Rogue Ink

April 24, 2008

Good Ink. It’s What I Do.

Filed under: Copywriting,Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 4:27 am
Tags: , , ,

I’d like it known that I wasn’t going to do this, because I have fawned over Naomi quite enough this week, thank you, and pretty soon I am going to be less her nemesis and more her bitch, if you know what I mean, and I think we all do. She put a thing up on her blog yesterday that challenged all of us who blog to answer a couple of simple questions about what it is we do, exactly, for a living. Now, I’m not sure I want anyone but my priest knowing that information, but then I got to this line:

This also could be for people who don’t have a damn clue what they’re going to write about tomorrow.

And I thought, well, she’s got me there.

For future reference: I never know what I’m going to write about tomorrow. I never know what I’m going to eat tomorrow either, nor where I will go running, nor, for that matter, where I will have put my keys (answer: nowhere a sane person would put them). So if you ever want to tell me what to write about tomorrow, feel free.

Here are the questions, and their respective answers:

What’s your game? What do you do?

I write.

What? My English teachers always said simple sentences were best. Okay, fine, you greedy bastards. If we’re going to get all specific here, I write marketing and promotional copy for businesses, which usually consists of brochures, white papers, newsletters, annual reports, budget requests, case studies, and website copy. I try to write for cool people, people who save babies from malaria, people whose companies save the Amazon rainforest, people making cool stuff that I personally would like to own. Previously, I’ve written for a major public library (Brooklyn, y’all), marketing companies, PR firms, technology companies, non-profits, medical institutions, and a lone clinical health psychologist.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?

I love writing, in a big way. If it were possible for me to make a living writing fiction, I’d do that, but it’s really not, even for the great ones. Stephen King is about the sum of writers-who-live-on-their-writing. I like words and the way they go together, and I really fucking LOVE writing for people who love what they do. I like that time in the office where they’re trying to explain to me what they want their website to say, and I’m taking notes and they’re getting frustrated because they don’t know exactly what they want to say. If they knew exactly what they wanted to say, they’d write the damn thing themselves.

But I know. I totally get what they want to say. I know that a few days later, when I hand them their first draft, they’re going to recognize it as a solid form of all the little ephemeral disconnected thoughts they were floating by me before. I love that rush. It’s like crack for writers.

It happens right after the initial moment of panic that they will HATE EVERYTHING. Secretly, though, I know it’s perfect. And usually I’m right. Yeah, I’ve got a bit of knack. For listening, mostly, for translating emotion into words. If I could ever get that into a functioning short story, I’d be famous.

Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?

My customers at the moment are varied. Who I want to write for includes people in education, the environment, non-profits, health, the arts, small businesses, local businesses. Coca-Cola needs my services too, but screw them. Frankly, everyone with a business needs what I offer, because good writing equals good communication, and good communication means the people who need your services will find your business. Then, instead of spending time finding customers, they can keep saving baby seals or making local butter or whatever it is they do.

There are actually two categories here: non-profits and other businesses. Philanthropic institutions tend to need a copywriter to help them get donations, so they can keep doing the good stuff they do. Business in general tend to need a copywriter to get them get customers, so they can keep doing the good stuff that they do. Subtle difference. Big one, though, if you’re the writer. Which I am. And see? I know the difference.

What’s your marketing USP? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?

I care. I really do. I want to know all about what your business does and I want it to succeed. I want to get its soul down, even if it’s for your company newsletter. I care what you do, I listen to make sure I’ve got it right, and I turn out writing that you recognize as a part of your business. I want to make you happy, in a real way. If you’re practically squirming with delight at the way the writing came out, I get off on that. I will work my ass off to make that happy moment happen. I secretly want to be Superman or Robin Hood, one of those guys who swoops in at the right moment and gives you just what you needed to save the day. That’s my USP, Naomi. I’m a goddamn superhero.

Also, I’m never late. I hate late people.

What’s next for you? What’s the big plan?

Starting a copywriting business that focuses on the niche groups I just mentioned. Do-gooders, basically. I want to write for good people doing good stuff. I don’t really care about huge corporations – they’re not that interesting. I want to work for people who care about their business and what their business does, because those are the ones that I can actually make happy with my writing. Nike’s marketing director doesn’t give a good goddamn if I write copy that reflects Nike’s soul, even if I actually reach in, find the soul, and put it on paper in a way that makes it pulse like a creepy horror movie beastie. Nike only cares if it’s going to sell.

I want to work for the shoe guy down the street who frickin’ loves his shoes, who makes them so they’re beautiful, who buys his leather from a guy he’s known for years, who spent some time figuring out what shoelaces were best. Where’s that guy? I’ll write his website for free.

I actually am planning, when the thing gets off the ground and I have a reliable amount of work coming in, to do one giveaway project a month to a worthy cause. I’ll probably have a place on the site where you can propose a business for that giveaway. I’ll also be offering a hefty discount to non-profits. Because they don’t have any money, and I hear that.

It’s officially going up May 1st, (I hope I hope I hope). The company’s called Good Ink, and if I can’t wrangle that URL away from this guy I’m in negotiations with, it’ll be I’ll let you people know when it’s up.

Right. Bit of a tangent there. This was fun, Naomi.

Now then. What am I going to write about tomorrow? Suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Want to find out whose suggestion got written? Subscribe. Because knowledge is power.



  1. Extraordinary.

    You write like a star.

    Comment by Jay Francis Hunter — April 24, 2008 @ 5:04 am | Reply

  2. …like a massive, luminous ball of plasma. 😉

    But it’s pretty plasma. The kind they make 60-inch televisions with.

    Comment by Jay Francis Hunter — April 24, 2008 @ 5:07 am | Reply

  3. Umm…iguanas? Yes. Write about iguanas. Or any of your favorite weird words.

    (Hey lookie! There’s your comment feed right above ‘Leave a comment’. Quick, tell James.)

    Comment by Karen JL — April 24, 2008 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  4. Write about underpants. Yes.


    I am like you in that regard. I may have a plan, but most days I don’t know what I’ll write. And that’s half the fun…

    But keep on doing what you do, for you do it well.


    Comment by Brett Legree — April 24, 2008 @ 11:49 am | Reply

  5. Tei – Well written. Of course, if it was any less well written I’d have to question your profession choice, so I guess all in in order here.

    Comment by David @ PostcardPerfect — April 24, 2008 @ 1:53 pm | Reply

  6. Jay: ::blush:: You think I’m PRETTY.

    Karen JL: SWEET! I will tell James.

    Brett: You already wrote about underpants. Peeps are going to get mad at me for stealing content.

    David: Gracias.

    Comment by Tei — April 24, 2008 @ 4:32 pm | Reply

  7. Write about Vikings. Brett and I would like that.

    Comment by Friar — April 24, 2008 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  8. Tei

    Saving the world. Helping the underdog. Making a difference.

    Do you notice a theme among our little gang?
    It seems to the one thing that unites us.

    Very inspiring. Really. I’m all Jazzed up. I feel like running around to go find you some clients.

    Infortunetly I have to go think of something to write for tomorrow. If I come up with an extra good idea, I’ll share.

    Comment by wendikelly — April 24, 2008 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  9. Good stuff, Tei.

    Naomi’s post inspired me, too. I’m hoping I can find the time to spill it all out into a blog post myself.

    Oh, and maybe you take Brett’s idea to a new level. Combine it with Friar’s. Write about Viking underpants.

    Comment by Bob Younce at the Writing Journey — April 24, 2008 @ 5:19 pm | Reply

  10. Hey, write about anything you WISH tomorrow — that’s why we freelance, right?

    I’m right there with you. I’d much rather write for someone who’s passionate about what they do than a faceless, inhumane corporation.

    Woo-hoo — maybe we can start a ripple effect getting out the word about those small, individual artisans and workers who really DO make a positive difference in the world!

    Comment by devonellington — April 24, 2008 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  11. I’m always late and you love me. So you do not hate late people, per se. Perhaps you hate waiting. Or the idea of being late. Or the fact that other people cannot drive across the entire country in 2.5 days.

    I think your hatred for lateness has not mutated into a general disdain for me because I’m never late because I’m absent minded, disorganized, or insensitive – I’m usually late because I think if I can run 1 mile in 8 minutes I can run three in 24 (in actuality, I’m accepting the fact that its more like 30); because if my daughter wants to tell me the rest of what she did that day at school or insists that we read In the Night Kitchen “one more time”, I want to listen or read and not just fake it but do all thumps and bumps and chanting and yawning and cockadoodledo; because I had to stop to look at the falcon swooping down and grabbing the prairie dog in its talons so that when I finally got there I could tell you about it; or, most often, because I wanted to be everywhere for everyone at once for as long as they needed me and the measures of time that I’ll give to the people I love don’t fit between the second hand and the face of the clock.

    As for tomorrow: Write about how you can make a difference and feel really good every day about doing something that in and of itself is not awesome or exciting, or world changing at all. Tei is going to give a free project to a non-profit or worthy cause. How can everyone do it? How can we transform our simple ambitions and little grassroots entrepreneurship into a massive self-propelled, non-government financed movement towards localism, green business, and all sorts of other boot-strap liberalism…

    Comment by The Monsters' Mama — April 24, 2008 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  12. I don’t know what I do. Apparently quite a few of my readers don’t know either:

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 24, 2008 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  13. Bob: Viking Underpants would be a great name for a band.

    Devon: Damnit, you’re supposed to make this easy for me.

    Tara: Baby, you’re hardly ever late. Besides, I never need you to be on time for anything. Except loving me, and that’s a non-stop job. Also, re: tomorrow’s subject – you want me to get all SERIOUS, don’t you? You want this to be a FUNCTIONAL blog. Oh, I see your game, missy. Kiss my goddaughters for me. I miss them very much.

    Tony: Take Naomi’s challenge thing! It’s fun. I found out that I’m Robin Hood. That was pretty cool.

    Comment by Tei — April 24, 2008 @ 6:42 pm | Reply

  14. Tei – as always, this is entertaining and delightfully well written. Thanks!

    Comment by Sandie Law — April 24, 2008 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  15. Viking Underpants. I like it.

    Have you guys seen Technoviking?

    All hail Technoviking.

    Comment by Brett Legree — April 24, 2008 @ 10:34 pm | Reply

  16. Peanuts in underpants. Something cartoony.

    Looking forward to your new website. I agree with your writing/working/living/sucking-up-to-Naomi philosophy.

    I try to write for people/companies/organizations/things/squiglets that I believe in. Because I need to be passionate. You are prolific. Prolific and passionate.

    Comment by Ellen Wilson — April 24, 2008 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  17. Wow. Just…wow.

    You have no idea how much I want to finish my writeup now.

    Comment by mark — April 24, 2008 @ 11:29 pm | Reply

  18. Freaking brilliant! Love the do gooder, I really care attitude, made me have a Sally Field moment. I love doing good too, I’m on board with that. As for tomorrow, I haven’t a clue but I’ll be back to see what you come up with. 🙂

    Comment by Karen Swim — April 25, 2008 @ 1:34 am | Reply

  19. I suck so much. I wrote you an email to say I heart your post but didn’t comment. Now I look like an ass.

    Comment by Naomi Dunford — April 25, 2008 @ 2:31 am | Reply

  20. […] think I did, actually. Yesterday. Didn’t I cuss when I was describing what I did for a living yesterday? For that thing Naomi has us all doing? I did cuss, didn’t I. […]

    Pingback by Finding Your Client’s Voice. Hint: It is Not In the Fridge. « Rogue Ink — April 25, 2008 @ 3:25 am | Reply

  21. Hi, I followed over from IttyBiz. I so resonated with “who” you write for. Why I love my independent local correspondent column in the paper is not the pay (though it’s better than most papers offer) it’s the people and groups I get to meet and showcase every week. Now I have to find a way to invent this into a broader business model.

    Comment by Deb — April 25, 2008 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  22. Awesome.

    Comment by markdykeman — April 26, 2008 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  23. “Take Naomi’s challenge thing!”

    I looked at it.

    I’ve been in business since 1983. I couldn’t answer those questions then, and I can’t answer them now.

    As the inability to do so obviously hasn’t hurt me in 25 years, I’m not going to worry about it. I look at it the same way I look at folks who tell me I have to have a written business plan: no, I don’t.

    Nonetheless, I’ll make the post later today. Nobody is going to like it 🙂

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 26, 2008 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

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