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Frustrated at writing your own copy

Does the prospect of writing your own copy make you feel like this?

I know that there are times when you’re faced with writing your own copy, perhaps because you don’t feel you can afford to outsource it (although you’d be amazed by how affordable it can be) or because it’s particularly close to your heart and something you want to write.

I also know – because lots of you tell me via my Facebook page – that knowing where to start when you’re staring at a blank page can be pretty overwhelming. Suddenly, all those ideas you had have disappeared – it’s a though they actually got up and walked out of your head.

So, here are five of my own tried and tested copywriting project starters:

 

Writing your own copy, tip 1 – Know your ideal customer

Copywriting and blogging both share a conversational tone, and it’s so much easier to write copy when you know who you’re talking to. If you’re stuck, sit down with a pen and paper and create a profile for your ideal customer. Ask yourself some simple questions and be as precise as possible in your answers:

  • Are they male or female?
  • How old are they?
  • Are they married?
  • Do they have children?
  • What are the big problems worrying them right now?
  • Where do they work?
  • How much do they earn?
  • Where do they spend their leisure time?
  • What books and films do they like?
  • What do they want their life to look like?
  • How will their life look if they use your products or services?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • What brands do they buy?
  • What sort of language appeals to them?

If you’re not sure, you could always think about your current customers and work out what common ground they share. You could even ask people on your Facebook page.

Once you know who your copy will be talking to, you have a starting point. Sometimes, I pretend I’m actually talking to my ideal customer and I record what I’m saying on my phone (thank goodness, no-one can see or hear me!) because it’s easier to get to the point that way.

 

Writing your own copy, tip 2 – Know your goals

On the briefing form I use with my clients, I usually ask them to identify their main goal(s) for the copywriting project. You should do the same. One goal is fine.Know your copywriting goals

For example, if you’re trying to come up with the right words for a Facebook ad, ask yourself what you want it to achieve. Are you trying to get more likes from targeted people? Do you want people to download your ebook? Are you advertising a competition?

If you’re writing a web page, what do you want your customer to do after they’ve read it – sign up to your newsletter? Give you a call? Book a free consultation?

Once you know your goal, it’s far easier to write your copy. Start with the end point. Identify the call to action – i.e. what you want them to do – and work from there.

 

Writing your own copy, tip 3 – Benefits, not features

When I’m planning a copywriting project, I find it much easier to work with a pen and paper than on the computer. For me, there’s something about taking notes and mapping things out that goes right back to my school days.

In my trusty notebook (I always have several to hand), I make a note of all the key features I want to mention in the copy but I then jot down ideas about how each one can be turned into a benefit.

Instead of just saying that a dental practice offers implants, for example, I think about what implants mean to the patient. They make their smile look more attractive, which makes them feel more confident. They restore their bite, which means they can eat food like apples and steak without worrying that their false teeth may move or come out (saving them from embarrassment and giving them back the enjoyment of food they may have loved in the past). They can be colour-matched to the surrounding teeth, which is great for the patient because it means that their smile will look natural and no-one will be able to spot their dental work – again, giving them confidence in their appearance.

So, take a moment to list your features and then turn them into benefits.

 

Writing your own copy, tip 4 – Create a structure

Something that helps me when I’m writing is to write five to ten bullet points about what I want to say.

As I’ve discussed before, people reading websites tend to skim read the copy in a capital F or capital E shape. This means that they’re most likely to read the headline and first paragraph, any bullet points that run down the left hand side of the page, an attention-grabbing paragraph above the page fold (the point at which they have to scroll down to read more) and sometimes a summing up paragraph or call to action at the bottom of the copy.

For this reason, it’s crucial that you lead with the most important information in the article. Try to include a ‘hook’, a provocative quote or question that sparks their curiosity so that they want to read on. This is sometimes called the ‘inverted pyramid’ structure. If you look at most newspaper articles, they follow this.

 

Writing your own copy, tip 5 – Get those words on the page

In my experience, the best way to get a copywriting project moving is to start writing. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But the thing is that sometimes we have a tendency to over think our words or spend so long in the planning that we lose momentum. When I’m really stuck for where to start, I just make a commitment to write something, anything!

As you begin to write, you’ll probably find that your ideas begin to solidify. You may end up deleting half of what you’ve written but that’s OK. Copywriting is a process that can always be tinkered with and fine-tuned.

Someone once advised me to go back and delete my first paragraph whenever I finish a first draft. The theory is that it’s in paragraph two, after the introductory preamble, that you really get into the nuts and bolts of what you want to say. Try it – I’m always amazed at how well it works.

Also, go back to your copy with fresh eyes and put your editing head on. Is there a shorter, punchier way of saying something?

Again, it helps me to print out what I’ve written and scribble notes over it. I get a strange sense of fulfilment from cutting words out or thinking of better ways to make my point. But maybe that’s just me.

If you are ever stuck though or simply don’t know where to start, it’s always worth having a chat with a copywriter. Your project may be more affordable than you think and save you hours of time that you could be spending elsewhere.

If you’ve found this article helpful, why not sign up to my weekly newsletter for loads of free copywriting hints and tips?

Shouting girl photo credit: greg westfall. via Compfight cc

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Emma Heasman

Emma Heasman has been an in-house and freelance copywriter for the past 13 years and launched The Freelance Copywriter in 2003. Ever passionate about copywriting, she now works with small businesses to help them write copy that speaks to their ideal customers. Connect with Emma on Google+

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