All posts by Kristine M. Smith

I Just Won a Thumbtack Award!

Thumbtack Award

Well, THIS amazing message from Thumbtack came right out of the blue!

Although I don’t live in New York, I write for New Yorkers and for other clients around the world.

Now I wonder where I rank here in my home state of Washington? Guess I’ll inquire at Thumbtack! (I sure hope the inquiry doesn’t get me kicked off the list for New York!)

This is quite the accolade…as I’m sure there are scores, if not hundreds, of capable freelance copywriters in New York. To be singled out without even entering a contest just makes this that much more gratifying…

Thank you, Thumbtack, for the award!

Silent Clients Lower Your Ratings

If you’re a copywriter that uses any of the myriad online freelance websites to find clients (Upwork/Elance/oDesk, Guru, fiverr, Thumbtack,, etc.), it’s important to be sure the people you serve leave feedback for you after you’ve thrilled them to their toes.

Because I’ve left the freelance sites (for the most part) for the past year or so to concentrate on getting prospective clients to me direct so I don’t have to pay the exorbitant /members’/finders’/percentage fees that so many online freelance sites require, I just noticed tonight that my ranking and ratings are dropping at the site I used most for the past eight years, not because the few clients I’ve served this year from that site are unhappy or dissatisfied–they all have thanked me profusely–but because they failed to leave feedback for me on the sites.

I simply wasn’t paying attention as to whether they were leaving feedback when prompted by the site’s automatic system, so I was pretty astounded to see that my ratings fell from 99% and 98% “would recommend” to about 77%. ACK!!!

When I inquired at the site, they told me that the dearth of client feedback is what led to the lowering of my ranking. So even if a client is deliriously happy with what you do for him or her, be sure you get feedback on the site–not just in a private message to you! Otherwise some sites will downgrade you to far less than you deserve.

I’m pretty disgusted by this sad, unfair state of affairs, but it is what it is. So be aware and be sure you always get official feedback from your clients–feedback that gets posted in your Job History at the sites you use.


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Misinformation versus Disinformation

Copywriters, here’s the difference between the two above terms.

A person relaying misinformation usually innocently believes that the information he is giving is correct information.

A person relaying disinformation knows that the information he is giving is deceptive in one or more ways.

Examples of each:

Misinformation: “Seattle is only about twenty miles north of here” the Texan (mistakenly) told his driver as they reached the outskirts of Olympia, Washington.

Disinformation: “Now that marriage equality has been made the law of the land by the Supreme Court of the United States, the next thing we can expect is that pedophiles will be granted the right to marry children”  (conflating consensual same-sex adult marital commitment with illegal practices that subjugate children).

As a copywriter, you need to make sure that what you write is neither misinformation or disinformation. Whatever you are asked by a client to claim about their product, service or cause needs to be measurable and document-able; the Federal Trade Commission casts a critical eye on misleading, unsubstantiated claims (as should political and religious talking heads, but they aren’t  regulated in the same way as copywriters and business owners who market their products and services) and they have the legal authority to back it up with heavy fines and jail sentences.

Make sure that what your clients are asking you to claim can be backed up before you agree to write it. Your reputation can be destroyed by unscrupulous charlatans. Don’t repeat or tell/sell falsehoods, no matter how much someone is willing to pay you to do it. You need to be able to sleep at night.

.You know the claims I mean:

“This is the greatest invention since…”

“The best in the business…”

“Nobody does it better…”

“Sleep better all night long from now on.”

“World-class…”  (There are actual standards that a product or service must meet or exceed to be deemed truly world-class; this is not just a generic catch phrase. Example: Lance Armstrong was considered world-class until he admitted having cheated his way to the biking championships he was awarded.)

That said, if a client of your client makes a remarkable claim  about a product or service in a testimonial–for example, “[In my opinion] she’s the best insurance/real estate agent in Tacoma”–it’s okay to use it as one client’s subjective opinion in a testimonial, because it’s recognized by readers as an opinion, not as a documented fact.

Testimonials are usually more convincing when combined with measured, positive, accurate copy writing. Good copy writing is compelling and engaging, but it must never willfully mislead and it should under-promise (at least a little) to make sure that the client you’re writing about can over-deliver (exceed expectations), thereby creating happy clients and ‘viral sneezers‘ (devoted, loyal fans) who will write them fabulous testimonials…

As a copywriter, your job is to get people in the door. It’s your clients’ jobs to greet them and hang onto them. They do that by delivering more than what you promised they would in a way that creates fond bonds and loyalty.   “Know, Like, Trust” has to happen at every step, or the magic will never happen.

Make sense?

Here’s additional helpful information about the use of endorsements/testimonials straight from the horse’s mouth (the Federal Trade Commission):




It’s Happening!


The Face2Face groups that I belong to are just getting better and better. The attendees are all in for the right reasons. We’re getting to know each other and establish fond bonds.

Today at the Spanaway meeting I received an unexpected–and enormously pleasant–critique of my writing skills and the way I present myself.  From two people, not just one.  (I think maybe it was “Acknowledge Kris Day” because I was the only woman in attendance.)

Dennis Willis, the leader of this particular F2F group, told those in attendance about the first time he met me and what he thought immediately after sitting down for a brief one-to-one with me.

Paraphrasing: “I was so impressed by the way you presented yourself, by your confidence and your enthusiasm for what you do, and by the enormous value of the information and insights you shared in such a short time. I had no real idea what a copywriter does or about the many different ways you can help business owners.”

Then he said that when Bill Lee gave him a copy of my book (Settle for Best) to welcome him to the Face2Face team, he was expecting to read something that would be more or less academic but that he was delighted to discover how much fun and easy to read it was. “It was just like sitting across the table with you for a one-to-one!”

(Music to my ears! That’s exactly what I’m aiming for when I put fingers to keyboard–establishing a relationship, a fond bond!)

Next Bill Lee chimed in to say that he first ran across me in an online video several weeks before we met. Then, when he attended Face2Face, he mentioned to the person sitting next to him that he was looking for a good copywriter. The person he asked motioned in my direction and said, “That’s Kris. She’s a copywriter!”  As soon as he looked in my direction again, he recognized me as the person he’d seen in the video.

He told us (paraphrasing again), “I just didn’t connect the dots because in person you seem just like a regular person! On that video, you came across like a [Madison Avenue] professional!”

I laughed, and then worried a little, so he clarified (paraphrasing), “I mean, you come across as professional in person, too, but you also come across like a down-to-earth, friendly person!”

Now I’m wondering if I come across in a video like anything less than a down-to-earth, friendly person….

Gotta work on that some more, if I don’t!

Self-improvement never ends, does it?  But I’m okay with that.  I want to improve right up until shortly before they start shoveling dirt on me!





My Sub Domain Coming Online Soon

Lisa Twining Taylor ( and I are in the final stages of getting my sub domain ready to roll out so that people who are looking for a reputable copywriter can go straight to it instead of coming  here. The new site will document my services, writing chops, and client testimonials . It’ll have a portfolio page so people can visit sites I’ve written the copy for, read press releases I’ve written, watch videos I’ve written the scripts for, etc. So I’m excited!

We’ve chosen the theme and the home page background photo. I’ve written all of the copy for each page.  I think I’ll be able to announce its URL and launch it this week…

The sub domain will have a blog on it, too, explaining (among other things) how to identify a great copywriter, why great content/copy  (including spelling, grammar and punctuation) matters, and other informational topics that help business owners and entrepreneurs make great hiring decisions.

This means, of course, that I’ll be dividing my rare, spare time between the blogs that each site requires.

I think that, instead of posting much more here, I’ll compile the info and offer my insights via affordable white papers, e-books and other venues so newbie copywriters can get a running head start and won’t be shooting yourselves and your clients in the foot while you’re climbing the learning curve and becoming more competent.

Small business is the backbone of our country and our economy. This is why I’m on a crusade to help business owners and newbie copywriters like you survive and thrive. But it won’t happen unless both parties understand what’s expected of them and actually deliver what they promise (or better):

“Under-promise and over-deliver” is what you should be shooting for!

You don’t create raving fans and loyalists by failing to measure up–or even by  measuring up. You’re in competition, so aim to thrill your clients/customers (and potential clients/customers) or you’ll always be end up standing outside the winner’s circle.

I hate to see small businesses failing left and right.But when I look at their marketing outreach, I can easily understand why they’re failing.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The bottom line for copywriters: If you aren’t making your customers a helluva lot more money than you’re charging them (via ROI), please stop calling yourself a professional copywriter and admit what you really are: a newbie or a wannabe who must commit (or re-commit), with all deliberate speed, to getting measurably/decidedly better than you are right now

Are you IN… or out? Let me hear from you as soon as you read this if you’re IN. If I don’t hear from you, please cancel your subscription so I can tell who’s with me for the long haul and whether I should continue this copy writing-as-a-career blog.

Also let me know what you’d like to learn that I haven’t already covered here.  Those of you who are just arriving, start from blog #1 and read backward for the fastest way to get up-to-speed.


Beware of Copywriters …

A lot of copywriters are shameless automatons: they will give you what you say you want instead of what you actually need.

This past week I’ve had two clients who were asking for the wrong things and would have gotten lackluster results(zero or seriously anemic) had I agreed to abide by their wishes.

In the first case, there was a fellow who insisted on a staid, anemic, neutered version of his biography even though it could have been a converter instead of a placeholder.  He said he wanted a professional biography; by ‘professional’, I later learned, he meant the above-described staid, anemic, neutered version of his otherwise truly-compelling history!

And get this: his target audience for this particular “targeted bio” was school district administrators, just about the least staid, anemic, neutered population on the planet!

He liked my draft; wrote, “Looking good, Kris. I just have a couple of changes.” I made them.

Then he said, “I’ll run this by my partners for their input.”

Red flag! He hired me and liked what I wrote well enough to present it to his peeps. At that point, I had fulfilled my obligation to him in its entirety.

I never agree to write for committees at the basic prices I charge. If a client wants committee approval, my prices skyrocket!


Ask any professional copywriter; they’ll give the same response: “Because too few people on any committee ever appear to agree unanimously on anything, most especially the creative way in which something will be presented!”

My client was happy–until he heard from his partners. “Too chatty, too relational. Not professional enough.”

I reminded him that his target audience was relational.

Nevertheless, he wanted it rewritten because “nearly everyone finds fault with it .” (How many copywriters did he consult to reach this consensus?)  So he took a stab at making it more palatable to himself before sending it back to me based on their input.

Result:  it came out sounding like pablum.  75 to 80% of it was still mine, but its essence had been emasculated.

But fine… he was paying the bill. So I edited and enhanced what his committee had come up with.

And then they decided they just didn’t like it at all. Not really.

I still insisted that they pay me. I spent three hours dedicated to making sure his “case study” bio was going to hit his target audience squarely in the heart and head.  He liked it at first (with just two minor changes) but then let his partners convince him that they knew better than I do about how to go about it!

Fine. He still needed to pay the bill. And he did.  But then he tried to justify why he/they were right and I was wrong.  I just laughed to myself. Ya can’t justify the unjustifiable.

I would love to see them split test the two iterations to see how different the result will be between the two, but they won’t do that. They’re convinced they’re right. They’re scared to appear human, involved and passionate. They’re Spock-ian. No insult to Spock, but only Vulcans resonate to staid,unapologetic logic. Human beings buy on emotion and justify on logic.  There was no emotion in his committee’s final iteration; which is probably why they decided they didn’t like it after all and that it wasn’t working. Oh, my…

Cut off its balls and see how quickly its potency declines, folks!

It’s too bad… I have to feel sorry for him; otherwise, I’d be frustrated.  He hired a professional to do right by him…and then discounted my years of experience and my ability to engage his audience in a way that would have them saying, “Yes! We absolutely need his patent-pending new product!”

In the second case (and this one is ongoing)…

I quoted on a PR project, aced it, and got paid. They immediately wanted me for a second project. But I noticed right away–while trying to pry the talking  points for the first PR out of the office manager that I was dealing with—that she appeared clueless as to what her boss actually produced for his clients and why that was a good thing!  She was giving me airy-fairy responses that had zero substance to them!

And she balked (at first) at completing my Content Questionnaire. Oh, she took a brief  stab at it but left such vacuous responses to the very few questions she answered that they weren’t helpful. She said, “Your questionnaire is about a product or service. I want you to write about a person, my boss!’  (Her “product/service” is her boss.  The CQ serves both functions perfectly!)

Their media kit is laughable; their website is so substandard that is has to be shooting them in the foot. (Luckily, she says it isn’t “live” yet… that is, she hasn’t pointed anyone to it yet. THAT’S A GOOD THING!!!)

She wanted me to write a second PR on their upcoming live conference, so I asked for talking points. She sent me the three speakers’ bios! That was it! “Here you go!” she wrote cheerfully!

I said, “No. Bios aren’t news-worthy.  What I need to know is what topics they’ll be talking about and what will attendees’ ROI be?  That is, what will attendees take away from the event that will convince them that the time they spent away from their businesses and loved ones was time well-rewarded? What EXPERIENCE will they have? What will they know or learn as a result of their time with you?”

Dead silence.

That’s when it dawned on me that her boss has given her an assignment she doesn’t “get”.

She finally confessed to me, “We’re just starting this push. We don’t know what we’re doing.”

It’s clients like this one that can get taken to the cleaners by charlatans who will simply do whatever is wanted, no questions asked, without accepting their fiduciary responsibility to bring their clients up-to-speed so they don’t shoot themselves in the foot!

I let her know that I can counsel her and help but that it will add to the expense considerably.  I can’t be educating her at the cost of one Press Release! (I spent about two hours, up to this point, educating her gratis without mentioning that I need to be paid to counsel my clients extensively!)

She asked what counseling will cost. I said, “$60/hour.” (A steal of a deal, by the way. Most consultants worth their salt get $250/hour with a guaranteed four hours a day.)

Dead silence. At least for now. I did point her to several helpful  books that can bring her up to speed on what a press kit should be designed to do, what a PR should be designed to do, what a website must do to keep people on it for more than six seconds, and so on…

She needs to know these things if she’s going to be hiring providers to make them happen for her. She lucked onto me: I submitted a quote on her first project.  Had she chosen someone else, would they have taken as good care of her?

You just can’t be too careful when engaging with a service provider, including copywriters. There are too many wannabes and charlatans out there who can take you for a ride unless you look before you leap.

Don’t leave it to chance.  I know you don’t want to become a marketer, web designer, or copywriter but–for gosh sakes–at least familiarize yourself with the professionals you’ll be hiring so you don’t have to “pray as you go”…or you’ll end up “paying as you go” (in consult fees) to learn what you need to know before you sign on the bottom line and engage a professional.

Make sense?


Does Your Marketing Suck–or Even Exist?

About a year ago I was at a networking meeting. The moderator polled the group of some 35 people, asking them to write on a piece of paper what they know they needed to do for their business that they hadn’t been doing.

More than three quarters of the answers were “Marketing.”

It floored me.  I offered to look at any marketing pieces they came up with for free… or to write their copy for them at a seriously-discounted rate because they were fellow networkers.

Two–count ’em–TWO!–people took me up on the offer.  Both of them were MLM folks whose marketing was taken care of by someone else, so what they had was passable. Nothing spectacular, though, or terribly compelling. The copy was clear, spelled right, and grammatically correct. It was pleasant and proper. It was not powerful.

No one else had any marketing materials–or if they did, they were half sheets of hastily-typed announcements about specific upcoming events that they wanted others to attend.  They had business cards. Some had websites. Most of the copy I saw was anemic and sub-standard.

I can’t–and don’t–twist arms. The vast majority of people that I do write for recommend me to others but, most of the time, I rarely hear from the people they try to send my way.

It’s enough to make me want to retire. Seriously!

Why in heaven’s name are so many of the small business owners and entrepreneurs I’ve met so freaking aimless?  Or are they just so freaking broke that they can’t afford a copywriter who knows how to turn browsers into buyers?

Until they get off the dime, they will always struggle.

I’m just flabbergasted as to why they’d overlook enlisting others  who can help their businesses grow!  It’s like leaving piles of hundred dollar bills lying on the floor and not picking them up…

What’s stopping them from engaging? Can anyone offer any hints?

In Other News…

A new Face 2 Face group debuted in Spanaway at noon today. Four people showed up; a lot of others RSVP’d their apologies; they all had other commitments this week but say they’ll engage next week.

They really missed out.  The four of us had a whee of a time. We talked politics–and found out we’re all pretty much on the same page in that realm. That helped us establish fond bonds fast. I don’t suppose that particular conversation will happen again when more people show up, but it’s good to know that the core group isn’t diametrically opposed to one another’s views and opinions, as is the case in some of the other networking groups I attend on a regular basis. It feels great to hang with kindred spirits whose hearts reach beyond their own circumstances and families to encompass the homeless, veterans, and other under-served populations.