I was asked today if I would be interested in working with a particular company in need of copy to market a dietary health supplement.
At first glance I thought I would be able to help. But on closer inspection, finding that their current advertising material depicts their target market as a shirtless, barrel-bellied and tattooed male party-goer who loves to drink, I realized this is not for me (though I did appreciate the inquiry).
So, if you’re hanging at the periphery and wondering if you’ve found the right guy but you’re not quite sure… I’ve cobbled together some notes on what I think Red Planet Copy, a.k.a. Stephen Carter (that’s me), is looking for.
The company ideally-suited to working with me would be in need of a science-oriented copywriter with whom they would expect to interact on a prolonged basis. I am not so much into (though I won’t rule it out entirely) the short-term love affair where the company believes they are going to hire someone to come in and produce the magical piece of copy that solves all their problems in a few short months.
My view is that every company and product is unique (or should be to have a real chance of succeeding in the market). Because of this, dialing in the sales message takes time and I am only prepared to invest mentally with a company that “gets” me in the same way they expect me to get them. I am not someone who takes jobs because I think it is going to be good practice, or I will get to build my resume, or anything like that. I want to make money, plain and simple.
Because this is the case I ONLY write significant copy which has a royalty attached (likely 5 percent). For example, any long-form sales letter or video sales letter.
Now, in case you are thinking “Oh, that’s outrageous! A royalty? Who does he think he is?” here’s why that’s probably the wrong way to think about the client/copywriter relationship. Royalties guarantee two important aspects of the relationship.
The first is that the copywriter with a royalty becomes invested in the success of the client. If the client does well then so does the copywriter. It’s no longer a case of “Here’s your copy. Good luck with the promotion. Bye, bye now.” No. With skin in the game the copywriter is much more attuned to the client’s needs and ultimate success.
The second thing a royalty provides is a reason for the copywriter to want to continue working with the client and eschew new prospects who come knocking after the most recent promotion ends. This works in the client’s favor as they are less likely to be replaced as a client.
So don’t be down on copywriters who ask for a royalty. Assuming they are good at what they do, the royalty arrangement favors both parties and improves the odds of a lasting relationship.
Also, I ONLY work with companies which are prepared to pay a retainer to have me work with them. This means I get paid to consult and to write and to work through the various issues for as long as it takes (though either party can call it quits at any time if they don’t think things are working out so great).
In other words, any company that wishes to work with me will be a company that recognizes I take seriously my investment of time with them and I will get paid accordingly. In return they will get someone capable of understanding them (their science, their product) and who is also a capable copywriter.
My most recent (significant) piece of copy as of the moment of writing this post is the following sales letter for a brain health product:
I think this piece is representative of the kind of copy I produce, though I tend to spend a lot more time writing email sequences than I do long-form copy.
Things that make me a terrible choice as a copywriter:
- I’m old, practically ancient (past 50 years of age!). If you want someone with boundless energy and enthusiasm coming out the ears – that’s not really me. I’m like that less-than-exciting scientist who tends to have his head buried in research material when he’s not off napping because he thinks working more than 4 hours a day is medal-worthy.
- I don’t always do what I’m told. Usually that’s when I’m asked to do something I’m fairly sure is not going to work out well for either of us. So I’ll try to convince you of that and hope you change tack. Depending on the client this trait can be seen as good or bad.
- I don’t like deadlines that much. Deadlines and quality are antithetical. So I try to go as fast as I can without sacrificing quality. I’m more into “educated estimates” of the time required to get something done. In this sense you can think of me as that dedicated Ph.D. student in the basement who is constantly reminded they need to have their dissertation in by the end of the year and the look on their face each time they hear this from you. “Back off, dude. Can’t you see I’m working here!” But also, I tend to get stuff done reasonably fast.
Things that make me a good choice as a copywriter:
- I’ll “get” what you’re about. If you are looking for a science-oriented copywriter who might actually understand what it is you do, I tend to think your options are limited. Like, the subset that also writes extremely well is essentially epsilon. I’m in that subset until I get my next client. Then I’m unavailable until I part ways with that client. Who knows, I might be off the market already…
- I am dependable, smart, methodical. All the traits of the scientist because I once was one.
So that’s me, pretty much.
If you’re still looking for me now that you know who I am, there’s a contact form on the site and a newsletter that leads to a secret wait list (I know. Sneaky, right?).