In what universe is the word “vagina” a profanity? Or unacceptable?
In the universe of one my subscribers, apparently. He listed it under his list of unacceptable swear words, informed me that yesterday’s email “diminished me”, and exhorted me to consider what if someone had left their emails open and a colleague or boss had read it.
“I may be more or less of a muppet than you are Vicky, but I’m sure I’m not alone in finding emails littered with profanities really unacceptable.
You might say fine, sorry my style’s not for you Jonny, but I’ve got loads of people who love my output just as it is.
That’s fine too, but hear me out.
I’m quite an expert at swearing – my wife says I swear too much – but dildos, vaginas, fucks, bollocks and shit don’t add anything to the motivational value of an email.
For someone who works as hard as you do to create and promote positive and inspiring content, I don’t believe potty-mouthed rants in any way lend you a sense of authority or gravitas, and will just obscure whatever important message you were trying to put across.
Maybe also consider the potential embarrassment if we leave your email open on a screen and a work colleague or boss happens to see it.
That’s my take, and you can call me a twat if you like.”
Yesterday’s email was much more sweary than I usually am, because it wasn’t really mine. I was quoting a (damn good) testimonial my mentor Jon had received from one of his long-time clients. So possibly I could have prefaced it with “Warning: contains swears and female body parts. If that offends you, don’t read on”.
But I didn’t.
Because my readers are grown-ups.
One of the things I’ve learned from my mentors – from Jon, from Peter, and from others who’ve taught me stuff – Dan Kennedy, Ben Settle, and Tyrion Lannister – is some people will like you. Some won’t. So what?
If you stick your head up above the parapet, people are going to take pot shots at you. You’ll get “opinions”. And that’s fine, but you have to choose what you listen to. I listen to those who are important to me: my clients. The people who pay me, who know that professionalism has nothing to do with the words I use or the clothes I wear, or my body parts – but instead, the value I deliver to my clients, and the good work I do.
If you start listening to everyone on your list who’s never paid you a penny and has no intention of doing so, you’re in for a miserable old business.
Now, there are a couple of things worth sharing from this email I received.
- I’m not writing motivational emails. I’m writing marketing emails. If my emails motivate people as a side-effect (and I know they do, because I get many, many replies from people telling me they do), that’s great. But my primary purpose is make sales, because that’s what helps people. People don’t value free because they have no skin in the game. But people who invest in themselves and their business, in stuff they know works because they can see it working, those people I can help. If the person offering opinions isn’t a customer or a client, or your mentor, ignore them.
- If you never get any pushback on what you’re doing, you’re too bland. As Seth Godin once said, “You will be judged, or you will be ignored.” I know what I’d rather be. (And who’s reading whose stuff? Although I suspect I’ll have another unsubscribe shortly)
- When you get critical emails from people, know this: it’s not about you. It’s about them. Something happened to piss them off, perhaps they stubbed their toe, or someone gave them the finger on their way to work, or whatever, then they open their email and see your missive there waiting. So they fire off a pissy little reply, and go and get a cup of coffee or whatever. Your email is just the trigger.
- Your business, your rules. Set ’em yourself. I take my consequences with a big grin (because those consequences are great clients who stick around for years and me sitting in my dream cottage in the country).
This, by the way, is how Dan Kennedy has built multi-million dollar businesses over the years, and how the EBG is the highest-paid copywriter in Europe. If they’d listened to every opinion fired their way, do you think they’d be where they are now? Not a fucking chance.
Do you think they’ve pissed people off over the years? Of course. Do you think they care? Not a jot.
They keep doing what they do, and they keep seeing the success they want.
It’s rather telling, by the way, that of all the negative emails I receive (and this was the first for a loooooong time) none of those emailers has ever bought anything from me. They’re after the free stuff. But the people who want to be in my world? They’re my best and most loyal customers and clients.
If you want a business that plays by your rules, and creates loyal customers and clients who stick around for years, come to the Pot O’Gold event in Cleveland.
Yeah, it’s a trek, and yeah it’s a hefty investment, but if you go with the intention to get as much out of it as you can and USE IT, it’ll be worth it many times over:
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.
PS Here’s the thing: words are words. They are not, in and of themselves, offensive. Or powerful. Or anything. It’s the way you put them together that matters, and how you use them. I would never level a swear-laden rant at someone, because I don’t attack people. But dropping the odd f-bomb? Or bollock? Hell yeah, if it makes my point. And quoting a great testimonial that’s laden with more swears than I’d use? If it makes a point, yep. Unapologetically.
What is offensive is child abuse in the church. The fact that in 2017, people are still homeless and hungry in one of the richest nations on earth. Refugees being refused help when we can help. Animal cruelty.
PPS I had one unsubscribe yesterday and one huffy email. I also had a bunch of other replies laughing at me because I forgot to include the photograph on the first email. Go figure.