The Copywriter's Crucible

Surviving the Vagaries of the Freelance Life

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Archive for October, 2009

Should copywriters offer “sales” or “discounts” every now and then?

Posted by rachelwriter on October 20, 2009

Photo Courtesy: Flickr/quinn.anya

Perhaps it’s the state of the economy, or perhaps it’s just in the blood of small business owners in general, but… I’m starting to wonder if the only thing small companies care about is getting the job done as cheaply as possible. 

Small and solo biz prospects regularly approach me with the demand for a “very reasonable price” (read: cheap), “some kind of special deal” (read: very cheap), or a “significant discount” (read: very, very cheap). You know—because they’ve shaken my hand at a networking event once before and, therefore, feel entitled to a Friend and Family Discount or something. 

This got me wondering: should freelance copywriters offer special deals or discounts to their clients?  And, if so, when and how? 

For a short while, I offered a 10% discount to new clients on their first project, but, after crunching the numbers, I realized that I was actually losing money.  And to make matters worse, some PITA (pain-in-the-ass) clients got too used to the idea of getting 10% off, so they demanded it on every subsequent project—even though I explained to them that it was a one-time offer, only.

Then I started thinking about it some more.  Other professionals who offer professional services and charge professional rates offer their clients reduced rates on occasion.

My husband, for example, who’s a corporate attorney at large law firm, told me that even lawyers—yes, the ones who charge hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars per hour for their workgive discounted rates to select clients from time to time.  (Granted, the discount may only be something like 1.5%, but it’s still a discount!)

My CPA, for another example, charges $100/hour.  Yet, even she offers $20 coupons to her clients whenever they refer a new client to her.

And then there’s my mechanic (a swell guy, really).  He once charged me all of $0.00 to find and fix a problem that had been puzzling us both for weeks.  You can bet your bottom dollar that I’ve kept going back to him for whatever service my car needs.  His kindness cemented my feet in the repeat customer club.

So, I wonder: if all of these professionals offer special discounts and rates to their clients from time to time, would it be worth my while to do the same for mine?  And if so, why?  And how?  Or, would that be setting up a bad precedent and lead to the further devaluation of a copywriter’s skills?

I’d love to hear input from both writers and non-writers.  Please share your thoughts below!

Rachel

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Posted in The Basics | 23 Comments »

How to spot a snakey client before signing the contract

Posted by rachelwriter on October 7, 2009

Photo Courtesy: Jayanth Sharma/Flickr

Photo Courtesy: Jayanth Sharma/Flickr

Not too long ago, fellow writer, blogger, and Twitter pal Randy Southerland wrote a post about how to recognize when a particular client isn’t… well… worth it.  And, by “it,” I mean the time, the effort, or even the paycheck.

I’d like to add my own two cents on this topic.

Sometimes the allure of some extra cash can be so enticing that we freelancers forget how to look out for ourselves.  Instead, we go against our better judgment and contract with a nightmare client.  You know the type: impossible to please, hypocritical, late on payment(s), disrespectful, etc.  In a word, unprofessional.

Recently, I’ve been dealing with a prospective client who first reached out to me many, many weeks ago for a rather large copywriting project.  The client requested a detailed quote for my services, which I provided, and then expressed a great deal of interest in working with me.  The client then said s/he’d be back in touch with me in a few days to sign the contract.  It all sounded very promising.

But then the client vanished.  Without a trace.  For several weeks.  And didn’t bother to respond to my follow-up phone calls and e-mails.  I all but gave up.

Several weeks after that, though, I FINALLY received a return phone call from the client.  S/he basically admitted that s/he’d deliberately ignored me because the company had decided to do the job in-house.  Until, that is, they came to their senses and realized just how badly they needed professional help. 

The client never did apologize for his/her unprofessional conduct, but because s/he basically hired me on the spot, I considered it water under the bridge; I was too seduced by the promise of adding a new client to my roster.  The client then promised to sign the contract, pay the deposit, and deliver all necessary materials by the following week so that I could get started right away.  And before hanging up, s/he reiterated how thrilled s/he was to be working with me.

I was feeling pretty good.  It was a sizeable project.  A decent paycheck.  And a wonderful creative outlet.  And, the client seemed genuinely excited about working with me. 

Of course, things didn’t exactly work out as I had expected. 

Weeks upon weeks have passed since the day the client “hired” me, and, to date, I still haven’t heard from him/her.  Not a peep.  Nuttin’.  Nada.  Despite my repeated efforts to follow up and find out what the hell is going on. 

I feel annoyed.  Frustrated.  Angry.  Yes, very, very angry.

But, most of all, I actually feel… smarter.  Enlightened.  Like I’ve learned an invaluable lesson, here.

And this is it:

As far as I’m concerned, the well of “prospects” has run dry for this “prospective” client.  I’ve learned that this client would only waste my time, effort, and energy if I signed on to work for him/her.  And that no amount of money (which I’d likely have to fight tooth and nail to receive, anyway) would be enough to compensate for the migraine I’d suffer as a result.

No Sir-ee Bob, this is not a company I’d want to work for.  Ever.  And so, I won’t.  For my own sake.  For my own sanity.  For my own scruples, for crying out loud! 

And so, if the client ever does get back to me, my response will be simple: thanks, but no thanks.  I simply cannot, and will not, work with unprofessional people. 

If there’s one thing I hope you’ll walk away with after reading this anecdote, it’s this: if a prospective client is irresponsible, disrespectful, and unprofessional before the contract is even signed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the client will be irresponsible, disrespectful, and unprofessional after the contract is signed.  The only difference is, once the contract is signed, you’re locked in. 

So don’t let the allure of dollar signs make you doubt your gut instincts: if it walks like a snake and talks like a snake, it’s a snake.  Get out now, while you still can!

–Rachel

Posted in The Basics | 8 Comments »