Had a meeting this morning with a woman who's looking to have a few radio spots written for a new service she's adding to her existing enterprise. I've got an extensive background in such work; some major success stories to tout. I always bring examples.
She professes herself to be blown away by my work. "My God," she says at one point, flipping a second time through my portfolio, which includes actual produced ads/sound clips (as well as press releases for which I engineered primo placement, annual reports ghosted for NYSE-listed conglomerates, et cetera.) "This is wonderful stuff, Steve. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to work with such a pro. Not on my budget."
What's more, I've always tended to go more by the importance of a given writing project in the company life cycle. A radio spot—a well-conceived ad that's on-message, on-brand and psychologically powerful—is a major piece of marketing artillery. The right radio campaign can put a fledgling company over the top in short order, while the wrong campaign can sabotage even an established market leader. Which is why you can't just go by the sheer number (or dearth) of words. I'll often make an analogy here to what Twain said about literary stardom:
"All the words for the great American novel are already in the dictionary. They just need to be rearranged some."That's what good radio copywriters do: rearrange the words "some" for maximum impact in a highly compressed and challenging setting...a setting where listeners are also likely driving a car, arguing with their spouses over who's supposed to pick up the kids from practice, and so forth. Quality work deserves to be highly compensated. So my $750 quote was chickenfeed. Still, as regulars know, I've been humbled by life in recent years, and the market is also softer than it used to be, so I price more conservatively than I once did.
Which brings us back to my story.
I quote $750. She pauses a beat. Then she says, "I can get it done for less than half that."
You can get IT done for less than half that? Less than half of $250 per spot?? Define IT, please. Can you get IT done by someone capable of producing a portfolio like the one that just, by your own admission, blew you away? Someone with a decades-long track record of doing exactly this? Someone who didn't just sign up for Outsource.com after he lost his job at Sonic?
We left off awkwardly.
It's remarkable to me how businesspeople think. Too many of 'em, anyway. Writing is just writing. Words on a page. All writing is created equal...thoroughly fungible...even the writing that you just praised as superlative and transcendent.
Helps explain why the small business failure rate is as high as it is, perhaps.
* a rate that's increasingly hard to get, even though it's less than the top rates from, say, 1990, when gas was around a buck a gallon.