Great copy goes to the heart of a business and reflects its unique selling point. But why is it so hard to look in the mirror?
No, no, no, no, no! Don’t write your own copy. Allow me the pleasure. I insist.
That’s probably the most obvious statement I could make, being a professional copywriter, and all that jazz. People sitting at a desk, merrily writing their own copy puts me out of a profession, so I’m obviously not a fan. But there are so many valid reasons why putting fingers to keyboard is a bad idea when representing your own work.
And here are some of them…fancy that!
You’re too close to the subject.
Your business is your baby. You’ve poured blood, sweat, tears and cold, hard cash into that sucker. Given how invested you are, it’s easy to see how objectivity may be a struggle when writing about what you do.
Ever heard a new mum gushing about her new baby? Blinkered, my friend. It’s so hard to get to the truth of something when it’s all-consuming (and going directly to the heart of the matter makes for great copy.)
Here’s the deal. You do the passion and I’ll do the precision. Great copy requires both.
You may instinctively want to get as much info in there as you can, stuff it like a sausage skin to cover all bases. This leads to cluttered, confused copy without clear objectives. The distance and impartiality a copywriter can bring will make for concise copy with one central focus. That’s how you get results.
So many times, the first thing out of a client’s mouth is;
‘I know what I want to say, but when I sit down to write it, nothing happens.’
Remember that creeping feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach as you turned over an exam paper? Remember thinking you’d never capture the jumbled thoughts in your head and get them down on paper in a logical way?
That fear is natural when something is important (and copy is.) Your website is probably your most useful and important business resource– of course writing content for it will leave you paralysed, obsessively checking social media as a displacement activity (or are you a Candy Crush playing procrastinator?)
Professional writers are trained and experienced in unravelling the confusion of ideas in their client’s heads, smoothing them out and presenting them in their Sunday best.
I’ve lost count of the number of clients who, when presented with their final copy exclaim;
‘But that’s just what I wanted to say!’
I love the fact that their next move is to eye me with deep suspicion, as if I’ve been inside their heads while they were sleeping.
I sometimes view myself as an English to English translator. I can write the words you already know you want. If that sounds like magic then yeah, totally, I’m down with that. Anyway, it’s why Word’s spell and grammar checkers haven’t replaced the copywriter just yet.
PS: Copywriters get ‘the fear’ too – but we’re trained to get through this and get writing. We know we’ll get to the good stuff eventually. And anyway, as Ernest Hemingway said so eloquently
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
Beyond the basics to copy with colour
The vast majority of people have a decent grasp on the English language. They can write reasonably well, and their spelling and grammar is decent too (if not, they can always run a spellcheck, right?)
That’s not enough.
What you write about your business may cover the basics, but it’s likely to be dry, factual, information-based stuff. A good copywriter can breathe life into your text. Think of it as going from 2D to 3D, making your copy whole and interesting when viewed from any angle.
It’s just not working out
I’m asked to do copy editing much more frequently than writing copy from scratch. And I’m often told “I wrote this copy myself and I have no idea why it isn’t doing its job.”
A quick read through usually makes it immediately obvious why a piece of writing doesn’t cut the mustard. A lot of the time, it’s a reasonably simple fix to make tangible improvements, making copy editing a good option for those on a tighter budget.
Many people write a great piece, but they haven’t determined any objectives before they start – so it’s a great piece that doesn’t speak to their target audience or include a call to action that drives the results they’re looking for.
A copywriter is spinning many plates when he or she writes your text;
- Where will this work be published?
- What is the target audience? (and let’s get specific; where are they, how old are the, what’s the income, what keeps them awake at night?)
- What do we need this copy to make people do?
- What’s the tone of voice we’re going for?
- What sort of language reflects the values of this company?
- Am I within word count?
- How’s the structure looking?
- Is there a better, clearer, simpler word I could use there?
It’s a skill that balances the needs and desires of the client with the hard facts about what works and what doesn’t in a particular medium.
Possibly the simplest, most glaringly obvious reason to hire a copywriter….
To save you time and hassle.
Every business in the world needs copy in some form (web content, advertising, brochures, product descriptions – they’re all just words in different formats.) Many business owners know they should be blogging regularly to drive traffic to their websites and establish themselves as authorities within their niche. But how many actually have time to do this?
I’m willing to bet that millions of ‘to do’ lists across the globe have some form of copywriting task on them that just isn’t getting ticked off.
Briefing a (decent) copywriter is a simpler task than you’d imagine. Most of us have fabulous forms that capture the information we need and take care of the difficult bits for you (like researching what your competitors are doing.) Once you’ve given us a clear idea of what you’re looking for, we disappear into the ether to work our mysterious magic (write stuff.) We return with a piece of copy that makes you beam, leap into the air with joy, hug a passing squirrel and shower us with golden coins.
Though working with a copywriter is a process rather than a simple transaction, it’s a process that’s easy on the client – because that’s what they’re paying for.
You can write but you can’t find your voice
The way in which you to talk about your brand is your voice – and it should be a choice, not an accident. If you’re writing copy without taking this into consideration, you may leave readers confused and bemused. A strong, clear, confident brand voice lends authority to copy and builds customer trust and loyalty. A shaky or inconsistent voice delivers the message that you don’t know who you are or what you can offer.
A copywriter will help you find this voice (there’s one in every brand, sometimes they just need a little help to be unleashed.) Once you’ve got it, it’s easy to keep it consistent across a range of mediums.
There’s so much content out there – blogs, social media, websites – it’s getting harder to stand out from the crowd. Once upon a time, a reasonably clearly written website would suffice. But people are getting harder to please, expecting more, becoming fickler as they click away from a stuttering site in favour of an attention-grabbing headline that grips them by the eyeballs and won’t let go.
Hiring a professional copywriting will give you the edge over competitors who may still be producing their content in house, without expert advice. It’s the difference between arriving in a Robin Reliant and a chauffeur driven rolls Royce. And surely everyone wants to get there in style.
I believe in the value of a professional copywriter so much that I genuinely considered hiring one to write the content for my new website (insert shameless plug here);
After a good, hard tussle, I decided that I should write my own copy. But writing about yourself is the hardest type of writing around. Give it a try if you don’t believe me.
If your copy or digital content isn’t working – get in touch for a free review today. I offer honest, no-nonsense advice and practical tips with no obligation to use my services. If you do decide to put your copy in my hands, I’ll offer a 10% discount to say thank you.