We all know the ingredients of great copy: tight sentences that effectively deliver compelling messages.
Add in the creativity that sets your clients apart from their competitors and the reassurance that every choice is backed by data and thorough research and your copy really will make a meaningful impact on helping your clients to grow their business.
But you can still do better.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of copywriting, it’s vital to develop your own practice: a process that enables you to work efficiently and stay fresh so that you continue to produce relevant and valuable content long into the future.
Today, I will share three steps I use to write better copy and ensure that my clients receive only the highest quality copywriting.
1. Begin off-screen
You’ve finished the brief, you’re super excited and you just want to sit down in front of your Retina display and start pumping out those wicked wise lines.
But hang on or you’ll miss the real gold.
Our reaction to the excitement of great ideas is a physical one, but the action of typing on a computer is anything but. By constricting our bodies and letting only our hands move quickly over the keyboard, that vibrant motivation to create something special will slowly leak out. You may still produce good copy but you’ll almost certainly miss the really special stuff.
Instead, you should get messy and get physical. (Turn to Natalie Goldberg for guidance on how).
Whether you use a whiteboard, reams of unlined paper or the nearest white wall, release your energy by channeling it towards opening the project’s full potential.
See the bigger picture. Get up, walk around and scrawl ideas as they come to you. Scribble things out and connect your brilliant thoughts with big arrows drawn in colourful markers.
From scribbles will emerge the real gold.
But why bother? Shouldn’t you just be able to sit down and pump out something that works?
Sure, if you like writing average copy. The great idea that sets you and your client apart is rarely the first one that jumps out. You must open the potential in a democratic way, which means not believing too quickly that one idea is ‘the right idea’.
If we sit down at the computer and type, we make this exact mistake. We are already giving our words a finality. As this is the format we are likely to produce and present the copy, starting in front of the screen effectively shuts the door on other potentially valuable routes.
Get messy, get physical and release all those ideas and potentials that great brief has inspired in you.
2. Make a plan (and stick to it)
Ever heard the phrase: Don’t reinvent the wheel. Yeah, that.
Marketing and copy have been around a while. As have people who have researched, tested and honed structures that work. Particularly in the online world, models and structures have been developed that will help your copy to work and not just sound great.
Follow them. Know where to channel your uniqueness and where it’s better to be the sheep. When it comes to format and structure, it’s usually better to bleat.
Here’s one such approach celebrating structure from Copyblogger.
But there is another benefit to making a plan and sticking to it. And that’s all about delivering a single compelling message.
Copy rarely tries to achieve more than one message at a time. If it does try to hit multiple messages it often ends up convoluted, ineffective and even confusing.
By choosing a structure, carefully laying out how each section contributes to achieving a clear and compelling message, it makes sure that all your hard research work doesn’t go to waste.
Within the parameters of that structure, let your creative side shine. Let the keywords you’ve identified work their magic. And write the words that complement the rest of the design to produce brilliant sales pages, landing pages or wherever else your copy is destined.
A good plan will make you more efficient and effective, so know where to channel your inventiveness and where to follow a plan.
3. Send it tomorrow
Your clients love how fast you work and you feel satisfied that you have smashed the deadline.
Until it comes back with questions, revisions and—shudder—typos.
We’ve all done it and we’ll probably all do it again. There’s little worse than receiving a reply from a client where they point out your errors. After all, you’re meant to be the pro, right?
Typos may seem minor but they can really affect your professional image and reputation. Hold off on sending that copy until you’ve given a good check through and proofread.
And the best time to do that is the next day when you have fresh eyes and when you’ve not just left the process of creating the copy. There’s a phrase that fits this:
Write hot; edit cold
And it’s true. Make this a part of your working process and how you plan for deadlines.
But maybe you just must send it today. In which case, invest in a proofreader or colleague to give it a look over and point out any issues.
Whatever you do, don’t send copy that doesn’t reflect your quality and professionalism. It’s just not worth it.
Now, go and discover what else makes your copywriting process efficient, inventive and unique – then share your tips for your fellow copywriters in the comments box below.