How to Squeeze Blood From a Copywriter

True story:

 

Not too long ago I was approached by a marketer who had a product idea — just the idea mind you.

 

And he wanted to hire me to develop it… market it… sell it… and everything in-between.

The reason being — he didn’t have the time to do it himself.

My first thought was… now here’s a man after my own heart — lazy as the day is long, and dying to be rich and famous without lifting a finger.

Seriously, if I could take a pill to give me muscles like the Governator’s (in his prime)… play tennis like Federer… and attract women like Pitt — I’d order a life-time supply as fast as yesterday!

Anyway, I was up for the challenge… even though there are more than enough products like his already on the market (which is actually a good thing).

 

So… I cracked open my secret black book of sales and marketing pros and considered which “Mission Impossible Team” would be perfect to attack this beachhead.

 

Then, I sent the marketer my proposal… including my fee.

He was totally impressed. He told me I had brass balls (I think that was a compliment)… and then told me to get real.

He said he already had copywriters lined up to do it all for under $2,000 — flat fee, no percentage.

 

Yeah, right!

 

But, you know what… I bet he can find a copywriter to do it all for under $2,000 — and, boy, what a job he’ll do — he’ll even throw in the Brooklyn Bridge and shares of Enron at no extra charge!

 

Anyway, I checked back with him a few weeks later, and asked how the project was coming along… and… heh, heh… he still hadn’t hired a copywriter.

 

Moral of the story (sorta)… you can hire a copywriter to do practically anything for you… but if you’re not willing to pay the price for delegation, abdication and sloth — better to work together, following these simple “save money and make money” guidelines:

 

Ask Not What a Copywriter Can Do for You—Ask What You Can Do for Your Copywriter!

 

As Hemmingway said, writing is easy… all you’ve got to do is open a vein and bleed all over the page.

 

And yet, copywriters are actually more than just writers, they’re… ta dah!… Super Salesmen!

 

Copywriters aren’t hired to entertain, or dazzle the reader with unparalleled wordsmithing…

 

They’re hired to sell the client’s product (or generate a qualified lead).

 

And if they can’t do that — it doesn’t matter if they can write a poem like Frost, a play like Shakespeare, a thriller like King or a humor column like Barry (not me, the other Barry, Dave Barry).

 

But… if they can sell in print — does it matter if they employ broken English, fragmented sentences or any other type of grammatically dysfunctional construction, intentionally or not?

 

The only measure of a copywriter’s talent… is how much and how fast he can sell his client’s product!

 

But… since the product is not the copywriter’s brainchild… he neither conceived it, nurtured it in its embryonic stages, delivered it into actuality nor surrounded it with a supportive family… that’s never an easy thing to do (to sell to a stranger off the page and for maximum dollars, too!)

 

So he needs your help.

 

He needs research… background and market info, access to data and the ability to conduct interviews, etc. Indeed, there are tens of questions that need to be answered.

 

(For a comprehensive list of questions that always need to be answered, click here: Questions)

 

Now, as the baby’s parents, aka the marketer, you can leave the copywriter to discover all the answers on his own.

 

But first understand one thing — a copywriter typically makes a living by selling time — his time. And time equals writing, which equals money.

 

So if he has to spend time doing research — he ain’t writing, and therefore he ain’t making money.

 

So in light of that, copywriters will charge for research (it’s factored into your over-all cost — that’s why you’ll never get a separate bill).

 

And, depending on the complexity of the product and the intricacies of your targeted market — plus, the amount of research the copywriter must do on his own — research can be quite expensive (regardless of whether the copywriter does the research himself or hires someone to do it for him).

 

Now a good copywriter is fairly expensive to begin with. A-level copywriters can command a $25,000 advance plus 10% of gross sales, minus fulfillment costs.

 

So unless you’ve got a bottomless bank account… well… need I say more?

 

The other option, of course, is for you to provide the copywriter with the research he needs to get the job done (which is to quickly make you a whole bunch of money).

 

Now, most marketers obviously opt for this latter approach — but, unfortunately, in a very casual, hap-hazard fashion.

 

Don’t Short-Change Yourself by Short-Changing Your Copywriter

 

Too many marketers feel they’re doing a copywriter a favor by providing research.

 

They’ll give the copywriter… oh, about five minutes of their time.

 

They’ll send him an email with a bunch of URLs to investigate, a couple of sentences about their target market, and a couple of words about the benefits and features of the product (though most times they get the two confused).

 

And then they’ll end by saying that they’re always available to answer any further questions… just call.

 

Needless to say… this isn’t much help to a copywriter — and that’s why typical turnaround time for the completion of a copywriting project is often quoted in weeks if not months.

 

Experienced and successful marketers, on the other hand, those in tune with the rigors and demands of writing a money-pulling promotion — and who, quite frequently, wrote copy themselves — will send a FedEx box packed with collateral and emails filled with megs and megs of info and data.

 

After all, you can never send too much background research to a copywriter.

 

In fact, I would estimate that the success of any promotion is directly proportional (times ten) to the depth of research done on the product and the targeted market.

 

Furthermore… you should recognize that the ability to conduct research is a talent in and of itself — a talent which many copywriters do not possess.

 

So my advice is this: share the hours, if not years of information, wisdom and knowledge you acquired while growing your business and developing your product — however much effort it may require.

 

And if you do this… your copywriter will not hesitate — indeed, he’ll be empowered — to open a vein and pour his blood, sweat, and money-sucking talent on to the page for you — just to make you rich.

 

–Barry

 

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