terms of what the features mean to the prospect - and sell those benefits as hard as you can.

Many advertising copywriters invoke two basic formulas when developing an ad or writing a commercial. The first is K.I.S.S. - which stands for keep it simple stupid , which means that you keep your theme or focal point simple so it will be more understandable to the masses) The second formula is A.I.D.A. which is an acronym for attention, interest, desire, action. (We like to throw in Conviction as another important point so the formula reads A.I.D.C.A). How does this all work? When your commercial begins you have got to catch the listener or viewer's attention -- either with a provocative phrase or a sound effect. In the case of a television commercial perhaps a stunning visual. Once you have got the attention of your audience, you will have to pique their interest -- such as "here's a new way to wipe baby's bottom" or "a great party idea". Next, you will have to create the desire to go out and actually buy the product -- which requires action! And which hopefully results in a sale!

As we've already said, as an advertising copywriter, you must be a salesperson. Secondly, you must also be a specialist in the media and aware of the various constraints of the medium for which you are writing. Most important of all, if you're writing a broadcast commercial, it's important to have a stopwatch in your head. For example, a 3O second commercial is actually 29 seconds with a 1/2 sec. of dead air at each end for an intro and extro. You must also consider the talent you're working with. We suggest you choose your talent wisely. There are many different kinds of talent. Some are news announcers who can't act worth a plug nickel. Others are very talented actors who can give you a full range of voices, characters and emotions. Ask around. Listen to demo tapes. If you decide to use sound effects, you have to know what's available. If you're writing a television commercial, you must be aware of how television commercials are produced, budgets, timelines, deadlines, etcetera. And, remember if you see something that isn't quite right in the production or post-production, that's the time to speak up. After all, if the finished product isn't right, it's your responsibility!

As an advertising copywriter, you have to know all this and more -- which is not only the challenge, but also the fun. If you like to learn and you have a thick skin (in other words, you don't take things personally), copywriting is for you. If not, we suggest you get involved in some other industry, perhaps embroidery or basket weaving.



As far as we're concerned, there is no more rewarding career than working as an advertising copywriter. Our editor puts it this way: "Over the tenure of my career, I have entertained a Deputy Prime Minister of Canada in my home, shared living quarters with Hollywood movie stars, met dozens of radio and television personalities, seen some pretty weird and fascinating things and places* that were sealed off to the general public, got down to business with some pretty tough Company Presidents and Vice Presidents -- and chummed with some of the most interesting and talented people on the planet Earth. I have seen most of the world (on a very generous expense account). I've tested out new cars, taken rides in planes and used dozens of new products. It's a great gig if you can get it."

But the real joy of copywriting is developing an advertising line that works for the client. I'm pretty sure that 99% of the copywriters out there aren't in the business for the money or the notoriety (there's never any notoriety in copywriting). Their ego demands that they be creative --- and their ego really demands that they develop a line that fits so smoothly with all the marketing requirements of a campaign that it's almost pure magic. It's a true copywriter who feels a glow of pride when he or she sees his (or her) line on a billboard or in a television commercial -- used consistently -- and one that actually gets results."

Of course, like every other type of job, there is a down side to copywriting. You will work with the "beauty" but be constantly daunted by the "beast". Copywriting is a unique blend of art and business. As a copywriter, you will be the "artist" who will do the bidding of "business". If you are a good copywriter, naturally you will want to write a commercial that people will admire. But, you will also have to satisfy the client who will want direct results from your efforts. Therein lies the conundrum. How do you circumvent the conundrum? A higher caliber of client might help -- if your client is having trouble understanding the creative process. It's important they understand what a commercial can and can't do. An Account Executive once said that "I had to jump for what the client wanted, because, he after all had "the candy". That was so true.

Some of the other down sides of copywriting are the revisions that a client will inevitably ask for. Revisions are natural -- if there is new information or the objectives have changed, just smile, bite your tongue and be professional as you rework and re-paste your copy to meet their needs. You will also have to deal with "tight" deadlines -- when you need more time to do a great job, but the time isn't there. Let's not forget the Account Executive bursting into your office needing "a great idea" immediately (this usually happens because the Client's President is coming to/leaving town and wants a brilliant idea on his desk in minutes. If you can live with these pressures, go for the job. If you are so brilliant that you can work within these confines and still write a stunning commercial, then you really are a copywriter!

* Ed note: "One of the neatest experiences was being invited into a "theatre" that had just been discovered in downtown Toronto. A carpenter who was helping to renovate a major theatre had noticed a false wall at the top of a rarely-used flight of stairs. He chipped a hole through the wall and when he peered through the hole he saw an entire "other theatre" on the other side that no-one had known ever existed. It was an old "summer theatre" which had been sealed off for fifty years because the smalller theatres which accommodated vaudeville acts had died along with vaudeville. The owner decided to revive the theatre and because he needed an agency to promote the place, he invited us in. When we walked through that theatre, it was like walking through a time capsule. Names such as "W.C. Fields" and "Mary Pickford" were etched in the dressing room walls. The original "lime lights" were still there (the theatre people threw lime into gas lights to create a green glowing light). It was an amazing experience!


Being a success in any discipline takes practice -- as well as the willingness to sit down and spend time to get it right. If you're willing to pull up your shirt sleeves and get down to work and you're ready to put the time in, you can be a copywriting wunderkind. Talent will be the least of your skills. What you must do is set aside a prescribed number of hours per day (8 is a good number) to write at your computer or typewriter without doing anything else -- even if you don't feel inspired!. How do you think the famous writers work? Sit on a rock by the ocean and wait until their creative muse flies across the water and whacks them in the face? Unfortunately that's not how it happens. They get up in the morning, go to their computer and start writing. You must treat writing like a job -- like every other job!





As a copywriter, you will often be called upon to stand up in front of a boardroom of executives and present your ideas for their advertising campaign. This is when you really have to sell yourself and your CONCEPT for the advertising campaign -- and the THEME line that so succinctly sums everything up! And this is when you will realize the amazing power of your thoughts -- because if your line is accepted it will dictate how thousands of people will see your client's product or service. If your line is successful, it will be used on a consistent basis -- be seen by thousands, even millions -- and possibly become a "household" phrase. Ah, yes, the line! But coming up with that "magic" line isn't so much a matter of waving a wand and saying "abbracadabra", it's more a matter of a lot of intense work. Certainly, you will want to avoid THEME lines or SLOGANS that are platitudes or puns. There are some basic words that immediately identify a slogan as a platitude. For example, "Working today for a better tomorrow" or "Quality People doing Quality Work." Nobody pays much attention to these lines because they go under the heading of so much "yada, yada, yada" Our editor, Norm, has a particular dislike for: "People finding a better way". "I saw it on a truck that seems to fly by every time I look out from my office window. Whenever I see that line, I always think of a bunch of people trapped in a mine shaft waving their flashlights, trying to find a better way". It's almost pathetic." You will also want to avoid "gimmicky lines". For example, we noticed a slogan on a van that went by the Thirsty Muse the other day. The van was in the business of fixing "radiators" and their slogan was A great place to take a leak. While a line like this may bring a giggle, it also happens to be trite, tasteless and absolutely puerile. Imagine a major organization going on television from coast to coast with the slogan "A great place to take a leak". Also, make sure your slogan works on all possible levels. Some people may not understand a double-entendre when a pun is used. For example, we noticed a slogan for a weight loss clinic that read "The Weight Is Over". While this may work on the "non-pun" level because everyone expects to lose weight when they book into a weight loss clinic, it doesn't quite "cut" it on the "pun" level. On the "pun" level, it sounds like all you must do to lose weight is "wait" -- which, as we understand it, isn't quite true. Perhaps the most powerful slogan of all is the one that addresses both the company's employees and the public at large (broken down into segments such as the customer, the financial world, the government, et al). A good example of this was Ford's slogan in the eighties "Quality is Job 1". With a line like this everybody knew which way the company was going. (By the way, you might want to flip a page, here, and see who was responsible for that line). When you develop your theme line, make sure you read all the pertinent data, including the marketing research. Your line has to be "bang on" with what the company wants to achieve. We wish you all the success in the world as you bang your head against the wall trying to develop a concept that will meet all the criteria.

In the opinion of the staff at Canadian Copywriter, here are just a few samples of some of the greatest advertising lines and the reasons why they're so great.

GET CRACKING -- This has been the slogan for eggs for many years now. There's plenty of good reasons why. It says it all!

BLACK'S IS PHOTOGRAPHY -- This slogan was developed for a chain of Canadian stores that specializes in cameras, video equipment, etcetera. The slogan "Black's is photography" was beautiful because it totally pre-empted every other camera store. Black's laid claim to its market. The slogan definitively defined Black's as the store that's totally professional in all things photographic.

THE FASTER LIFE GETS THE MORE SENSE MILK MAKES -- This slogan was perfect for the times -- and perfect for milk. Over the years, milk has been losing market share by the barrel, so to speak, thanks to "expert" nutritionist debunking the belief that milk is good for you. In fact, the advertising for milk has always tried to fight these "naysayers" but the various campaigns have always been a losing battle (remember -- wear a moustache?) against the multitude of different drinks on the market. Milk advertising is a perfect example of "milking" the product. But this line made an excellent effort at re-establishing milk as the drink of choice -- and it worked! Well, let's just say it worked for a little while.

DOFASCO. OUR PRODUCT IS STEEL. OUR STRENGTH IS PEOPLE. This slogan summed up Dofasco perfectly. The company is non-union and, in fact, there was never any need for a union. Dofasco was good to its employees, paid them very competitive wages. In fact, whenever the employees at Stelco, their major competitor, went on strike, Dofasco would match the settlement wage and, in many cases, go a few dollars higher. An interesting sidelight to this slogan was that the executives at Stelco became very jealous of Dofasco's success and, in fact, its slogan. They wanted a slogan too and decided to use "Quality Steel. Quality People." Their ad agency complained that it was too similar to Dofasco's slogan -- and Stelco would be seen as a "Johnny Come Lately". The company's brass refused to accept their agency's viewpoint and went ahead with the slogan anyway. Surely enough, people scoffed at the slogan (since it was obviously a "copy cat" move). The line ran into all kinds of problems from the "get-go" and was subsequently dropped.

EVERYTHING YOU WANT IN A DRUGSTORE. Our editor insisted that we put this slogan in -- since he wrote it for Shoppers Drug Mart back in the eighties. At the time, Shoppers Drug Mart was using "CANADA'S DRUGSTORE" but Shoppers was adding new products to its stores and some branches were going 24 hours. Throughout that era, retailing was going through a major overhaul. Our editor insisted that "Everything You Want In A Drugstore"was a slogan that fit perfectly with the company's ambitions -- although the way our editor tells the story, he had to fight "tooth and nail" to get it past the agency's egotistical president (who was the person who originally developed the slogan "Canada's Drugstore"). When pressed, our editor always bites his lip and says curtly "The (self-styled) President of that company was a guy who honestly believed that he was correct in everything and that the sun rotated around him. In my estimation, he was just blinded by the light"

THINK OUTSIDE THE BUN. When Taco Bell's theme line first came out, it was like being hit with a sledgehammer. Yes! What line could be more perfect?



Advertising operates in the currency of "ideas" and it's often said that an agency is only as good as its people, and its "ideas" . Perhaps the concept is best summed up this way: an agency's inventory goes down the elevator every night at 5:00 p.m. Naturally, as an ambitious copywriter, you will want to contribute to the agency's success by dreaming up brilliant ideas. Equally as naturally, you will want to enhance your own career with ideas that outshine everyone else's. The trouble is you will be working with people who are thinking along the same lines -- and who are just as capable as you at coming up with a terrific idea. Let's look at reality of the matter. If you gave an assignment to ten copywriters, they would come up with ten different advertising concepts, most of which would probably be good. So the question is: How do you table your idea and get the agency group to endorse it as the agency's "official" idea?

Once you have developed your brilliant idea for an advertising campaign, you will probably be required to present it at an agency meeting.

There is a certain psychology to agency meetings. If the assignment is a major assignment, it will invariably involve all the "heavy hitters". Certainly the Account Executive, the Copy Chief and the production people will be there. If the account is really big, the chances are good that the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the agency will also be involved.

The trick is not to present your idea until everyone else's idea has been trashed. There will be the typical ideas. The Account Executives who have children will suggest an advertisement with children in it -- preferably their children. The Junior Copywriters will suggest a campaign that's perfect for a client that doesn't even exist. The President will, of course, have a vision (note: ignore this at your own peril). Have you ever noticed how people automatically think of what's wrong with an idea rather than what's right? It's a painful fact of life that some of the most brilliant ideas in advertising never saw the light of day because its creator presented it at the wrong time or the people who heard the idea were worried about a "red herring" or caught up in "office politics". Even in enlightened advertising agencies, the problem still exists. Basically what we're saying is that if you jump the gun and you present your idea first, expect your idea to be shot down first.

Your scheme should be to hold back on your "blockbuster" idea until you have heard all the possible objections to everyone else's idea. Work out the answers in your mind -- then when everyone is exhausted and exasperated and the coffee and donuts have run out, slip your idea in as an "off the cuff" remark. It'll be like owning a life ring on the Titanic. You will have a much better chance of success.

If everybody trashes your idea, and you still believe it's great, then suggest a focus group. (A focus group is when potential customers are asked to give their opinion on the advertising). With a focus group behind you, you can sell your idea. Nobody can argue against public opinion!

Sometimes the science of dreaming up an idea is better off left in the laboratory -- and the real focus of your creative muse should be on the psychology of selling your ideas. Sometimes all the demographics, focus groups and here say and analysis of ideas can be thrown out the window. Some of the more successful Creative Directors avoid dreaming up great creative ideas until they meet the head of the company -- whether it be the Chief Executive Officer or President. They analyze his office, get a feeling for the psychology of the man, then start their creative thinking. For example, let's say there are pictures of guns on the wall and scale models of tanks scattered throughout the office. What kind of strategy would appeal to the man? If there are pictures of his family in his office, would he jump at a "family" concept? In your conversation, find out what his hobbies are. Does he enjoy golf, for example. Would he jump at the opportunity to have Tiger Woods in his commercial? Do you see what we're saying? Basically, in a commercial world, it comes down to this: the head honcho has the candy! And you have got to jump for the candy!

If you're trying to create "breakthrough" creative, consider the medium first. If you are developing a transit sign, think of the milieu. One of the greatest outdoor campaigns ever written was a sign for Everready batteries on a bus that simply said "Powered by Everready". That brings to mind Everready's TV commercials (by Chiat Day). The EverReady bunny was beating his drum, walking through several "run of the mill" television commercials. NOW THAT WAS BREAKTHROUGH CREATIVE!


Start your creative thinking by considering how your idea will look on a billboard. The idea must be short and sweet in order to get your point across. Here are some guidelines for writing a billboard.

VIEWING TIME.
An important question to ask is will your message communicate simply and effectively within 6-10 seconds? That's how long your viewer will have an opportunity to see your ad. Remember, if your ad is on a highway, cars are traveling at an average of 55 mph or more. Contrary to many opinions, if the ad is cluttered with too much info, the viewer won't get this info gradually over time (more with each viewing). Instead they will ignore the ad altogether because it's just too freakin' hard to read. It is generally recommended to use no more than 7 words. Simplicity is key.

FONT SIZE. Notice whether the copy lines are instantly readable at 300 ft for posters and 500 ft for bulletins. Do your fonts have thick or thin lines, or a combination of the two? Typically the "best-read" billboards have sturdy letters with even spacing. Make sure your text does not crowd the letters together, which may cause confusion.

SPACING CONSIDERATIONS. The eye typically moves from the upper left corner to the lower right corner of a billboard. Consider this movement when creating your artwork, including how the images and text are juxtaposed. Have you considered where the billboard is located? Is it far from the traffic or close? If it's quite a distance from your intended audience, you must use less copy and larger fonts to increase effectiveness. In contrast, if your billboard is close to traffic, you can use more copy and a smaller font to create the same effect. Have you considered the speed of traffic and placement of intersections near the board? If the speed is slow, located near secondary roads, and/or near an intersection, the message can be longer than if located on a high speed freeway.

GENERAL VISIBILITY. Does the message create maximum visibility? Use colors and pictures to contrast with the sky and other surroundings. On a typical board, avoid using white or sky blue backgrounds as they blend with the sky around them. Is the ad readable from various distances, angles, lighting and weather conditions? Your creative design should be specific to the board if possible or if not then designed for the poorest visibility board in the showing. Are you saying only one simple key statement? Nothing else will be read and may endanger the more important messages. Do not put words or sentences stacked on top of each other. This reduces the ability to understand and view the message. Less is more. Does your ad have a sufficient amount of space between the actual lines and words? If the letters or words run together it won't be read.

CONTRASTING COLORS. Does the text contrast in color with the background? Use a PMS or other color system. If you have an image, make sure it attracts the eye separate from the background and the copy. Do the background colors contrast with surroundings? (i.e.sky, buildings, backdrop of board). Are the colors used primary and secondary in nature? For example, color combinations that work are blue and yellow or red and black. On the other hand, colors such as purple and yellow, or red and green vibrate together at too high a frequency and do not tend to be as effective.

ATTRACTIVE ADS. Using an image along with copy is a good idea. The image attracts the eye and then your copy gets read. Also, the image can have lasting impact. Dogs and other animals can be very effective. Extensions on billboards make your ad stand out from other boards. Most boards in a given area will be a standard size so if you can extend your board higher you will be more noticeable (eg. From a 14 x 48 to a 17 x 48). Further, extending an image beyond the board is very eye catching and memorable.




If there are indeed fifty ways to write a headline, you can bet that only a precious few of them will actually work. Again, we reiterate that as in all types of writing, it's important to look at what works first. To do that, you have to study the masters. Here are ten tips to help you get going:
  Start With A Story

One of the most effective advertisements of all time began with the headline: "They laughed when I sat down to play the piano..". This ad was for piano lessons...and it struck at the heart of everyone who ever wanted to play a musical instrument. The ad ran for fifty years, believe it or not, and just kept getting massive responses every time it ran. Our bet is that the ad successfully addressed everyone's fear of looking like a fool. That fear, when coupled with an answer to the fear, won a great amount of readers!


  The How To Headline

This is probably the second most effective headline. People are always interested in doing something better. They want to know "how to...make better furniture, make more money, date a beautiful woman/handsome guy...etc...etc...etc.
   The Testimonial Heading

Thirdly (notice how we're listing the headlines in order of importance), there's the testimonial headline. These can be powerful headlines, particularly in industrial advertising...where everybody knows everybody else. If you can get, for example, the chief engineer at Toronto Hydro to endorse your switch boxes, then you're well on your way to earning big profits for your client. The only problem with this type of headline is the politics. Chances are pretty good that the Chief Engineer at Toronto Hydro will love the publicity, but s/he will have to clear his/her participation with his/her bosses. We've found that this takes a lot of time...and it may put some major road blocks in the way of your campaign's progress.

  The Clever Headline

This type of headline is one of the most effective in advertising, particularly in billboards. While it's effective, it's also dangerous. You might decide to use a pun. For example, for a crop dusting chemical, you might say "A Chemical Outstanding In Its Field". The danger here is that someone (usually the client) sees the headline as pretty corny (which it is). They'll probably refuse to pay. So, if you're going to use a clever headline, make sure it works on all fronts and eschews corniness.
  The Quiz Headline

Everybody loves to test their problem-solving skills. If you used a headline that invited the reader to solve a problem, you will probably increase readership.

  The Superiority Headline

For example: "1/2 the price and twice the performance of our competitors". This type of headline can be effective, particularly for people who are using the competitor's product or service (or for people who are considering a purchase)>

  The "New" Headline

The word "new" in a headline always evokes a response. Try to avoid using "new and improved", however, because this type of headline always provokes questions i.e. "what was the matter with the old product?" "New and Improved" is also dangerous when the product is new to the market. Don't laugh. This actually happened!

  The "Free Offer" Headline

This headline will always be effective. People love free stuff. Of course, the offer will be made based on a contingency i.e. that the reader takes delivery of a brochure on the company's product. Try to avoid the "hidden" come ons. For example, time-share condos in Florida often offer a free premium if the reader attends an "information" seminar. If you have ever been to one of those "seminars" you know that it's almost impossible to get out of the hall without somebody breaking your kneecaps. We don't recommend it. Always remember that you have a responsibility as a copywriter. Hey, nobody said you were a nun, but you still must play the game-- and you must play it absolutely "above board".
  The "Save Time or Money" Headline

Again, this is effective because most people are struggling to get by on their salaries. By the way, did you know that time is becoming almost as valuable as money? Time is becoming the new currency of the second millennium. Also, if you use the "Time, Money" headline, be specific about how much time or money. You can say "hours" or "35% saving", for example.

  The "Smaller, Better" Approach. Everybody wants things more compact, yet with twice the performance capability!



One of the most overlooked opportunities for the budding writer is ghostwriting. While this type of writing may not carry the same glamour as some of the other types of writing, it can pay the bills. Our editor tells a story about a ghostwriting experience he once had. "I was working for a chemical manufacturer, who introduced me to an engineer who was writing up "global specs" for the plastics industry. He was a brilliant thinker, a top-notch engineer, but his mother tongue was Bulgarian, not English. He gave me over 200 pages of specifications written in unbelievably bad pigeon English. It took me quite a while to wade through the stuff, but when I was finished, it was a nice, easy read. I had no idea what I was writing about, but the final product seemed to satisfy the client greatly. The engineer said "he had no idea that such a service was available". It made me feel very good. Cheque wasn't bad either."


Perhaps you didn't get a job with an agency. On the other hand, perhaps you did get a job with an agency and you decided it wasn't your cup of tea. So what do you do when you still need an outlet for your creative writing? The answer may lie in freelancing! Every ad agency has overloads --- or small ads that nobody really wants to be bothered with. Every company needs marketing reports or internal corporate communications. Just call -- get an interview. If you're committed, if you're sincere, you're in like flint. The only problem with freelancing is that you'll probably have to work at home. Are you asking if that's a problem? Yes, it's a problm. In fact, it's a major freakin' problem. If you work at home, you'll have distractions, dozens of distractions "Oh that won't be a problem", you say, but believe us -- it will. The neighbour, who knows you're home will ring the doorbell and want to chat. Even the postman -- who probably never spoke with you before -- will launch into a two hour diatribe about the neighborhood dogs. The kids will start acting up. You might suddenly develop writer's block and maybe raid the refrigerator for a drink (make sure it's non-alcoholic). Oh yes, there are plenty of writers' demons out there and most of them live, you'll find, live at your place when you're trying to create your mega masterpiece.

There are two cardinal rules to obey when you're a freelance writer: A: Don't let the client railroad you into delivering a finished product earlier than you are capable. And B: always take pride in authorship. Think through every word and polish your copy until the words shine like diamonds.



As a free-lance writer, you will, of course, need clients. And to get clients, you need to make cold calls. Often, for the writer, this can be as daunting as getting up and making a speech. But it must be done, there's no other way. Otherwise you'll begin to get hungry and passersby on the street will begin to notice that the ribs are poking through your chest. You might begin to think something's wrong when you have to move around in the shower to get wet. Sometimes, you might find yourself not writing anything...or one of your clients suddenly pulls his business. That means you must keep one step ahead of the pack and always have a few pokers in the fire,

In his book "Cold Calling Techniques", Stephen Schiffner is writing for the sales/telemarketing professional. However, his words are worth reading if you're ever faced with the challenge of making a "cold call".

His most important piece of advice is to always have a script ready when you make your call. The idea is not to read off a script and sound wooden -- but rather to use the script as a reference. That way you will never got lost in your words or you will be able to think on your feet

Mr. Schiffner goes on to say that making cold calls is like every other salesman's job. You will get many "no's" before you finally get a "yes". He revels in "no's". In fact, his company (EDI Management) gives their new salespeople a bonus of $1,000 for a chart of 250 no's. The reason is because "once they have that many no's, a "yes" is just around the corner! I would suggest that you pick up a copy of the book. He has dozens of great tips. Plus, he can help those "butterflies" go away. On second thought, maybe they'll never go away but with this book you can at least make them fly in formation.

If you are just beginning your copywriting career, the best thing to do is make up a fee schedule of your rates. In other words, you could have one rate for a sales letter and another rate for a brochure. How do you determine the fee? You can always call up a freelance copywriter, pretend you're a client and ask how much s/he charges. Do you charge an hourly rate or a fixed fee? Our recommendation is a fixed fee for beginners and an hourly rate for the more advanced, brilliant copywriters with a reputation. If you're a beginner, you can work day and night for a fixed fee. Put everything you can into the project. Remember that once you gain a reputation, the money will come. Another advantage of the fixed fee rate is that clients are more accepting of a fixed fee. They know exactly how much you will cost. If, for example, you quoted an hourly rate of $60 per hour, the client might worry that you will spend a few hours digging the toe tar out of your toenails rather than working on his project (although we hasten to add that it's still possible to come up with a great creative idea while grooming your toenails). Clients are like that!



Here are some of the professional rates being applied today: Advertising copywriting: $400 low, $1,000 mid-range, $2,000 high/full page ad depending on the size and kind of client; $50 low, $75 mid-range, $100 high/hour; $250 and up/day; $500 and up/week; $1,000-2,000 as a monthly retainer. In Canada rates range from $40-80/hour. Advertorials: $25-35/hour; up to $1/word or by flat fee ($300 for about 700 words is typical). In Canada, 40-80/word; $35-75/hour. Book jacket copywriting: $100-600 for front cover jacket plus flaps and back jacket copy summarizing content and tone of the book. Campaign development or product launch: $3,500 low, $7,000 mid-range, $12,000 high/project. Catalog copywriting: $25-$45/hour or $85 and up per project. Copyediting for advertising: $25-35/hour. Direct-mail copywriting: $25-45/hour; $75 and up per item or $400-800/page.

Direct-mail packages: This includes copywriting direct mail letter, response card and advertising materials. $50 low, $75 mid-range, $115 high/hour; $25,000-10,000/project, depending on complexity of the project. Additional charges for production such as desktop publishing, addressing, etc.

Direct mail production: $50-60/hour. Direct mail response card for a product: $250-500/project. Event promotions/publicity: $40 low, $60 mid-range, $70 high/hour; $500-750/day. Fundraising campaign brochure: $50-75 for research (20 hours) and copywriting (30 hours); up to $5,000 for major campaign brochure, including research, writing and production (about 50 hours of work).

High-tech marketing materials: $85 low, $125 mid-range, $250 high/hour. New product release: $20-35/hour or $300-500/release. News release: See Press release. Political campaigns, public relations: Small town or state campaigns, $10-50/hour; congressional, gubernatorial or other national campaigns, $25-100/hour or up to 10 percent of campaign budget. Press kits: $50 low, $70 mid-range, $125 high/hour; $1,000-3,000/project.

Print advertisement: $200-500/project. In Canada, $100-200/concept. See also Advertising copywriting. Product information: $30-60/hour; $400-500/day or $100-300/page. See also Sales and services brochures and fliers for smaller projects. Promotion for events: $20-30/hour. For conventions and longer events, payment may be per diem or a flat fee of $500-2,500. See also Press release. Promotion for tourism, museums, art shows, etc.: $20-$50 and up per hour for writing or editing promotion copy. Additional charges for production, mailings, etc.

Public relations for businesses: $250-600/day plus expenses average—more for large corporations.

Public relations for government: $25-50/hour or a monthly retainer based on number of hours per period. Lower fees for local government agencies, higher for state-level and above.

Public relations for organizations or nonprofits: $15-35/hour. If working on a monthly retainer, $100-500/month. Public relations for schools or libraries: $15-20/hour for

Public relations monthly retainers: $500 low, $800 mid-range, $1,000 high (fee includes press releases, modest events, etc.) Radio advertisement: $50 low, $75 mid-range, $125 high/hour; $400 low, $750 mid-range, $2,000 high/spot; $200-400/week for part-time positions writing radio ads, depending on the size of the city (and market).

Sales and services brochures and fliers: $30 low, $65 mid-range, $100 high/hour; $500 low, $1,000 mid-range, $2,500 high/4-page project depending on size and type of business (small nonprofit organization to a large corporation), the number of pages (usually from 1-16) and complexity of the job.

Sales letters: $2/word. $40 low, $70 mid-range, $125 high/hour; $400 low, $750 mid-range, $2,000 high/project. Speech editing or evaluation: $50 low, $90 mid-range, $125 high, $200 very high/finished minute. In Canada, $75-125/hour or $70-100/minute of speech. Speechwriting (general): $50 low, $90 mid-range, $125 high, $200 very high/finished minute. In Canada, $75-125/hour or $70-100/minute of speech. Speechwriting for business owners or executives: Up to $80/hour or a flat fee of about $100 for a short (6- or 7- minute speech); $500-3,000 for up to 30 minutes. Rates also depend on size of the company and the event. Speechwriting for government officials: $4,000 for 20 minutes plus up to $1,000 for travel and expenses. Speechwriting for political candidates: $250 and up for local candidates (about 15 minutes); $375-800 for statewide candidates and $1,000 or more for national congressional candidates. TV commercial: 30 second spot: $950-1,500. In Canada, $60-130/minute of script (CBC pays Writers Guild rates, CTV pays close to that and others pay less. For example, TV Ontario pays $70-100/script minute).

How To Collect
Freelance writing is a tough business. It's even tougher when you try to collect money for your efforts. We suggest that you do not be meek and we also suggest that you avoid being overbearing. One of our members suggests: "Be a polite pest"...and be sure to get your money. Imagine the fuss a regular staffer would make if s/he didn't get his or her weekly salary?


There are things you should watch out for when you're a copywriter. For some reason, every copywriter runs into these troubles. Why? We don't know. But we know they're pervasive and universal. Here they are:
"If you charge us half your going rate,
there'll be a lot more work for you down the road".

How many times have we heard this one? And how many of us have fallen for it. Believe us, there is no further work for you "down the road". It just never happens. you will probably get sucked into this one somewhere along the line. When you do, you will be kicking yourself and putting a lot less effort into your work...because you know you have been screwed.


"Can you do this on spec?"
See Above.
"We need a really hot idea,
something that's never been done before!"

Themewise, everything has been done before. Of course, there are variations on a theme, which can be brilliant when handled well. There are also different techniques and production values. In the long run, substance and follow-through outrank brilliant "new" ideas.



"We've got your copy. We're just waiting for the committee to approve it"

When you hear this, alarm bells should be ringing like a four alarm fire is happening in the middle of your cerebral cortex. It's normal for two or three people to correct and make revisions to your copy. But when you're dealing with a committee of seven, eight or even ten people, you will get enough diverse opinions to make your head spin. Remember those immortal words of Otis Redding from "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay". He sang "I can't do what ten people tell me". Chances are you will be driven crazy trying to satisfy everyone. But go ahead and try it once. You will see what we mean."

"We just need you to sign this confidentiality agreement. Then we can move."

Read the fine print carefully. Confidentiality agreements can limit your ability to move around. You can be stopped, even sued, if one client doesn't work out and you try to move to a competitor.

"We need your quote before we can proceed"

It's normal to want a quote. Every business must have a budget. However, when you ask about your client's budget and you get blank faces in return, you may feel an itch in your feet that makes you want to run. The fact is that most clients will refuse to let you know the size of their budget (there must be something in the water). For some reason, they believe that kind of information is "classified". Of course, when you hear this, you already feel like you're on the outside looking in. Our best suggestion is just to grit your teeth, write out a proposal that's professional and backs up every penny. If you are fair, you will eventually gain your client's trust in time. If not, let your feet do their thing!

"Our agency is small. In fact, it's only my husband and I"

Yikes! Another mom and pop shop. Chances are they will be operating on a shoe string budget...and the wife (in an effort to save her husband's money) will drive you right round the bend with her demands. Been there. Done that.

"And this is it? This is the best you have got?

This one might really get to you. After all your hard work, you have sculpted the perfect answer to your client's problem and you present it to them with pride. When they look at you and say this, they're just seeing words on paper. Take them through the paces with your explanation and try not to get snippy. It'll be hard, we know, but bite your tongue.

"I read your copy, but I didn't receive
your marketing plans nor did I get your illustrations"


Whoa! Wait a second here. You're a copywriter. You just write the words. Suddenly, somebody (and usually it's a small company) wants the whole ball of wax. What are you? A genius? You must tell them right up front that you only write the words the advertising will use. Your job is to make the words gleam and sparkle and make sense. Unfortunately, as a free-lance writer, you're a one-man show. You don't draw. You don't do layouts. You don't do market surveys. Perhaps the best idea as you go about your career, is to befriend people who can complement your efforts -- such as layout artists, marketing people and the like. Put their names on your website as your preferred working compatriots.

We got your copy and frankly we don't think it's your best effort

Say you're probably right. Ask to speak to the people who don't like the writing. Try to find out why they don't like it. Try to find a middle ground. If you think your creativity is being compromised, get out! Start a new life.


"You may not like doing this, but it's worth a lot of money."

Yes, well. You shouldn't do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Money isn't everything. If you have spent a lifetime learning about web design and you end up doing porn sites, you sold out(A pox on you if do do that, by the way). Our editor remembers a time that as a young copywriter, he was asked to write a campaign for a company called "ToyBox". It was a direct mail marketing campaign that actually sent letters to young people to get them to pester their parents to buy toys. He didn't want to do it, but relented. The campaign didn't work and the agency blamed him. His words now: "I should have known better." No, it's a short life, so do something that makes you happy to be alive!