10 Steps to Profit-Boosting Copy

How do you get from plain content to profit-boosting copy? By following these 10 steps. You can also use these steps to improve copy you’ve already written. If the copy hasn’t performed well, look over the following tips to see what’s missing.

Most people jump into writing copy without a good plan. This is a mistake. There are so many points you must cover. It’s easy to forget things when you’re facing tight deadlines, a wave of ideas, and a heavy workload. It doesn’t take long to plan. A basic outline of everything you want will do. Then your team can flesh out the plan together in a meeting.

STEP TWO: Choose your DIY copywriting team
You only need 7 members, so don’t go overboard. Think about how different employees suit each position. Consider which role suits your personality. I suggest that supervisors and managers take on the project manager role. You can find a character outline on each role here.

STEP THREE: Include online AND offline marketing
Don’t forget your offline marketing! Not everyone has easy access to the internet. Now most companies are online, offline marketing makes you stand out. Another benefit to offline marketing is more visible copy. Ignoring an advert on a web page is easier than ignoring a brochure in the letterbox. Always tie online and offline copy together, for example, advertise your website in your brochure.

STEP FOUR: Go back to basics
You’re probably an expert in your field. Your customers aren’t. Make sure your copy is ‘dumbed down’ to their level. If the general public doesn’t understand you, you’ve lost potential customers. Everything you plan must relate to Joe Public, not just CEOs and Directors.

STEP FIVE: Make timeless copy
I know certain industries like IT progress quickly, but try to write about something that will be relevant for years to come. Even better, predict where the industry is going so you’ll be ahead. It’s hard work updating copy on a regular basis, so write something that will last months, even years.

STEP SIX: No sales talk
“BUY OUR STUFF!!!!!!”…No. Don’t turn into that annoying salesperson. Be yourself. Customers prefer someone they can relate to. Always focus on them, not you. Selling the benefits of a product works. Selling features doesn’t. If customers don’t see how a product benefits them, they won’t buy it. Make every benefit clear. Don’t make customers think any more than necessary.

STEP SEVEN: Get the right length
Go online and see how long different copy is. Certain copy may be short: articles, ads, leaflets, etc. Certain copy may be long: white papers, speeches, scripts, etc. Do your research BEFORE you start, and keep in mind that lengths may change over time, for example, web owners used to prefer short web pages but now Google is rewarding longer ones.

STEP EIGHT: Be yourself
Whatever works for the competition won’t necessarily work for you. Be your own brand, not a poor imitation of someone else’s. People know when a company is copying another. It reeks of desperation. People are attracted to leaders, not followers.

STEP NINE: Call to action
Your copy should push customers into action. A gentle push, not a shove. End your copy with the next step they can take. Don’t miss out on such a great opportunity to sell!

STEP TEN: Eye-catching photos
Text is nice but pictures are nicer. When you distribute copy, always have some pictures. They break up a wall of text and the right photos are eye-catching. Make sure the picture fits your copy and don’t use controversial pictures just to attract attention. Remember, gimmicks don’t always sell!

Now you know exactly what it takes to transform plain content into profit-boosting copy. It won’t take long to improve copy that hasn’t performed as well as expected. Just look over each point and ask yourself, “Have we done this?” If not, now’s the time. If you’re starting a new project, stick these ten steps where the whole team can see them every day.


12 Questions to Ask A Copywriter Before You Hire

So you’ve got a long list of possible candidates, but what next? How do you sort the good from the bad? Are they a hobbyist or a professional? So many questions, but which one to ask? It’s very important to ask the right questions when hiring someone. Here are 20 questions every quality copywriter can answer.

1. Do you use writing software?
Speech recognition, word processing, and other general software packages are fine. If the candidate mentions article writing software, run! You can tell when a computer churned out an article. It doesn’t flow, doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t keep human readers interested. Professional writers know creativity comes from humans, not a computer program.

2. Are you reliable?
They’ll say, “Yes!” but actions speak louder than words. When they make a promise, make sure they keep it. If your telephone appointment is 9am, they should call at 8:59am. If they promise a response in one day, expect a response within 24hrs. If they promise a first draft for Monday morning, expect one by late Sunday. Professionals go the extra mile. It’s not desperation, it’s good business.

3. Are you flexible?
Searching for reliable writers isn’t a quick process. Remember, time is money. Instead of hiring an expert for every job, get a flexible writer who can adapt. Now you’ll have the right skills for every job.

4. Do you write full-time?
A part-time writer doesn’t mean a bad writer. However, there’ll be times when you need help ASAP. Calling the writer at work might get them fired. Also, part-time writers squeeze in writing around their day job. This means you won’t be working on the same hours. When a project requires interviews, onsite work, etc, it’ll be difficult because the writer can’t come in.

5. Do you quadruple check information?
Have you read 3 Major Research Mistakes You’re Going To Make? Then you know bad research involves a lazy double check. If your writer doesn’t give every fact, figure, and foreign spelling the quadruple check, you’re in trouble. Readers can overlook a typo on a web page. Wacky statistics and dodgy graphs won’t go down well…

6. How much do you charge?
You shouldn’t hire based solely on price. You get what you pay for. Cheap work might need someone else to fix it. Expensive work doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy. Negotiation is possible, especially if you’re a small organisation like a charity, but don’t insult the writer. If their rates are far from your budget, look elsewhere.

7. Are your rates on your website (and why)?
It is impossible to post an exact project cost because each job varies. They require different levels of research, working at different locations, interviews, timescales, and word counts. Beware if a writer gives an exact quote without asking the necessary questions. A project range is more accurate, but be prepared to pay the top end.

8. How fast can you type?
They don’t have to type 100 wpm, but being too slow is a problem. Some writers take writing FAR too seriously. They sweat over a sentence for hours, days, even weeks, but slow writing doesn’t mean good writing.

9. What is your turnaround?
If you need an article in 24 hours, expect to pay extra. A busy writer isn’t so desperate to accept work at the last minute for the usual cost. They’re doing you a favour. Paying extra is a nice way to say thank you. If projected delivery is weeks away, you’ve got to use common sense. Large projects like white papers and several websites take time, but a press release or blog post wouldn’t.

10. Do you make mistakes?
Remember, writers are not editors or proofreaders. Still, writers who respect your content will edit what they’ve written. They should never send out the first draft. They should also proofread BUT ask you to do the final proofread. Writers don’t always see their own mistakes, so a fresh pair of eyes is necessary. Of course, mistakes on every page, in every paragraph, in every line is inexcusable.

11. Do you network?
Professionals network with others online and/or offline. This could involve joining professional associations, relevant groups on social networks, and getting in contact with other professionals via email. My first month freelance writing, I had good contacts with three web developers. Networking means you can contact one writer and have instant access to a team of professionals.

12. Do you work at an agency?
Agency workers, agency prices. You’re not just paying for the writer, but several others in the work chain. If the agency writer offers to ditch the agency and work on side, be cautious…Are they someone you can trust?

If the candidate can’t answer these simple questions, I’d strike them off the list. Many of these questions apply to professionals period, so there’s simply no excuse.