Rogue Ink

July 8, 2008

The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:41 am
Tags: , ,

Budgets suck. Budgets tell you that you don’t have enough money to do that, but you do have enough money to do this other thing, that you really don’t want to do, but which is smart to invest in for the future or whatall. Budgets are like the parent who told you no, you couldn’t have that toy you wanted when you were a kid, and refused to say why, just ‘because’. Except now you know why, and the reason is: you’re broke. Budgets are not, shall we say, harbringers of joy.

However. In order to figure out how much money you want your business to make, you have to figure out how much money you need. This is generally called budgeting, but since we have established that budgeting sucks, we shall call it ‘dinglefrapping,’ since our version is going to be more fun. Spoiler: Count Dracula is involved. Yes, I know. I’m excited too.

The Basic Dinglefrapp

The basic dinglefrapp includes all the obvious things – food, shelter, health, transportation, and that ever-important category of ‘miscellany’. ‘Miscellany’ is for all the stuff you forget you need until you really need it, like toothpicks or cotton balls or single-malt Irish whiskey (yes, they make single-malt Irish whiskey, and yes, you really need some. No, it’s not better than the best Scottish ones, but it is damned good. Yes, this parenthesis has gone on a little too long. No, I don’t know why).

The basic dinglefrapp is not difficult to figure out. You have your bills. Add them up. Round upwards, not downwards, because you will always spend more money than you meant to. Since I’m a single gal living on my own, my expenses may be less than yours. I am sure you will be able to adjust. My basic dinglefrapp breaks down about like so (rounding up because I hear math is easier when everything ends in zeroes. This may explain why my inclination is always to have no money. It is the ultimate zero, the lack of money.)

Rent and utilities: $900
Loan repayments: $400
Food: $150
Health insurance: $130
Gas: $40 (gotta love no commute)
Miscellany: $150

Don’t ask what’s in miscellany. I honestly don’t know. I just know the money is gone at the end of the month. It could be cotton balls and whatall, but what’s more likely is that it’s my tribute to the Queen of the Moths or something. I fork over the cash, she doesn’t send her brethren to eat me in the night. This seems more reasonable, especially since I know perfectly well I don’t have any cotton balls.

My Basic Dinglefrapp: $1,800 monthly. Cool. Now let’s shake it up.

Dinglefrapp Plus

Aw yeah. Dinglefrapp Plus don’t play. Or rather, it do. Dinglefrapp Plus is all about the non-necessities.

You also need money for books, for entertainment, for vacations, for random moments of stupidity, for eating out, for the random sock puppet you just have to have, for ice cream on a summer night, for the glass slippers you’ll need for the ball you might get invited to, for the impromptu surgery you’ll need to get the glass out of your feet when you smash them, which you will the very second you forget they’re made out of glass and the laws of physics always work against you and your fairytale recreations.

Make the budget for the lifestyle of your dreams. If I had my druthers, I would spend $100 a week on books, and this is not an exaggeration. I want druthers bad. What are druthers? They sound amazing. If, in the lifestyle of your dreams, you went to the movies once a week, by all that is holy, stick that in the dinglefrapp. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes buying a 1985 Aston Martin, go ahead and budget some monthly cash for that. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes getting sunk in a bathtub full of porridge while the cast of Spring Awakening serenades you, I regret to inform you that you are insane and should probably commit yourself forthwith.

But dinglefrapp for it anyway. You never know.

Harold’s Law

Many of you will be automatically discounting the Dinglefrapp Plus about now. “Look,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good, but I don’t need to put anything in my dinglefrapp that is not essential because I am scared that I will not get the bills paid if I do not just focus on getting the important things taken care of. I’ll skip going out to the movies. I’m fine. Really, Dinglefrapp Basic is fine with me.”

I do not know how you can bring yourself to doubt an institution called the Dinglefrapp Plus, but since the dissent has been making itself known, I shall rebut. I had a perfectly reasonable goal of $1,800 a month. Perfectly doable. Why am I tacking a bunch of extra stuff on there to eff it all up?

Because of Harold’s Law, my friends. Harold’s Law will get you.

Harold’s Law is similar to Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time. Harold’s Law states that any stated goal will be missed by just the hairsbreadth necessary to make you think that were you a better man, you would have attained it. (Harold was kind of a bastard. He got his head flushed a lot in grade school.)

Now, I have circumnavigated Murphy’s Law many a time, because one of its sub-components is that anything you anticipate going wrong is not the thing that will happen. My strategy for overcoming Murphy’s Law is to worry constantly about all of the worst things that could happen and completely neglect to worry about the trivial ones. This leaves Murphy’s Law no option but to make something fairly minor go wrong, which I then fix easily with my mighty skill and come out looking a dashing rogue indeed.

Harold’s Law also has a loophole, and it is essential to understanding the logic behind the Dinglefrapp Plus. Harold’s Law states that you will fail to miss your goal by a hairsbreadth, no matter what that goal might be. If your goal is $1,800, you will fail to hit it. You will only make $1,700. If your goal is $5,000, you will fail to hit that goal too, but only by a hairsbreadth. You may only make $4,700. And wouldn’t that be a damned shame?

Huge Unrealistic Goals.

If the triviality of adding a bunch of fun stuff to your budget is simply beyond you, set yourself a huge unrealistic goal. A big expenditure. A down payment on a new house, six months’ worth of vacation expenses, a candelabra from the original Count Dracula castle. Make it a real one, make it something you badly need, make it something you thought you might begin saving for some time way in the future. The future is here, and it has a Huge Unrealistic Goal squatting in the middle of it.

My personal Huge Unrealistic Goal for the next six months is a valiant attempt to get out of debt. I want to pay off all of my student loans. They total about $18,000. I just tacked on an extra $3,000 to my monthly goal. Take that, Harold’s Law. The rogue ain’t playin’.

Some of you will already have Huge Unrealistic Goals by sheer dint of having more responsibilities than I do. You may have spouses, children or really spoiled houseplants (seriously, they don’t need the designer fertilizer. You realize it’s not actually unicorn dung, right?) and thusly your entire life is already a Huge Unrealistic Goal, and you really don’t have the energy to contemplate adding anything more to it.

Do it anyway. Add a Demi-Size Unrealistic Goal. Maybe it’s an extra couple hundred toward starting that restaurant you’ve always dreamed of where all the dishes are composed of gummi candy. Maybe it’s your kids’ college fund. Add it on there. Seriously. You need it. Here’s why.

Shoot for Absurdity. When You Miss, You Might Wind Up in Functional. Well, You Won’t, but You’ll Have More Fun Than the Other Bastards Who Missed and Didn’t Try for Absurd.

Give yourself a higher goal than you need. Your Huge Unrealistic Goal is there to fail. It is okay if it fails. That is its purpose. The entire point of your Huge Unrealistic Goal is to circumnavigate Harold’s Law. The dream may not happen, but you will always eat, and you will always pay your rent on time, and the houseplants will rejoice in unicorn dung.

The Demon of Complacency

When your goal is only $1,800 a month, you can justify all kinds of things. A nice way to break down how much you need to make is by dividing that monthly sum up by the day. You need to make $50 a day. No problem, right? Hell, that’s Californian minimum wage. You could make $50 a day serving up decaf venti soy no-foam half-shot cinnamon two-shot vanilla lattes at Starbucks. And you’re a professional, right? No biggie for you to make a couple hundred a day. So you might as well take today off and go to the turtle races, and make $100 tomorrow instead.

I can make $1,800 a month without trying too hard. That’s two to three clients a month with mid-to-low sized projects, and that is doable. It is also a ticket to Complacentville, and we do not advocate that sort of thing. The great rogues of history would have sneezed, yea, sneezed upon such a paltry sum. It is not worthy of roguishness. Set yourself a huge goal, a worthy goal. A scary goal. I’m shooting for something more like $5,000 a month. I can’t make that easily. I have get my day started earlier, got to work hard. No time for Complacentville when the Huge Unrealistic Goal is calling you home to Awesometown.

Your goal has to freak you out a little bit. It should get your heart moving in the morning like opening your eyes to a marionette with one of those weirdly creepy Victorian masks for a face. If you open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you think of is, “Fuck. How’m I going to make $300 today,” I guarantee you that you will get out of bed just a little bit faster than you would otherwise. Unless that marionette was dangling right above your face. You’d probably get up pretty quick for that.

The Daily Desperation.

Peter Bowerman, author of the excellent Well-Fed Writer books, said he put up a piece of paper over his desk. He started with his goal number. We’ll take mine – $30,000 in the next six months. Then he made a list, like so:

$30,000 in six months
$5,000 per month
$1,153.85 per week
$230.77 per workday
Where’s the $230.77 coming from today?

His was much more impressive, since somehow he managed to get his math down to the point where his final number was a nice round $200. I don’t know how he did that. Clearly Bowerman can do math. The point stands, though. When you’re sitting in front of your computer and you don’t have any work lined up, that number is motivational. It’s not an absurd number, but it’s enough to freak you out. Get the blood moving. Shake up your sanity. (I just figured out where my Miscellany money goes. It goes to stock up on sanity. You can get a six-pack of sanity at Costco for $49.95. Very reasonable.)

That’s a fair amount of money per day. Makes you a little desperate, a little panicky, but in a good way, in a controlled way, in a way that suggests you could fix this problem if you could just figure out whether it’s the red or the black wire that gets you blown to smithereens. And you can fix the problem. The red wire is doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself. The black wire is getting some business. Which one of them is going to save you? (Note: if you cannot figure that one out, kindly do not be the person who will save us in the event that someone leaves a careless bomb lying about an important building in which I reside. Please leave that task up to people better suited for it, like Bruce Willis. Thank you for your attention regarding this matter.)

We’re going to talk about how to apply your newfound Unrealistically Huge money needs to your rates tomorrow. Tune in.

Subscribe. More Money Talks on the way.


July 7, 2008

Introducing The Money Talks

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 1:33 am
Tags: , , ,

There are a few things that are considered off-limits for social conversation. Politics, sex, and religion for a start, though the lesser-known impolite topics include the possible carnage four velociraptors could wreak on a hospital ward, the precise shade of red in someone’s blush (comparisons to a slab of raw liver are thought to be particularly offensive and can actually get you beheaded in certain African provinces), and keychain collections.

Now, if you’re very clever, the heading of this post tipped you off to the conversation taboo we’re going to be dissecting. I will give you a hint: it is not introductions, or talking. Both of those are actually considered wise to use in a social situation, especially in tandem. Very difficult to introduce someone by blinking rapidly in Morse code.

The Money Talks

Rogues laugh in the face of social taboos. Usually we just do it for a lark, but this shunning has purpose, yea, and reason too. Don’t get used to it; we think those damned monkey assassins put something in our chai again.

The Money Talks are going to be a week-long series on the dollars behind running a freelance business. We will use real numbers and set real goals. We will not shun away from stating actual dollar figures, as is usual, because the Rogue has noted that blogs that attempt to discuss money without actually, you know, discussing money, generally succeed in providing no useful information to new freelancers other than the sole thing they already knew, which is: You’re on your own, kid.

The Rogue reasons that most freelancers have figured that bit out, and are just looking for a useful equation to help them along. We can do that. The Money Talks will attempt to help new freelancers (and old ones) figure out how much money they should be making, how much they should be charging, and what to do with the money once you’ve earned it. We will try not to get too off-topic so as to be easy to follow along. We cannot promise there will be no ninja jokes, though. We are hilarious, after all.

The Money Talks shall be held at The Lusty Weevil, the official pub at which the Rogue spins out these regular rants of demi-relevance. Pints all round are on the house for all participants. Debate is welcome; trolls will be shot on sight. Cupcakes are also welcome, but they better have real frosting.

The Reason for The Money Talks

Money is a topic frequently raised by bloggers – freelancers, writers, marketing folk – anyone and everyone who could offer useful information on money has blogged about it. Most of the time they’re not useful, and I’ve figured out why this is. They’re too damned polite.

Politeness keeps most bloggers from actually discussing numbers. (I don’t usually discuss numbers either, but it is out of fear of the numbers themselves. Mathematicians are going to bring the apocalypse, you mark my words.) Most blog posts on money go something like this: I can’t really tell you how much I make, or how much I charge, or how I figured it out. Politeness has bound me, and I don’t want to tell you about my finances, and besides, it’s all based on the individual. I learned the hard way, so should you. Tra-la!

They don’t do this out of unkindness. They do it out of fear. Most freelancers I’ve met are actually pretty happy with how much they make and how they arrived at their numbers. They’re not willing to share how they did their calculations because they fear that someone else, some evil internet person out there, will descend upon them and say, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, those rates are too low, and it’s unprofessional to suggest otherwise. Also, your business is a sham and I heard that you keep Care Bears hostage in your pantry. You bastard.” Then their blog would be the subject of much misdirected anger, involving pitchforks and townsfolk, and all because they made the enormous mistake of discussing money.

I have considered the possibility of the townsfolk and pitchforks actually appearing, and I find it is a valid threat. However, seeing as my home is more or less an arsenal of medieval weaponry, I feel it is worth the risk. I shall go forth into the tempest, bare my little roguish soul, and take my chances with the beast.

(I like how you all tried to hold me back there. Very touching, that. You’re probably going to forget my birthday too.)

Never fear, my denizens. I shall take precautions. Here they are.

Precautionary Measures for the Money Talks

We’re going to be discussing my theoretical income. This income may actually become my real income at some point in the future, all going according to plan. Not discussing real numbers is what we do when we’re ashamed to admit our income or would prefer that others not judge us on it. I intend to circumnavigate this by being just revolutionary enough to discuss my actual ambitions, and just ashamed enough to not admit what precisely the gap is between those ambitions and my current income. It is a fine line, and I walk it like an Olympic gymnast, my friends.

So when we discuss how to calculate your financial goals tomorrow (yes, tomorrow, this is a long post already), we will be discussing my personal financial goals. They will be real. They will involve numbers. You are free to change those numbers according to your personal goals, capabilities, and religion (ooh, looky there, I mentioned religion too. Taboos are going out the window today).

In order to calculate my personal financial goals, I will be using actual numbers from my personal budget. They’ll include things like my rent, my food budget, and how much I spend regularly on meerschaum pipes (yes, this is a big enough expenditure that it warrants mention in a budget. You can substitute whatever you like in this category, no matter how weird. That’s me working for you. You’re welcome). These are numbers which should surprise no one and that I’m more than happy to put forward. They’ll also (hopefully) make my calculations for a proposed income pretty darn accurate, and then I’ll have blogged and balanced my budget, and we call that multitasking.

Yes, I’m using you as an excuse to calibrate my finances. I’m sorry if that makes you feel dirty and wronged. I will try to be funny while I do it, if that makes you feel any better, but I will totally still be using you.

Things I shall not be discussing are how much money I made last year, or last month, or this week, or ever. The past is in the past, people. That’s why they call it that. We look forward to the future, where the money is. At least, that’s what the leprechaun told me.

Remember How I Told You Rogue Ink Wasn’t a Business Blog?

It is also not a formal ball. We are not at a long table with the King fore and the Queen aft. There is no china on the table and there are no gold-rimmed wineglasses. It is not sixteenth-century Versailles and there will not be courtly dancing later, and I note an extraordinary absence of pompadours. There is no reason we should confine ourselves to discussions that would be appropriate in those circumstances, especially when breaking those rules could give our fellow freelancers a leg-up on a difficult project. We are the denizens of the Lusty Weevil, people, and we say it with pride. We are a rowdy crew and there is no limit to what can be talked about over a pint of Guiness and a game of pool.

Propriety is dead at the Lusty Weevil, denizens. Join us tomorrow for The Money Talks.

If you subscribe, I’ll tell you how much I spend on kumquats.

May 6, 2008

Being a Wuss is Bad for Business.

Filed under: Copywriting,Entrepreneurship,Writing — Tei @ 5:06 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have an announcement I would like to make: I am a coward.

No, seriously. Hiding in trees is what I am all about. The brave ones went off to be paladins and stuff. Me, I stuck to my roguish ways, stayed in the shadows, tried not to be noticed, and every now and then, I’d poke my head out and trick some unsuspecting customer into hiring me for a gig. This is how I operated my business. And it actually worked decently well. No one is expecting a sneak-attacked by a copywriter. It’s the perfect disguise. I appeared, fully geared up, resume and references in hand, charm at the ready, to certain select clients I had decided beforehand would be amenable to my proposal. It was a very roguish way to go about things.

It is also REALLY cowardly.

You can’t be a wuss and run your own business.

I had a little wake-up call on this the other day. I’ve asked the good Men with Pens to make me a website (and a new blog, so consider this your first announcement that Rogue Ink will be relocating shortly), and Harry came up with a banner for me. It is quite possibly the coolest thing that ever happened to life. I had a small orgasm just looking at it. It is entirely possible that I threatened to kiss Harrison, just for being the mastermind behind it. I immediately forwarded the thing to twenty of my favorite people, and every single one of them wrote back saying, “Dude. What kind of virgin did you sacrifice to which unholy gods to get this banner?”

Look. Isn’t it awesome?

Okay. So we have established that it is, in fact, awesome. I went to bed all excited about it, dreaming blissfully of my beauteous website-to-be, and woke up in the morning with that strange feeling of doubt and guilt and possible impending doom that usually accompanies a Coyote-Ugly sort of morning-after. I had doubts about the banner. I suspected it was perhaps the kind of cool banner that you take home one night only to discover the next morning that he is not a good banner, he is not good for you, and he stole twenty bucks from you for whiskey. I was gazing at the banner, which was still blissfully sleeping, looking beautiful, wondering when it was going to wake up and be a very, very bad idea.


Because I am a coward.

I came up with some reasons why the banner was a bad idea. That my clientele wouldn’t like it, that it was too aggressive, that I couldn’t pull it off. All of this was complete and utter bullshit, though. I was scared the banner was a bad idea because I knew it would get me noticed.

Note to everyone: You are TRYING to get noticed. This is a good thing. If you have roguish tendencies like me, screw them. Consider this your biggest con. You are playing the role of someone who loves the spotlight, in order to serve the greater you. You have to ride the dragon, baby. Get some balls and just do it. Get out there.

Ride the Dragon. Or the Purple Cow.

I just read Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow. Yes, I know everyone else has already discovered the magic of Seth Godin. I am coming a little late to this party. Why don’t we all just celebrate my arrival and let it go, shall we? Excellent. At any rate, Purple Cow. Fun name. Good little book. If he’d put it out in paperback I might have bought it. I am not questioning the lack of paperback, for I know Seth Godin works in strange and mysterious ways his wonders to publish, I just don’t like hardbacks and I am too broke to afford them. So instead, I sat in one of the big cushy chairs at Barnes and Noble and read the thing cover to cover.

The Purple Cow theory, in essence, is that nobody needs normal. Everyone wants exceptional, extraordinary, remarkable. So freakin’ cool they wet themselves. So why was I afraid of the banner? Because it was a Purple Cow. And you have to be a special kind of rogue to ride a Purple Cow. Seth mentions this, actually, that there are few people becoming extraordinary because it’s scary to become extraordinary. Which it is. It most certainly is. It’s also really freakin’ cool.

An Anecdote From My Geeky Youth. And Adulthood.

When I was sixteen, I learned to swordfight. I was really good at it. Naturally good, born-to-it kind of good. Nobody had expected me to be any good at it initially, since I was tiny, blond, and a chick, so there I was on the sidelines, stealthily beating everyone, systematically. There was a tournament at the culmination of our training, and I almost didn’t participate in it, because I was incredibly fearful that I would lose, and that all of the acclaim I’d been getting by staying on the sidelines and only showing up to be awesome would all go away.

I did go to the tournament. And I won. It was glory on a stick and wrapped in bacon.

That victory led to a lot of things. The fact that I am a swordfighter has always been one of the things that made me stand out, made me get noticed. It was what I wrote my college entrance essay on, and it was the reason one of the admittance counselors noticed me and wanted me at University of Chicago. It’s a great icebreaker at parties. It’s a good thing to talk to hardware store guys about. They always remember me. That’s the chick who swordfights. You can’t BUY branding like that.

Swords have done good work for me, all my life. And I was afraid of a banner that touted this brand that has always worked for me. That’s just dumb. It’s unforgettable. It’s exciting and daring and memorable. And I’d be a damn fool not to keep using it, scary as the idea is.

There is a moral to this story. Harrison was very sweet about the whole Tei-is-being-a-wuss thing, and quoted Polonius at me. I will not do this to you, because I believe in wielding Shakespeare in a wrathful manner, not a comforting one. The moral of the story, therefore, does not come out of the Bard’s mouth, it comes out of mine:

Do not be a wuss. It is bad for you.

Thank you. Subscribe. Ride the Purple Cow.

April 28, 2008

Barter. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 4:04 am
Tags: , , ,

I don’t know if you’re one of those happy shiny people who just loves beginning a new business, but if you are, I think you should know that no one likes you very much.

I’ve been working myself into the ground this weekend trying to get a few things together for the launch on the 1st (scary scary scary scary scary scary scary). Note: the word ‘scary’ looks scary. Well played, whoever finangled that one. In the process of business-starting, I’ve encountered quite a few other people who are also just beginning their own business. A graphic designer, two masseuses, a website developer. We’ve been commiserating about how much all of this sucks, and we’ve all been offering what help we can summon, because when you’re stuck on a desert island with a bunch of equally frustrated and scared people, you want to be the guy nobody can bear to think of eating first.

Seriously. Think about it.

So I’ve been offering to revamp the masseuse’s promotional brochures and write the website developer’s web copy on his sample work, and the graphic designer is making me a logo and the website developer is making one of the masseuse’s website, and the masseuses have become everyone’s slaves. And it occurred to me that what we are doing is an informal form of barter. We’re trading one service for another, with no money in between. That is pretty cool, if slightly communistic, and useful in a few other ways besides business-starting.

No samples, no jobs. No jobs, no samples. Don’t you HATE that?

Barter is awesome for beginners in any field. If you’re a graphic designer just starting out, you can probably design a sample brochure or two without anyone ever hiring you, and build your portfolio that way. However, if you’re like most graphic designers I know, you talk as though you’re always on your instant messenger (I’m very, very sorry to all functionally typing graphic designers out there, but seriously, your brethren always spell ‘you’ as ‘u’ and it’s driving me mad) so it’s very difficult for that brochure to look like a professional sample when the design is great but the words are half-assed. Enter your buddy, budding copywriter.

The copywriter writes the copy, the graphic designer does the design. Neither of you has ever been hired by an actual company, but you both now have this very professional sample in your portfolio. Do this a half a dozen times, and you have a whole portfolio to show to your very first client.

Note: this is not cheating. This is a real demonstration of your skills, and that of your friend. DO NOT pretend you have been hired by some awesome company if you have not. But it’s fine to do a mock-up of a company that doesn’t exist, or to write for a company that does exist, just so long as you never claim to have been paid for the labor. That is a slippery slope of deception, and even rogues do not condone it.

The great thing is that if you do a good job on your sample, no one will ask if you were hired to do it. They’ll just think it’s a great sample and hire you to do a real one. Rogues totally condone that.

By your powers combined, you ARE Captain Planet.

Think about it. Who do you know whose profession compliments yours? If you’re already past the ‘needing samples for your portfolio’ stage, and thank the powers that be, I already am, snuggling up to people in peripheral professions (ooh, alliteration) can get both of you more business. Do I do design and copy? No, but I can recommend my buddy, Mister Awesome McDrawyPants. It’s a scratch-my-back-I’ll-clean-out-your-gutters situation, and it can mean more business for both of you.

If you can develop a good rapport or, hey, just to get crazy, a friendship with your complimentary colleague (I did it AGAIN! Alliteration meter is ON today!) then you can do favors for each other without needing an immediate tit-for-tat. You might do three writing jobs in a row for your designer friend, and it’ll be a few months later that you need a professionally designed webpage. Don’t freak out about it. To go all Californian on you for a second, karma comes back around. You know that at some point, you will probably need that friend’s services, and even if you don’t, they can help in other ways. Which brings me to . . .

We all have unnecessaries.

Stuff that you want, that you don’t need, that you occasionally spend money on because you really, really want it. This is stuff like dining out, someone to paint your bathroom, someone to do your laundry. Barter with people who can do those things for you. The masseuse? AMAZING find. Do I need a massage? No, but I really, really want one. And she needs a promotional placard written, and she’s willing to trade two hours of her labor for two hours of mine. That is two hours worth of massage, for something that takes me very little time.

Theoretically, I could work for my standard two-hour fee, and hand her the money, and then she could hand me the money right back and ask me to write the copy for her. The problem with that scenario is that it necessitates some outside party giving one of us money to begin this whole cycle. Barter is great because no one has to be rich first.

Or you could do all your trade in wampum. Just because it sounds awesome. I think the dollar should be traded out for the wampum. How much more psyched would you be to get your change if you knew it was going to be five wampum and thirty-two cowrie shells?

Now then, to business. Anyone out there a really awesome kung-fu master wants to trade some classes for some web copy? I’m also in the market for an electrician, someone who can mount a print on wood, a mask-maker, a pastry chef, a bee keeper, a blacksmith, and a belly dancer.

None of your business why.

Subscribe or the monkeys will get you.

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.

Blog at