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When is a ‘business opportunity’ really just a pyramid scheme in disguise?

A copywriter is someone who writes sales copy. It’s part of marketing and advertising, part of business, and persuading people to part with their money.

Like all of business, however, there are good, honest elements to copywriting (persuading people of the real value of a product or service) and there are the less savoury aspects (conning people into buying c**p).

I’ve been lucky, in that most of my work is done in the business-to-business field, where the less savoury side of copywriting doesn’t rear its head too often. I also turn clients down if I don’t trust them or approve of their business methods.

One area of copywriting that I’ve always steered clear of is the ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme. I’ve just today had to turn someone away, who was pleading for help in getting his business venture off the ground.

He’d already been rejected by 55 other copywriters, and he was desperate for me to help him.

Don’t throw good time after bad money. Move on.

Now, swallowing my pride, and refusing to get narked at being number 56 on his list (as you can see, he needs help with his marketing…), I offered to take a quick look at what he was planning to do. My worst fears were confirmed. He is involved in selling products offered by one of the many internet marketers out there. He is selling information products about business opportunities. He insists this is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

I can’t be bothered arguing with him. And I wished him every success. But I had to say ‘no’. Partly, this was self-preservation. He wanted a sales page like this. In return, he was offering 5% of sales, with no up-front payment. That’s not very generous, to be honest.

But I also have a problem with this whole area of business.

There are so many people out there on the internet selling information products about how to set up in business. They sell this information to their customers. All the information seems to amount to is a guide to doing exactly the same thing – the student is encouraged to set up their own business, selling information products about how to set up in business.

Really. I’ve never bought one of these, so tell me I’m wrong by all means. But from what I can tell, that is the whole of the business model. They make it sound exciting (that’s why they need copywriters), and they sell a dream. But the poor student is left out of pocket, and trying to get a business started in a hugely competitive field, with a second-hand, third-rate product.

My advice? Don’t throw good time after bad money. Move on. Because there’s a name for that particular business model. It’s called a pyramid scheme. And even if you do make money out of it, it won’t be good for your karma, your peace of mind, or your reputation further on down the line.

Photo by Yasin Hassan

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  • John June 29, 2010, 10:41 pm

    Most of these schemes are pretty vile, but I think some of the stuff is interesting. You can waste a lot of money, though.