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Who Says How Much Copy is Worth?
By: Jerry Northup
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There is a legitimately high stock value afforded to professionals who have an uncommon ability to speak well. More tellingly, the best in the business make it look easy — something that earns them respect — even though speaking is a common skill. Not necessarily so with the job of a writer. Since everyone can also write, many analyze text that looks and reads easily as easy to create. Compounding the problem is an increasing sense that composing an article of around 500 words should happen about as quickly as it takes to type 500 words.
I hope you hear the opening bell that I’m trying to ring.
Poorly written copy depreciates quickly. In the past, when copy lived primarily in printed form, the effects could be contained by the sales rep holding the piece. Now, copy posted online is passed on continuously, generating exponential brand damage. More importantly, the lifespan of poorly written, hastily composed copy doesn’t end with the last dog-eared copy; it lasts forever (or until the boss notices and IT pulls the plug).
  • “How long are you going to take?” The implication is that, no matter what length of time you estimate for writing, it could be done faster. The even tougher audience is often found within agencies themselves — AEs trying to assemble a good-looking quote can’t lower printing costs, but they can haggle over writing time. And they do, all the time.
  • “What is this going to cost me?” Buy low and sell high is the golden rule in the market, but it’s no strategy for crafting an effective brand position. Smart investors spend a lot more time researching trades before they execute them, so it stands to reason that writers be given the same latitude writing copy before they finalize it.
  • "I just can’t get my ideas down on paper.” There is a skill in copywriting that few really master. Unfortunately, that skill is always up to interpretation and subjective analysis that deflates the value of the work.  
Naturally, it’s true that copy is only worth what a client is willing to pay for it. Yet, when you consider that copy always lives on far longer than it took to write, the valuation of the investment deserves, in some cases, dramatic reappraisal by the stockbrokers who set the price.

*Artwork by David Northup

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About the Author
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Gerald Northup has written professionally in the fields of advertising, marketing, social media, and corporate communications since the early ’90s. For a look at his blog posts and social media articles, as well as TV, radio, print, and website samples from his online portfolio, visit gnorthup1979.wix.com/44words.

Jerry is also a talented guitarist, an avid tennis player, and a lifelong student of linguistics.

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