frustrated copywriter

24 November 2019

“The Client Rewrote My Work!” — Consolation For Copywriters

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Copywriter for over 30 years; photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash…

For a school project, my copywriting students were upset that their client (not me) had rewritten their work. They asked me what they could do. I thought, “Welcome to the real world…”

In my copywriting career, I’ve had my work rewritten countless times, sometimes for good reasons (I didn’t capture the client’s voice), and sometimes not (their egos relished revising a professional’s work). I usually resigned from such accounts that proved unrewarding creatively and financially — but I didn’t always have that luxury.

For this school project, the students couldn’t resign. On the positive side, it provided a “teachable moment” to experience how business works. Here’s my response to them…

Having your work rewritten sucks. I know because it’s happened to me throughout my career, even after I started my own consultancy and became a professor.

In other words, it’s also quite normal. Political speechwriters have to produce multiple drafts for near illiterate politicians. Screenwriters see their scripts butchered by clueless directors. And copywriters have their ads rendered virtually unrecognizable by “I can do it myself” clients.

That doesn’t mean you have to like it. I want you to do your best possible work and to take great pride in it. Then save your versions and include them in your portfolios and job applications. Your portfolio is your sanctuary.

But we still have to go along with what clients, bosses, directors, and others want, while we continue to hone our skills and build our reputations.

In the future, when you become accomplished communication professionals, you might still have your work rewritten. But with your enhanced skills and reputations, you’ll get paid enough to compensate for the pain… and to fund your own personal projects where you’ll have 100% creative control (every advertiser’s dream).

In the meantime, take a deep breath, understand that the client in this case means well, and see what you can learn from their edits. They appreciate your efforts — which they have told me repeatedly — and so do I.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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