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Thursday, June 08, 2006

I guarantee it...Standing behind one's work...

This morning, I received an email from a friend of mine. It was a copy of a newsletter he receives that seems to primarily deal with B2B marketing. This particular issue had a few articles about effectively writing guarantees. As a freelance copywriter, and as someone who has to market his own business, the material was right up my alley.

This post isn't about how to writer a better guarantee. We can discuss that some day when I am inthe mood for a "nuts and bolts" copywriting post. Instead, I want to talk specifically about writers and their guarantee policies, or lack thereof.

I personally offer a three-pronged guarantee for all Content Done Better writing work.

First, I offer a 300% money back originality guarantee. Stolen and plagiarized content is a major problem right now, and there are enough unscrupulous providers out there that I think it is important to let my clients know they will receive custom-written and completely new work with they deal with Content Done Better. I have heard a few people say that even mentioning the topic of originality is almost "beneath" them and that originality should be assumed. I can understand their point, to some extent, but believe the nature of marketplace justifies being up-front about the matter of originality. Hopefully, the 300% figure shows people just how serious I am about the issue.

Second, I offer an on-time guarantee. If I miss a deadline, the client doesn't pay another penny for the project. I instated that policy because of the frequent problems buyers experience with delays. I want my clients to know that I have both an incentive for getting the work done on time and that they are protected in the event of the unforeseen. It also underlines the fact that they will get their projects back in time. Reliability is an issue in this industry, and I felt a reliabilty guarantee was important.

Third, I offer a satisfaction guarantee. If the client doesn't like the work, I go back to the drawing board and get it right. Assessing the quality of writing is very subjective, and many have told me that I am kicking open the door to constant free re-writes with that element of the guarantee package. However, the market is inundated with low-quality providers and I wanted to communicate my confidence in the quality of my work and let clients know they will never be stuck with subpar material.

After reading that email this morning, I was in a "guarantee" frame of mind. I decided to take a look at several other freelance content writer and copywriter sites and to check on the guarantees they are publicly offering. I quickly checked twenty writer sites and found only three with any visible guarantee. Of those three, two were so vague as to be nothing more than a mild assurance that everything would turn out okay. The other was a seemingly straightforward "if you don't like it, you don't pay" sort of thing.

One solid guarantee, two limp guarantees and seventeen writers who don't say anything about the topic (at least up front). I was amazed. Seventeen of the twenty are missing out on a good opportunity in terms of promotion and marketing. Guarantees make sense, in my estimation, even in the service sector.

I know there are a lot of reasons to be wary of offering guarantees. A nice article on the subject of consultancy fees from Guerilla Consulting outlines a series of reasons service providers are reluctant to take the guarantee plunge.

Like me, however, Mike McLaughlin eventually comes down on the side of offering a guarantee.

There are risks, and it does take some guts. Guarantees, after all, are about reducing buyer risk and that generally puts more risk on the provider. It's an exercise in creating potential gain by increasing exposure to potential pain. It's a big risk in certain situations, especially if one is working on a very thin margin, just beginning, or is unsure of client reaction to his or her work. I can understand why some freelance content writers and copywriters wouldn't feel comfortable doing that.

A strong guarantee policy, however, will differentiate a writer and will increase his or her credibility. Offering a safety net to clients also makes them much more comfortable when dealing with you--especially on first-time partnerships.

Now, it is true that many writers will undoubtedly come up with gurantees as part of the terms of a job. The matter can be handled away from the main page and with the client. As such, I cannot really assume that seventeen of the twenty don't back their work. But who knows? The potential customers who stumble upon their sites certainly don't...