Usually, we go to the best and the brightest to expand our knowledge, skills, and experiences. I have my mentors, my sources of inspiration, and they are wonderful, powerful people in my personal and professional life. I call them my VSPs – very smart people. Recently, however, I was taught some valuable, if costly, lessons from an unexplored and untried source – a crappy writer.
Here’s how it all started…I decided to put together a team of “junior” writers to help with overflow work and small jobs that take time away from larger, more profitable, more complex work. I took to the job boards and found dozens of young guns itching to join up. I knew I needed some way to filter out the crappy writers from the promising ones. I devised a winnowing process of several steps to help identify certain areas necessary to the task of writing for others.
First, I created some pretty precise instructions to follow, to try their hand at following specific guidelines. That step alone weeded out dozens who could not or would not comply. Next, they were asked to provide existing samples of specific types of work. This disqualified many more, as they had no experience with the types of content and copy I was offering to my clients. Lastly, I asked for a writing sample of a certain type on an assigned topic. That brought the number down to less than 10.
All was going well until I began assigning work to the assembled team. It quickly became apparent that somehow, some way, Mr. Crappy Writer had managed to slip through my net and into my small pond of otherwise competent, talented wordsmiths.
How could that happen? What went wrong? I began investigating by asking the culprit himself. And this is what I learned first:
Lesson 1: Samples can be heavily edited.
Crappy Writer had never written anything acceptable on the first draft in his life. Or the second or even the third. Even the sample he wrote for me was presented to an online critique group before he turned it in. Everything he’d shown me had gone through round after round of editing and critiquing. And he expected me to do the same with his work for me – give him endless feedback and rewrite opportunities until he got it “right”.
There were some other lessons to be learned, as well. Such as:
Lesson 2: Some writers actually think it’s the boss’s job to teach them how to write.
Crappy Writer expected me to take the time to educate him on how to write the various content and copy he would be assigned. At minimum, to have samples and examples he could use as templates. Better yet, formulas to follow. Even better still, step by step sets of instructions.
And Lesson 3: It’s perfectly acceptable to be paid in advance for work that you don’t know how to do, have no hope of completing on time, and that needs many hours of editing and rewriting before it can be submitted or published.
At least, that’s what Crappy Writer told me.
I realize that there are writers and content marketers at all levels of experience and skill. I’m certainly no “expert” on many types of copy and content. Or even content marketing. I have learned from the best, discovered some things on my own, and graduated with more than one hard knock, but I don’t know all there is to know. Which, I think, brings me to Lesson 4:
Not everyone has the same definition of professional ethics that I do, or think they should.
No, I’m not an expert. But I also won’t profess to know how to do something I don’t. I won’t take a gig or position or client that asks me to complete work or tasks I’ve never done before, or never completed without the aid of others. At least not without telling them so. And I’d certainly never demand full fees for what amounts to an internship – more learning than working, more learning than earning.
Maybe, in that respect, I’m not cut out to be an “internet marketer”. Truth is, if that’s what it takes,I don’t want to be.
I want to help folks who want to change their world for the better. I want to help the small business owner who knows a whole lot less about content marketing and copywriting than I do. I want to make a difference in my world AND in theirs.
I have skills that I have used for years. Skills that I, and my clients, can take confidence in. Do I always get it “right”? Nope. And I’ll be the first to admit it. But I always work with clients until it IS right, or right enough. Point is, I’d never sell a bill of goods that weren’t the best I could supply.
Mr. Crappy Writer opened my eyes. Made me realize just how easy it is for others out there to find themselves strapped with one of his clan. And made me realize just who I am, what I want, and how I can help others avoid the same mistake I made.
If you’ve had enough of Crappy Writer or Con Man Marketer in your life, why don’t you contact me here at Bloomers Marketing. Together, we can change the world. At least the small part of it we call ours.