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How Much Free DIY Copywriting Advice Should You Give?

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The following email was sent to me by a web designer seeking copywriting advice for his client.  I’ve decided to share the email and my responses (in conversation form) because they may help other copywriters handle similar situations.  I hope you find the information useful.  (His questions appear in green.)

Susan Greene | Freelance Copywriter | Orlando, Florida

Hi Susan,

I found your article: http://www.susangreenecopywriter.com/articles/copywriters-charge.html in case you’re tracking. 

Thank you.  It’s always good to know which of my posts are attracting traffic.​

I’ve got a question that I’ve not managed to find much guidance on yet in my research.  I’m a web designer helping an organization of naturopathic doctors create a new website to promote their industry.  Their charter is to increase the demand for naturopathic physicians in the U.S.  Essentially, they’re selling the services of naturopathic physicians.  

I’m struggling with them to get the initial site up for a few reasons.  One is that their static pages (home, about us, FAQs, etc.) read like they’ve been written for a textbook, {url deleted here for privacy}.  They wrote them themselves.  I assume improving them is a straightforward matter of hiring a talented copywriter to help them.

I looked at the pages.  You’re right.  They’re technical and emotionless.  They’re certainly not persuasive. Unless you happen to be educated in naturopathic medicine, they’re difficult (and boring) to read.

Clearly the people who wrote the pages are knowledgeable about the subject matter but not about copywriting.  To remedy this situation, they can take classes or read books about how to become a better copywriter and then rewrite the pages.  Or, if this is not the best use of their time, they can hire a professional copywriter as you suggested.  Problem solved.

Consider the converse.  I am an experienced copywriter.  If I decided one day I wanted to be come a naturopathic physician to cure what ails me, I could either take classes or read books about the subject and then apply what I learn, gaining experience as I go.

Or I could go to someone who’s already invested the time and energy into becoming an experienced naturopathic physician and pay them to much more quickly diagnose my problem and treat my symptoms.  Which of those 2 options do you think will have the better outcome?

Yes, Susan, I see where you’re headed.  But even if they are able to rewrite their website pages, they have another problem.  I’ve told them they must pump out good content consistently about the conditions naturopathic doctors diagnose and how they treat them if they want to generate traffic for their site.  

They have some volunteers to start writing, but I expect their qualifications to be medical only.  I’m not expecting great, readable, content. So the question I’m most struggling with is how can I mobilize these people into a content-generating force for the organization?  

​From experience, I will tell you that your plan to mobilize these people into generating content on an ongoing basis is unlikely to work.  You can’t make someone who doesn’t love writing become a writer, especially if they’re not getting paid to do the work.  It will feel to them like they’re back in school writing term papers.  They’ll procrastinate, come up with excuses, miss deadlines, and ultimately turn out work of questionable quality, that is, if they turn out any written work at all.

I should point out that if it was easy to get people to write their own copy, I would be unemployed.  Instead I’m overwhelmed with work.

Ev​en if there were an easy answer to your question — how to turn non-writers into writing machines — do you really think I would share that secret with you?

​Like you, I have bills to pay.  Writing is how I make my living, and I’m not interested in educating my clients to become DIY’ers.  I have enough competition from other copywriters as it is!

Also realize what you’re asking me.  I’ve invested 4 years of college to get a journalism degree from a top school, 2 years of graduate school to get an MBA, read countless books and attended seminars on the subject, and put in over 25 years of hands-on daily experience practicing my craft.

It always amazes me that people think I can in a brief email or with a link to an article teach someone how to do what I do and, more importantly, how to do it well.

If I hired a copywriter, could they “fix” content after it’s been written?  

​Yes, a copywriter can edit copy, but whether they could “fix” your content specifically would depend on whether it was “fixable.”  It might need to be rewritten completely.  Or it might just need a little polish.  Would have to see the actual copy to determine it’s “fixability.”​

Would a professional copywriter rather just accept outlines and medical facts and take it from there in terms of creating content?  

​Most copywriters would prefer to write the articles themselves.  Again, that’s how we make our living.  Writing is what we love, not just cleaning up someone else’s mess.  If all your copy needs is a punctuation and grammar check, you can use software for that function or find an English teacher to do your dirty work.

What would you suggest I tell my client?

I would suggest you establish a copywriting budget and then pay a professional to do the work.  Otherwise, the work is unlikely to get done for the reasons I stated above.

Thanks Susan!

​You’re welcome, and please pardon the snarky tone.  It’s hard not to be flippant when someone is essentially asking me how they can do my job so they don’t have to pay me.

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