Archive for November, 2008

Copywriting guru Ray Edwards, if he really exists, is very upbeat about the craft and one’s ability to make a living at it. I don’t disagree, but I am always quick to add that it’s not easy. Getting established is murder, unless you’re from Charleston. Here, the answer is simple: just make sure you went to college at The Citadel. That way, secret doors will magically open for you throughout your career. So, take stock…are you a closet Bulldog? Yes? You’re all set!

If not, then get ready for Mr. McGrumpy’s Copywriting Reality Check, where we shine the harsh light of pessimism on your carefully nurtured copywriting fantasies! Remember, my little ink-stained wretches, the ink-stains come with the territory. The wretchedness must be earned!

Here, then, are my thoughts on some of Mr. Edwards’ helpful pointers:

Go Online

The romantic notion: The web is full of online freelance marketplaces where you can “create a profile, bid on projects, and post some of your best work as a display to potential clients.” Hang your shingle, and let the projects come to you!

The reality: I have addressed this one before. To me, this is the writing equivalent of selling your plasma. Sometimes you make beer money, other times it’s very nearly crack money. But either way, you will probably have to sell stolen copper tubing to make ends meet.

On the other hand, if by “Go Online” you mean months of unceasing email harassment until some client begs for mercy and gives you a copywriting gig just to shut you up then, by all means, go online!

And, of course, get a website. A blog like this one will do fine, and it can look quite professional, considering it’s free.

Network Yourself

The romantic notion: Attend meetings of the Ad Club and other professional societies. Get your name out there. Slowly build a peer network. Then somewhere down the line, one of your peers will graciously say, “You know, industrial sewage communication is not my forte, but I know JUST who you can call!”

The reality: Nothing against the Ad Club, but I don’t have the membership money. A couple of times a year, they will have a program that interests me enough to pay $15 to attend, like a presentation from some hot-shot pioneer in the field of this or that. But I never attend believing that it will be a networking bonanza. The only people I tend to meet are the agency 20-somethings trying to line up their next job before the cutbacks hit.

Educate Yourself

The romantic notion: that we should always be pursuing the unknown and the unfamiliar in order to broaden our horizons.

The reality: Absolutely, as long as I am getting paid. Tax-deductible enlightenment will do in a pinch.

Write Everyday

The romantic notion: All the successful writers say that writing is like marathon running. You must stay in shape by constantly training, constantly pushing yourself to new personal bests.

The reality: if you find any success at marketing yourself, this shouldn’t be a problem. Having work is the best way to keep writing. That doesn’t mean that it will always be rewarding for the writer, however. Which leads me to a final point, and my one original contribution to this discussion…

Find a Creative Outlet

I never intended this blog to be my creative outlet. I really didn’t think I had anything “to say.” I simply wanted to generate copywriting content and search engine hits. As I kept at it, I realized I was having fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There! You wanted sincerity? That’s as close as you’ll get!

So there it is, kids. I hope I was able to help you dream just a little more lucidly today. Sort of like my construction-worker father did when he threatened to “take the claw-end of a hammer and bash in my skull” if I ever said I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

Still interested? Check out Ray for real:


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lively-hq2I wouldn’t say that business is slow. Nowadays, the polite term is “developmentally challenged.” Still, there are a few highlights.

In the video realm, I just knocked out a “man on the street” thing for my church in Moncks Corner SC.  Spent the day accosting patrons at a local coffee shop and asking, “What would you do if you ruled the world for a day?” The answers ranged from the sublime (help spread the Word) to the ridiculous (mandate 89-cent gasoline.) My personal favorite: appoint a committee and delegate my responsibility.

It was a chance to use their new HD camera in the field. It’s pro-sumer, meaning better than consumer grade, but not quite professional. But the clarity was stunning, and the 16×9 ratio (widescreen) is a new sensation. Smashed it together in Final Cut Pro in a few hours. Out, done, invoiced…the way I like ’em!

In the web world, I had the opportunity to revisit the world of radio advertising, which I mentioned earlier. Further developing the features and benefits argument for local businesses.   Meanwhile, the intranet newsletter putts along, informing and offending on a weekly basis.

In print…oy. Big project, not-so-familiar subject, many cooks, many drafts. In other words, a typical day at the office. Sure to be a portfolio piece when it’s finished, though. So there’s that.

Business development. Met with a web design/programming/hosting group in Charleston with an upcoming (and hopefully ongoing) need for writing services. Get this…they had kept my information on file since I contacted them 5 months ago! I didn’t know people actually DID that!  No complaints here, though. This is exactly the type of client I am trying to reach.

That’s the weekly wrap. Have a good weekend.

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I used to think that if it wasn’t perfect on the first draft…I don’t know…that they would see what a FRAUD I was! I have since learned that it’s only a first draft.  It’s not meant to be perfect. You just need to give them something to react to.                                          LivelyExchange: “Waiting for It”

I have highlighted this bit of “wisdom” more than once. On one occasion, I amended it, saying: “Besides, in the act of critiquing the first draft the client just might actually, finally, tell you what he wants.”

I look back on these entries and see that words like “it doesn’t have to be perfect” leave some room for misinterpretation.  You may wonder…would a two-fisted hard-bitten excessively-hyphenated hired-gun writer like me ever just throw something against the wall in order to make deadline on a first draft?


You were expecting a more emphatic answer, I’m sure.  Let’s say not lately. Not for a long while.  But I wouldn’t say Never.

In the past there have been projects that had been going on for months before I ever showed up. By the time I was hired, the client was really itchy to see something–no time even for a treatment. So I would bang out something I call a “pre-draft,” which is a safe little term meaning, “first draft that I am not terribly confident about.”  And, when I explain it that way, everything is fine. The client is relieved to see something, even if it is flawed.

Here’s the potential problem, though. You turn in the pre-draft. You speak on the phone with the marketing assistant, explaining the ins and outs and the caveats of the pre-draft. Unfortunately her boss, your client, is on the road for the next week. She prints it out and drops it on his desk. A week later he picks it up, having heard none of this pre-draft mumbo-jumbo, and blows his top over this incomplete, ill-considered piece of crap.

Another true scenario… I wrote a trade article about some forgotten topic. In a flash of inspiration, I knew how the thing should be structured. The thesis, the supporting points, the conclusion, it all just came to me after having done just a little bit of research. So I’m scribbling, I’m researching and the thing is taking shape. It’s almost done, but not quite. Then the client calls, wondering when they might see something. Somebody is heading out on a trip and would like a peek.  Hey, why not. It’s basically done, I just have to verify some statistics. I email the thing and…nothing. No response, no feedback. Days pass, and I begin to worry. I go to their website and, to my horror, I see the article. They loved it so much that they posted it immediately.  Fortunately, I quickly determined that my stats were correct, so I said nothing. But it was a scare that I never wanted to repeat. And I haven’t.

It comes down to this: is impressing the client with speed worth the potential embarrassment of submitting a rushed, incomplete draft?  To me, the little things that are out of your control, like those listed above, make it too risky. So, submit the best, most complete draft that you can.  The most compelling imagery, the smoothest flow, the most complete statistics, the sharpest closing, and so on. Even if it takes an extra day.

Why is so important? Will the client recognize your commitment to factual thoroughness and writing quality? Most likely they will not.

But you will.

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cakeycakeAfter 100 posts on topics ranging from the sublime to the sub-prime; posts that either hit the nail on the head or that got hopelessly lost in the weeds; and posts that mixed metaphors like a Waring blender with a lifetime warranty, it’s time to get back to the basics don’t you think? I mean, just briefly before we veer off the highway of clarity and once again plunge into the canyon of incoherence below.  So here’s the 411, playas…

Michael Lively is an award-winning copywriter of:

  • Web Content, including websites, newsletters and blogging for hire;
  • Print Content, including brochures, direct mail and trade articles for publication; and
  • Video Content, like corporate/industrial marketing and promotions.

He is based in Charleston SC, but serves clients across the US through the magic of the internet. Michael has many years’ experience serving clients in the healthcare, manufacturing, retail, graphic arts, sporting goods, real estate, automotive, military, insurance, governmental, and nonprofit arenas. He also has nearly 20 years of video experience as a writer, producer, director and editor.

And, aside from an annoying habit of writing in third-person, Lively has developed a not-too-shabby portfolio of work, some of which can be found in the pages of this site.  And the critics, bless them, have been kind.

So wipe your feet, come on in and take the tour. There’s also a Bi-Lo cheese tray and a box of wine in the fridge.

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Back to reality, and it’s about time! Elections have a way of distracting me from the tasks at hand. Besides the nearly two-hour wait in the voting line on Tuesday (where I read 50 pages of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London,) the overall anxiety of the situation kept me from accomplishing any meaningful work.   Yes, I know… copywriting only barely qualifies as work. You have to admit that it requires concentration, though.

It’s a real pleasure to actually kick the political web addiction and return to the day to day challenges of corporate newsletters, print brochures and web content, including a fun little essay on “Why Advertise on Radio?” for a client in Charlotte. This is a piece designed to encourage businesses to…wait for it…advertise on radio.

So, it’s back to regularly scheduled programming. But before we consign Decision 2008 to the history books, there is one more site you should visit: From 52 to 48 with Love.  Somebody decided to take my idea of cheering up Republicans by bombing the crap out of Iranian nuke sites and brought it down to a more human level.

As you look at these pictures, just try to appreciate them for their sincere “being a gracious winner” vibe.  It probably won’t help to say “Hmph. After 8 years of Impeach the retarded chimp/ evil genius war criminal Bush, it must be nice to do a 180 and say Wets be fwends.”

Besides, I already said it for you.

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Would THIS cheer you up?  Stay tuned!


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homer-bitterHomer: Hmmph! I didn’t vote for him!

Marge: You didn’t vote for anybody!

Homer: Not true! I voted for Prell to go back to the glass bottle. After that I became deeply cynical.

This sad, silly season cannot end quickly enough for me. I don’t want to get too overtly into politics here, because I feel that there should be places you can go to escape all of that.  This is one prime reason I am so frustrated, that every blog I visit, be it movie, TV, home improvement, shopping, whatever, is always one user comment away from turning into a bitter flame war about fascist republicans or pinko  democrats. Certainly, though, you’ll indulge me in a couple of final thoughts as this circus draws to a close.

Looking back, I’d have to say my favorite zinger of the campaign was when McCain said he didn’t go to Woodstock because he was “tied up at the time.” Unfortunately, that was about the most witty and personable Johnny Maverick managed to be during the entire campaign.

My least favorite line was when Obama said that McCain would probably call him a Commie because he shared his toys in kindergarten.  Kind of funny, but too revealing.  It says something that his image of communism is “sharing your toys” instead of the more accurate “one-fifth of the human race living in slavery.” Maybe that’s just me.

It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on, you are probably thinking that the country is doomed unless your guy gets in. I fight that notion myself. However, as a Christian, I am encouraged to be IN this world but not OF this world. Something to think about when you’re standing in the federally-run health clinic holding Number 266 and they are currently serving Number 32.

Whatever your thoughts, the final act comes today. And I beg you, if you have a mind to vote…do it! Don’t be swayed by the breathless TV reports (or Chris Matthews’ tingling leg) that will have this thing over and done seven hours before the polls close.

Me, I will be at the polls bright and early with my cheat sheet in hand. I am very conscientious about downloading the voter guides and writing down all my choices before I go to vote. It helps me to keep it all straight once I get there. Also, it helps me to get in and out of the polling  place quickly before I catch “old.”

One more thing: I know the media lauds you to the sky, but if you are Undecided at this stage of the game then you are a moron. If you are somehow able to put on your shoes like a big boy and stumble into the voting booth, might I suggest you write in “Prell in the glass bottle”?

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