There’s an inner sense that tells you whether a potential job is going to work out for you. You’ll see all kinds of signposts along the way that point to ‘Continue’ or ‘Cease’. Do you see them? Do you follow them? I’m still learning. I’d still much rather Continue than Cease.
The life of a freelance copywriter is an insecure one. There’s no regular pay-check and you have to keep on your toes all the time to keep the work (and money) flowing in. So why, when you’ve already been working for a client for a year, would you refuse to get involved in a new job? Why throw away an income opportunity?
The answer has to do with experience and standards. If you’ve been doing copywriting as long as I have there are certain fundamentals on which you simply cannot compromise:
a) You must follow your intent to prepare the best, most convincing and professional communication that you can.
b) You can be guided by other people’s standards so long as you don’t feel them to be lower than your own.
c) You need to be given reasonable payment for the work that you provide.
d) You should feel that, over time, your contribution is raising the quality of the company’s or business’s communications initiatives.
A year ago a lady (let’s call her Sally) placed an announcement on the Internet looking for a copywriter/marketing writer for the hotel chain for which she was working. Tons of people applied. I also contacted her. There must have been something different about what I wrote to her because she contacted me and asked for a meeting. I also amended a short piece of copy for her as an example – which helped. Anyway I ended up by winning the business.
The hotel chain wanted to launch a new website and so I found myself writing about dozens of hotels. Have you tried doing that? It’s numbing work – trying to make every lounge, bedroom and pool area sound interesting and different from the rest. Somehow I found the energy to stay enthusiastic and the result was a set of hotel descriptions that truely talked to the interest (and the intelligence) of the readers/potential visitors. Sally was very pleased that I was helping her to raise the bar.
But then there were some management changes in the hotel and Sally no longer had her former freedoms. Somebody else at the hotel chain took over the supervision/planning duties for all the English content (the hotel chain is not English or American). Soon afterwards Sally left. Her replacement was a woman (let’s call her Marie) who was only interested in creating content to satisfy the needs of the search engines (SEO).
Marie asked me to work on all the content for their prestige line of hotels within the hotel group. She offered a block of text in the local language which I was asked to translate and ‘keyword stuff’. She didn’t relate at all to the quality content that I’d written about all these hotels a few months earlier, when Sally was still in charge. This job also coincided with the time when I had to renegotiate my work contract with them.
I told Marie and her boss that I’m a copywriter and not a translator and that in my view this line of hotels needs excellent copy. I submitted costs which reflected this level of copywriting. They responded by saying ‘We’re willing to pay 1/3 what you are asking per 250 words” – as if one was buying copy by weight, like bananas in a street market!
So I said “No thanks, I suggest you look for somebody cheaper.”
I spent a year working below my usual rates because I thought I was helping to build something valuable. With Sally (and the freedom that she had for a while) it would have worked. But not with Marie and her team of mediocre-minded bosses. I was unwilling to come down to their level so I quit.
As a service provider, all I have to offer is my time and my skills. I need to be proud of what I create. It’s what brings me other work. If I agree to do poor or ‘fast and dirty’ jobs, I’ll collect payment but then hate myself for it afterwards. I won’t be able to use the writing as a reference. It’s just not worth going there.