One day you happen to notice a strange little knobby growth under your right arm.
You're concerned about it, so you hop into your car and drive straight to the nearest doctor's office.
You barge right past the receptionist and into the exam room, where the doctor is seeing another patient.
“Hey doc, glad I caught you when you were available. I have this weird growth here in my armpit. What's it going to cost to hack this thing off?”
Would the doctor say, “Oh, I can take care of that for $300!”
No. Before he can talk about fees, he needs to make a diagnosis.
So he'd grab your arm, march you out to the waiting room, sit you down in a chair and shove a clipboard in your hands.
You'd fill out the form with a lot of background info on your medical history and current lifestyle. You'd arrange payment for a preliminary exam.
Then he'd call on you when he had time to see you. He'd examine you and maybe run some additional tests.
Once he'd collected all the information he needed, he'd provide you with his diagnosis.
Then, and only then, would you find out what it was going to cost you to get the growth taken care of.
Over the weekend, a would-be client tried to do this with me.
“Linda” emailed me and said she wanted some quick tweaks to her sales page.
What will that cost, she wanted to know.
To answer that question I'd be doing Linda a disservice, because while she thinks she just needs her sales page reworked, she's not an expert.
It's entirely possible that her sales page is just fine, and what she really needs is better follow up to make sure her leads actually see the sales pitch.
Or maybe her offer is lousy and she needs a full overhaul of her pricing model—along with a complete rewrite of the sales page and better Facebook ads to drive more traffic to her site.
That's why I start every copywriting project with a diagnostic assessment. I examine the client's funnel and then give my prescription for the copy they actually need—not just what they think they need.
Your customers are the same way. What they want and what they actually need are likely two different things.
It's your ethical duty to make sure that what you're selling them will actually help.
When you take this stance, you're going to turn some people off. (Linda decided I wasn't the copywriter for her.)
But in the long run, your customers will value you as a trusted advisor.
And when their friends are looking for help, who do you think they'll recommend?