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?