Just give me the words and shut the heck up!

Helen Gent

Trumpet Media

A while ago, I lost out on a web content job. Cue violins and soggy tissues. No, really, it’s OK, it happens. The funny thing is I knew it was going to happen. And I knew the prospective client made the right decision to go with another copywriter.

Gemma (not her real name, obvs) ran her own business. When she’d started up she’d written the content for her website herself. Now she wanted new words. She told me the content was too waffly and long-winded (it was) and she knew that a copywriter would do a better job (absolutely).

Write clear, concise and compelling content? Hello! That’s exactly what I do.

But, hang on, I do more!

Value-added copywriting

I told Gemma that my quote included things that other copywriters might not bother with but were really important for SEO. Keywords for starters. I’d look at the phrases that prospective customers would be searching for and make sure they featured throughout the website – not just in the main content but in the headlines, sub-heads, Calls To Action and testimonials.

And talking of testimonials, I’d give them a makeover so they transformed from insipid to inspiring, clichéd to convincing. I’d also write the URL and meta tags for each web page – darned useful when it comes to helping people decide whether to click through to your website.

To be honest, I was feeling pretty chuffed. I knew that I was going to add a huge amount of value to the job.

And I didn’t stop there. As we were chatting I mentioned the web design. I told her it wasn’t great. It didn’t look clean and user-friendly. Too many tabs. Things in the wrong place. I had to be honest with her – it really wasn’t doing her any favours in terms of customer journey or SEO. Bottom line? I could do all the good stuff with words but the design needed work.

Gemma went a bit quiet. I sensed that I’d said something wrong. We wrapped up the conversation and I sent my quote. Later that week, Gemma emailed to say thanks for all my advice, the price was reasonable… but she’d gone with someone else.

When all you need is words

I was disappointed. I’d been so helpful. Explained the value I’d bring. Gave a quote that was acceptable. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking about Gemma going quiet. And I knew it was at that point that she’d decided not to hire me. And I kind of knew why.

It didn’t take long to confirm my suspicions. In a complete coincidence a couple of weeks later I bumped into Gemma at a work thing. I asked if she’d mind giving me some feedback. And she did.

When Gemma came to me she needed a copywriter. She wanted to make the words better. That was all. She’d thought about budget and what she could afford and she just wanted me to give her a copywriting quote. Then I threw a spanner in the works! I started telling her how crap the website design was, how it needed to be changed, that I could only do so much with words.

She’d come to me to solve one problem – and I’d given her another one to think about. Now wasn’t the right time for Gemma. She didn’t want the hassle. She didn’t want more costs. And, frankly, she didn’t want a copywriter who was quite so opinionated and controlling telling her what to do (my words, not hers!). So she went with someone else (who charged about the same as me, by the way).

I got it. Gemma wasn’t my ideal client. The business owners I work with LOVE that I tell them how it is. They appreciate my no-bullshit, honest, I’ve-got-your-best interests-at-heart guidance and advice.

They’re grateful they’ve found a copywriter who doesn’t accept second best and who wants their website – and all their marketing bits and pieces – to be the best that it can be (Don’t get me started on the time I tried to convince a client that their leaflet would look more professional if they hired a graphic designer rather than knocking it up themselves.)

So, I lost out on the job but I gained a clearer understanding of who I really want to work with. And Gemma? She hired a copywriter who was the right fit for her and got exactly what she wanted done. Hurrah!

Forget the violins and snot-splattered Kleenex – this sad story has a happy ending.

First published on

What do you think?

Your email will not be published. ProCopywriters members: log in before commenting so your comment links to your profile.

Become a member

Join ProCopywriters

Connect with peers, develop your skills and extend your reach on our blog.

Become a member
Learn online

Online workshops

Every month we get an expert, an author or a professional trainer to deliver a one-hour presentation on copywriting, marketing or digital media.

Browse events