Saturday, 12:15 PM
If you do any kind of client work, this very well may be the most important “from the trenches” advice you’ll ever get.
I stopped taking copywriting clients back in 2005… for several reasons.
First of all, it was a slap upside my noggin to see a client take what I wrote and make MILLIONS… when I only got a measly $15k plus a small percentage of royalties if I was lucky.
It didn’t take me too long to realize I could do that for my own projects and keep the millions for myself.
And it’s way more fun to work on my own businesses than put up with whiny, pain in the ass clients. At times, I felt more like a psychologist than a copywriter.
There was another big reason I stopped writing copy for clients…
I could write the best sales letter ever written in the history of the world…
And it could still bomb!
See, if the other sales processes in the client’s business sucked… world class copy really didn’t make much of a difference.
That’s why I decided if I would ever consider taking on another client, they would have to allow me to analyze and help them improve EVERYTHING related to making the sale.
That would include…
- List selection…
- Media selection…
- PPC campaigns…
- Followup processes and systems…
- Order fulfillment…
- Customer service… (Imagine spending $100k on a mailing that gets thousands of people to call you… only to have the phone answered by a surly, know-nothing bimbo who talks callers OUT of the sale!)
- Customer retention techniques…
- Back end sales…
- And more…
If I’m given the opportunity to act as if I have an ownership position… and improve everything that affects the profitability of the business… THEN I know without a shadow of a doubt I can TRANSFORM that business into a huge non-stop money-sucking machine.
A few weeks ago it slipped out to a few people in the direct response world that I might consider taking a client or two if I was allowed to do what I just described.
The e-mails and phone calls started flooding in.
And after only one conversation with a potential client who practically begged me to work with him, I was painfully reminded of exactly why I stopped taking clients.
This guy was completely clueless about online and offline marketing. The only reason he has the current level of success is he has thrown a ton of mud up against the wall and, luckily for him, some of it stuck.
He has ZERO long term sustainable marketing and prospecting strategies in place. He built his house on sand and it’s only a matter of time until it crumbles.
Unless he hires me.
But that ain’t EVER gonna happen… and I’ll tell you why.
This guy made the fatal mistake.
Copywriters… Hearken Unto Me Or Thou Shalt Be Screweth…
After learning this lesson the hard way several times, I implemented a little “litmus test” for potential clients.
And in EVERY case, when this happened, the client turned out to be a dishonest schmuck who reneged on our agreement.
Here’s a HUGE honkin’ red warning flag…
Your potential client starts the relationship by immediately trying to weasel out of or negotiate down your up-front fee.
In many cases it involves him asking you to work “on spec”. That means you write the piece for free, he’ll run it and if he likes the results, he’ll pay you.
(That might be OK for a beginning copywriter… but get everything spelled out in writing. Decide on the exact results the client needs for you to get paid… and exactly how much he’ll pay you.)
After you’ve got some chops and can demonstrate you produce results… spec assignments suck.
Another popular client weaseling technique is some kind of promise to pay a portion of your fee now and the balance later.
Or he sells you on taking less up front by promising a bigger percentage on the back end.
Whenever you’re approached with those scenarios… no matter how bad you need the money, don’t walk…
RUN from that guy!
I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Against my better judgment I’ve accepted clients who weaseled out of paying all or some of my up-front fee.
One was a well known Internet marketing “guru” who you would probably know. He persuaded me to accept only 7% down of my typical $15,000 fee with a promise of paying a higher than normal royalty on the back end.
This was a guy was running all over the country speaking at all the IM events telling people he had a multi-million dollar online business. And pitching his $1,500 e-mail marketing course.
If that were really true, $15k should have been pocket change for him. He would have easily gotten a 100-fold return on investment.
My gut told me there was something wrong… but hey… this guy was a “friend” and one of the most connected IM “gurus” out there.
Guess what happened.
Yup… he never paid me a dime of the balance owed. In fact, he evaded my calls and e-mails for two months before he had the balls to tell me he was reneging on our contract for no reason whatsoever.
As far as I know, he could be running that copy somewhere and screwing me out of thousands of dollars.
But it was actually a good thing. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Thanks to him, I haven’t accepted a copywriting client since then.
Over the past 15 years, every single time a potential client has tried to get out of paying my fee… without exception… he has not kept his word and screwed me out of some or ALL of my promised compensation.
Please learn from my mistakes…
If you’ve got the chops and can show that you can write copy that converts… charge what you’re worth… and don’t back down from that price.
If a client doesn’t understand the value of your services, fire him immediately and find one that does. They’re out there and they are a joy to work with.
I wrote a lot of stuff for a flat fee. It wasn’t until I had a lot more experience and could show some really stellar results that I started asking for a royalty.
Let me share a secret with you about client work that Gary Halbert shared with me…
Don’t count on royalties!
If you’re going to ask for a fee plus royalty arrangement, charge enough of a fee so if that’s the only compensation you get, you’ll be satisfied.
In many cases, you won’t get paid your promised royalties because your client is a schmuck. Or you’ll get royalties for a few months until some other hired gun beats your control.
So ask for what you think the job is worth. If you get any royalties, consider it an unexpected windfall.
They’re not ALL schmucks…
About the same time the schmuck client contacted me, I got to meet and have dinner with one of my subscribers, Chris from New Zealand.
Now that is the kind of guy you want to have as a client. He’s positive, likes to take risks and is fun to hang out with.
I’m going to work with him on a new business he’s starting.
And get this. He said…
“Even if this whole thing flops, it’s worth $15,000 to me just to discover your marketing secrets.”
Those are the kind of clients you should find.
They’re out there. You just might have to “kiss a few frogs” like I did to find ’em.
Gotta run. I’ve got real “pay the bills” work to do.
All the best,
P.S. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag yet… but if you ever wanted to discover my secrets for starting a highly profitable “kitchen table” business from scratch… you’re going to be really excited.
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