Wow. That sure sounds like an opportunity tailor-made for me. I’m a pretty good writer (I mean, my Mom’s told me so, and that’s good enough for me!). And I’d sure love to turn that skill into “$300 an hour”! That’s what they promised in this copywriting program I saw on the Internet. And it has to be true if it’s on the Internet, right? I mean, they could get into BIG trouble if they told lies. But there it is, in black and white!
And the best part? According to the program, I can get started as a “commercial writer” in just seven days! And here’s what those seven days look like:
Day One: I’m going to learn the basics of the freelance commercial writing business. I mean, it’s just writing – how hard could it be?
Day Two: I’ll create my copywriting portfolio. They say it’s easy, and I believe them. Heck, I’ll probably be done by lunch!
Day Three: I’ll create and send out a press release to my local paper, letting them know about my new copywriting business. Wonder how long after I send it out till the phone starts ringing. Could I end up with too much business? It’s possible!
Day Four: I’ll explore making money in PR writing. Working around all the “movers and shakers,” yeah! Sounds like fun – and profitable, too!
Day Five: I get to figure out if I’m going to a generalist or specialist. Decisions, decisions. This is just too easy.
Day Six: I’m going to learn the “ultra-easy” way to market my new business so I can, according to the program, “stay booked up for months.” Like the sound of that. Heck, maybe I will go ahead and buy that Camaro I’ve had my eyes. I mean, obviously, I’m going to have the money to make the payments.
Day Seven: I’m going to learn all about writing for TV and radio. Bet you can make big bucks there, and get to be around all the cool actors. Life is looking up!
I wish the above was just a dramatization of some poor slob getting reeled in hook, line, and sinker by some fictionalized copywriting course, but alas, it’s based on a real one. THIS one. What a joke. I know, why am I surprised? I mean, I know stuff like this exists. It’s just that seeing flat-out fabrication up close still sets you back on your heels a bit.
Someone sent it to me, asking if I knew anything about it. A two-minute visit revealed all. I don’t know who you are, but your offer is a scam, and you know it. And people like you have buyers looking for legit information on copywriting lump the rest of us trying to do the right thing into the same scam-artist boat.
I mean, their “7-Days-to-Riches” timetable would be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that countless unsuspecting folk are dropping $147 for nothing but a mirage. And $300 an hour? Have you no shame? Yeah, right. Silly me.
I can hear them now: “Well, if you read it carefully, I’m not actually promising people they’ll make $300 an hour inside of a week.” Ah, the old “have-‘em-connect-the-imaginary-dots-in-their-mind” strategy. So, you’re weasels on top of being scam artists. Quite an accomplishment. What an unbelievably fragrant and steaming pile of road apples this is.
Our mothers were right: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” As the experienced commercial writers on this blog know, our field can be a wonderful way to make a great living as a writer. But they also know it’s no cakewalk. As writing fields, go, it’s one of the most accessible, but it still take a lot of hard work to get established and work up to healthy hourly rates. And $300 an hour as a copywriter? In a week? I can hear the hysterical laughter echoing across the land. From sea to shining sea.
Did you ever fall prey to any offers like these before you got started?
What would you say to someone considering this fairy tale of an offer?
What truths would you want them to know about our field instead?
Back in July on this blog, we explored the age-old issue for commercial freelancers: In my commercial copywriting business, should I be a generalist or a specialist? (Read it here).
And when economic times are tough, it takes on even more importance. Which strategy is better in tight times? we ask. Well, grab a seat and join the debate here.
I’ve been a generalist since Day One and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Love the variety, the access to a potentially much wider range of clients and for a bunch of other reasons. Marketing brochures, ad copy, newsletters, direct mail, sales sheets, case studies, speeches, video scripts, sales letters, landing page copy, headlines, tag lines, slogans, naming, book titling. The list goes on and on, and for a soup-to-nuts industry spectrum of companies.
I’ll fully admit that specialists who truly set themselves apart in their niche will likely make more money than me, and that’s just fine. I’d be a very unhappy camper if I had to do the same kind of project or write for the same kind of industry all the time.
Sort of like the guy who’s told by his doctor that if he doesn’t quit smoking, drinking and eating rich foods (all the stuff he enjoys), he’s only got 5 years to live, and but he’s got 10 if he cuts out all those bad things. And he decides, heck, I don’t WANT to live five years longer if I can’t enjoy those things.
Anyway, we’re not done with the Generalist/Specialist debate – literally and figuratively. I invite you to join yours truly, Peter Bowerman, Mr. Generalist – who’s made a most comfortable living writing for clients across the spectrum for going on 16 years – and Mr. Specialist, Michael Stelzner – who’s done pretty darn well focusing exclusively on white papers for many years – in a lively debate.
Thursday, September 17 at 3:00 EST for an hour. Be there.
There’s no charge for the event, but you need to register here to join us. Can’t join us? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording!
We’ll debate the pros and cons of both sides (AND take your questions). And when we’re done, you’ll have the inside scoop on which path makes the most sense for you and your circumstances…
A reader recently sent me a link to an interesting piece in The Week, entitled “Is Writing for the Rich?” It was written by the editor himself, Francis Wilkinson, who concluded that the future of freelance writing is mighty bleak, and that, given the unfortunate current financial calculus of the craft, it’s become a field only for those who don’t have to make their living from it – trust-fund babies, those living on Daddy’s money, heirs, etc.
I just LOVE reading stuff like this. Makes me laugh out loud. I mean, when the editor of a prominent national publication is saying this, it’s clear that the commercial writing field, by and large, is flying completely under the radar. I should have left well enough alone and let him spread his “Abandon-all-hope-ye-who-enter-here” message unimpeded. But I was torn.
On the one (greedy) hand, the less people who know about our field, the less competition we’ll have (though, that said, you do have to work hard to get established in commercial writing, and that’ll weed out most people right there…). On the other hand, I firmly believe there’s enough to go around for all of us. And I DO have a few books to peddle…
So, I wrote him a note (email me if you want a copy), essentially cluing him in about our field, which can be a most refreshing financial oasis from the otherwise sad and sorry freelancing paradigm. Addressing some of the inane “talk” about the commercial copywriting field, I wrote: “I’ve heard it all (‘sellout,’ ‘going over to the dark side,’ and other assorted and sundry head-scratchers – as if the only ‘writing’ that’s pure and acceptable is that which provides the writer with neither pay nor respect. Sure seems that way sometimes.
Never heard a word back. Big surprise. And that’s fine. I went on record. Meanwhile, the carnage continues out there. All I hear these days is about how tough it is in “freelance writing” right now – magazines paying nothing, asking for assignments on spec, $10 articles for web sites, all the “how-can-a-writer-make-a-living” talk. Meanwhile, many of us in the commercial field are doing just fine, thank you very much.
Part of the problem – and what I say to anyone who asks what the answer is – is that straight articles (especially for the web) are a “commoditized” project type – meaning there are zillions of writers who can write a decent article. As such, it’s a buyer’s market, and rates fall to nothing. It’s when you get good at project types NOT everyone can do (that’d be us…), and hence, are competing with far fewer people, that you’ll start making more money. As long as you’re in a BIG pool of interchangeable skills, it’s tough to make a living.
What do you think when you read articles like the one in The Week?
What would you have said to Mr. Wilkinson?
Are you hearing a lot of wailing and caterwauling coming from straight freelancers these days?
Say you had some home fix-it project that you hired someone to take care of, because you’ve just got too much going on. You’re thinking, he’ll show up, get the details, and then he’ll go to work. You’ll go back to your to-do list until an hour or so later, when he calls to you up the stairs and lets you know he’s done. Write the check. Finito.
If instead, he kept calling you down time after time with more questions, or asking to borrow tools, or chatting about his operation, or his wife’s shopping habits, or the last episode of American Idol, there’d come a point where you’d say to yourself, (all together now…): F’cryin’ out loud, I’d have been better off doing it myself.
Did an encore plenary speech appearance at the Washington Independent Writers annual conference this past June. The theme of my talk was “Creating a Memorable Box.” Given that human beings like to put things in boxes as a way of quantifying the world around them, the more we can make ourselves memorable to our clients, the more success we’ll have. I defined “creating a memorable box” in this way:
Make what you bring to the professional table a “predictably enjoyable and rewarding experience” for your clients and you’ll find a receptive and returning audience.
One of the memorable boxes I discussed was being forgettable. I do case studies for a large manufacturing company in Atlanta. I get a few grand to do a 1500-word story that takes me maybe 12-15 hours to do. They never question my fees. Why? Because after they give me the parameters in an email, I ask a few questions and then I’m gone – until it’s due. No endless phone calls or emails.
They go back to doing their jobs – which is how it’s supposed to work – and forget aaaaaall about me until the finished product shows up in their email box – ready for prime time. For any writer in any arena, reliability, dependability and yes, “forgetability” are solid gold boxes to be put in.
(NOTE: Not surprisingly, this is a company with money – which is key. When money isn’t a big issue for a company, but bottom line profitability and competitive edge ARE, the work HAS to be done right. As such, the desire for reliable, predictable competence will always trump cost.)
While the following idea should be a “well, duh…,” we all know how that sometimes goes. Here’s it is: A company will hire a writer because they don’t have the skills, time or both to handle it in-house. The whole point of hiring that writer is to create less, not more work for themselves.
After they meet with you once, and give you the scoop on the project, your goal should be to vanish from their minds, gloriously freeing them up to do their jobs. Sure, every job is different, and some involve more client contact, but no matter the situation, the extent to which you operate autonomously is the extent to which you will create that predictably enjoyable and rewarding experience that will keep clients coming back.
How important is it to your clients that you’re forgettable?
What strategies do you employ for being forgettable for your clients?
Blog Post #1. I know, it’s about freakin’ time I did a blog, but better (years) late than never, I suppose. Over the past few years, I’d looked around, saw the unending din of cyber-blather filling the airwaves, and asked myself, “Do I have something worthwhile to add or will I just be making more noise”? I guess I decided I could bring some value to the copywriting conversation, but ultimately, you, my readers will make that call.
Speaking of YOU, my readers, just as you’re crucial to the success of my ezine, The Well-Fed EPUB (http://wellfedwriter.com/ezine.shtml), providing me with a steady stream of ideas, tips, strategies and success stories since it kicked off in May 2002, your “in-the-trenches”? experiences will build this blog as well.
Got a good story, a great project outcome, something that’s worked (OR crashed-and-burned), an incandescent epiphany about the business, or any other piece of useful flotsam or jetsam you think your fellow commercial freelancers would dig? AND ideally, help all of us make more money in the biz? Lay it on me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll throw it out there. And remember: BREVITY. After all, as copywriters, we all know how to write succinctly, right?
I’ll offer up new entries no more than three times a week, but more like two, and I’ll keep ‘em on the short side. Thanks for all your support along the way. Let’s see where this thing goes…
P.S. Just subscribe in the box at top right or through a reader by clicking the box below that…