Category Archives: Copywriting

What is freelance copywriting? What do freelance copywriters actually do? What are the rates for freelance copywriters and can I afford one? What does copywriting entail, and is it right for my business?

All of these questions (and more!) are answered here on my blog. Posts are categorised, so you can easily find the ones that interest you.

If there’s anything you’d like to know about copywriting which I haven’t yet covered, please get in touch and let me know!

Copywriting vs content writing: what’s the difference between copy and content?

copywriting vs content writing

Businesses need words. Lots of them. Preferably great ones. But what’s the difference between copywriting and content writing, and does a business need both?

Whether you create copy and content in-house or outsource copywriting and content creation to a freelance writer, there’s no escaping the fact the written word is essential to your business.

Let’s take a look at the differences between copywriting vs content writing, and see how both can benefit your business.

What’s the difference between copywriting and content writing?

If you’ve heard of copywriting and content writing, you’ve probably wondered if they’re different words for the same thing. And it’s true both copywriters and content writers produce words for businesses for specific reasons – and the two can overlap. But there are key distinctions between copywriting and content writing.

Purpose

Copywriting is sales-driven; content writing is engagement-driven.

While both are written for marketing purposes, copywriting has a clearer sales objective, whereas content writing is for branding.

Content writing is specialised content written for a business that’s less salesly and more informative and friendly, designed to help and entertain to promote brand loyalty.

The purpose of copywriting is to sell or convert, so it follows a clear direction.

As the purpose of content writing is to engage, it can veer in multiple directions and have a variety of links, because it’s not there to directly sell to you.

Length

Generally, copywriting is short in length, while content writing can be longer in form. As copywriting takes the reader through a sales process, it tends to be concise without tangents.

Content writing, on the other hand, can be much lengthier and spark various tangents.

Goal

The goal of copywriting is to sell a product or convert a customer, so it tends to end with a clear call to action, e.g. a “buy now” button at the bottom of an ad or landing page.

Meanwhile, content writing is subtler, as its goal is to simply engage an audience and encourage loyalty.

Do I need a separate copywriter and content writer?

In short, it depends on the individual and business. While some writers only produce copy or content, others can successfully do both.

When finding a freelance writer to support your business, it’s most important to gel with someone and feel they “get” you and your business writing requirements. This might be one person or different people for each kind of writing, so get to know freelancers and explore their work to find a solution that’s best for your needs.

While most copywriters and content writers can adapt their writing to suit different company tones of voice, every writer has their own fundamental style, so it’s crucial to get to know what this is to see if it aligns with your brand.

Does a business need both copywriting and content writing?

In a word, yes!

Copywriting may generate sales, but content writing does the background work by warming up a customer to convert.

By encouraging brand loyalty and building a relationship of trust between customer and brand, content writing makes a reader more likely to later convert.

Content writing is part of a less direct and longer-term strategy, but it’s no less important than copywriting to a business’s overall marketing.

Examples of copywriting and content writing

This is by no means definitive because some of these (e.g. blogs) can be both, but here’s a general guide to what’s defined as copywriting vs content writing.

Examples of copywriting:

  • Website copy
  • SEO landing pages
  • Advertising copy
  • Sales emails
  • Direct mail
  • Paid online ads or social ads
  • Taglines
  • Brochures

Examples of content writing:

  • Blogs
  • Unpaid social media posts
  • E-books
  • Advertorials
  • Case studies

For more information about copywriting and content writing, check out my other blogs.

How to optimise your CV for ATS software

how to optimise your CV for ATS

Employers and recruiters use ATS software more and more frequently when hiring, so it’s something everyone has to bear in mind when job-hunting. But what does ATS stand for in business, and how can you optimise your CV for ATS software?

What does ATS stand for in recruitment and business?

ATS stands for applicant tracking system. Businesses use ATS software in the recruitment process to collect and process CVs.

Applicant tracking systems sort through CVs electronically and register specific keywords set by the business in question. The software siphons out unsuitable CVs and compiles a shortlist of candidates, whose CVs are then sent to humans to take to the next stage.

Who uses ATS software and what are its benefits?

Recruitment companies and large organisations are the biggest users of ATS software.

Last year, 94% of users said ATS software had improved their recruitment process.

ATS software has many benefits for businesses, including:

  • Saves time – ATS software makes the recruitment process quicker
  • Reduces human input – using ATS means managers receive a much smaller and more refined collection of CVs, rather than sifting through thousands of applicants
  • It’s cost-effective – ATS enables you to automate a number of stages of the recruitment process, including sourcing, filtering, organising and tracking candidates, which saves a business money in the long-term
  • Better organisation – using ATS keeps the recruitment process organised and reduces the chance of CVs being lost or overlooked.

How do I make my CV ATS-compliant?

Now we understand what we’re dealing with, here are five ways to beat the bots and make your CV ATS-compliant.

1. Use keywords

ATS software searches for keywords relating to the position you’re applying for, so if it doesn’t pick them up on your CV, the likelihood is you’re out.

Just like when you Google something and the search engine picks up the terms you typed in to present you with the most relevant results, ATS bots are searching your CV for the key terms relevant to this job role.

Use keywords listed on the job description to tick all the boxes. An easy way to do this is to add a “key skills” section of bullet points to your CV, if you don’t already have one. You can also incorporate keywords into the personal statement and work experience sections of your CV.

However, beware of using too many keywords. Just like Google will punish websites for keyword-stuffing, ATS will be likely to pick up on and penalise this practice too.

2. Keep it clean and simple

When crawling CVs, ATS bots don’t recognise fancy formatting. So, adding graphics, tables and images to your CV can end up being a waste of time at best, and the reason you’re booted out of the recruitment process at worst.

Keep fonts and sizes consistent throughout, use minimal colours and feature tabs and bullet points to format your CV simply and effectively.

Equally, job titles like “Minister of Happiness” won’t be understood by the software, so adapt any trendy job titles so they describe the actual role in terms a bot can grasp, e.g. Mental Health and Employee Engagement Coordinator”.

3. Supply it in the right format

The best format for your CV to comply with ATS software is Microsoft Word, in either .doc or .docx version.

ATS bots don’t like PDFs, and they may not be able to effectively pick up on the content of your CV if it’s in this format.

Submitting a CV in Word increases the chances you’ll end up on the yes pile.

4. Tailor your CV to the role

Sending the same generic CV out for each role may not be the most effective way of securing your dream job, especially when ATS software is used.

Only list keywords, qualifications and responsibilities relevant to the role you’re applying for, as this will be understood and rewarded by the ATS bots.

While this may seem tiring, it’s not a case of rewriting the whole CV each time you spot a role you fancy applying for. Instead, make a few tweaks each time to optimise your chances of appealing to employers for that position.

5. Make it human-friendly too

Optimising your CV to be ATS-compliant is important, especially when applying to large recruiters or global organisations.

However, the recruitment process isn’t 100% computerised for any company. Your CV will always be sent to a person, so the human touch is still essential.

A robotic, keyworded CV will only get you so far. So remember, a human will make the final decision.

I hope these tips on making your CV ATS-compliant will help in your job search.

While 95% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software to recruit new employees, it’s still much less common among smaller companies and startups. Therefore, if you feel a snazzy CV will boost your chances – especially for creative roles – and you’re confident your application is going directly to a human, feel free to jazz it up and ignore this advice!

Follow my general CV writing tips here.

If you’d like a fresh perspective on your CV to help you bag a new job, feel free to take advantage of my free CV checking service by sending it to hello@jameso73.sg-host.com

10 copywriting exercises you can practise to become a pro

10 copywriting exercises

Copywriting is tried by many but mastered by few. As long as you have good writing skills and a decent grasp of spelling and grammar, you have the basic tools you need to become a copywriter. If you’re ready to take it further, check out these exercises you can practise to hone your skills and become a master copywriter.

Set a timer

A basic, but a goodie. One of the best copywriting exercises is to set a timer and see how much content you can produce on a given subject matter. Timers help to banish writer’s block, keep procrastination at bay and improve productivity, whether you’re working on a paid job or your blog.

Ten-minute timers will spur you into action and could help you create some of the most lively content of your career. Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

Swap long words for short ones

If you can swap a long word for a shorter one, ALWAYS do. Simple is best, and search engines and readers hate longer words for good reason.

No matter how technical the product or service is, most of my briefs involve a client asking me to explain what they do in “layman’s terms”.

Once you get into the habit of swapping long words for shorter ones, it’s one of the most useful copywriting exercises out there.

Switch features for benefits

One of the most beneficial copywriting exercises you can do is to read through your content and switch all the features for benefits.

Customers don’t care about the latest technology used to make their vacuum cleaner; they care how much dog hair it will clean up first time.

Skincare lovers are unlikely to understand why all of the ingredients you’ve mentioned are good for them, but they need to know if your client’s face scrub will clear their pores and make their skin glow.

A campsite owner doesn’t need to know about the cutting-edge technology used to manufacture a septic tank; they need to know it will collect and treat waste efficiently, save them money and not be noisy or smelly.

When you turn each sentence around to promote the benefits to the end-user, your copywriting becomes instantly more appealing and likely to convert.

Practise fascinations

Eddie Shleyner of VeryGoodCopy has a free micro-course on “Master Fascinations” designed to help you improve your copywriting skills.

The idea of a fascination is a headline or sentence so intriguing or appealing to the reader they can’t help but read on, click or turn the page. In his genius Google Doc on the subject, Eddie urges copywriters to write out a series of famously successful fascinations by hand, to embed the concept into your mind and help you to write your own.

Take out negatives

Nobody likes a Negative Nancy. When practising your copywriting skills, a useful exercise is to take out all the negatives and turn them into positives, like a content writing Pollyanna.

Instead of detailing how a service or product can prevent stress or avoid costly mistakes, switch it around and highlight how carefree or successful your target customer will be when they use it.

Negative words create bad vibes, even if you’re using them to underline a benefit. I was once advised never to say “no problem” in an email, as it uses two negative words to communicate a positive and could subconsciously plant a seed of doubt. While that may be taking it to the extreme, it stuck with me.

Facebook’s algorithm dislikes negative words, so using positive vocab is especially good practice for social media posts and ads, but should generally be adopted across all kinds of copywriting.

Save copywriting examples

Whenever you see a fantastic piece of copywriting, save it to your phone, laptop or Pinterest so you can delve into your archives for inspiration when practising your content writing.

If it makes you laugh, click, share or buy, it’s probably featured some top copywriting – so keep a record of it and learn from the best.

I have a Pinterest board full of fabulous adverts from ad copywriting giants, and I love to browse it for motivation, so find a way of saving your faves and use them wisely.

Write multiple headlines

Clients often ask me for a few different headline options when writing content for their website, brochure or blog.

And while the first time this happened, I may have wondered why one wasn’t good enough, I soon realised the benefit of writing several headline alternatives.

Writing a single headline feels tough, but once you write a few, the words start to flow, and ideas keep coming. Usually, you’ll find it challenging to narrow it down to a set number, and you’ll invariably go back to the first one you wrote and change it.

By writing multiple headline options, you’re fine-tuning your title copywriting skills, as well as working efficiently to get the best title for you or your client.

Keep writing

I find copywriting is a lot like exercise. When I write every day, the words and ideas flow. If I take a few days off, I question myself and struggle to get started when I return to the keyboard.

Therefore, writing every day is an effective copywriting exercise to keep improving and mastering your craft.

If you don’t have client work to do, add regular articles to your blog or schedule social posts. Alternatively, try to practise copy working – the art of writing out other people’s content to absorb it and learn from it, much like the fascinations exercise mentioned earlier.

Extreme editing

Writing content to a specific word count can be challenging at first, so getting into the habit of editing down text to shorter lengths is an excellent way to improve your content writing.

You can do this one of two ways.

Either go back to a piece of copywriting you wrote and try to reduce the word count by half, keeping the message and purpose intact.

Or, practise with someone else’s content. Copy and paste some blogs from Medium, or someone’s Wikipedia page – anywhere you can find a chunk of content to get to work on.

By regularly practising this extreme editing challenge, you’ll become a ruthless word slashing pro in no time.

Rewrite other people’s content

An excellent copywriting exercise is to find some content and rewrite it. It can be anything – Google something and rewrite the top ads, read a shampoo bottle and see if you can phrase it better, or transcribe a TV ad script and write your own version of it.

By reading and rewriting existing examples of copywriting, you’ll glean tactics on how other people write and help to establish and develop your own style of writing.

Why practise copywriting exercises?

Hopefully, these copywriting exercises will help you to improve your writing skills, build your confidence and lead to securing paid work as a copywriter.

Think of your copywriting as a muscle you need to flex regularly to make it stronger a

If you have any more, please share them!

What to put in a copywriting brief 

what to put in a copywriting brief

Copywriting briefs vary wildly from a short sentence to a lengthy document. So what does the perfect copywriting brief include? If you’re hiring a copywriter for your content writing project, they’ll need a decent brief to deliver quality work. Read on to find out how to write a copywriting brief that will help you and your copywriter get the job done.

Word count

Firstly, a freelance copywriter needs to know how many words you’d like in your content. So if you know, make it clear. If you don’t know, make this clear too. This way, your copywriter can advise accordingly based on other elements of your brief.

Company info, tone of voice and style preferences

Is this is your first time working with this freelance copywriter? If so, include company background, brand guidelines and tone of voice in your copywriting brief (if you have them). There’s only so much we can glean from your website, so all insight is welcome.

Many companies have a style preference for their written content. So, if you have preferred terminology and words you don’t like used in your business content, give your copywriter access to this information.

This not only makes life easier for your copywriter but saves you time making corrections later.

Copywriting project description

Clearly state what the project is about and where the copywriting will appear. For example, an event poster, an email or a landing page. If it’s part of a wider marketing campaign, fill your copywriter in on an overview of the project. This will help them to understand where their content will sit within a wider campaign.

Audience

Who are we talking to? You should have a clear idea of who your target customer is. Therefore, provide your copywriter with as much info as possible so they can build a picture of your audience and communicate with them effectively.

Goals

Include in your brief an overview of what the content aims to achieve. Do you want it to make people sign up to your newsletter? Attend your event, or visit your website? Clear motivations are essential for a copywriter to write compelling content and create clear calls to action (CTAs) that prompt your audience to act.

Key messages

What are the key messages you want to communicate in this piece of copywriting? Perhaps it’s as simple as event details for an email inviting people to attend. Or maybe it’s a long-form blog involving more complex ideas. Either way, including key messages in a copywriting brief provides your copywriter with a framework and direction.

Research

Every good freelance copywriter is used to doing their own research. However, if you have any particular insight into which websites, articles or documents would be especially useful, include this information in your copywriting brief.

Competitors

For website copywriting projects, it’s great for freelance copywriters to see some examples of competitor websites in the copywriting brief. This enables us to get a feel for the market and where your company is positioned within it.

It’s also useful to see examples of non-competitor websites you like the look and vibe of, as this can help us to gain a clearer vision of your style in the absence of brand guidelines or company tone of voice.

Keywords

All good freelance copywriters should be well versed in SEO, so if you have certain keywords you’d like to include in your content, cover this in your copywriting brief.

Deadline

“We need this yesterday lol!” – not an ideal example of how you should include a deadline in your copywriting brief.

Excellent copywriting takes time, so try to feature a realistic deadline in your copywriting brief, bearing in mind work can’t always start immediately if your copywriter is working on other projects.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to write a clear and effective copywriting brief for your project, to help your chosen copywriter produce an exceptional piece of writing.

Free downloadable copywriting brief template

If you still need help, feel free to download my free copywriting brief template and use it to brief in your next project. This template features everything covered in this copywriting brief blog in a user-friendly format.

Using this free copywriting brief template will ensure your freelance copywriter has all the info they need to smash your brief and deliver the goods!

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How to become a freelance copywriter

how to become a freelance copywriter

Wondering how to become a freelance copywriter? I am one, so I’ve put together some tips to help you on your merry way.

There are no official qualifications or training required to become a freelance copywriter. So, as long as you can produce smart, targeted and error-free content you’re off to a great start.

Plus, in today’s outsource-happy economy, freelance copywriters are more in-demand than ever. Business owners are wising up to the advantages of only paying for the content they need, when they need it. For them, this makes much more business sense than paying someone to drink coffee and talk about Love Island for 50% of the working day.

So, before you quit the day job and change your LinkedIn bio, wait. Read my advice on becoming a freelance copywriter to arm yourself with some essential tips and advice from an expert.

Start with a side hustle

I’m all for a motivational Pinterest quote. However, the reality for me wasn’t a case of waking up one day and deciding to be a freelance copywriter.

Dreaming big is all well and good but working hard is what makes these things actually happen.

I first started working as a freelance copywriter as a side hustle to my day job almost four years before I started working for myself full-time. While a four-year side hustle isn’t essential, spending time building your copywriting business on the side is a smart move.

Evenings, weekends and early mornings may feature prominently in your working hours at first. Yet this is a key time to establish yourself and lay some foundations for freelance success.

Work on your copywriting portfolio

Most clients will ask to see copywriting examples or a portfolio before commissioning you to write for them. So, it’s time to work on building one up.

If you don’t have any paid work to display yet, use content you’ve produced on your own blog or sites like Medium to gain exposure.

Alternatively, secure low-paid work on sites like Fiverr and People Per Hour to gain copywriting portfolio examples. While this does mean you’ll work for less than your day rate, these tend to be one-off jobs that will help you secure experience and content, without working for free.

My first portfolio was a simple Google Doc using a template I found online. I initially panicked I didn’t have one when a potential client asked. Then I pulled myself together and hastily assembled this copywriting portfolio and sent it on. This helped me secure me a number of early copywriting projects, so it does the job.

Establish an online presence to promote your copywriting work

So far in my freelance copywriting career, the majority of my leads have come via LinkedIn. Therefore, having an active LinkedIn profile and relevant content has been my most valuable marketing tool to date.

Setting up your online presence needn’t be too involved to begin with. You probably already have a LinkedIn profile, so use it to promote yourself. Creating a business account on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is straightforward, and you don’t need to do all four at first. I’m most active on LinkedIn and Facebook, so stick to what you’re most comfortable with at first. Then, develop your social presence on other platforms further down the line.

Of course, having your own freelance copywriter website is a great way to present a professional image to potential clients. It’s easier than ever to create your own simple website using platforms like WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace. If you’re even the slightest bit tech-savvy, you shouldn’t struggle with this.

However, if you have a small budget, you can outsource this to a web designer. Use LinkedIn or freelancer Facebook groups to find someone starting out in their web development career who would be happy to create your site in exchange for your copywriting services. A contra-deal will help you both establish yourselves and start developing the foundations of your freelance career.

Know your worth as a freelance copywriter

Recently, I saw a newbie copywriter posting in a Facebook group asking for advice on how much to charge for freelance copywriting. Her suggested day rate was less than half of mine, and mine is pretty competitive. While I can completely understand her temptation to go low to win some early jobs, this attitude isn’t helpful for your future self or your fellow copywriters.

Devaluing the art of copywriting by setting your hourly, project and day rates too low means you’ll struggle to ever increase them further down the line. Plus, if clients see your dirt cheap rates as standard, they will refuse to pay the actually standard rate for other copywriters, thus jeopardising the landscape for everyone.

By all means, offer some mates’ rates for friends to secure some content for your portfolio, but know your worth when establishing your copywriting rates, and you’ll thank yourself (and hopefully, me!) later.

Don’t write for free 

Following on from the previous point, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned since becoming a freelance copywriter is not to work for free. I’ve had countless requests for free content, and many “amazing opportunities” to work with a company by supplying them with free sample blogs or articles.

It’s super tempting to go for every opportunity that comes your way in the early days, and I did it myself a few times before wising up.

People who expect you to work for free will never value your work, and they’re likely to be the same clients who are terrible at paying you on time if you ever do come to produce paid copywriting work for them.

Sadly, freeloaders will always find a naive newbie to do their work for free, but don’t dwell over these missed opportunities and use the time you could have spent writing their content for free to focus on finding great clients who respect your time and pay you for it.

Having spoken to other freelancers on this issue, there seems to be a couple of exceptions to this rule. Working for free for a great cause or a fantastic reason can be a satisfying experience. If someone can benefit hugely from your support, like a charity, a penniless startup or a beloved friend, then feel free (lol) to provide your services free of charge.

Ask yourself if you’ll feel good for doing it, or if the impact you can make is significant. Is this a worthy cause, or is someone trying to take advantage of you? Usually, you’ll know the difference.

Another exception to the “no free work” rule. If you’re lacking copywriting examples for your portfolio, it’s a good idea to reach out to business-owning friends to see if you could write some blogs or landing pages for their websites in exchange for a testimonial. This is a win win situation, and you’re willingly offering your services, rather than reluctantly providing them out of desperation.

In these last two examples, always make sure you get a little something out of it, like a backlink, a Google review or a LinkedIn recommendation – these will cost your client nothing, but help you significantly.

Add value to your audience

Once you have a social presence, be consistent in your posting and ask all of your friends to like, comment on and share your posts and page. My Facebook audience grew from around 100 to over 700 in a couple of days when I put out a post asking all of my Facebook friends to invite their contacts to like my page. I was more than happy to do the same for fellow self-employed or small business owning friends, so don’t be afraid to ask for support from your existing network in establishing yourself.

The golden rule with business etiquette on social media is not to sell aggressively to your network. Instead, focus on engaging with others, making new connections and producing content that will be useful to your target audience. Instead of asking them to hire you to write their blogs, create a post or blog* showing them how much more traffic their website would receive if it had weekly blog content.

Adding value to your audience is key. Maybe they’ll see that post and start writing their own blogs, but if this becomes too time-consuming, which it invariably will, you’ll be the freelance copywriter they think of first when they decide to outsource it.

The same goes for your website visitors. Rather than selling to them when they land on your site, think of ways to interest and engage them. Promise them copywriting tips to increase their conversions. Or, offer a downloadable template for writing their own press release. Both options are more likely to prompt them to sign up than simply asking them to subscribe to marketing emails.

*Top tip* – rather than posting a link to your blog on LinkedIn, recreate the blog as a LinkedIn article, as LinkedIn’s algorithm frowns on external links in a bid to keep users on the platform. Copying and pasting it is fine. Make sure you proof it for errors before posting live on LinkedIn, as it often won’t paste correctly and misses out words or sections. If you want to link to an external site in a LinkedIn post, do it in the comments to keep in favour with the LinkedIn gods. Simply create a post as you normally would, then end it with “link in comments”.

Network

The dreaded networking can be an incredible way to establish yourself as a freelance copywriter. Admittedly, many writers are introverts (me included). But overcoming your fears and promoting yourself at networking events will help you to make great connections that can develop into clients or lead to successful introductions.

Luckily, networking is varied these days. So, there’s plenty of scope to find an event to suit your personality, interests and target audience. From gin tasting to dog walking, there’s a networking event for everyone if you look hard enough. Some will be geared around the 30-second selling spiel, others will be more relaxed and informal. Therefore, find out which event will be the best option for you.

Ask for suggestions on social media to find out what’s happening in your local area. Too scared to go it alone? Rope a friend into coming along as moral support.

If you attend regularly, you’ll make friends and the entire experience will be less daunting. And the results could be amazing.

Find a copywriting niche

A fantastic way to develop as a freelance copywriter is to establish a niche. Specialising in one sector will give clients in that industry the confidence that you’ll speak their language and understand their target audience.

If you’re not sure where to specialise, you could start by setting up a blog in an area you’re interested in or know a little more about (maybe due to your current career or hobbies). Examples could be fashion, personal finance, recruitment or sports.

I’ve worked in two key copywriting roles which gave me varied experience across multiple sectors. So, while I don’t have a set niche, there are areas where I have more experience and expertise, like property, interiors and the KBB industry. This enables me to secure regular work and clients in those sectors.

Write guest posts

Another kind of exception to the “don’t work for free” rule is writing guest posts. Compile a list of websites in the industry in which you’re hoping to find potential clients and carve a niche, then approach them offering to write them a guest post.

While you won’t get paid for the post, you may be invited to write paid posts later if they like your content. Or, it could open other doors in that industry. Not to mention, creating valuable backlinks to your site from websites with an excellent domain authority.

The key element of the “no free work” rule is to avoid working for people who will take advantage of you. So, if it’s someone you really want to work for and you can clearly see the potential benefits to you and your career, then go for it.

How to find copywriting clients

Got yourself a copywriting portfolio and a couple of testimonials? It’s time to start finding clients who will pay you to write for their business.

LinkedIn is a great way to do this, and you can use a number of different methods. If you have a niche, connect with the target client in that industry. For example, marketing managers in the food and drink industry. Always add a note to your invitation, introducing yourself and gently asking if they’d like to connect to see if there may be an opportunity to work together.

Another way to find clients through LinkedIn is to use the content search function to find posts with keywords relating to your copywriting services. I regularly search for keywords like copywriter, copywriting, freelance copywriter and blogger. Then, I connect and private message anyone who has put out a post searching for these services. Make sure you message directly rather than commenting on the post, as it’s more personal.

Most of all, identify who you want to target then work out the best place to find and approach them. If your ideal clients are startup owners and entrepreneurs, join some LinkedIn and Facebook groups where they’re liking to be hanging out. If you know of niche networking events they frequent, book onto them and start schmoozing.

Pitch your services

Rockstar copywriter Jacob McMillen has a highly successful “no-risk pitch method” you can use to approach dream clients. By offering potential clients a sample piece of copywriting which they only pay for if it’s successful for them, he’s secured an plethora of paid jobs and regular clients. The only risk is if the quality of your writing isn’t up to scratch, leading businesses to reject your work. However, if you’re confident in your style and substance, it’s a genius way to approach and convert copywriting clients.

Find a copywriting or business mentor

Accessing advice and support in the early days of your copywriting career gives you the confidence and knowledge to win clients, produce great work and get paid well.

I’ve leaned on a couple of key people during the first few years of my time as a freelance copywriter. One is a friend who runs her own marketing business. She has both worked as and hired freelance copywriters, so understands the process and has experience of dealing with every situation that can arise.

The other is my partner, who runs his own commercial photography business. Not copywriting-related, but he’s been through the highs and lows of setting up a business, is a few years ahead of me and has bags of experience dealing with clients and suppliers.

Calling on these two regularly helped me to find my flow as a freelance copywriter. From panicky WhatsApps asking for quoting advice, to weekends spent brainstorming blog topics and marketing ideas, I’ve gained a huge amount of expertise from these sounding boards.

There are websites like this to find a mentor if you don’t have anyone to ask, and there are plenty of Facebook groups for freelancers and copywriters where you can tap into advice and support.

Now, all that’s left to do is become a freelance copywriter!

Hopefully, these tips will help you get started on your path to become a freelance copywriter and secure you some paid work from great clients. If you use these to earn some copywriting work, please let me know!

If you have any other questions or want to know more about working as a freelance copywriter, please feel free to drop me a line on hello@jameso73.sg-host.com and I’d be happy to help.

How to beat writer’s block and be a brilliant copywriter

how to beat writer's block

The dreaded writer’s block plagues every copywriter at some point in their life, so it’s natural to experience that sudden panic you forgot ALL the words. Luckily, I’ve successfully banished Blank Screen Betty countless times in my 15-year copywriting career, so I’ve picked up some handy hacks along the way. Here are my tips on how to beat writer’s block and become a brilliant copywriter.

Write anything

This first tip on how to beat writer’s block may sound obvious, but to me, it’s actually the most valuable advice I’ve ever had. 

All too often, freelance copywriters agonise over finding the perfect word or ideal opening paragraph, causing an avalanche of anxiety and self-doubt. The best way to banish this is by writing something, anything! As soon as you’ve overcome that blank Google Doc and got some words down, you have a foundation to work from and the words will flow. 

Maybe you’ll end up replacing everything you wrote in that first draft (a writer I follow on Instagram, Laura Jane Williams, calls the first draft of each book the “trash draft” as it inevitably ends up relegated to the trash can). Perhaps you’ll improve on some of it and it will evolve into your finished edit. Or possibly, you’ll nail it first time when you forget your perfectionism and bang out something in a hurry.

The important thing is to start writing in the first place, as you can edit imperfect text, but you can’t edit a blank screen 😉

Set a timer

When researching copywriting tips, one I often see is to set a timer to beat writer’s block. If you want to get all fancy about it, there are apps, plugins and various other tools you can use to achieve this. Terrifyingly, Squibler’s The Most Dangerous Writing App is a free writing tool that deletes everything you’ve written if you stop typing. You can write in five-minute to one-hour slots, and it’s designed to boost productivity and help copywriters and authors overcome writer’s block.

However, if that’s a little extreme, you can always set a 10-minute timer on your phone and see how much you can get down in that time. Against the clock, you may well produce some of your best copywriting work. Or if nothing else, have a basis to start improving and editing.

Create a framework

For me, large copywriting projects can seem daunting until I break them down into smaller pieces. 

If I’m tasked with producing the content for a website, for example, I will start by typing out titles for each page, then breaking down each page into sections with a header, body copy and call to action. As soon as I see each smaller task, I find it infinitely easier to get started because it suddenly seems far more achievable than a blank page with 25 web pages to create. 

For blog copywriting, you could start by sectioning your blog into headers to build an idea of how you will format the article, and what you will include in each section.

Headers, titles and prompts instantly exterminate the blank page and distract you from any worries about the task in hand, leaving you with a manageable framework to work from.

Cut out distractions

Distractions are a surefire way to turn writer’s block into a wasted afternoon of procrastination, so if they’re threatening your ability to produce brilliant copywriting, it’s time to cut them out.

Lock your mobile phone in a desk drawer, or leave it in another room. Turn off email notifications on your laptop. Switch off the radio or music if it’s making your mind wander. If you’re working from home, find a space where you can ignore the laundry pile or washing up.

Know yourself and what’s likely to distract you. For me, the slightest hint of writer’s block and I’ll look for ways to distract my brain and before I know it, I’m five years deep into a stranger’s Instagram page and no closer to getting my word count off ground zero. 

With minimal distractions, you can clear the clutter in your mind and create a calm mindset to let the words flow.

Walk away

If you’ve tried various ways to beat writer’s block and you’re still staring at a blank page, it’s time to step away from screen!

Taking a break is a brilliant way to recharge and reignite your inspiration, so you can return to your desk brimming with ideas.

Do something productive to boost your self-esteem, rather than wallowing and beating yourself up about it. Go for a walk, call a friend, write a shopping list to plan a delicious meal to look forward to at the end of your copywriting session, or take a bath and pamper yourself a little.

Sometimes, the worst thing you can do for writer’s block is force yourself to sit at your desk feeling guilty and stressed, so stepping back and allowing yourself a break gives you a physical and mental boost.

Try a change of scenery

Staring at the same four walls can drive you crazy if you’re suffering from writer’s block, so don’t feel you have to chain yourself to your desk to produce successful copywriting.

Take your laptop outside, head to a local cafe, snuggle up on the sofa, visit a coworking space or work from your bed if it works for you. A change of scenery can be the perfect antidote to a spell of writer’s block.

Shut down your screens

For some, screens can cause stress and anxiety when trying to beat writer’s block and create interesting content.

If that sounds familiar, shut down your screens and get back to basics. Open up a notebook and try to jot down some initial ideas. Or, close your eyes, get thinking and record some voice notes to inspire your next copywriting project.

Write a plan by hand

Following on from the previous tip, writing a plan of action relating to your copywriting project can be an excellent way to get your writing session off the ground.

Scribbling thoughts, headers, ideas and tasks down by hand can feel more satisfying than typing, so mentally it can put you in a productive mindset to get you started.

A good old-fashioned spider diagram can help you organise your thoughts and form the foundation of your copywriting project, giving you something to refer back to for inspiration as you go along. 

Brainstorm, mindmap, thoughtshower… whatever you call it, get something down on paper and watch the content start flowing onto your screen. 

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you banish writer’s block the next time it comes lurking, and produce some brilliant freelance copywriting for your next project. 

If you can’t find the time or inclination to overcome your writer’s block, you can pass your project over to a freelance copywriter. I’d be happy to help with your content writing needs – drop me a line on hello@jameso73.sg-host.com and let’s chat.

What is copywriting?

what is copywriting?

Ah, the question I ask myself on a daily basis as I strive to find the right words for the latest brief to land on my desk. Exactly what is copywriting?

In fact, copywriting is simply the act of writing copy, or words. 

Why does copy mean words?

Using the word copy to refer to words, or text, is a throwback to the early days of journalism. Originally, a reporter would write some words which would be copied into print. So, the word copy came to be used for written content produced by journalists.

Now, the word copy is used widely as an alternative for plain old words, and not just in journalism. Many businesses and marketers understand and use the word copy to refer to any kind of written content. 

What is copywriting used for?

Essentially, the act of copywriting usually refers to writing content for business use. Most copywriters produce text to be used by clients across print, web, email, advertising and point of sale.

If you need something written to explain or promote your business, it falls into the category of copywriting.

Why do businesses need professionally written copy?

Many business owners or employees feel they can confidently write their own content. However, it’s often difficult to find the time or direction to do it when faced with a jam-packed to do list.

A professional copywriter can step in to take the load off. Copywriting pros will produce persuasive, engaging and purposeful content for your project, whether that’s a website, blog, brochure or video.

In reality, a lot of people think they can write good copy. And while many can, it can be difficult for businesses to take a step back and write objective and powerful content.

Can businesses write their own copy?

Yes, business owners and colleagues are capable of handling their own copywriting in many cases.

Plenty of businesses have in-house marketers, content creators or bloggers who can manage all of the company’s copywriting needs without outsourcing it to a freelance copywriter. However, there are disadvantages to writing your own business content.

What are the disadvantages of businesses doing their own copywriting?

Businesses big and small can struggle to write their own content, for several reasons detailed below.

It takes too long 

Without a background in writing professionally, copywriting for your own business can be time-consuming and tedious.

It takes you away from other tasks 

If copywriting isn’t a key part of your job, producing all written content can detract your attention and focus away from core business objectives.

It’s hard to be objective 

Doing your own copywriting as a business owner or employee is often hard. You’re in the thick of it and your loyalties are firmly with the company. Hiring a freelance copywriter can help in this situation, as they bring a fresh perspective and clear purpose for your copywriting.

It’s not all about you 

Copywriting should be more about the customer than the company. And this is tough for many businesses to understand.

If you do your own copywriting, it’s tempting to go into minute detail about your business’s awards, history and achievements. Working with a freelance copywriter can lead to leaner, more customer-focused content that delivers real results. Copywriting experts can be more ruthless, which ultimately leads to better returns. 

Is copywriting expensive?

Using a professional copywriter does come at a price. However, it’s one that smart businesses see as an investment that can seriously pay off. With the right words, you’ll attract more customers, convert more leads, increase your visibility and elevate brand awareness. Ultimately, investing in professional copywriting is a relatively small price to pay when the benefits are taken into consideration.

Copywriting rates vary. I charge a standard fee of £40 per hour and quote every job upfront, so customers can budget accordingly.

If you require professional copy for your business, I’d love to help. Drop me a line and let’s get started.

If you’re not quite ready to invest in the services of a freelance copywriter, stick around for plenty of tips and advice on writing content for business.

Common spelling mistakes that make your business look bad

typos that make your business look bad

Spelling and grammar isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. No need to sweat it. After all, Grammarly picks up most common spelling mistakes. But, there are some made so frequently I wanted to draw attention to them in the hope of helping you remember how to get it right next time.

Common spelling mistakes – and how to avoid them

Read on to find out which are the most common spelling mistakes in business content, and how to avoid using them and risk your business looking unprofessional.

Definite 

This is one I definitely had to kick off with. In fact, it’s one of the most common spelling mistakes I see in business copy. 

Definite and defiant are similar looking words. But, if you actually say them out loud, the similarities lessen.

If you want to make sure you’re definitely spelling definite right, it’s time to say it loud and proud to avoid making a defiantly incorrect statement. Remember, definite ends -ite, not -ant. So, you can be sure to remember the difference next time. 

Their/there/they’re

Understanding and remembering the difference between their, there and they’re is tough for many people. Naturally, it’s therefore a grammatical error that crops up frequently in business content. 

Briefly, here’s the difference:

  • Their – possessive determiner, refers to something belonging to a third party, e.g. their website
  • There – adverb, refers to a place or position e.g. leave your business card there. Or, can be used as an exclamation, e.g. hi there!
  • They’re – contraction, shortened version of “they are”, e.g. they’re working on new business content

If you can lengthen they’re into they are each time and it still makes sense, you’re using it correctly.

As for the difference between their and there, it should be picked up by most spelling and grammar checks if you’re really struggling. However, practice makes perfect.

Make sure if you do manage to get them right, you don’t fall at the final hurdle and spell it thier. 

Separate

When proofreading websites, brochures and emails for business clients, I often spot a typo with the word separate

People regularly misspell separate and switch the first a for an e, making it seperate. 

Years ago, I was taught that separate and desperate were two common spelling mistakes. I learned one had an a and one had an e in the questionable spot. I had to remember which was which by saying both phonetically to myself: sep-a-rate, desp-e-rate – and it does work.

If you club them together in your head and remember it’s one or the other, this should help you spell both right (or wrong – 50/50 chance!).

Your/you’re

If I had £1 for every time I’ve seen your and you’re mixed up in business content, I’d have… Well, I’d probably have no need to write websites to pay the bills.

Your and you’re are notoriously difficult to differentiate. However, it’s not so tricky if you break it down.

As a contraction, you’re is a short version of you are. So, if you’re about to use the word you’re, ask yourself if the sentence would make sense if you changed it to “you are”. If so, you’ve got the right one.

Similarly, if you’re about to use the word your in your business content, double check if you are makes sense. If it does, you’ve got the wrong one – so switch it for you’re. For example, one I see too often is “hope your well”. A quick sense check would tell you it could also be written “hope you are well”, which tells you you picked the wrong horse. 

It may slow you down somewhat. But, it’s a price worth paying to avoid looking unprofessional.

Privilege

Privilege is a word I see frequently in websites, brochures, social posts and blogs. Maybe you feel it’s a privilege to do something, or you feel privileged by something that’s happened to your business.

However, the word privilege is spelt wrong so often, in so many different ways. In fact, I’ve counted about 10 variations.

The way I remember how to spell privilege is actually to keep it as simple as possible, as it has fewer letters than you’d expect.

If you think of the lege part as the beginning of legend, you can eliminate that erroneous d from creeping in. 

Then, remember the only vowels in privilege are i and e, occurring twice each consecutively, which should help you avoid throwing in a stray a.

It’s a roundabout way to avoid a common spelling mistake, but may help you get your head round it for next time.

Accommodate

Mm, can you see how you might be spelling the word accommodate incorrectly?

Accommodate and accommodation fox many people when writing business content. Many of us are so eager to accommodate our customers we fail to remember the rule: double c and double m makes for the perfect accommodation.

This is a simple way to remember it, and should hopefully help you prevent any typos next time you… erm… type it.

Bear/bare

Bear with me while I explain the difference between the words bear and bare. 

Hopefully, most of us know bear is the way to spell the big grizzly animal you find in the woods. So, no confusion there.

The confusion lies between the homonyms bear and bare, which have completely different uses and meanings.

Bear is a verb, which means to endure or carry. For example: “I can’t bear to read any more of this blog”.

Bare can be used as an adjective, relating to being naked or lacking, or as a verb, meaning to open up. Examples of this are: “the floors were bare”, or “he bared his soul”.

Here are a few examples of when to use bear or bare correctly in business content:

  • Please bear with us during this disruption to our service
  • Bear in mind, our products can be used in various situations
  • If you can’t bear to write your own content, a freelance copywriter can help
  • Spending time on your spelling ultimately bears fruit when customers read your content
  • If your coffee cupboard is bare, it’s time to stock up on our newest blend
  • Doing the bare minimum when it comes to checking your work can lead to spelling mistakes

As you can see, for most business copywriting purposes, bear is more commonly used than bare. Therefore, unless you’re getting nakey or heartfelt, I’d guess on bear if you’re unsure.

Grateful

Many people get confused when spelling grateful. Why? They assume it’s something to do with the word great, so it should be spelt the same.

Well, we all know what happens when we assume, right? So, to avoid making the proverbial of (yo)u and me, let’s remember how to spell grateful correctly.

Grateful derives from the Latin word gratus, meaning pleasing or thankful.

Oh, and greatful? In the words of Monica Geller…

via GIPHY

So, ignore your urge to link grateful with greatness. Remember, they’re not quite the same thing, even though they might sound the same.

Think of the word grateful as part of gratitude, rather than greatness. This should help you to always spell it correctly.

Business

Spelling the word business wrong in copywriting happens more often than you might think, as it can be confusing to some to remember where the double s goes. 

One easy way to remember how to spell business is to think of it as the act of being busy, as few of us spell busy wrong. 

Therefore, if there’s no double s in busy, there isn’t one in the busy part of business either.

Company’s or companies?

Finally, one typo I see incredibly often when proofreading business websites is the mix-up between the words company’s and companies.

Many people want to talk about their company’s achievements. However, they panic about where the apostrophe goes and feel like they’re playing it safe by plumping for companies instead. 

Remember, if you are referring to something belonging to a single company, you will use the word “company’s”. For example: “our company’s excellent spelling gives customers confidence in our services”.

If you have more than one company to write about, the correct possessive will be companies’, e.g. “our two companies’ employees are proud to be excellent spellers”.

Companies is the correct version when you’re referring to multiple companies, without a possessive element. For example: “find out more about our companies here”.

Got it? Good 😉

Ultimately, spelling isn’t everyone’s strength and we can’t expect it to be. All of the people guilty of common spelling mistakes shine in other areas, areas probably far more impressive than simply being able to write good (OMG that was intentional).

Therefore, if spelling isn’t your speciality, don’t sweat it. A good old spell check goes a long way, as does reading your content back to yourself out loud. 

Really not sure how to spell? Ask a friend, colleague or freelance copywriter to sense check your website content, social media posts, emails or blogs before hitting publish. After all, spending a little extra time getting it right will go a long way towards reassuring your customers of your professionalism in a competitive marketplace. 

If you need any help with freelance copywriting or proofreading, give me a shout on hello@jameso73.sg-host.com or 07305 081277.

And if you manage to remember how to spell any of these common spelling mistakes after reading this, please let me know!

10 awesome website copywriting tips 

website copywriting tips

Whether you’re a seasoned copywriter or a copywriting novice charged with creating web content for your company site, certain website copywriting tips benefit everyone.

Trying your hand at writing web content is something I’d encourage everyone to do. But, I would urge you to take expert advice to avoid some common mistakes before you give it a whirl.

Why do I need website copywriting tips?

Getting the right content on your website could be the difference between your customers converting and deserting. If they’re on your website, they’re interested in what you’re selling. So don’t lose them to bad web copy.

Even if your web design and graphics look spot on, expert website copywriting tips will avoid users switching off and your bounce rate shooting up. 

You’ve invested time, money, and effort to get someone onto your website. Maybe you ran Google Ads, posted on social media, set up paid social campaigns, worked on getting good backlinks or paid someone for lead generation.  

After all that hard work, it’s a waste to lose them once they’ve finally landed on your website. But words are powerful, and their power means they can instantly turn someone off your brand or business before they go any further along your funnel. 

Good website copywriting tips make your content simple, powerful and effective. 

1. Write simply

One of my major website copywriting tips is to keep it simple, no matter how much you know about your own industry.

Steer clear from jargon, don’t use business buzzwords and avoid anything too technical.

Even if you’re writing for a technical audience, most businesses want to keep web content straightforward.

Your website is an introduction to your business, and while certain pages can go into detail, many web pages are an overview of your product or service. 

2. Optimise your web content 

Optimising your website copywriting for search engines used to be a case of typing your keywords a few times and hoping for the best. Now, it’s much more complex than that, but SEO doesn’t have to be stressful.

If you’re putting your content directly onto the back end of your website, install or use an SEO plugin, like Yoast or SEOmatic. Use this to adapt your web copy to meet its requirements. This will make your website copywriting more readable and enable more web users to find your site.

However, if you’re not techy enough to add content to the website yourself, you can still optimise it before it gets to this stage. There are plenty of free SEO tools, like Content SEO Checker. These can prime your website copywriting for success, so make the most of them!

3. Write in the active, not passive

Anyone who uses SEO software when writing web copy will know how much the passive voice is despised (and yes, I wrote that in the passive voice, because I’m a rebel).

Here’s the difference between a sentence in the active voice and passive voice:

  • Example of writing in the active voice: Ali writes awesome website copy
  • Example of writing in the passive voice: Awesome website copy is written by Ali

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with writing in the passive voice, it’s generally considered better writing practice to use the active voice wherever possible. 

Plus, as your goal is always to keep your writing simple and accessible, the active voice makes your sentences shorter. 

However, don’t get too tied up with this, as it’s natural for the passive voice to occur in writing, so don’t feel like it’s totally banned. The best idea is to keep it in mind, swap it for the active voice where possible and minimise the passive if you can. 

4. Avoid being a Blank Screen Betty

If you’re new to writing web copy, nothing can be more daunting than a blank page and an entire website to write. So, if you need website copywriting tips to banish Blank Screen Betty for good, read on. 

First, forget spelling, grammar, word counts, H1s, site maps, and anything else stressing you out. 

Set yourself a timer for 10 minutes, then write whatever comes to mind on your required topic. This may be an intro, an about us page, a random product or service page or even a blog post.

At this stage, all that matters is kick-starting your creativity and developing your confidence and momentum as a writer.

As soon as you’ve got something down, it’s much easier to keep going, as you have a tone, structure and style to maintain and build upon.

Hopefully, after ten minutes you’ll have a firm foundation for one of your web pages, or possibly even a completed page of website content (if your 10-minute blast was uber productive).

You can repeat this process as many times as you need to if you’re struggling with writers’ block. However, once may be enough for you to get off to a flying start. 

5. Don’t use words you don’t understand

The lure of the Thesaurus is tempting for every in-house, agency, or freelance copywriter, but it’s smart to use restraint. 

Nobody wants to wind up with the web copy equivalent of Joey Tribbiani’s adoption reference, signed Baby Kangaroo Tribbiani and written from the bottom of his full-sized aortic pumps.

Using a Thesaurus for website copywriting inspiration is fine, as long as you don’t plump for a synonym you don’t actually understand. When you do this, you’re risking your web content losing all meaning or becoming far too flowery (I’ve documented my thoughts on purple prose already).

By all means, find an alternative for the word you’ve overused throughout your web content. This will make it more enjoyable to read – as long as it makes sense.

But always exercise caution in using the Thesaurus, as it’s every website copywriter’s number one frenemy.

Simplicity is key, so if you can swap a long word for a shorter one, always do.

6. Don’t make it all about you

One major mistake many businesses make in doing their own website copywriting is to make it all about them.

I encourage anyone to try writing their own web copy. However, always focus on your target customer and check back in with yourself to make sure everything you write applies to them. 

Your company’s long and prestigious history is great, but unfortunately, all your customers really care about is what your product or service can do for them. And that’s what’s important in writing good web content.

Focus each of your web pages on benefits, rather than features. Shout about how you can solve your customers’ problems and offer solutions to make their lives easier.

This doesn’t mean you can’t say anything about your business, because your customer needs to know who you are, what you do and why you’re the best company to do it for them. However, make sure you find a make it interesting or important to them, rather than leaving them asking “so what?”

7. Write in the right tone

Finding or maintaining the right tone for your business’s web content is an important step in your journey towards exceptional website copywriting.

If your business has a well-established style and tone of voice, use it throughout your web copy. This will make your entire website flow, and appeal to your target audience.

If your business doesn’t have an established tone of voice, it’s time to establish one!

To find the right tone of voice for your business, consider your target customer. Who are they? How do they speak? Which words would this person use regularly? And which words are they unlikely to say or understand?

With your target customer in mind, craft your website copywriting to fit the person you want to read it. Maybe that’s corporate, friendly, casual, humorous, or strictly professional. However, once you’ve found a tone that suits your brand, writing web copy will be an easier and much more seamless process.

8. Be honest and direct

This sounds simple, but many businesses produce web copy that skirts around a subject, leaving the visitor more confused than conversion-ready.

Speaking honestly about what you can offer customers is the best way to reach your target customer successfully. 

Being direct doesn’t come naturally to everyone when taking on website copywriting, as it’s tempting to waffle to fill the space. However, your customers will thank you for getting straight to the point – nobody wants to read pages and pages of vague corporate speak.

Be upfront about what you do, how you do it, how much you charge, and what your customers can expect from your products or services. Because if they don’t glean all of that from your landing page, they’ll bounce off to your competitor’s site.

9. Write with authority

When we’re browsing the internet for a certain product or service, we’re looking for an expert to provide it to us. So, your website should reassure visitors you’re the specialist in your chosen subject.

Write with authority about the products or services you offer, and back up your claims with facts, stats, and evidence to earn web visitors’ trust and respect.

Use those valuable seconds when a visitor first lands on your website to show why yours is the right business to help them, using strong, simple language and fact-based proof. 

10. Get your web copy checked 

As a firm pedant, checking your work will always be one of my top website copywriting tips. However, I would always advise leaving this until last. Otherwise, this can disturb your flow and batter your confidence as a copywriter.

Once you’ve completed your website copywriting, run it through a spelling and grammar check and give it a good old read yourself for any errors. Then read it aloud to avoid skimming over errors without spotting them. 

Mistakes are notoriously hard to spot when you’ve written your own web content. Ask a friend, colleague or freelance copywriter to cast an eye over your work – it’s always an excellent move.

After all your hard work writing your own web content, the last thing you want is for an easily avoidable error to crop up and make your business look unprofessional. 

I hope these website copywriting tips prove useful for you when producing your own web content. If you’re considering it, just go for it. With a little research and consideration, you can produce powerful content to enlighten, educate and convert visitors to your website.

Good luck!

What is purple prose (and how can you avoid it?)

Purple veg good, purple prose bad
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One thing I despise even more than a misplaced apostrophe is what’s known as purple prose. But what on earth does that mean, and how can you stop yourself from using it?

Read on and I will make like Clarissa and explain it all (and if you get that reference we can be friends too).

If you’re writing marketing content, it could be for blogs, social media, adverts, editorials, press releases, billboards or petrol pumps (and yes, I have genuinely written for all of these). 

Most of your content needs to be tailored to your chosen platform, but there is one simple thing you can do today to make it instantly better. Simply stop using purple prose!

What actually is purple prose?

Purple prose is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “writing that is too elaborate or ornate”. The emphasis here, for me, is on the word too, as purple prose can come in many forms. Yet what they all have in common is the fact they are all just so extra.

Why is it called that? 

Purple prose was named after a straight-talking Roman poet named Horace, who called out his fellow poets’ flowery language. He compared their elaborate attempts at literature to the patches of purple cloth worn by some of the most diva-like members of Roman society as a symbol of wealth.

The term “purple prose” was Horace’s sassy way of criticising writers whose language was overly pretentious.

Why is purple prose bad?

Now, any Friends fan knows Joey’s adoption letter is all the evidence we need that purple prose is not your friend. And honestly, I mean that from the bottom of my full-sized aortic pumps.

But purple prose isn’t just about using long words, as arguably there’s a place in your content for long words used in the right way. Purple prose is more about embellishing your content with anything that doesn’t really need to be there. So, think excessive adjectives, overly long sentences and words that feel out of place within the context. 

Apologies to any Twihards out there, but in researching a good example of purple prose to show you, this passage from the vampire blockbuster kept cropping up:

“His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.”

In many cases, purple perpetrators believe they will come across as more intelligent by writing in this way. The reality is that purple prose usually makes the writer seem like they’re simply trying too hard.

What are the dangers of using it?

Purple prose is more than just annoying. It can actually have a detrimental effect on your writing. Find out the dangers of using purple prose right here.

1. It’s hard to read

Multisyllabic words, meandering sentences and a torrent of adjectives can be tough to digest. Not only will your readers struggle to keep the thread, they may not even understand what you’re trying to say in the first place.

And if a reader leaves your website to google the words you’re using in your content, what are the chances of them coming back?

2. It’s attention-seeking

Purple prose draws all the attention to the words and takes all the purpose out of your meaning. After all, words are important, but it’s how they make us feel or what they prompt us to do that counts. If all your audience sees is words, it’s more than likely they will miss the point.

3. It’s unnecessary

Perhaps most importantly of all, purple prose is completely unnecessary in most instances. Why isolate your audience by sending an army of adjectives into battle, when you could valiantly win them over by writing in plain English?

How can I avoid using purple prose?

So if you’ve now identified purple prose could be clouding your writing, how can you go about dialling it down?

George Orwell’s six rules for writing have stayed with me throughout my copywriting career and they serve as excellent guidelines for purging the purple.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

The first two are my personal faves and have guided me through 15 years of writing. Whatever I’m working on, they buzz around my head reminding me to hold back from overdoing it. 

Here are a few more simple steps to keep your copy in check.

Focus on your audience

Remember who you are writing for and you shouldn’t ever stray too far from your purpose. Unless your website, brochure or social media are parodies aimed at a pretentious literary crowd, it really won’t be necessary to resort to purple prose to communicate your point. 

Empathise with your reader

Leap further into the mind of your audience and actually put yourself in their position. What will they want to hear from you? Is it a bunch of ornate adjectives? Or would they rather you got straight to the point? If you read through your writing from the perspective of an existing or potential customer and sections of it speak to you the way they should, it’s time to get editing and make things much more simple. Because if they are moved by your words, what’s the point of writing them?

Always be yourself

Ultimately, purple prose is unlikely to reflect your own true voice and style, so always try to be yourself and write in a way that sounds like you. There’s nothing wrong with developing your writing style over time, but do it in a way that feels authentic and interesting, rather than overblown and excessive. 

In short, the best way to achieve your best marketing content is by banishing the bullsh*t, staying true to yourself and your brand, and writing straight from your full-sized aortic pumps.

And if you can’t manage that yourself, I’d be more than happy to be your comrade in the war against purple prose – simply drop me a line on wordsbyali@gmail.com or call me on 07395 128493 and let’s get started.

 
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