Could it really be possible that some freelance writers would lie to you, saying whatever it takes to snag your business, justify their exorbitant fees, and turn you into a submissive client who does whatever they tell you?
It’s sad, but in the years I’ve been in the business, I’ve seen companies burned, stung, robbed, and strung out by unethical copywriters who couldn’t care less about them. To them, you’re just a walking ATM machine, and they lay awake at night, figuring out how to press all your buttons.
I know because my clients have told me. Sometimes, they tell me because the lie worked, and they’re thinking about taking their business away from my firm, but lots of times, it’s the opposite. They know it’s a lie, but they just can’t figure out how.
As much as some freelance copywriters would like to believe it, business owners aren’t stupid. You know when someone isn’t being straight with you. Maybe you just need someone to verify it, and so that’s what I’d like to do.
It’s ironic for me, a freelance copywriter, to be writing on the lies told within our field – but who better to reveal their lies than someone who’s right in the thick of it?
And here’s why: they make the honest ones look bad. Plenty of copywriters operate with full integrity, but when we have to struggle with a reputation given us by less ethical writers… well, it’s time to fight back.
Here are 10 of the most common lies copywriters like to tell. Take a look, so you’ll be ready:
1. “Every project is unique and I can’t quote you until I know more.”
Every project is unique, true, but top copywriters wouldn’t be where they are today if they didn’t have a good idea of ballpark rates and averages. Most top copywriters display their rates in plain view – they have nothing to hide.
Anytime you see this line, you can be sure that you’re dealing with either an inexperienced writer who isn’t sure of what to charge or a sleaze who is out to charge an arbitrary rate based on how much they think they can squeeze you. Either way, you can do better.
2. “I need to know your budget before I can quote.”
Why? So you can take all of it?
Writers who ask for your budget before giving you a quote are usually trying to figure out how much you can afford, or who want to push you just over your budget so they can get more out of you.
The good writers? They’ll either try to find a solution that fits or say they’ll be there to help when you do have the money saved up.
And they’ll never ask you for your budget.
3. “I’m qualified, because I have a degree in English literature.”
While having a degree is nice, those English lit degrees aren’t any measure of quality copywriting. They’re actually pretty useless where copywriting is concerned, because the field has far more to do with sales and marketing than with literature. Truth be told, most top copywriters don’t even have degrees.
Degrees don’t matter. Results do. The good copywriters aren’t going to show you their credentials; they’re going to show you what they’ve achieved for other clients, and they’ll tell you about the results they can get for your business.
4. “I had to quote high because of the time I’ll need to write this.”
Want to know a dirty little secret?
Top copywriters produce fantastic copy in minutes. The actual writing doesn’t take much time at all, and no copywriter worth his or her salt charges on an hourly basis. High rates are high because of the writer’s skills, experience, reputation and ability to get results. Good copywriters charge that much because they’re that good, not because they’re that slow.
A writer who justifies high rates with high hours is trying to make you think he or she is slaving away for days. It might be true, it might not, but the bottom line for you is that you expect results, and a copywriter whining about time doesn’t help you get them.
5. “Your email hit my spam folder.”
This time-stalling trick isn’t just used by copywriters – it’s the perfect excuse for anyone who wants to avoid dealing with you, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re running behind and can’t deliver on time. Maybe they don’t feel like making changes you’ve requested.
Whatever the reason for wanting to stall, the spam folder provides an easy excuse. Your communication disappears as if it never existed, and by the time the copywriter says, “Oops, I’m sorry,” it’s just too late.
The good copywriters? They know business, and they know that regular spam checkups is just part of the routine – no one’s email gets lost.
6. “I’m booked, so I can only squeeze you in if you pay a rush fee.”
This is pure psychological manipulation, and it works very nicely. A perception of being in demand makes you want the copywriter more, thanks to the magic of social proof.
The really in-demand copywriters don’t play these games. They don’t squeeze anyone, because they don’t need to. They have plenty of work, they’re not interested in filling up their plate, and they can afford to tell you that you have to wait your turn. Which you should do – it saves you money, and the results are worth it.
7. “You get what you pay for.”
Meh, maybe, if we’re discussing cars. But when it comes to freelance copywriting, there’s no such yardstick. You’ll find high-priced, poor-quality copywriters ready to take advantage of you and you’ll find just as many low-priced, fantastic copywriters ready to get you results.
Unscrupulous freelancers use this “get what you pay for” routine to elevate themselves and make you feel cheap. This influences you to hire them to show you aren’t a skinflint Scrooge.
But real copywriters? They simply point you to substantial portfolios and testimonials that prove they’re worth every penny. They don’t need to make you feel bad, and they don’t want to.
8. “All you need to make sales is great copy.”
That’s just silly. If great copy was all we needed to make sales, we could do away with websites, marketing campaigns, driving traffic, providing good customer service – there’s just no need!
The best copy in the world won’t do anything for your sales if you don’t have a clear plan, tools, resources, tactics and strategies in place to draw in potential customers, convey trust and credibility and get their eyes on the page so they start to read. It’s just one piece of a successful business.
9. “This copy will sell anyone.”
Any copywriter worth his QWERTY knows this is a crock. You can’t write copy targeting “anyone” – good copy is crafted to reach specific people with specific problems. It’s laser focused on the ideal customer, and it repels anyone else.
Unscrupulous writers won’t ask questions about your target market, and the result is that they won’t sell much to anyone at all, including your ideal customer. They’ll miss all the crucial elements of good copy, like hitting the right pain point, addressing concerns, providing convincing benefits and drawing in your ideal customer to a sale.
10. “I know what I’m doing, and if you’re smart, you’ll trust me.”
This is meant to position them as an authority, but as anyone knows, people who feel the need to point out they know what they’re doing probably don’t know what they’re doing at all. And frankly, if you weren’t worried before, the statement “trust me” certainly raises an important question in your head: “Can I?”
The answer is… probably not.
Self-confidence in skills and knowledge is something that’s easily communicated and nearly tangible. You don’t have to be told – you can clearly see the copywriter knows exactly what he or she is doing without that person even saying a word.
Does a copywriter asking you to trust them guarantee they are shady?
No, but it’s another red flag. None of the lies we’ve covered here are enough by themselves to condemn anyone, but put several of them together, and it should set off warning bells. The slimiest copywriters use each of these lies intentionally, and having a collection to watch for, it should be easy for you to spot them.
About the author: James Chartrand is a straight-shooting copywriter from Men with Pens.