Publish your content on The Drum

Why copywriters are their own worst enemies

Andy Maslen has been persuading people to think, feel and act differently since 1986, when he first started working as an in-house copywriter.

He is managing director and head copywriter at Sunfish, the writing agency he founded with creative director Jo Kelly in 1996, and the author of five books on copywriting, including the best-sellers Write to Sell and Persuasive Copywriting.

Do you write better after whine?

Twitter is over-run with copywriters, whining.

We whine about other copywriters’ work, which is usually shit. We whine about politics, although we do this on social media rather than actually doing anything about it. But most of all, we whine about clients.

Actually, I need to be more specific. Some copywriters whine about clients.

I never do. For one simple reason.

They pay for everything. They pay for my car, my holidays, my clothes, my children’s Christmas presents, everything.

I even designed a poster for the wall of our office. It reads, in full,

Be nice to clients – they pay for everything.

I am not fortunate enough to have a private income, so I rely on my clients to keep hiring my agency.

Clearly many other copywriters are so blessed, to judge from the gay abandon with which they hurl insults at clients on social media. WHERE CLIENTS CAN READ THEM.

Here is a short, but non-exhaustive list of complaints levelled at clients.

“They don’t understand my process.”

“They won’t pay me what I’m worth.”

“They change my copy.”

“They don’t give me enough time.”

“They don’t write clear briefs.”

But here’s the thing.

You took them on as a client in the first place.

If they don’t understand your process, you should have explained it better.

They only pay you the amount on the invoice you send them. And that’s only the amount you agreed to work for.

If they change your copy, ask them why.

If they don’t give you enough time, why did you accept the deadline?

If the brief isn’t clear, why did you start work?

The people who really don’t respect copywriters are not clients at all. They’re copywriters themselves.

Copywriters who drop their prices as a “goodwill” gesture to complete strangers.

Copywriters who take gigs paying less than a dog walker earns.

Copywriters who accept ludicrous deadlines and work through the night or at weekends to meet them.

Copywriters who turn up to meetings dressed like students instead of businesspeople.

It’s time to stop whining and start acting.

The way to get respect is to earn it.

Charge at least as much as a comparable professional earns (and no, I don’t mean freelance graphic designers). I would suggest at least £500 a day.

People are less likely to muck about (or fuck about) with copy they’ve paid handsomely for.

Never accept a job with a deadline shorter than five working days.

Never haggle. Ever.

Insist a brief is clear before you start work.

Act professionally at all times and in all places. For example, “Hello” is not the right way to answer the phone. (You could hire a virtual receptionist for as little as £75 a month.)

Hire a professional to take your photo for your website. (Webcams, selfies and holiday snaps with a massive blue cocktail at your elbow send the wrong message.)

You do an incredibly valuable job, helping people and companies boost sales, profits and employee satisfaction, and earning the owners of the business vast sums of money.

Start acting like it.

By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy