The Copywriter's Crucible

Surviving the Vagaries of the Freelance Life

Archive for September, 2009

How to deal with business bullies (before the contract is signed)

Posted by rachelwriter on September 14, 2009

Photo Courtesy: Chesi - Fotos CC/Flickr

Photo Courtesy: Chesi - Fotos CC/Flickr

I was on the phone the other day with a potential client when he said to me, “You know, I could spend all day re-writing your contract.  How about I just send over the check for the deposit and you get started?”

Oh.  My bad!  Yeah, let’s just go right ahead and skip over all that poppycock I call a “contract.”  I don’t need to protect my rights as a small business owner.  I’ll just take your word for everything, sir.  I’ll spend hours of my time to create a quality product for you.  And, in exchange, you’ll give me… your word.  Not on paper, of course.  But by phone. 

So, sure.  Go right ahead and send along that check at your leisure.  You know, whenever it’s convenient for you.  I have full faith in your honesty, integrity, and ethicality.  In the meantime, I’ll get started on your project.  Because I know that, deep down inside, you’re a kind-hearted, puppy-eyed Good Samaritan who wants only to ensure that his vendors are treated and compensated fairly.  No, you’re not a money-hungry businessman at the helm of a multi-million dollar corporation.  You, kind sir, are the epitome of professionalism.

How silly of me for even asking you to sign your name on that rigmarole….


Don’t worry.  I didn’t accept the client’s proposal.  But, sadly, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.  Nor will it be the last.

It’s a sad fact that Big Companies in Big Cities with Big Boards and Big CEOs often look down upon us lowly, small businesses and, well, try to bully us into making concessions in their favor.  After all, we little guys don’t have the resources or the clout to stand up to the Big Guys.  (Or, at least, they think that.)  So, if we want their business, we’re at their mercy.  (Or, so they tell themselves.)

To make matters worse, in the eyes of behemoth companies, spending a few thousand dollars on a copywriter is like emptying out loose pocket change.  It’s a trivial transaction—and one that gets put on the backburner while other, bigger, more important financial obligations are met.

To a solo business owner, on the other hand, those few thousand dollars could be sustenance for a whole month.  It costs an awful lot to run a business sometimes.  Every penny counts.

And that means we’ve got to protect ourselves.  On paper.  Every time. 

Big Business trying to bully you?  Here’s how to deal:

Educate the bully.  So, Harry McHarrier doesn’t want to sign your contract because he thinks it’s hogwash?  Tell Harry that, while you understand there’s a lot of legal “stuff” in that contract, you simply cannot and will not work without a signed copy in your hands.  Remind him that his company would never perform professional services without first getting its payment terms in writing, and that your company is no different.  Explain that, as a small business owner, a transaction of even a few hundred or thousand dollars merits a signed agreement because, in the small business world, a few hundred or thousand dollars is a sizable amount of money.  If Harry is smart, he will understand—and he will agree to abide by your terms.

Ask the bully what it is about the contract, specifically, that irks him.  Something still bothering Harry?  Ask him what it is.  Does he not like the idea of you using his company’s name on your Web site’s client list?  Is he not comfortable with a certain deadline?  Maybe there’s a way you can tweak some of the wording in the contract so that both parties are satisfied.  Just don’t go stripping away your rights and protective clauses!  Those stay put.  Period.

Threaten to walk away from the bully—and the project.  Harry still won’t budge, eh?  Well, you shouldn’t budge, either.  Be forthright: tell him that if he’s that uncomfortable with your contract, you’ll be happy to part ways.  And he’ll have to find another copywriter who’s willing to work without a contract.  Which will never happen.  Unless the “writer” is a numskull (in which case Harry will really be in touble).    

Walk away.  Harry thinks you’re bluffing?  Now’s your chance to prove to him that you’re not.  Walk away.  End of story.  It’s not worth it to sit around and beg for respect from someone who clearly doesn’t respect you or your work.  Get out now.  In the end, it will be Harry’s loss—not yours.



Posted in The Basics | 2 Comments »

42 commonly confused English words (a.k.a. homophones!)

Posted by rachelwriter on September 1, 2009

Photo Courtesy: ktpupp/Flickr

Photo Courtesy: ktpupp/Flickr

I was skimming through some of my pals’ Facebook statuses the other day when I read something that made me cringe.  A friend had commented on a photo of a marathon runner, and the caption read something like this: “Fast as lightening.” 

I’ll give you three seconds to spot the error.

Three.  Two.  One.

Time’s up!

Don’t see the problem? 

Let me explain:

Unless my friend meant that the marathon runner was as fast as “the descent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity occurring toward the end of pregnancy”—which is what the noun, “lightening,” actually means—(and, I’m pretty sure she didn’t), it’s clear that she fell into one of the English language’s biggest grammar traps: homophones. 

What my friend meant to say was that the runner was as fast as a bolt of lightning—a flash of intense electric light that illuminates the sky during a storm.  She probably confused the word with the present participle of the verb lighten, too, which also happens to be lightening. 

Confusing?  Obviously.  Acceptable?  No way, José.

But that’s why I’m going to impart some grammatical wisdom to you.  So take note and learn!

Below is an incomplete list of homophones, in no particular order, that I just thought of off the top of my head and that I know can often confuse people.  To help shed some light on how each word should be used, I’ve also included sentences in which each word appears correctly.  


ThereThere’s a funny smell in there.                     

Their Their apartment smells funny.

They’reThey’re trying to clean the apartment to get rid of the funny smell.


TwoI rang the doorbell two times.              

TooI rang the doorbell two times, too.                   

ToI used to ring the doorbell two times, but I don’t anymore.


ItsThe cat likes its new treats.                   

It’sIt’s interesting that the dog likes the cat’s treats, too.


SureI’m sure the hurricane will lose strength before it makes landfall.                     

Shore – Debris from the hurricane washed up on shore.


PeakThe peak of the mountain is covered in snow.                                 

PeekDon’t peek!  It’s a surprise!

PiqueHere’s how to pique their interest.


ComplimentHe paid her such a nice compliment.            

ComplementHer shoes complement her dress very well.


BreakLet’s take a break from break dancing before we break something.                      

BrakeDon’t brake too suddenly or the airbags might deploy.


OneWhen he asked me to marry him, I knew he was the one.    

WonHe won me over with his good looks and charm.


MeetI’m going to meet my client for lunch.            

MeatI’m going to pick up some fresh meat from the butcher.


FeetMy feet have blisters on them from wearing uncomfortable shoes.                          

FeatNegotiating the terms of the treaty was a diplomatic feat.


ToeOuch, I stubbed my toe.                                  

TowWhen the car broke down, the mechanic had to tow it back to his garage.


CreekThe children caught tadpoles in the creek.             

Creak The old floorboards may creak when you walk on them.


ReadI prefer to read magazines instead of books.                                   

ReedThe marsh was overgrown with reeds.


Red  – The color of Superman’s cape is red.

Read I read twelve books last month.


AirThe air in Atlanta is polluted.

HeirPrince William is the rightful heir to the throne.                                   


HareThe hare lost the race to the tortoise.

HairUncle Joe has lost so much hair that he’s practically bald.


BareSwimsuit models aren’t afraid to bare their skin.

Bear I can’t bear to watch the zookeeper feed that ferocious grizzly bear!


WieldGangs wield a lot of power in this neighborhood.

WheeledThe server wheeled in the dessert buffet.


ThroughI can’t get through; the road is blocked.

ThrewHe threw a fastball.


But I’d like to go to the party, but I’m not sure if I can make it.

ButtHe stepped on a lit cigarette butt and burned his foot.


DieMost patients who suffer from the disease will die.

DyeShe wants to dye her shoes to match her handbag.


WineWhen consumed in moderation, wine has a number of health benefits.

WhineHe always whines when he doesn’t get his way.


RoadMary passed her road test and got her license.

RodeJohn rode his bicycle home from school.

Rhode (Island)Our aunt lives in Newport, Rhode Island.


PairI have one pair of black socks.

PearI ate a pear with lunch.


TailThe dog is wagging his tail.

Tale My favorite fairy tale is Cinderella.


TimeIt’s time for lunch.

ThymeI’m seasoning my chicken with thyme.


FisherSeals are fishers; they catch fish for food.

FissureThe earthquake caused a fissure in the house’s foundation.


WholeHe ate the whole watermelon.

HoleThe dog dug a hole in the backyard.


BoredHe quickly grew bored of the presenter’s dull speech.

BoardThe board of directors voted unanimously to fire the CEO.


BorePowerPoint presentations are such a bore.

BoarSettlers in this part of the country hunted wild boar to survive.


Ensure To ensure your safety, please fasten your seat belts.

InsureHe’d like to insure his children under his health plan.


SightShe has poor sight and needs to wear glasses.

SiteThis is the perfect site for a new mall.


Mite The dog had a mite in its ear.

MightI might have to leave work early if there’s an emergency.


EffectNausea is a common side effect when taking this medicine.

AffectDon’t let his opinions affect your decision.


BeShe wants to be a butterfly for Halloween.

BeeHis ankle swelled after the bee stung him.


SoHe has so much homework to do.

SewShe decided to sew an extra button on her shirt.


Aunt Aunt Matilda knitted me a scarf for Christmas.

AntThe ant crawled into our picnic basket.   


PoreThey pore over their study materials before every exam.

PourThey pour water over their heads to cool off after a race.


Tore He tore a ligament while playing basketball.

TourWe took a tour of the museum.


WeekI’m coming to visit you next week.

WeakHer illness made her quite weak.


BerryThe berry flavored ice cream is delicious.

BuryThe dog will bury its bones in the backyard.


WhetherThe jury must decide whether to sentence him to death or to life in prison.

WeatherThe weather in San Francisco is beautiful year-round.


And, just because they deserve a mention, I’ve included a few of the most flagrant spelling blunders that I’ve encountered (sadly) on more than one occasion.  Whatever you do, do NOT make these same mistakes!


CORRECT                   INCORRECT

definitely                       definately

supposedly                   supposably

hindsight                       Heinz sight

judgment                       judgement

kindergarten                kindergarden

tomorrow                      tommorrow

duct tape                       duck tape


 So… What spelling faux-pas and homophone mix-ups have you had the misfortune of reading?  Share below!


Posted in The Basics | 10 Comments »