Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to Write: Part Two

Today's topic is: How to make your clients think you are the best writer in the world

If you want to build a successful writing career, you really don't have to be the best writer in the world. You just have to make your clients think that's what you are.

Tip # 1: Use impeccable spelling and grammar. Most people have terrible spelling and grammar (just read the Christmas letter from your college roommate and you will see what I mean). But most people recognize good spelling and grammar when they see it. So proofread carefully. And consult a spelling and grammar expert such as your 7th grade English teacher when necessary. She will be thrilled to hear from you.

Tip # 2: Use your client's words whenever possible. For example, a client may send a creative brief that says: "This postcard needs too convinse our cusstomers that this free checking account can help them save money and manage the stresses in there lifes and be more sucessfulll at everything they do. It may even save there mairrage. Lets really sell it."

Your job is to pick out some key words and use them in your copy. In this case the client did include one rational thought, so you could talk about helping people save money. In other cases, the creative brief will consist entirely of 6 words: "Checking accounts. Need something really catchy." Now you're in trouble. There are no key words to pick out, and you have no idea what "really catchy" is supposed to mean. So it's time for Tip # 3.

Tip # 3: Don't be afraid to ask for clarification. In the case of the 6-word creative brief, you could simply send an email requesting some more details. What does "catchy" mean to them? Do they have examples of previous "catchy" projects they could send? Did they have some copy points they would like to include?

Chances are, you will receive an answer something like this: "You know. Catchy."

So there you go. Just write something up. I guarantee that they will send an email that says: "This is not at all what we had in mind. We asked for a contemporary, sales-oriented headline with light and humorous body copy emphasizing the fact that we do not charge a monthly fee for our checking account. And why didn't you mention the sweepstakes?"

Before you explode, take a minute to read Tip # 4.

Tip # 4: Don't take anything personally. This is the hardest part for a perfectionist like me. I mean, if I had known they wanted light and humorous copy emphasizing the fact that they do not charge a monthly fee, I would have given it to them! I would have been happy to explain their sweepstakes!

Over the years, I have learned that the best course is not to send the irate email I typed up within 6 seconds of receiving their email. The best course is to repeat my copywriting mantra: "Don't take it personally. Don't take it personally" ... until I have calmed down. Next, I take a few handfuls of Cheetos and do a quick review of the project I wrote in 2003 which won an award even though, ok, the award was not specifically for the copywriting but still it lets me claim to be an award-winning copywriter which at this particular moment is very important to my fragile ego.

Whew. Now I can tackle the checking account project anew, giving the client exactly what they want, making the copy nice and catchy and using as many of the client's own words as possible.

Then I will send my invoice, grab some more Cheetos, turn on Deal Or No Deal, and remind myself that, even if I am not the best writer in the world, I really do have the best job in the world.


Topics for discussion:
Do you have certain clients who just drive you crazy?
Have you developed strategies to deal with them?
Have you ever dropped a client because they were so difficult?


Anonymous said...

#1, you just came from my blog, didn't you?

I have had all that happen, wonderful stuff, I've just never seen it explained before.

Now, basically I write for entertainment, if you can call blogging a form of entertainment. I rarely proofread, which is why I figured your #1 tip showed that you just came from my blogs...


Lesley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Smelker Seven said...

Lesley - I have two words for you:

Len Topolski!

Remember him from Mutual Federal? The man is so sweet but almost impossible to get things from!

I could totally relate to this blog as I go through this all the time with clients.

Lesley said...

Oh my gosh Cori, I can't believe Len is still there!

I have another client right now who is the same way. They send the most confusing instructions, and the more questions I ask, the more vague and confusing they get! Once I write something up, they finally explain what they want. I should just send the same first draft every time.

TripleLLL said...

We seem to have lots in common. It's good to hear someone quote Erma Bombeck. I miss her!! I could also related to the irreverent Christian. I was raised as an atheist, so I really have to pay attention to myself in church!! I'm glad I found your blog.

Lesley said...

Hi TripleLLL,
Glad to hear I'm not the only irreverent Christian out there! I was raised in a church-going but liberal-thinking family, so my views sometimes surprise my conservative friends and family members. I believe there's room for everybody in the family of God!(otherwise I wouldn't be there, LOL)

Mi RA Nicaragua said...

Your descriptive writing is just perfect!

I will visit your page often once I learn how to navigate this site well. The mere fact that I still have a smirk on my lips after reading your post is going to bring me here!

May 2009 bring you much health, wealth & happiness!


Lamoine said...

Nice tips: as a developing writer, (aka. really crappy writer) I thought that it was really helpful. Thanks! I'm excited to read all the stuff that you've written on your blog!


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