Copywriting for FREE? Some on craigslist think so…

July 21, 2007

Every day, there are more and more craigslist posts seeking ‘writers’ for everything from book collaborations to editorials to online articles. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of writing service.

But what they’re not doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are seeking writers, let me ask you; how many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the writing services you need? A dozen…five…one…none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are ‘professional’ copywriters. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are seventy times as many people in the IT field.

So tell me…why do you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy of getting something for nothing (or next to nothing) when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Given that they are less rare, and therefore individually less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the ‘opportunity’ to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him a few bucks for materials. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even consider offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re obviously crazy. If you answered no, then kudos for living in the real world.

Copywriters, freelance writers, editors, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect (and money) is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a great opportunity for a writer to have his work seen on your web’zine, website, sales letter, marketing flyers, etc. It is a great opportunity for you to have their work there.

2. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their resume. They get to do those things anyway, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

3. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

4. New writers in the business do need experience. But they do not need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the ‘experience’ they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you, your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of shrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

5. ‘Creative’ writers, this one’s for you so please pay attention. Some will ask you to submit work for consideration. They may even be posing as some sort of ‘contest’. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by lots of writers each trying to win the contest, or be chosen for the gig. The organizers of these ‘contests’ take the best that’s submitted and use it themselves. Usually they’ll have someone reproduce that work or make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will not be paid, you will not win the contest. The only people who win here are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This can be considered speculative, or ‘spec’, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely.

6. Speaking of Spec work, don’t ever accept it. When someone asks you to write some copy or draw up an ad ‘to show them what you can do’ without an agreed upon price, that’s spec. And it should not be in your vocabulary. Spec work may seem necessary at the beginning of your career, but it’s better to do ‘free’ work for charitable organizations to build up a portfolio, then to waste time and effort on spec work.

So to writers of all persuasions looking for work, do everyone a favor, especially yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are ‘spec’ jobs, or just some guy who wants a free article in his magazine. They need you. You do not need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to work for free…how dare you.

Pepsi ‘Pinball’ Ad

July 21, 2007

Okay, here’s a Pepsi ad. It works well because of the high energy (re:Pepsi gives you energy)and the fast pace of the ad. The fact that Pepsi positions itself in the marketplace as a ‘fun drink’ for young people makes this commercial video work.

What do you think?

Chipping away at Writer’s Block

July 21, 2007


Often, in the life of a writer, self-doubt creeps in. A form of Writer’s block, it’s notorious for bringing writing to a screeching halt. Doubting our writing capabilities in the middle of a project often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the writing may, indeed, SUCK.

I find that when I’m ‘in the groove’ the words flow easily appearing on the computer monitor as fast as I can type them. But when writer’s block rears its ugly head, the monitor stares back, taunting me, laughing at me. And I stare back at it, then down at the keyboard, then back up at the monitor. But there’s nothing…

So how do you get rid of the block? What methods do I use to get back to writing?

Here are a few things that seem to work:

  • If you’re not locked in to a topic, pick one that you’re passionate about, one that gets the creative juices flowing. I find if I’m interested in what I write about, it’s much easier to keep the words coming and to finish the task.
  • Try Free Association. Sometimes a writers tendency to edit as he/she goes along will bring on the dreaded ‘block’. Get rid of your “editor’s hat”…there’s plenty of time for that after you’ve done the draft. Relax, close your eyes for 10-15 minutes and think of things NOT pertaining to your writing.
  • After you’ve done that, try setting a timer for 10 minutes and start typing anything that comes into your mind…even if it makes no sense at all. A childhood verse, what you would do on vacation, words that rhyme…anything at all as long as it has nothing to do with what you’ve been writing. The idea is to free your mind of all distractions and just write what comes naturally. Then transfer that freedom to the writing task at hand. Works every time.
  • Another easy thing to try is to break your project up into smaller portions. When looking at the project as a whole, it can feel overwhelming and seem like a monumental task bringing on writer’s block big time. Cutting it into smaller chunks ie., a few paragraphs, a page, or a chapter, if it’s a book; or the headline and subhead if it’s an ad, will make it flow that much easier.
  • And exercise. Whenever your writing is blocked go for a brisk walk around the block, take a swim, ride your bike or use the treadmill. Physical activity increases the blood flow to the brain and releases nervous tension…and it’s been know to release a muse or two.

These work for me…I’d love to hear what works for you.

Funny, but does it make the sale?

July 21, 2007

This is one of several ‘Trunk Monkey’ commericals developed for Suburban Auto Group

Funny, definitely. Clever, certainly. Will it sell the product? I don’t think so.

While this commercial is memorable (the Trunk Monkey has become somewhat of a cult figure), it says nothing about the product it’s trying to sell. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know what cars this dealership sold until the ending credit. Also, except for the web address at the very end, there was no contact or address information.

Ads like these are fun to watch, but unless they’re used in conjunction with an ad blitz campaign, they are just that, fun to watch…and nothing else.