely to remember and like you.

To create copy that speaks to your target audience, data and insights need to be collected first. This requires thorough research and talking to customers. 

But couldn’t you feed this information into a generative AI tool?

Yes, you could. 

But what it produces is not original or nuanced.

If you ask ChatGPT to draft content for you, even with specific data and prompts, nine times out of 10 it uses repetitive phrases and copies blocks of information from websites it’s crawled or information it’s been fed.

Magai and Claude are slightly better. But the risk of inadvertently producing content that already exists has skyrocketed.

I know what you’re thinking…I’m biased.

Of course I am. I’m hyper aware of what AI-written copy looks like and I have skin in the copywriting game.

But I’m not blind. I understand some businesses might not care if their copy isn’t original, especially those with lower budgets or alternative sales funnels.

Personally, I mostly work with lawyers, finance and corporate companies. Experts that provide valuable, tailored services that often require a large investment.

Their clients won’t respond to unoriginal, unspecific website copy, emails, brochures or blog posts. 100% AI-written copy will not have a meaningful impact for their sales pipeline.

It will lack cultural nuance and emotional intelligence: important elements of an effective marketing campaign that are overlooked by generative AI tools.

We need these human qualities to write compelling, original content that deeply resonates with the specific audience we are targeting.

I’m not saying AI is useless for content marketing.

But as it stands, it cannot fully replicate the depth and originality of human-written content.

The plagiarism problem

You’ve also got to consider the reputational risk of plagiarism.

Besides the fact that unoriginal copy is unlikely to do the job you want it to, it’s not a good look to replicate someone else’s work.

The integrity of content is important. Increasingly, I see brands mandating all copy written by a freelancer or agency is vetted through plagiarism detection tools.

This trend underscores the growing concern over content authenticity, with a noticeable increase in job advertisements explicitly requesting ‘no AI’ content. 

Demand is growing for genuinely original work that AI-generated content might not always guarantee.

SEO and AI: doomed?

The other factor to consider here is SEO.

Google’s most recent update added new guidance in its Helpful Content Self Assessment, including:

  • Is your content written or reviewed by an expert/enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Are you changing the date of pages to make them seem fresh when the content has not substantially changed?
  • Why did you write this piece of content? 

While Google has made it clear that your content doesn’t have to be wholly written by a person to rank well, it should be written or reviewed by an expert.

The search engine wants to see content that is useful for humans, answers real questions and offers useful advice.

Sometimes, that advice can be generic. But helpful content in more technical, complex or regulated topics/industries requires expert, nuanced, human-led copy. The ability to write content that is emotionally intelligent is also important here.

Copywriting in regulated industries

Highly regulated industries like finance, law and health have compliance considerations that are important when considering how AI is changing the freelance copywriting landscape.

The article’s reporter James Purtill described how some copywriters are pivoting towards marketing consulting (which many of us already do) and selling AI courses, but didn’t discuss growing interest in industries that are ‘AI proof’.

Many copywriters I know are changing their specialism, or niching down after years of generalising, to focus on more regulated industries where accuracy is vital.

The intricacies of financial regulations or patient privacy laws in healthcare require a level of judgment and nuance that AI, at this stage, can't guarantee.

It’s too risky for marketing teams to trust ChatGPT or Claude; errors can be costly.

Interestingly, freelance job advertisements in these areas will often include a ‘no AI’ clause. This time not to avoid plagiarism, but to reduce the risk of inaccurate, non-compliant information being included in content. 

It’s a curious shift in the writing landscape as freelancers look for the most sustainable areas to work in. None of us have a crystal ball; we don’t know what’s coming down the track. I’m sure AI tools will improve as developers tackle hallucinations and more data is fed to the machines. 

It makes sense for business owners to being targeting the industries with the most longevity – luckily for me, my experience is in writing for regulated sectors.

So, what’s the future of freelance B2B copywriting?

The ABC piece concluded human expertise is still valuable and cited a recent MIT study that reported AI won’t replace as many jobs as first predicted.

I agree (although can only speak from experience within the creative industry).

The interplay between AI and human creativity is nuanced. 

The purpose of this piece isn’t to undermine AI or copywriting, but to highlight important factors the ABC didn’t fully explore.

Ultimately, I don’t buy into the idea that AI is coming for my job. I think it’s shifting the goal posts and turning copywriting into a robot/human collaboration. 

The technology helps me proof faster, automate systems and brainstorm, but creative thinking, plagiarism issues and emotional intelligence mean there’s still money to be made.

If you’re looking for original B2B content, please get in touch.

Written by

Caroline Voaden
ABC journalist reflecting on the mistake he made in his freelance copywriter article
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