Category Archives: Tips and advice

Free business blog template: how to structure a blog

how to structure a blog

You’ve finally carved out a moment to sit down, tea in hand, and bang out a business blog post. But as you fire up your laptop and glimpse that blank page staring back at you, your confidence plummets and procrastination whispers: “you can’t do this! Stop pretending you’re a writer and get back to Insta for a lovely little doomscroll.”

If you know this feeling, you need a business blog template showing you EXACTLY how to structure a blog with zero margin for procrastination.

I know how busy you are, so let’s maximise the time you’ve got and crack on with the task in hand before your tea goes cold!

What is a business blog?

Before we dive straight into your free blog template, let’s backtrack slightly and recap on what a business blog is and why you should defo be writing them.

After all, a little insight into why you’re doing this and what goes into writing the perfect blog will allow you to make the most of your blog template and set you up for success.

If you’re already clued up, jump to the next header.

If you’re still unsure, check out this blog for your crash course in business blogging to bring you up to speed.

All caught up? On we go.

How to structure a business blog

Structuring a blog may feel vague and confusing right now, but you’re about to take a shortcut to business blogging success by learning a foolproof formula you can use every time.

If you’ve done a little research into what to blog about (which is well worth doing for optimal results), you’ll have an idea of what your ideal customer is trying to find out about your product or service.

Tips to write a blog introduction

Firstly, let’s kick off with your blog introduction.

Summarise your chosen topic in a couple of paragraphs, ensuring you include your keyword in the first 150 words.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘keyword’, don’t panic. This is a word or term you’re hoping your blog will show up on Google for when people search it, e.g. gifts for dog owners.

Be clear about what your blog is going to explain/show/teach your reader. There are plenty of blogs out there and you only have a few seconds to draw readers in, so make sure you break the topic down so well they know it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Remember, you can always go back and polish your intro once you’ve fleshed out the rest of your blog. So, don’t overthink it – simply write a couple of sentences here to get some words on a page.

You may be wondering about your blog headline – and I have so much to say on this I’m going to dedicate a separate blog post to it, so sit tight and keep your eyes peeled!

Use your blog headers as section titles

Next, choose three to six questions around your chosen blog topic and use these as your headers.

A well-structured blog features multiple headers, with no more than 300 words under each one.

Think of your headers as section titles and formulate them as questions you’ll answer in the body copy underneath.

For example, if you’re writing a blog about life coaching to introduce your readers to the concept, your headers may be as follows:

  • What is life coaching?
  • Who is life coaching for?
  • How can life coaching help me?
  • How much does life coaching cost?
  • Does life coaching actually work?

True story: it took me 30 seconds to find these questions on Answer The Public, which compiles real data from people browsing search engines like Google.

If you’re a life coach writing a blog on this subject, these should be simple questions you can answer neatly in under 300 words, as you would if someone approached you at a networking meeting to find out more about your job.

When I’m laying out a blog, I like to organise my headers first. Often, the literal act of typing them onto the page is my train out of the procrastination station. Words on paper are a powerful way to banish writer’s block, so getting your headers down is a smart move.

Writing your sections

Now you have some headers in place, you can begin filling in the gaps. You know your headers are questions to be answered, so let’s get answering.

Here are a few blog writing tips to make this part easier:

  • Type how you speak (within reason)
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists – great for skimmers and SEO
  • Mix short and long sentences
  • Focus on benefits, rather than features
  • Include statistics to support your points

How to conclude a blog

Every good story needs an ending, and your blog is no exception.

Your conclusion will round up the points you’ve made and summarise the main message of your blog. We know 43% of people skim read blogs (a stat I actually find surprisingly low!), so we incorporate formats like bullet points and plentiful headers to allow for hot takes.

Naturally, skimmers will skip to the end of your blog, picking out bits of interest along the way, so finishing with a bang is critical.

One simple sentence can give your reader all they need to know, and it’s a good exercise in summarising and drilling down into what’s important.

Check the final two paragraphs of this blog to see my conclusion.

Add a call to action

Your call to action is crucial. Wondering: “what is a call to action?”? Allow me to explain.

A call to action is a marketing term for an instruction we give to a reader telling them what to do next. You’ll use them at the end of every blog, and also in social captions, emails, landing pages, and more.

A call to action, also known as a CTA, doesn’t have to be salesy, so don’t panic if your blog is purely informative and you’re paranoid about launching into a sales spiel and turning readers off.

If your blog’s purpose to inform and educate your reader at an earlier stage in the buying process, use your CTA to nudge them along in their journey.

Unsalesy call to action examples include:

  • Read another blog next
  • Follow our social accounts
  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Download your free blog template

What’s critical to remember is this. Your reader is on your website, reading what you have to say. They’re buying into you and unless you make it clear what you want them to do next, they’re unlikely to stick around.

So, make your CTA count by keeping that connection going and giving them even more value to push them further towards that purchase.

Download your free blog template

Here comes my conclusion 😉 >>>

Now you know a well-structured blog features a short intro detailing what you’ll cover, several headers as section titles, a clear conclusion summarising your points, and a call to action telling your reader what to do next.

Use this as your blueprint for every future blog to save time and stay on track. Need a little more help? Download your free blog template to set yourself up for ultimate business blogging success.

Download your free template here.

What is a call to action? And do I need one?

what is a call to action

You may have stumbled across the term ‘call to action’ or the mysterious initials ‘CTA’ in your valiant efforts to market your business. I’m guessing a well-meaning marketing person sprinkled it into a confusing convo and you nodded along hoping to work it out later, or drew a total blank. So what exactly IS a call to action? Why do you need one? And what does one look like? Ponder no more, because we’re going to break it all down in this blog, leaving you feeling like the queen of CTAs.

What is a call to action? What does CTA stand for?

CTA is a marketing term that stands for call to action.

A call to action is an instruction you give to your target customer, prompting them to take a specific action.

You’ll use a call to action at the end of a blog post, an email, a landing page, a Facebook ad, a video – basically any type of content you use to communicate with your customers.

You’ve probably been using CTAs without even realising. However, delving a little deeper into the world of the CTA and why they’re so vital will allow you to maximise the potential they offer to nurture your customer along their buying journey.

Why do we need to use a CTA? Are they that important?

Let’s be clear. After your headline, your call to action is pretty much the most important element of your blog, or whatever piece of marketing content you’re working on. Why? A study by Unbounce revealed more than 90% of people who read your headline also read your CTA.

We know your audience loves skimming, so if they’re only taking notice of your headline and call to action, let’s make both work harder!

The fact is, we all like being told what to do next, and you can’t assume your reader will naturally take the step you’re hoping they will.

So, instructing them what to do after consuming your content is the smart way to make sure it actually happens.

Does a call to action have to be salesy?

Hard NO on this one.

I had a question on my Instagram last month asking whether I’d include a CTA on a purely informative blog. The answer to this is a HELLLLLL YES!

I feature a call to action on EVERY.SINGLE.BLOG.

The likelihood is, most of your blog writing will be centre on that engaging, entertaining, and informative content your audience loves. After all, blogging helps customers early in their buying process, so we want to add as much value as possible at this stage to keep them in your lane.

Of course, sometimes your call to action will be a simple ‘buy now’. And that’s fine.

But if we’re not directly selling when writing a business blog, how else can we use a CTA to nurture your customer through their experience of your brand?

Call to action examples

Below, I’ve listed a few non-salesy calls to action you can use in your next blog. This is a handful of examples, so always make it your own, speak in the language your customer uses, and keep it short and sweet.

When you’re next writing a blog, how about ending it with one of the following CTA examples?

  • Subscribe to our newsletter
  • Follow us on social media
  • Read this blog next
  • Download your free template
  • Request a free sample
  • Ask us a question
  • Sign up to our webinar

Which of these is sounding good to you right now?

What sort of CTA should I end a blog with?

You’ve worked hard to plan and write your business blog, so let’s keep that momentum by signing off with a killer CTA that keeps your reader feeling hot hot hot about your brand.

Remember, blogs are generally for building trust and sparking engagement. Your customer is developing a connection with you and your product/service by reading the advice or information you’re offering 👀

They’ll encounter different touchpoints along the way in their path towards buying from you and each one plays its own part in getting them over the line.

So, a blog CTA may be less URGENT than one on your email campaign or landing page, but no less important.

Put yourself in your reader’s mindset and think about what will help them learn more about your product or service, or help them arrive at the point of being ready to buy.

Would they benefit from seeing customer testimonials?

Reading around your subject more?

Listening to your podcast, or watching a YouTube video to form an even closer connection to you and your business?

Whichever route you choose to maintain your reader’s attention, don’t be sleeping on your CTA!

How to get help with blog writing for your business

My next business blogging course starts in January – drop your email into the box below for updates and generate chitchat. Please also follow my Instagram for the latest tips and updates, say hi so I can get to know you better!



How to write a business blog

how to write a business blog

How do you write a business blog? And why should you?

Well, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got a banging biz with a wicked website. Kudos to you, my friend.

And I have some good news for you.

Your DREAM customer is scrolling the web *as we speak* looking for exactly what you’re selling.

One small matter: how will they find you?

There’s something you can do RIGHT NOW to grow your business.

Write a blog!

And before you ask “what’s a business blog and how do I do it?” Chill. I’ve got you. Let’s break it down and make it happen.

What is a business blog?

First things first. What even IS a business blog? A blog is simply an online article written and published for web browsers’ reading pleasure.

If you’ve got a website, you can add a blog to it. You might want to call it your news page, journal, or something snazzier – as long as your customer understands what it is, you’re good to go.

Most website platforms make it simple to add a blog function to your site, or your web developer can easily do it for you.

Once you have a business blog, you can add fresh content to your website as often as you like – and the advantages are HUGE.

Benefits of blogging

Here’s a handful of advantages of having a business blog with fresh content added on the regs.

  • Great for SEO – watch your Google ranking soar as you post relevant content your customers want to read
  • Boosts web traffic – the more useful stuff you post, the more users will come across it and visit your website to find out more
  • Converts more web browsers – blogs aren’t salesly, they’re informative and entertaining, so readers feel relaxed and receptive. They see you as a helpful resource, rather than an aggressive sales machine, making them more likely to buy
  • Positions you as an expert – blogging on industry news and issues builds your rep as an authority on your subject
  • Encourages brand loyalty – when customers see that you’re helpful and knowledgeable about your subject, and start to enjoy your writing style and content, they’ll keep coming back and recommending you to friends
  • Shareable – great blogs are super shareable, because we all want to tell our friends about stuff we love.

What makes a good business blog?

So, what are the business blog basics you need to know before you get cracking?

There are different types of business blogs, including company news, expert opinion, how to guides/tutorials, reviews, comparisons, and listicles (my personal fave).

You can – and should – include a mixture of content types on your business blog, to keep readers informed and interested.

All good business blogs feature:

  • A strong headline to draw readers in
  • Multiple headers for easy reading
  • Stats to support your points
  • A mixture of long and short sentences to hold readers’ interest
  • Call to action telling readers what to do next

How to write business blog posts

Before writing a business blog, put yourself in that dream customer’s shoes for a moment. What is their pain point? What are they worried about, or interested in learning about? Remember, your business blog isn’t about overtly selling your products or services. It’s about helping your customers and building that connection between them and your brand.

Once you’ve identified a great topic to blog about, let’s start writing.

The ideal length for a short blog is between 500 and 700 words, so aim for 500 words as a minimum. Longer form content is fantastic for improving your search engine ranking, as long as the content is still relevant and insightful to your target reader.

If you’re unconfident in your writing skills, download a spellchecker like Grammarly to catch any errors. However, don’t let this put you off writing a business blog. You’re the expert in your business, so who better to write posts your customers want to read?

Try to write how you’d speak, so your readers come to recognise and enjoy your distinct tone of voice.

Use short words instead of long ones – simplicity is key.

Explain around your subject – this aids comprehension and is also awesome for SEO. So, for example, if you’re writing about the benefits of soy candles, start with a header: What is a soy candle? Going back to basics is ALWAYS a good thing, as we can never assume our customers know everything we do about a subject.

Using your blog for marketing

Business blogs are an amazing marketing tool for your company, as they develop trust and build brand awareness.

You can use your business blog to market your products or services in loads of different ways, including posting links to social, sending it out as an email campaign, or filming the content featured in the blog as a YouTube video.

How to get support with business blogging

Need a little extra support venturing into the blogosphere? Help is at hand. I’m running an online course – Blog with confidence to grow your business – and I’d love to see you there and help you unlock the incredible benefits of blogging for your business. Find out more or bag your spot here: www.tinyurl.com/blog-with-confidence-register 

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.

10 free content writing tools to make you a better writer

10 free content writing tools

Writing comes naturally to some people, while others have to work at it. If you find yourself in the latter camp, I’ve come up with 10 free content writing tools to make you a better content writer. 

These helpful content writing tools will help you research blog ideas, improve your grammar, stay focused and entice readers to check out your words.

So, read on, take note and watch your copywriting skills explode!

1. Answer The Public – content ideas

One of the best free content writing tools out there for researching blog ideas is Answer The Public.

Using search data, it invites you to type in one or two keywords, then scours the web to find searches relating to your topics. 

For example, if you’re writing content for a bakery, you could enter the word “chocolate” into Answer The Public and hit search. Immediately, you’ll see 80 search terms relating to chocolate that could spark new blogs. Examples on this search included:

  • When was chocolate invented?
  • Which chocolate is vegan/gluten-free?
  • Why chocolate is good for you
  • How is chocolate made?

Instantly, you have four strong blog topics which will capture search traffic, inform readers and position the bakery as an expert in all things chocolate, through simple content writing. Excellent food for thought (sorry). 

2. Grammarly – spelling and grammar aid

Grammarly is the godfather of free content writing tools.

Add it as an extension to Google Chrome, then let it loose on your writing.

It will pick up any typos and grammar errors in your content, so you can correct your content before posting it.

As it runs constantly in the background, you can update your content as you go, and avoid missing any glaring errors in your writing.

While the free version corrects most spelling and grammar mistakes, there’s a premium version that helps improve your writing further.

3. ProWritingAid – spelling, grammar and content writing tool

If Grammarly’s free package isn’t enough to polish up your prose and you feel the need to invest more in your writing form, ProWritingAid could be the one.

Sadly, it’s not free, so I’ve technically cheated by including it here. However, this useful content writing tool offers a free trial version, so you can check it out before you invest. 

If you’re concerned about the quality of your writing, ProWritingAid can help you improve your content.

Download the Chrome extension and it will not only correct your spelling and grammar but also help you remove unnecessary words, banish the dreaded passive voice and spruce up your writing.

I’ve given it a whirl to check out the benefits, and while confident writers probably wouldn’t deem it worth the money, it could be a smart investment if you’re keen to write your own content but spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suits.

4. BuzzSumo – blog ideas

Another SEO tool to help you plan blog ideas is BuzzSumo.

The basic version is a free content writing tool that enables you to search for a topic or keyword, then view the top blogs on this subject. Each article displays ranking and social shares, so you can easily view how popular and successful a post has been.

You can also use BuzzSumo to find influencers, track competitors, and set up alerts for keywords, brands, or websites.

Using the keyword “chocolate” again (I must be hungry), BuzzSumo comes up with links to two existing articles with the following titles:

  • Cheesecake stuffed with chocolate-covered strawberries
  • McDonald’s Introduces Ice Blended Chocolate With Oreo

Another two inspired content ideas to set you off writing your next blog.

If you like the tool and want to pay to upgrade, you can unlock more content ideas and organise results by engagement on different platforms to suit your marketing plan and audience. There’s a free trial so you can try before you buy.  

5. Ubersuggest – SEO and content ideas

Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest offers similar content suggestions to BuzzSumo by trawling the web for the highest-ranking content on your topic.

A free version existed prior to COVID-19, but right now most of the tools on Ubersuggest are free, so it’s a brilliant time to sign up and take advantage.

You can also use Ubersuggest to find keywords for your blog and get an SEO audit for your website.

Sticking with the chocolate theme, Ubersuggest comes up with the following blog writing ideas, based on high ranking existing articles:

  • Research shows that eating chocolate cake for breakfast is good for the brain and the waistline
  • This is what “self-care” really means because it’s not all baths and chocolate cake
  • Triple chocolate cheesecake with oreo crust
  • Chocolate peanut butter gooey butter cake
  • Chocolate turtle apple slices
  • Chocolate chip cookies and cream cookies
  • The most amazing chocolate cake recipe

This shows recipes are popular, so you can start writing some chocolate-covered content to give your customers what they crave.

6. Google Trends – content ideas

Google Trends is one of the most fascinating free content writing tools out there.

You can choose whether to view the most searched words and phrases in the world, or enter your chosen keyword and see what’s been trending on this topic.

Choose your date range to update your search to suit your purposes. 

For example, searching the word “chocolate” over the past 12 months shows the following results:

  • Advent calendar 2019
  • White chocolate coco pops
  • Chocolate orange twirl
  • Hot chocolate bomb
  • Pure heavenly chocolate

This reflects chocolate-related trends and interests over the course of a year which could form part of your general content writing schedule.

If you want to write a topical blog for your industry, you can narrow the timeframe to view more recent trends. The same search for the past month produces the following results:

  • Chocolate cornflake nests
  • Nigella white chocolate cheesecake
  • The Little Welsh Chocolate Co
  • Chocolate quiz questions
  • Chocolate bar quiz

As I write this, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the lockdown mentality is clear in this search overview: we have an enormous appetite for home baking and virtual quizzes right now. Therefore, if you want to write a blog or social content about something topical, this is how to find it.

7. BrainFM – content writing focus tool

For many people, staying focused is the major hurdle to writing content successfully.

If that’s you, BrainFM can help you zone into your writing and switch off the temptation to scroll social media aimlessly.

BrainFM offers your first two hours for free, which should be plenty to see if it works for you. There is a paid version after this, but if it’s given you an appetite for motivational music, you can always track down similar sounds for free on Spotify or SoundCloud. 

It promises results in under 10 minutes, so if you’re on a deadline and need to focus on your writing urgently, it could be a shrewd way to find your content creating mojo.

8. Headline Analyzer – free writing tool

The Headline Analyser tool from CoSchedule aims to help you up your title game.

Copy and paste your blog title into the search bar, then await your results. It will rate the structure, grammar, and readability of your headline, suggesting areas for improvement if the score is low. The tool also gives feedback on how emotive your title is and previews how it will appear in search and inboxes.

Headline Analyzer also offers handy tips and links you to useful blogs on writing better headlines.

(And in case you were wondering, the title of this blog scored a respectable 73%).

9. WordCounter – free writing tool

Contrary to the name, WordCounter counts not only words. It’s actually a nifty little content writing tool that checks spelling and grammar, helps you improve your writing style, highlights repetition and plagiarism, and gives you SEO feedback. 

Paste your content into the box and WordCounter instantly checks and analyses your writing. You can edit your content in WordCounter, using its handy auto-save feature.

10. Focus Writer – content writing focus tool

Focus Writer is a free writing tool for improving your concentration when writing content. 

Simple yet effective, it hides everything on your screen other than the document you’re working on, so you can focus on your writing and shut out all the distractions. 

Say goodbye to the websites and apps that regularly stop you in your tracks during a writing session and say hello to productive and successful content writing sessions. 

Have you tried any of these free content writing tools? Do you have any others to help fellow content writers produce better work?

If you need support with your content writing requirements, feel free to drop me a line on hello@jameso73.sg-host.com and let’s see if I can help! 🙂

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!