Be warned about low-budget projects. You may feel good by helping a small client but it can detract from your primary work as a writer. It can cost you too much in your own extra work time.
Here’s a scenario that you may find familiar (as a copywriter). You have a new client with a small budget and you want him/her to get started on the right foot. The client wants a small website and you look for a ‘combo’ designer/webmaster who can support the copy that you’re going to write. Since the budget is small, you look for an inexpensive supplier rather than the team you usually use (i.e where one of them is a designer and the other is a webmaster/web techie). You find somebody, close the deal and get started. So far, so good…
As a copywriter and project manager you’re responsible for getting the information from your client and then shaping it around a site map (that you probably need to define too). Your first base is to confirm agreement with your client on this point. Once you’ve built the ‘base information’ and the key messages, you’re now ready to brief your designer/webmaster.
The need for constant guidance
The project then follows a dual track – developing the content on one side while building a visual concept on the other. You find yourself guiding the designer all the time. It’s harder because this is a new person who hasn’t worked with you before and doesn’t yet understands how you work – or what your standards are. Typically, there are many more iterations before you feel that there’s something good to show your client. Even though you should be tracking carefully the management and attention time you’re spending on all this, you don’t.
The project moves ahead in the general direction that you want – but it’s a bit like driving a car with unsecured steering. You have to make adjustments all the time, unlike work with your regular suppliers – where you can use ‘autopilot’ much more because they know what they’re doing. You get drafts or revisions of the work and find yourself having to check and recheck all the time to make sure that all points are covered. You’ll get a mail from your supplier telling you “Everything’s done” and when you inspect it you find that half a dozen things are still missing or poorly executed.
Evaluate the real gain to yourself
Eventually you deliver the product to your client – a nice looking website that’s visually stimulating and contains the right amount of content. There’s enough to generate interest but not so much as to overwhelm. Your client is delighted! He or she has received a website that does an excellent communications job for a low-budget price. But is it WIN-WIN for you?
On the one hand you’ve earned your copywriting fee and won a new (and satisfied) client. On the other hand you’ve invested perhaps three times the management and attention effort on your new designer/webmaster than you would have done with your regular team. That doesn’t make economic sense, because it puts you in a losing situation at the end of the day. What’s the solution?
I think you have to focus on the colleagues with whom you work the most efficiently – and who understand you best. Have the discipline (yes, I know it’s hard when you’re looking for work) to stick by them for all projects. Try to get the best deal you can with them for all new work opportunities, but avoid looking for new and cheaper suppliers. If your quotation for your potential new client can work out by using your regular team, that’s great. If not, be prepared to let the opportunity pass.
Tell your client: “I can deliver my quality because I also work with the right people. That has its own cost. I cannot downscale my prices if it means having to downscale my quality.”