Someone once said screenwriters were “only the first drafts of human beings.” That’s funny, but it underscores the problems faced by Hollywood screenwriters, who aren’t getting their fair share of the emerging digital market.

Still, why should you — a copywriter — even care about the Hollywood writer’s strike?


Hollywood’s writers face many of the same issues you face. Namely, how do you get paid for everything you do? Are you truly compensated for the value you deliver? Is your copy working harder for your client, but making you less money than it did five years ago?

From the New York Times:

Ultimately, the two sides gridlocked over the writers’ insistence on a sharp increase in their residuals payments for the re-use of movies and shows on DVDs and on new payments for the distribution of such works on the Internet, over cell phones and elsewhere. Producers refused to boost the DVD payments and rebuffed demands related to electronic distribution, arguing that industry economics and still-shifting technology made accommodation impossible.

Today’s Hard-Working Copy

The simple case study I wrote 15 years ago became a printed piece, perhaps finding a comfortable second home as a press release.

Today, that same case study will be printed, distributed as a .pdf file, posted on the company Web site, mentioned on the company blog, touted in the company e-newsletter, featured in the company’s multimedia sales presentation, and then forced down the corporate RSS feed.

Given a little PR massage, it could also appear on a dozen different online PR sites — or texted to select prospects by the sales force.

Wait a few months, and I might see it in a trade journal, posted on the trade journal’s Web site, mentioned on the trade journal’s blog, and fired into the marketplace by the trade journal’s e-newsletter.

The basis for a video? A podcast? Flash presentation? Could be.

Your Copy Everywhere

Yes, I’m exaggerating. But only just a little.

And yes, you want your clients to market intelligently, and leveraging content across multiple media channels certainly qualifies.

But you also want to be fully compensated for the work you do (and the value you deliver). So how does that happen? How do you get paid for the full value of your work?

First, don’t fight it. The growth in media channels is happening, and the smart freelancer leverages change instead of fighting it. That’s today’s lesson:

Don’t be afraid of the growing number of media channels. Instead, leverage them to create higher revenues.

The easiest path? Offer to produce the copy variations your clients need, and then simply charge for the extra time.

After all, if your case study is also destined to find a home on the company blog, why not pitch an optimized version right up front?

Why not sell your client a shortened, hard-hitting summary that creates a much higher clickthough rate (to the longer story) for the company e-newsletter? (Remember, you create value where other copywriters create words.)

Good clients see value in those proposals (assuming they’re marketing in those channels). And simply asking the question “trains” them to start thinking in your mental frame — that all those ancillary uses of your copy should be paid for.

It’s not exactly a new tactic, but it can be a profitable one.

An example? “This is going to be a great case study — why don’t we revise it for distribution here and here? I’ll add those line items to the estimate for you.”

There. That wasn’t hard.

But it could be profitable.

Keep writing, Tom Chandler

[tags]copy, copywriter, business of copywriting, freelance copywriter, marketing, freelance writer, writer, marketing writer, screenwriter strike[/tags]