How Freelancers Can Use Cold Calling

I spent three years working in my school’s call center while I was in college. It was a student call center, where we would call alumni to raise support for student scholarships and other projects around the University.

 

It wasn’t exactly cold calling, but it was pretty close. On some nights I would make as many as two hundred calls. (Of course, the nights when I managed to get through two hundred calls were the nights when virtually no one answered the phone, but that’s as may be.)

 

Here’s the thing: when I first started, I was terrified of phones. As a child (and as an adult) I would shy away from answering the phone at the slightest excuse. I’d pretend not to hear it ringing. I’d run around the house shouting, “Phone’s ringing!” Heck, I’d even pick up the phone and hang it up again. (This was back in the old days, when you would actually “hang up” phones.)

 

So it took some doing for me to warm up to making phone calls. But over time, I became better and better at it. I ended up having some pleasant conversations during those evenings at the call center.

 

When I became a freelance writer, I decided I wanted to master cold calling. I still don’t love the process, but now I can safely say I can use the cold call to rustle up business whenever I’ve got a slow week.

 

If you’ve never done cold calls before, it can seem pretty daunting. And there is a learning curve when it comes to cold calling well. But I want to share with you how I got over my fear of cold calling, and how you can do the same in your freelance business.

 

How I Got Over My Fear

I made phone calls every day for three years, but I still have butterflies in my stomach when I pick up the phone for cold calling.

 

When I first decided to make cold calls, I hadn’t called regularly for years. My old fear of phone calls was at it again, holding me back. I knew I had to start making cold calls if I was going to get the business I needed, but at the same time I wanted to shrink back and avoid it.

 

So how did I get over my fear?

 

I didn’t just jump in and start making calls from the get-go. “Taking the plunge” might work for a one-time thing, but I meant to make a habit out of cold calling for as long as I needed to do it. I had to get my mind in the right place first.

 

Instead, I did all I could to prepare for cold calling as well as possible. I took time to put together a list of contacts. I took time to write out a script—which helped me map out what to expect from the process. Most importantly, I listed everything about cold calling that scared me.

 

Because when you’re afraid of something, the worst of it is that your fear strikes you as a vague, undifferentiated mass of awfulness. The simple act of naming all the aspects of cold calling that scared me broke up that undifferentiated mass into specific, small fears. Instead of saying I’m afraid of cold calling, I could say I’m afraid of rejection, or getting yelled at, or awkward moments with strangers. And now that I had a group of specific fears instead of one big vague fear, I could come up with ways of dealing with those fears.

 

Being afraid of rejection turned into, “What do I do if a prospect says no?”

 

Being afraid of getting yelled at turned into, “What do I do if a prospect yells at me?”

 

Being afraid of awkward silences turned into, “What do I do when there’s an awkward silence?”

 

By analyzing my fear into its component parts, I gradually turned it into a plan for making my calls as good as possible. And when I no longer had any excuse left for not calling, I started.

 

So let’s address some of the major fears that might be holding you back from making cold calls.

 

What’s Holding You Back?

If you’re anything like me, the idea of cold calling gives you a cold feeling of dread in your stomach. What if you get rejected? What if you get yelled at? What if there’s an awkward moment? And worst of all: what if things get so bad and you get so embarrassed that you die?

 

Let’s address the first of these fears: the fear of rejection.

 

Let’s face it: if you’re trying to sell your services, you’re going to be rejected more often than you get accepted. Particularly when you’re starting out, many more people will tell you no than yes. The fear of rejection is only going to hold you back. Which means you have to think of a way to reframe the situation.

 

One way you can do this is by realizing that it’s actually a good thing when people tell you “No, thank you.” When people tell you they’re not interested in your services, it means you no longer have to waste time on a prospect who isn’t interested in what you have. Rejection always stings a little bit, but it’s not a disaster. So you don’t have to worry about it.

 

What if you get yelled at? First off: while it does happen, it happens so rarely that it’s hardly worth mentioning. Remember, you’re a skilled professional calling during business hours to offer a valuable service. It’s not like you’re calling people in their homes to ask them for donations.

 

And second: even if someone yells at you, you’re not obligated to stay on the phone with them. Once a prospect raises his voice, you’re more than welcome to hang up. Think of it this way: as soon as a prospect starts yelling, you can feel pretty safe putting that company in the “no” column.

 

What if there’s an awkward silence? Honestly, this is a problem I’m working on right now. I’m not exactly the smoothest or most natural conversationalist in the world, although I’m working on it. One thing I’ve noticed is that you can’t go too far wrong by asking a question. You should be able to avoid awkward silences by preparing a list of questions to ask in the event of an awkward moment.

 

Lastly: what do you do if you have an experience so bad that the person on the other end laughs at you, the earth breaks open beneath your feet, and the bowels of the earth swallow you up?

 

My advice: don’t worry about it. Remember: cold calling can’t kill you. The worst thing that can happen is that you might feel embarrassed for a few moments. Maybe, once in a million years, somebody will yell at you and hurt your feelings. It’s not that bad.

 

Seriously. Cold calling is no big deal. The only reason you’re worried about it is because you’re not familiar with it. But if you commit yourself to making a few cold calls every day, you’ll very quickly reach the point where you don’t even worry about it.

 

So let’s get you started.

 

How to Get Started

 

Let’s say you want to get started cold calling today. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to cold calling success.

 

  1. Put a list of prospects together.

Find a few companies that fit your ideal client profile. You can look for them on social media sites like LinkedIn, or some more niche sites like CrunchBase or AngelList (if you want to work with startups). Most companies will have a phone number publicly available, and it won’t be too hard to identify the person you’ll want to talk to. Most likely, you’ll want to talk to the head of marketing, the creative director, the editor, or someone with a title along those lines.

 

  1. Write your calling script.

This doesn’t have to be fancy. Remember, you’re mostly doing this so you can get used to being on the phone. It’s okay if you only say something like, “I’m Geofrey Crow and I’m a freelance copywriter. I’m calling to see if you need any writing work done.”

 

It’s not a fancy pitch, but it gets the message across. You can always come up with something more sophisticated later on.

 

  1. Make five calls today.

Now that you’ve got your script and your list, it’s time for you to get on the phone and start dialing.

 

Full disclosure: if you’re making five phone calls, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll actually make it to talk to more than one decision-maker. That’s just fine. The point of this exercise is to get you comfortable with dialing the phone. If you actually get to talk to some prospects, that’s icing on the cake.

 

  1. Take notes when you’re finished calling.

Take notes after every phone calling session. Figure out what you did wrong—and when you’re first starting out, there’s plenty you’ll be doing wrong!

 

This is crucial. If you want to be an effective cold caller, you need to be able to identify what you’re doing wrong. This can be as simple as saying “uh” too much, and it can be as complex as, “I think I’m emphasizing the wrong benefits in my pitch.”

 

Cold calling is always a work in progress. There’s always something you could be doing better. Make a habit of identifying problems and you’ll be in great shape.

 

  1. Make ten calls tomorrow.

You made five calls today. Make ten tomorrow. Keep building up that number until you can’t build it any more. If you really need business, you can keep building till you’re making calls all day long.

 

The point is that you should keep making calls until you don’t mind making calls anymore. Then you’ll still make calls, you just won’t think about it.

 

If all this sounds unpleasant and overwhelming to you, I can sympathize. It’s not the easiest thing in the world. But it’s also not impossible. Get in touch if you need help.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

 

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AIDA: How Can Freelancers Write Seductive Copy?

 

The first time I landed a copywriting client, my blood ran cold.

 

I sat in front of my laptop, staring blankly at the screen. My stomach felt like a giant empty hole. I only had one thought in my mind: what do I do now?

 

I felt like a fake. I felt like a sham. I felt like I was about to get found out.

 

Let’s be honest: I was so shocked and so anxious that I couldn’t think straight. I wanted to dig a hole in the ground and bury myself in it somewhere where nobody could ever, ever find me. Especially my client.

 

Because here’s the thing: I’d never really done copywriting before.

 

Sure, I’d read blog posts about it. I’d read stacks of books about it. I’d even copied out great pieces of long-form copy by hand just to get a feel for the style. But I’d never actually taken a copywriting project from beginning to end before.

 

How could I do it?

 

For several weeks up to that point, I’d been thinking of nothing except how I was going to get myself some clients. Cold calls. Prospecting emails. Social media promotion. It had been a constant grind to sell my work.

 

Suddenly it dawned on me that now that I’ve sold my work it was time to do the work. I felt like the proverbial dog chasing a car. I didn’t know what to do now that I’d caught one.

 

If you stick with freelancing long enough, you’re going to run into this problem. How do you deal with it? One word: AIDA.

 

AIDA

A good writer knows that structure is one of the most important elements of writing. A good essay follows a certain structure. A good screenplay follows a three-act structure. A good poem is almost all structure.

 

AIDA is the acronym that gives you the four ingredients of good copy, in the order you need to provide them. Those four elements are:

  1. Attention

First things first: you have to find a way to get the reader to look at your writing for more than a couple of seconds.

 

  1. Interest

Once you’ve got the reader’s attention, you have to tease out her curiosity. Address her interests and convince her that it’s worth her time to read what you’ve written.

 

  1. Desire

Gradually, you convince the reader (or even better—you allow her to convince herself) that the product or service you’re selling is valuable and desirable. This is a subtle thing. You don’t push it on her: you invite her to see what’s good about your offer.

 

  1. Action

Granted, there comes a time when you have to ask for the reader to buy, or to take whatever action you’re interested in having her take. This doesn’t have to be forceful to be effective. If you’ve done your job in the other sections, the right reader will be eager to take action by this point.

This is the basic structure of all good copywriting. Granted, you can experiment with this structure as you learn what you’re doing and improve your craft, but these are the fundamentals.

 

Those are the basics of the AIDA acronym: attention, interest, desire, action. The most effective copywriters already use this method, and it’s a crucial part of any copywriter’s education.

 

So let’s get in-depth about the application: how do you put AIDA to work?

 

Attention

I want you to imagine something for me. Imagine you’re scrolling on Facebook. You see two links come up, back to back.

 

One of them says “Hey, click the link and buy my thing!” The other one shows a picture of an attractive young woman looking sadly off into the distance and says, “17 Things Only People With Anxiety Understand.”

 

You probably already know what I’m going to ask, but I have to ask it anyways: which one are you more likely to click on? We both know it’s the second one.

 

Now, why is it the second one? Speaking for myself, let’s throw out a few possible explanations:

 

  • I can identify with the title. I’m neurotic as all-get-out, and I know clicking the link will probably show me a lot of experiences I can personally relate to.
  • It makes me feel a little special to feel like I can understand things that only people with anxiety can understand.
  • The number 17 is a little off. It’s an unusual number, and it catches my attention because of that.
  • I hope you won’t judge me too harshly for this, but (speaking only for myself) there’s no image more likely to get my attention than a picture of an attractive young lady.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: all I’m doing here is analyzing how clickbait headlines work. And you’re right.

 

But here’s the point: clickbait headlines work for a reason, and if you want to catch attention online you have to understand those reasons. Nothing in the online world gets read unless it gets clicked first.

 

Titles. Images. Headlines. These are all critical elements of making sure your content gets read.

 

That’s attention.

 

Interest

Now that you’ve convinced the audience to click your link, you have to show them it’s worthwhile to actually read your content. How do you do that?

 

There are any number of ways to solve this problem but they all boil down to this: you need to show your reader enough of what you’re going to say that she wants to know more. This is key.

 

If the reader isn’t curious, the reader isn’t going to take the time to read your copy.

 

Understand this: it’s hard to get your content read. You’re competing against the rest of the world for your reader’s attention. For the moment, you have to be more interesting than Neil deGrasse Tyson. You have to be more inspiring than Oprah Winfrey. You have to be more seductive than Kim Kardashian.

 

That’s the crucial challenge. In copywriting, you have to achieve two things: you have to A) convince the reader to read your content even after it becomes clear that you’re selling something, and B) convince the reader to actually take action.

 

If you can’t seize the reader’s interest, you’ve got nothing. If you can’t keep the reader’s interest, you’ve still got nothing. Without interest, there is no copywriting.

 

Make your reader feel something. Emotion is the trigger to action.

 

Desire

Now that you’ve hooked your reader, it’s time for the fun to begin. The magic happens when you’ve caught the reader’s interest enough to keep reading, but not yet enough to get them to buy.

 

This is the part where you seduce the reader. You show the reader how wonderful things will be if he buys what you’re offering.

 

You show the reader what’s so great about your offer. You have him imagine buying from you—but you don’t directly ask him to do so yet. You show the reader how great it will be to own your product or service.

 

You show him why it’s desirable. But you don’t only do that.

 

You also show him how bad it will be if he doesn’t own it.

 

Because that’s the subtletly of desire: it’s not only a matter of wanting to have something pleasurable. It’s also about avoiding something painful.

 

You have to make not buying appear as painful as possible. You have to show the reader how bad things will be if he misses this chance to buy. You have to make the reader feel that intense fear of missing out.

 

That’s the key to copywriting: you have to show the reader how good it will be to buy from you and how bad it will be not to buy from you. Ninety percent of copywriting is emotion.

 

So tell the reader that buying your product or service will lower his monthly costs by 50 percent. But also tell him that the window of opportunity to get the edge on the competition is shrinking. Alternate positive and negative emotion, and you can work wonders.

 

That’s desire.

 

Action

In a way, this is the simplest part of copywriting. You’ve already got the reader’s attention. You’ve already convinced the reader to read your content. You’ve already given the reader the chance to fall in love with your product.

 

So you’ve put in the leg work. But a bad call to action can kill all the hard work you’ve put in up to this point. It can take all the tension you’ve created and leave it flat.

 

So what are the elements of a good call to action? Let’s name a few:

 

  • A good call to action doesn’t pressure the reader.

If there’s any time for pressuring the reader, it’s in the “desire” phase. Sure, you might add in a few phrases like “Act now!” or “Supplies Limited,” but you don’t try to make the decision for the reader. It’s always the reader’s decision.

 

  • A good call to action tells the reader exactly how to order/buy.

In other words, make sure your instructions are clear. You don’t want somebody to give up on the buying process because it’s too complicated, do you?

 

  • A good call to action gets written.

I’ve seen amazing pieces of copywriting go south because the writer was too afraid to actually make the ask. Copywriting is not for the timid. Ask for the purchase or suffer the consequences.

 

That’s your call to action.

 

AIDA: Yes, You Have To

I know you might be thinking, “This is all good and well, but do I really have to write this way?”

 

The short answer: yes.

 

The long answer: yes, but after years and years of practice you might be able to figure out a better structure if you happen to be a genius.

 

These are the fundamentals of copywriting. The best way to learn good copywriting is to practice using these techniques till you’re sick of them. Write, and write, and write. Try, and try, and try.

 

AIDA has been developed over the long history of the profession of copywriting. It’s the best basic structure anybody’s been able to come up with.

 

Remember what we were saying earlier about three-act structure in filmmaking? Well, three-act structure has been around since the time of Sophocles. Maybe we’ll never know why that’s the most effective way to write a story, but it is.

 

It’s the same with AIDA. This is the way you convince people to buy. As long as there are copywriters, copy is going to be written this way.

 

So it might be worth your while to get in touch with an experienced copywriter who can help you along your way. The experienced copywriters of the world probably know a little more about the subject than you do. You could definitely do worse than to put their expertise to work for you.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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Is Your Web Copy Any Good?

If a business has a website, it has web copy. And if a business has web copy, it has a problem.

 

What’s the problem? Simply put: how do you tell if your web copy is any good or not?

 

That’s a good question, and I’m going to answer it. But before I answer that, I’ve got a few other little things I’d like to address.

 

First and foremost: you might be scratching your head right about now and saying, “I’m not sure what web copy is, and at this point I’m too afraid to ask.”

 

It’s very important that we define what we’re talking about from the beginning, so here’s a rough definition: web copy is any written (or typed) communication on your website that’s meant to encourage your visitors to take action.

 

That’s not an official definition. That’s my definition. So if you think it’s a stupid definition, you can go ahead and take it up with yours truly.

 

(Don’t worry: I promise I’m going to get around to telling you how to tell if your copy is any good very soon.)

 

Here’s the thing: copywriting is all about action.

 

You’re not writing for your own personal expression. You’re not writing to tell the world all about your dreams, your hopes, or what you have nightmares about. You’re not writing to tell people what you think of the controversy of the week.

 

You’re not editorializing. You’re copywriting. And copywriting is about action.

 

If you fail to inspire action, you’ve failed at copywriting. Everything in copywriting is geared toward action.

 

Don’t forget that.

 

Kinds of bad web copy.

I know I’ve promised you I’ll tell you how to tell if your copy is any good, but that can wait.

 

First things first: how do you tell if your web copy is really bad? How do you tell if it’s so bad it’s not only failing to make sales, but it’s become a liability to you and your business?

 

I’ve come across three types of spectacularly bad web copy in my time. Let’s talk about them:

 

  1. Boring web copy.

 

This covers anything that doesn’t catch and hold the reader’s attention.

 

There’s a widely-cited statistic that says most visitors to a website only stay there for about 15 seconds. Companies that don’t want to put effort into their copy use that as an excuse for lazy writing.

 

Listen: some people don’t like to read online. That’s the way it is.

 

Write the most sparkling-brilliant web copy you can imagine. Write golden words sprinkled with angel dust. No matter what you do, your copy is never going to sell to people who don’t read.

 

But this is no reason to write bad web copy.

 

Good copy may not grab all the non-readers. But bad copy will alienate all the readers.

 

You’ve got to seduce your reader a little. Show you care. Show you see them. Show you know what they want.

 

Put real effort into your copy, and it’ll come back to you.

 

  1. Pushy web copy.

 

We all know web copy is written because it’s supposed to cause some action.

 

Your readers are smart people. They can tell if you’re trying to sell them something. They can tell if you want something from them. They can tell a lot more than you realize.

 

So there’s no reason to beat your readers’ eardrums by shouting, “Buy my thing!” in every other sentence.

 

They can tell you want something from them. Good copy isn’t about constantly reminding them of that fact. It’s about keeping their interest, inviting them to imagine buying from you, and giving them a positive emotional experience so they won’t resent you when you ask them to do something.

 

You’re going to have to invite them to take action sooner or later. But effective copy is written in such a way that your ideal reader has imagined doing the thing you want them to do long before you actually ask them to do it.

 

Even when we know we’re being guided to a conclusion, we like being allowed to feel like it was our idea all along.

 

  1. Completely nonsensical web copy.

 

The worst web copy—and I’ve seen this on more occasions than I like to admit—is the stuff that reads like it was written in a foreign language and run through Google translate.

 

It’s not only poorly written. It’s not only pushy or heavy-handed. It’s not only keyword-stuffed garbage.

 

It’s prose so awful you expect to read “All your base are belong to us” any minute. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t drive business.

 

It reads like it was written by an experimental computer program. And it drives away customers without as much as a second glance.

 

So that’s the bad stuff. What about the good stuff?

 

Good web copy works beautifully—but what is it?

I’m going to start out by saying something that probably sounds entirely obvious, but if you learn this one thing you’ll have learned the most important thing in all web copywriting.

 

This is central to everything. This is the alpha and omega of copywriting. Without this, you can’t hope to write the good stuff. With this, even a lousy writer can improve over time.

 

This is the North Star of copywriting.

 

This is the one point you can navigate by. In all the chaos and uncertainty of vague ideas, this is how you find your way. Out in the desert of not knowing how to get results, this is how you get results.

 

What is it? What’s the most important thing to know about copywriting?

 

It’s simple: good web copy improves your site’s conversions.

 

Good copy make customers more likely to buy from you. It makes prospects more likely to contact you. It makes visitors more likely to start a conversation with you.

 

Anything that makes it more likely that someone will buy from your company is good copywriting. That means you have to be intentional and experimental about your copywriting.

 

You don’t want your copy to be too short, because short copy doesn’t give enough time to create an effective emotional experience for the reader.

 

Here’s a tip: good copy is as long as it needs to be.

 

If it takes one word to skyrocket your sales, so be it. If it takes 10,000 words to get the same result, that’s just as good.

 

Our preconceptions cut our legs out from under us all the time. Don’t let your preconception of how long your web copy “ought” to be torpedo its effectiveness.

 

Good copy is about sales. Never forget that.

 

How do you write good web copy?

You know what you’re aiming for.

 

You’re aiming to make the kind of copy that will have clients with fat wallets drooling to buy from you.

 

You’re aiming to make the kind of copy that will send your business to the next level.

 

You’re aiming to make the kind of copy that will let you retire to your nice mansion in Honolulu where you eat gold flakes for breakfast.

 

Good web copy is a magnet for the green stuff. I hate the phrase “a license to print money,” but good web copy is probably the next best thing.

 

So how do you do it? How do you make your readers desperate to buy from you? How do you raise their buying desire to such a fever pitch that they’re ready to beg you to take their money?

 

It’s not hard. It’s complex, but not hard. With time, patience, and a little old-fashioned effort, you can do it for yourself.

 

Start out by getting to know your ideal customer in detail. You have to be ready to write for this person as confidently and as clearly as if she were sitting across the table from you.

 

You want to know this person. You want to know what they do all day. You want to know what they’re afraid of.

 

But most of all, you want to know what they want.

 

What do they want? What drives them? What is this person’s ultimate fantasy?

 

Are you selling sports equipment to an 18-year-old horndog? Show him all the gorgeous women who will be all over him the instant he buys.

 

Are you selling an investment plan to a woman who loves travel? Show her the canals of Venice or the rising peaks of the Himalayas.

 

Are you selling sandwiches to hungry people? Just show them the sandwich.

 

J.P. Morgan once said, “A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.”

 

When you write convincing, persuasive, seductive copy, it’s your job to know both. You want to entwine the good reason (“I’ll improve my income and be free of what’s holding me back.”) with the real reason (“I love the feeling of having someone go to great lengths to persuade me.”).

 

Good copywriting is all about understanding what motivates people. With a little time and effort, any clever person can learn that.

 

The best way to learn.

I’m not going to hype the best way to learn copywriting. It’s the same as the best way to learn any other kind of writing.

 

The best way to get better at it is to do it. A lot.

 

Start with your website. Then move on to volunteering with some nonprofits. If you do that for a while you’ll build up a nice portfolio with a lot of samples you can show to potential clients.

 

I’ll have plenty of more posts about copywriting in the future—in fact, I’m thinking about writing a whole series of pieces on copywriting methods. But the best teacher for copywriting skills is practice.

 

There are a million techniques I could mention right here. (If you’re clever, I’m sure you’ve noticed a few in this article.) But there’s no substitute for experience.

 

A natural talent for writing is nothing without diligent practice.

 

So if you’re a beginning copywriter, I’d advise practice. Lots and lots of practice.

 

But not only that: it’s also helpful for you to get in touch with some of the freelance writing communities gathered around the internet. If you’re looking for guidance, that’s the place to go.

 

And you could do worse than to let an experienced copywriter take a look at some of your work and critique it. I know some writers are awfully shy about their work, but (sad to say) writing doesn’t work very well if it never meets a reader.

It can be hard to submit your work to criticism. But if you give it to someone knowledgeable and trustworthy, it can be one of the quickest ways to improve your writing technique.

 

Best of luck to you. Copywriting can be an extremely rewarding profession, both personally and professionally. I love it, myself, and I hope I grow a little better at it every day.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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Where Can You Start Your Freelance Writing Career?

When I started out as a freelance writer, I had no idea what I was doing. I was a wide-eyed dreamer fresh out of college, and I was looking for a way to use my philosophy degree.

 

Let me tell you this: freelance copywriting is a far cry from reading Donne’s poetry on the weekends while writing essays on Heidegger during the week!

 

I’ll admit I was a little out of my element at first. Learning how to find clients, write for an audience, and build my portfolio was a major challenge.

 

(The fact that I was guzzling coffee the way a Hummer guzzles gasoline didn’t do much good for my anxiety in those days…)

 

It was a rough time in my life. If I’d been smarter I would have had a plan for when I got out of college. But I learned my lesson, and now I’ve managed to come through with no harm done.

 

Why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you because I want you to know I started from the bottom. But with help from the right books and the right mentors I learned how to win high-paying clients, run my freelance business, and provide my clients with the persuasive copy they want so badly.

 

But here’s the thing: all that takes time.

 

It Takes Time to Build a Freelance Writing Business

No matter how much experience you’ve got, it can take some time to build up your freelance business from scratch.

 

There are a million little problems you’ll run into along the way, ranging from obviously important stuff like “How am I going to get enough business that I won’t end up on the street?” to less obviously important stuff like “How am I going to motivate and manage myself when I don’t have a boss to do it for me?”

 

(The flipside of being your own boss is that you have to be your own boss.)

 

I don’t want to scare you off by making these problems seem insurmountable. You’re not going to have to do anything you can’t do. Running your freelance writing business means you’ll have to stretch yourself, but if you want to do it, it’s just a matter of time and diligence.

 

But again: it takes time. Let me take a minute to show you a few of the ways building your freelance writing business is going to take time.

 

First off: it takes time to learn how to work with yourself.

 

Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of the time life feels like a constant battle between the part of me that’s gung-ho and wants to take over the world and the part of me that wants to sleep 20 hours a day and go for months between showers.

 

The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed part of me that’s always motivated and the part of me that wants to fling boogers at the wall all day long.

 

The thing about freelance writing is that you have to bring those two halves of yourself into balance. It takes some time to figure out how to do that.

 

Second: it takes time to learn how to get clients. (And it takes even longer to figure out how to win well-paying clients.)

 

You have to figure out your way of promoting yourself—and yes, you have to promote yourself.

 

Even when you’re a mega-successful freelance copywriter making gazillions a week typing up copy from your yacht in Honolulu, you’re going to have to promote yourself.

 

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion: get over it or get out.

 

Third: it takes time to develop a method and a feel for each type of project. I’ll get into more detail about types of projects in a later post, but the point is that you need to have procedures together for how to handle each type of project.

 

Does the client want content marketing? You need to nail down your methods.

 

Does the client want direct response copy? You need to be able to tell them what to expect when they work with you.

 

Does the client want you to do a case study? You need to have procedures in place for doing your interviews and getting the material together.

 

To sum it all up: at this point, you’re like Christopher Columbus right after he landed on the coast of San Salvador.

 

Freelance writing is a vast landscape full of brilliant opportunities and unknown dangers. It’s a great, dark, empty space on your map.

 

Before you can make the most of freelance writing, you have to learn all you can about what’s on that map.

 

Let’s take our first few steps.

 

Start With the Job Boards

If you want to get your feet wet in freelance writing, the job boards are a good place to start.

 

The job boards are the Caribbean Islands of the freelance world. You don’t want to stay there forever, but it’s a good place for the new explorer to start.

 

(Note: there are problems with the job boards. I’ll tell you about them a little later, but for now keep in mind that even though they’re a good place to learn what you’re doing, you don’t want to stay there forever.)

 

There are many, many job boards full of opportunities for freelance writers. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them. You could try out Upwork, ProBlogger, or FreelanceWritingGigs if you’re interested in starting out that way.

 

(Technically, Upwork isn’t a job board, but it’s enough like one that it might as well be.)

 

The companies you’ll find on these sites are already looking for writers. They know what they want, and they already know what they expect from you. This gives you the chance to practice selling your services in an environment where your prospects are already in the market for your writing.

 

With the online job boards, the work comes to you.

 

You develop a feel for the process of selling your freelance writing services.

 

You learn how to manage the different types of freelance writing projects.

 

Most importantly, you get a life raft you can use to learn how freelancing works while you’re hunting for bigger and better jobs.

 

Why You Don’t Want to Stick With the Job Boards Long-Term

You’ll never hear me say a word against the job boards. They’re a brilliant way for a beginning freelance writer to learn the ropes and build up a portfolio.

 

That being said: you don’t want to depend on the job boards in the long term.

 

Think about it: businesses that are already looking for writers go to the job boards because they know there are hundreds or thousands of writers there, looking for work.

 

That means the average writer’s odds of getting picked for a specific job are pretty low.

 

It also means the average writer isn’t going to be able to command a good price.

 

I don’t want to say that all of the companies you’ll find on the job boards are looking to get low-quality work done on the cheap, but many of them are.

 

And the ones who are looking for the best work are still drowning in applications.

 

Perhaps the best reason to avoid the job boards: lack of respect.

 

In the eyes of the companies who hire you, you’re just another employee.

 

You’re not a skilled professional offering a valuable service. You’re just another shlub who found the way into a stack of applications.

 

If you became a freelancer because you wanted to be your own boss, don’t spend more time in the job boards than you have to.

 

As a way for learning the ropes and doing your time, the job boards are great. But they still won’t beat finding an experienced mentor who can guide you through the process.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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The 3 Crucial Rules for Beginning Copywriters

 

So you want to be a copywriter, eh? Join the club.

 

Copywriting means different things to different people. Some people write cheap, useless, badly-written blog posts for their clients and call that copywriting.

 

(Luckily their clients don’t pay them very well for their trouble, because they know what they’re buying.)

 

You don’t want to be that kind of copywriter, do you?

 

Of course not. And there’s no reason you should be! There’s no reason a clever, forward-thinking writer should have to work for peanuts. There’s no reason a clever, forward-thinking writer should have to work on projects that aren’t challenging or interesting. There’s no reason a clever, forward-thinking writer can’t make a very good living from freelance writing.

 

I hope you’re detecting a theme here. It’s clear as day: if you want to make a good living as a copywriter you’ve got to be clever and forward-thinking.

 

And what does that mean? Well, I’m glad you asked.

 

First off, it means becoming a copywriting master. It’s not enough to have run-of-the-mill skills and a run-of-the-mill plan. You need excellent skills and an excellent plan.

 

Would you go into battle without a plan and expect good results? Of course not. Then why would you go into your copywriting without a plan and expect good results?

 

I want you to imagine something: imagine you’re the most brilliant copywriter to ever live. Your words weave a magic spell that makes your reader helpless to resist you. Every line you put down is so perfect that your readers can hardly wait to throw their hard-earned greenbacks at you. You have such brilliant powers of persuasion that you can get anyone to do anything.

 

That’s a nice image, isn’t it?

 

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to write copy that’s that persuasive. You can’t write anything that’s going to convince people to buy something they never wanted in the first place. That would be wrong and unethical, first of all. And second of all it would take more persuasive power than any human being could possibly have.

 

No, friends, I’m not going to claim that good copywriting can spin straw into gold. You won’t be retiring to a beach house in Tahiti next week.

 

It won’t be easy. It won’t be overnight. It won’t even be automatic. But if you follow the principles I’m about to set out for you, you will be able to improve your copywriting.

 

And that’s the first step.

 

The Golden Rule of All Copywriting: Know Your Mark

Imagine you’re on vacation at the beach in Saint Augustine, Florida. You’re looking out at the iron-gray waters of the Atlantic, lying with your head up and a tasty drink at your side. You feel the sunlight on your skin, all shiny and warm in the afternoon.

 

You’re daydreaming about dolphins. You don’t have a care in the world. You wonder if you can find a service to let you ride a dolphin…

 

“Excuse me,” says a salesman who appears out of nowhere, “Would you be interested in buying a full-length winter parka?”

 

What do you say? Would you be interested?

 

Of course not! This guy doesn’t have a clue who you are or where he is. What’s he doing, interrupting a perfectly good day by asking you if you want to wear a winter parka? What an idiot!

 

You don’t sell winter parkas to vacationers on the beach in the middle of the summer.

 

It’s not that it’s a bad parka. It’s not that these people will never need a parka. It’s not even that they’re constitutionally opposed to buying a parka. It’s just that the salesman was clueless about context.

 

If you want your mark to buy from you, you’ve got to make contact with them when and where they’re receptive to your message.

 

People want to buy things. People like to buy things. But they don’t like to be sold to.

 

That’s why it’s your job to know who you’re dealing with, what they want, and how it’s going to help them. But most importantly, it’s your job to know these three things about your mark:

 

  1. What are their pain points? The mark who is on the point of buying from you has one big problem you can solve for them. They want to buy the reassurance that you know their pain and know how to resolve it. So you must understand their pain.

 

  1. What are their dreams? Maybe they want to retire to a nice place on Key West. Maybe they want to write pretty love poems every day. Maybe they want to be rich enough to buy the Earth itself. Whatever it is, you want to know what your mark wants and how buying from you will move them closer to their ultimate desire.

 

  1. What are their fears? Are they afraid of getting kicked out and having to live on the streets? Are they afraid of failing to live up to their potential? Are they afraid of missing out on the biggest chance of their lives? Sometimes people need their fears to encourage them to take action. Know their fears so you can deploy them when the time is right.

 

Action Step: Imagine your ideal client. With that client in mind, answer all three of the questions I just laid out. The more in-depth the better. (You can never have too much knowledge!) Write at least a paragraph in answer to each question. You’ll be surprised what you can already discover!

 

The Second (But Equally Important) Rule of Copywriting: Know Your Product

Let’s go back to your salesman on the beach. Just for the moment, let’s pretend you’re not entirely uninterested in what he has to say.

 

“What’s so great about that parka?” you ask.

 

“Well, uh…” the salesman says. He looks down at the parka in his hands. He scratches his nose. He says, “Well, it’s got really nice pockets!”

 

You’re not having any of this. “So does every parka I’ve ever seen. What’s so great about this one?”

 

Our salesman doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know his product. He only knows he wants this scenario to end with you holding the parka and him holding your cash.

 

A clever, forward-thinking copywriter always knows the product.

 

That means all the “dry, boring details.”

 

That means all the exciting benefits the product has.

 

That even means anticipating all the objections a prospect might have before purchasing.

 

You want to know your product so well that when you close your eyes you see the design specs on the back of your eyelids.

 

Okay, I’ll admit it: you don’t have to know it that well. Don’t tattoo any design specs to the inside of your eyelids. But you get the point.

 

In order to be an effective copywriter, you need to know the product you’re selling in detail. You need to know what it does. You need to know all the problems with it. You need to know.

 

A professional copywriter takes time to get to know the product. If it’s something you can try out for yourself, go ahead and do that. If it’s something (such as a staffing agency) that’s way beyond your needs as a freelance writer, take the time to get to know the process and the people.

 

Maybe you won’t use all this knowledge, directly. But it’s important to know this stuff, because it’s going to color your copy in ways you can’t anticipate.

 

I know that sounds vague, but you’re a writer. You know exactly what I mean. Sometimes when you’re writing, the spirit takes you and you end up producing a phrase you never thought you could have found before. And what’s true of writing a poem or a story is still true of copywriting: it’s when you fondle the details that you get your best results.

 

So get to know the details. Even if you don’t use them directly, the knowledge will come through in the authority of your tone.

 

Action Step: Imagine your ideal client again. Why are your copywriting services absolutely what your ideal client needs? Why might your ideal client object to buying from you? How do you plan on meeting those objections? Answer these questions, and you’ll be on the right track.

 

The Third (and Honestly the Most Important) Rule of Copywriting: Write the Best Words

Much as I’d like to return to our salesman on the beach, that analogy isn’t going to work here. I want to talk to you straight out, writer to writer.

 

Copywriting isn’t a form of expressive writing. You’re not here to express your personality or to develop your own unique style.

 

Copywriting is about writing the words that cause your reader to take action.

 

Every expressive writer’s heart sinks a little at those words. Believe me, I know that pain: when I put on my “copywriting hat” I have to take off my “novelist’s hat.” And I won’t lie to you. It stings a little.

 

It stings because I’m using words as tools instead of as a free play of expression. It’s worth it because it pushes my writing skills to the limits, so I learn things I never would have learned any other way. (Not to mention the fact that it pays the bills!)

 

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I want you to understand that copywriting is a different type of writing from any other. It’s as different from poetry or fiction as poetry or fiction are different from each other.

 

It’s got a different texture. It’s got a different structure. It’s got a different set of conventions and a different method of preparation.

 

You’ve got to learn how to make words cause action. When you put on your “copywriting hat,” you not only have to make your readers feel, but you’ve got to convince them to do something. It’s quite a challenge, and it gets harder every day.

 

You’ll have to seize your reader’s attention.

 

You’ll have to arouse your reader’s desire.

 

You’ll have to make your reader afraid of not acting.

 

And you’ll have to become the best at it. You’ll have to become so good at it that it becomes second nature. You’ll have to become so sure of yourself and your writing that it all comes off as if you’ve never felt a twinge of self-doubt in your life.

 

It’s quite a challenge. But if you can learn how to connect with your reader, you’ll be able to do things you’d never have thought you could.

 

You’ll be able to help people find solutions they’d never have been confident to seize otherwise.

 

You’ll be able to amaze your clients with your clever words.

 

And most importantly, you’ll be able to make that dream of making a good living from writing into a reality.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about copywriting. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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How I Set Up My Marketing Funnel

 

You probably already know social media is a valuable tool for promoting your business. If you don’t already know, I plan to convince you.

 

How do I plan on doing that, you ask? Simple. I’m going to tell you how I’ve set up my social media accounts to draw traffic to my site.

 

But first, a little background. In the B2B space, we always hear SEO is the big thing.

 

“Just make sure the SEO’s taken care of and your site will get plenty of traffic.” That’s what the conventional wisdom says.

 

There’s nothing wrong with SEO. Take my word for it. I’m a content marketer. You’ll never hear me say a bad word about SEO!

 

But social media does just as much good. It gives you another set of tools for drawing targeted traffic. Targeted traffic turns into targeted leads. Targeted leads turn into clients.

 

So let’s assume you’ve already got your SEO set up. What can you do about social media?

 

You’re going to have to come up with your own strategy. But I can show you mine.

 

So let’s go.

 

  1. I cast a wide net with Twitter.

 

Twitter is the outer limit of my marketing funnel. It’s where I stick out my feelers to pick up on current developments. I also try to make as many contacts with as many people as possible.

 

Twitter is all about casting a wide net. You don’t want to focus too much on any one fish.

 

  • I post my own material (including links) twice a day.

 

If I’m on a social media site, I need to post my own material.

 

I have to demonstrate my value and uniqueness to the world.

 

Simply having the account is not enough. I have to use it regularly and keep track of developments.

 

  • I use hashtags.

 

Hashtags are the backbone of Twitter.

 

If you’re not using hashtags, you’re limiting yourself.

 

But slap a hashtag on a post (say, #ContentMarketing, anyone?) and you’ll expand your reach to anybody with an interest in your topic.

 

  • I follow people back.

 

If you follow the people who follow you, other people will notice this and they’ll be more likely to follow you.

 

We can argue about the merits of this all day. There are pros and cons here.

 

But the short version is that this is part of why Twitter is “the wide net.”

 

  • I retweet frequently.

 

When I retweet, every once in a while I find somebody who will trade retweets with me.

 

This is important!

 

The more of these people I find, the more I can amplify my reach beyond my own personal followers.

 

  • Overall strategy: I try to draw as much exposure as possible, so I can filter that exposure to the other social media sites.

 

  1. I direct my Twitter feed to LinkedIn and Facebook.

 

Once I’ve got a nibble, I post a link that takes my Twitter audience to LinkedIn and/or Facebook.

 

The people who follow the links have expressed an interest in hearing from me.

 

This way I draw targeted leads to the next level of my funnel.

 

  • I post more targeted material here.

 

LinkedIn and Facebook are where I put the really good information my targeted prospects will be interested in seeing.

 

The people I’m most interested in contacting will self-select by making a habit out of interacting with my posts.

 

The more likes and comments a post gets, the more successful it is.

 

  • I get to know my prospects as individuals.

 

As I comment on the posts of others (and especially as they comment on my posts) I get to know my prospects’ concerns, both as individuals and as a group.

 

I also get the chance to build relationships in my professional community.

 

  • I greet everyone who adds me, and I do my best to get a feeling for their needs.

 

It’s important to be personable on social media. (It is social media, after all.)

 

The more people you interact with, the more you’ll know what your ideal customer needs.

 

And the better you know that, the more you’ll be able to meet those needs.

 

  • Overall strategy: I try to be social and start conversations.

 

  1. I produce content worth reading.

 

Of course, it seems a little arrogant for a writer to claim his work is worth reading. But that’s the goal.

 

I work hard to produce content that gives value to my visitors, because I know that only quality content will serve my purposes.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth sharing.

 

What makes content worth sharing?

 

Content that’s worth sharing is content that gives you value.

 

It lets you learn something you need to know.

 

It shows you a different way of looking at the same old things.

 

I do my best to make my content worth sharing, because only content that’s worth sharing gets shared.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth commenting.

 

Content that’s worth commenting on is written in a unique voice.

 

It has something to say.

 

It invites conversation.

 

It asks the reader to reach out and respond.

 

Remember: content marketing is about starting a conversation. Do all you can to make that happen.

 

  • I make sure it’s worth subscribing.

 

This means my content isn’t just a one-time thing. I show up with my best work, week after week. The more content I put out, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more my knowledge is worth to readers. I’m making a treasure for my prospects to find.

 

  • Overall strategy: I make sure my content is relevant to my audience.

 

  1. I create a repeatable process to maximize visits to my site.

 

Now that I’ve set up the basic outlines of the funnel, I turn it into a process.

 

That means tracking the important metrics and learning how to maximize them.

 

It means identifying every problem and learning how to solve it to the best of my ability.

 

  • I take measurements and set goals for growth.

 

The key is to identify the metrics that directly line up with your goals.

 

For example: if you’re using Twitter to cast a wide net, the most useful metric is the number of views of your posts.

 

  • I optimize my social media content.

 

Now that I’ve got some data and I’ve done some observations, I can do A/B testing to find the types of content that perform best on each of my social media platforms.

 

This allows me to set ever-increasing goals so I can eventually set a pattern of continuous growth.

 

  • I optimize my site content.

 

As I produce more and more on-site content, I form a better idea of the kind of content my audience needs.

 

To a degree, I can even do testing on this. But certain types of content will consistently perform better than others.

 

I’ll know to produce more of that content and less of the stuff that doesn’t work so well.

 

  • Overall strategy: I always have something I’m trying to improve.

 

The most important part of this process is to set the right goals and use the right metrics. If I choose the right problems, I keep myself on the right track throughout the promotional process.

 

Of course, this is a complex strategy and an abstract post like this hardly scratches the surface of what the actual execution looks like. But it should get you thinking.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about social media. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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Are These 10 Mistakes Ruining Your Web Copy?

 

You don’t need me to tell you bad copy hurts your business.

 

It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into your site if your copy is bad. Design might get eyeballs, but good words close sales.

 

For your prospects, your website is the first point of contact with your brand.

 

This is where your visitors decide if you’re running a reputable business or if they should move along.

 

Do you think they’ll listen to somebody who sounds like everybody else?

 

Put it this way: do you want to work with somebody who sounds like everybody else?

 

Or would you rather work with somebody who has something to say, gets excited, and says something real?

 

The worst mistake I see businesses make with their copy is that it sounds too much like copy.

 

It’s stuffed with generic phrases that hold your guests at a distance instead of drawing them into a conversation.

 

Bad copy looks something like this:

 

“We are recruiting rockstars, dedicated to being decent human beings, cleaning up after ourselves, and making sure that good things happen to good people. We have a list of company values that are exactly the same as the company values you see everywhere else. We make the same vague guarantees in the same squirrelly language every other company does. And since we look and sound like everybody else, you know for sure that we’re unique and have an insightful approach. That’s what makes us the best!”

 

Okay, maybe it doesn’t look exactly like that. But you know what I’m talking about.

 

It’s bad, it’s generic, and it’s damaging your company.

 

Why do companies produce this kind of disaster time and again?

 

Simple: it feels safe.

 

When you slip into the same tired phrases you’ve seen a million companies use, you don’t have to risk anything.

 

You don’t have to think hard. You don’t have to work hard.

 

When your writing is a stack of boring, annoying, and ineffective clichés, you can get the copy written in no time.

 

When you slap content on your site without planning, you hold your visitors at a distance. You make yourself unapproachable.

 

Bad copy signals to your visitor, “I’m not interested in talking to you or getting to know your problem. I’m smarter than you. I know more than you. You should buy my thing because it’s what I want.”

 

Of course nobody’s thinking any of that consciously. But when you write bad copy, you send a clear message.

 

Copy is meant to start a conversation. So it ought to be conversational.

 

The rules of good copywriting are like the rules of good conversation.

 

So what are those rules?

 

A good conversationalist gives others their turn to talk.

 

A good conversationalist listens to what other people say.

 

A good conversationalist makes others feel good and actively finds ways to connect.

 

That’s what good copy is meant to be like.

 

Is your copy hurting your business? Maybe.

 

To help you find out, I’ve put together this list of ten clear signs of poor copy.

 

If you find yourself identifying with a big portion of this list, you might have a problem.

 

What does bad copy do?

 

  1. Bad Copy is Boring

You know what this is like. It’s happened a million times.

 

You’re looking for a new lawn service, birthday clown, or web promoter. So you go on Google and click the first link that appears.

 

What do you see on the main page?

 

You see a gigantic wall of text in tiny font. It’s written like a textbook, and by the time you’re halfway through the first paragraph you’re falling asleep.

 

That’s bad copy.

 

In the internet age, you have to seduce the reader a little. You have to show you can get the job done, but you also have to show you know how to have fun.

 

Bottom line: if it doesn’t get read, it won’t sell anything.

 

  1. Bad Copy is All About You

Let’s go back to the conversational rules we were talking about earlier.

 

Answer me this: how much do you want to talk to somebody who is only interested in talking about themselves?

 

Someone who keeps jawing about how they had the measles that one time.

 

Someone who keeps mentioning they drive a Ferrari.

 

Someone who keeps telling you about how their business won an industry award.

 

If you met someone who could only go on about themselves, you wouldn’t talk to them for long. What makes you think your customers want to work with you if you only tell them about yourself?

 

Here’s the secret: good copy is all about the customer.

 

  1. Bad Copy Doesn’t Speak to Your Customer’s Pain

Your prospect has a problem, otherwise they wouldn’t be on your website in the first place. People don’t end up reading your copy by accident.

 

Put it this way: if someone visits your site and reads your copy, they’re interested in hearing what you have to say.

 

If your visitors are qualified prospects, they’re at least open to the possibility of buying from you.

 

So if they’re on your site and considering buying from you, the only thing stopping them will be if you mess it up.

 

You have to prove you understand their problem and encourage them to take the next step.

 

If they don’t take the next step, it’s because you did something wrong.

 

  1. Bad Copy Doesn’t Have a Clear Goal

A lot of web copy gets written only to take up space. Many businesses treat web copy like it’s a nasty but necessary chore.

 

It’s no wonder you don’t see any use for it if you don’t have a clear objective in mind!

 

Good copy is always written with a specific goal in mind.

 

Maybe it’s generating sales.

 

Maybe it’s encouraging visitors to subscribe to a mailing list.

 

Maybe it’s enticing visitors to comment on your blog.

 

With good copy, everything is oriented toward one specific goal. Everything is calculated to create one specific effect.

 

Copy without a specific goal only takes up space.

 

  1. Bad Copy isn’t Directed at a Specific Audience

If you don’t know who your audience is, you don’t know what your audience cares about.

 

If you don’t know what your audience cares about, you don’t know what they’re looking for.

 

If you don’t know what they’re looking for, you don’t know what they need.

 

And if you don’t know what they need, you can’t help them.

 

The people reading your copy aren’t interested in what you’d like to say to the world as a whole.

 

They’re interested in what you can say to them and the problem they’re experiencing now.

 

That’s why you need to make a customer persona.

 

You need to know what your ideal customer cares about and what they’re looking for when they decide to buy from you. Otherwise you’ll write a generic appeal that doesn’t speak to them.

 

  1. Bad Copy Doesn’t Build Authority

If you’re not confident in your writing, people will sense it.

 

If you’re going to get people to listen to you, you have to convey that you know what you’re talking about.

 

There are complicated wrinkles here, but here’s the gist: if you’re not sure about your message, it’ll show up in your writing.

 

Maybe you’ll make unnecessary self-deprecating jokes.

 

Maybe you’ll use technical-sounding language to make yourself sound superficially impressive.

 

Maybe you’ll sneak in little phrases that create the impression you’re not sure of your message.

 

Authority doesn’t mean playing tricks on your reader or telling anyone what to do. It means conveying confidence and certainty in your message.

 

You must convey authority.

 

  1. Bad Copy Depends on Statistics

First off: there’s nothing wrong with using statistics in your copy.

 

It’s important to give your reader a few facts to justify their decision. But facts and statistics are not the main motivator for your customers.

 

We’re human beings.

 

We want more pleasure and less pain.

 

We want social connections.

 

We want people to notice us and see what makes us unique.

 

Most of all, we want emotional experiences. There’s a part of us that’s tired of all the responsibility and self-control we have to practice every day.

 

Good copy can give your visitors a chance to let go so you can take care of their worries for a while.

 

Statistics can help justify a purchase intellectually, but buying is an emotional decision. Never forget that.

 

  1. Bad Copy Doesn’t Engage the Emotions

Let’s hit the same idea from a different angle: as professionals, we have to pretend to be something other than what we really are.

 

I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that when we think of the “ideal businessperson,” we imagine someone who’s kind of like a robot.

 

Always motivated. Always ready. Always enthusiastic.

 

If you’re reading this, you know the ideal I’m talking about.

 

And if you’re like every other human being, you don’t live up to that ideal all the time.

 

There’s a knee-jerk feeling we need to write copy for that “ideal businessperson” who doesn’t really exist.

 

Don’t do that.

 

You’re writing for human beings who have their own stresses, their own tragedies, their own frustrations, and their own private lives.

 

The “ideal businessperson” doesn’t have human emotions and human weaknesses. The human beings you’re reaching out to do.

 

Write for them, not for the ideal.

 

  1. Bad Copy is Full of Buzzwords and Jargon

I talked about this at the beginning of this post. It was true then, and it’s still true now: if your copy is full of buzzwords, you’re holding the reader at a distance.

 

You don’t want to hold the reader at a distance. That’s the opposite of what you want to do.

 

If you’re going to turn your reader into a customer, you have to develop rapport and human contact.

 

It feels like using jargon makes you look well-informed. That’s a mistake.

 

Jargon only alienates your reader.

 

Explain things in terms a non-specialist can understand, and you’ll communicate more effectively.

 

Good copy is about action and communication. It’s not about proving how smart you are.

 

  1. Bad Copy Doesn’t Have a Call to Action

This is a big one. I’ve seen brilliant copy foul things up at the last second this way.

 

Remember what we were talking about earlier, with the importance of specific goals?

 

Well, here’s the thing: good copy is about three things:

 

  • Getting your reader’s attention.
  • Building an emotional connection.
  • Encouraging the reader to take action.

 

The problem is that some people don’t ask the reader to take action.

 

Your readers are not psychics. No matter how strong your connection, if you don’t tell them what you’d like them to do, they won’t do it.

 

You have to take the initiative to close with a strong call to action.

 

Ask the reader to comment on your post.

 

Ask the reader to call the phone number for a sales representative.

 

Ask the reader to shoot you an email.

 

It’s not being pushy. It’s just being willing to follow through with what you started.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about copywriting. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

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What are Case Studies? (Part 2 of 3)

 

Yesterday we talked about what case studies are, and I gave you a few ideas on how a great case study can show off what’s special about your business. Today I’m going to give you a step by step guide to producing a case study that grabs your prospect and forces them to read every word.

 

(Just a side note: if you haven’t taken a look at yesterday’s article yet, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know.

 

A case study is a marketing tool that shows your prospects the value of your offering.

 

Most of the time, a case study will:

 

  • Share a compelling story that shows your how your company solved a customer’s problem.
  • Present the story from your customer’s point of view.
  • Display an angle that shows the unique thing that makes your company shine.
  • Educate your prospects on the value of your offering.

 

Case studies are usually about one to four pages long. The very best of them tells a story that informs, entertains, and inspires.)

 

I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to craft a brilliant case study. But with a lot of time, hard work, and dedication, you should be able to get the job done. Of course, a professional copywriter will usually be eager to take that work off your hands if you don’t have the time.

 

So without any further ado, let’s get writing, shall we?

 

  1. Find one of your best, most typical customers, and schedule an interview with a representative.

Now, this is a pretty simple step in and of itself, but I wanted to take some time to talk about it so I could draw your attention to the two key words here. What are the key words?

 

They are: best and most typical (okay, technically that’s three words. Sorry.).

 

You want to have your interview with your best customers for plenty of reasons. First off, if they’re you’re best customers, you’re more likely to be able to get a compelling story when you interview them, right?

 

And I know this is probably pretty obvious, but I might as well say it anyways: just like it’s best to get a review or a testimonial from your best customers, it’s best to get a case study from them, too. They’ve got the most value out of your offering and they’ll have an infectious enthusiasm that will spread to the people who read your case study.

 

It might be a little less obvious why I say you should go with your most typical customers. But that’s just a matter of practicality. I mean, if you’re trying to show your prospects what your offering can do, you’re not going to want them to read about that customer who buys a half-dozen special services and none of your typical offerings, are you?

 

Of course not. You’re going to want to interview the customer who buys your most common offer. After all, you’re telling this customer’s story. Don’t you want it to be one your typical prospect can relate to?

 

Sure you do. So break out that phone or keyboard and schedule that interview!

 

  1. Prepare for and conduct the interview.

When it comes to it, a phone or Skype interview is just fine for this part. It takes some practice to get good at interviewing, but let me just give you a few pointers so you can get the information you need.

 

Here’s the main thing to remember when you’re conducting interviews: never forget what you need to get out the interview.

 

What’s that, then? First off, you want story you can share with your prospects to show them the value of your offer.

 

That means you want to know all the facts and figures of the company. You want to be able to explain what they do and why they do it. Simple enough, right?

 

Second, you want to know about the problem that led this company to approach yours. (Protip: make sure you’ve got a clear description of the problem and the pain points involved.)

 

Third: you want to know how your company solved the problem. (Of course, you already know this, but you want to get the story from your customer’s point of view.) When the time comes to write your story, this will be where your company swoops in to save your customer.

 

Last: you want to know the results. That means you want to know the statistics that prove the value you’ve provided.

 

With a practiced hand, you should be able to fit all this information into a short interview. No pressure, you’ve got this.

 

  1. Write your first draft.

Now that you’ve got it all together, it’s time to get into the writing process. Luckily for you, case studies generally have a pretty standard structure, so you don’t have a lot to worry about on that front.

 

Remember: you’re telling a story here. The same skills go into crafting a good case study that go into telling a good story.

 

So what’s a good story? A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce your hero—in this case, your customer. In the middle, you introduce your hero’s problem and show them trying to solve it. And in the end, they solve it—with a little help from you and your company, of course!

 

Of course, describing basic story structure is one thing and actually writing an effective story is another thing. Skillful writing is a matter of practice and mastery, just like any other craft. But with time, discipline, and sheer will power, you can learn it.

 

  1. Edit and revise.

This part of the process is pretty obvious, I’ll admit. You tidy up your sentence structure. You check your spelling. You eliminate your passive verbs and you eliminate every word that doesn’t contribute to the meaning of your story.

 

You’ll probably want to give it to a few people you can trust to give you honest feedback on your work. Ask them if everything makes sense and if it all fits together just right.

 

(Trust me on this: I’ve written things I thought made perfect sense, but when I ran it by a couple of readers I found out I’d made some silly mistakes. You never can tell what people might misunderstand.)

 

Now that you’ve edited, pay attention to this part: before you use your case study for anything, you should run it by your customer and have them sign off on it. This is important: you want to get your customer to approve of the final article before you do anything with it.

 

So that’s the process! As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. I’ll tell you some more about what you can use them for tomorrow!

 

Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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