creative haberdashery

5 tips for the occasional copywriter

computer-wide-angleIt can be pretty tortuous to put pen to paper if you’re not someone who writes copy every day. Most people would rather do anything else. Yet copywriting remains one of those chores that’s difficult to outsource. After all, you took English in school. You can certainly write your own brand story. Easy, right?

I wish that were true. But in reality, most people hate to write. So writing projects — even something as essential as positioning your brand on your website, get put on the back burner. If you don’t have a well-crafted brand story, in the minds of your customers, there’s no clear difference between you and the competition.

Just as you know your job and know it well, a freelance copywriter knows how to write. He or she has likely spent Macolm Gladwell’s projected 10,000 hours perfecting the craft of copywriting. Here are a few tips from the roughly 30,000 hours I’ve put into becoming a top-notch copywriter. Even if you only write occasionally, they should help you become a more productive and effective copywriter.

  1. Make sure you know what you’re writing about. Sounds silly, right? But just knowing you’re writing about XYZ Company is not enough. You must decide what you’re saying about XYZ. What’s most important? What can drill down to another page/post/tweet?
  2.  Your words are not small children. It’s OK to kill them, even if you love the way they sound. If they don’t say the right thing, grab a machete. (See #3)

  3. Use as few words as possible. People just don’t read long copy any more, especially on digital platforms. (See #2)

4. Reread your work. If you get tripped up on a word, it’s probably the wrong word, or it’s the right word used in the wrong place.

  1. Check for redundancy. Because we are trying mightily to say exactly the right thing, it’s easy to get caught up in over-explanation. Be honest. Delete and/or merge with abandon.
  • Keep your sentences nice and short. For web work, cap your sentences at 10-15 words

  • If you’re still not happy and your budget can afford it, hire a pro. A professional writer will listen to what you want to say and come back with copy for your review. The words and thoughts will still be yours, minus the blood, sweat and angst. Then you can get back to your real job. You know — the one you’ve spent 10,000 hours mastering.


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