Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time to Share

I recently had the opportunity to encourage others to become copywriters. Its a great field to make a living in. Yes, you do need to turn a blind eye toward the bright, shiny promises of get-rich-quick gurus. Copywriting is for those who are willing to exercise patience, even as they exercise their brains and marketing skills.

Im going to share here what I told them.

Its quite an interesting field, and very broad.Training is anything from teaching yourself, to investing in decent courses and subscriptions. Begin by looking up copywriting as a living (with the quote marks).

First listed after the ads is with Carol Tice. A few links down is Next page is


Carol Tice

Chris Marlow

Bob Bly (

Steve Slaunwhite

Avoid odesk, elance, and the dozens of other writing sites that pay too little, or bid sites that encourage you to race to the bottom of how much youll accept as payment.

After looking through those, youll get a sense of where you want your writing career to go. Be brave! Follow that sense, and do the diligence (and use your work-smarts).

See you in the writing world!

New Directions

Once upon a time, I thought I could change the world. Some part of  still thinks so. The view of forest and tree has changed considerably between the 15-year-old in 1971, and the 58-year-old today. My beloved forest is now mostly scattered trees, and sparse landscape. However, that has distilled the distance into clarity. Those trees that still grow are more precious to me because there are fewer of them. There are more chances to save them than the entire forest.

This blog is changing directions. Instead of a copywriting sales platform, youll find opinions and ruminations and suggestions for changes. Youll read the good, the bad, and the yawn. Youll agree, disagree, or shrug. My purpose is to move you beyond the yawn and shrug. Hence, the new direction.

Come, view the remaining trees with me from the peaks and valleys. Smell the tang of fir and pine in the air. Taste fruits and nuts, burrow for veggies and truffles. Hear the life around you. Mostly of all, touch those around you, and make a new direction for yourself.

In Today’s Competitive Market” Doesn’t Exist

We’ve all heard the phrase:

To keep up with what your customers want most in today’s competitive market, you need [insert bright shiny product/ course/service].

But, what if it wasn’t true? What if the only things different in “today’s competitive market” were the speed of the Internet, and the whole “global economy” thing? After all, when hasn’t the market – any market – been competitive? When active bartering (aka haggling) was the only form of commerce, there was competition.

Even today, local farmers’ markets are competitive: look at how many booths sell produce, honey, nuts, bread, fresh fish, or smoked meats! At craft fairs, look at how many booths sell hand-crafted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, plus all the household items you could ever dream of owning.

What if the fear-mongerers who use the phrase don’t want you to know the truth?

What is the truth? To be successful in your business, you only need one thing:


You want customers who want what youre offering. Customers buy only three things: physical products, knowledge, or services. That’s it. (Go ahead, think about it a minute; took me a few to realize that everything I’ve ever bought was one of those three things.) Sometimes there are combinations of those three. But, the customer buys at least one of them.

Any physical product you offer must be useable, and stand up to that use.

Any information you offer must meet the customer’s need, and continue to be of value to that customer.

Any service you offer must be efficient, ongoing, and worth it to the customer.

If your product, or information, or service is useless, worthless, or out of date, then you’ve lost a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many [bright shiny products/courses/services] you buy to improve your Internet presence, or touch on the global market. If you don’t have quality, your competition will take over your market. Its always been that way. (Dont believe me? Watch Disneys Aladdin and watch the vendors trying to entice Princess Jasmine to buy a pretty necklace for a pretty lady! or a handful of pistachios.)


I’m not saying that you should ignore the products or courses or services that will make your business stand out. In fact, it’s because of the Internet – and its long reach – that you need to be aware of what your customers want. If it means taking an online course, then do so. If it means going to local sources to think global, then do that.

Just be sure to study as many of the possibilities before buying into the next [bright shiny product/info/service]. As in anything else, buy what you need as inexpensively as you can (not cheaply – that’s poor quality and you don’t anything to do with that), to get the most out of it that you can.

Then, go out and find your hungry customers – in any market!

What bright shiny object have you fallen prey to lately? Did you regret it afterwards, or did it actually help you improve your business? Let me know in the comments.

What Playing Solitaire Taught Me About Running a Business

Since I write every day, I need a way to calm my mind when Im done for the day. Sometimes I spend a couple of hours making jewelry. When even that is too much, I play Solitaire (Klondike, Spider, or Free Cell) on my Kindle. Theres something soothing in the swift decisions: Which card do I play and where?

Recently, however, I realized how much business is like Klondike Solitaire. Here are 13 similarities:

1. Replay hand is often allowed.

Before youve finished playing a hand, youll see where you could have played the game better. Go ahead. Replay the hand; make those better decisions.

2. Every move counts for or against you.

It isnt necessarily good or bad, but every move you make prepares you for the next move, and on and on. Every move is a positive move forward, or a mistake taking you backward. As such, every move counts.

3. Time is a factor.

The old adage is still true: Time marches on (and on and on). Even if what youre doing doesnt require that you keep track of time, youre still using time. Make the best use of it.

4. Sometimes its faster to let the auto-complete take over.

If all the necessary cards are in place on the board, although not necessarily in the right order, the question pops up, Auto-complete? Yes / No (or No / Yes; you have to pay attention which command is where). You can pop each card to the finishing line, or you can let the app do it. Sometimes, its faster to let the app finish the game for you.

(Auto-complete are all the little, non-descript, they-just-exist kind of end-of-job things that you do by rote.)

5. If you have room for all the Kings, dont put the Jack on the Queen if leaving it means one less move against you.

If all the Kings are up, you can leave other lines half-finished while you run with the board. Its a shortcut, but this one doesnt count against you.

6. Sometimes you have to play all the cards yourself without the auto-complete.

Once in awhile, tapping each card to go to their respective finishes is faster than the auto-complete. Especially if youve had to play down to the last five or six cards. The auto-complete wont show up until all cards are up and in play on the board. Just finish up the last little bit yourself by saying No if the auto-complete pops up.

7. Sometimes, you simply dont win.

The number of games possible is innumerable (someone with massive math skills probably knows the exact number of games possible). Is it any wonder that some of them just arent winnable? Business is the same way. You wont win over every client, you wont get every coveted assignment, or you just wont make the cut. Move on and play another game.

8. The numbers in the game (time used, moves, and points) dont start until you do.

While time continues, whether you work or not, the billable time, doing the work, and making the money doesnt begin until you do.

9. Pay attention to your up cards; use them to open up the next line before turning over a deck card.

Its too easy to ignore what you have on your board and go straight to the deck at the side. Or forget that you have useable cards at the end of your lines. But, its often the cards already in play that will give you your best options. Its the same with your business, whether yourself or your employees.

10. Its okay to use the backup/re-do button to see your options.

There is only one thing in life without a backup button or a re-do option: death. Everything else? You can make other choices when you uncover what else is possible. It takes up time, so it might not be financially feasible, but you do have that ability and option to take another look elsewhere.

11. Keep track of your best scores, and keep trying to better at least one of them every week.

The score is better money, better clients, or better press; all are scores that help your business. But, you wont know if youre doing better unless you keep track of what youve done. Once you know those factors, you can improve at least one every week or every day, if possible.

12. The obvious move isnt always the right move.

This especially applies when you dont know all your options. Think it through. If its obvious to you, then your clients might also think its obvious and feel cheated out of getting your best work.

In all of this, the final thing I learned is the hardest to master:

13. Its only a game.

Occasionally, we get so caught up on winning, that we forget: its only a game. Theres frustration for losing, but its not a life-or-death penalty. Business is the same way. Your business may fail if you make the wrong decisions too often. A dead dream hurts. But, if youve played once, you can play again. If youve owned a business once, you can do it again.

What games do you play? What do you feel are your best rules for running your business? Tell me how and what you do

You Dont Get to Keep the Rights in Writing-For-Hire

No Rights in Writing-for-Hire
Excuse me?

You give up your rights serial or otherwise when youre hired to write for someone else. That isnt the same as being given article assignments from a magazine editor. It also isnt the case when one of your pieces ends up in an anthology. Those rights, beyond whatever you sell (think serial rights, and syndication rights), belong to you. In writing specifically for another person, you have no rights to the piece once its paid for.

Did you understand this when first getting into copywriting? Or did you learn about it the hard way? If youre still unsure, read Circular 9. Its one of several publications put out by the Copyright Office. Work-for-hire includes writing-for-hire. Writing-for-hire means you dont get to keep the rights once your client pays you.

Up until payment point, yes, the rights are yours. Once payment exchanges hands, however, you have no more rights to that piece. None. Nada. Zip and zilch. The key is the payment: once a client pays you for whatever you wrote for them, it belongs to the client. Not you.

Now, Im not a lawyer. I dont even play one on TV. Look into it yourself (click on the link above). Hire your own copyright-savvy lawyer and get the full information.

Does this information surprise you? Or did you find out the hard way? Share your experiences with me.

How Much Is a Name Worth?

Projects of any kind are more than just their name.

If you want a brochure, youre getting more than a simple, tri-fold piece of paper with pretty graphics and a few lines of text. Content with 1200 words filling several pages is more than just words strung together; the same goes for a 500-word blog. Deep research (as a task all to itself) is more than a few quick clicks on a few popular sites.

What you get with work-for-hire is a total, behind-the-scenes package. That package includes such things as

  • reading your background information about your company and organizing it into a cohesive whole;
  • investigating what your competition is doing;
  • designing the project from start to finish;
  • detailing notes about the project and saving them; and, yes,
  • other tasks such as outlining, writing, editing, proofreading, filing, revising, phoning,

and so on. Its a package deal with an intrinsic value all its own: saving you time because you dont have to do it all. Instead, you can work on building your business.

The next time you look at a freelance copywriters site (mine or anyone elses), please remember all thats going into your project. The time they save you in creating your project makes its name worth asking for.

What Kind of Brochure Works Best for You?

Brochures are about as low-tech as you can ask for. They arent quite as prevalent as a business card. But, you can put so much more in the brochure than on a standard business card.

Kinds of Brochures

Is your brochure lead-generating, or is it more sales orientated? To be effective, it needs to be either one or the other. Services fit well in a lead-generating brochure. Products fit best in a sales brochure. Ideas? Well, those usually need more than a brochure to either present or sell.

Why do services fit well in lead-generating brochures?

For the most part, services such as contracting, retirement homes, non-profits, and yes, writing dont have specific prices. Services begin with  understanding of what you want, and then you receive a quoted price. (Got Donors? Want More Donors? for my sample of a lead-generating brochure.)

So, how does a product brochure work in sales?

A product is tangible. You can touch it, see it, use any or all of your five senses. As such, a specific price is attached to it. Do you need a robe? $49.99 and six different colors. How about the latest best-seller in hard-back? $32.95. Do you want to belong to a Fruit and Cheese of the Month club? $399.95. Its all tangible.

Can you combine them ?

Yes, but Do you really want to?

Plumbing is a service, and it has varying rates depending on what needs to be done. Lets say that Simon is a plumber. He puts his simple repair rate at $25/hour in a brochure. He gives out a hundred brochures.

For the next five months, he gets work directly from the brochure. He also gets referrals from satisfied customers. After nine months, hes getting more work from referrals than from the brochures. He raises his fees to $50/hour because hes in such demand. Another year goes by; he raises it again to $65.

Then, Brad calls. He still has the brochure from 21 months ago. It states that Simons rate is $25/hour. Brad is going to be irate when he hears that Simons rate is now $40 more! (The brochure didnt state an expiration date. It didnt state anything about fees changing without notice.) What usually happens?

Accusations of bait-and-switch! No sale for the plumber unless he wants to honor the fee in the outdated brochure. Poor review if he doesnt honor it. Poor review if he does honor it, but also tells the client that the fee rose in those months. Worse, Brad will probably call the Attorney General to report Simon.

Not fair, I know. But, it happens. It happens a lot!

So, yes, you can combine the brochure into a lead-generating and sales-orientated piece. I wouldnt recommend it.

For a sample of a lead-generating brochure: Got Donors? Want More Donors?

For a sample of a sales-orientated brochure: Magic_Makeup_ Brochure

What do you think is a good example of a lead-generating brochure that youve seen recently? How about an example of a sales-orientated one? Let me hear from you!

Do You Give Your Donors What They Really Want to Know?

They are buzz words. Catch words. The pair of words of the year:

Content Marketing

Non-profit organizations (or not-for-profit, as some organizations are saying) need to learn how to use this concept right now. They need it as much as – or even more than – for-profit businesses.


NPOs thrive on attracting and keeping donors. Nowadays, said donors are researching various causes and charities before donating. They study theirfavorite cause with an eye toward getting the best use out of every dollar they give. If you give the donors what they want, more information rather than only appeals, you’ll see your responses rise.

What is it then?

This explanation, from the Content Marketing Institute, says it best:

Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer [a clearly defined audience] moreintelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty. (From Content Marketing Institute, 2014)

If you substitute “non-profit organizations” for “businesses” you’ll still have the same message. Great content – such as articles, case studies or the like – educates your donors. You know who you want to attract: those who believe in your organization. They are your “clearly defined audience.” Such writing gives them the information they want in order to decide whether to donate to yourorganization or not.

But, we DO educate our donors!

Yes, in a one way, you do. You let them know your mission. About how much your organization helps their favorite cause. About what is still needed. About why they need to give to your organization. You let them know where their dollars are going. What you’re doing with the funds. And you do it with an appeal attached to each letter, newsletter, brochure and piece of email they receive.

Donors want more

Your mission statement isn’t enough anymore. Donors (like everyone else) are hungry. They want ongoing information. They want to know more than what your organization stands for. They want to know the overall reasons for sticking with you.

For example, just today the World Health Organization announced that every year 7 million people die of air pollution. Yes, 7,000,000. Now, you could say, “This is why we work toward cleaning the air. But, we can’t do it alone. We need your help.”

That isn’t what those donors want in their articles, in their case studies. They want information about the air pollution. They want to know why 7 million diefrom it.

  • Who it affects
  • What it is
  • When it’s the worst
  • Where it is
  • Why it’s been allowed to go on for so long
  • How to do something about it

Content marketing is necessary
if you want to attract new donors and
keep the donors you already have

This is what content marketing is. It’s giving your donors the information that they want to read, that they want to learn. It’s marketing without the overt appeals. It’s information, sure and clear. When you give them what they want online, they’ll gladly respond to your appeals in other forms.

What kind of content marketing are you doing? Let me hear from you!

How an Irish Poem Can Help Your Organization Get More Green

Years ago, I heard this poem set to music:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Its a great blessing. Its also an optimistic business plan for your non-profit organization!

May the road rise up to meet you  

Planning the scope of your not-for-profit organization, or re-focusing on it, will help you on your service road. Remember your donors. Only a few thousand of the (estimated) 240,000,000 adults in the USA will agree with your vision. Travel toward them; concentrate your efforts on them. Leave the detours alone.

May the wind be always at your back

Its easier to move forward if you have the wind behind you. Todays wind is both postal and internet. Use both to connect with your donors. Walk in the flow of a warm wind.

May the sun shine warm upon your face

Share the sunshine. Give your donors that warm feeling of helping. Without donors, your organization wont exist very long. Share the sunshine.

May the rains fall soft upon your fields

Fields are life-giving. In the figurative sense, your donors are your fields. Your appeals are your rains on those fields. Water your fields well, and you will have an abundant crop. Let the fields lie fallow, or neglect to water them, and your theyll will wither and go. Donors are the same way.

And, until we meet again

Writing appeals to your donors needs to be ongoing. Theyre glad to hear from you. Why wouldnt they be? They share your vision. Just dont overwhelm them with an appeal every day (not even in an email).

May God hold you in the palm of His hand

More donors like to be helpful than not. They dont want to be inundated with appeals, but they will help you when they can. In the meantime, between appeals, you will let them know that you value their support by wishing them good health, good wealth and good wisdom.

Its a good business model

While the poem is a source of good wisdom all on its own, its also a good point to remember as a business model.

So, until you and I meet again, may you be held in the palm of His hand!

What does the poem represent to you? Here now, lass and laddie; show me what you may be a-thinkin!

Have You Sent Your Donors a REAL Thank You Note Yet?

Donors won’t give to your non-profit organization unless and until they feel that they make a difference. They give anywhere from a dollar a month to thousands of dollars every year. They’ve always given and always will.

At the same time, they’re human, and not just an endless wallet.

Is This What Your Donors Are Saying?

I’ve given to (non-profit organization) for the last six years. I gladly give whenever I can, but I’d like some kind of recognition for the money I give them. The only thing I ever get is a form-letter thank you, with a request for more tacked on. Or another bunch of address stickers. Just once I’d like someone there to take the time to send me a real thank you note!

A “Thank You” note sent by mail does wonders. It shows that your organization (and you in particular because you signed it) cares as much for the donor herself as for the money she sends. Granted, it might be difficult to manage if you’re a large organization. But, even then, a keyboarded note of thanks on good stationery, personally signed, and sent by post can go a long way. It isn’t impossible. It’s the ultimate “Thank You” in a world that relies more and more on instant gratification.

But, Donors Don’t Really Want Notes Like That!

Almost every donor says they want their money to go to the organization’s services. But, even then, they usually won’t blast the organization for sending a personal note. Especially since it’s void of an outright request.

Our Funds for Those Kinds of Thing Are Limited

How much is the lifetime gifts from that Donor? Most Donors give more than a hundred dollars every year in small increments ($10x12months=$120/year). They also give continually for as many as five, ten or thirty years. And thats for the monthly gifts.

They also give during the occasional special appeals.

Wouldnt you agree, then, that the roughly $3-$5 per once-a-year note of thanks is a minimal cost to spend and send?


It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to be kind.

Send it once a year, on their donation anniversary. Being on the receiving end (for once) will make the Donor feel that their donations really do count.

And, after feeling appreciated, the Donor will be ready to donate again (and maybe even more) for your next request for funds.

What do you think about sending real thank you notes? Let me hear from you in the comments below.