I’d rather work and donate money than go and volunteer.
That said, I have optimised a community newsletter and a few immigrant resumes for free.
So I didn’t turn off when I got this direct message from a new Twitter follower:
Hi Paul, would you be willing to help out a young start-up with your experience? Dave*.
I checked Dave’s website. It was very basic, but it presented an extraordinarily imaginative, insanely expensive, environmentally friendly rework of a universally popular consumer good.
I was excited:
Wow, Dave! You really got me! Fabulous name, product, pics, vibe – the works! Your current copy is quite good; how could I help?
If you like that, check out the new site. Some bugs, but 90% worked out.
This was the sleekest, slickest most stunningly beautiful website I’d ever seen. I shuddered to think what it cost.
I realised Dave wasn’t a penniless wannabe, but a lucrative prospect of the first water. Especially when he wrote:
I will be doing copy for every model, as well as production process, company background, personal background, etc. I’d love to have your comments when I’m ready!
I was very excited:
I’d be honoured to be associated with such breathtakingly fine products. And to look over your draft copy and give you my thoughts.
You’ll know within my first few comments whether we’re on the same tram. If you think I’m adding value, I guess we can talk turkey. I’m naturally keen to know whether you’re thinking:
- Charity (me to you).
- Contra (pay me with a product).
- Reduced rates (goodness of my heart).
- Credit (pay when you hit pay dirt).
- Exposure (the whole world knows I’m your writing wingman).
- Something else (?).
In principle, however, I’m jolly keen.
I added Charity as an afterthought (and because I’m a completist). Given the conversation so far, I was already imagining myself revelling in one of Dave’s astonishing new creations.
Thanks for the compliments Paul. I will be doing the copy myself. I went to [ÜBER EXPENSIVE UNIVERSITY] and should be able to write some paragraphs.
But I was hoping you could read them and – through Charity – give me advice or tell me changes you’d make.
I’m not looking for some kind of full-blown business with your company, I was just hoping you would be willing to help out a young start-up with your experience for a few minutes.
I had a dilemma.
Given his education and the sophistication of his technology, products and website, Dave was obviously loaded.
When optimising copy, there’s no such thing as ‘a few minutes’. Did I really want to donate my precious time to a complete stranger who had it all?
Why did he ask me? Why didn’t he want to pay? Was he playing on my green sympathies? My helpful nature?
I felt confused and deflated, but still replied:
Oh, righto, Dave. Sorry to have gone so far on the wrong tangent. You were the sort of client I’ve been looking for. Guess my wishful thinking got the better of me. I’d be happy to look over your paras when the time is right.
Months later, I still don’t get it.
Am I fool, fake, miser or sociopath?
What would you have done?
I value your input, so please feel free.
* Not his real name.
Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire