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Free advice – should we give it away?

Free advice on copywritingSome recent conversations with fellow business professionals have prompted me to ask these questions:

  • Do people value or ignore free advice?
  • Would they be more likely to act on advice if they paid for it?

Like many other people, we’re happy to share our knowledge and experience if someone needs help.  While it might make good business sense, it does seem morally wrong to put a price tag on everything you do.

But what if that person ignores the free advice?  It is their choice, of course.  But if they ignore the advice and continue to complain about the same old problems, it really is a waste of everyone’s time.

It’s good to stop …

A young person we came across was in the early stages of launching a new premium service.  She was spending a lot of money (which she couldn’t afford) on advertising.  The advertising didn’t generate any business. But that’s not surprising because she hadn’t done the basics. She didn’t know her market, had no defined product or branding, and had what could best be described as a make-shift website.

But she had a mentor, a skilled professional, who gave hours of valuable time and didn’t ask for a penny in return.  Sadly, all his advice was ignored.

She still didn’t do the basics and continued to waste her money on advertising. She came to us and asked our advice. We repeated what her mentor had told her.

What happened? Absolutely nothing! We came to the conclusion that we were banging our heads against a brick wall … and it had stop.

The cost of buying that level of one-to-one support would have amounted to several hundred, if not thousands of pounds.  Perhaps the mentor shouldn’t have given his time for free.  If she’d been footing the bill, she might have acted on his advice and successfully launched her business.

What can be achieved …

Several years ago, we were fortunate to meet four local women who were raising money for charity.  They were highly motivated and determined to meet their fundraising target of £20,000. We met them at the very start of their fundraising.  While they were determined and had lots of great ideas, they knew it was going to be a huge challenge.

We sponsored their website, and spent an hour or so giving them a crash course in social media and internet marketing. We gave them free advice, but the difference was they took it on-board.

They went out and made it happen.  They smashed their target and raised over £26,000. We’re not claiming any credit – we gave them a few tools – they put in the effort and made it work.

But I suspect this was an exception, and most people don’t really value advice unless they have to pay for it.

So what’s the answer?  Should we give advice only to the wider audience via public channels and save the one-to-one help for those who are prepared to pay for it?

What do you think?


Copywriting and ethics… what would you do?

There are going to be times when every copywriter is faced with a moral dilemma.  But when it comes to business, we firmly believe ethics must come first. One evening I was still at my desk working late and automatically answered the phone when it rang, despite it being well out of office hours.  My… Continue Reading

Why you can’t buy copywriting ‘off the shelf’

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