As incredible as it sounds, a lot of my subscribers want—even expect—me to work for them for free.
I don’t think they are bad people. They mean well. But listen…asking me to work for you without offering to pay me is at best in bad taste, at worst extremely insulting.
For instance, TR recently sent me the URL to his new website and asked for my comments. And this isn’t an isolated incident. At least once a week, a subscriber sends me the URL to his site and asks if I can “take a look” and tell him what I think.
Unfortunately for them, critiquing websites is a paid service called a Copy Critique. I advertise it right on my website.
So why would TR think he should get a copy critique for free when dozens of others have paid $750 to $1,000 for the exact same service?
Doesn’t that seem unfair to my paying clients who, if they got wind of this, would rightly get upset with me?
Almost daily, I get requests: look at my website…look at my salesletter…look at my special report…look at my e-book…look at my infographic…and tell me what you think.
The very same day I heard from TR, I also got an e-mail from PH, who says he likes my guidelines on copywriting and has written three salesletters based on them.
Then he drops the bomb: “I put my best effort into those 3 letters…yet, I’d like to e-mail you those letters and have you comment on each letter as to whether it is written well enough to interest a buyer to purchase.”
Reading this, my immediate thought was: “And what’s my motivation?” In my office, our solution now is to e-mail a short, simple, standard refusal, sent by Ilise Benun, who is my copywriting agent. Here is exactly how we replied to PH: “Bob passed your message to me and asked me to let you know that he appreciates your admiration but simply does not have time to review your work (or anyone’s work) at no cost.
“His fee to review your 3 letters and provide a written critique and his specific recommendations for improvement would be $1,000. If that is of interest to you, just let me know.”
The objective of our boilerplate reply is not to get people to hire me for the copy critique. Rather, it is a polite way of telling people that I do not work for free.
I say polite, because if I told PH what I was really thinking of his request, it would offend him. Ilise has the ability to react in a reasoned and rational way, where I might not hide my irritation well.
But…PH, if you are reading this, watch this short video from Harlan Ellison; he explains my position on why writers should not work for free much better than I do.
Almost as bad as moochers like PH and TR are legitimate marketers—companies with the budget and knowledge to hire and work with professional copywriters—who ask you to write for them “on spec”. I’ll take this up in our next essay…
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.