Who needs copywriters?

I was recently asked to contribute an article to Bizezia’s Better Business Focus magazine. I decided to adapt an earlier blog post – but ended up changing it beyond all recognition. So here’s my latest thoughts on why you might need my help:

Who Needs Copywriters? – A Quick Look at the Benefits Copywriters Deliver

Have you ever wondered what a copywriter does? Or why you might need one? I’m a freelance copywriter, and I’d like to explain how people like me can help your business. Copywriters are marketing professionals – they exist to help you sell. There are various ways they do this, but all involve putting words to work.

Writers with marketing skills

Copywriting is quite different to normal writing. So while you might be a talented poet or letter writer, you might not understand the selling and marketing principles that copywriters can use to your advantage.

A good copywriter will write with many things in mind. Copywriters must consider how to address several personality types simultaneously, how to allay fears, mention features, highlight benefits, mix in social proof (testimonials) – all while being persuasive.

An outside view of the inside

One big bonus of employing a copywriter is that you get a fresh brain thinking about your business. This fresh brain might spot something you’ve missed or something you could make better. A good copywriter will put thought into their work, looking for ways to help you communicate more effectively to more people.

Speaking their language

A common failing in business communication occurs when the people writing the copy forget that the public (your audience) are not aware of your business and your industry jargon. A copywriter writes with your readers in mind – so your copy will address their needs, in their language.

Traffic-stopping web copy

Writing for websites requires even more specialist knowledge than offline copy. Web copy requires an understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), calls to action, usability, internet conventions and conversion rates, as well as the marketing and advertising principles mentioned above.

Investing in your corporate voice

Remember that words do a lot of talking for your business, so it’s worth investing in the best copy you can afford. Unprofessional communications and marketing material can actively work against you, telling potential customers things you didn’t intend to say. The right copy can work in harmony with your operations and help you to be heard in a crowded market.

Edit deftly – copywriting tip #7

Editing is a crucial part of the writing process. But editing does not just mean removing words, or attemptingSpeed 2 Movie Poster to make a piece of writing shorter. You should look to remove unnecessary words. The part of editing that requires the most thought is deciding exactly what is necessary and what isn’t.

When writing, always keep in mind your purpose. If a word or sentence doesn’t help you convey your meaning, then consider removing it. Skilfully edited copy will be easier and more pleasing to read. It will deliver the right information at the right time, and will be more effective at selling, persuading or motivating.

It’s easier to edit someone else’s work, so you might want to get a kind buddy to do your editing. However, choose one buddy, not a whole gaggle. If you start writing by committee you’ll end up with something that’s as bland as a Hollywood blockbuster, and equally memorable.

(Picture courtesy of Kaly Web Design)

Cut yourself out – Copywriting tip #8

Harsh Editing Autobiographies are fine for the famous, but for everyone else it’s probably best to cut yourself out of your copy. So if your copy begins anything remotely like:

“We at Jazzclapper Bargain Drains are the best drain supplier in the world. We offer three hundred kinds of cast-iron drain and we are renowned world-wide for our hyper-efficient supply-chain system. We offer sterling service and…”

This copy is full of “we”. The reader, or potential drain buyer, might be feeling a bit left out. If the copy was more like:

“Are you looking for a comprehensive range of cast-iron drains? Call Jazzclapper Bargain Drains today to see if we have the drain you need. If you happen to need a drain that we don’t have, our unique stock system means we can find it for you in a matter of days.”

This version of the copy puts the reader, rather than Jazzclapper, at the centre of the copy. Naturally, your customers are really interested in their own needs, wants and desires, so make sure you put them centre-stage.

(Picture courtesy of ANVRecife )

Don’t be boring – copywriting tip #9

Bored Gorilla

Your copy might be correct, but is it boring?

It’s easy to get obsessed with marketing principles when writing copy – there are lots of rules to follow, and all kinds of advice to cloud your thinking. So it’s easy to forget that you also need to be interesting.

It’s worth re-reading your copy to make sure it isn’t so mind-numbingly dull that it sends you to sleep before you can finish the first sentence. Yes, your customers need information, but there are ways of presenting information that will keep people awake, if not entertained.

Here are three quick tips for keeping your readers awake:

  1. Surprise them. Say something in a weird way. It might stick in their head, like a persistent headache.
  2. Edit. If you waffle, you will definitely bore people.
  3. Avoid clichés. If your writing is full of clichés, people will get the feeling they’ve already read your copy. And they might not want to read it again.

Check back next week for another quick copywriting tip, or plug in to my RSS feed and never miss a post!

Bored Gorilla picture courtesy of Fabricio Braga

10 ways to instantly improve your copy

Parking FeedbackI’m going to be posting a series of copywriting tips that should help anyone who writes copy. These are simple tips that aim to make your copy more readable, more persuasive and more effective at selling. I’ll publish one a week, so check back regularly for more free advice in the coming weeks, or plug yourself in to my RSS feed.

So here’s the first of ten:

Get Feedback

Ask someone to confirm that your copy makes sense. Does it make them want to buy? Do they understand what you’re selling? Can they spot any spelling mistakes?

While it’s a great idea to ask for feedback, be careful that you don’t end up writing copy by committee. Five people might have five opinions on your copy, but they probably aren’t all right. If you’ve done some research into what makes effective copy, then you’ll be able to decide which opinions are worth heeding, and which aren’t.

It’s a good idea to ask someone to review your copy who is “naïve”. By that I mean someone with no prior specialist knowledge of the product or service being offered – someone who represents the target audience for your copy. A naïve reader will provide a tough test for your copy, and if anything is unclear or poorly explained, you’ll find out.

Listening to criticism can be difficult, but stick with it and your writer’s skin will soon toughen into a thick hide, and you’ll find constructive feedback nothing but useful and interesting.

(Picture courtesy of Mixed Species)

How can you stand out from the crowd?

Stand Out in a Crowd

Highlight your differences. Why are you better, faster, cheaper or stronger than your competitors?

Work out your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and then advertise it. Tell your customers why you’re better than the other guy.

A freelance copywriter can help identify the thing that makes your business special. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes will see something new – something your customers will want to know about.

If the economy continues to make running a profitable business more challenging, differentiating yourself in a crowded market will become even more important.

Stand out from the herd and your customers will notice you.

(picture courtesy of Floppylion)

Write More – Writing Tip #1

Just write.

Write emails, blog posts, articles or letters. Everything you write makes you better at writing.

This isn’t Earth-shattering advice, but it’s important enough that I made it my #1 writing tip.

Show me a bad writer and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t write much. It’s as simple as that.

Copywriters are lucky in that they get plenty of practice to hone their writing skills. If you’re not so lucky, make the most of writing opportunities in your daily life to write, and take care in your writing.

Read More – Writing Tip #2

Writers don’t have to read every classic. You can read anything, but you must read something.

If you don’t read you will never understand how writing works, or how it can fail.

Be adventurous with your reading. Avoid re-reading the same few books.

Reading a variety of styles and sources will strengthen your writing, improve your vocabulary and fill you with ideas.

Quick Copywriting Tip #2

Is your copy full of “we”?

If you find lots of “we”, “us” or “our” in your copy, it’s a sure sign that it’s self-centred, and not focussed on your customer.

You should have copy littered with “you” and “yours”. These words generally indicate that your copy is aimed in the right direction (your customer’s!).

Click here for a more in-depth look at this subject.

Ask for Feedback – Writing Tip #3

It can be hard to hand over your writing to someone. New writers often get very shy about their work, and nervous of what people will think.

But it’s important to get started with the process of finding readers.

Your first readers may be family, then friends, or anyone who will take the time. But whoever these readers are, they will provide an invaluable service.

Any advice, whether from a professional writer or an occasional reader, is useful. It will also get you used to the apprehension of waiting to hear what people think of your writing.

Criticism is hard to take, but it gets easier. Especially when it’s intelligent, constructive criticism that helps you progress.

Understand Grammar – Writing Tip #4

Grammar Crisis in Sainsbury’s

Grammar and spelling are a writer’s tools. Just as a plumber must understand and own a set of tools, writers must have a good grasp of grammar.

If grammar troubles you, I recommend reading Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. It’s a classic (and very short) book on using English well.

Once you get writing, ask another writer to read your work. Ask for feedback on your style as well as your content.

Practice writing and your grammar will soon improve.

(Picture courtesy of Richard Leeming)

Feed Your Imagination – Writing Tip #5


Your imagination will not feed itself.

If you want to write, you’ll need ideas to fuel your writing.

If you fill your brain with lots of interesting stuff, interesting stuff will come spilling out.

Consider your inputs as imagination fuel. What kind of things are you exposed to? Do you have a life filled with routine? If you’ve had the same job for a long time, take the same route to work, have the same old friends, re-read favourite books, only read a static selection of magazines and only ever watch the same shows on TV, you’re not giving yourself much chance of having a great idea.

Expand your circle of influences. Change things in your life. Do something you don’t normally do. Accept an invitation that you wouldn’t normally. Be adventurous. Watch a film that doesn’t naturally appeal to you.

New experiences, outside of your usual range, can trigger new thoughts.

The more you put into your brain, the more you can expect to get out.

(Picture courtesy of Sekator)

Make Time for Writing – Writing Tip #6

Writer’s Block

A creative writing tutor once told me that the only difference between myself and Steven King was that Steven King had sat down, many times, and written.

Steven King had written a lot. I had written a little.

You can’t be a good writer if you don’t write.

So get started.

Many “writers” are people who call themselves writers without ever actually writing. These “writers” are always waiting for a good time to get started on the great idea they had five years ago.

These “writers” aren’t writers at all.

Busy lives make it hard to find the time to write, but it’s never impossible. If you currently wake at 7 to get ready for work, consider getting up at 6. Immediately you have an hour to write! Do you have a lunch break? If yes, why aren’t you writing in it?

I know life isn’t always as simple as I’ve made out, but with some creative thinking you should be able to make a few hours in your busy week to write.

** I’d love to hear from anyone who has a creative solution to the problem of finding time to write. Your tricks may help others! **

(with thanks to David AKA Lump of Hesitation for the great picture)

Are you fit to write? Writing tip #7

Real Icelandic Fitness

I’m starting my series of 7 writing tips with something a little unconventional. You might not find this in writing manuals but it works for me, so it may work for you.

If writing feels like hard work, it may be because your body is struggling as much as your mind.

The secret to unlocking your creative energies may be exercise. As vigorous exercise resets your stress levels, wiping away the shadow of previous stresses, you will be clearing the space in your brain, ready for writing!

So if you don’t exercise regularly and find writing a real struggle, consider improving your fitness – it may improve your writing.

(thanks to G Hjoll for the brilliant picture!)

Writing Tips – Seven Little Gems

Three Pens

This week sees the start of my series of writing tips.

Every Wednesday I’ll be publishing a new tip, working up to the most important.

Now these are my own ideas, so they aren’t concrete rules that you must obey. They’re just gentle suggestions that may help you be a better writer.

And these aren’t about copywriting in particular; they’re tips for all writers.

I hope you find them useful – please leave comments!

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