Who’s The Boss…A Copywriter Or The Folks Who Give Him Money?
If you’re an up and coming copywriter, this blog post could turn out to be a rare jewel indeed – a blog post worth reading, understanding and acting upon. Please allow my misfortune to benefit you in your quest towards copywriting greatness.
I know it’s kind of a rant, and a long one, but stay tuned, enjoy the story of my misery and learn the lesson: Who’s The Boss? (And if you’re the guy I’m talking about – scroll down to see what I REALLY think)
Although, I can’t complain too much, I’m the kind of guy who sees a lot of positives in most experiences, rather than negatives. This is partly why I don’t have many friends outside the marketing world.
Here’s what happened – guy contacts me, looking for a copywriter. Now, I’m not your well-known Dan Kennedy/Pete Godfrey/John Carlton kind of guy who everyone knows, and so he wants to see some work samples, some testimonials, etc. Cool, I got those, they’re on my Copywriting Services page you can see above.
Here’s why I wasn’t about to go out of my way to land this client – he made me fully and painfully aware, right from the start, money was a factor. Said he didn’t have a lot of cashflow to spare, couldn’t afford to hire a top copywriter and so a mutual friend recommended me.
I’m happy to do smaller jobs of course, I’d rather send my friend a larger referral fee but I’m not too busy to take on small clients. If we’re on the same page.
Unfortunately, as you have probably guessed, we weren’t.
First sign of trouble, first sharp pain in the back of my head – the Copywriting Services page wouldn’t load for him. Apparently I was “losing customers” because he couldn’t get the page to load. After some deliberation, via both email and phone, I ended up sending him some materials directly via email, in a ZIP file.
Which he “couldn’t open”.
OK, call your tech guy, I’m in marketing, not tech support. After more dramas he’s now saying it’s opened “weird”, whatever that means, but he can at least see something, so we’re making some progress at last.
Little did I know that I was in for more teeth grinding annoyance, almost immediately. After taking advantage of my natural reluctance to hang up the phone on him, I quote his project, and believe me, I knew it was too low a price for too much work. Especially as I was ignoring my instincts, which were screaming at me that I’d be rewriting good sales copy into a blander mush he “preferred”.
OK, so I’ve given him a steep discount, after buying his “poor me” story. Apparently he’s not happy with that amount though, he’s happy to pay a figure which is about 20% lower.
Oh, and my payment terms are not to his liking either. I get 50% up front, which gives me incentive to finish the project on time and to spec, and keeps away the bum clients. (hint hint). No, see, what he’s gonna do is pay me 10% up front, then another chunk after I finish one part of the project, then some other undefined chunks later on.
The kicker is, I agreed to get started an unheard-of week after I sent the proposal, because time’s a factor, and I also wanted to finish the project before I go on holiday at the end of this month. I’m not about to pretend I’m so swamped that all projects have to wait 3 months.
So here’s the deal: I slash my fees to accommodate you, and you get to decide they can come down again, and you also get to decide when you’re gonna pay me, plus I gotta work my butt off to get everything done in a short time frame, oh, and I forgot, you also think I “should have done the first component of the project ALREADY” to “show you how I’d do it…
Enough is enough.
Mate, you’re kidding right? I give you a rock bottom quote so low I can’t repeat it here, and you have the balls to not only ask for a further discount, but to TELL ME you’re GETTING a lower price?
No. You should be paying more as it is.
And you don’t stop there, you again TELL ME how the payment schedule is going to work?
No. At this level of fees, I should really be asking for 100% up front.
Time to put an end to this.
I decided to try a new client firing tactic. I apologised to him. I said something along the lines of “Mate I’m sorry to have led you on for so long, obviously you’re looking for a different copywriter, you might have better luck on a site like elance or something”.
I couldn’t be too hard on the guy, I should have set him straight some time ago. I do have a tendency towards optimism which is less than helpful when you’re accepting copy clients.
Because this is really my responsibility, not his. Sure, he wanted a penthouse at the Sheraton at a backpacker’s price, and sure, he honestly thought he could call the shots, and sure, he thought his years in business could buy him some kind of superiority over me, but in the end it’s my job to attract the right kind of clients, and make sure the wrong kind are immediately repelled. I think it’s time to make my policies clearer to prospects.
Here’s your problem buddy, if you walk around thinking you’re ENTITLED to everything, you’ll end up getting nothing. If you want entitlements go get a government job. (I’ve worked with these people before…it can’t be that difficult)
I don’t have a problem with negotiations, I don’t know of any copywriters who would be totally inflexible with their fees, all the ones I know will create packages, as I did, with a discount for volume.
But frankly I have a problem with your entitlement mindset. I didn’t think for a second that I was “entitled” to whack you a high fee, or demand you wait until I am ready to start your project. I’m not “entitled” to a damn cent, I earn my money.
In my world, the copywriter is the boss. Clients generally don’t know what they need, and it’s a copywriter’s job to tell them what they need. This doesn’t mean I arrogantly try to dictate everything, on the contrary, I try to work with people who I can’t strike a deal with immediately.
But if you want good sales copy, pay for it. You can’t expect to pay a copywriter peanuts and get a world class result. A million monkeys typing for a million years will eventually write shakespeare, or something like that, right? Well, firstly, shakespeare doesn’t sell, and good luck with waiting that million years for it.
I am serious when I tell people that if they want a cheap copywriter, they should look for someone on elance or odesk or something. But any sales they may make as a result, will be purely coincidental.
P.S. It’s amazing how when you tell a prospect you aren’t interested in the job, how all of a sudden they remember they DO have the extra money after all. Didn’t save this project but that’s a marketing lesson in itself.