Direct Response Copywriter on Another Big Mistake

This blog is for my fellow copywriters … mostly.

Most of my clients are happy most of the time.

I suppose, as a direct response copywriter, I should be more specific about the above statement.

One client has been a client for over 3 years; they’ve gone from 3 employees to 56. Another contacted me for a large project after I hadn’t heard from them for 18 months. My copy has helped this client generate over $200 million in revenue. Another client in Orange County, California, sends me “emergency” projects and the head of the company calls me because I keep beating his controls ... plus I can turn work around fast.

I have repeat clients. I also have “one and done” clients who only need my work one time. But even members of the latter group re-contact me from time-to-time.

Repeat work comes my way NOT because the client likes me personally. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. They call me because they measure the results and my copy converts. That’s because I use tried and trusted direct response copywriting techniques but also because the client has a good offer.

Gary Bencivenga said it best, “don’t take on marketing challenges” and I’ve been pretty good at taking this advice. No, I cannot sell sunlamps, heating, and tanning equipment to a list of people in tropical locations.

But it can be difficult to stay away from work, especially when there are targets to meet for monthly production.

I took on a bad project a few weeks ago. It just went bad. Here are the details.

It was a dietary supplement – for men’s performance aka erections.
I got half up front.
I wrote an outline the client approved.
I wrote a draft based on the outline.
The client didn’t like the first draft and suggested some changes.
I made the changes.
The client also asked me to hide the ingredients. No client has ever asked me to do this.
Then the client showed the copy to several people who hated it.

The client fired me. I wasn’t about to argue with someone so totally clueless. I pointed out that the “copy police” would hate some of my highest-performing copy. The ultimate judge is the potential customer. If they buy, the copy is great. If they don’t, the copy is awful and it’s time to try something else. I returned most of the initial deposit and hopefully, this client won’t make life miserable for any other direct response copywriter. He’s not getting anything from me again.

So what’s the lesson here? I need to go back to the 80/20 model. 80% of clients are not going to be serious direct marketers. 20% of clients are. After about 30 seconds chatting with a client on the phone, I can tell the difference between the 20% and the 80%. The 20% will likely be great clients. The 80% will not.

I don’t have to deal with the 80% and nor do you.

If you’re a potential client reading this, then don’t be alarmed … just understand that serious direct response copywriters with a track record of generating revenue simply want to work with direct marketers who truly understand direct marketing … and won’t judge an ad by what his or her auntie thinks. Don't expect a copywriter to solve your marketing challenge.

A couple of potential clients called me last week. One wanted me to work on a “partnership” basis, which is basically translated to “we have no product and no money plus a terrible offer.” He was somewhat shocked when I said “no, I do not want to work with you.” I said it politely, of course.

Another potential client asked me for a quote then went to Upwork. So price was the only factor in that person’s thinking. Whatever. I wish I had known this upfront.

In speaking with both potential clients, it was clear in the first 30 seconds they were not serious direct marketers.


While it’s on my mind, I don’t like it when I take time to get on a conference call with “Ron” and “Ryan” and the people on the call are clearly not named “Ron” and “Ryan” but Rajiv and Prakesh. I also don’t like it when they set up the initial contact through a Linked In profile that’s clearly fake.

I sometimes get cold calls from a call center outside the US and the cold caller calls himself Fred. I always ask, “is your name really Fred?” and they answer, “yes.” Why should I buy from a liar?

End of rant. It’s my birthday.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I write direct response copy for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.