So, writers… call me crazy, but do you ever get the idea that brainstorming strategies, research and content creation just aren’t appreciated? I mean, do you feel like you’re getting your full due for the creativity, cramped fingers and back fatigue? Let’s not forget to mention the fact that most copywriters and content creators turn into walking encyclopedias of often useless facts.

Are We Crazy?

So, how’s it feel when you find postings from someone who obviously has a full and complete understanding of how much all the talent pouring from your fingers is worth?

“Yeah, um… I’d like some fantabulous, guaranteed-to-go-viral, optimized, reader-friendly content, right? Can’t look like it’s spun, mkay? How’s about 30 articles, 1,000 words each, and I’ll take ‘em in three days. I’ll pay a ginormous, generous sum of $.50 per article. No, no, don’t be too effusive in thanking me. It’s just my duty as an entrepreneur who wants a whole lot of something for nothing. Really, I don’t value your expertise, experience, creativity and time whatsoever, so we’ll get along famously.”

Lovely. Let’s… not.

Problem with Content Creation: High Expectations, Low Value

I’m not sure if there’s a writer out there that hasn’t come across at least one potential client like the one above. They want the whole kit n’ caboodle, but refuse to attach any value to it. Oh, I’m sure that, for the most part, they don’t actually intend to exploit the copywriter. In actuality, I think it’s a matter of not seeing how high their expectations are, in relation to how low they value the actual work.

High Expectations

Potential clients come to you because they need content. They know they need words, but in the same vague way the average person knows we need air to breathe. It’s a given. They also know why they need content, reasons that include:

High Expectations | Low Value

  • To increase traffic
  • To rank in the SERPs
  • To entice readers to stay
  • To turn visitors into sales
  • To build themselves as an authority
  • To produce publicity
  • To create an information hub

Low Value

The average client comes to you with all this knowledge of what content is supposed to do. When you break it down, that’s a lot of pressure on words. However, they’ve been told that the above is what content does; it doesn’t seem to quite translate into “value”, so it’s not going to do well being translated into “cost”, either.

5 Steps to Boosting Content Creation’s Perceived Value

In short, it’s all about perceived value. You know the amount of time, creativity and work you put into a piece of copy (any piece of copy!), and you know the potential returns for that effort. Therefore, you place a high value on the work.

The client, on the other hand, knows the potential returns for your effort, but it’s just writing. Anyone can write, can’t they. Therefore, they place low value on the work. Your job, then, is to teach them the true value of what they want.

Perceived Value

“Teach them true value. Why didn’t I think of that? Brilliant! Say no more!”

I know – that’s like saying, “Turn the light on,” in a dark room with a broken switch. It’s a definite “duh” moment, and you’ve probably tried everything you can think of to get “true value” across to the client. However, you might find something in this short list that you haven’t thought of yet (not that you wouldn’t have, given enough time, of course):

Do Your Research – No one can know everything there is to know about every client’s niche. Research is necessary. Unfortunately, research is part of what takes so long if you didn’t step out of your client’s industry to write.

Now, you probably can’t bring the client to your office to watch you do the research (even if you wanted to). On the other hand, you can spend a little bit of your research talents on yourself. Treat it as an assignment from your most important client.

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is a 5,000-word dissertation on the topic of writing for the Internet. Focus on the necessity of strong words. References, statistics and supporting studies are necessary.

Choose Strong Statistics – Many business owners like to see the studies. They want to see numbers they can understand, and statistics they can believe. Therefore, Useit.com’s article, “How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?” is an excellent example of the research you need. You can read the article yourself, but you know the answer. Not very long. Your client may not know, however, and you can quickly tie this study into perceived value.

The content has to catch the visitor’s attention in 10 seconds. It has to hold their attention for the next 20 seconds. Most won’t read more than a quarter of what’s written during that time. BUT –easily scanned, highly valuable, highly relevant pages makes it more likely for them to stay. AND if they stay, they’re more likely to stay for two minutes or more.

Find Examples – Nothing is more persuasive than visual, live examples, which is why it can be extremely beneficial to find examples of high and low quality content.

Low quality: “Our search engine optimization services starts with researching and recommending you the right keywords. The right baits for the right fishes always. No point achieving a high search rank with “weighing equipment” when “weighing scales” is searched far many times over.”

High quality: “If Christian Muñoz-Donoso is going to make this job pay, he’s got to move quickly. He has a list of 10 videos to shoot on this warm June morning, for which he’ll earn just $200. To get anything close to his usual rate, he’ll have to do it all in two hours.”

The differences: Proper grammar, correct punctuation, interesting opening

Of course, the low quality content is a sales page for a Malaysian SEO company, while the high quality content is an article from Wired.com magazine (The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model, Wired Nov 2009). However, by finding examples that are similar in topic but as extreme in quality as the above, you provide a striking visual of the possible outcome from hiring you vs. a poor (aka cheap) writer.

Looking for things that matter

Create Case Studies – We’ve found case studies to be a particularly difficult creation for us, since the majority of our clients fall under non-disclosure. However, if you can’t create case studies for clients, you can, at the very least, show your own results.

For example, as evidence of the validity of using infographics, we’ve often used our Google Algorithm Dance (March 2011), which gained 79 unique domain links, over 2,400 new visitors and an (apparent) retention rate of 20% (based on average return visitors after the infographic). Minor success in terms of building traffic? It depends – for us, one of the huge benefits was the amount of links from various national and international domains, giving us (an international SEO company) global exposure. As well, most of the links were from high quality, highly relevant sites. We like that.

As you create your 5,000-word dissertation, take the time develop and add case studies. They become your portfolio of greatness, in which you can show the potential client what the real value is of your work.

Call Their Bluff – You’ll get potential clients who want to nickel and dime you to death. “$100 per page, you say? How about I grant you $50 per page, and I’ll throw in the ghostly carrot of potential work in the vague, unforeseeable future for an even lower, yet overwhelmingly magnanimous, amount.”

You may be tempted to agree, because the carrot looks so darn tasty. You may agree because you’re hungry this month and could really use the cash. But – you, also, have to see the value in what you do. The minute you start negotiating and lowering your costs is the minute you lose sight of what your work is worth.

What’s Your Perceived Value?

You have a job to do, and content creation, strategizing, developing… it’s a skilled trade. At the very least, you have to spend thousands of hours honing your talent if you aren’t formally trained. You have to spend time becoming a mini-expert on hundreds of topics across tens of niches. You have to learn the ins and outs of marketing.

Empower Yourself

Think of all the time you’ve put in learning your trade. What’s it worth to you? What’s your perceived value, and how flexible is that concept for you?

Finally, think about this. Once you go through your 5,000-word dissertation on the true value of copywriting and content development, they may say, “That’s nice, dear, but I still want to pay you a piddling for that gold you’ll give me.” You may take them on anyway, considering the idea that a return customer is better than no customer at all.

However, nickel and dime clients beget nickel and dime clients. In my experience, they’re seldom happy with the final price. They’ll be back, but they’ll complain about the cost when they come back. They’ll recommend you to equally unhappy clientele, who are equally unwilling to pay for the benefits of strong copy.

With that delightful picture of never-ending price bickering in your mind, use the tips above to boost the perceived value of your copywriting to the client. And while you’re at it, remind yourself what your time, talent and energy is worth.