Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
I’m a copywriter, but any type of freelancer knows about spec work. Whenever potential clients ask you to try your services first before deciding whether or not to hire you, that’s spec work.
I refuse to do spec work. Here’s why.
- I’m a professional, and expect to be paid like one—You wouldn’t ask your doctor to give you a free diagnosis, would you? You wouldn’t expect a mechanic to work on your car for free. Why anyone would expect anything differently of a copywriter or designer has never made sense to me. I’m a professional. This is my business. If you want to tap into my expertise, you’re going to have to pay for it. Period.
- There’s always paid work to be done—I never have a shortage of paid work, and for that, I’m truly grateful. So, why would I spend my time on something I’m not going to get paid for when I could be working for clients who actually will pay me? It just doesn’t make good business sense.
- My portfolio speaks for itself—Clients that ask for spec work claim that they do so because they want to make sure the writer or designer can produce work that meets their quality standards. I have literally thousands of samples of my work. If you can’t tell if I’m the right copywriter for you by looking over my samples, you’re not paying attention and you just want something for nothing.
- It helps me keep my prices reasonable—As a freelancer, I get paid for my time. Whenever I’m not doing paid work, I’m not making money. So, if I spend time on spec work, I’d have to make up that lost money somehow, and the only realistic way to do that would be to raise my rates on paid projects.
- Most asking for spec work are low quality clients—Let’s be honest, the type of clients that ask freelancers for spec work probably aren’t the highest caliber of clients. Even if you get the gig, they’ll likely be disloyal and leave you whenever they find a cheaper service provider. And their “something for nothing” mentality will drive them to have impossibly high standards you’re always struggling to meet.
Do you ever take on spec work? Why or why not?
Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
Want to instantly improve your sales copy? Whether you’re writing a landing page or an email, here are 5 questions you need to ask yourself before you write a single word of sales copy.
- What am I selling? No, I’m not just talking about the name of the product or service you’re selling. I’m talking about what you’re selling on an emotional level. How does your product benefit the customer? What does it make them feel? Are you selling happiness? Self-confidence? Comfort? Pride? Safety? Buying is an emotional decision, so you need to understand what you’re really selling.
- Who am I selling it to? Who do you think you’d have an easier time trying to persuade: someone you’ve never met and that you know nothing about or someone who you know every single detail about them, from the way they think to their likes and dislikes? The better you know your target audience, the more precisely you can tailor your sales copy, allowing you to connect with the reader more effectively. Check out this post I wrote about defining your target audience.
- What objections might the reader have? It’s rare that someone instantly decides to buy something without having at least some initial doubts. Consumers are more skeptical than ever before. They have their objections…those things that cause them to hesitate when considering making a purchase. It’s your job to anticipate these objections and to address them head on in your sales copy, so you can turn every “no” into a “yes.”
- What questions might the reader have? I don’t know about you, but before I make almost any purchase, I have some questions that I need answered. It could be a question about which features the product has, or it might be about the company’s money-back guarantee. You need to do your best to address any questions customer might have about your products, because questions can lead to second thoughts about doing business with you.
- What do I want the reader to do? This is the most important question you can ask. If you don’t motivate your readers to take action, your sales copy serves no purpose. It’s just a waste of words. You have to figure out where the customer is at in the buying cycle and tailor your sales copy accordingly. If they’re still researching the products, you may just wish to have them contact you for more information. If they’re at the point that they’re considering making a purchase, the next logical step would be to encourage them to place an order now. Figure out what you want the reader to do, and tell them to do so as clearly as possible.
Are there any other questions you like to ask before writing sales copy?
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
One of the biggest copywriting mistakes you can make is to get your copy off to a bad start. If you don’t hook the customer right away, they’re not going to keep reading forward. There’s no time to get warmed up. You have to come off the starting block quickly and smoothly.
Here’s an example of what I mean. You’ve probably come across copy that reads like the following:
Cosmetic Dentistry Services
ABC Cosmetic Dentistry has been serving the Houston community since 1990. We offer a full range of cosmetic dentistry services, including teeth whitening, dental implants, and porcelain crowns and bridges. You’ll get the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted, helping you be more confident as you look your very best. And with our advanced technology, you can see results in just one office visit.
What’s wrong with this copy? It takes too long to get to the important stuff—the true benefits customers care about. Sure, it’s necessary to mention that the office has experience and to detail some of the services offered, but that’s not what’s going to suck readers in and get them excited.
The important part of that opening paragraph is at the end: “You’ll get the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted, helping you be more confident as you look your very best. And with our advanced technology, you can see results in just one office visit.”
The copy should lead off with those points. Here’s an example of a reworked version that is more effective.
Get the Confident, Beautiful Smile You Deserve
Are you tired of hiding your smile because you’re unhappy with your teeth? A beautiful smile increases your confidence and self-image. With just one office visit to ABC Cosmetic Dentistry, you can get the smile you’ve always wanted. For more than 20 years, we’ve helped Houstonians smile confidently with our cosmetic dentistry services. Whether you need to brighten your smile with our teeth whitening solutions or you have a broken tooth that needs to be replaced, we’ll give your smile the care and attention it deserves.
The difference is that this reworked version addresses the needs of the readers’ right away. It gives them something they can relate to, causing them to get sucked in and keep reading.
When writing copy, you have to start with the most important information. If you don’t get to the point, you’ll lose readers and never get more sales.
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
When you think about writing copy, you probably see it as a creative process, and for the most part, it is. But the creativity can’t be manufactured out of thin air. It needs to be fueled by something, and the best copywriters understand that the most effective fuel for creativity is good, focused research.
How can you expect to sell a product if you don’t take the time to get to know it intimately? How can you expect to build a connection with an audience if you don’t spend time learning who they are, what’s important to them, how they communicate, etc.? How can you expect to differentiate yourself from the competition if you don’t know anything about them?
Too many copywriters try to take shortcuts, relying on guesswork and their “wit,” rather than spending their time on research. There is no substitute for research in copywriting. Period. No matter how busy you are or how quickly you want to get that copy out there, you have to spend time researching the product to learn everything there is to know about it.
Often times, you’ll discover during your research that the true appeal of a product is something that’s not apparent up front. It’s only when you truly dig deeper and learn about the product or actually use it yourself that you realize that it’s not always the most obvious benefit of the product that you need to focus your copy on.
Stop looking aimlessly for inspiration. Instead, start researching, and inspiration will have its own special way of finding you.
Sunday, September 4th, 2011
Just when you finally got the art of writing website copy down, along comes something else new that you have to learn. Thanks to the abundance of smart phones, it has now become important for copywriters to know how to write great content for mobile versions of websites. Make no mistake, mobile web copywriting is different than the typical website copywriting you’ve grown accustomed to.
The main thing to remember is that mobile users are typically even more easily distracted than regular web users, and that’s saying a lot. Not only do they have the standard short attention span of someone browsing the web, but they also have the distractions of incoming phone calls, text messages, push notifications, and much more. Maybe they’re just surfing the web while standing in line or while riding in the car with someone.
What does this mean for you?
It means you need to think like a mobile user. You need to understand why someone would be browsing your website from their cell phone.
In most cases, they’re browsing for reference purposes. They’re looking for specific information. Maybe they’re in a store looking at a similar product and they want to compare it to yours.
This means your copy needs to be tight and focused. You don’t have time to build up to the point. You have to get straight to the meat and potatoes of your sales message. No long intros. No longwinded stories. Get to the point ASAP.
You also have to remember that mobile phones have tiny screens. What might look like just a short paragraph on your computer screen could look like a long narrative on a tiny mobile device, requiring a lot of scrolling. You have to keep this in mind while writing your copy. Figure out how to get the most impactful message across with the least possible amount of scrolling required.
The best way to achieve this is to set a goal for each page on your mobile website. Figure out the main purpose of the page, and cut out everything from your content that doesn’t contribute to that goal.
In short, think like you’re Tweeting or texting. Make it concise, smart, and easy to understand. Waste no words, but don’t forget to include some intrigue that encourages people to keep reading and take action.
What are your best mobile copywriting tips?