The Sarky Type – content with more bite

Ooh get me, sounding all salty and putting off potential clients. 

You may be wondering what’s crawled up my backside this time – Christ, how long have you got? 

Metaphorically speaking, obvs. 

Hear me out.

You might not agree with what I have to say (I can live with that) but before you throw the freelancer’s code of conduct at me, read this instalment of Who’s Pissed On Her Cornflakes Now?

I know a few business writers.

I like ’em.

And a couple of them are, in my opinion, exceptional but some do make me worry. 

Why do I worry, I hear you ask?

Well, I sometimes wonder how the hell they cope with the crippling anxiety they seem to experience every time they deal with a client.

One business writer, in particular, made me worry recently.

They were “anxiously” waiting for a client update about a motherlode of rewrites – worst still it was via a video call. 

Because normal phone calls are so 2019. And sending revisions by email sounds way too efficient.

I know, that all seems like pretty standard practice for writers, I mean, yeah, for some.

But it made me think about the power dynamic between freelancer and client and it reminded me of the similar dynamic between an employee and employer.

Don’t get me wrong.

I get it.

I’m always a little nervy when a client reads my efforts for the first time.

Anyone who gives a shit about providing quality work feels that twinge because you want them to love it. You want it to be exactly what they expected, actually, to exceed expectations – you absolutely do not want them to say “Sarah, this is fucking terrible”.

But this writer didn’t sound like the mistress of her own destiny to me, and what really struck fear into my black heart was the word, ‘collaboration’. 

This freelancing copywriter viewed her work as something that she and her client would produce together

That sounds nice, doesn’t it?

That sounds just like the sort of cosy, matey approach we all seem to be striving for.

Sounds super friendly and fluffy, smells like social selling, no?

This individual was keen to develop that kind of client-contractor culture. The last thing she wanted to do was be viewed as “off-putting”.

Because having boundaries might be perceived as inflexible and disagreeable. K.

Do you know what the word collaboration says to me?

In this context at least, it says that this creative thinks her clients have the same level of knowledge and expertise as she does.

It implies they’re just as qualified as her to pass judgement on content, sales copy, and anything else this writer provides.

If that’s true, why would they hire her to do the job? They could save some cash and do it themselves.

Lemme backtrack a little.

My initial client email through to briefing is a collaboration of sorts.

We’re working together to get the best outcome. But then I crack on with the business of writing business-based content.

That client will get one shot on the first draft to give me their feedback.

They are welcome to tell me that something needs a little tweak, and off I go, gladly tweaking. I make those revisions then it’s off to the proofreader. Voila! Finished, brilliant copy.

But at no point will I take content writing advice from a client. They either trust me, or they don’t.

Thankfully that kind of bollocks only happened once. The copy in question became so generic and clichéd, I finally had to wash my hands of it. 

(Wash my hands of it. Sometimes a cliché is acceptable. That’s probably more of an idiom. Never mind.)

I’m never going to anxiously wait for a client video call.

The potential clients I have attracted always know what they’re getting when they choose to work with me.

They come to me for specific reasons so they’re never surprised by the work I produce.

I deal with one point of contact and that same person has done a jolly good job at providing all the right information at the briefing stage.

Incidentally, If you find yourself in the position of never-ending revisions, your client qualification process is bad. 

(And so is your briefing stage.)

You likely aren’t clear on the kind of person you want to work with (which should be as familiar to you as your own arse crack).

Personally, I don’t give a rams’ testicle what business my customers are in.

My perfect client is a personality type. 

Let’s pretend you want to attract no-nonsense, professional (decent) people who take your time and specialism seriously. How do you think you could achieve that?

By being that person in your own business. 

You’ll be less likely to attract the kind of idiots who want to waste your time (or treat you like shit).

You’ve heard it a million times before: you get treated how you allow yourself to be treated.

And you better believe it. 

If you’re uncertain about your abilities, if you don’t have any Ts and Cs, and if you’re afraid to set boundaries, you will get the shoddiest of clients.

My clients pay my rates and accept my terms and creative process. If a few potential clients find all that too much to bear, we don’t work together. It really is that simple.

Know the clients you DON’T want to work with. 

I hope your content, pricing, and process is repelling those you can’t stand.

You see, being off-putting to some people is just as important as attracting the right people. And actually, you’ll never find the perfect clients without doing that.

If you’re placing the demands of your prospects before your own, stop it. It’s servile and not befitting a business owner.

Are you a no-nonsense business type? Do you need some brilliant content/copy? Do you accept that my service comes at a premium? Do you value a direct and transparent approach? Well, DO YOU?

Ok, then you need to visit this page now.

It’s a metaphor.

There is a connection between how you learn to write business content and psychopathy, I promise.

Do you ever read something and think, I’m sorry, what? I don’t just mean this post title but other stuff, on the socials and the like?

Sure you do.

Before I go into one, it’s right to acknowledge that different methods exist when it comes to writing business content. We’re entitled to voice our opinions on how to get from A to B with our copy (even if some of those opinions are bullshit).

We sure as hell won’t always agree.

Marketing shmarketing.

You’ll watch marketing people play certain phrases on repeat, often without much thought as to what they really mean.

So, when I read a post that suggests the word ‘arduous’ is difficult to understand and that we should only use simple language to reach a broader audience, I’m like, what the actual fuck?

Who’s deciding this simple language?

Do we contact a local authority? Are we talking pre-schoolers or people who have learned English as a foreign language? I have many questions.

It was also suggested that people who use “fancy words” were snooty, only doing so to impress. K, but I’m still reeling over the fact that ‘arduous’ is considered a fancy word.

Reeling is probably also out.

(Jesus, I’m going to have to go through my entire blog – again.)

Another stand-out example of fancy words was ‘irregardless’ and I must confess, I agree. Why use, ‘irregardless’ when ‘regardless’ will do.

(Didn’t that become a word because so many people used it incorrectly? Ah, the evolution of language.)

The gist (is gist ok?) of said social media post was that you shouldn’t use words in your copy that you wouldn’t use in conversation.

The implication (I looked for synonyms for ‘implication’ and they were all just as fancy. I also looked at synonyms for ‘synonym’ and there wasn’t one) that no one uses ‘arduous’ in a convo was hysterical (funny) to me. And only a person like Stephen Fry would dare to drop that doozy in casual chat.

(I’ve been known to use ‘arduous’ out with friends and they didn’t once look at me blank or call me a fucking show off.)

Sales copy should be easy to understand.

Yes, excellent *claps hands* why place obstacles in the way of people buying your shit.

Sales copy should certainly be clear in terms of what you’re asking of your audience but that has nothing to do with using child-like language.

Why?

Because we SHOULD KNOW OUR FUCKING MARKET and as such, understand how they speak / think / take a shit.

(Yeah, I’m pissed off right now.)

You might agree that business content must be simple (by whose standards – I dunno) but that advice doesn’t tell the entire story.

(And if you want the entire story, keep reading.)

Avoid broad appeal like a child would Rolf Harris.

Trying to attract a broader audience is you selling to everyone.

Every advertising campaign, every marketing strategy has a target market. And not one person in those meetings is saying let’s make things as generic as possible.

The same thing applies to being funny.

Some folks don’t get (or like) my jokes.

And lots of people would prefer I avoid naughty words. My cultural references alienate certain generations. For example, not everyone knows who Rolf Harris is.

Being general is bad for SEO.

Competitive (broad) keywords attract more traffic but they convert to fewer sales.

People get specific when they decide to buy. Having more eyes on your stuff is pointless if they don’t want it. Increased traffic is only great when it’s the right kind.

More on that here.

So getting more people to notice you is only good if they’re YOUR people, yeah.

Learn to write business content like a psychopath.

Write without care or conscience to those who hate your copy.

Learn to write business content like a psychopath

They are dead to you.

Interestingly psychopaths that kill often target a specific group of people. They know their market.

I don’t want to attract those who think ‘arduous’ is a fancy word nor will I be keen to work with the humourless.

The words I use in my business content come naturally to me, that’s my writing (and speaking) style. It attracts my kind of people – educated, smart, immature, business owners who love sarky humour and swearing. My website is geared to those personality traits.

Use the right language for your audience.

Understand the market you want to attract and write with them in mind. That takes work, serious research, time and money.

This also applies to jargon.

Unless you’re trying to reach an audience beyond your field, go ahead and use industry-based terms. Your content is for people who understand – not the great unwashed.

Your sales copy should NEVER be universal.

If you start to dumb down your content there might be other aspects of it that you feel you should change.

If you worry about causing offence, in the hopes that you’ll please more people, and therefore sell more products, you’ll remove the things that make it unique.

You’ll end up sounding like everyone else, not just in your industry but in business. And why would you want that? Stand out, irregardless of what the majority think.

Are you done with crusty ole business content? Sure you are, then hire me to get rid of your awful blurb. Click here to find out more.

I know what you’re thinking, this is total bullshit. 

Content creation is about giving your clients what they want, right?

It’s always about the client. There isn’t a day that goes by when the client doesn’t come before everything: your own child (in my case, dog), your personal safety – in essence, your actual life.

“Bitch, don’t you dare deviate from your client-centric purpose”

I read a lot of posts that talk about this (I don’t ever finish the posts because I’m usually so fucked off by them). One post, in particular, got me a little bent out of shape. The author was repeating the standard marketing party line:

“Create content that your clients want to consume”

How can you possibly know what ALL your clients want to consume?

But marketers say that, and as a content writer, I’ve said it – up to a point. And that point is my own fulfilment. I often wonder if some digital marketing types actually believe the stuff they peddle but that’s for another post. 

You come first.

I have a keen sense of self. I revel in my own autonomy and I have no problem creating boundaries, or saying no. I have established all of those good habits despite enmeshment family relationships.

I don’t accept that the client always comes first, in the same way, I don’t think the customer is always right. It’s only after you build a decent relationship with your client that you value them and they, you but before that happens, it’s all about me – sorry, you. No one wants fake empathy. The obsession with putting potential clients (strangers) before your own desires is weird.

But…

I do talk about writing from their perspective. I babble on about solving problems and talking to them like a human. However, the way I create content starts with what I enjoy.

Content creation.

In the context of the content I put out for my business, my first thought is always, is it worth me getting out of bed for? If I only think about what my audience wants, and not what I like to create, what incentive do I have to carry on doing it? We all know that marketing needs a consistent approach, that’s another thing we hear on repeat. I’m not some selfless, altruistic person when it comes to how I make my living. Who am I kidding – I’m not like that in life! 

If I’m just doing what my prospects want, what’s in it for me?

Content creation for me first doesn’t mean my audience disappears, they don’t sod off because they’re upset that I’m enjoying myself. They’re not sending me angry DMs stating that I didn’t put them first. Some of them are enjoying it too.

  • For the record, the DMs I get are:
  • “Hi”
  • And:
  • “Do you have a softer, less scary side that’s more appealing to heterosexual men?”
  • Also:
  • “Would you be up for a synergistic business opportunity?”
  • Finally:
  • “So, why The Sarky Type?”

Different strokes.

If your ideal client works in cybersecurity, you’re probably banging out tailored content on that subject.

Let’s suppose the medium you use, is the one you like. Sadly some of that audience won’t engage with it. That’s because everyone is different, including people in your niche. If your media is primarily video, there will be a few Katrinas and Ahmeds in cybersecurity that hates video content.

So what do you do, stop creating video content because some of your target audience hate it?

You could vary your media to try and grab more of that audience. Ultimately it’s up to you but you could carry on doing what brings you joy and accept that you can’t please everyone. You’re lucky if you please a fraction of your audience, but pleasing yourself is always a good place to start.

Find your thing.

You don’t have to pick one thing, experiment, the point is to find something you like to do. I write, so it’s no surprise that I like text posts but I also like to make videos, and they’re often not business-related. And the reason I make those videos is because it’s fun. They make some people laugh believe it or not and I get a kick out of that.

I’m actually giving some of my audience what they want but I’d stop pretty soon if it was a chore to do it. Once you create content you like, you will then be in the best place to bring your message to your audience. We all want to give our clients something useful, and of value, it’s up to you to decide how you do that.

What is value?

I am really opening up a can of worms with this one. 

Value is another overused word that has been stripped of its meaning

Again, value is perceived differently by different people.

Free tips and resources are valuable, making someone laugh is valuable. Your audience isn’t going to agree. Not only does it change per person, each one of those individuals will see value differently within the context of each product or service they buy.

You’ll never provide blanket value for your entire demographic.

The content you like to consume is a great guide when you’re creating your own material because if you like it, chances are others will too.

We are all someone’s audience. You’re more than qualified to know how to create engaging, valuable content. 

Let’s wrap this up.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that I promote the freedom to just be. Yes, there is best practice, especially when it comes to things like SEO. You can’t just do what you fancy with organic traffic but your content should have fluidity. If you’re rigid about marketing practices you’ll end up sounding like everyone else, you’ll be using words like ‘authentic’, ‘mindset’, ‘entrepreneurship’, and ending your posts with ‘agree?’.

If you don’t break out from the marketing crowd you’ll forego your individuality, and we need that now more than ever. So, do what you want first, your audience will follow. 

Agree?