This is a somewhat long and ranting post so if you’re of a fragile disposition you might want to give it a miss. But I think you’d be a fool if you did, because there are some valuable business and marketing lessons in here (most of them learned the hard way).
Moreover, while it’s ostensibly intended for copywriters and anyone looking to hire one, it also has to be said the general principles I share with you are wholly relevant to your business, regardless of industry, whether you are a client or a provider with clients of your own.
So, sit back and enjoy the fun…
Introducing… The Scrote Client
A few weeks ago an up and coming copywriter I’m currently mentoring was talking to a potential client about working on a project with them.
Nothing odd there.
But then it turns out this fucking idiot scrote client – and I really can’t think of a better way of putting it – is not only trying to hammer down the chap on his fee, but he’s also demanding a guaranteed conversion rate. (and one of the little pieces of tasty and tempting bait held out was the promise of “loads of work in the future…”. Fuck me, if I’ve heard that once, I’ve heard it a million times… and it’s always a load of donkeysnot).
Anyway, my pal quite rightly took my advice and passed on this splendid opportunity, and turned his attention to greater things.
End of the story, right?
You’d sincerely hope so.
But wait… there’s more!
Turns out this Scrote Client has tried the same thing on a number of times with at least three copywriters of my acquaintance.
The details of the “opportunity” differ, but in substance it’s the same: slash your fee, loads of work in the future, oh, and guarantee your conversion rate.
Anyone with an ounce of sense will be puking with laughter at this point, I know…
But wait… there’s more!
On Facebook he then launches into a mass tirade against copywriters – on the wall of a young copywriter friend of mine – once more saying any copywriter worth his salt would guarantee conversion rates and stop going on about “ROI”.
OK, before I go any further, I’m just going to prove beyond any reasonable doubt why this view is… Differently Intelligent… and indeed perhaps actually warrants the All Time Achievement award for The Most Stupid Fucking Thing Ever Posted On The Internet.
A few years back I rewrote a client’s sales package
And, when I’d done… it converted at 4%
But the original package had also converted at 4%.
So Jon’s fucked up and ripped his client off, eh? And now he’s getting all defensive.
You’d be forgiven for thinking so.
But not so fast.
See, originally the product was £969 and the sales package converted at 4%.
And the new sales package sold the same product at £1,497 and converted at the same rate of 4%.
In other words, this was an increase in income of 54.5%. On the sales he was making, that amounted to something like another £500,000 a year in increased profits.
I’m not making this up. I have the testimonial and the emails from the client to prove it.
Now, if we were following Scrote Client Logic, that’s a crap result because I should have “increased response”.
But anyone with even half a fucking brain can see how stupid, narrow minded, and, well, just plain old idiotic that is.
Of course, you could reasonably argue my client could have tested the old package at £1,497 before he got me to rewrite it for him.
That’s a fair point.
But he didn’t. And the only reason he upped the price to £1,497 at all was I advised him to.
So bugger my copy: the advice alone was worth my fee
OK, so I hope now you see why ROI is the most important thing.
If you can’t, then I suggest you go buy some decent books on marketing and educate yourself, because there’s a fucking big hole in your understanding of business in general and marketing in particular.
But wait, there’s more!
I’m not going to leave it here because these kinds of shenanigans expose a deep and insidious problem in the copywriting industry, and one of the reasons I see so many young and aspiring copywriters struggling is they really don’t understand the game they’re getting into.
Let me just make one thing clear: I am not defending copywriters or copywriting per se.
I will cheerfully tell you as a much admired and well respected and in demand direct response copywriter, much of what you read about copywriting and the claims some copywriters make are utter bullshit.
Sometimes I wonder if much of the success of copywriting is in selling the idea of copywriting to clients and credulous wannabes (clue: any time a copywriter writes “… literally compels your customers to buy” they are coming out with more shit than a herd of Vindaloo-eating elephants. If this was so, they’d have conversion rates approaching 100%, not the sub-10% most of us get most of the time).
There’s also the “best seller” effect, meaning if a copywriter is lucky enough to get a good result with a well-connected client, then it opens all sorts of doors and avenues for him which means he gets well-paying commissions which represent easy sales because the client is smart, well-heeled and understands marketing.
In other words, you get a client with a large, qualified and well-nurtured list and writing copy to sell to them is very easy. It means the objective difference between many A-list copywriters and the overwhelmingly larger group of B-listers is often very small.
Maybe I’m being unfair, because it’s not quite as black and white as perhaps I’m implying, but there’s no doubt at all copywriting is not the all-powerful mind-control technique certain people make it out to be. There are far more important things about your mailing and your marketing than copywriting, which comes in about 4th in the list.
But that said, copywriting is important.
Because all other things being equal good copy will beat bad copy. And if you have a sales page to which you are driving a steady stream of traffic, even a small increase in conversion rate can lead to higher profits which, in time, gives you an ROI on your copywriter’s fees which become asymptotic to infinity.
Consider the guy with the £500,000 a year increase in profits.
At the time I think I charged him something like £6,500. That was 5 or 6 years ago. So going on the figures he gave me, his ROI today is likely to be around 385:1, and rising every time someone clicks the “Buy Button”.
Sure, 5% at £1,497 is better than 4% at £1,497. That’s not the point. The point is… 4% at £1,497 is better than 4% at £969.
In fact, 4% at £1,497 is better than 6% at £969. Only a fucking idiot would think otherwise.
So what do you really want?
Conversions or profits?
For Clients Looking for Copywriters
My general advice to you if you’re looking to hire a copywriter is to hire the best one you can afford.
Yes, do your due diligence, ask for and follow up on references, and then ask for some kind of guarantee.
If he guarantees to beat your control, then fine (however you both agree to measure that).
But if the guarantee is of a certain percentage conversion rate, then go find another copywriter: the one you’re talking to has no fucking clue about the business and is probably more interested in his fee than your results (possession is 9 points of the law: he’s got your money. Good luck in trying to get it back).
A reasonable guarantee is one where he’ll keep at it until his new sales letter does beat your control, or until you give up trying. I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for a money-back guarantee because, like as with a lawyer, the final verdict (that of the market in this case) is really beyond our control.
From which it then follows you can’t expect a copywriter to honour his guarantee if you fiddle with his copy or design. That’s cheating. You change so much as a comma, then it’s no longer his copy you’re testing: it’s yours.
And if you were qualified to write it, then you’d not be using a copywriter. Ya can’t have yer cake and be eating it. So you deal with the consequences and pay the man his fee.
Treat your copywriter like a scrote, then don’t be surprised if you get a whack in the nuts for your trouble.
Whatever… if the references pan out and the guarantee is reasonable, then be prepared to pay a sizeable wedge for the right copywriter.
Because they’ll earn it, and you’ll benefit from it.
Even a minuscule increase in conversion rate, for example, will pay you back handsomely over time. The cost of your copy can and should be amortised over time.
This isn’t just me looking to justify my own fees or to attract business: I’m not for hire any longer.
I write for one client and one client only, and the reason I do that has nothing to do with the eye-watering fees I charge (£22,000 would be my minimum for an easy sales letter in an area I am familiar with right now, just to give you some idea of what you might be looking at for a world class copywriter).
No, the reason I’m sharing all this with you is for your own benefit, no matter which side of the fence you’re on: copywriter or the client who needs one.
See, I know you can get a sales letter written for as little as $250 on Elance. You can probably get them for even less than that.
But just stop and think for a moment.
Just what kind of sales letter do you think you’re going to get for $250? Why does this guy or gal think he or she is worth just $250?
There has to be a reason for that, and, believe me, it’s unlikely to be anything to do with wanting to give YOU a break.
Think of it this way: what do you think is easier for me (or any other copywriter)… writing one £22,000 sales letter in a month or writing 10 £2,200 sales letters in a month?
Exactly. I’m not sure I could write that many without going completely nuts. And even if I managed it, then the quality of the finished products would be dire – because I just wouldn’t have the time, energy or will to lavish the necessary time and attention on them.
But someone paying £22,000 for a sales letter would have my undivided attention for a long time. What’s more, at least 1/3 of that fee would be taken upfront with the balance being due on delivery, not when you decide to run it or when you think it might be working.
How you choose to slice and dice all this is between you and your copywriter, but the general point I’m trying to make is don’t try and screw him over.
Well, take a lesson from what happens with a lot of the content writers out there. You can get them on Fiverr.com and Elance, etc., and they’ll offer you articles at $5 apiece.
When you get them you find they’ve been written by someone whose first language appears to be Klingon, at best; and at worst their main skill seems to be copying and pasting from article directories.
What did you really expect?
You pay peanuts, you’re gonna get Klingons.
On the other hand… I have a content writer who helps me out on projects now, and then and I pay her well. Not only that but I pay her on time (like immediately she bills me).
Because she serves me and my best interests. My ROI on her work is around 16:1. She’s not perfect and I don’t expect her to be.
And I could probably find a better writer, I’m sure (although even that would be a challenge)… but I pay her a premium and treat her well because she has something you can’t easily find: a “can do” attitude.
Would she be like this if I was trying to screw her for as much as I could for as little as I could get away with paying?
For Copywriters Looking for Clients
Here’s a lesson I learned early on: you don’t need a scrote for a client no matter how much you think you need the money. You need a scrote for a client in the same way you need a haemorrhoid to keep your sphincter company on a long train journey.
The emotional cost of dealing with them is higher than any possible fee you could ever get from them (and because they are scrotes they’ll be paying you peanuts, and that’s if you can get them to pay you at all).
First thing I did when I came back from my first Dan Kennedy Superconference was fire two of my three clients at the time, and then set about getting the dream client I had set my eyes upon.
I gave myself two months, but had actually got him under my spell within six weeks. That was a strategic decision, and it worked out exactly as I planned. I am where I am today largely because this guy saw the sense in hiring me, and then when I started getting him some serioiusly profitable results, he referred me to all his buddies.
In the meantime I learned the Art of Positioning. And my education continued throughout the years I worked with him (and he’s still a good friend today).
I share these tips with you and you can take them at face value. You don’t have to agree with them and you can run your own business exactly as you please.
But I’m telling you… if you run your business along these lines, at least in principle, you’re going to command higher fees and have a much easier time of it.
You’re also likely to get better results, because higher fees means you have more time to take care of your clients. That means the quality of your work goes up.
8 Tips for a Better Business
- If a client sounds like a scrote, the chances are… he’s a scrote. If he brags to you about how they’ve screwed people over in the past – and some do, amazingly – this means they WILL screw YOU over at some point, too. They don’t play favourites. In fact, in my experience, you’ll find the ones who talk the most eagerly about “abundance”, “wealth” and “success” the most are typically the ones who like to pay you the least (and even screw you out of that when they can). Real business owners know making a success of anything is hard work – and that include your business as a copywriter. A good client will respect you and your work. He’ll know it’s in his best interests to keep you well-fed and happy.
- Don’t guarantee response. If you do, you’re a dick. My advice to your client would be to find another copywriter, one who actually knows what he’s doing, because you don’t. ROI is the most important factor. If they don’t ‘get’ this, they are Stupid.
- Make sure any guarantee you do give is contingent on them using your copy as is. The only thing they need to be concerned about is legal stuff and anything that might tarnish their reputation. Otherwise, they are hiring you to do a job, and if they start changing it, then it’s not your copy any more so you’re not responsible for it.
- Don’t work with anyone who’s doing something you don’t believe in. One of the most common requests I get from potential clients is to write sales letters for trashy biz-opps stuff (you know the kind of thing I mean… pictures of mansions, Ferraris, swimming pools and half-naked models with incredible tits rubbing oil into the Guru as he sits on the beach with his laptop, admiring his Clickbank commissions). I have always turned them down. Fuck, if I was that kind of scrote I’d write one for myself and sell my own crap success-product. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
- Don’t work with anyone who tries to hammer down your fees with a promise of “loads more work in the future”. Why should this be an issue, even? Either he wants your copy or he doesn’t. There is no rational excuse for expecting you to write a profitable sales letter at a discount just because it’s the first one you’re doing for him.
- Similarly, if you get the old “write the sales letter for my Amazing New Product and we’ll share the profits”, tell him to shove it. I get those a lot, too, even now. When I was first in the game I took the bait and it never once worked out. Even if the guy is honest, there’s no compelling reason for him to follow through and do the umpty million other things you need to do for a product launch. A reasonable answer to this request is “Why don’t you mortgage your house to pay my fee and then you can claw it back from my share of the profits?”. If they won’t do that, then they are not that sure they have a winner at all.
- Don’t get involved in price wars with other copywriters. A common tactic of scrote clients is to say something like, “I’m talking to three other copywriters about this project, so bear that in mind when you give me your quote”. Fine. My answer: “Great. Come back to me when they all turn out to be crap. I don’t bid against other copywriters. You’re either working with me or you’re not”.
- Overdeliver. Here’s a secret for you. Perhaps the biggest factor in whatever success I’ve managed to wrest from this business has nothing to do with my copywriting skills. Rather, it’s because I realised quite early on no one wants copy. They want what the copy gives them.No secret there.But that’s not all: they want it delivered in a way that makes their lives easier.So my clients didn’t just get a Word document with words and a bit of formatting in – they got camera-ready PDFs and someone ready, willing and able to make sure the damned thing got printed, published, mailed or whatever else needed to happen to it for the project to be a success. I can sum it up in one word: service.
Not a Copywriter? Not Looking for a Copywriter?
No matter what business you’re in, what I’ve just shared with you will make your business life a lot easier and a lot more fun. It’ll make it more profitable, too.
Trouble is, while most of this is simple it’s not always easy, because the emotional pressure of feeling like you need the business no matter what can be incredibly powerful and compelling.
And scrote clients know this. That’s why they seek to exploit your fears, weaknesses and hopes. Moreover, it’s no surprise when you think about it, to discover many, if not most, of these scrote clients are peddling shit to the market too – all the biz-opps and “get rich quick” shit we all know and love.
You may now get on with your day.