Why not guarantee the results of your copywriting?

Success Can Lead to FailLately I’ve noticed websites by “results guaranteed copywriters.”

These are copywriters who promise increased sales, higher conversion rates or what-have-you, or they’ll give their clients their money back.

Why would a freelance copywriter do this?

To win trust. Prospects who contact you are taking a risk that the service you provide won’t work. By offering a money-back-guarantee, you take away their fear. If they don’t get the results they were promised, they’ve lost nothing but time.

To bring in more prospects. People are more likely to pick up the phone if they feel like they can’t lose. Like with an infomercial. Which means a higher number of inbound prospects.

Does it work?

I’m not rude brave enough to call any of these copywriters and ask for their financials. Or details about their projects—their niche and target audience might be ideal for making such a promise.

Since they’re in business, I’m going to assume that this business model works for them.

But here’s why I won’t guarantee results.

There are too many variables that I can’t control.

  • Their marketing plan
    Have we decided what to do with this written thing yet?
  • How well they execute that plan
    Who pushed the wrong button?
  • Their sales and marketing presentation skills
    Unzipped pants, stained shirt, slurred speech—let’s rock this.
  • Changes to any regulations that govern their industry
    You mean we can’t say “FREE CASH FOR EVERYONE” anymore?
  • Their email list filters
    We just sent a marketing email to the opt-out list? Oops.
  • Their email and DM deployment
    The year on the date was supposed to be 2014, not 1024.
  • Their servers crashing
    Who knew one unsupervised raccoon could do so much damage?
  • Changes in their management
    Hello, I’m Lord Zod and I want better numbers than that last guy.

A prospect once asked if he could pay me “when he becomes profitable.” I declined. For the same reason: I can’t control how he operates. I can only do my part.

If you’re going guarantee your work, guarantee only that which you can control.

Promise that your work will be:

  • High quality
  • Professional
  • On time
  • Original
  • Error free
  • What the client asked for

You’re responsible for providing an effective sales tool. The client’s sales and marketing departments are responsible for the results.

To assume responsibility for the outcome would be the same as letting someone borrow your car and promising they’ll be safe. You can’t control other drivers, road conditions or the weather. The only promise you can make is that the car’s in good shape and has a full tank of gas.

What do you think? Would you consider offering a money-back guarantee on your copywriting?

20 thoughts on “Why not guarantee the results of your copywriting?”

  1. This was a great idea to write about. It was a lot fun to read too. I think you could say I can guarantee these things, and then list them as you have above. Then state I can’t guarantee what happens after it’s out of my hands, …unless you’d like to also hire as your full-time marketing manager? 😉

  2. Erica

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on copywriting projects where something outside my control has thrown a spanner into the works.

    For example, I remember writing landing pages for Venetian blinds, only to find later that the agency doing the PPC campaign had linked to them from ads for Roman blinds instead. Failure was therefore guaranteed.

    And as for web developers, they rarely format web pages the way I ask them to – often to detrimental effect.

    1. Kevin, there’s no telling from which direction a monkey wrench will come flying. I’m currently working on a project with a designer who routinely (*pause for dramatic effect*) neglects to include all of the copy in the first place. How could I ever guarantee results for copy if the designer has pasting it into the template in the first place?

      1. I can just see your (in-your-head-only) response now: “Thanks, dummy. I have your first email, and oh, let’s see… yup, only part of the info. Now, stupid, send the rest of it by the end of today if you want me to begin working on it. Sure as h*ll can’t give you a timeline to finishing it!”

        Your actual response was much MUCH more polite!

  3. This odd, and new, insistence by clients for a “guarantee” has come up several times in the last five months. Yours isn’t the first post I’ve seen on the subject. Your explanations for nixing such nonsense, however, are better explained than most.

    And, I agree with you for the precise reasons you give. With something as subjective as writing, how can anyone make such a claim with a straight face? “Increased sales guarantee” indeed.

    Especially since too many clients equate increased sales as increased profits. (So does the government, but that’s for a different post.)

    Maybe this “need” for a guarantee is partly due to the clients’ fears that they’ll be blamed if something follows Murphy’s Law. Maybe it’s their way of shifting the blame from themselves (it’s never the clients’ faults, you know). Maybe, too, it’s because of the content mills, and their “guaranteed results.”

    I can guarantee results, too, but only those that you (and others) have enumerated. I’ll add this to the last guarantee: If what the clients asked for isn’t what they wanted, that is all on the clients. Writers aren’t mind readers.

    Whatever their reasons for wanting it, whatever their fears for requesting it more frequently, I’m not buying into it. Even a grocery ad doesn’t guarantee increased sales!

    1. Good points all around, especially about the last guarantee. Sometimes getting the information you need to complete a project in the first place is like getting a toddler to tell you why he/she is crying.

      I also didn’t know that content mills guaranteed results. Interesting. If that’s what set the expectation, then I’ll gladly either educate the prospective client or walk away.

      1. I didn’t know that about mills either until an acquaintance mentioned it. When I asked if they meant “satisfaction guaranteed” he said, “No. Results.” I told him that he was nuts.

  4. You know, I very recently wrote my first contract and I felt a little squeamish as I worked on the ‘no guarantee of success’ clause. I thought about the message I was sending with it and reconsidered it altogether. Then I realized, like you, that there are so many factors outside of my little area that contribute to success or failure, so I let the clause stay.

    If I could guarantee success from my work, they’d be paying me in equity.

    1. Good for you. Most doctors don’t offer a money-back guarantee. Nor do most teachers, mechanics, lawyers, architects and so on. Neither will I.

      I’ve never seen a contract with a ‘no guarantee of success’ clause. But I think that’s a really good idea. Will have to update mine with the same.

  5. This is absolutely spot-on. To answer your question, no, I wouldn’t offer a money-back guarantee. I’ve been asked, and feel very uncomfortable for every single reason you mentioned. My work is only a small part of their marketing campaign, and where they take it is totally beyond my control. I’ll keep this blog for future use – thanks a lot for clarifying this tricky proposition!

    1. Glad you liked! I’m especially averse to the notion of giving clients their money back after I’ve already delivered what I promised. That’s just working for free and while yeah, you can find other clients to replace the work, what a waste of time in the first place.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s