The copywriting life has been very, very good to me. And I don't like to think of myself as a complainer.
But there are a few things that cause me to bristle--or worse.
"Proofers" for one.
Here you've spent oodles of time sweating over every word of copy...reviewing and directing the design, getting every photo just right and the layout looking perfect...
And then you get that nightmare email from your client: "We're going to have a proofer look at it before it goes to the printer (or live online)."
Now, it's fine if they catch a misspelled word (which happens rarely, since I'm a damn good proofer myself.)
But when they start fiddling with changing words or inserting needless copy that wrecks how it's flowing in the layout or wanting to tweak design details or photos or wanting to take out commas or put in commas or take out ellipses or not let sentences start with "But"...that's when "bitchy Kimmy" comes out.
Take a look at this recent email exchange I had with a client on a direct mail promo that I thought had long gone to the printer already:
He sent me a marked-up pdf of the final, designed promo with all sorts of mindless proofer butchery going on. I wasn't having any of it, so I sent him a pointed email. Here are just a few of my comments about the proofer's suggested changes:
1)P. 21—please do NOT insert “Your Money-Back” into that headline on the guarantee box, it will crowd the headline and it will have to be made much smaller, losing impact; also a second “your” would be redundant!
2) P. 18—yes we need that paragraph in there! Dimensionalizes the value ($1 a day)—PLEASE KEEP!
(who proofed this???)
3)P. 13 testimonial—please leave as is…one month to have pain that you thought you’d live a lifetime putting up with is not “too long”. What it is is “believable”.
4)P. 7 comment—PLEASE keep that joint photo where it is, and the happy couple photo where it is now. This stuff is done this way for a reason.
5)P. 6 comment—keep that paragraph AS IS please. It’s not a headline. You could bold face some of it if you want more emphasis, but it’s shortly after a crosshead so that may not look right, plus would then affect how it’s fitting on that page. Leave it as is.
6)P. 3 sidebar—good catch! Catching typos is good. Trying to change copy and design is NOT good.
Now, that's pretty direct. Caught me on a bad day I guess. No "nice Kimmy" when I'm looking at something needlessly for the 111th time due to someone tinkering with my baby.
I ended my email response to my client with the following:
"This is why I find proofers a bit annoying. Anyway, please don’t screw around any more with this, let’s fix the typos and get this to the printer already."
Well, it turns out the "proofer" was my client--president of his company.
But he ended up thanking me for pushing back, and admitted he basically didn't know what he was doing.
Your mileage with this may vary. (I'm not recommending you always be this brash, but I do recommend you stand up for your copy and push back when needed. Your client will thank you for it. More importantly, you'll keep someone from wrecking it and ensure your best shot at higher royalties.)
I've always been pretty direct. I don't beat around the bush with all that "nice" B.S.
I ended up making one female copywriter I was coaching last year sob on the phone a few times during our calls, thanks to my directness.
When I saw her in person six months later, she told me every time I made her cry her income went up 25%.
I consider that a worthwhile use of my "directness".