Letter: 7 Pitfalls to Watch for When Working With Clients

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I was flipping through the pages of DM News when I came across the article "Hiring a Copywriter? Learn the 7 Pitfalls" (Oct. 21). Quite a condescending headline, not to mention the entire tone of the article.

The author, Deborah Ramstorf, makes copywriters sound like children who need constant supervision. Sure, if you're hiring a junior or inexperienced writer, you may encounter problems. But isn't that true of every profession?

As a copywriter for more than 15 years, I've found that poor copywriting is, more often than not, the result of poor client direction. How so? Well, in response to Ramstorf's article, I've developed my own checklist of pitfalls copywriters should watch for when working with clients:

1. Clients who don't know what they want or can't articulate what they want. Or will "only know it when I see it."

2. Clients who see no reason to provide a creative brief -- or if they do, it's so vague and basic, it's useless.

3. Clients who take logical copy that flows and, hampered by their myopic mindset, revise it to be nonsensical and awkward. And let's not forget about clients who change direction in midstream and expect you to create new drafts for no additional charge.

4. Clients who shamelessly boast about their products, but make you dummy-down the claims after legal gets a hold of your copy. Almost as bad as clients who demand "creative, edgy work," but get cold feet when they see it, rejecting it as "too creative and edgy."

5. Clients who insist on a "strong call to action" but have nothing of value to offer or a product or service that's lame.

6. Clients who must have copy approved by their colleagues, all of whom have different agendas for the advertising.

7. Clients who wait until the last minute to hire a copywriter, don't allow the writer time to absorb the material or for ideas to gel -- yet expect next-day miracles.

It's hard to limit myself to seven points, but for the sake of brevity, I'll stop here. So, Ms. Ramstorf, before you start trashing copywriters, take a good look at the reflection in your office window. And now, for the call to action: Examine why you never seem to hire the right copywriter. Do it today!

Mitch Lemus, Copywriter/creative consultant, New York


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