Freelance copywriters and IT: Can’t we all just get along?

Angry programmerGeeks. Propeller-heads. Huge obstacles to a site’s success.

When a freelance copywriter hears she’ll have to liaison with the IT department, her first reaction is often a huge groan. “Great,” she’ll say. “This is going to be a pain.”

It’s true that we’ve all had our “IT guy (or girl) from hell” story.  The know-it-all that was convinced that “Google won’t spot invisible text.” Or, the person who changed your carefully-constructed Titles to look like keyword  | keyword | keyword monstrosities.

Talk about frustrating…

IT may have their…quirks. But let’s face it – as freelance SEO copywriters, we do too. We want our copy uploaded the second we submit it. We fight for larger copy blocks, a new blog, and a crappy Title overhaul. We are as much a pain in IT’s butt as they (can be) for us.

So, can’t we all just get along?

The thing to remember is: We’re all fighting for a common goal. Both sides want a faster, more engaging and more profitable site. Our successes are their successes. And although IT may think differently than us, they are not the enemy.

IT can be the copywriter’s best friend. It’s just learning how to communicate with them more effectively. Here’s how:

– Remove the chip from your shoulder. Sure, you may have had a “bad” experience with an IT director once upon a time. Get over it. Just because it happened in the past doesn’t mean that all IT folks are inflexible, or mean, or (fill in the blank.) Forget the past and start fresh. It’s amazing how well people will treat you when they don’t sense that big chip on your shoulder.

– Know that some (gentle) education may be in order. I’ve worked with super-smart IT departments who knew SEO. And I’ve worked with folks who pulled out keywords, changed Titles and sliced 75 percent of the content. Just because someone works in IT doesn’t mean they know SEO (and they certainly may not know content.) Educating IT on what you’re doing and why will help get them on your side. Be prepared to defend your opinion with facts (such as research, articles and Google guidelines.) IT folks will respect you if you can back up what you say.

– Don’t assume that something can happen just because you want it.  Have you ever had a client say, “We need 50 pages of content by first thing tomorrow.” You may know it’s an impossible request – but your client may not. It’s the same thing when you’re working with IT.  You may know that the template doesn’t leave enough room for content – but telling the IT person to “change it” isn’t going to magically make it so.  In fact, all it will do is frustrate them – and possibly put your request on the back burner. Instead…

– Have a discussion and ask for input. If something isn’t working, tell IT why and ask to brainstorm a solution together. You may find that your desired solution can’t be implemented because of a platform issue, time constraints – or even politics. That’s OK. Together, you may discover an even better solution – one that’s perhaps even better than your original one. :) This also works when you’re trying to work out process and deadlines. The more you discuss (rather than dictate,) the better the results.

– Say “thank you.” Like you, your IT liaison is probably overworked, tired and has 500 emails waiting for a response.  Thank them for their time. Thank them for listening to your point of view. Thank them for uploading your content. A little kindness can go a long way.

What about you? What would you add to the list?

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7 replies
  1. Allen says:

    As a copywriter and IT consultant, I straddle the line in the sand.

    Your post is spot on – especially the part about IT techs do not know it all. That is a common misconception when dealing with an IT professional.

    IT is a huge field with defined areas of expertise. A programmer may not necessarily know how a server OS operates. Assuming that all IT professionals have an all encompassing knowledge about technology is like assuming a family doctor knows everything about the heart, lungs, ear, nose and throat, etc.

    There are specializations in IT just like any other profession. You can educate an IT professional about SEO and how it works with copywriting.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Great point, @Alan! I love your analogy! I know that many copywriters are intimidated by IT because…well…it’s IT. They figure that an IT professional would automatically “know SEO.” But that’s not always the case…

      I know only one other person who (successfully) straddles IT and copywriting. You must be an extremely talented and smart person – I know my friend is!

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Katherine Andes says:

    I used to really dislike most IT folks. Mainly because when I was first starting out and hungry for clients, a few of them talked their bosses out of hiring me. It took a long time to get over that. Now I have a much better relationship / respect for IT types and they seem to respect me as well. Often I can be the translator between them and the client … they appreciate that. Your last two points are especially good, Heather. I thank IT guys constantly along with a lot of praise …

  3. Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

    @Katherine, I think that most people – but especially the “behind the scenes” folks – could use a bunch more “thank yous” in their lives. It’s amazing how two simple words can make a huge difference.

    Besides, you know your stuff (and know it well!) I bet that the IT folks pick up on that immediately! :)

    THANK YOU for your comment! ;)

  4. Mike says:

    There are a great number of IT folks I know who haven’t the slightest clue how SEO works, so definitely be sure to get technical with your IT guy before letting him into your site (and risk a catastrophe)!


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