It's a new year and business owners everywhere are trying to decide on how to attract more customers over the next 12 months.
Hiring a copywriter is a step in the right direction. High quality written materials can make a massive difference when it comes to you creating the right first impression with potential clients.
There are loads of ways in which a copywriter can help your business. Here are some examples:
Rewrite website pages
While some websites are regularly updated with fresh, original content, others aren't. Instead, a few pages are thrown together when the business launches and the copy remains untouched. Even worse is when a firm shows itself to the world with old or inaccurate information. Sound familiar? It's time to act.
Restart a blog
'That post was really interesting and useful. But it was written four years ago? I wonder why they haven't written any more?'
Many businesses start a blog on their website but maintaining it can be challenging. Finding the time (or the subject matter) isn't always easy and seeing a blog that hasn't been updated in years smacks of a lack of interest.
Business Proposal Letter
If there's a company you'd like to do business with, let them know. Yeah, you can make a phone call, but a letter allows you to tell your target all about your company, before detailing your proposal and its benefits.
Job Ads for New Staff
So many job ads sound the same. There's three paragraphs of company history before the usual cliches about being 'self motivated' and being 'able to work alone or as part of a team'. Yeah I've used that too.
Hire someone who can make your business, and the job, stand out. A well written description will show prospective candidates that they'd be mad not to apply.
Ghostwrite an ebook
Blogging is one way to show off your knowledge and expertise. But, if you want to go the extra mile then why not write a whole book?
It doesn't have to be 50,000 words, but hiring a copywriter to draft a book based on your industry can raise your profile while showing that you know what you're on about.
Script a Presentation
Standing in front of an audience and delivering a presentation is, for many people, a frightening prospect. It can be even more challenging if you don't have full confidence in what you're delivering.
A properly scripted presentation should have a clear aim, it should flow smoothly and it must link seamlessly from one slide to the next.
Start an Internal Newsletter
A newsletter is a great way to keep employees informed. Whether it's sent via email or takes the more traditional (paper) route, an in-house newsletter can deliver important business related information, while also covering the social side of company life.
Real Product Descriptions
We've all seen them. Those ecommerce sites where little or no effort is made to describe the products they're hoping you'll buy. A boys red BMX bike is described as…
'boys red BMX bike'
Anyone who is serious about selling their wares online needs an alluring product description to draw customers in – and shows the benefits of making the purchase to seal the deal.
When it comes to setting up a new business, hiring a copywriter is unlikely to be at the top of many 'to do' lists. There are a number of other expenses that will take priority.
Depending on the type of firm, these can include paying for premises, equipment, stock and staff. It's little wonder then that many people embarking on such ventures decide to do their own marketing. After all, if you can tell the world about your products or services, why shell out even more money to employ a copywriter?
Of course, given my line of work, I disagree with this point of view. Sure, it's natural that any new business owner will want to keep costs to a minimum, but there are a number of reasons why a copywriter is worth the outlay.
Many people set out with good intentions. They resolve to write a monthly newsletter, every page of their new company website and every product description on it.
The reality can be very different. By the time you've dealt with the day to day running of your business, do you really have time to sit down and start writing?
Everyone has their own talents. For some, those don't extend to their writing skills. Spelling or punctuation errors look awful and then there are the finer points – do you know where to place keywords in a blog post or how to finish a sales letter with a clear call to action?
Poorly written marketing materials will reflect on your business and its ability to attract potential clients. If you're in any doubts about drafting clear and professional copy, then leave it to someone else.
Just because a copywriter doesn't spend every day in your industry, doesn't mean they haven't been there before.
Many experienced copywriters will have worked with firms who operate in the same area of business or are of a similar size. They'll have an understanding of what works and what doesn't. They can also be a great source of ideas.
Not as Expensive as you Think
Yes, hiring a copywriter will lead to you handing over some of your company's hard earned cash. But you don't have to spend a fortune to find someone who can produce good quality written work.
Contact a local freelancer and you may find yourself being pleasantly surprised. He or she will understand they have to be competitive and that should be reflected in the quotes they provide for business clients in their area.
As I've mentioned before, I enjoy working on 'spec' pieces of work to sharpen my copywriting skills and to boost my portfolio.
When it comes to ad copy, I regularly practice via the fantastic One Minute Briefs. This week, however, I've tried something a little different.
Most of my OMB entries have involved a slogan for a product – something short and snappy, of no more than a few words.
It was for this reason that I decided to try a piece of long copy for a change.
The subject was Anti-Bullying Week, which has been running from 13th-17th November. The event is organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, whose website states that:
'Anti-Bullying Week shines a spotlight on bullying and encourages all children, teachers and parents to take action against bullying throughout the year.'
With this in mind, I got to work. When drafting my copy, I also considered this year's theme, 'All Different All Equal', and enclosed some of the key words from the aims of Anti-Bullying Week, namely empower, enable and encourage.
I'm happy with the finished piece. What do you think?
Newsletters. The very name can conjure up images of drab and tired A4 sheets of nothing worthwhile. In some organisations they're created not because they're useful, but because there's always been one.
For many copywriters and marketers, newsletters are yesterday's news. I disagree.
It can still get the job done. Nowadays, it's more likely to be sent by email but, for some firms, even the traditional paper version has it's merits. Here are some possible uses:
Promote blog posts
As I've written previously, blogging is a fantastic way to let the world know more about you and your organisation.
But before anyone reads your posts, they have to know they exist. A link from newsletter to post is a great way of achieving this.
Build a relationship
Customers calling on the services of a builder, copywriter or osteopath for the second time may struggle to remember who they used before. After all, the two instances may be years apart.
Regular contact with that customer would help them to remember you exist. A company name and some familiarity is always better than 'the woman who fitted my kitchen' or 'the guy who fixed my back'.
When a business, or an individual employee, achieves something special, it should be celebrated.
Whether it's an award, a new contract or the hiring of someone new, celebrating it on a newsletter is a great way to earn some credibility...and show off.
Introduce special events or offers
When you advertise a new product, an open day or a sale, you want to target interested parties.
Anyone who has signed up to an email newsletter must have at least some knowledge or experience of your firm, so they're not a bad place to start.
Raise your industry profile
Becoming a recognised name in your industry is an excellent way of boosting your reputation amongst your peers and potential clients.
Voicing opinions or offering advice are both ideal ways of showing that, when it comes your business, you know your stuff.
Ensure employees are included
Newsletters aren't just for external customers. They are also ideal for communicating with employees.
Whether it's to update staff on work related issues or to include them in the social side of your organisation, you can share information with everyone at the same time.
As a copywriter, it's reasonable for people to assume that I have a fairly solid grasp of the English language. And, when it comes to spelling, grammar and my overall understanding, I think that I do reasonably well.
But I'm not perfect.
This post looks at some words that don't come naturally to me, or more specifically, pairs of similar words. Each of the list below has caught me out at some stage.
Some I know, but take me a moment to confirm in my own mind that I'm right. There are also a couple that are complete mental blocks and cause me to doubt myself again and again.
As there are only eight pairs here, clearly this list isn't exclusive. It's more a sample of my confusion.
This is possibly the pairing here that I am most comfortable with. Altogether being the adverb meaning 'completely' or 'entirely', with 'all together' referring to items or people being together.
The second-half was altogether different from the first 45 minutes.
The family were all together for Christmas.
Here, I'm not so sure of myself. Usually, affect is a verb, meaning 'to influence or make a difference to.' Effect can be a noun or verb, but is more commonly used as the former, as in 'a result or an influence.'
The heavy rain will affect my holiday.
He was still feeling the effects of his night out.
Can't is a contraction of cannot. Can't is most commonly used for informal writing. Can not is is written less often. It appears mostly when can precedes a phrase that starts with not.
I can't believe it's not butter.
He stated that he cannot accept the proposal.
Running can not only improve physical health, but also mental health.
Compliment is 'to show admiration or praise for someone or something.' Complement is when 'two separate items look or work better because they are together.'
I must compliment you for all your hard work.
The wine complements the meal perfectly.
Then there's complimentary, as in 'free of charge.'
The young fan was delighted with his complementary ticket for the match.
'It's' is always short for 'it is' or, in informal speech, for 'it has.' 'Its', means 'belonging to.'
It's going to start raining any minute now.
It's got leather seats.
The mother looked after its young.
Is one a shortened version of the other? Is one more formal? This is a pairing that trips me up.
The answer to both of the questions above is 'no.' Both are equally acceptable, they are just different ways to spell the same word. Ok?
Let's is another example of a contraction, this time of 'let us.' Lets is the third person singular present tense form of let – no, that doesn't mean much to me either. I prefer the examples.
Let's just stay in.
She lets her children play outside for longer in summer.
Who's is a contraction of 'who is' or 'who has.' Whose is a possessive, meaning 'of whom' or 'belonging to who.'
Who's up for a few beers and a curry?
I'm not sure whose parents arrived first.
I'm sure everyone has words or phrases that test them. These are some of mine.
As a copywriter, my portfolio of work is vital in my search for new clients. That's why I decided to write an ebook. My book is a nice alternative to the blog posts, product descriptions and sales letters I usually work on.
However, you don't have to be a full-time writer to become an author. With Amazon Kindle and other self publishing sites, bringing out your own book has never been easier. For business owners, there a couple of major benefits from writing an ebook.
Raising Your Profile
If you're setting out on a new business venture, what a great way of introducing yourself. Even if your firm has been around for a while, it's still a great way of making people (potential customers or partners) aware of who you are. With Kindle being available worldwide, it's also an opportunity for you to attract interest from beyond your own town, city or country.
Show Your Expertise
It's a given that your subject matter will be something with which you are entirely comfortable, an area of business that shows you at your best. If you are able to come up with ideas or opinions that are fresh and original, even better. This will help give you credibility with readers who may become clients.
There is, of course, a third potential benefit from writing an ebook – money. If your text strikes a chord with enough people and they leave positive reviews, you could eventually make a tidy profit from your efforts. Though you would have to shift A LOT of books.
The key to a successful ebook is to choose the right topic. It should be something that means you can provide advice, ideas or instructions. It should also be relevant and useful to others. Focusing on a niche area is a smart move, but don't go too narrow or few people will show any interest.
For instance, my book focused on the call centre industry, where I worked for much of my career. I wrote a guide for anyone becoming a supervisor or team leader for the first time.
Regardless of what you decide to write about, don't worry about the length. Ebooks come in all sorts of sizes, so there's no need to pad it out to match the word count of an encyclopedia.
That said, if you do end up with something shorter then that should be reflected in the price. Few people will pay £14.99 for a couple of thousand words...unless you are showing readers a foolproof way of choosing the winning lottery numbers.
One final note of advice – writing an ebook is hard work. Once you've decided what you are going to write about, there's research, the actual writing and the editing of your work. It can (should) be a lengthy process which can take up a lot of your time. Anyone unable to commit to such a project then you should consider hiring a ghostwriter.
Whatever route you decide to take, the benefits of publishing an ebook should not be underestimated.
Since becoming a copywriter, one of my favourite discoveries has been One Minute Briefs. I first learned about OMB when it was mentioned in an interview with another copywriter. I followed the Twitter account first before visiting the website and I've been hooked ever since.
For those who aren't aware, every day OMB come up with a...one minute brief. The subjects include food and drink, household objects, holiday destinations and good causes. Sometimes there's a cash prize on offer, other times the chance to have your work used elsewhere. Mostly, it's for the glory of being chosen as one of the winners and seeing your finished copy on the OMB Facebook page.
Last week, I was one of the successful entrants. On the day in question, the topic was 'pencils'. My immediate thought was to go with a slogan of '2B or not 2B' (geddit?). Despite being impressed with my own quick thinking, I still wasn't fast enough as someone else had the same idea. It was retweeted on Twitter and with a better graphic.
So, it was back to the drawing board, or to be accurate, the laptop. As you can see, I was able to come up with an alternative.
Ok, so I haven't won any awards but a bit of recognition still means a lot. I still consider myself a copywriting novice so, for other, more experienced people in the business to notice what I'm doing is nice. I've also updated my Twitter bio to reflect my small victory.
I'd like to think I've come a bit since my first go at an OMB. The subject was 'bananas'. Struggling for inspiration, I came up with 'If you like peeling a banana...or getting caught in the rain.' I can laugh about it now.
Indeed, such is my confidence that I've made another entry in the last couple of days. This time I managed a couple of RT's and ten 'likes', some of which were from fellow copywriters. This time the brief was 'lettuce' and, thankfully, I'd learned from my previous food related effort. I went with…
ICEBERG AHEAD (Just past the carrots)
As always, I wasn't sure how this would be received but the social media feedback seems positive.
Of course, while the win was nice, the daily OMB's are much more than that – for me anyway. They're an opportunity, a chance for me to come up with something creative in a short space of time. For someone who isn't yet overloaded with work, that's really important.
The next step for me is to try some of those briefs that, initially, don't really appeal to me. Stepping out of my comfort zone can only benefit my writing.
Onwards and upwards.
I've just returned home from a lovely family holiday. It's fantastic to get away and switch off from copywriting...and everything else.
Well, almost everything. If I'm being honest, I didn't ignore work completely. As well as checking on my emails a couple of times during the course of the week, I made a couple of minor adjustments to my website and portfolio. Nothing too demanding.
However, these small tasks did get me thinking, about where and when I prefer to write. Everyone has their own place, or places, where they do their best work. While some people complete peace and quiet, others are more productive when there is some activity around them.
Here are my favourites:
An obvious place to start. I don't have any business premises and I don't intend on having any in future, so most of my work will be at home. Thanks to my darling kids, I don't even have an office or study in the house. Maybe one day.
That said, wherever I am within my home, being creative never seems to be an issue. Whether I'm at the dining table, on the couch or even sitting in bed, writing comes easily. Which is lucky, given how much time I spend there. If the radio or some other music is heard in the background, even better.
Yeah, I know, my garden is still part of my family home. But it's different. Being out in the fresh air, particularly on a lovely summer's day, is a completely different experience.
Even if it's only a couple of hundred words, I love sitting with my laptop on the bench in the garden. Sure, the sun glare can be an issue for the screen, as can the warm rays coming down on my 'short' hairstyle, but these are easily overcome.
Now, let me qualify this one. I'm don't mean sitting in a tropical paradise, scribbling away on an A3 notepad while sipping an exotic drinking under a palm tree.
No, I'm talking a lot more, well, local. A couple of times, while in the north of Scotland, I've found myself with some time to myself as the kids were otherwise occupied. Rather than picking up a book, I've taken the opportunity to fit in some writing. The sound of the waves, the sea breeze and the quiet make for some productive work. While the tide is out, of course.
Back indoors for an obvious choice. The quiet, particularly during school hours, along with the available PC's and reference books make the library one of my favourite places – and not just for writing.
I also feel it's important that I make a point of visiting my local libraries as often as possible. The closure of some and the reduction in opening hours of others is a tragedy. For some, the library is the starting point for an education or career. For others, it's a meeting place and a place to have contact with the outside world. Rant over.
So, that's where I like to write. However, there are a couple of other places where I feel that I'm less productive.
The bus and the underground are a no from the off – there just isn't enough space. While I don't use trains as often as I used to, when I do I often see people working away while sitting at a table.
Perhaps it says more about my concentration levels, but it's not for me. There's too much going on around me. People leaving or boarding the train, checking which stop we're at and people chatting to each other or on their phones. I admire people who manage to make the most of their time during their journey but I'm not one of them.
I don't like coffee, which helps with this one. Though I do enjoy a hot chocolate with fresh cream (hold the marshmallows). Coffee shops are, for me, one of those places where the idea is better than the reality. Sitting inside on a cold or wet day, typing away while sipping a hot drink sounds great.
But it's not. The tables are often small and I'm more concerned about spilling my drink than drafting a glorious piece of copy. There's the noise of coffee machines as well as cups and saucers coming into contact with each other. And don't get me started on the smell of coffee...
I've already posted a couple of times about the importance of building a copywriting portfolio.
I still believe this to be one of the most important stages of my development as a copywriter. My portfolio continues to be changed and tweaked as I try to improve on my body of work. Naturally, my primary aim is to find paid jobs. This will allow me to build a reputation and show off my talents in an attempt to find further clients.
However, I'm not yet in a position to display numerous pieces of writing from paying customers. This means that I still have to rely on 'spec' work.
As I've written previously, I'm quite comfortable with this. For instance, I've created some product descriptions based on real products I've seen online – I wasn't impressed with what I read, so I tried to do a better job.
Likewise, I had a go at some advertising copy. I'm still relatively new to Canva, but I've quickly realised what an amazing resource it is. Even for someone who isn't advanced when it comes to creating online images (yes, I mean me), Canva makes it so easy.
This work is now complemented by my latest idea.
I decided that, rather than produce random pieces of writing, I would create my own product. No, I'm not actually launching it, all I've done is come up with an imaginary product that will allow me to sharpen my skills on different types of copywriting.
The outcome of this idea is Tropical Spark – a fruit flavoured energy drink. So far, I've had a go at some ad copy, a product description and three radio ads. Having a clear idea of the drinks' features and benefits (after all, it's my creation) has definitely helped with my writing and I plan to work on more copy using Tropical Spark.
One day, my portfolio will be rammed full with a host of well written pieces of copy, paid for by a diverse range of organisations – hopefully. Until that happens, I will continue to look for other ways to make the most of my portfolio.
Never, ever, write anything for free.
In my attempts to learn what it takes to be a successful copywriter, I've read that advice many times. A host of articles and blog posts warn against working without financial gain.
Broadly speaking, I agree. No copywriter should put in hours of research and writing without being paid at the end of it. Should he or she become known for providing free copy, it becomes more difficult to charge reasonable rates for future work.
There's also the impact on the profession as a whole. If there are enough eager newbies out there giving away their services, many companies will never pay for copywriting. A worrying thought.
However, in my opinion, there are some exceptional circumstances where writing for free is acceptable. This is particularly true in the case of new copywriters, like myself.
To Raise Your Profile
So, you want to be a copywriter. You want to attract clients. But you don't have a portfolio, other than 'spec' pieces.
Well, you have to start somewhere. It's not ideal, but if you need to write a freebie piece or two to gain a foothold in the industry, so be it. This approach won't sit well with everyone but needs must.
Writing for Charity
Many small charities and good causes can't afford professional copywriting, ruling out the industry big boys. However, like any other organisation, they still need website copy, blog posts, newsletters and marketing materials.
By offering your services, you not only do something worthwhile but gain much needed experience of working for a client.
Blogging is a great way to show off your knowledge or expertise. If you're able to do that on the website of a fellow copywriter then you have an opportunity to make yourself known to your contemporaries.
There's also the added bonus of said copywriter returning the favour and providing your site with a new post. Everybody wins.
Providing a Sample
No, not that kind of sample.
This isn't something I've tried as yet but I'm seriously considering it. In order to show off your talents, you send a small piece of work to a firm you'd like to work with. If you want to write web copy, it could be an 'about' page. Or, if it's for product descriptions, take something from their website and write a better one.