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Posts Tagged ‘freelance’

You may not have heard of this little mom 'n' pop operation

As a companion piece to our last entry, here is a website I wrote* for Johnston Brothers Custom Imprinted Gun Cloths and Bags, a South Carolina maker of… wait, I knew it a minute ago!

This was a writing gig that was probably more fun than it should have been. First of all, it was 4 hours start to finish – including the client interview – and I received payment in under a week. What’s not to love?

Secondly, I love the client’s entrepreneurial spirit. I am always in awe of that kind of carve-a-niche energy some clients have – because I sometimes (ahem!) find it lacking in myself!  Here is a guy who saw that 90% of the little gun shops in the US do little to no advertising or marketing. They basically count on the fact that they are the only shop in the neighborhood.  So this client makes gun cloths, which every serious shooter must have and use, and personalizes them with the name of the shop and contact info.  That’s about all I can reveal, but the benefits should be obvious.

Anyway, you hear a lot of doom and gloom about small businesses. In order to survive, small business has to get creative. This is exactly the kind of quick, inexpensive yet good-looking website that can do the trick. It’s exciting for me to be involved in this kind of solution. Take that, commies!

*hat-tip to Charleston SC designer Studio 7 Design, and programmer Metatation. Thanks for the gig, fellers!

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I wrote a print ad appearing in Soldier of Fortune in either June or July.  Won’t my artsy liberal friends in Charleston be thrilled!

Sort of like the Wild West replica ads, brochures and web content I wrote way back (and for the same client) I had to get inside the mind of someone looking to purchase a badass-looking piece like this. Of thinking like a Navy SEAL when in realtity you’ll probably use it to shoot possums by your trash cans.

All I had to go on was the word “Carbine,” which is like a rifle only shorter and less powerful.  Why would you want this and not the other? When you’re closer to the enemy, on the move, need to be ready in an instant to fire. Who might use a carbine? Special forces. And so it went.  I managed to paint the picture of kicking in the door and capping a room full of terrorists, prefaced with the clever “You may never have to…”

Anyway, here it is. BTW, my original headline was SPECIAL FORCES! The client changed it to HOMELAND SECURITY, which is also good. The callback at the end makes no sense now, but who cares? If you’re the guy this ad is intended for, you’re just drooling over the picture of the gun anyway! BLAM!

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An awards logo that's bold, proactive and in your face!

Welcome to Lively Exchange, where our shakes are thick and creamy and our horns are self-tooting!

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Usually, it’s the first thing you learn about me after my name, as in “Michael Lively, comma, award-winning copywriter…”

Why? Because, as a potential client said to me today, “this is a business of perceptions.” I agree, and one perception is that if you don’t have a bunch of awards up on your wall for your copywriting or web design or video production, you are something less than truly successful. I think that’s BS. On the other hand, I have my share of awards.

Which is the long, tortured way of saying that a piece I wrote copy for just got a Bronze Addy from The Charleston SC Advertising Federation. You’ve seen me mention it a couple of times: The Dead Battery Anxiety website for Philips. The wacky videos were recognized in the “Internet Commercials” category. So, kudos to Philips Art Director Kit Hughes, the gang of creative creatives at Slant Media… and me!

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If YOU would like to see what the award-winnin’ is all about, contact LivelyExchange (at) gmail.com!

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A while back during one of my carpet-bombing cold call email blasts, I got this reply: “Thanks for contacting me Michael. I like your experience and your samples – so much so that I am going to overlook the typo in the opening paragraph of your cover letter.”

Now, this guy had me dead to rights. I had made the type of error I always do – something along the lines of “I’m responding to YOU ad for a copywriter.” A missed keystroke, nothing more. A dumb mistake but, really, what douche makes such a point of calling it out? Well, apparently, THIS douche, because I never heard from him again.

So, fast-forward to today. At a meeting with a potential (and totally non-douchey) client  he remarks: “I’m glad I was able to reach you through (a mutual acquaintance.) Did you know that there is no simple, clear way to reach you on your blog? No biggie, just something to think about.”

And he was right. First of all, thanks for the CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. But DAG, how can I have been at this blogging thing for 2.5 years without a contact page? The problem is, you only get so many navigation tabs on WordPress (with my specific template.) So I went through all my pages and inserted “Please contact livelyexchange (at) gmail.com.”

Appropriate? Tacky? Who knows? All I have to say is “Please contact livelyexchange (at) gmail.com!”

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Question: What’s more cynical than deliberately writing a post about Facebook because it is guaranteed to draw hits?
Answer: Facebook itself.

I hope you’re sitting down when you read this (we pause as a million chairs drag across the scarred linoleum floor of our global consciousness) …but retarded Facebook apps like Farmtown and Mafia Wars are cynical cesspools of personal information-gathering disguised as “community”…and worse. This according to an article in The Consumerist, inscrutably titled “Mafia Wars CEO Brags about Scamming People from Day One.”

Long ago I wrote a cranky, Andy Rooney-esque piece called “Putting the Grr! in Facebook,” in which I grumbled about the various idiosyncrasies of hapless users. This post is consistently my top drawing piece – even surpassing my scholarly (!) review of the film Lars and the Real Girl (my top post among perverts searching for Artificial Partners, wink wink.)

Since that post, I have mellowed out a bit and hooked up with all kinds of friends from the past. But a constant beef has continued to be all of the stupid apps. Jenny has sent you a hug! What famous dead composer are you? And a bunch of others I can’t recall because I “HID” them long ago.

But the games are the worst. I got as far as Scrabulous, meaning, I signed up for Scrabulous, knowing that it was nothing more than a scam for gathering personal information, but hey, I like Scrabble. But the first time I saw on  Facebook’s News Feed: “Michael has spelled the word INCONTINENCE on Scrabulous! Can YOU do better? Sign up NOW!” …I pulled the plug.

Trust me, I “get” Facebook. If you know anything about Web 2.0, this practice should not be a surprise. While everyone whines about the ads, I say “that’s why it’s free.” But you read something like “Mafia Wars CEO Brags about Scamming People from Day One,” …and you are looking at the epitome* of corporate cynicism.

*Epitome: The embodiment or precise representation of an ideal. Pronounced “uh-PIT-oh-mee”…or “eppa-tohm” if you’re from West Virginia (like me.)

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vet pic

Photoshop presents a dude with some other dude's arm holding a picture he forgot to bring!

Well, we set out to honor America’s veterans, and to sell medical devices. I’m confident we did the honoring part. The selling? It’s too soon to say.

Despite a last minute freakout caused by someone watching an old rough cut and asking for changes that were made two weeks ago, the Veteran’s Day videos are up.

So HERE is the LINK. What you will see is a nice rah-rah about the Veteran’s Health Adminstration and its care mission, and how this healthcare manufacturer’s mission coincides. To drive home the point, the rah-rah is followed by interviews with employees of the manufacturer who also happen to be Veterans.

There are four videos at the bottom of the page. Sort of the donut effect, where the openers and closers are the same, with the interviews filling the donut hole. (mmmm….DONUTS!)

Anyway, check ’em out (and I suggest you do it sooner than later – The client can be touchy about this sort of thing.) And Happy Veteran’s Day! That’s next Wednesday, commie!

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I have been blessed with pretty decent clients. For the most part, they “get me,” and they “get it.” They understand the process, what works, what doesn’t, etc. And they are usually pretty good at explaining the process to their clients, and managing their expectations.

But sometimes, you get a client who refuses to be managed. I think they don’t want to look like they don’t know what they are doing. Which ends up being pretty ironic.

Here are some warning signs that you hopefully won’t need, but probably will.  Note: these aren’t a collection of examples compiled over the years. These all came from a single phone call!

Mission Uncertainty:
Client: “Who are we? What’s our mission? We don’t know. Really, it’s all over the place. We will be looking to you to help us figure that out.”
Me: “So, you want me to brand your company in the course of writing your About Us page? That could get expensive if you really don’t know what your mission is.”
Client: “Huh? Oh, we know what our mission is. We have it pretty well figured out.”
Me: “Respectfully, WTF?” Which brings up the next warning sign:

Downplaying the Complexity of the Job:
…even if that contradicts the thing they said 5 seconds ago.  The point here is to get me to lowball the estimate, and somehow hold me to it when the complexity triples. Which leads to…

Poor Mouthing:
Even though this is a totally revolutionary concept, certain to corner the market, sure to be bigger than Cool Ranch Doritos AND cure cancer too, right now we’re just a poor, struggling startup. Keep this in mind as you write stirring, evocative marketing copy for the most awesome website ever.  Interestingly, they usually say this right after they say, “Money is not an object—we just have to get it right!”

Expecting Me to Beg for It:
Me: “OK, I get it, super important gig, no money, prestige project, no money, cure for cancer, no money…oh, what the heck, I’ll do it.”
Client: “Whoa, slow down, tiger! I will be disrespecting interviewing several writers, openly doubting their experience, methods and cost estimates and whether or not I will be their top priority for the next 11 weeks of this supposedly 4-week gig!”
Me: “Yes, well, good luck with that.”

So, no, I did not take the gig—and you know how I feel about saying “no!
Looking back, I should have seen where this was going. The first thing this potential client said was that he had “a deep respect for writers and the job that they do!”

Nobody has that much respect for writers. Not even me.

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