Copywriters have never been immune from market pricing pressures. To avoid competitive pressure on fees, I preach the gospel of the “value-added copywriter,” believing that adding value insulates us from the worst of them.

Recently, I spent a little time poking around Craigslist, job listing boards and even the bid boards (where copywriters underbid each other for jobs). All seem intent on dropping the money-making bottom out of the barely-living-wage copywriting world.

I don’t think bid boards are a great place to make a living or grow a copywriting career. But I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see online bidding boards popping at the upper levels of marketing.

Today, maybe I did.

Commoditizing Marketing

I just got off the phone with a good friend from the S.F. Bay Area; a talented copywriter who specializes largely in case studies.

He sometimes writes for a marketing firm, who recently received some bad news from a big client (one of the biggest manufacturers of high-tech equipment). We’ll call them GigantCo.

GigantCo recently told the marketing firm that life was about to change. If they wanted to work with the GigantCo, they had to meet a long list of terms and conditions (including errors and omission insurance costing nearly $1K a month).

Tough for a small company. But not not unprecedented. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there.

Meeting the terms and conditions only qualified the marketer to bid for work in an online setting against other marketing firms.

Simply put, the jobs would go to the lowest bidders.


Quality of the work? Who cares?

Aptitude for the project? Experience? Prior Results? Apparently they’re not a big part of the equation.

Cheaper Isn’t Better

I’ve largely given up railing against the unfairness of the world (well, not really). But I have to wonder at the intelligence of awarding projects with little regard for the ability to do the best job.

One wonders if the corporate attitude towards “savings at all costs” would change if executive positions were filled in the same manner.

Years ago, I did some work for GigantCo, cleaning up after a consultant who charged $50K for a direct mail project that never produced a single mailer. I honestly can’t remember what the mailing program ultimately looked like, but I do remember that I got something out the door — and for far less than $50 grand.

So, OK, GigantCo’s record on marketing achievement isn’t sterling to begin with. And over the long term, I firmly believe a focus on bargain-basement pricing will lead to root-cellar results.

Still, this is one trend I’d rather not see repeated. Is anyone else experiencing downward pressure on their copywriting fees?

[tags]marketing, freelancing, freelance copywriting, freelance marketing, value-added copywriter[/tags]