do you turn down copy clients with poor products?

by jbode
23 replies
To me it makes sense to turn down potential copywriting clients who have a poor product, if you can't convince them to improve it.

It will just take so much more effort to write copy for a product that you don't have much benefits to work with.

Do you agree?
#clients #copy #poor #products #turn
  • Profile picture of the author Snlde
    Hmm...I've given this subject some thought but never really could draw a conclusion.

    So far, I only made decisions based on ethical issues such as if the product sounded like a scam, then I would turn it down.

    I guess I'm not too experienced yet to know if the product is really or that I'm just unfamiliar with it.
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    • Profile picture of the author dorothydot
      Hi,
      If I can tell it's a poor product, I will always turn it down. Not fair to either my readers nor myself to promote something, promise something that is not delivered.

      Further, there are some areas I do not write for due to personal ethics: one is MLMs (multi-level marketing). These skirt the line of barely-legal and I do not care to promote this sort of thing.

      Technical writing is not my strong point but I will do it for the right product.
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      • Profile picture of the author Collette
        I don't "turn them down" per se, but I never take on a project if I don't believe I can help the client. Sometimes, that means helping the client avoid a painful and costly mistake.

        More often than not, I can help the client reposition the product for a better chance of success. And sometimes, what the client needs most is NOT a copywriter. At least, not then.

        You're never doing your client a favor if you don't give them an honest appraisal of their chances for success. Plus, as Alan mentioned, you'll have to work much harder to overcome the failings of a poor product, or a poorly positioned product.
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    • Profile picture of the author MillionDollarCopy
      In a heartbeat. I've never taken on a project that i didn't believe in, both in the market AND ethically.

      It's caused me to turn down a lot of work, but I'm one of those people that has to "feel good about where this is going" in order to proceed.

      Some people will write, and can write, for anything, regardless of their personal position on it. I' m not going to say that's a good or a bad thing- that's just their thing. I can only speak for myself and say that I'm happy with the jobs I take and the fact that I'm a part of their advancement.

      I guess my bottom line is this: Before you take a client, make sure that you feel confident that you can actually help the promotion of the product or service they offer. Once you've done that, make sure that they're in business ethically. Feel them out on the phone, if possible and build a rapport and check your gut. Sounds wishy-washy, but that's really what I do.

      Ok, I'm off the soap box now

      ~Renee
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  • Profile picture of the author AlanCarr
    Absolutely.

    Writing up crap carries far more problems than it's worth.

    Don't expect any gratitude from the client either

    There's a difference though between a truly crap product and one you feel overwhelmed by or just don't understand enough. Then it depends on how badly you need the money...


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  • Profile picture of the author Mike Schwenk
    It's a common belief that even mediocre copy can sell a product with a great offer, while even the best copy in the world cannot do the same for a poor product/offer.

    In any case, I agree with you.
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  • Even with varying definitions of a "poor product", yes, I usually turn them down... But it isn't quite that simple.

    A product can be poor because it isn't positioned properly, because it is in a market that will never support it, because it wasn't fully thought out, or - yes - because it is just crappy (doesn't offer any real value.)

    In all of those cases, I'll offer suggestions to the potential client that they can use to improve their chance for success *before* they go looking for a copywriter.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of copywriters who will take on projects like this without a second thought, so many of those individuals that I turn down will find a copywriter who will take them on anyway. I feel bad for those marketers, I really do - because if the product really does poorly, now they've lost their hard earned money paying for copy that really didn't help them at all (along with all of the other product development costs.)

    Of course, I have been proven wrong in the past - products that I thought would never sell have actually made sales. But for me, it is more about the ROI that the client will achieve. Is spending $2000 on a salesletter really the smartest move? Will they really earn that $2000 back (and then some) in a reasonable time frame with this product? If not, I try and do the client a favor and explain why I won't take the project on.

    Some listen, some don't - but at least I know I've tried!
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  • Yeah it really comes down to two facets, whether the person is willing to listen and take constructive criticism or whether they put up a brick wall. Most times products can be improved and the person just needs a little guidance.

    Scams and snakeoil products are another entirely different story, and I personally have always turned them down. Not only do I not want to put my "name" on something that doesn't work and was created to cheat or swindle someone. In the end its far more trouble than its worth. In most cases that person will bug the living daylights out of you, because they haven't made the millions of dollars they were especting from your copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    Putting aside any ethical issues... one thing you'll find is that as a copywriter... you will probably cop the blame for any sales issues.

    And that includes refunds.

    I can't tell you the amount of stories I've heard from copywriters who were told to "fix the copy" because refund rates were through the roof.

    Also... it's a heck of a lot easier to write killer copy when you've got a great product to work with.

    Admittedly... sometimes when you book a gig... the product hasn't been created yet.

    But in my opinion if you don't open up to your clients and tell them their product sucks... you're doing them a massive disservice.

    -Dan
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      • Profile picture of the author wordwizard
        I haven't yet found myself in the situation where I was asked to write for a scammy product, fortunately, but sometimes the product could have used a bit of a boost when it came to the strength of the offer.

        When that happens, I tend to make suggestions on how to make the offer stronger and more compelling. I include a bit of marketing coaching in my copywriting services.
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  • Profile picture of the author wenzel777
    Definitely. I'll never take on a product that may reflect poorly on me. It's not all about the $. I love putting the "icing on the cake," but if the cake was burnt in the first place, I don't feel comfortable covering it up w/ some frosting.
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    • Profile picture of the author dorothydot
      Originally Posted by wenzel777 View Post

      Definitely. I'll never take on a product that may reflect poorly on me. It's not all about the $. I love putting the "icing on the cake," but if the cake was burnt in the first place, I don't feel comfortable covering it up w/ some frosting.
      A great analogy! Very well said.
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  • Profile picture of the author AustinLadyTam
    Yes, if I don't believe in the product or if it's just a bad product. Sure, I could do a great job of selling it, but the return rate would be very high and I don't want to mislead buyers.

    I recently faced this with a product to help adults grow taller...and it turned out that they could eke out a few inches more with some postural adjustments and such, so I was very careful about touting the benefits. ("You can gain as much as 3 or 4 inches of height.")
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  • Profile picture of the author Dan Axelrod
    Without passing judgment on the ethics of the question... it really depends on you.

    You have to check in with yourself on how it'll affect your self-esteem and confidence as a copywriter. For many copywriters, if they work on a product they don't believe on, they'll feel guilty and choke on their following projects out of subconscious self sabotage.

    Others can sleep perfectly at night and keep going strong without missing a beat. These are the same people that can promote shady CPA offers, or be deceptive about a refund policy.

    If you're honest with yourself, you'll know what category fits you. If you're asking this question, I'm betting I know which one it is. :-)

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  • Profile picture of the author SVLABS
    I think it all comes down to your own personal ethics.

    After all, someone writes the copy for those cigarette commercials, or trying to put a positive spin on the oil spill, or even that space age technology can make you 2-4 inches taller (yeah I saw it too. all good and well while you're out in space doh!).

    For me, I wouldn't touch any one of those. But as I said, someone did, they got paid and they're happy about it.

    I guess all you need to do is ask "if I do this, will I have a clear conscience".
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  • Profile picture of the author Hesster
    Personally, I can't write for poor products. I have too much sympathy for the people who might end up buying them.

    When I was looking around on clickbank for a product to promote, I ran across a product with horrible copy, but decent gravity, in a niche I'm passionate about. I decided not to rewrite it, because according to the laws of physics, the product just plain did not work. As in, it violated several of Newton's laws of thermodynamics and there was no possible way in the universe the product could do what the copy claimed.

    No way I could write for something like that and rip people off.
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    • Profile picture of the author SVLABS
      Originally Posted by Hesster View Post

      ... I decided not to rewrite it, because according to the laws of physics, the product just plain did not work. As in, it violated several of Newton's laws of thermodynamics and there was no possible way in the universe the product could do what the copy claimed.
      Does no one else see the comedy in this. I think whoever wrote the copy, or came up with the product deserves some sort of prize.

      I mean come on, how many people can say that their copy is so slick that it breaks the laws of physics.

      Now that, I could sell.
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  • Profile picture of the author ButterflyGarden
    I think most marketing companies evaluate products before they agree to promote them. Attempting to promote something that isn't good usually results in an unhappy client.
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  • Profile picture of the author JAAffiliates
    I think we have a duty to try to explain to them that their product is not up to speed, but having had my share of clients who believe they have the next big thing, this isn't always possible.

    My latest trick with these cases is to say I am currently booked solid but I can give outsource it for them!

    Originally Posted by jbode View Post

    To me it makes sense to turn down potential copywriting clients who have a poor product, if you can't convince them to improve it.

    It will just take so much more effort to write copy for a product that you don't have much benefits to work with.

    Do you agree?
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  • Profile picture of the author kraven2
    Originally Posted by jbode View Post

    To me it makes sense to turn down potential copywriting clients who have a poor product, if you can't convince them to improve it.

    It will just take so much more effort to write copy for a product that you don't have much benefits to work with.

    Do you agree?
    Absolutely, as it will reflect in the writing. To state it bluntly, crap with bells on is still just that: crap.
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    I'll pass on anything where I can't get inspired by the person, their product or service or their business.

    I want to go to bed at night dreaming about them and wake up every morning thinking about them and how I can help them today.

    That way, I do my best work. Sounds kinda hokey, but when it's a fit--it's wonderful.

    - Rick Duris
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  • Profile picture of the author Hesster
    Yeah, it's really nice when you can get really excited about the project. Makes it a lot more fun, too. I've had a few like that. I was having trouble getting to sleep one night because every time I'd start to doze off, another headline would pop into my head and I'd have to rouse myself and write it down before I lost it.

    Also the reason I don't touch certain niches, even though they're among the most profitable ones for copywriters. Too many of the products are scams.
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  • Profile picture of the author Edk
    Originally Posted by jbode View Post

    To me it makes sense to turn down potential copywriting clients who have a poor product, if you can't convince them to improve it.

    It will just take so much more effort to write copy for a product that you don't have much benefits to work with.

    Do you agree?
    You'll lose respect for yourself doing stuff you don't truly believe in. Surely ain't worth it
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