I was sitting in the dog park, my scared little pooch glued to my side instead of playing with the bigger (and meaner) dogs, when a woman turned to me and asked, “what do you do for a living?”
I hate this question.
It’s not because I’m not proud of being a Chicago freelance writer. I used to dream of the day when I could answer the question with one simple phrase, “I’m a writer.”
Truthfully, I never thought I’d actually be able to say that and have it be true.
Because I had the exact same misconception that many people seem to have about professional writers.
I can anticipate the questions flying through their head.
How do I make any money? Why am I talking to them, don’t I have absolutely no social skills at all? Do I write fiction or poetry?
Here are four common misperceptions about writers decoded and explained:
I used to think this too. There was no way to make a good living while being a writer unless you wrote fabulous fiction like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
Turns out, I make almost twice as much writing as I used to make at my old job working for a publishing company. It took me awhile to get here, but now that I am here, I’m a happy camper.
I think the reason most people assume writers are broke is because very few appropriately price the service they provide. I used to be one of them, charging pennies for hours of my time. I thought that even though I was a professional writer who had mastered my craft, what I was doing still wasn’t worthy of real money.
That’s until a fellow freelancer sat me down and set me straight. She asked me how much money a company would make if they had great sales copy that really sold their product rather than blasé copy an amateur had written just to get a website finished. The answer is a lot more money.
If my copy gets a product sold, or a service provider hired, then I’m worth way more than my hourly rate.
This is the biggest fallacy of them all, at least as it pertains to freelance writers. I can’t speak for poets or fiction writers.
I try to split my time 50/50 — 50 percent actually writing, and 50 percent networking to find my next clients.
I have to be more social in this position than I ever had to be while working in an office. I have to sell myself and my services on a daily basis. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the job, because truthfully it can get lonely sitting at home writing all day. I crave the social interaction. And, just for the record, I never, ever, ever work in my pajamas.
I used to think that to be a “real” writer, you had to have a book of poetry published or a fiction book in the works.
That ain’t my bag.
I love writing sales copy. I love figuring out a new angle that will help get a product sold. I love telling a company’s story.
Web writing suits me. I can get a point across in 350 words or less using bullet points and tons of white space. It’s not every writer’s forte, but it just happens to be mine.
I’m never happier than when I have a blank new website just begging for copy that will bring it to life.
I’ve waxed poetic on the need for effective web content before, so I’ll spare you now, but let it be said that a website with poorly written content is an anti-sales tool.
It’s true I’m not great with numbers. If I was, I’d be a fancy investment banker on Wall Street and wear power suits. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to run a business.
Being a writer doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to invoice, or price appropriately, or determine overhead costs.
When it comes to making my business profitable and successful, being a writer only helps me as I know how to convey my message and get myself hired.
What are your misperceptions about writers? Do you assume we all sit in coffee shops wearing berets and toiling over our latest short story? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I realize this headline might come off as a bit controversial. There is so much that goes into branding, how can copywriting be the key to success? I’ll tell you why. Without a message, you have no brand at all. If you aren’t able to write down your message and define it, then you aren’t able to get across who your company is and what you offer.
When most businesses brand, they focus on the logo, color scheme, and tagline. I argue that a well-crafted brand is all of the above plus a website and the marketing materials that go along with it, which is where the copywrting comes into play.
A great copywriter should be able to sit down with you and ask a few simple questions about your business, take those answers and craft your message. From there, you will understand your business’s characteristics.
When I am helping to define a company’s branding message for a website or marketing materials, I ask seven important questions. I’ll share my favorite two with you:
1. What sets you apart?
2. Who is your ideal customer?
Many businesses are surprised they don’t know the answers off the top of their heads. They seem like such simple questions, but often it can be like trying to define a word that you know what it means but can’t figure out how to describe it to others. You might know the definition, but if nobody else does, what good does that do you?
When a copywriter is asked to write copy to help build a brand, here are some of the materials this may include:
1. A clear and concise few sentences or paragraph
2. Tagline or slogan
3. Product description
6. Company profiles
7. Many, many, many more
In all of the copy, the brand’s message needs to be reinforced again and again. For example, if after answering the questions and defining the message, it turns out the core concept of your doggy grooming business is offering incredible customer service and only organic products, this needs to be said again and again in the copy. Every part of the copy needs to address customer service and organic. From the CEO’s profile to the tag line that goes on the business cards.
Creating great brand identity is not just in the design, but the really important parts lie in the words that accompany the design.
Do you agree or disagree with my assertion that copy is more important than design? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Case studies are in high demand. With ROI being the important acronym on the market today, a case study is a sales tool that companies cannot be without.
Simply defined a case study is: “a detailed account of a company, industry, person, or project over a given amount of time. The content within a case study may include information about company objectives, strategies, challenges, results, recommendations, and more.”
I write case studies two different ways. The first is in as an article and follows this format:
1. A problem is identified. The customer looks for a solution.
2. The customer finds a new product that might help solve his problem that is offered by a company. The customer tries this product.
3. Wonderful news! The product worked and the customer is thrilled because his problem is solved. He tells everyone how wonderful this product is.
It’s a success story written in an article format, trying to pull out some of the human elements. It’s a feel good story and is usually around a page or two in length and has a design to give it a corporate feel.
The second way to write case studies is in short form. Instead of writing a story, I identify three facts:
1. The problem
2. The solution
3. The results
These are usually only 200 words and are much more focused. They don’t go into a ton of detail, but instead work to really showcase the results.
If a business invests in having a case study written, there are several highly effective ways to put that case study to use to get more clients and make more money. I’m going to share a few with you below:
1. Feature the case study on your website
By having the case study on your website, any prospects who come across it will have instant proof that you have had success before and aren’t afraid to share the results. In fact, you want people to know how great your company is.
2. Provide to sales people
A case study can be used as a sales tool. Anyone going into a sales meeting armed with solid proof that the company they work for had such a happy customer, they were willing to be interviewed for a case study has a pot of gold with them. It adds credibility to the company and the meeting.
3. Turn the case study into a press release
Use the case study to generate publicity. Try getting your name in the media for your amazing results.
4. Mail it to prospects and customers
Not only is this a great way to keep in touch, but it gets you in front of potential customers again. Reminding people you exist is half the battle of gaining new clients.
5. Give it away for free
Use the case study as an added incentive. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll give you a case study that shows how our product truly helped another company and how we can help you do the same.
In the end, a case study is basically a giant testimonial from a really happy customer. Every company should be using these as a way to sell their services or products. It’s like the best Yelp review ever.
Do you have any questions about case studies? I’d be happy to answer them and show you how a case study could help make you money.
Hiring a professional copywriter means you will have more time and energy, and you’ll make more money. Not a bad deal, is it?
Most businesses don’t realize the importance of strong writing. Nor do they understand how a copywriter makes the difficult job of selling a product or service easier. Or how using a copywriter frees up time and energy for other aspects of the business. In case you are one of those people, I am going to use this post to explain why hiring a copywriter could be the best decision you will ever make. I will go so far to even suggest it can be the difference between success and failure.
Quite simply, we write copy. Copy for a website, brochure, blog post, or promotional material you’ve never even thought of. Thanks to the Internet and social media, there is a bigger demand for quality writing than ever before. Additionally, copywriters are experiencing greater freedom making them (and me) even more effective. Hiring a copywriter can take an ad campaign or website from plain to successful.
The reason we are able to achieve so much just with words is because we understand them and know how to use them to our advantage. Every word that goes into a project is given careful consideration. Creating that all important hook in a promotional piece or writing the tone of a website is both a skill and an art form that copywriters excel at. In my own process, I experiment with the important words, the ones that do the selling, to see what word best fits with what I am trying to accomplish. My goal is always to drive traffic to my clients’ businesses.
Many businesses choose to hire a freelance copywriter rather than have one in-house. The reason? Most freelance copywriters, myself included, are used to working with short deadlines (sometimes only a few hours) and stressful situations, while still being able to deliver effective and hopefully brilliant copy.
Additionally, what may take the non-professional writer four hours to complete, I can have done in around one hour, most likely with better results. In the business world time is money, and paying a copywriter opens up many hours to accomplish tasks other than writing brochure copy or proofreading a press release.
There are two answers to this question. The first is you can and should expect to receive copy that engages current and potential customers, sells your products or services and positions you as a professional.
The second answer is less about the copy and more about your business. You can and should expect to spend less time writing, editing, proofreading, and researching marketing materials for your company. That is now the job of a copywriter.
You can also expect to make more money. Good copywriting will drive sales by explaining to potential customers why they need you, and getting at their deepest emotions.
Paying someone to write may seem like an unneeded expense when you know how to write perfectly well. In addition to making more money and having more time, which I’ve already covered, there is a third reason why hiring a professional copywriter is worth the investment. You’re too close to your business.
Having an objective opinion can help you see your business in different ways. A copywriter can come in and really see what is working and not working in your business, take that information, and craft marketing materials that contain effective messaging.
Think about all the expenses of your business. What do they accomplish in the end? Is it clear and effective communication with your current and potential customers? If not, what can be more important than that?
Hiring a professional copywriter is a business decision that will change almost every aspect of your business for the better.
The only question left to ask is how can you not afford to hire a copywriter?
Hiring a writer is one of the smartest moves any small business can make.
I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do. I’m saying it because I have seen the toll that bad writing can have on a small business, and I’ve seen the effect of good writing.
For all you out there who know your website needs updating and are thinking about doing it yourself, please read the following analogy.
You need a new computer. You’re not sure what to get. (Although if you have half a brain, you should get a mac and I’m only saying this because it’s opinion week. Any other day I will respectfully acknowledge your right to buy a PC, although I may silently judge).
Sorry for the opinionated rant…back to the story:
You walk into a store and ask a sales person for help. You pick him because he looks knowledgeable, and he has glasses. This reassures you for some strange reason that you may decide to talk to your therapist about. He’s in his mid to late 30s which means he isn’t so old he doesn’t understand computers, but he’s not so young that you’re afraid he’s going to ask for a bottle in the middle of the conversation.
You introduce yourself, and tell him what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens. He launches into an incredibly dry monologue about the computer in front of you. You don’t really follow a word he says, he uses technical terms that make your brain hurt, and you’re not even sure he listened to what you were looking for in the first place.
After four minutes your eyes glaze over and you patiently wait for him to be done. Let’s face it, if you could have walked away in the middle of the story without being rude, you would have.
The point of this story? Poorly written webcopy gives visitors the option to walk away in the middle of a long, boring story. If this sales person were to write the web copy for the computer store, it may be very informative, but chances are, it won’t be engaging. Most visitors will walk away in the middle of his story.
Now imagine you walk into the computer store and you ask a different sales person for help. This person is younger, but now you’re thinking maybe you need someone younger who isn’t going to bore you to death with crazy words. He has kind of a hipster look to him, and smiles at you. He’s friendly so you pick him as your guy. Again, you let him know what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens.
Guy #2 launches into an incredibly personal story about the computer in front of him and why he loves it and you just have to buy it. His aunt got it for him for his 21st birthday and he used the computer to sign up for an online dating service and now he has a girlfriend and they’re going to have sushi for dinner that night. It’s a wonderful story. You were entertained. But did he convince you to buy the computer? Probably not.
Webcopy that is full of enthusiasm and makes you want to read it really fast like a teenage girl talking is fun, but it isn’t informative. It’s engaging, but it doesn’t make the sale.
There’s a magic behind writing copy that both provides information while also engaging visitors. Most small businesses owners can sit down and write about their company, but the question is: are they giving the correct information while also making it interesting? Probably not.
With my analogy I hope I’ve shown why it’s so important to have informative and engaging copy. It’s a skill that most copywriters work their entire lives to perfect. Make the investment to hire someone to write your copy in a way that will entertain and inform those who visit your site.
So ends the week of opinions. I feel like none of mine were overly controversial but it felt good to get my ideas and opinions out there. I encourage all bloggers to do the same!
What do you think about my analogy? Did it work for you? Do you think hiring a professional writer is worth your money?