Glenn Murray is well known in copywriter circles. Not only is he an expert on all things SEO copywriting (he wrote a book about it don’t you know) he’s also not afraid of telling it how it is.
Today he exposes the dirty tricks some copywriters practice in an effort to win the job at any cost.
Take it away Mr Murray.
A couple of years ago, I was bitching to James Chartrand about the shit other copywriters pull to win jobs. It’s not that either of us were lacking work, but when other copywriters behave unethically, it pulls us all down.
It all came up because I’d been trying the outsourcing model. Again. I had too much work to handle, so I was (openly) outsourcing about half of it to other copywriters. Most of those writers were perfectly well behaved, but there were a few rotten apples who really pissed me off.
I mean, I’m no dummy, and I’ve been copywriting for 12 years.
So I can usually tell when a freelancer’s trying to pull the wool over my eyes. It’s insulting. But what really pushed my buttons was the fact that if they’re trying it on me, they’re definitely trying it on end clients.
Maybe even the copywriters who were well-behaved with me removed their halo when working for clients directly.
And this means when those clients come to me after being burned, to get the job done properly – as they often do – they’re going to be very suspicious, much more difficult to work with and significantly poorer.
Or worse, they may not come to me at all.
They may put off copywriters for life!
So I put together a list of things the unscrupulous copywriters amongst us get up to. If you’re new to copywriting, this list will show you who you’re really competing against.
1. Quote low, bill high
Unscrupulous copywriters catch unwary clients by quoting invitingly low hourly rates. They outbid better copywriters, but they deliberately don’t mention the number of hours the job will take. If (as they hope will be the case) the client doesn’t think to ask, the damage isn’t revealed until invoice time.
2. Quote low with no scope
Most clients are more comfortable with fixed prices than with hourly or daily rates. But in all the excitement, they often forget about the scope of the agreement. So unethical copywriters often quote low, win the job, but then do only a fraction of the work required.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Some copywriters quote low, then secretly outsource to untested, unskilled writers and pay them peanuts. And we all know what you get when you pay peanuts…
4. Charge high to appear prestigious
Jaw-dropping rates are often an indicator of top skills, but not always. Dodgy copywriters often hike up their prices to create a false perception of quality.
5. Bluff with big-name logos
Many clients can’t tell at a glance what’s good copy and what’s not. So they rely on other signals, like who you’ve worked for. But big-name logos – even if they’re legit – aren’t always a sign a copywriter is good. It’s the small-biz clients who really make you earn your keep.
6. Steal from others
I once had a copywriter ask to work for me, and when I looked over her portfolio, I found MY work in it!
Editor comment: That is a classic!!
7. Accept deadlines they never plan to meet
Many clients choose a copywriter based on how quickly they say they can finish the job. Waiting lists? Forget it! So some unethical copywriters prey on client impatience and tight deadlines. They promise lightning-fast turnaround to get the job, even when they know they won’t have it finished on time.
(They also often pitch lower rates or charge a premium to sweeten the deal, AND they know that the last-minute pressure on the client to finish the review will increase the likelihood of the copy being approved without many changes. But that’s another story…)
8. Make promises about topping Google
Most clients have no idea how to get their site ranking. The mechanics of it, that is. So there are countless (alleged) SEO copywriters out there who make all sorts of outlandish guarantees about getting you to the top of Google in X days, when they know it’s absolute bullshit.
This is a bizarre one. Until I saw it in action, I never imagined people were actually using it, because popularity (real or otherwise) on a site like Elance isn’t what I’d consider something to brag about.
But clients are different, and many are fooled.
They don’t know that job auction sites are havens for questionable content writers who have very little experience and low-level skills, and who just came online last week.
What can you do about it?
Well, to be honest, there’s not a lot you can do about it. It’s never a good idea to bitch to prospects about your competition, because this is something that DOES raise red flags with them. All you can really do is keep doing great work, keep working ethically, and keep keeping on.
Most unethical copywriters behave unethically because they know it’s the only way they’ll get the work. So in the long run, they’ll fall by the wayside. Of course, they’ll be replaced by others, but by then, you’ll have made your mark, and they won’t really be your competition anymore.
Learn more about what your competition is up to
This article is part 1 of a 4-part series. I’ll be publishing the remaining parts on the Divine Write Copywriting Blog.
Over to you
Have you experienced any of the dirty tricks above? Please comment below to tell us what shifty tricks your competitors pull to cheat you out of work.
Glenn is a specialist website copywriter, and author of Practical SEO Copywriting. He runs Australian copywriting and design studio, Divine Write.