Free computer tools for copywriters

computer tools for copywritersThey say the best things in life are free. Some of the best things for copywriters sure are.

One of great things about running a copywriting business is that your overhead can be incredibly low. You can work from your house, avoid commuting, dress casually, and take advantage of all the comforts of home.

And when it comes to some of the tools of the trade, some of the very best are totally free of charge.

Here are a few of my favorites:

OpenOffice - I loath Microsoft Word. It used to be a fine piece of software, and the .doc format is a standard most clients will want. But it’s become so loaded down with features, it’s a pain to use. And since millions of others feel the same way, OpenOffice is now available to replace all the core Microsoft Office products. Read more

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FTC approves new anti-spam rules

If you thought CAN-SPAM was the end of e-mail spam rules, you’ve been fooling yourself. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued four new rules to tighten CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003). The rules are meant to fine-tune existing rules and best practices.

1. An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.

2. The definition of “sender” has been modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements.

3. A “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address.”

4. A definition of the term “person” has been added to clarify that CAN-SPAM’s obligations are not limited to natural persons.

Read more

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Tweaking your way to copywriting hell

About once a week, someone contacts me with a letter or ad they want me to “tweak.”

Definition of tweak: “I read a book on copywriting over the weekend and wrote my own copy. It sucks. I desperately need your help, but I’m too cheap to pay you to write something for me.”

This, my friends, is a no-win situation for a highly paid copywriter.

If you tell the prospect their copy sucks, you’ll insult them. If you quote them your full price, you won’t get the job. If you take the job and do it on the cheap, you’ll have a hard time because a) you’ll have to rewrite the copy without it appearing that you rewrote it or b) you’ll have to start from scratch and get paid a fraction of what the work is worth.

How you handle a tweaker is up to you, but here’s what I do:

I ask to look at the copy before I say anything else. If the copy really isn’t that bad, I play along and agree to a rewrite. If the copy is bad, I say so. I quote my price for new copy and let the chips fall.

Will this result in a loss of business? Yes and no. Yes, because if you charge high fees, any time you give a quote, you’ll lose business from someone not willing to pay what you charge. No, because if someone can’t afford your fees, that’s not a client you want anyway. You really aren’t losing anything by not working for those who do not fit your client description.

What if you’re just starting out and need the money? Take the job. Early on, you need experience more than anything. And you won’t have to deal with the “opportunity cost” of working for less than your standard fees because you probably don’t have work queued up for weeks or months anyway as do many top copywriters.

Takeaway: Beware the tweak. For some copywriters, this means more trouble than it’s worth.

I’m curious, do designers and other freelancers experience the tweak too? Are there similar situations in other businesses?

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Interview reveals my mysterious past

Curious about my sordid past? Want to know some of my secret thoughts about freelancing and the copywriting business?

Well, this is your lucky day. I often do interviews with people who are curious about such things and one of them just appeared over at The Web Shop’s Best Practices Blog.

People find it curious that I started out in the weird and wonderful world of television before finding my way (with many twists and turns) into the world of direct mail and direct marketing. But it’s true.

I was a television producer (which sounds more glamorous than it is). My job was to promote syndicated shows on NBC, including The Muppet Show, Dukes of Hazzard, and Laverne & Shirley. Yep, those were real shows, for those of you too young to remember.

General LeeI gained some notoriety for driving around in an authentic replica of the “General Lee,” an orange 1969 Dodge Charger, to promote the Dukes of Hazzard. A fellow employee and I whooped and hollered and generally made asses of ourselves, but achieved our objective of getting attention for the show. It was an early lesson in how not to be subtle if you want to achieve an objective.

Other tidbits, if you’re at all curious: Read more

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