Anyone can write.
If you think about it, writing is the skills equivalent of a free kittens. Sure you can get all fancy and BUY a kitten, but why would you when the neighbor down the street is giving kittens away for free? The same holds true for writing. Anyone can do it. Why hire a writer or a blogger when you could just have Sally in accounting handle it?
That’s what people think. That anyone can pick up a pen and craft a blog post or write a brochure.
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times. It’s usually sitting across the table from an entrepreneur who doesn’t really want to pay to have a professional copywriter write their company web site. You know, the one that’s been sitting on the web developer’s server for the last 3 months without the copy that virtually anyone can write.
I usually smile politely and ask about the company. It typically starts with the story about how fast their company is growing and how Mr. Entrepreneur himself barely has time to keep up with the day-to-day operations. Sometimes the discussion meanders onto the topic of writing when I learn that Mr. Entrepreneur doesn’t really like writing.
Then comes the confession: “I can’t.” Can’t in this context can mean almost anything: “I don’t like writing”, “I don’t have time to write”, “I can’t seem to find the right words” or “I’m not actually happy with what I have written but I can’t explain why.” At this point, I usually smile and nod, and assure Mr. Entrepreneur that everything will be okay and that’s is difficult for someone so close to the subject to write about it objectively.
I don’t get into the technical skill it takes to capture the essence of a company and translate it into something meaningful for the target audience or how you need to balance the information-laden copy with the white space to give the reader visual breaks or how doing something as simple as using parallel structure makes your lists easier to follow. They see it when I hand them the finished product and compare it to what they came up with.
Let’s go back to our box of free kittens.
Of course, you forget that the free kittens need their shots, deworming medicine and of course, the old snip-snip, assuming you are a responsible pet owner. A quick trip to the pet store is a surefire way to remind yourself of the true cost of pet ownership. A few hundred dollars later and you are ready to care for your freebie.
The same holds true for the freebies out there who offer up their services free of charge. How kind of them to bestow their skills on your company for no charge at all! What you forget to factor in is all the time that is spent on THEIR learning. Extra meetings with key members of your staff, or even yourself as the company leader. Add up all those wasted hours and it’s just the beginning.
You see, they aren’t doing it for free because they are infinitely qualified to do it. They’re doing it because they want to become qualified (and they are practicing — i.e. making mistakes — on your company). So that typo they missed before signing off on the proof for 5,000 printed copies or even worse, that cultural slang they didn’t consider before plastering your company name on that high traffic billboard, that’s all free of charge.
Remember this when you are feeling intimidated about competing with the freebies, when you start questioning what you charge for your knowledge, your skill and most of all, your experience. Know that they are getting EXACTLY what they paid for. Don’t worry, they’ll figure it out eventually (some of my best clients learned that lesson the hard way).