Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Can't I Do That Myself? The Value of Copywriters

In developing the Stone Soup List, I have met with quite a few copywriters. One of the greatest challenges that they face is that many people in business do not understand why they should hire someone to do something that they think they can do just fine themselves.

In the last week, I have met with three excellent writers: Christine Parizo, Bill Sweet, and Shel Horowitz. Christine's experience in the legal field makes her excellent at translating 'legalise' to English, making complex technical concepts understandable to the general public. Bill has extensive background as a print journalist, experience that he puts to great use by interviewing clients to gather the information that he needs to create the client's image in words. Shel has been writing for many years about making business green, ethical, and community oriented, and has an extensive resume in some very impressive circles.

The challenge that all these professionals face is that many people, not wanting think themselves poor writers, think that they can do it themselves. The result is too often businesses with beautifully laid out documents that contain text which is uninformative, unconvincing, or just plain uninteresting.

I well understand this mindset because I have been known to hold it myself. I, however, have a very valid excuse. When I ran Phoenix Games, I ran it for the benefit of the community, without the benefit of profit. Thus, the cost-benefit analysis really did say that I should do it myself, since the company was so tiny that it would have taken a 100% increase in sales to justify any professional. I also happen to be a natural born writing genius to make up for my lack of good sense, but that is neither here nor there.

So, if your company is like Phoenix Games, a financially inviable company that you are keeping going because of its vital value to the community, I can accept the decision to do everything yourself. If, however, your business is profitable, hire the professionals. Why? Because success in business is caused by specialization. If you have someone who is very good at sales, you want them out selling as much as possible. If you have someone who is a great chef, you want them cooking as much as possible. If you are running a business, I suspect that your greatest skills are in areas like planning, networking, sales, etc, thus those are the most profitable uses of your time. So, if that is the most profitable way to use your time, why would you spend that time on something like writing copy, which you only do once in a while? Wouldn't it make more sense to hire someone whose greatest skill after years of experience is writing, freeing you to use your best skills to keep the revenues flowing into your company?

I can pick up a baseball and throw it, but that doesn't make me a pitcher. Likewise, you can string words together, likely in a fairly clear and legible way, but are you sure that the what you are putting down is what you want your customers to pick up when they read it?

In this last paragraph, I am putting down my appreciation for you reading this post, and hope that you will soon pick up and go have some face to face human contact.


  1. Great post! There is so much that can be done with well-written copy. For example, a good press release can get coverage for your business, or having a pamphlet to give to clients that isn't necessarily an advertisement but a value-add (like a personal trainer handing out a pamphlet about the benefits of different types of exercises) is something clients remember. If you can hire someone to ghostwrite a blog for you, that's another great way to market your business and position yourself as an expert in your field.

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the kind words. I agree with Christine as well.

    I'l share one observation, informed from my years in the print news media: people spend seconds, sometimes fractions of a second, reading written material. Writing may seem to "come cheap" to some, but if the writing isn't grabbing people, you might as well be putting out gibberish. Which is an option, LOL.