When I was a much younger bride, I decided I was going to plant a garden. My family had a garden when I was a kid, and I remembered how nice it was to have fresh produce to eat and spend time playing in the dirt. I wanted to recreate the nostalgia by planting some seeds, watching them grow, then eating the veggies.
There wasn’t much more to it than that, right?
I drove to my local Walmart and had a wonderful time picking out seeds. My main criteria for choosing was based mainly on how nice the photo on the front of the packet looked. I didn’t pay much attention to soil types or growing zones or anything like that. This was Iowa. Things grew here. It would be fine.
(Insert Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating, “It was not fine.”)
Now that I had all the seeds, I knew it was time to figure out where I was going to plant them. I realize that most people would have already settled this “minor” detail, but not me. I begged my husband and my dad to till a patch of yard, and I was off to the races. I took my seeds out to the garden in a little basket, ready to do some planting.
Except I didn’t have any garden tools. After a quick search through the machine shed, I came up with a rickety old hoe and a trowel. “Good enough,” I thought. I marched myself and my tools back to the garden and spent a few hours planting seeds.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and I have little plants sprouting up. I was thrilled … until I realized I hadn’t made a record of what I’d planted where or marked the rows. I had no idea what was what, and to make matters worse, I didn’t know how to tell if something was a little veggie or a weed!
The whole gardening season went like this. Lots of trial and error. Lots of being totally unprepared and not having what I needed to do gardening well. Here are a few more highlights:
I could go on and on about my first garden mishaps, but let’s get to the point. There are certain things you have to do in a certain order for plants to sprout and produce vegetables. You have to
And then, when the time is right and conditions are met, you reap the harvest. You can’t just throw some seeds at the ground and expect the harvest to be amazing.
Yet isn’t that often how people expect sales copy to work? They throw an ad up on Facebook and think people will read it and instantly buy. When it doesn’t work, they grow frustrated and discouraged. They wonder what went wrong and start to doubt themselves and their calling. Sometimes they even throw up their hands and walk away.
Sales Copy That Converts Happens in 5 Stages
The truth is, sales conversion copy is like gardening. There are certain things that need to be communicated in a certain order if you want people to buy. Occasionally, yes, you can throw some words out there and someone will throw money back, but most of the time it doesn’t work like that.
First, you have to catch the attention of the right target audience. Then you need to address their needs and desires so they feel cared for and understood. When it comes time to make the offer, it’s important to break down objections that stand in the way of them taking action. Finally, once they buy, you don’t stop. Repeat the process with them within their new context as buyers to keep them ascending to the next level of service.
Sales conversion copy is a process that has five stages. The target audience must be led through these five stages in order to convert.
Each of these objectives need to happen in that order to move people from cold to the idea of buying to ready to throw credit cards at your face. If you try to skip stages, your conversion rate will suffer. If you try to do them out of order, again, your conversion rate will suffer.
More from Christa Nichols
Want to learn more tips on writing copy that converts? Grab my FREE 8 Must-Ask Questions guide. Inside you’ll find the eight questions I always ask about my clients’ target markets that help me write copy that follows the 5 stages of sales copy . Click here to download it now: 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects And Converts.
“What is your rate?”
When the question popped up in my DMs, my heart sank. I’m not at all offended by people asking what I charge - I expect prospective clients to want to know my rates, and I’m happy to share them. The reason my heart sank this time was because this was the very first communication I’d ever had with this person, and they were asking the wrong question.
Why is this the wrong first question to ask a copywriter? Because when it comes to copywriting, price is a horrible measure of its value. It’s bad not only for the copywriter, but for the client too. In this article, I’m going to tell you why that is, what to do if you’re faced with this situation, and what questions to look for instead.
Equating Price With Value Is Bad For The Copywriter
When “What is your rate?” is the very first question a prospect asks, RUN.
Does that sound dramatic? Of course I don’t mean you should strap on the Nikes and literally peel out. What I do mean is it’s okay - no, it’s GOOD - to have specific criteria for your ideal client type, and some of that criteria should revolve around how a client approaches your rates.
Your criteria on how clients approach you about your rates may not be the same as mine. I’m a people-pleaser, and I love serving my clients. This makes me a great service provider, but not so great at protecting my time.
Early on in my career as a writer, I would let myself be talked down in price and end up getting burned out because I was taking too many projects for the time available. It was a no-win situation. I wanted to keep growing my business, but something had to give.
Today, I feel comfortable stating my rates with confidence because I have the results and testimonials to back it up. I’m proud and grateful for what I do because I know how it helps my clients and the people they serve.
If someone only wants to hire based on price, they’re likely to be more focused on how much they can GET for their money rather than on how much they can GIVE to the people they serve.
Say that again for the people in the back, right?
I’m not saying price isn’t a factor in who you hire for a job. It absolutely is, and I NEVER hard sell or encourage people to invest more than they can in my services. Ever. But price shouldn’t be the only factor.
Price tells the prospect nothing about what you can actually do for them or how you can help them serve their target audiences. If all you and your services are to them is a number, then they will probably not value your work no matter how good it is.
I also want to address this from the other side of the coin. If you’re reading this and you’re a copywriter, let results dictate your rates. Start out charging a reasonable fee, then adjust your rates when you have the results and testimonials to back it up.
I know service providers who have charged premium rates just because they want to earn premium rates. I’m not okay with that. If a service provider can’t back up what they’re claiming to deliver (and a higher price-tag does automatically bring with it an expectation of high-level, results-based service) it will reflect badly on their business.
Their own business isn’t all that will be negatively affected. When promised results aren’t delivered, it can reflect back negatively on an industry as a whole. I can’t tell you how many client’s I’ve had who paid thousands of dollars for a copywriter who didn’t deliver. They have to turn around and pay me or another copywriter to come in and fix it, and that’s frustrating and expensive.
Equating Price With Value Is Bad For The Client
I'm not a proponent of price-gouging or pulling a Naomi Campbell by refusing to get out of bed for less than $1,000 a day. I’m also not a proponent of undercharging just to land clients. Both situations are lose-lose because price does NOT equal value.
Just because a copywriter charges high-ticket rates doesn’t necessarily mean they deliver great results. And just because a copywriter is cheap doesn’t mean they’re not talented. The truth is, when you make a decision on a copywriter with price as your only consideration, you don’t know what you’re getting. Assigning value according to how much they charge does not take their skill level or results into consideration, and that’s a big mistake.
Let’s say you’re hungry. Someone hands you a menu and tells you to choose what you’d like to eat. You take the menu and say “thanks”. You could really go for a cheeseburger with fries, or maybe a nice caesar salad with dressing on the side.
But when you open it, you blink in surprise. Instead of the tantalizing descriptions and delicious-looking images you expected to see, all you see is a list of numbers. The menu is nothing but a price list.
“Hey,” you say, tapping the person who handed you the menu on the shoulder, “I think I got the wrong menu. There’s nothing on here. How do I pick what I want?”
“No, that’s right,” they say. “The prices are there. Just pick what you can afford.”
“But what if I don’t get what I wanted? What if I get something that tastes HORRIBLE!?”
They shrug. “So? At least you know what it costs.”
See what I mean? Making a decision on a copywriter based only on their prices is no guarantee you’ll get the right copywriter for the job.
Questions to Ask Instead
If price shouldn’t be the first question on either party’s mind, what should? What kinds of questions should you listen for when you’re looking for the right copywriter or service provider to hire?
Here are my favorite questions to get asked on a discovery call. When a prospect asks me questions like this, I know they understand the power of copy to move traffic, appreciate service providers’ skills, and are looking for the best person for the project.
What kinds of clients have you written for?
It’s a rare copywriter who writes for any and every industry. Most copywriters have a niche, an area they spend more time writing for. If a prospect asks you what industry or niche you write for, this is a good sign. It means they recognize the importance of experience and expertise.
What kind of results have you gotten for clients?
This is the bottom line right here. A prospect who asks about your results or wants to see examples of your work understands that anyone can put words on a page. They’re looking for someone who really gets it and can perform.
What is it like to work with you?
This is a GREAT question to ask. This indicates that they’re not just thinking about your as a means to an end. You’re forming a relationship with them and their business, and this question shows they care about a good working relationship.
What would you suggest for ________________?
Anytime they ask you what you’d do in XYZ situation is great. If they’re asking this question, that means you’ve already built some trust with them. They will likely be good at listening to what you say and trust your process.
How much do you charge?
Aha, finally. The million-dollar question should only come in after they’ve determined whether you’d be a good fit or not. They might still turn you down if it just plain doesn’t fit their budget, and that’s okay. You’ll both walk still away feeling valued and heard.
I don’t blame or feel angry with prospects whose sole focus is price. Sometimes, especially with start-ups, that just is the top consideration at the moment. I’ve learned it’s more of a reflection on where they’re at than anything else. And whether I join them there or not … that’s my decision, and one I can now make with confidence.
More from Christa Nichols
Hey copywriters, want to turn the tables and grab some awesome questions to ask your clients’ target markets? Click here to download my free guide on the 8 Must-Ask Questions For Copy That Connects And Converts.
Hi, I'm Christa, an Iowa-based messaging expert specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!