SCML11: A Website Content Coaching Session

Figuring out how to present your business on your website can be HARD! This is something I work with clients on all the time. And, in this episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab, you’ll get to eavesdrop on a coaching session I recently had the pleasure of conducting with Tyler Inloes, owner of Five17Fitness.

During our session, we talk about things like:

  • The importance of getting the “hero” section of the home page right
  • Being clear about who your business is serving and what you’re offering
  • Describing the benefit of your lead magnet so that readers will be enticed to download it
  • Why you should have more uses of “you” rather than “me” or “us” or “we” in your website copy
  • Strategic use of video on a site
  • Talking about your offerings from a customer benefit perspective instead of a feature perspective
  • Addressing customer questions in ways that differentiate your business from competitors

It was a fun and interesting session, and–if you had a website for your biz–there are probably a few tips you can pick up from it. That’s my hope, anyway!

Take a listen and then let me know if you have any questions about your own site. Shoot me an email at michele@smarterwritinglab.com and we’ll set up a time to chat!

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Are Your Words Lightning Bugs or Lightning Bolts?

"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Mark Twain

We've all been there. We know what we're trying to say--but we just can't figure out how to say it. So, how do we go about finding those words--those lightning bolts--that make the hair stand up on the back of the reader's neck? That are so powerful they leave us awestruck? That elicit a desired emotion with surgical precision? And that--far too often--seem so very elusive?

I wish I had a magic something-or-other to give you that would be a foolproof way of grabbing the right word out of thin air every single time. But I don't. What I CAN do, though, is suggest two different--yet complementary--approaches. One is practical. And one is tactical. So, here goes:

PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

Explain It to a Kid (or Your Grandmother)

If you have a child or if you're around children for any length of time, then you're very familiar with questions like these:

"But, why??"

"What does that mean?"

"How does it work?"

If you're like me, these moments often leave you saying something incredibly intelligent. Something like, "Well, uh, you see, it's like--uh..." It's not that we don't KNOW the answer. (Well, at least we know it MOST of the time.) Instead, we find ourselves struggling to explain something that seems so obvious to us--but so mysterious to this curious child standing there looking to us for the answer. But just because something seems obvious doesn't mean we understand well enough to explain it. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says:

"You do not truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

Regardless of who said it, the big idea of the quote is true. Sometimes when I'm having trouble finding the right word, it's because ​I'm not fully understanding the concept I'm trying to write about. It's not clear enough in my mind. But, once I gain a better understanding of WHAT I'm writing about, then I become much more clear about HOW to write about it--including finding just the right words to do it. 

Write Like You Talk

One thing I see when working with writers is that they often try to write in ways that sound NOTHING like how they (or their audience) talk. So no wonder they struggle to find the right words (or ANY words, for that matter)! It's almost like they're writing in a foreign language that they can't speak and certainly don't understand. They use a word like "notwithstanding" instead of just saying "regardless." Or "furnish" instead of just plain ol' "give." Or they've picked some word out of a thesaurus that sounds smart--but they flub up the usage of it. (Remember--just because a word is listed as a synonym doesn't mean it conveys the meaning you're looking for.)

When you write like you or your audience talks, words start flowing much easier. Give it a try.

TACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

The following are some free online resources that can help you track down that lightning bolt of a word  you're searching for. Check them out. Play around with them. And see which of them works best for you.

Thesaurus.com

You probably already know about this resource. If you do--GREAT! Use it. It's pulled me out of some tough spots on many occasions. If you're not using it, USE IT! Why sit there struggling with how to say something when the answer might very well be right at your fingertips. ​

One Look Thesaurus

Although this is a thesaurus, you don't use it in the same way as you do a typical one. Instead, you type in the phrase that describes what you're trying to find a word for and it helps you find that word. Pretty cool stuff!​

RhymeZone

In addition to helping you find rhyming words, RhymeZone can also help you find things like descriptive words, lyrics that include the word you're researching, and even PICTURES that represent the word. All of these are incredibly helpful in getting the creative juices flowing when ​you're looking for just the right way to say something.

Lexical FreeNet

This tool is great for helping you find connections between words. For example, when I type in "football" (the American version of the game), it gives me connections like "quarterback", "league", "players", "coach" and--yes--"soccer." 🙂

alphaDictionary

When you're writing about something in a specific area--like food or construction or even dinosaurs--this tool provides easy access to dictionaries for these various topics. Need to know the lexicon of parrots? Terms used in folk dancing? ​The name of a dress style from the Baroque period? I'd start with alphaDictionary.

Words by Grammarly

I really like the interface of this tool. You not only get synonyms and definitions listed on the same page, but you can also see the WordScore--which gives you information about how often a synonym is used in comparison to others.

Power Thesaurus

This tool is SO cool! It's a crowdsourced thesaurus built by writers for writers. ​And our fellow wordsmiths are adding to it all the time, so it's a living, breathing resource. You can also see what words people are looking for in real time--which is a fun feature in and of itself if you're a word geek like me.

We're All Storm Chasers

As writers, we spend a lot of time chasing down the right word. Why? Because we know the power it has to make a difference in the impact our writing will have. It can be SUCH a frustrating search, though. We KNOW it's out there--but where?

Being a great writer--not merely a good writer--means that we have to accept that we'll always be storm chasers. We'll always be on the hunt for that lightning bolt that will transform our writing into something magical. Something that people don't just read--but actually feel. And it's up to each of us to figure out the best way to approach the hunt. But, regardless how how you hunt, the most important thing is to never stop searching.

It's okay to have some lightning bugs sprinkled through our writing. Because, after all, great writing has a rhythm to it. But for those certain parts --only a lightning bolt will do. It's out there. Go get it.

If you like this, then you'll like the other stuff we're doing over at The Smarter Writing Lab! So, join us!

A Smart Conversation about Smarter Online Courses with Janelle Allen

Janelle Allen of Zen Courses

In addition to giving you the tools to help you WRITE smarter, The Smarter Writing Lab also provides information about how to use your writing skills to EARN smarter. And that's the purpose of my conversation with Janelle Allen of Zen Courses. Enjoy!

One of the most exciting things about being a writer these days is that there are SO many ways to earn a living with your writing skills. You just have to be open to trying things that might not be as traditional as freelancing (which is still a good revenue option). One of those ways is online course creation. This is an area I've become SUPER interested in during the past year. I actually launched a course last fall called How to Start a Freelance Writing Copywriting Business (go figure) and I'm getting ready to launch another one this summer. I love everything about creating online courses--from coming up with the idea to figuring out the best way to deliver the information to making a difference in the lives of my students. Oh--and getting paid to do it is a nice perk, too!

Earlier this year, I found out about Zen Courses--an online resource for creating online courses that matter. My first interaction was with the podcast, which is produced and hosted by Zen Courses owner Janelle Allen. And then I visited the website and signed up for Janelle's FABULOUS and FREE email series 5 Types of Online Courses. Now--I'm a RAVING FAN of Janelle's and what she's doing over at Zen Courses.

Recently, Janelle graciously agreed to chat with me about online course creation and why it can be a really good fit for writers who are looking for ways to either add to or shift their revenue streams. Here's what she had to say:

So, first of all, I really LOVE the emails I get from Zen Courses! They're so well-written and interesting. I actually look forward to seeing them in my inbox!

Thanks! I'm glad you like them. At my core, I'm a writer. So I hope that shows through in all of my communications. During grad school, I worked as a freelance copywriter as my side-hustle. But I didn't like writing to sell things in a pushy way. And that's not very helpful if you're trying to make a living helping your clients sell what they're offering! It wasn't until much later that I learned you could write persuasively without being pushy.

You started out as a freelance copywriter, and now you're running a very successful course creation business. How in the world did THAT happen?

Well, it's certainly been a journey! I've always been drawn to self-employment and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. During my stint as a freelance copywriter, I attended graduate school to earn a degree in instructional design. I liked the idea of building learning experiences, so instructional design made sense for me. After graduating, I started working with corporations and colleges in creating online courses for them using the principles of adult learning and design. My goal was--and still is--to find those lightbulb moments for students. Those moments when they go, "Aha! I get it!"

I've always blogged on the side and, over time, I started to have a LOT of entrepreneurs coming to me asking for help in developing courses. They wanted to know everything--including instructional design, which surprised me. So, that was the genesis of Zen Courses. It's guiding purpose is to help entrepreneurs--including writers--to make actionable, learner-focused courses that change lives. I'm pretty proud of it.

Wow! That really HAS been a journey! I love what you're doing at Zen Courses--but let's talk about some of the hype out there about creating and selling online courses. What's up with all of that?

Well, yes, there is a lot of hype out there. There's this idea that you're going to throw up a website, launch a course and make six figures--all in the span of a few weeks. But that's just not the case for most people. It's NOT a quick thing. It's probably going to be 18 months or so before you start to see returns on your course building efforts. Until then, it's likely that you'll spend more than you make.

Also, it's important to realize that some of the folks out there who are talking about the ease of course creation and how it can bring in so much revenue so quickly have extra time, money, employees and other resources necessary to build and run these six- and seven-figure course launches. It's much easier for them to do that than it is for those of us who don't yet have those resources to support our efforts.

If you're realistic about the time it's going to take to create and launch a course, and if you can be patient while waiting for the revenue levels to rise to where you want them to be, online courses can be a profitable undertaking. Just don't expect too much too fast or you'll end up getting frustrated. ​It's a long game but totally worth it.

Okay. That definitely brings us back down to earth. So, here's my next question: Do you think online course creation is a good income opportunity for writers to consider?

I do--especially if there's a specific area they have expertise in. It doesn't even have to be writing. It could be a hobby they have or something like that. And when I say "expertise", I'm not saying you have to be the all-knowing expert about a topic. You just have to know more about it than your audience does.

What advantages do writers have when it comes to creating and selling online courses?

They actually have a couple of really important ones.

First, to make money with courses, you have to market them. You have to create sales funnels and email sequences that build trust with the audience. Writers know how to do this. They know how to write in way that connects.

Also, writers can explain things well. Before you can write about something effectively, you have to understand it. Writers know this. And they know how to communicate in ways that make complex things easier to comprehend.

So there are advantages writers have. How about disadvantages?

This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about my reluctance to write sales copy when I was freelancing at the beginning of my career. Writers tend to be uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money and selling. I get it. We--as writers--want to focus on the CRAFT of writing. But, if you want to make a living with your writing, you have to get comfortable with marketing. This is true for entrepreneurs, too.

My advice is to figure out how YOU market things instead of looking at how everyone else is doing it. One way to do this is to identify three or four people online who you follow and respect--and who are successful. How are they marketing? What are they doing that resonates with you? What--in your mind--makes them trustworthy? Why doesn't their marketing feel slimy to you? Then--FIND YOUR VOICE. And remember that selling is ultimately about sharing value with others. That's the mental mindset you need to reach. You're not pushing something on your customers. You're tuning into the value of what you're offering and connecting that value with people who need it.

For writers--or any entrepreneurs--who want to get started with online courses, what's some advice you can offer?

  • First of all, you really need to have an audience and an email list. It doesn't have to be a huge list. I'd say around 250 people is good for getting started. If you don't have an email list that you can market your courses to, the chance of generating any significant revenue is slim.
  • Next, focus on your learner. What problems do they struggle with? How can you help solve them? What will they be able to do after they finish your course? Decide that first--THEN start building your course.
  • It's a good idea to validate your course idea with a free offering--say an email course or workshop--before you invest a lot of time and energy creating it.
  • Be sure your content is designed for learning. In other words, take your learners on a journey from Point A to Point B. Be sure to keep in mind any questions or challenges your learner might be facing along the way so you can address them in your content. Don't just randomly jump from topic to topic. Instead, topics should build on each other.
    • Decide how the course material will be delivered. Will there be videos, PDFs, audio files, a mixture of several formats?
    • How will you determine success? Will there be quizzes along the learning journey? Is there a final project students have to produce and submit for feedback? Whatever it is, you should have a way to determine if learning is actually happening.
    • Once your course is developed, THEN focus on technology. If you're looking for a place to host your course, there are a lot of online course hosted platform options out there--like Teachable, Thinkific and Ruzuku. And you can also self-host your course--you just need to be moderately comfortable with WordPress and LMS plugins in order to do that successfully. That being said, I usually recommend one of the hosted platforms.

This is FANTASTIC information! How are you helping entrepreneurs with course building at Zen Courses?

Different people are at different places in their course building journey, so I try to meet them where they are by offering a variety of products and services. Right now, I provide workshops and consulting in which people can roll up their sleeves and get things done, I'm launching two new self-paced courses for those who like to work on their own timeline;  and I offer really intensive bootcamp courses a couple of times a year covering a variety of course building topics.

Other than Zen Courses--which has TONS of great info --are there other resources folks can access to learn more about creating and launching online courses?

I would definitely recommend Jeff Walker's book called LAUNCH. After you create your course, you're going to need a launch plan. Also, I really enjoy the online community for entrepreneurs called Fizzle. Lots of great support and information can be found there.

FULL AND COMPLETELY ABOVE BOARD DISCLOSURE! The link to LAUNCH! is an affiliate link of mine--which means I get a few coins tossed my way if you use it. And that helps me keep doing what I'm doing here at The Smarter Writing Lab! ​

Thanks SO MUCH to Janelle Allen of Zen Courses for sharing her thoughts and advice about online course creation! As I mentioned, I'm a HUGE fan of online course creation as a revenue stream for writers and other entrepreneurs. And I'm also a HUGE fan of Janelle's!

Like what you've read here? AWESOME! Make sure you don't miss any of the great info from The Smarter Writing Lab. Join the community of writers and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to write and earn smarter!

What Do Customers REALLY Want to Hear From You?

A couple of years ago, I was sitting out on the deck with some folks who had been invited over for dinner. I didn’t know them well at all. But—as we were waiting for the grill to heat up—everyone was chatting about this and that. One person sitting near me asked me what I did for a living.  I was about two sentences into my response when I realized that she seemed to be totally preoccupied with something else. So, guess what? I stopped talking. And as soon as I did, she jumped in and spent a good part of the night talking about herself.

For better or worse, right or wrong— I formed an opinion about her that evening: She wasn’t someone I wanted to invest time in. Why? Because the impression I came away with is that the thing that mattered most to her was—well—her. Again, maybe I was wrong about that. But that first impression was a lasting one. If I were to play amateur psychotherapist, my guess would be that she might have been a bit nervous that evening and felt a need to impress those of us who didn’t know her that well. And she tried to do that by talking about her job, her accolades, her qualifications.

Here’s my question to you: Is your business acting like the dinner guest that just can’t quit talking about himself or herself?

If you’re not sure, take a look at your marketing materials—your website, brochures, email campaigns, sales sheets, videos—and see if they do these things:

  • Focus primarily on the features of your product or service. (Things like “Our lawn mower has 5 cutting levels.” “Our law office gives you personalized attention.” “You’ll learn better time management in this seminar.”)
  • Loudly tout awards you’ve received or credentials you’ve earned.  (“I graduated summa cum laude from ABC University.” “We’re the #1 choice!!”)
  • Use words like “we”, “us”, “me”, “I”, “our” more than the word “you.”

If you’re doing any of these things, odds are you’re making a bad first impression on potential customers or clients who don’t know you or your business yet. And—just like I did with the dinner guest mentioned earlier—they very well may decide they don’t want to spend any more time trying to get to know you. But don’t worry. All isn’t lost. There are a couple of quick and easy things you can do to help you communicate about your business in a way that will entice potential customers to hang around and learn more about what you’re offering. And here they are:

  1. Focus on BENEFITS instead of features. People don’t buy toothpaste because it has whitening ingredients. That’s a feature. They buy that toothpaste because they want to feel more confident about their smile. They want to be more attractive. In other words, they’re buying the benefits of the whitening agents in the toothpaste. And that’s what needs to be communicated. You need to clearly explain how your product or service is going to benefit your customers. How is going to make their lives easier or better or more meaningful? If you’re only focusing on features, you’re losing sales.
  2. Show empathy and understanding by putting the customer at the center of all of your communications. If all you’re saying on your website or in your brochures or any other marketing materials are things like “we can” or “we are” or “I know” or “our solution”–you’re a bad dinner guest AND a bad communicator. People don’t care about you. They care about what you can do for them. So, how do you fix it? Here’s a quick example:

BAD: I’m an attorney with 15 years of experience in handling divorces. So I know exactly what it takes to help you with matters including property distribution, custody and spousal support.

GOOD: Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. You have so many questions. How are you going to pay your bills? What will happen to your house? How are your children going to react? And you’re trying to figure all of this out while your entire world seems to be crumbling around you. This is where I come in. Together, we’ll find the solutions you’re looking for.

If you’re someone who’s looking for a divorce attorney and the only way you have to evaluate which attorney to use is by looking at law firm websites, which one would you choose?

In the end, it’s not so much about what customers want to hear. It’s about what human beings want to hear. If you want people to listen to you—to connect with you and buy from you—you have to connect with them. Pure and simple. And to do that, you have to show that you care about them, that you understand and empathize with their problem or challenge, and that you are listening to them. This alone will set you apart from many of your competitors. And it’s SO easy to do if you just think about it. When you keep your customers at the center of your communications, you’ll be the dinner party guest everyone wants to sit next to.

 

 

 

 

 

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9 Simple Ways to EARN More by BEING More than “Just a Copywriter”

To Do List - Make More Money

If you’re a freelance copywriter who feels like you’re EARNING PLENTY, who’s NEVER QUESTIONED YOUR WORTH during projects driven by mid- to upper-level (non-writer) executives, and/or who has COMPLETE CONFIDENCE in the value you bring to your clients—then get back to work and stop reading this post. Because you already know and do the things I’m going to be talking about. For the rest of you, stick around. Your life as a freelance copywriter is about to change in a really good way.

During the 15+ years that I’ve been a freelance copywriter, there have been a lot of new techniques, platforms, systems, and other “shiny objects”  pushed as the silver bullet to becoming a high-income writer. But, frankly, I found the vast majority of them to be distractions rather than income generators. And, after hearing from some of you, it sounds like you’re having the same kind of experience. That can be frustrating and demoralizing—to say the very least. So, what’s the answer when it comes to earning more? You have to see (and present) yourself as being more than “just a copywriter.” That’s where I see so many freelance copywriters getting stuck in the muck of crappy income. What they say (and what we’ve probably all said at one time or another) are things like this:

“But, I just want to write. The business side of things is just too complicated and takes up too much time.”

“I know I’m a good writer. But I can’t charge big fees like  an attorney or an accountant.”

“I’ll do whatever job someone sends my way—even it if doesn’t pay a whole lot. After all, I need the work.”

“All I ever here is that ‘everybody can write.’ If that’s true—which it must be since someone really important and smart said it, why should my clients pay a higher fee for what I do?”

So, what’s the answer when it comes to earning more? You have to see (and present) yourself as being more than “just a copywriter.”

Okay. So, I’ve got one response to all of these things: HOGWASH! And if you ask other freelance copywriters who are making a VERY good living—they’ll say the same thing. But what separates them (the high earners) from you (a potentially low earner)? And how can you join their ranks? Here are nine key things to start doing NOW:

1. Treat your freelance writing business like what it is. A business. If you got into freelance copywriting thinking it was a quick and easy way to bringing in a load of cash…SURPRISE! It’s not. Yes, it can bring in a very handsome living. But, it’s not easy. And it’s not quick. You have to be willing to wear both a writer hat and an entrepreneur hat. You can’t just sit behind your computer focused on writing (or scanning Facebook or sending emails to friends and family) and think your business is going to grow to be anything significant. You have to do things like:

  • Get an attorney to help you set up the right business structure (like an LLC, corporation, etc.), draft agreements, etc.
  • Hire an accountant who can help you navigate the tax requirements of the self-employed
  • Stay on top of your billing (and collections)
  • Execute a focused and strategic marketing plan
  • Understand what your cash flow is—both in and out
  • All kinds of other stuff!

Yes—you’ll do the writing you love. But if you want to grow your business to the level you really want, don’t forget to grow your entrepreneurial IQ.

2. Build your own brand in order to stand out. Why should potential clients hire you instead of the other 50 copywriters who are flooding their Inboxes with emails and constantly calling to explain just how great they are? This is where clearly positioning yourself in the marketplace comes into play. You have to find and communicate your Unique Selling Proposition just like you do when you’re developing promotional copy for a new product or service. What sets you apart? What’s your unique skill set? What value can you bring to the table that no one else can (or at least that no one else claims they can)? You need to figure out what the answers to these questions are and then put your writing skills to use in finding a creative and engaging way of communicating them. If you can’t sell yourself to a potential client, how likely are they going to be to trust you to sell their product or service? The answer to that question is “not likely.” Also, take the time to name your business something that will resonate with your target audience and invest the funds in having a logo designed, getting a website up (including a portfolio section for your work) and having business cards designed and printed.

3. Don’t just be a note taker. Be a difference maker. Speak up! Your clients need to hear what you have to say. Because you’re coming at a project from an outsider’s perspective rather than an insider’s, you have the ability to see gaps that might otherwise be invisible to your client. Never EVER think you’re just there to be a note taker so that you can recite back to your client what you hear in a meeting. That’s not how you provide value. Instead, listen to what’s being said, ask good questions, push for understanding and clarity, and—when appropriate—challenge concepts that you feel are heading in the wrong direction. You can become invaluable to a client when you prove yourself to be someone who really thinks about and processes information in ways that lead to bigger and better solutions.

4. Fall in love with whatever your client wants to promote. (Even if it’s a freakin’ pencil!) Once you accept a project, it’s no longer okay to feel “meh” about whatever your client is promoting. Some things just aren’t that exciting. I get it. Believe me. As someone who’s had to promote electrical transformers in her past, I completely understand. But I also know that—as writers—we are naturally curious beings. And we love to learn new things. Trust me when I tell you that if you are curious enough, there’s always something you can find to love about what your client is promoting. Take the time to get there. It’ll be worth it.

5. Realize your worth—and charge for it! (And it’s typically 3x more than you think.) If you’re always focused on being the freelancer who charges the lowest fees—then that’s what you’re going to get. Ridiculously low fees—which translate into a ridiculously low overall income.  Don’t ever get trapped in the very WRONG idea that you can start off with lower fees to get your foot in the door with a new client and then raise your rates once they see how awesome you are. Not going to happen.

Even though writing comes easily for most of us, it doesn’t mean that our skills are worth less because we don’t see the big deal in what we do. Building a brand story. Engaging customers in ways that sell. Convincing an audience that a particular service is right for them. ALL of these things take talent and skill—just like questioning a witness requires the specific skills of an attorney and preparing complex financial statements requires the knowledge of a CPA. What you do with words and ideas carries significant value. So charge for it! Figure out what it’s worth and provide your estimate to the client with confidence. Oh—and you might think about tripling your estimate before submitting it since many of us tend to underestimate our worth. Yes—be reasonable. But never devalue the work we all do as writers by charging bargain basement fees.

And one more thought about this: Focus on clients who can afford you. Not everyone is going to be the right client for you. But you don’t want to find yourself agreeing to a lower fee just because someone says they can’t pay the fee you’re charging. They’ll find someone else. That’s fine. But—trust me—you’ll be so much happier working for people who value what you do and who can afford the fees you charge.

6. Forget one-offs. Go for repeats.  I see some freelance writers going after any ol’ job they can get. No matter how little it pays and no matter whether they’ll ever see that client again. And it makes me really tired to look at them or listen to their stories of woe. It really must feel like they’re running on a hamster wheel all the time. Here’s a piece of advice: Don’t focus on getting one-off projects. Those that involve a client hiring you for one small job and then they’re done with you. Instead, look for clients who you can develop a long-term relationship with. The ones who understand the value of the work you do and who have an ongoing need for copywriting. The ones who will call you again and again for help. These are the clients you can build a high-income freelance writing business with. And they’re the ones you should focus on.

7. Figure out which projects get the highest fees—and then get MORE of them. I wish I could tell you that there’s a specific type of copywriting project that pays better than anything else. But I can’t. It really depends on the market you’re in. For me, I’ve found that partnering with companies to develop sales training programs tends to be a really high-paying gig. Also, helping ad agencies create pitches for new business development tends to be a really profitable area for me. Others have found that writing white papers or writing video scripts creates an income bonanza. My point here is that you need to pay attention and identify the types of copywriting projects that bring in the highest fees for you—and then go after more of them with all you have.

8. Repeat after me: Specialization. Specialization. Specialization.When you’re just starting out, focusing on a specific industry niche for your copywriting business might not be practical. You’re trying a lot of different things out to see what feels right AND to get that income flowing in. But as you get your freelancing legs under you, I would suggest finding a niche in which you can specialize. Why? Because you can charge more. You’ll become known as the “go-to” person in that industry. Your knowledge and experience will have a higher perceived value. And you’ll be viewed as a more valuable team member. For me, the pharmaceutical industry is where the majority of my clients live. They know I “get” what they do. I understand the goals, the language, the guidelines, etc. And that means they don’t have to spend valuable time bringing me up to speed. Instead, I can jump in with all engines firing. I can add value immediately. I can make their jobs easier. And that makes me more than “just a copywriter.” It makes me a valuable partner.

9. Show up.  Finally, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is this: Be easy to work with and ALWAYS show up. By showing up, I mean meet your deadlines, be on time for appointments, be flexible, don’t make excuses and find a way to get it done. By doing that, you’re going to move to the top of a client’s freelance list pretty quickly. Easy peasy.

So, there you go. Nine simple ways to kick your freelancing copywriting business up to the next level. Want more info about each area? Well, keep watching The Page-Turner Mission this summer as I roll out a series of more detailed posts about them. If you have other ideas about business building, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Get your FREE copy of The Prosperous Copywriter’s Toolbox — a comprehensive resource of the tools I’ve used to build a successful freelance copywriting business! Click here. 

 

8 Rules for Avoiding “Writer’s Dread”

frustrated young business man working on laptop computer at office

Something’s due. An article. Copy for a brochure. Content for a website. Whatever it is, the deadline is looming and IT’S ALL UP TO YOU to get this thing done—and done well. But, really, you’d rather rub sand in your eyes or clean your house AND your neighbor’s if either would get you out of having to sit down and write. You just DREAD the process. Believe me–I get it. So, fellow-writer-who’s-supposed-to-love-what-you-do-all-the-time-and-have-the-muse-always-appear-at-your-beckoning, what do you do?

RULE #1: Don’t Panic!
Let me put your mind at ease. It’s okay to dread the writing process—even if you’re a writer. Let’s face it—writing is HARD WORK. It’s not a profession that’s pursued by wimps. But, you know what? You don’t have to love it every day. And you don’t have to feel guilty for not loving it every day. Just because you hit a wall from time to time doesn’t mean that you weren’t meant to be a writer or that you’re losing your touch (or your grip!). It just means that you’re human. But don’t let the dread stop you from doing your best work. And therein lies the problem, right? So, let’s look at Rules 2-8.

RULE #2: Fall in Love with What You’re Writing About
We’ve all had to write copy for products or services that seem pretty boring and anything BUT sexy. I know I have. Everything from transformers (NOT the toys) to roofing materials to electrical devices. This can be a challenge—particularly if you’ve been charged with writing promotional copy for such products and services. You know—copy that needs to SELL! As crazy as this might sound, you need to find a way to fall in love with whatever you’re writing about. Even if it’s a commodity product like paper towels. If you look deeply enough, there’s always something you can discover that will make you see that product or service in a brand new—and loving—light.

Rule #3: Know the Why
If you don’t know why you’re promoting something, then of course you’re going to dread writing about it. So, don’t focus on features. That’s boring. Instead, focus on figuring out how whatever it is you’re writing about will make a difference in the lives of those who use it. As the old advertising saying goes, “People don’t buy grass seed. They buy lawns their neighbors will be freakin’ jealous of!” (Okay–maybe that’s paraphrasing it just a little. But you get the point.) Figure out the “why” of what you’re promoting and then write copy that brings it to life for potential customers.

Rule #4: Find the Story
You don’t have to be a novel writer to be a storyteller. Even business writers are storytellers—telling the stories of products, organizations, candidates, causes, etc. There’s a story to go along with EVERYTHING. You just have to find it. And tell it. Look at your writing assignment as a challenge. What can you do—as the talented writer you are—to make a product more intriguing, to make a cause more worthy, to make an organization more relevant? Craft an authentic, truthful and compelling story that resonates with your audience and that moves them to action. There’s nothing boring about that!

Rule #5: Figure Out Where You’re Going
One of the worst feelings in the world as a writer is to look at a blank screen and have no idea about what to do or where to go. It will drain the enthusiasm even out of even the most prolific writers among us. So, instead of sitting there staring in to the great abyss, map out your course. And I suggest doing it with pencil (or pen) and paper. Get away from the glare of the screen, breathe, and then outline where you want to take your audience from start to finish. This can help clear the cobwebs out and give you the clarity you need to start—and finish—strong.

Rule #6: Seek Inspiration–and Soak it In

Writers who just keep their nose to the proverbial grindstone all the time—or who live in their own world without exploring what’s going on in others—tend to burn out. It might be a slow burn—but it’s happening. One of the first things I do each morning is get on the internet and check out what’s going on in the world of news, of pop culture, of advertising, of whatever rabbit hole I happen to go down. Inevitably I find sources of inspiration along the way—most of them things I would NEVER have thought of on my own. Do whatever you need to do find inspiration on a regular basis. Don’t just wait until you need it. Have a ready supply of it just waiting to be tapped. That way, when “writer’s dread” sets in, you can use that inspiration as a kind of first aid kit. Or maybe even defibrillator.

Rule #7: Give Yourself a Break

Move away from the desk and go for a walk. Grab a bite of lunch. Get in that run you’ve been avoiding. Just give yourself a break—both literally and figuratively. Don’t beat yourself up for dreading the writing process. It happens to even the best of us! So know it and accept it—but don’t wallow in it. Do what it takes to get yourself to a better place. And sometimes that means getting the heck out of Dodge for a little while—even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Don’t sit there in front of your screen stressing about how everything just stinks. Take a break. Change the scenery. And come back and—see Rule #8.

Rule #8: Know That You’ve GOT THIS!
“Writer’s dread” happens. It just does. But know that it will subside. Know that you’re AWESOME at what you do. Know that you have the power to make a difference with the words you write. And—above all—know that you’ve GOT THIS! You’ll finish the assignment. You’ll meet the deadline. And you’ll have written something that’s going to blow people’s minds—in the very best way. Then, go out and celebrate. You freakin’ DESERVE it!!

Pages of Inspiration
Here are a few books that I keep on or near my desk to refer to when I need some inspiration and guidance. The links are affiliate links. So, if you use them—THANK YOU! But if you’d rather go straight to Amazon or some other bookstore, that’s cool, too. Hope you find them useful! (And if you have recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!)

Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!): How to Unleash Your Creative Potential by America’s Master Communicator—by George Lois: Fantastic book to give you a kick in the pants when you need it!

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action—by Simon Sinek: When you’re struggling to figure out the “why” of what you’re promoting, this book provides wonderful insight into how you can find it. Also, check out Simon’s TED talk.

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content—by Ann Handley: I absolutely LOVE this book! Ann provides short, simple and actionable tips about all kinds of promotional writing. It’s just enough to get you unstuck and on your way to writing something AMAZING!