When not to hire a copywriter

What’s this? A copywriter suggesting you might not want to hire a copywriter? Am I mad? Too busy to take on any work? Not actually a copywriter at all? Well, no, on all fronts. It’s just that sometimes it’s probably best all round if you don’t try to hire a copywriter.

You don’t know what you want

To do the best job we can copywriters need a brief so we know exactly what’s wanted from the get-go. Still figuring out what you’re going to include in your online course? Er, that’s going to make writing a sales landing page a little tricky. Not sure what you want on your website yet or how many pages you need? Um…

Without knowing the scale and scope of the work I’m afraid we’re buggered. We can’t give more than a ballpark quote for starters. Or an idea how long the project will take. And we definitely can’t magic up blow-your-socks off content. On the few occasions I’ve gone blindly ahead (never again!) work stops and starts and takes one step forward and two steps back as me and the client struggle to – quite literally – get on the same page. It’s never ended well.

Here’s an idea…

Get clear on what you want before chatting to a copywriter. That way you’ll get an accurate quote and a good indication of when the work will be finished. And it means the project is more likely to run smoothly, with no tears or tantrums on either side.

You don’t know what a copywriter does

Hello. My mate says I need a copywriter. I don’t know what one of those does – but I found you online. Can you help me?’

Chances are if you don’t know what a copywriter does you’ll fall off your chair when you hear what they charge.

‘Seriously? But it’s only words. Forget it then – I’ll get my 10-year-old nephew to do it. Or his gerbil.’

Here’s an idea…

Why not clue yourself up on copywriters before you call. While I’ll always explain how I work and what I can bring to a project, it’s handy if you know a little bit about copywriting first. It will help you decide if hiring a copywriter is right for your business – or you’d be better off with that gerbil.

You’re not ready

You’re thinking of working with a copywriter but you don’t have all your ducks in a row yet. Maybe you’re in the middle of a rebrand or need time to sort out the budget. So you decide to sound out a copywriter or two, get a feel for how they work, what they charge and when they’re available so you’ll have all the information you need when you’re ready to hire one.

That all sounds great – except that if you’re still figuring out the job spec it’s impossible for a copywriter to give you a proper quote (see You Don’t Know What You Want). Also – there’s a timing issue. You might not be in a position to work with a copywriter right now but there’s no guarantee they’ll be available when you’re ready to roll.

Here’s an idea…

If you find a copywriter you love keep in touch to let them know how things are going and check on their availability. If they’ve been snapped up by someone else it gives you time to find another copywriter – or reschedule your project.

You don’t have the budget

You’d love to use a copywriter but you just don’t have the moolah. I get it, I do. But I still need to run a profitable business and keep myself in chocolate biscuits. I’m happy to negotiate on large projects but don’t tell me you’ve got limited funds because your house is being renovated/you’re going on a round-the-world cruise/the vet’s bill was extortionate. And please don’t try that ‘If you give me a big discount now I’ll have lots of lucrative work to send your way in future’. You won’t!

Here’s an idea…

Start small. If you don’t have the budget for new web content how about I sort out your About page at least? Or write one blog a month instead of two? Or do one press release? It will give you chance to see what my words can do for your business – and how much value I can bring.

* Go on – convince me you’re ready to hire me.

PHOTO: Pixabay

A story about calligraphy…

If you read last month’s blog you’ll know that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions and instead make a list of lovely things to do for the year. You might recall that I wrote about lovely ways to improve your content. Hands up – it was a tenuous link to copywriting. You didn’t read it? That’s a relief – because there’s another one of those tenuous suckers coming up!

So, my lovely things list started with learning sign language. I already know a few basics as I have a brother-in-law who’s deaf and he’d helpfully taught me how to sign ‘bullshit’. Still, I figured learning some more words and phrases would be useful. I’m not sure he’d agree. Yesterday we were chatting and I signed ‘Why were you born?’ and ‘Do you want cake in your coffee?’ It’s a work in progress.

My latest lovely thing to do is calligraphy. I’d never considered it until a Facebook ad popped up and I thought ‘Ooh, hello, that sounds lovely, I’ll give that a go!’ And now for that tenuous link…

The website for the calligraphy subscription box is awesome. I loved its calm simplicity – which totally fits with the brand. How the words are really clear about the product. The photos of the happy customers. The meaningful testimonials. The way you can quickly see the different pricing options. I tell you, that website had everything I needed to decide I wanted to buy. Which can’t be said for some websites that are so cluttered and confusing I just can’t be arsed.

The awesomeness didn’t stop there. As soon as I’d signed up I received a batch of emails welcoming me, confirming payment and giving me a referral link. Some automated emails can be soooo long and dull. These weren’t. They were informative and yet short, straight-to-the point and friendly. That’s a big thumbs-up from me.

So how’s your marketing doing? Do your Facebook ads hit your target market in the eyeballs? Does your website engage, inform and invite sales? Are you communicating in the right way to keep customers happy?

No? Well wouldn’t it be just lovely if you could get it sorted?

* I can sort you out. Get on the dog and bone and let’s talk.

PHOTO: Pixabay

4 nice things you can do to improve your content

I used to be a sucker for New Year’s resolutions. Go to the gym, lose weight, eat healthily, give up chocolate. I’d kick off January with good intentions… but come the end of February it had all gone pear-shaped (quite literally when it came to my waistline). So now I don’t bother. Instead, I make a list of nice things I want to include in the coming year – like a monthly facial, eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant, learning a new skill (I’m going to give sign language a go).

While I’m thinking of nice stuff, here are some lovely things you can do for your content in the New Year. (Yes, it’s a tenuous link but I’m on a Quality Street high and my brain is a mush of caramel swirls).

#1 Be kind to your content

You’ve written a blog/newsletter/web page and you’re so excited to get it out into the world you hardly give it a second glance. It’s only later you realise it’s got a howler of a spelling mistake, is missing a vital bit of information or, um, actually doesn’t really make that much sense. Give your sales and marketing content the attention it deserves by doing this:-

* use spellcheck and Grammarly

* whack up the font size to  help you spot glaring mistakes

* print it out, wait 24 hours then read it again

* get someone else to read it

#2 Keep things fresh

Google loves shiny new content. Ever since its Freshness Algorithm Update (yes, it’s a thing) it can’t get enough of freshly written words. If Google comes across content that’s old, outdated or about as topical as an Eighties pop star it’s not going to do you any favours on the ranking front. To stop your content getting as stale as a week-old bread roll, read it through to see if it needs a freshen-up. Weed out any out-of-date stuff and replace it with more useful current information that both users and search engines will love. Oh, and don’t forget to keep your shiny new blog posts coming!

#3 Dare to be yourself

Make this the year you don’t copy your competitors. OK, so I said the same thing around about this time last year when my advice was to Be More Marmite. I’m saying it again because I come across so many business owners who don’t have the confidence to be themselves. They play it safe on their About page with a bland career summary instead of a personal story that connects with their audience. They shy away from being funny or quirky or controversial – or anything else that highlights what makes them different. It makes me sad. And I don’t want to feel sad. So for your sake and mine – could you go all out and really show off your brand personality in the New Year?

#4 Hire a copywriter

Yeah, yeah – subtle, huh? But seriously, one of the loveliest things you can do for your content is to get a copywriter on board. Imagine the relief of knowing your sales and marketing content is in safe hands. That you don’t have to come up with compelling words that fit together beautifully. Or worry about all those weeny bits of text like headlines, straplines and CTAs that you don’t really know what you’re doing with. Or figure out SEO stuff. Or any of the other frankly brilliant wordy things that a copywriter can do.

* Looking for a lovely copywriter to do lovely things to your content? I’m here for you

PHOTO: Henri Mathieu-Saint-Laurent/Pexels

Just give me the words – and shut the heck up!

Last week I lost out on a web content job. Cue violins and soggy tissues. No, really, it’s OK, it happens. The funny thing is I knew it was going to happen. And I knew the prospective client made the right decision to go with another copywriter.

Gemma (not her real name, obvs) ran her own business. When she’d started up she’d written the content for her website herself. Now she wanted new words. She told me the content was too waffly and long-winded (it was) and she knew that a copywriter would do a better job (absolutely).

Write clear, concise and compelling content? Hello! That’s exactly what I do.

But, hang on, I do more!

Value-added copywriting

I told Gemma that my quote included things that other copywriters might not bother with but were really important for SEO. Keywords for starters. I’d look at the phrases that prospective customers would be searching for and make sure they featured throughout the website – not just in the main content but in the headlines, sub-heads, Calls To Action and testimonials. And talking of testimonials, I’d give them a makeover so they transformed from insipid to inspiring, clichéd to convincing. I’d also write the url and meta tags for each web page – darned useful when it comes to helping people decide whether to click through to your website.

To be honest, I was feeling pretty chuffed. I knew that I was going to add a huge amount of value to the job.

And I didn’t stop there. As we were chatting I mentioned the web design. I told her it wasn’t great. It didn’t look clean and user-friendly. Too many tabs. Things in the wrong place. I had to be honest with her – it really wasn’t doing her any favours in terms of customer journey or SEO. Bottom line? I could do all the good stuff with words but the design needed work.

Gemma went a bit quiet. I sensed that I’d said something wrong. We wrapped up the conversation and I sent my quote. Later that week, Gemma emailed to say thanks for all my advice, the price was reasonable… but she’d gone with someone else.

When all you need is words

I was disappointed. I’d been so helpful. Explained the value I’d bring. Gave a quote that was acceptable. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking about Gemma going quiet. And I knew it was at that point that she’d decided not to hire me. And I kind of knew why.

It didn’t take long to confirm my suspicions. In a complete coincidence a couple of weeks later I bumped into Gemma at a work thing. I asked if she’d mind giving me some feedback. And she did.

When Gemma came to me she needed a copywriter. She wanted to make the words better. That was all. She’d thought about budget and what she could afford and she just wanted me to give her a copywriting quote. Then I threw a spanner in the works! I started telling her how crap the website design was, how it needed to be changed, that I could only do so much with words. She’d come to me to solve one problem – and I’d given her another one to think about. Now wasn’t the right time for Gemma. She didn’t want the hassle. She didn’t want more costs. And, frankly, she didn’t want a copywriter who was quite so opinionated and controlling telling her what to do (my words, not hers!). So she went with someone else (who charged about the same as me, by the way).

I got it. Gemma wasn’t my ideal client. The business owners I work with LOVE that I tell them how it is. They appreciate my no-bullshit, honest, I’ve-got-your-best interests-at-heart guidance and advice. They’re grateful they’ve found a copywriter who doesn’t accept second rate and who wants their website – and all their marketing bits and pieces – to be the best that it can be (don’t get me started on the time I tried to convince a client that their leaflet would look more professional if they hired a graphic designer rather than knocking it up themselves).

So, I lost out on the job but I gained a clearer understanding of who I really want to work with. And Gemma? She hired a copywriter who was the right fit for her and got exactly what she wanted done. Hurrah! Forget the violins and snot-splattered Kleenex – this sad story has a happy ending.

* Looking for a tell-it-like-it-is copywriter? Give me a try

PHOTO: Kristina Flour/Unsplash

Copywriters – they’ll fix your content problems

This month I want to talk about my leaky washing machine. What the heck’s that got to do with copywriting? I know, I know, it seems like a stretch, but bear with me…

I’ll be honest, I was dreading the repair man coming. I knew it wasn’t going to be a simple job. To get to my washing machine you have to practically dismantle the kitchen units around it. I prepared myself for the repair man’s reaction. Tutting. Eye rolling. Head shaking. Sharp intakes of breath. Mutterings. All of which were guaranteed to put me in a state of panic. He wouldn’t be able to fix my machine and I was going to drown in a sea of smalls.

When he arrived I braced myself. But then something wonderful happened. He listened calmly as I gave him a garbled account of the problem, he asked some questions and… wait for this… when I mentioned the kitchen units he smiled and got out his screwdriver (no time for innuendo, people, move on). I was soooo relieved. He was going to fix the problem! And I mean fix the problem without making me feel like it was my fault, or I was making his life difficult or this was the worst job he’d ever had.

Copywriters and can-do attitude

And that’s where copywriting comes in (I know, I know, I took my time). Working with a copywriter is like having my lovely washing machine repair guy with you. Copywriters don’t make you feel bad about your content – like ‘You’re kidding, you want me to work on that?’ We don’t say things like ‘I dunno who did this before, love, but they’ve made a right cock up of it.’ We don’t make you feel like your content can’t be fixed but we’ll grudgingly have a go… and by the way it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. No, sir!

Copywriters are helpful folk. When you come to us with content that’s not serving you well all we’re interested in is making it right. Maybe you know exactly what the problem is. Often clients tell me ‘Writing’s not my strong point – I can’t get across what I want to say.’ Hey, no judgement – you carry on doing what you’re good at and I’ll crack on with the words. Perhaps your sales and marketing content isn’t giving you the results you want but you don’t really know why. That’s OK – let’s have a chat and explore what’s going on with you, your competitors and your industry so I can nail the content.

Copywriters also love a challenge. Well, I do, for sure. The more of a problem your content is, the more excited I am at helping you fix it. That’s because I understand how important great content is to your business and, as a business owner myself, I really want you to have the best words in the world. Ever!

So no ifs, buts or tuts – if you want to fix your content, hire a copywriter. Screwdriver optional.

* Want helping fixing your words? Let’s talk

PHOTO: Brett Jordan/Pexels

Copywriting and sales communications

So this month I bought a summer house. I don’t know about you but before I buy anything I do loads of research so I can get as much info as possible and compare prices. This is where websites are really handy for helping you to make a buying decision. Or not – as the case may be.

There was one website that didn’t have any prices. It was a bit of a dog’s dinner anyway to be honest – poorly laid out, bad quality photos, links that didn’t work – but I persevered. Not everybody would have bothered but I REALLY wanted to know the prices. But, nope, they were nowhere to be seen. All I found was a terse message to ‘Phone for prices.’ I was naffed off and no mistake. You see, they weren’t being helpful, they were making me do the work to get what I needed. So I phoned them to complain.

A very tired-sounding man – the owner – explained. The price of timber kept going up and every time the prices changed he had to manually amend the web copy. It was so time consuming he’d stopped doing it. Well, okay, fair enough – but why not communicate the absence of prices with an explanation and an apology?

Maybe something like this: ‘Sorry you’re not seeing prices for our summer houses. The cost of timber is currently subject to change so please phone us for an up-to-date price.’

Or a more cheery, cheekier tone: ‘Wot – no prices? You wouldn’t believe how quickly timber prices keep changing so call us for an up-to-date quote.’

Personally, I would’ve been happy with that. I would’ve picked up the phone to make an enquiry (not just to give them a piece of my mind).

Mind you, the message could’ve worked harder. Seems to me the business owner also missed a trick by not letting potential customers know that prices were increasing and creating a sense of urgency.

‘Don’t see any prices? Due to Brexit, the cost of timber is currently rising fast – to secure your summer house before the next price increase call us today.’ Or even better: ‘Hurry! Order your summer house before prices go up next month. Call us to get a quote today.’

It always frustrates me when people fail to use their sales and marketing communications to, er, communicate. It particularly saddens me to see wasted opportunities on a website. You’ve got this fantastic online presence that’s perfect for talking to your customers, giving them information, answering their questions, helping them find what they need. Why would you want to leave them hanging and lose a potential sale?

So anyway, after the summer house man explained things we had a chat and I got some prices. He said he’d send me a brochure, which was helpful. He didn’t. Which wasn’t. I bought my summer house from another company. Next month, I’m looking for decking…

* Need a copywriter to help you communicate? Let’s talk

PHOTO: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay