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I wanted to get your take on a situation. I was recently approached by an e-commerce company that sells jewelry online. We’ve gone back-and-forth a few times discussing the work they need — mostly product descriptions and blog posts — but haven’t yet agreed to proceed.
Some things about this jewelry client are making me uncomfortable, but I don’t know if maybe I’m over-reacting. My background is as a journalist, a newspaper reporter, so I’m still learning the ropes of writing marketing copy for websites.
On this jewelry company’s website, they only use their first names on the About Us page. When I spoke with them about their work, such as what they wanted me to include in their first blog post, they were equally vague. I couldn’t tell if they were being secretive or if they just didn’t know how to answer me.
Their website uses the phrase “finest designers and craftsmen” multiple times. But when I asked if I could interview their designers or craftsmen about their work for background in writing the blog post, they gave me some flimsy excuse about their limited availability.
Something just doesn’t feel right, and I’m wondering if they actually are the “persona” they have on their website. I can’t write for products if I’m not sure about the people behind them. What do you think?
Let me start by saying that if you feel someone or some company is sketchy, then that’s reason enough to decline the assignment.
However, you may be setting the bar too high. You come from a journalism background. You want facts, and you want them to be verifiable. In the world of e-commerce, you’re more likely to be writing marketing copy. And while you don’t want to tell any bold-faced lies, you do want to make your products sound attractive.
My guess regarding “finest designers and craftsmen” is that the client is a distributor. He buys products wholesale from some manufacturer and sells them online at retail prices. He doesn’t know the actual designers and craftsmen because they’re several steps removed from his company.
In fact, your client could possibly be a drop-shipper, in which case they don’t have jewelry inventory. They just act as middlemen forwarding purchase orders to the manufacturer or fulfillment house, who then sends the product to the customer directly.
With regard to their specific phrasing about their designers and craftsmen, they probably saw that phrase on a competitor’s website and decided to make it their own. When you asked for more information for their blog post, they simply didn’t have it. They were hoping you could look at the photos of their jewelry and make something up.
I often tell people that my job as a copywriter is often to “make something out of nothing.” It’s being “a creative” versus being a reporter.
I understand that you don’t want to write anything that’s untrue or promote a company that’s doing shady things, but you want to stay in your lane, which is writing copy that helps sell the client’s products.
I want to share a quick story, a bit more extreme, but related. I had a woman, Lisa M. contact me to write her website. It was a new business. At the time I was extremely busy with other projects and couldn’t take on their work. So I referred her to another freelance copywriter.
Lisa was selling weighted blankets. She was a new distributor for the manufacturer who sold the blankets to her at wholesale prices. My referral copywriter obtained the initial information from the client, and then began asking questions such as, “Do you have a patent? Are you sure your blankets are safe? What if a child got stuck under a blanket? Is the blanket fireproof? Do you have liability insurance? Will you be posting warnings on your website?”
As you might have guessed, the copywriter scared the hell out of the client. Lisa went from being enthused about this new product and new business to being petrified that she was going to be sued!
I’m not sure whether she backed out of the whole business, but she certainly didn’t go forward with the copywriter I’d referred. So, how is that relevant to your situation? The copywriter didn’t stay in his lane. Why was he asking questions about liability, product testing, insurance, etc.?
Of course, he didn’t want to promote an unsafe product (i.e. cigarettes or toys with lead paint), but the questions were out of line coming from him. All he needed were the features and benefits to begin writing the client’s website. Let her attorney figure out what liability she has and advise her regarding risk management.
My point is you’re not an attorney. You’re not “the jewelry police.” Stay in your lane. Take a marketing approach with future clients, and short of them selling a faulty or dangerous product, or intentionally stealing from customers, stay focused on writing their copy.