Client hated my copy. Didn't even test it, but rewrote the whole thing himself. Now what?

31 replies
So I recently worked with a huge Clickbank "guru".

The copy, I truly believed, was the best I've written to date.

I know it's not for me to say, but I was so proud of it that I re-read it over and over multiple times.

It was on fire.

Yet, the client comes back and says the product owner hated it. So much so, he had to rewrite the whole thing. And remember, this isn't some kid with a crappy eBook. This is a largely successful client with a big name in this industry... mainly due to Clickbank product launches and high profile partnerships.

Now, I've got a pretty white hot track record when it comes to writing copy. And I never get attached to copy emotionally... in other words, I can see it for what it is, and will edit furiously if needed.

And if you're a fellow copywriter... you just KNOW when you've struck a sweet spot with your copy, right?

Well, that's what I felt like.

It flowed, had a great headline, very slippery body copy and was really entertaining and full of unique hooks.

It was in the style of the typical Clickbank products that always sell well, but had far more maturity and slickness than many like it, especially in this market.

I'm not saying this to brag, but to try and stress the fact that this was a seriously slick sales letter.

Yet sadly, the client didn't think so for reasons unknown to me.

What should I do? I asked for feedback, but I didn't expect this kind of response.

And the fact that the guy hasn't even tested it? Doesn't that frustrate you?

Why pay good money for a product/service if you want to take it apart as soon as you unpack it?

What would you do? in this situation?
#client #copy #hated #rewrote #thing
  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    It depends if payment is involved.

    If you got paid upfront then you can put it down to experience. It truly does suck... but it's also a part of being a working copywriter. It will happen. Any copywriter who says a client hasn't re-written some of his work ain't truth-telling... or hasn't been working long enough.

    You can ask in more detail exactly what the client didn't like or not to use it as a growing experience.

    But ultimately... you move on. Get angry for a while. Then channel that anger into unchained enthusiasm for your next project.

    If you're still to be paid half, that sucks even worse. Maybe there's legal recourse to get paid what you're owed if the client is holding out. I don't know it because I'm a pay me upfront type of scribe. But I'm sure others can help you in this regard.

    I wish you the best, Nick.

    --- Ross
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  • Profile picture of the author Iconik
    Hi Nick,

    If it were me, I would contact the client and
    say something like this:

    -----------
    "Hi Client,

    This is a first for me.

    I'm sorry the copy didn't meet your expectations. However, I personally
    believe, from my own experience, that this sales letter will convert well.

    With the owners permission, I'd like to run a small split test to see if my
    belief is sound. If it doesn't get the kind of response I expect, than I'll
    rewrite the piece. But, if it can beat the control copy, we both win.
    The owner will make more money, and I'll feel allot better about it."
    -----------

    Then run a solo ad to a small but responsive list and deliver your
    results to the client.

    Good luck,
    Mike
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  • Ross gave you good advice--chalk it up to experience.

    My first $10,000.00 contract was written on spec--I wasn't going to get a dime until the copy was done and converting at least .6% of current traffic (it was an established site.) It never occurred to me the client might look at the copy and reject it without any testing. That was also the last copy I wrote on spec.

    I suspect what happened to you has happened to all of us (or, at least, something similar has happened to all of us.)

    You're a good writer, you'll bounce back. Heck, if the copy is that good and you haven't been properly paid, use it for a product of your own or sell it to a competitor.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    Take comfort in the fact that some of the most effective
    advertisements were hated by the product owner until
    the dough started rolling in.

    As a copywriter, you have to keep in mind who you are
    writing for and it's not the person paying you. Strange
    job.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
      Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

      Take comfort in the fact that some of the most effective
      advertisements were hated by the product owner until
      the dough started rolling in.

      As a copywriter, you have to keep in mind who you are
      writing for and it's not the person paying you. Strange
      job.

      -Ray Edwards
      Absolutely.

      You're not writing for yourself, your client, or anyone else for that matter, except for the prospect.
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  • Profile picture of the author DrewClement
    Reminds me of Joe Polish's story about how a client called Gary Halbert a crazy moron after he touched up the business' copy.

    Long story short, the client gave in, ran the ad, ended up with a whole drawer full of bad cheques (thanks to Gary's 30 day hold idea).........but an an even bigger stack of good cheques.

    Happens to everyone, even the best of the best.
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      • Profile picture of the author RentItNow
        Originally Posted by MarkAndrews IMCopywriting View Post

        There will always be clients who will do whatever it takes to earn the money they think they deserve and if they can screw anyone over who gets in their way, they will.
        I REALLY love that quote Mark, especially the part about "earn the money they think they deserve". It explains a business experience I had years back to a T. Thanks.
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        I have no agenda but to help those in the same situation. This I feel will pay the bills.
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        • Profile picture of the author RentItNow
          By the way, I would have done one of two things

          One, shown them a book called, "The Must-Have Customer" where he basically says the employees and owner of a company have no fr1gg1n idea what a customer wants/needs till they survey them or test with them.

          Second, despite everything, they hired you to do something and you did it. It doesn't matter what they chose to do with it. How do you think hollywood writers feel?
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          I have no agenda but to help those in the same situation. This I feel will pay the bills.
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Ranger
    If the client has access to a large customer database then just get him to split test yours against his. You'd need to work out how many clicks you need for the test etc.. but if I'd put hard work into something like this I'd be really inspired to PROVE my copy works.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
    Banned
    [DELETED]
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    • Profile picture of the author enterpryzman
      Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

      Why isn't the product owner the client? Ok, I know that the product owner isn't always the client, but how did this situation arise in which, effectively, you have to deal with a third party's reactions, relayed to you second-hand? It sounds as if you may not be talking to the decision-maker? In principle, this isn't a good position to be in ... :confused:

      My thoughts exactly ?
      Enterpryzman
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  • Profile picture of the author Dave Lianelli
    Nick,

    to be honest... I'd fire the client immediately. Take your money (if any) and then let it rest. From this point on it's only going to cost you time and won't produce any further income.
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  • Profile picture of the author The Copy Nazi
    Banned
    It's ALWAYS the copywriter's fault when it doesn't convert. Don't you know that? It's NEVER the product - there's never anything wrong with the product. It's always the copy. :p
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    • Profile picture of the author Nick Brighton
      Thanks guys, you all rock.

      It's a great comfort cushion this place.

      A couple of things:

      - The client is no mug, they are super successful and I actually have a good relationship with one of them (it's a partnership).

      - The product is good, and the credibility is there

      - I did get paid upfront, so it's not about the money

      Thanks for your helpful comments. My reason for posting is more for reassurance I guess. There's nothing worse than bleeding your heart out on copy, only to realize it will never see the light of day.

      And more to the point... how can you build a relationship with a client when they don't respect your work, or at least give it a chance?

      But perhaps the most pressing issue of all, is not knowing what I did so wrong that he felt he had to re-write the whole darn thing.

      Trust me, I've been writing professionally for nearly 2 years now, and learning for 3. Sure, the client is successful and knows what works, but does that mean I'm in the wrong by default?

      I just wish I had more clarity on the issues, so I could at least grow.

      All I can think is that the copy wasn't written in "his style" or "voice." But it's written from the perspective of two people, so that's almost irrelevant anyway.

      Again, it's not about the money per se, but being able to get solid feedback and genuinely make clients happy. I take great pride in my work, and this sort of thing feels like shards of self doubt splintering the skin.

      Anyway, thanks again. This whole thing has been a major wake up call about how I take payments, and what people want/expect from my work.

      Because clearly, despite the effort and thought invested, it makes no difference if a client already has a predisposition to how the copy should read and what it should say.
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      • Profile picture of the author Raydal
        Originally Posted by Nick Brighton View Post


        But perhaps the most pressing issue of all, is not knowing what I did so wrong that he felt he had to re-write the whole darn thing.
        I've been at this for 8 years now and I can tell you that some
        "Big" guys will hire you to get a first draft which they would
        later "edit" to their liking.

        They will hire an upcoming copywriter for the low price and then
        adjust the copy to suit their need because it easier than
        starting with a blank page.

        Just keep this in mind and don't take it personally. The best
        you can do is get a testimonial from the 'big name'.

        -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author Bruce Wedding
      Originally Posted by Metronicity View Post

      It's ALWAYS the copywriter's fault when it doesn't convert. Don't you know that? It's NEVER the product - there's never anything wrong with the product. It's always the copy. :p
      You got it. Its never the product. Its never the fact that they don't put the copy in front of the target audience. Its just the copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author maximus242
    Originally Posted by Nick Brighton View Post

    So I recently worked with a huge Clickbank "guru".

    The copy, I truly believed, was the best I've written to date.

    I know it's not for me to say, but I was so proud of it that I re-read it over and over multiple times.

    It was on fire.

    Yet, the client comes back and says the product owner hated it. So much so, he had to rewrite the whole thing. And remember, this isn't some kid with a crappy eBook. This is a largely successful client with a big name in this industry... mainly due to Clickbank product launches and high profile partnerships.

    Now, I've got a pretty white hot track record when it comes to writing copy. And I never get attached to copy emotionally... in other words, I can see it for what it is, and will edit furiously if needed.

    And if you're a fellow copywriter... you just KNOW when you've struck a sweet spot with your copy, right?

    Well, that's what I felt like.

    It flowed, had a great headline, very slippery body copy and was really entertaining and full of unique hooks.

    It was in the style of the typical Clickbank products that always sell well, but had far more maturity and slickness than many like it, especially in this market.

    I'm not saying this to brag, but to try and stress the fact that this was a seriously slick sales letter.

    Yet sadly, the client didn't think so for reasons unknown to me.

    What should I do? I asked for feedback, but I didn't expect this kind of response.

    And the fact that the guy hasn't even tested it? Doesn't that frustrate you?

    Why pay good money for a product/service if you want to take it apart as soon as you unpack it?

    What would you do? in this situation?
    Ugh your a copywriter ffs, write a sales letter selling him on testing your version of the sales letter.
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  • Trust me, I've had the same thing happen. Only mine didn't turn out so well... My big clickbank guru guy and his partners disagreed about the copy. The client loved it, and was over the moon excited to test it. The partners absolutely hated it, and wanted to hire someone else to start new copy from scratch (yes, they hated it that much) - without even testing it.

    Of course, I thought I had hit a sweet spot with the copy... That sales letter flowed so well, I read it to my husband who has almost NO interest in internet marketing products (which this product was) and HE asked if I got a review copy of the product so he could see, because I had him interested. In fact, he still asks me to this day if I ever did anything with the copy, or if anything ever came of it.

    The client paid for the copy, fired his partners, and moved on. And I still hear from him, from time to time, asking for advice or sending some of his students my way for direction. We have an excellent relationship.

    The copy... Still sitting on my hard drive. The client even let me keep the rights to it, since he said he wouldn't be using it but wanted to pay me for the work anyway. Maybe I should test it some day, I'm sure it would make someone a killing!

    It just happens sometimes. You're not alone in that, and yes, it does suck. I know that a copywriter will edit their work 1000 times if it isn't converting, but when it isn't even given the chance and we're CONVINCED that it was some of our best-ever work? That stings.

    I'd talk to the client, try and keep a good relationship with them, ask what was really wrong with the copy/what needed to be changed, and move on. Maybe if they changed the piece enough, he'll even let you keep the rights to the original piece so you can use it for something of your own, or someone else's product.

    And if things don't go so well, use your copy as an affiliate sales page and bypass their copy, and then send them the conversion stats a couple of months from now with a smug grin.
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    • Profile picture of the author Nick Brighton
      Originally Posted by Cherilyn Woodhouse View Post


      And if things don't go so well, use your copy as an affiliate sales page and bypass their copy, and then send them the conversion stats a couple of months from now with a smug grin.
      HAHAHA, love your style.

      It's so reassuring to see someone else have a carbon copy experience to mine. I guess this is a lot more common than I initially imagined.

      I guess I was due my "hit" sooner or later, :-)

      I think I can see where the product owner is coming from... they want to stick to their old formula that they used in the last launch, because it made sales.

      It's just too much risk trying anything new (even if it's just a little different to the dusty old crap you see on Clickbank.)

      I get that.

      But I don't get the total rejection and dismissal of the piece, without even testing it for a small segment, at least.

      For the record, the guys I'm working with are smart guys, and do know what they're doing. And one of them is a really cool laid back guy who really does understand where I'm coming from.

      Either way, I'm considering a private offer for a critique, because self doubt has crept in!

      I guess this is what happens when you want the absolute best for your clients, and take so much pride in your work... it really does become emotional.

      But in a good way. Not like the raging emotions of having to trek to work on a Monday morning in rush hour traffic and heavy rain.

      Bigger picture Nick, bigger, brighter, higher contrast picture...
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  • Profile picture of the author mccflo99
    This is why I don't touch a project with out full payment upfront. If a client wants to do something like that, it doesn't bother me a bit because I already got paid. Not to mention the fact that they won't be getting a free conversion consultation 30 days after the project to further increase response since they aren't even using the copy.

    Chris Elliott
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  • That's just it, Nick - there are always factors at play that we can't see, even if we think we have the whole picture.

    I once had a client ask me to redo the concept for a salesletter because he wanted something "anti-establishment" style, so I wrote copy in the typical "the gurus are ripping you off" vein - and apparently, one of the people promoting it LIKED being considered a big guru and wouldn't promote the product with that copy. The client loved it until one of his JV partners reviewed it, and came back with that feedback.

    I think you may actually want to try driving some traffic to your salesletter as an affiliate. Ask the client's permission of course, but tell him that you want to use it as an experience to improve your conversion rate. The bonus for them is that if your letter converts better, they can use it - if it converts worse, they lose nothing because it is your affiliate traffic that you're using.

    Nothing could help you find the potential flaws in your letter faster than testing it against the version they're using. You might find that your copy blows theirs out of the water, and they end up being super happy. Or, you might find that theirs really does work better, and you've learned a lesson now about writing copy for that particular market.

    You can learn more from this experience than just "sometimes, you have to take it on the chin."
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  • Profile picture of the author MillionDollarCopy
    Nick,

    They're all right. you have to just let it go. Compartmentalize it. You know you wrote an awesome piece for them. If it's gonna keep you up at night, then yes, ask them to split test it for your piece of mind.

    People pull that stuff with copywriters quite frequently, as I was told by others when it happened to me. (This guy paid me half up front, half upon completion...the thing about that is, he took "completion" to mean "he's stoked about it". I wrote some pretty good stuff for him, and he held out payment on me, making me "change this to this" and so on until it was him actually writing the copy...ugh. Lesson learned).

    You did your job. If he doesn't want to split test it, that's on him. I understand that you don't want to compromise the relationship you have, and sometimes you have to make a decision which is going to serve you better in the long run. The stress, most of the time, really isn't worth the hassle.

    Keep your head up.

    ~Renee
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    • Profile picture of the author Nick Brighton
      Originally Posted by Cherilyn Woodhouse View Post

      That's just it, Nick - there are always factors at play that we can't see, even if we think we have the whole picture.

      I once had a client ask me to redo the concept for a salesletter because he wanted something "anti-establishment" style, so I wrote copy in the typical "the gurus are ripping you off" vein - and apparently, one of the people promoting it LIKED being considered a big guru and wouldn't promote the product with that copy. The client loved it until one of his JV partners reviewed it, and came back with that feedback.
      Cherilyn,

      You are fast becoming one of my favourites around this place. You're one smart cookie... and I can tell you speak from very direct and similiar experiences.

      Why didn't I think of that! The whole point about taking the "us vs them" route that you mentioned? That actually applies to my piece.

      And of course, these guys are considered "gurus" and so are their partners.

      Damn, I think you've cracked the nut. It's not the copy, it's the references to the "gurus" who are selling the reader stuff he doesn't need. It's the references to the systems the reader needs to avoid, which could also be the very systems that the partners promote and built their lists off.

      I should have seen that one coming. Damn.
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      • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
        Originally Posted by Nick Brighton View Post

        Cherilyn,

        You are fast becoming one of my favourites around this place. You're one smart cookie... and I can tell you speak from very direct and similiar experiences.

        Why didn't I think of that! The whole point about taking the "us vs them" route that you mentioned? That actually applies to my piece.

        And of course, these guys are considered "gurus" and so are their partners.

        Damn, I think you've cracked the nut. It's not the copy, it's the references to the "gurus" who are selling the reader stuff he doesn't need. It's the references to the systems the reader needs to avoid, which could also be the very systems that the partners promote and built their lists off.

        I should have seen that one coming. Damn.
        I'm not poo-pooing Cherilyn's input... but that may not be it.

        Then again, it might be.

        All I'm getting at is that you shouldn't jump to conclusions.

        The reason your client didn't like your copy could be any number of reasons -including that s/he is jealous of your skill (yes, it happens).

        If you think your copy's good, then it's probably good. Make the client happy but know in yoru own mind that they're hurting a powerful piece of copy.

        -Dan
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        • Profile picture of the author wordwizard
          I'm sorry you had to deal with that, Nick.

          Writing is always a somewhat imprecise science since so many factors flow into what makes people think it's good -- or not.

          Even in high school, where I generally was doing well when it came to writing, I sometimes preferred math, which was more of a struggle, because I KNEW whether or not I had nailed a test or an assignment, whereas when it came to writing I could never tell for sure. It seemed to depend on the mood of the reader...

          Now, I feel a lot more confident, but there's still that eye of the beholder and his/her agenda etc.

          On the other hand, the many reassuring responses here have been great to read.

          Thanks!
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    Hey Nick,

    Tough break bro.

    One thing you'll find more and more as you write copy is that your clients always think they're right.

    And no matter how "big" a name they have - they're not infallible.

    Heck... some of the "big guys" have pretty undeveloped chops when it comes to writing copy... though it's obvious they think otherwise.

    You've gotten your fee up front. Good start.

    Next thing to do is to ensure the client is aware that you disagree. Either of you cold be wrong... but it's important you make your disagreement known.

    After all... they're paying you for your advice. They don't have to take it, but you gotta give it.

    If you've done both of those... sit back and relax. Make a note of how it converts so you have some more info to go off of for your next job... but if you've got a lot of successes under your belt... trust your instincts.

    -Dan
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  • I agree with Dan - that *could* be it, but it could be something completely different. The point of that example was to get you thinking outside of the "they must think my copy stinks" box, and thinking about other reasons why they may have decided not to use it. Kind of taking the "it's not you, it's me" approach

    Even your original thought (them being afraid to use something different from the norm) could be it.

    I would still be curious to see if your client will allow you to drive your own affiliate traffic to the original copy, and see if you can get a conversion rate that way. Like I said, at least then you'll get some solid conversion numbers and it might help you repair your bruised ego.
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  • Profile picture of the author hotlinkz
    It would depend on how your contract reads. I require that clients test any written copy before making a determination. After all, if they are going to judge the copy based on their opinion, they should write it themselves at the outset.

    I also require that they inform me of when and where they will run the copy (just to keep things honest). Without some type safeguards in place, anyone could get free quality copy by complaining that it does not meet their approval. Kind of like eating an expensive dinner, then withholding payment and saying that it did not taste good.

    Another point, if they did not like the first version, they should have requested a re-write.

    Hope things fare well for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dietriffic
    Stand up for yourself.

    Remind them that they hired you because you have a track record of delivering.

    Then politely ask them to prove you're wrong with an A-B split test.
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  • Profile picture of the author Nick Brighton
    Thanks guys, you've all been great and provided some amazing pieces of professional advice. This sub forum is a parallel universe to the main forum sometimes.
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  • Profile picture of the author NicholasCarter
    IF your confident in your writing and put the work in you have nothing to worry about. This is my personal realization may not be true for you but you will be challenged and supported with what you do. This client was the challenge for you and soon you will be supported by another client.

    just my two cents hope everything goes well
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