As a writer I may be overly sensitive to improper or incorrect word usage. Everyone uses slang and improper grammar when speaking. Your inflection, speech patterns, and pauses between words can convey meaning and intention. When you split an infinitive or otherwise mangle a sentence while speaking, the listener generally knows what you mean anyway thanks to how you said it. When someone writes something, that is not the case.
Who Is Buying You?
There is a growing tendency to use words wrongly in order to make a point, or more specifically to make a point in a more marketable way. In this case, it is not, "you know what I mean." It is actually, "you know what I want you to pretend these words mean."
The oft repeated concept that your customers are, "really buying you," is one of these poor word choices deliberately made (at least originally) in order to make an idea sound snazzy. In this case, the false word choice is both simple and easy to repeat. In addition, it goes with a parallel sentence construction to make the clever sounding phrase,
Your customers are not buying what you sell. They are buying you.
Unfortunately, this is completely false.
What the people who say things like this ostensibly mean is that your customers don’t buy because you have a great product or service, but rather because they like, trust, or otherwise prefer you to other options. The problem with this slick simplification is that it leads to other false ideas and conclusions.
Are Your Customers Buying You?
Are your clients really buying you? I hope not. For one thing, that’s illegal pretty much everywhere these days. Secondly, if they were buying you, I hope you are charging a lot more than a hundred bucks and hour!
No one is buying you. You are a human being. You cannot be purchased.
Your clients are also not buying your talent. I don’t think there is a law against it, but it is impossible. I can no more sell you my talent than Michael Jordan can sell you his ability to play basketball.
Your clients are not paying you for your time. Both you and your clients already have the only time either of you will ever get. You cannot give a client more time, nor can they take any time away from you. Time is time, and we all share it at once.
What Are Your Customers REALLY Buying?
Believe it or not, your customers really are buying your product. I know that isn’t what seminar speakers tell you, but it is true. No matter how much your client likes you, trusts you, or wants to do business with you, they will not buy nothing from you. (That is a gift or a donation, if you want to be accurate.) As a freelance writer, for example, no one is going to pay me $500 because I am a nice person who treats my customers well; they will pay me for something I write.
It is very important to understand what you are really selling and what your customers are really buying. Once you get out of that seminar or put down that book, believing that customers are buying you, are buying your talent, or are buying your time, is a one-way ticket to poor business decisions.
Freelance writers frequently argue over how much money freelance writers make. Actually, they argue about how much writers should be paid. Too often, this argument is clouded by thinking that the client is paying for the writer’s time or paying for the writer’s talent, or worst of all, paying for the writer. When thinking like that, it is all too easy to be offended by dollar amounts that seem to low. In other words, it is way too easy to consider certain writing pay rates to be offensive.
I have written before about writing for Demand Studios. Before she sold the website, the owner of Freelance Writing Gigs took a lot of heat for agreeing to partner with Demand Studios because they, "did not pay writers enough." Many writers called their pay rates offensive, and still others equated the amount DS pays with modern slavery. Both of these concepts stem from believing that the writers were being paid for something other than the product they truly sell. Indeed, if you look at it from the wrong perspective, it is very easy to get offended.
Consider that while Demand Studios offers numerous "assignments" the most common are those that pay $15 per article. On the surface, this indeed seems too low. It is far below what I would sell my talent for, that is for sure.
The catch is that DS is not buying my talent. They are buying a four or five paragraph article about a specific topic. Generally, the paragraphs should be between 50 and 75 words. The writing need not be particularly inspiring (like high-end copywriting), nor need it be anything other than grammatically correct. If you are to believe what many of the critics of Demand Studios say, it doesn’t even have to be all that factually accurate.
How much would you pay for an article like that?
Flip the question around to the way that is important to the professional writer and you get how much would you charge for an article like that?
Low-Paying Writing Gigs
Many writers complain that they cannot find enough work. I often suggest that they find some high volume, high flexibility writing gigs to fill in the gaps. Most writers nod and say that they would if they could. When I suggest some examples, they become offended. One even said to me (and prompted this post) that they didn’t become a professional writer in order to "give away their talent."
Wow. I sure hope not.
I’m not saying I would want to write under those conditions all of the time, but it is hard to be insulted when you consider what the company is actually buying. They are not buying a professional writer. They are not buying a professional writer’s time. They are not buying a professional writer’s talent. They are buying a short, easy to write, article that meets a minimum standard that most pro writers can meet without anything more than a minimum effort.
I always say that one of the things that distinguishes a professional writer from other writers is that the professional can write about anything for anyone. The audience here has a short attention span and is undemanding. I can write for that audience just as I can write for one full of experts who demand detailed accuracy. It’s just that one of them I can do while eating a sandwich, and the other takes focus and effort.
As a professional writer, I am not insulted by either project. Keep who you are and what you do separate from what you sell, and you won’t be either.