I’ve been quiet in forums, facebook groups, and during conversations for a really long time (read: years) about an issue in the freelancing world.
Join any copywriting group and you will find at least 20 variations of these two posts:
- How do I convince the client that they are wrong and don’t know anything about copywriting. I’m the expert here. I read Breakthrough Advertising AND Influence. They should listen to everything I say.
- I gave the client exactly what they wanted and it’s not converting. What do I do?
The so-called “copywriters” that populate internet forums will tell you: “You’re the expert! Tell them if they want copy that doesn’t sell, they can write it themselves.”
Freelancers that talk about clients that way most likely have never actually had one give them money. And if they did, that client didn’t give them money more than once.
Which is reason #567 I hate free forums and why most working copywriters avoid them. (If you’re interested in where I and other copywriters with real clients DO hang out online, email me)
So the question is… what is a copywriter supposed to do?
If you are getting paid as a freelance copywriter, you are a consultant.
The client is paying you for one or more of the following reasons:
- They don’t know enough about copy and don’t want to take the time to learn it
- They don’t have time to create great copy
- They want to “level up” the copy they already have
This means that clients are looking for you for guidance on the best approach.
The kicker is… it’s still their business and at the end of the day, they still get to make the call about what goes live on their site.
Now all clients fit in different places on the scale of “do what you think is best” to “write what I tell you to write” but for the most part, you want to land somewhere in the middle. Guide them down the most profitable and effective path.
Think of it like a doctor. He has the expertise and can recommend solutions, but at the end of the day it’s my body and I make the call… no matter how adamant he is about a particular course of action.
If I want into the doctor and said, “hey doc, I have stomach pain. I looked online for an hour or so and I think I want to take X medication,” I would expect him to have a response that is more comprehensive than what I could gather on the internet during an episode of Vikings.
I would be very concerned if he said, “Ok, here’s a script” without going any further.
Likewise, I would be concerned if he said, “You don’t know anything about medicine, I am the doctor. You are wrong. Here’s Y medication.”
I would expect the response to take into account my understanding of my body and the limited research I did. However, I paying for his professional opinion.
Something like, “Ok. Well that’s definitely a possibility. Let me take a look and ask you some questions….” Then, “Although it seems like X would work, because of [this factor] that you didn’t take into account, actually Y would be the better choice because of [a bunch of educated reasons]”
This is precisely how a client/copywriter interaction should go.
As the copywriter you should…
…take into account the client’s concerns, goals, history, market, and research. This doesn’t mean the client is always right, but it means that their input matters… a lot.
…offer your educated opinion on the best course forward. Don’t just do what they say if it’s not going to work. If they say no (which again, they can… it’s their business), try and figure out a solution that works.
As the client you should…
…understand that even if you are educated on copywriting, a good copywriter is doing this every day and has a perspective that you need. If they don’t, why are you paying them?
…make the call that’s best for your business. Fight for what you believe is right and don’t feel bullied to put something live that doesn’t reflect who you are.
A copywriter is not a transcriptionist who is there to write down exactly what clients say to write down, but they are not an oracle either. It’s a relationship where both sides bring a key ingredient to the table.
Great clients and great writers get that. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Enjoyed listening to you on Kevin’s podcast today. Thanks for sharing and helping. Your blog is great, and I’ve downloaded your book. I have a BA in Journalism, and I helped students learn to analyze elements of an author’s style for 14 years as a high school English teacher (retired). That’s why your guide was so encouraging. I’ve read Bob Bly, Ray Edwards and Maria Veloso, but reading through your guide was like rediscovering an old friend:-). Love your attitude and content. Look forward to reading more of your work.
Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the guide. 🙂