Saturday, October 24, 2009


There are many, many better actors than I am. There are better humanitarians, better sons, better dressers, better "dating material."

But there aren't that many people who are better at business writing. I do it really, really well, and have made a successful career at it for more years than I care to count.

So I was seriously shocked to open the mail this afternoon and find a rejection letter for a job I had bid on. I didn't even make it to the interview round. Something is very fishy, and I'm in the process of figuring out what happened. My guesses are these:
  1. I was too expensive. There are people out there who charge half as much as I do. Or worse. People who come from an editorial background, as opposed to an agency background, are using old-timey budget formulas like pennies per word.
  2. They picked someone they know. That would be totally understandable.
  3. They picked a lawyer. That might also make sense (this is web copy for a law firm). There are lawyers who are excellent writers. Many are not, however. But they sometimes get picked because they offer the legal expertise, which is actually far less important than being a good writer. It does help if you're working with a firm like I did once where the partners had almost no idea what they wanted to say about themselves or what they stood for. They expected me to "make it up" -- and even suggested I go to other firms' websites and copy ideas and even language from them. Oy.
Luckily, I wasn't counting on it. And it may even be a blessing in disguise, given how the selection process went. They had me do an RFP, which I've almost never had to do. Generally, people hire me because a) they know me; b) someone whose opinion they respect knows me; or c) they see my portfolio and meet me and are duly impressed.

I think RFPs are an odd way to hire for a job like this. To me, their main function is for when things go awry and it becomes clear the wrong person has been selected for the job. The decision-makers can then hold up this piece of paper to deflect blame from their colleagues and say, "See, we followed a process -- it's right here on paper!"

We shall see what happens. I've had the experience a few time where I've been passed over for someone else and they end up coming back to me, months later, behind deadline, over budget and in a general mess.

Anyway, best of luck to them.

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