Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Free Copywriters to Do What They Do Best

Does your copywriter suffer from PTSD?

image In a rant on what Business Owners can expect when building a Web site, I expressed my sympathy for copywriters, who, I asserted, often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The red ink that a business owner pours over (the copywriter's) work looks to them like blood. ... Most are beaten into submission, delivering mind-numbing copy with the flavor of Styrofoam.

You see it every day. Incoherent chains of adverbs and multi-syllabic words designed only to make the business look smarter or bigger than it really is.

Good copywriters are storytellers. Business owners want manifestos to what they've built.

I've upped the ante over on The Conversion Scientist with the post Zero Steps to Copy That Makes Visitors Stick. Copywriters, are you ready to engage a new business model for developing Web copy?

The Three-comp Copy Model

In my experience, copywriters can expect to get paid somewhere between $1500 and $2500 for a typical business-to-business Web site. Some charge by the hour. Some charge by the page. Some charge a project price tied to an estimate of the hours required.

Designers may get $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 for the same site.

This seems upside-down to me. A unique design generates interest. Compelling copy generates engagement, leads and sales.

Copywriters should offer a three-comp package for about $7,500, in my opinion. They will deliver three different "Copy Bodies" that tell a story from the value proposition down to the features and benefits. Then the business owner can select one of the three. You have to enforce only one rule: they can do little more than correct any inaccuracies in your copy.

You will then pull from the copy body to populate Web pages, adding appropriate headings as you go.

Where would the extra cash for the copy come from? Well, let the designers do one version -- and only when the copy is complete. They should be able to select design elements when they have a compelling copy narrative to design from.

You've gotta be good

Of course, your copy has to be compelling. You have to work extra hard to understand who's coming to the site. You have to understand them better than the business.

You have to be confident using stories, metaphors and analogies that help the reader understand the value that the business provides. Your headlines have to appeal to the four kinds of buyers you're writing for: Competitive, Methodical, Spontaneous and Humanist.

You also have to appreciate the importance of search keywords in your work. Good writing will already be very search engine friendly.

Who will take the three-comps challenge?

I'm looking for that copywriter who is willing to put this business model to the test. You probably won't be working with a design firm; you'll need to go directly to the client.

When you pitch the price, talk about conversion rates, lead generation, visitor engagement, time on site, and lower bounce rates. Designers can't "move the need" much on these, but you can with content.

To sweeten the deal, offer to throw in a white paper or case study that can be used to generate leads. This will underscore you're ability directly influence their online business goals.

I'll personally coach any copywriter who is willing to take on this challenge. No charge. Contact me by phone or email if you think you have a client to whom you can pitch this idea.

Comment here and let us know if you've had any luck with this approach. Let's put a crack in the dam that has held Web copywriters back for so long.

Photo courtesy nookiez via stock.xchng


  1. Amy Lemen6:45 AM

    Brian, I can't agree with you more! As a FT freelance copywriter for the last nine years, I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to justify rates. But what I'm writing - what I'm helping the client sell - puts money in their pocket, as long as it's compelling copy.

    I also think that EVERY website project should include persona development - a valuable and critical piece of the puzzle, especially when it comes to conversion projects. Thanks for the forum - great idea! And I'll take the challenge any day! :)

  2. Amy, your story is the same I hear from other copywriters. Portfolios just don't cut it when the person reviewing the copy thinks their site has to sound so "corporate." Copywriters, more than designers, can increase conversion, leads and sales. Your pitch needs to incorporate bottom-line benefit.


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