12/28/2008: "8 Mistakes Copywriters Should Avoid in 2009"
Now is the time to take stock of our mistakes and vow not to make them again. The mistakes I'm writing about are not mistakes in writing. They're mistakes in running our businesses and in marketing ourselves.
Not every copywriter makes every mistake. Some don't make any of them. How do I know they're mistakes? Because I've made them. Or, copywriters I know have made them. And the consequences were often extremely unpleasant and costly in time and money.
So, here in no particular order is my list of mistakes to avoid in 2009.
1. Not getting a written agreement.
Working without a written agreement is like walking a tightrope with no safety net. You may not think something will happen. Chances are most of your projects will be uneventful. But it just takes one client, one time, to make your life miserable. A simple written agreement will save you time and money and make your job easier.
2. Not keeping a running record of your client/prospect emails and phone calls.
You may never need to refer back to an old email or phone call you had with a client. But when you need it, you need it now and you need it badly. Keep all of those emails and when your relationship with that client ends, archive the emails and save them. Also, record each phone call with clients. Tell them you're recording the call if that's the law where you live.
People in business expect their calls to be recorded and it should not offend anyone. I put it in my agreements that I will record all phone calls.
3. Not keeping good records in general, especially financial records.
The new administration in the United States is apt to be less friendly to business and more into our pockets. So make sure your financial records are pristine. Document everything.
4. Not keeping up with current marketing methods.
Many copywriters, especially those who have been successful for many years, are loath to get into things like the new social media marketing tools. They just don't get it.
While the old ways are still wonderful in many ways and we can learn much from them, things are changing. We must change with the times.
That means looking at branding methods such as podcasting, Twitter and other social networks, talk radio shows and video, to name a few.
5. Believing everything we read and hear from every "guru".
It's not smart to take at face value what anyone writes or says --- no matter who he or she is. When a study is done or proof is offered, then take it seriously. It's like taking estrogen. For years women were told they must take it at a certain age. Then we find out it's killing us. A long study proved the original thinking wrong.
That's why I like Jakob Nielsen. He does studies to back up what he writes. Therefore, I trust what he says about Web site usability. I know it's not opinion.
6. Accepting a client before you know more about him.
Your relationship with a client may only last throughout the project. But that can seem like a lifetime if it's not a good relationship. While most clients are wonderful to work with, a few are not. If you hear or feel any red flags before taking on a client, don't take them on. If you need to, do a background check.
I recently ran a quick check on a prospective client and found he used several names and was scamming customers and others.
7. Not getting paid in full, in advance.
Gone are the days when you deal with people you know. We work with people all over the world. These are people we do not know and probably will never see.
Always get 100% of your fee upfront. There's simply no other safe way to do business in my opinion and from my experience. And few clients have a problem with this and have come to expect it.
8. Being arrogant. Thinking you are right and everyone else is wrong.
I've been in this business over 40 years. But every day I learn from people half my age. I love young people. I love their energy, their ambition and their knowledge of new things and new ideas. I love the fact they're willing and anxious to learn from those of us who have been around a long time.
I can't be young again. But I need not stick to outdated ideas that worked once but no longer matter. I can't be arrogant in my knowledge of the old ways. Rather I must learn from others just as they learn from me. The new and the old must work in sync to create marketing that is superior and that meets the needs of today's consumer and advertiser.
My mentor was Cecil C. Hoge, Sr. He was also the mentor to the famous copywriter, Eugene Schwartz. I learned from the master and the master's master. If Cecil were alive today, he would embrace the tools of today.
Indeed, Cecil wrote one of the first books about Internet marketing, "The Electronic Marketing Manual." He embraced the new marketing and so should we.
Embrace the Tools of Today to Achieve Success Tomorrow.
This is what the future looks like. Are you ready?
Our thanks to Ben Walker, songwriter of ihatemornings.com for the wonderful video and great song. Visit his site.