Not Well? – Say Farewell – Client From Hell Can’t Sell

My main focus is the technology sector – especially software houses – that I target for such gems as case studies and white papers.  My background is summarized in a simple equation, which I advertise weekly in Craigslist:

Your Marketing Success (I.E. – White Papers, Case Studies, etc.) =

Experience with Software Technology in major firms

+ Sales and Marketing Experience running an IT firm

+  Creative writing experience

+ Knowledge of Inbound and Direct Response Marketing

Guess What Happened?

The reason I advertise in Craigslist, other than it’s free to place ads, is the option to create inbound links – thus enhancing SEO.  Unless Craigslist has a no-follow option, it’s a good strategy.  I did get a local area establishment who wanted to hire me.  They are not a technology firm, but provide services such as project management, supply chain, etc.  At first, I got an email inquiry form the CEO, which kept asking what my compensation is.  I replied initially to this effect:

“I have visited your website and it’s an area I can work with.  Compensation rate depends on the project scope.  For example, if it is a website – how many pages, words per page, is there SEO involved, etc.  I see you use the term ‘collateral’ in your email.  For new collateral, what do you propose to do in this area?  Since you are in XXXX, it’s very easy for us to meet, and discuss your needs.”

Well, I kept getting hammered for compensation, so I sent this reply:

“I can send some samples out tomorrow.  As far as compensation goes, one needs to know more about a project scope, before submitting a proposal.  Let me throw this question at you.  Do you know how much to charge a customer for project management services, without knowing the length of the project, along with general project details? Do you have a projected budget for this project?  Let’s meet Thursday some time.  I can suggest some times later today.   It could even be by phone.”

Then I get the marketing manager

The CEO turned me over to the marketing manager, and I sent him this reply:

“I noticed you were CC-ed on the original email, so I’m replying here.  As soon as I get the project information, I’ll work on completing a proposal by the next day.  In the meantime, I’m enclosing three samples (plus blog entry):”

  1. The first is a non-profit annual report, where I was the sole copywriter.  I did this pro-bono for the Taproot Foundation.
  2. A press release for a Middle Eastern company, done via an overseas PR firm.
  3. A sales letter for a Joint Venture, Internet marketing start up, who wishes to remain anonymous.
  4. Any blog entries at

The Scope and deadline is unbelievable

When I asked questions regarding the project scope, it turns out they want to create 8 marketing pieces of 5-7 pages, 8 pieces of 1 page, and 20 pages of web content, within a week’s time frame.  This is what I responded:

“As I’m working on this proposal (targeted for today sometime), I’ll ask any questions via email and phone.  My first question is the project budget.  All clients have a project budget, and most will share this information, if vendors request it.  Here are my current questions:”

  1. Are you free to share the project budget?
  2. If so, what is the budget?
  3. Can you let me know how many vendors (copywriters) are submitting project proposals?
  4. Do you have a best in class sample from another firm you like for your collateral?

“I do have a potential client I’m talking to this Friday, regarding a series of articles.  I don’t anticipate this diverting from my full time attention, to this project (if selected).”

The Marketing Manager’s Answer

I got a response that they:

  1. Have no project budget
  2. Just need some help for the internal staff to meet a deadline
  3. Got rate quotes of 30-40 dollars an hour from 3-4 vendors.

Here’s my reply:

“You probably should give some thought regarding quality vs. quantity.  “Even a rate quote of $50 per hour can be considered low, for a marketing writing project.  If you do wish to gather information on approximate rate ranges, look at Writer’s Market 2009 (available from your local public library), on the section ‘how much should I charge.’  I do notice from research in Hoovers and Reference USA, that you are a small, privately held company, with 1-4 employees.  Remember that potential customers do look at the marketing materials (some potentially with large pockets), and might be dissuaded by materials of lesser quality.”

The marketing manager responded that they give the illusion of bigness, yet have some big clients. They did say they would take quality into consideration, even with a maximum proposal for $3050.  After I looked at cost and project scope, I finally declined, with this response:

My Final Answer

“I’m going to take a pass on this project, for the reason’s highlighted:”

  • The amount of time for one person to develop the marketing materials, along will doing a quality job, will take the project beyond the July 17th deadline.
  • I did a projection on word count, using a tool call Translator’s Abacus at globalrendering….  If I count the words from the best-in-class sample at XXX, it comes to 3503 Words.  The Taproot annual report is 4014 Words, and I know how long it took me for that one report.  XXX is 13 pages and if we cut that in half (6 – 7 pages, which is your projected goal), the word count is 1751.  This is just the projected word count for one batch collateral, which we must multiple by 8.
  • I’m not sure who’s bidding on these projects, but I question the time calculation (I.E. hours needed * rate) to complete this project.  A simple perusal of the 2009 edition of Writer’s Market puts the rates for advertising copy per hour at $40 – low, $77 – average, high – $125.
  • If I put on my project manager‘s hat (a role I used to play), I find many risk factors inherent in the plan.  Either there will be depreciation in quality, if the project is completed – or the project won’t meet the deadline.
  • The risk for failure will fall back on the vendor, as they didn’t look at things from a project manager’s perspective.  Since this is a one-time venture (no chance of repeat business), I prefer not to take risks.
  • Since I haven’t ironed out the details of the article series project (done Friday), there’s no telling if I’ll have a conflict of interest.  There’s a change for an excellent, long-term payoff.

“I do hope you understand my reasons for withdrawing.  Should there be a change in the projected deadline, along with utilizing industrial standard rate ranges, I’ll be happy to submit a future proposal.  I’ll be happy to entertain questions (free of charge), in order to help stir the project in a positive direction.”


P.S. I thought I would throw in (for my blog audience) four classical, self-help books, along with three herbal companies I like:

Self Help Books

  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Napoleon Hill
  3. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy
  4. On Writing by Stephen King (technically not self help, but a good book on writing)

Herbal Companies

  1. Tibetan –
  2. Ayurveda –
  3. Chinese –


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