Copywriting Tip: Don’t Become a Firefighter
Note: For the Seth Godin version, scroll to the last sentence.
This industry is nuts. That’s nothing new.
However, as I enter my (gulp) 20th year as a professional copywriter (e.g., paid copywriter), I am amazed at the escalated timelines.
This is across disciplines, of course, and not specific to copywriting.
Designers can be expected to bang out logo options in 2 days. Programmers can knock out an app in less than a week. It’s just the Amazon effect across the board.
“I need it now. I must have it now. Damn whatever consequences occur.”
My current boss man likes to say, “You can have fast, cheap or good. You can’t have all three.”
Unfortunately, the majority of marketing professionals would prefer “fast” and” cheap.” However, if you’re reading this, you have most likely planted your flag on the hill of “good.”
Welcome to the “Good” Hill
The “good” hill.
It’s a tough climb to the top of good. Lonely at times.
The wind can blow you over some days up here. It rains quite often.
But when the sun shines, it can blind you with its beauty. And you can see for miles.
Quite often you’ll slide down the hill a bit to the chasm of mediocrity. Maybe you’ll sell your soul down there for a quick job. But if you’re smart, and you want to stand out in this godforsaken, awesome, maddening, terribly rewarding industry, you’ll put one foot in front of the other and get your ass back up that “good” hill, helping others as much as you can with outstretched arms.
Beware: there are many others who will want to drag you down the hill.
Quite often, other copywriters. There is no strategic value to fighting these people, much like the famed Battle of Pork Chop Hill, they just want blood. They’re jealous that you’ve taken a stand.
Just know there are many ways to fall off the hill.
So what’s the most common reason great copywriters get to the top of the hill and then slide back down?
Easy. It’s fire.
A client calls you up and needs you to put out a fire. Now, you probably have 2 or 3 other projects on your plate—ones with proper planning and smooth timelines and check-ins—but damn that fire could pay well.
That fire could also open other doors to more profitable work.
That fire could make you a hero, and the normal projects have long enough timelines where you can finish both and no one will know the wiser. Right?
My tip to you: don’t be a firefighter.
Yes, you could do both. But a client that sees you as a firefighter will not see you as a creative, strategic copywriting partner.
Trust me on this.
When fires come, they never come alone. It’s quite amazing how a project is due ASAP, then, four revisions later—all done ASAP—it’s still smoldering.
Of course you want to be the hero. That is the siren call of the firefighter copywriter.
Don’t fall for it.
Know this: the “hair on fire” client wants fast and cheap. And even if they want to pay you for the expedited timeline, all their other projects will come fast and furious. And they aren’t paying the expedited fee in the future. It’s how that client works. It may not be their fault, but it’s how their business does business. Hair on fire all the time. Piss-poor planning. Living in hindsight.
Love Thy Current Client Roster
The largest detriment to your business involves ignoring your current clients. You know, the ones who gave you the proper timeline because they respect your work.
You’ll be tossing them to the side to get the firehose out on projects that will not grow your business. It’s not fair to them.
And then, once your new fire is out, your timeline on all other projects are condensed and the firehose is back out.
Give your current clients the love they deserve. Don’t fall for the fires. Sure, if a current client has a random fire here-and-there, help them out.
Don’t become known for fast and cheap. Those are different hills. Very crowded.