This is some of the best copywriting career advice I ever got from Clayton Makepeace…

With his recent passing, I’ve been running a mental catalog of all the tips and insights I got from him, that I’m grateful for.

I wrote an earlier version of this article almost 6 years ago, in the earliest days of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.  But don’t let its age deceive you.  It’s as relevant today as ever before.

If you’re a copywriter, you need to know one of the most important factors to your success is the quality of your clients. 

Better clients means better opportunities.

Better marketing used around your copy.

Higher fees and higher royalties, plus a client that’s happy to pay them.

You’ll get better feedback on what you write, and develop your skills faster and to higher heights.

You can’t go wrong getting better clients.

If you hire copywriters, making yourself one of the best clients out there will attract the best copywriting talent available. 

The best copywriters will only work with the best clients.

There’s too much opportunity cost in doing anything less.

And so you need to become one of these ideal clients.

This would all be platitudes if it didn’t come with a specific list.  And that’s coming.

But first, let’s answer this question…

What makes a perfect copywriting client?

Well, the goal of a copywriter is to work as little as possible for as much income as possible.  (Isn’t that the case for everybody?)

Sure, great copywriters will outwork 99.9% of the people on the planet.

But they only want to do so when the rewards are worth it.  They want maximum return for time invested.

And they’re sharp about it — with enough years’ experience behind you, you can start to figure out where your time and effort will be rewarded, and where it will not.

And so great copywriters are looking for certain markers of what makes a great client.

What is consistent about those businesses that lead to maximum income in minimum time, and with minimum hassle?  And why are those things important?

My personal experience…

I’ve been developing my list of criteria for about as long as I’ve been in marketing.  I know what makes a good business — and in particular, a good direct response business.

Things like list size, the use of my kind of direct marketing, good products and customer experience, and so on.

I’d even kept a bit of a list in the back of my head, based on these concepts.  But I’d never formalized them.

Until I was listening to a Clayton Makepeace recording, where he rattled off his list of…

9 Criteria for a Perfect Copywriting Client!

Is this list exhaustive?  No.  But it’s a pretty darn good one.

And I’ve always made myself and my clients more money by following Clayton’s advice.  So I took Clayton’s ideas and fleshed them out in my own words.

The list you see below was originally written to potential clients and partners, and only minimally edited here.

This gives you a gist of what you need to be looking for in finding that “perfect” client.  Or becoming the perfect client, if you’re the one doing the hiring.

Here’s the list…

  1. Products that deliver what they promise… I’m NOT interested in working with shysters, hucksters, or peddlers of snake oil. You MUST have a quality product and customer experience.  Otherwise, better marketing will make you fail faster — whether that’s getting shacked up with Bubba, or simply getting exposed on RipoffReport or some similar consumer-advocate review site (one or two bad reviews don’t concern me — there’s always somebody — but teeming masses of dissatisfaction are trouble I don’t wish to confront).
  2. A copy-centric culture… Long copy sells. If we have to have this argument, we’re not a fit.  Period.  However, if you believe in “The Primacy of Copy” and have a history of using long copy (in whatever media) to sell your products, we might be a fit…
  3. Sizable customer list… I want to help already successful businesses become way MORE successful… While I love the idea of helping a startup find their footing and experience massive success…  I know the reality is not all roses.  But if you’ve proven that a market exists and you’re able to sell into it successfully…  Well, there are at least a dozen ways I can help you achieve more success, faster.
  4. Demonstrated list growth… The absolute WORST thing that can happen to an effective marketing campaign is to have it sit on the shelf, collecting dust. I want to know that you’re already working to grow your file before me, and if I create highly-effective marketing for you, that you’ll invest in putting it into the market.
  5. A testing obsession… Good direct marketing is testing. Period.  Yes, your experience matters.  But good and bad marketing are not decided in a conference room.  They are decided in the marketplace.  And the only votes that matter are the customers’ — and the only way they cast their vote is with their wallet.  Test…  Test…  Test!
  6. A “Fail Fast” attitude… Money loves speed. A client who spends 8 months trying to get “the one” campaign just right is a fool.  A client who tests a new campaign every 1-2 months (maybe more often), to find what works best, is smart.  This is not an excuse for sloppiness or inept approaches.  However you MUST be dedicated to getting new promotions into the market fast, seeing if they work, and planning future action accordingly.
  7. Smart marketing managers… What this really means is that the key people within your business MUST be dedicated to the principles of direct marketing, largely outlined here. They must have an attitude that supports business growth, effective client acquisition, and profit maximization.  If someone is in a key role and they do not support this, proper action must be taken — first redirection, then replacement if necessary.
  8. Fair compensation structure… The late Marty Edelston, the founder of Boardroom, Inc., didn’t consider it a good year unless he was paying his top copywriters MORE than he took home as the owner of the business. While I won’t use this as a measuring stick, this is the attitude you need to have.  If 12 months from now my marketing has doubled your customer base and tripled your profits, you should be ecstatic to have paid me accordingly.
  9. A reputation for paying in full — and fast! Waiting around for late checks to arrive doesn’t engender trust or liking. And those are keys to a successful partnership.

Well, there ya go.

Next time you’re lining up with a potential client, think about these criteria.  Formulate questions to help you evaluate them as you talk through the possibility of working together.

It’ll be hard to find a 100% fit…

The “perfect” client probably doesn’t exist.  They’re still a client, after all.

But if you find a client who hits 7 or 8 of 9, you’re going to be in pretty dang good shape.

And by simply testing them against this list, you may find a red flag BEFORE it becomes a problem, NOT AFTER.

Knowing who to turn away will also be incredibly beneficial.

Bad clients can suck up time, energy, and motivation.  They can ruin your week, your month, your year.  You don’t need that.

The earlier you can pinpoint who will be a bad client and why, the better off you’ll be.

If their shortcomings will be a minor annoyance, you can insulate against them as much as possible at the start of the relationship.

If the shortcomings are major, you can move on faster.

And for clients…

You can use this list to develop a business that attracts star copywriters who can write profitable promotion after profitable promotion.  The ones that can bring floods of new customers through the door.  And generate piles of profits from your house file.

This is your blueprint.

Ignore it at your peril.

One last note for copywriters…

If you’re serious about building your client copywriting business, working independently, or as a freelancer, a good starting point is in my Freelance Copywriter’s Independence Package.

It’s a part of the BTMSinsiders training library — and all training dedicated to getting YOU going and growing your client copywriting business.

Learn more here.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr