Wanted: Paladin. Telepathist. Saint. Writing Skills a Plus.

15 May 2009


Do you know the No. 1 reason good writers fail at writing as a profession? Bad customer service. Well, no, that’s not exactly accurate. A lot of writers have customer service skills. But, in the end, they’re only human. And the truth is, to be a great copywriter, you must be superhuman.

The good news is: Anyone can become superhuman. But it does take a lot of work, a lot of dedication, and an ability to swallow that all-too-human emotion: pride.

Here are my top three tips to developing paranormal powers and, along the way, establishing long-lasting, successful relationships with your clientele.

Roland receives the sword, Durandal, from the ...
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1. Set Expectations. Earn Paladin Status. On your first meeting, do not be afraid to meet your client in your brave white Dodge Charger, brandish your blazing pen, and slash through the fabrications to the simple truth. Seems basic. Yet, you’d be surprised how difficult this can be. The overzealous human copywriter will often want so badly to please a client that they’re likely to promise anything: Want that 100 page document proofed by tomorrow? Sure. Want a guarantee that you’ll be 100 percent satisfied with my work on the first draft? Absolutely. What? You want me to promise you a bestseller? Of course! Wrong.
As a superhuman copywriter, here’s what you say instead: Tell them when you can reasonably have it done – even if it means losing business if you can’t meet their deadline. Tell them that it’s likely that they will have edits on their copy the first time around. It’s normal. Tell them you will write a bestseller – but whether it becomes a bestseller, that’s not something you can promise. No one can.

2. Listen to What Your Client Actually Means. Become Telephathic. You have to remember that most of your clients are going to be of the human variety. And while you are working on your superhuman status, they are probably just going to stay human. So that means that you really need to learn how to listen. That’s your job. Remember. You are the communicator. That’s what they hired you for.

So, as a superhuman copywriter, you have to listen between the lines when your client is writing (or talking) to you. And in order to listen, you have to learn how to ask the right questions to get at the meat of the matter. As a copywriter, you can never ask too many questions (although you can ask stupid questions, but that’s another blog).

So here’s an example:

Human criticism = This paragraph is just not working for me.

Standard human copywriter answer = Why not?

Human response = Well, I just don’t like it. It’s just not good.

Human copywriter answer = Well, I want to make it right, but I’m just not sure I understand what you don’t like about it.

And round and round you go. In the end, the human copywriter leaves completely baffled as to what the client wants, and the client leaves frustrated.

So, here’s how you fix this:

Human criticism = This paragraph is just not working for me.

Superhuman copywriter answer = Ok, not a problem. Is it the information that isn’t working? Or are you not pleased with the way the paragraph sounds?

Then, the client either tells you that the info isn’t right, in which case you ask what specifically he would like included/excluded. Or, he’ll tell you that he doesn’t like the way it sounds, in which case, say:

“Ok, is there anything about the paragraph you would like me to keep?”

If they say no, don’t even try to figure out what’s wrong. Really. Most people just can’t tell you what it is about voice, tone, or flow that isn’t working. Just say…

“Ok, no problem, I’ll rewrite this a couple of different ways and send it back to you.”

Then rewrite it a couple of different ways and send it back. And what I mean by this is start with a blank sheet of paper and write a completely different paragraph. Don’t reference your original. Don’t pull any phrases from it. I don’t care if you loved the first one, and you don’t see what’s wrong with it. It doesn’t matter.

Just clear your head, think of a different angle, and go with it.


3. Do Not Under Any Circumstances Become Defensive. Achieve Sainthood.

Here’s what I tell clients, “I only have one feeling, and you can’t hurt it.”

Here’s what I tell copywriters, “If it doesn’t hurt when a client doesn’t like it, you aren’t doing it right!”

Ok, so there’s a method behind this madness. Clients can’t feel like they are going to hurt your human feelings, because then you’ll never get the truth out of them; and if they aren’t happy – even if they are unhappy with a single word – you need to be the first to know. That’s the only way you’re going to have truly happy clients. Copywriters on the other hand have to love their work or else they aren’t giving it their all.

So, the only solution to this is that all good copywriters must become saints… and telepathists…and paladins.

Oh, yeah, and you have to be a great writer, too.

The Writers For Hire, Inc. 
At The Writers For Hire, you are hiring not just one copywriter, but a streamlined team of experienced writing professionals. We've perfected our unique cooperative writing model, so you'll have the advantage of receiving a fine-tuned final draft that has been reviewed by several editors.

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