Mandy Collins & Associates

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Why that short piece of writing you commissioned costs so much

Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

In yesterday’s writing webinar, one of the participants asked how to deal with clients who can’t understand why the piece of content they’ve commissioned costs what it does – given that I had just recommended that emails should be no longer than five sentences.

Clients, you see, look at the length of something, and assume it must be a quick job, whereas the opposite is often the truth. So here are some reasons why that ‘quick email’ or ‘short blog post’ is costing you a lot more than you were expecting.

1. It’s easier to write long than it is to write short

No, seriously. Anyone can vomit a whole lot of words onto a page, make sure it contains mostly full sentences, and is in the right order, and push ‘send’ or ‘post’. This is what a real writer calls ‘raw material’, or a ‘first draft’.

Writing something in as few words as possible, while preserving meaning and nuance, takes time, it takes a great deal of crafting, and it takes skill that’s been honed over many years. Which leads me to my next point.

2. You are paying for someone’s skill and experience, not just their time

Writers don’t just emerge from school or tertiary education being able to write excellent copy. Some may exhibit more talent than others, of course, but the best of the best are constantly working on their skills, reading about language and language trends, and learning from each other.

The more years they’ve been writing, the better they are at crafting your message. The same goes for the breadth of their experience: the more industries and writing roles they’ve worked in, the better for you. That’s what you’re paying for – expertise acquired over many years, and many tears, in some cases.

Writing is craft, not art. The best writing happens in the rewriting. So by the time you receive that five-sentence email, every word will have been agonised over, every turn of phrase polished to perfection.

3. Writers don’t just string words together – they think things through

I often tell the writers I coach and train that you can’t write well if you can’t think well. The writing part of the job is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot that happens before the writer stares down that blank page and starts typing.

There’s a whole lot of research that has to happen, about the subject as hand, as well as about the consumers of the content. Who are they? What do they need? What can we assume about their knowledge of the subject? Why should they care?

Those kinds of questions inform the way a writer approaches a brief. Writers aren’t just people who hold a pen or tap at a keyboard – they are communicators first and foremost, and the written word their tool.

It’s not as simple as it looks – if it were, you could just do it yourself!


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