September 10th, 2014 — Freelance advice, freelance copywriter
I’ve been in the freelance copywriting business for 7 years.
I could tell you that after launching Briar Copywriting back in 2007 I have gone from strength to strength, never put a foot wrong and generally been totes-amaze-balls.
I could, but I won’t.
Anyone who tries to convince you they’ve built a business from local to global proportions without any hiccups is lying.
Business is ruthless and, when you’re not looking, will kick you in the balls every now and then just to make sure you remain grounded.
In the grand scheme of things I have been lucky; only suffered a handful of bad debts (very small fry), been lucky enough to have wonderful clients (in the main, with the odd exception) and seen my business grow into an internationally renowned copywriting company. But that’s not to say things have always gone my way.
I’ve made mistakes because I’m human. I’ve done stupid things. But I have learned from them and grown as a person.
The title of this blog says I’ve learned 3 things from my time as a freelance copywriter. In reality, it’s way more than that, but these 3 stick out because they affect everyone in business.
You can’t please everyone
Ain’t that the truth?
There are some people in the world who are just born miserable. It doesn’t matter how much you bend over backwards to help them, they’re never going to be happy.
Every time you ask them a question it’s like you’ve asked them to sever a limb.
You can take a detailed brief from them, especially in relation to the tone of voice they want, and it will be wrong every time.
Do you give up?
No. Not unless there is really no way of working with the client.
It doesn’t happen very often, but ‘sacking’ a client can often be the best solution to a bad situation – for both parties.
Most clients don’t know what they want
In a way, this one is related to the first one and comes in 2 varieties.
Variety 1: During your initial meeting with the client, they seem to know exactly what they want. They give you a detailed brief and even can show you examples of the tone and content they’re looking for. You leave the room smiling because finally, you have a client that knows exactly what they’re looking for. Full of confidence you present the first draft only to be shot down in flames because they’ve changed their minds and seen something else they really like.
Variety 2: During your initial meeting it comes abundantly clear your client has no idea whatsoever about what they want. Your heart sinks further when they utter those immortal worlds “I’ll know it when I see it”. You try your best to prise as much information from them as possible regarding tone, content etc. By the end of the very long meeting you have an idea of what they’re looking for. The initial draft is met with a lukewarm reception – it’s almost there, but not quite. It’s going to be a long night.
Clients that know exactly what they want
In light of the above, you would think these clients are just what you need. Up to a point I’d agree with you, but they do have the potential of turning into nightmare clients too.
These are the ones that give you all the information you need only to completely re-write your initial draft because they think they know best. They ignore all your carefully crafted messaging and turn the document into a ‘we are the best in the world’ ego-fest that won’t sell a bean.
When you try to explain why you wrote what you wrote, they toss your explanations aside because it’s their business and they know it better than you (even though you’re the professional writer and you know marketing better than them). In this situation you’re left with 3 choices:
- Walk away
- Do as they as to keep the peace knowing full well it won’t work
- Stick to your guns and risk being sacked
Trust your instincts
It took me a while, but now I listen very carefully to the little voice in my head when I get a new enquiry.
Over the years I have developed an internal dodgy client detector that’s rarely wrong.
When you speak to someone, if something doesn’t seem quite right, or you don’t gel with them, the chances are it will turn into the project from hell.
My advice is listen to your little voice and learn from past mistakes. Over time you’ll get to sift out the good clients, although that doesn’t necessarily mean business will be plain sailing – that would just be boring.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
September 3rd, 2014 — Uncategorized
In my last post, I talked about how not to do email marketing.
This time round I want to look at the subject lines that you use when sending out your emails.
They are the first thing your recipients see, so it’s essential they have the right impact.
Rather than launching into a lengthy post I’ll get straight to the point by listing below a quick run down of 8 top things that should be avoided.
1. Getting personal
Addressing the recipient by name within the email is a great idea, but don’t also personalise the subject line, especially if you’re sending your emails to a ‘cold’ list.
Of course, in a an ideal world you wouldn’t be sending emails to a bunch of people who haven’t opted in to your mailing schedule. But having their name in the subject line is often seen as a step too far and can look spammy.
2. Asking for money
This one is mainly aimed at charities.
Granted, you have fundraising targets to hit (not to mention a great cause to support), but research by MailChimp suggests that asking for money in your subject line (either using the words donate, helping or fundraising) will lower your click through rate. Obviously, words such as ‘help, ‘helping’ and ‘fundraising’ can be used in contexts other than those directly related to asking for cash, just be careful how you use them.
3. Limited offers
You already know that limiting your offers by number or time is a great way to encourage people to buy. But it would appear that by using a term such as ‘last chance’ in your subject line really cheeses people off. You’ll need to find a different way of getting that across such as ‘the clock’s ticking’ perhaps.
4. Capital idea
This is one of my pet hates.
Why do people think I’ll take more notice of their email if their subject line is in capital letters?
The same goes for exclamation marks. Both scream spam, so don’t use them.
5. Failing words
There are some words that just seem to switch people off emails: join, speaker, press, social, invite and assistance are just a few.
Why are they such a turn off? Perhaps because they don’t overtly offer the recipient anything obvious of value?
6. Be vague
If you want someone to open or act upon your email you have to be specific.
Using a vague subject line won’t inspire anyone to open your email, but if it’s concise and to the point, it will.
More and more people are viewing their emails on smart phones, so it’s never been more important to keep your subject lines concise. Make sure they are no longer than 20 – 30 characters.
8. No tricks
You’ve probably already seen this type of email; they are the ones that use the prefix FW: or RE: in the subject line to try and create the illusion of familiarity.
It’s downright spammy and people won’t be fooled.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
August 27th, 2014 — email copywriting, email marketing, Essential tools for small businesses
It’s time to let the world know your company exists.
What better way to do that than by email marketing?
In a few minutes, your sales email is ready and waiting to be unleashed on the world. You click send and stand back preparing yourself for when the phones start ringing.
Hold on a minute, you’re going about it all wrong.
For starters, if you’ve bought a list you’re heading nowhere fast.
Think about it for a moment.
You’re about to send an email selling your products and services to a bunch of people who have never heard of you before and haven’t asked you to get in touch.
That’s a big problem.
If you’re not sure why let me ask you something – what do you do when you sift through your emails in the morning?
What happens when you come across one from a company you’ve never heard of before that’s trying to sell you something you haven’t asked for?
You delete it, right?
So why do you think the recipients of your email are going to do anything different?
That’s why buying in a list is never going to work.
Building your own opt-in list is a much better idea. For starters, the people on it would have heard of you and, secondly, they have given you their email because they are interested in what you have to offer, so your email is going to be relevant to them.
Yes, it takes time to build a list, but use every opportunity to get people to sign up: at trade fairs, during phone enquiries, when people visit your shop or showroom.
What is your email saying?
Is it telling them about your products and services?
Does it have a call to action directing them to your website or your phone ordering line?
Is it asking them to buy from you?
Stop right there. You’ve just committed the second most deadly email marketing sin.
The chances are, you’re fairly early on in your relationship with your email marketing list. If you dive in asking them to buy from you, you’re likely to be met with a lukewarm-bordering-on-frosty reception.
You’re asking them to buy without having gained their trust first.
You’re a new company to them (potentially a new supplier) so it’s important you spend time introducing yourself to them and offering them great information that will be of benefit to them.
Over time, they will get to recognise that your emails are packed with great insights, tips and hints and general warm and fuzziness.
The advice you offer them (completely free of charge) reflects well on you making you the go-to authority in your field.
Therefore, when they are ready to buy, whom do you think they’ll get in touch with first?
- The company that bombards them with sales or emails?
- Or, you who has been putting their needs first, giving them great information and advice without wanting anything in return?
I know who I’d put my money on.
Yes, you can include any offers or new products/service in your email, but make sure you also offer them useful information and advice first. The reference to your products should almost be an after thought.
Think like a customer
The best way to gauge how your email will be received is to think like a customer.
If it landed in your in box, what would you do?
Think about how it would come across to someone who doesn’t know your company that well – is it too salesy, too pushy?
Email marketing, although a fast way to reach thousands of customers in one hit, isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ marketing solution.
It’s all about building trusting relationships with your list.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd
August 20th, 2014 — Advertising, Branding
You’ve already seen the power of search marketing.
It’s not a coincidence that the dresses you’ve been looking at or the bike you’ve been drooling over constantly appear in on screen adverts and all over Facebook. For a while now Google et al have been watching what you’ve been looking at, reading your profiles and matching subtle advertising with the stuff you love.
Whether you think that’s great or a bit creepy, it looks as though it’s a trend that’s set to continue.
A recent article about Tumblr in The Drum caught my eye.
Apparently, Tumblr is signing a deal with Ditto Labs. If you’ve not heard of them, they’re a firm that analyses photos on social media to look for brand related data. Anything from someone holding a bottle of soft drink to a picture of you wearing a branded jumper.
Well the deal will give advertisers the opportunity to see what their fans are saying about them and to get an insight into how they are perceived.
Is this going to be yet another way companies get to bombard us with random adverts for their stuff, or just an innocent exercise in understanding their customers in an attempt to improve their brand?
According to Tumblr, this partnership doesn’t mean you will be targeted based on what you’re wearing or holding in your Tublr photos…at the moment.
My own opinion is divided on this particular issue.
On the one hand, it’s useful to only get ads that are relevant to me, but it gets annoying when the item I’ve just bought keeps popping up.
What do you think of all this?
Is it a good thing that anonymous companies have such power over us?
OK, at the moment it’s the subtle placement of (potentially) relevant ads, but where does it stop?
Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts.
August 13th, 2014 — marketing
A short departure from the usual posts about marketing, copywriting and social media today, but still relevant.
You can’t help but have noticed the rise of the selfie. From the world famous Oscar effort to that really annoying dance hit #SELFIE, they are everywhere. They were even banned at the Tour de France because of the dangerous situations spectators where getting into trying to get their heroes in the background.
You may think there’s nothing to one – a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time. But you’d be wrong.
According to an interesting post I came across the other day by Dan Zarrella there’s a lot more to a successful selfie than first thought.
What follows is an infographic he put together from a study of 160,000 Instagram images tagged #Selfie.
Take a look and grab some tips to make your selfie liked.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting Ltd