June 17th, 2015 — Copywriting careers, Freelance advice, freelance copywriter, freelance copywriting
Oh, for the life of a freelancer.
No more 9 to 5, no demanding boss, no more commuting, no more pointless meetings…
But hang on, freelancing means no more regular pay cheques, no paid holiday or sick leave… what about my pension? Where’s my security gone?
On the face of it being a freelancer appears to be the first step to the utopian lifestyle you’ve always dreamt of. But once the rose tint has worn off your glasses, you’ll begin to see that it’s not as cushy as you first thought.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t dive in and give it a go (it’s worked very well for me for the past 7 years), but if you do, make sure you have realistic expectations.
The life of a freelancer
Starting out on your own can be a scary business. There are lots of things to consider and if I covered them all this would turn into a novel rather than a blog post. So for now I’m just going to look at two aspects – finding clients and growing a thick skin.
Hello? Clients? Where Are You?
To be a freelancer you need clients, so where are you going to look for them?
In your previous life it was never an issue. The marketing department took care of the ‘finding customers’ malarkey leaving you to get on with your work. But now the responsibility is all yours – you lucky thing.
A website, Facebook page, Twitter account and blog are not going to bring the constant stream of clients you need, at least not without your input. Marketing yourself online is only one piece of the puzzle; the other is getting out there and meeting people.
If that fills you with dread, don’t worry you’re not alone. Networking isn’t for everyone, I should know. It has to be one of the worst aspects of the job for me. Walking into a room full of strangers makes my blood run cold. But it is a necessary evil if you are to get your name known.
Another way of finding new clients is to actively build relationships with local design agencies – web designers are always on the look out for good copywriters to work with.
To widen your net further and target your dream clients, why not try a mail shot?
Create a list of companies you would like to work with. Then find the name of the person you need to contact (usually the Marketing Manager/Director depending on the size of the company) and create the best sales letter you’ve ever written. Send them a little freebie to make your letter stand out and follow up with a phone call – you never know what doors that might open.
Once you have your clients and work starts to trickle in, another challenge arises.
On the whole there are 3 types of client:
- Those who hire you because they need your expertise and trust your judgement
- Those who hire you, tell you what they want and then change their minds after you’ve written it
- Those who brief you and then re-write everything because they believe they are far superior writers
The first type is a gift and usually a joy to work with.
The second can be annoying, but a well-written proposal stipulating exactly what your fee covers and the hourly rate that will be charged for any extra work not originally briefed, usually solves any issues.
But the third will make your life hell.
Despite the fact your client has actively sought your professional writing services, they will believe they know better than you.
So what do you do when your first draft comes back with a scathing email?
- Take a deep breath
- Go outside and scream at a tree
- Return to your desk and think about your response rationally
Sitting down with them is the best way to sort this out. You can then calmly discuss the original brief and show how you fulfilled it and ask them what it is they don’t like and work with them to resolve it.
This ‘working together’ approach is usually best as it makes them feel more involved in the process and makes them feel valued.
Should you give it a go?
What have you got to lose?
Despite the ups and downs (let’s face it, every type of work as plenty of those), freelancing is a rewarding and enjoyable way to earn a living.
The freedom and potential financial rewards it offers far outweigh any of the downsides. If you’re prepared to work at it and never give up you will succeed.
What are you waiting for?
Sally Ormond is copywriter and MD at Briar Copywriting Ltd. Quite possibly the country’s only cycling copywriter, she’s currently training for an epic bike ride from Newcastle to London – that’s 300 miles in 24 hours! – raising funds for the Make A Wish Foundation.
June 10th, 2015 — copywriting tips, marketing
The entertainment world is a buzz with the term “triple threat”. It relates to performers that excel in acting, singing and dancing – a very rare breed.
You’re probably wondering what that has to do with copywriting.
Well, if you want to be a great copywriter, you must be able to create content that:
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Creating interesting copy that people actually want to read that also ticks those three boxes is quite an art.
Writing in an engaging way is tough.
If you think that people will read anything you put out there, you’re in for a nasty shock.
It’s your job to write about the product or service you’re promoting in a way that makes the reader think “Wow, I need that. How have I managed without it all these years?”
A mere description is not going to be enough. You have to create a story around it, showing off its benefits.
OK, yes, this is marketing copy and no one is going to read everything you write word for word, but if you hit the right tone, it will resonate with them and make them stop and think about what you’re selling.
Earlier I mentioned creating a story. Storytelling is one of the most powerful sales tools out there. The story format is used because it engages and draws your reader in. Written in this style it takes on a more interesting light and by adopting a friendly tone of voice your reader will be helpless as they become immersed in what you’re telling them.
There is a big difference between educating and lecturing.
Marketing copy that educates shows the reader how great their life will be if they had the product or service. That means focusing on the benefits not the features.
The colour, shape and size of the product (its features) are not going to make someone buy.
However, show the reader how it will make their life easier, make them richer for more successful, and they’ll buy, buy, buy.
This is where storytelling comes into its own again. Just like fables are told to young children to persuade them about the benefits of good behaviour, storytelling in marketing illustrates what could happen if a buyer acts in a certain way.
Even the strongest stories need a helping hand, which is where persuasion comes in.
Creating writing that persuades is quite an art. You need to employ several techniques to make your writing as powerful as possible, such as:
- Rhetorical questions
- Emotive language
- Facts and statistics
And of course, it should always be written in the second person – i.e. “you” not “we”.
Life would be a whole lot easier it you could just tell someone your widget is the best ever to make him or her buy it, but it doesn’t work that way.
Before you can get your reader to part with their hard earned cash, you have to persuade them that not only is your product or service right for them, but that you are a reputable company they should be doing business with.
On top of the devices listed above, your copy should also include testimonials, evidence of your facts and figures and a guarantee to give extra peace of mind.
Only when you offer all three – engagement, education and persuasion – will your copywriting bring in the sales.
June 3rd, 2015 — blog, blogging, blogging for business, Branding, copywriting tips
Corporate blogs drive traffic to your site, raise your company’s profile and show you customers that you are a market leader.
They are also a complete pain.
In two words: multiple contributors.
On the face of it you probably think that’s a good thing because it means one person isn’t left to produce all the copy.
You’d be wrong.
Multiple contributors mean major headaches, because chasing them for content is a bit like herding cats.
There’s also another problem – continuity, or rather the lack of it.
Many voices cause confusion
Every company has a brand voice.
When you have multiple contributors, that single identity gets lost and you end up with a vast array of writing styles that create a cacophony of noise that will put readers off.
Plus, you’ll find that some people are naturally gifted writers, whereas others are not.
Some can write in engaging, simple language that everyone can understand.
Others only write in complex terms that result in a meaningless article that leaves everyone scratching their head.
How can you get round this problem and create a successful and long lasting corporate blog?
Streamline your blogging process
The answer is not to get one person to do all the writing because your blog will need to cover a number of different subject areas and one person is unlikely to be able to write everything.
That’s why the best solution is to have a blog Gate Keeper.
The posts are written by your own subject matter experts and then passed to your Gate Keeper.
It is then their job to:
- Copyedit each article to bring in line with the brand voice
- Tweak them to make them more readable (i.e. by adding sub headings etc.)
- Source images to bring the subject matter to life
- Add elements of SEO
The end result is a healthy blog that’s regularly update with readable articles.
Whether this is done in-house or outsourced, it is the best way to make sure your corporate blog remains healthy and popular.
Author – Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting
May 27th, 2015 — copywriting tips, email copywriting, email marketing
This post first appeared on Briar Copywriting’s blog, but we thought you might be interested in it too.
Email marketing remains one of the most popular forms of marketing. When things get a bit slack, it doesn’t take long to put something together and send it out to the thousands of opt-in contacts in your customer database.
The only problem is most industries have an average open rate in the low 20 per cents and a click through rate that barely scrapes 4 per cent. Even if you hit those averages, it doesn’t matter how big your list is, your not really being effective.
There are numerous articles out there that claim to have the magic formula to higher open rates, but there’s nothing magic about email marketing. All you need to do is be yourself.
1. Be you
Even though you want your customers to buy from your company, it’s you they are really dealing with.
That’s why you should always write like a human. Even if you are in the B2B sector a human will be reading your email, so keep it conversational. If you’re not sure how to do that, picture yourself having a conversation about what you’re writing about and write as you talk. When done, read it out loud and if any parts start to sound wooden or business-like, cut them.
“Voice” is one of the most important parts of your marketing, but it’s a term that’s used liberally without much explanation. The best way to think about it is the “voice” you use is how your writing sounds when it’s read.
Another big part of conversational writing is asking questions, so make sure you use them in your email. They will make the reader stop and think about what you’re saying, increasing engagement.
Admittedly, this may not be your natural way of writing and it will take time to perfect, but persevere with it and you’ll see those open rates begin to rise (when used in conjunction with the other points I’m about to raise).
2. Important elements
What are the 3 most important elements of your email?
OK, I’ll tell you:
- Your subject line
- The first line of your email
- Your “From” line
When your email arrives these are the first 3 things the recipient will see, so they have to make an impact if you want them to open it.
For the subject line and first line of your email, make sure they are short and to the point, personalised (definitely the first line, up to you about the subject line) and that they lead with a benefit.
What about the “From” line, I hear you say? How on earth can that have an effect on the open rate?
Well, it’s important it comes from a real person. If your customers get an email from firstname.lastname@example.org they are more likely to ignore it than if it came from email@example.com.
Last, but not least is the responsiveness of your email.
Did you know that 65% of emails are opened on mobile devices these days? That’s why they need to be responsive so they open and display correctly on any device and any screen size.
Email marketing is great when it works well, but as with all marketing it takes time to refine the art and that means constant testing.
Try different styles of subject lines, when you send your mailing and the subjects that you cover. Over time you’ll gradually learn what your audience is looking for.
May 20th, 2015 — Link Building, search engine optimisation
Links are a vital part of your search engine optimisation strategy, but it can be a frustrating practice.
How many times have you written a superb article for a website only to be told their policy is to give no-follow links.
You want to scream, right?
Before you tell them where to go, stop and think for a moment.
Ask yourself why you wrote the article in the first place?
You wrote it because you want to show yourself as an expert in your field and spread the word about what you do.
Granted, a follow link from such an auspicious website would have been very welcome, but a no-follow one could be just as valuable.
No. bear with me on this one.
OK, so you won’t get any link juice, but you will get something else.
The website in question agreed to publish because they were impressed with your writing and felt it was something their readers would enjoy. That means they think you’re a thought leader, which is how their readers will see you too.
Once they read your article the chances are they’ll check out your author’s bio at the end. They’ll want to know more about you and so will follow the link to your website.
Boom – you’ve got increased traffic.
Once on your site they’ll have a poke around to see what you do and what you can offer them.
See where this is going?
You may not get a dribble of page rank juice, but you will get new visitors to your website, opening up your business to a whole new market.
That’s pretty cool.
You see, links aren’t just about juice, they are also about building a reputation and that’s worth its weight in gold.