Wednesday, February 13, 2008

This Post Should Be Simple and Easy--If You Know What You're Doing. (Heck, You Get a Free Education Just By Reading It.)

To get the background for this post, we're going to have to travel back in time to a post I did a few months back. The post was a reaction to those giveaway phrases people use in order to get a lot of work done for a little money--phrases like "this is an easy job for someone who knows what he's doing," and "heck--you're getting a free education just listening to us." Those phrases always rubbed me the wrong way, and I"m not alone--I found a post complaining about this exact wording on Kathy Kehrli's Flawless Word blog, which itself was a response to a press release from an e-business owner giving (bad) advice on how to attract writers to work for you. Anyway, the press release is no longer up, and it's been a long time--so I figured the case was closed here.

Recently, however, I got a ranting response to the above post from someone who passionately disagreed with me. I had never seen anything written before about the rationale behind using these words. I found the whole thing so intriguing that I took the time to write a detailed response--and since this is an old post, I thought I'd bring it up here in a more current issue. Here's the guy's comment (edited down, since it's extremely long; you can see the original by checking out the original post):

"Are you kidding me? ... I actually got this advice first-hand, that EXACT phrase, from two extremely successful individuals named Matt Bacak and Arman Morin, and let me tell you what - the information that someone gets from EITHER of these two is worth doing the job for a CUT rate, much less your standard rate. Matt alone charges $5k an hour for personal marketing advice, and 20k a day, cash, UPFRONT. Do you think these two might have something of value to share?...

The technique of saying that "This is a simple and easy task for anyone that knows what they're doing. Heck, you get a free education just listening to us." is a marketing technique used to appeal to a prospect's ego, weed out non-hackers who don't know how to write but just want a paying assignment, and offers the prospect something of value, which is the actual information the writer wants transcribed/ghostwritten, etc... No one's looking down on you by using these techniques. The raw information that people like Matt and Armand are seeking bids from writers for is sold for thousands upon thousands of dollars in it's edited form. It would behoove any person to perhaps let go of their own self importance and learn something from them...Anyhoo, just my 2 cents. (If u wanna delete this I'll understand.) Anyway, Make It A Great Day!"

Har, har. Here's my response (also edited down):

"You say that these people are worth listening to because they earn a lot of money for what they say. But the phrases they use are phrases characteristically used by people looking for very cut-rate work. If these people have so much money, you'd think they could afford to pay for the services of a decent copywriter--somebody with a proven track record of success in sales writing who could doubtless increase their earnings a great deal, instead of a bunch of cheap writing from inexperienced and/or unskilled writers.

On "this is a simple and easy task/you're getting a free education..." it's funny that you say this phrase is a marketing technique aimed at trying to entice writers to write for you for a cut rate by making them think they're getting something of value from you other than money. I'm in that target market--I'm a writer. That phrase strikes me as arrogant and condescending, and it tells me the person is trying to take advantage of me. Among professional writers I know, nobody really responds favorably to these phrases. So if that's marketing advice you get from people claiming to be professionals, it's bad advice.

About this phrase being intended to "appeal to a prospect's ego, weed out non-hackers who don't know how to write but just want a paying assignment, and offers the prospect something of value":

It certainly doesn't appeal to anyone's ego to infer that they need a "free education." It says you think they're not educated.

As for weeding out "non-hackers" (what's a non-hacker, anyway?) who are just looking for a "paying assignment", that's all of us. All professionals, anyway. Believe it or not, writers don't transcribe people's info, write people's sales letters and marketing material and content articles for the pure love of writing or just to learn something. People write fiction and poetry for the pure love; they go to school to learn something; and they write business copy for money.

You say nobody will look down on you for using these phrases, but the community of professional writers will. These are phrases everybody in that community knows. They're a clear marker that the person using them is looking to hoodwink someone into working for them at much less than they should be earning (otherwise, the person wouldn't have to offer "a free education" instead of fair payment).

Anyway, so that's my $5k. You "make it a great day" yourself."

Why am I sharing this? Because it amused me. Because I wanted to see if anyone else out there had any thoughts (maybe better-reasoned ones?) on whether or not it's a good idea to use these phrases. And to give writers a peek into the minds of people who think these phrases work. Apparently, they think that by saying a project should be "simple and easy" if you "know what you're doing" and suggesting you need a free education, they're appealing to your ego. Maybe they should run a few tests on that before taking it to the bank.


Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

Oh, this is just too good not to share. I can't, however, divulge the full details here, so please email me when you get a chance. To anyone else reading this, I'm just trying to protect the guilty but want to give Jennifer the inspiration behind the post of mine she mentions here.

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff to argue about. The way I see it, phrases like those talked about seem to demean and repel the truly confident. I think there are two types of writers who tackle jobs described like this. The first group is people who seriously undervalue their ability or worth. The second group is made up of self-important competitive freaks who may or may not know "anyone can do this" is a hook phrase and meaningless; their overconfidence drives them to do it. I don't think descriptions like this are helpful at all, especially when they are meant to mislead unwitting writers.

Anonymous said...

When I see the "this is simple for someone" phrase, my instant, instinctive reaction is negative. I sit straighter, my face pulls down and I'm already thinking, "Who the hell does he think he is," before I even realize it. This reaction is *unconscious* and I have to physically and mentally correct myself when I have it. So whoever the hell says it's a great marketing technique is so full of sh** that it's not funny.

People who write this have no respect for other people. It's extremely condescending to workers in general. It's lofty and arrogant, and makes me want to say, "Well, if it's so easy, YOU do the damned job."

But I don't. I don't, because the people who use this phrase are coached to do so. The people who use this phrase are newcomers to the net and the innocent and gullible who believe that if they just follow this guru's strategy or read that guru's ebook, they'll become instant millionaires. They truly believe that they're being told important strategies to achieve success.

So please, don't blame those who use the phrase. Blame the **sholes who tell them to use it. Those are the people who profit off the backs and hard labor of others to achieve their wealth. Everyone else - including the buyers using the phrase - loses.

Jen - Your posts are always the longest to read out of all 150 or so that I cover daily. And I save them for last, every time... because I'm guaranteed something good to read and something I want to comment on. Well done.

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Kathy--that is too funny. Thanks for the inside tip!

@Ryan--it's possible, although I really have a hard time imagining someone so naive that they would fall for these phrases. Okay, maybe once. But they come up so often they're practically catch phrases that scream "You don't want to work for me!" You'd think they'd be retired by now. But hey, there's a sucker born every minute.

@James--I think the same thing. It's the opposite of appealing to someone's ego. Which is why it baffles me that apparently successful people advise using it, because in my experience it does the opposite of what they want it to do. It's proof that you have to pick your gurus carefully--some of them really do know a thing or two; others are just good at making you think they do.

Thanks for the compliment; you totally made my day :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with YOU -- those phrases are shaming, intended to provoke an "I'll show you!" response in the reader and manipulate him/her into doing something for nothing. As a professional writer, all they inspire me to do is hit the delete button and update my email filters. :o)

Unknown said...

Oh Jennifer, you're passing up the Offer of a Lifetime! For these two men are embarking on a mission to teach you. Yes, call them the Internet version of missionaries, if you like. Why, you can spin your wheels for weeks - nay, even months - for free just to soak in all the knowledge they might throw in your directon!

We should all be lined up waiting for these two FAMOUS marketing people to regale us of their expertise!

Sorry. I couldn't get through typing that without milk flying out my nose. The problem with that whole ad is, well, the whole ad. Who ARE these people? What egos! And how stupid to think that offering "simple" work is appealing to those of us who know that means we're getting squat for doing it?

Yuwanda Black, Inkwell Editorial said...

My response: If my mortgage company will accept "soaked up knowledge as payment," then I'll take the job.

Last time I checked though, they wanted cold, hard cash -- and lots of it! So, no thanks. I'll pass and accept work from those who are simply looking for a decent writer and are willing to pay a decent rate.

Thanks for sharing Jennifer. That was priceless.