DIY Copywriting? You mean, “Write my own copy without taking copywriting courses or hiring a pro?”
More and more business owners are saying “yes.” These days I spend more time with copy consulting and coaching than actually writing.
(1 You benefit from being passionate about your products and services.
You know exactly how to take advantage of what you offer to get maximum benefit. You not only created the offer: you’ve watched your clients use it to transform their lives and grow their businesses.
(2) You develop a critical skill.
Online marketing requires a lot of writing: sales letters, landing pages, websites, and more. The vast majority of service business owners can’t afford to hire a copywriter for big projects, let alone for every marketing campaign. If I’ve just described you, DIY copywriting is the way to go.
(3) You could save money.
Yes, copywriting can be expensive to outsource. Most business owners find it’s a mistake to save money by outsourcing to a low-priced copywriter. Those copywriters usually will be very new. Often they won’t “get” what your offer is about so you end up with a jumbled message.
But you might be at a stage when it doesn’t make sense to spend on copywriting. You might be experimenting with a new product or market. In that case, it’s a good idea to write your own content and get some coaching.
When you need to write your own copy, you’ll find many resources to help. Copywriting courses have become widely available (I’ve got one included in my Become A Copywriter course). You can study headlines, calls to action, openings, and more. Another good source is Connie Ragen Green’s Really Simple Sales Copy.
The DIY Copywriting Mistake: Getting Feedback From All The Wrong Places
But copywriting doesn’t end after you’ve done the research, fine-tuned the message, and written copy that’s qualifies as compelling, seductive or kick-butt. The truth is, most writers — including copywriters — often spend more time rewriting than writing. The challenge is knowing what to look for and when to stop.
But … what happens when you write your copy and you don’t get the response you expected?
And what if you’re not sure your copywriting is ready to be released on the world? Do you keep tweaking and teasing and then tweak some more?
You wonder if …”
- You’ve gotten too close to your copy. You understand your message so well, you might be leaving something out.
- You’re not setting yourself apart from your competitors.
- You feel you need to include a story in your copy, so you told one. Are you sharing TMI? Is this story appropriate for your purpose? Will your copy benefit that story, or indeed any story? The wrong story can backfire! Check out this free download – 3 Common Storytelling Mistakes Most Business Owners Make.
Let’s imagine Gilda, an executive coach. She’s staring at a draft of her website, wondering, “Will I come across as sharp and professional to my corporate clients?”
Meanwhile, Tom, a fitness professional, struggles with a sales letter for his next virtual workshop; he’s targeting executives and entrepreneurs who spend too much time sitting at desks.
Here’s a 7-step process they can walk through.
(1) Begin with your own right brain and ask your intuition.
How does your intuition communicate? Do you get a sinking feeling when something’s not right? When you’re on the right track, do you have a sense of confident knowing?
Gilda got a “something isn’t right” feeling with her website draft. It was like seeking a picture hanging in someone’s home that’s just a wee bit crooked. You wonder, “Is it just me?”
After years of working with corporate executives, Gilda knows how they think. Her intuition tells her that she’s coming on too low-key, too much “girl next door,” even when targeting women executives.
On the other hand, Tom just began offering workshops. He surveyed his clients and he knew they were interested. He senses that his sales letter isn’t hitting their hot buttons, but he realizes he’s new at this. His intuition wouldn’t be a reliable guide. He decides he’ll need a more systematic way to get feedback, to be sure he’s not just imagining things.
The next step is…
(2) Read your copy aloud to yourself.
As Gilda reads aloud, some sections of the copy seem awkward. She finds stumbling over the paragraphs on her “About Me” page.
Tom realizes that the middle section of his sales letter seems boring — even to him. He’s quoting sources on kinesiology. He imagines readers yawning as they read. In fact, he has trouble staying awake with his own copy.
Some copywriters believe this is the most important step in copywriting. A few copywriters even suggest you sing your copy. It doesn’t have to be on key.
The disadvantage: If you’re not confident about your writing ability, or you’re moving to a new market, you’ll keep finding things to change. You can get into a never-ending cycle, where you review your copy, make changes, and then realize you need to make more changes. I’ve seen people paralyzed for months as they tweak, tweak and over-think their copy. Hey, I’ve been paralyzed for days or weeks myself.
So it’s time to…
(3) Apply the walk-away test.
This one’s easy. Simply get up walk away from your desk. Do something else.
Gilda does her afternoon meditation, a good 20 minutes, followed by a few yoga poses. When she returns, she notices that paragraphs don’t lead into each other. The copy doesn’t flow smoothly. And she’s used the same word more than once in a paragraph. But she wants to avoid the endless tweak-and-polish cycle.
Tom has no choice. His dog demands an afternoon walk. When Tom returns, he notices that the copy actually seems pretty strong. He wonders, “Is it really time to stop tweaking and move on? Or is he just too close?
Time to ….
(4) Share your copy with people who support your work, such as your virtual assistant and former clients. Ask them to take a quick look at your copy and share their reaction. They don’t have to give you a lot of detail – just a general impression.
The challenge here is simply to find people who will do this. If they’re not working for you, they’ll often resist spending the time, even just a few minutes. But if you can get them to comment, this kind of live feedback can be extremely valuable in predicting your prospects’ reactions.
When you undertake this step, be very clear about your expectations. You want a genuine, honest reaction, not just a critique.
Gilda asks a former client and her virtual assistant to review her new program. She gets comments like:
“Before getting to the price, my mind screams, ‘Unaffordable!'”
“When I read the word ‘executive,’ I tend to think of high-end, exclusive and pricey.”
“I feel you’re writing directly to me as a female business owner.”
“You seem to be targeting women only. As a male, I wouldn’t feel you’re talking to me.”
“I feel that you’re talking to brand-new, inexperienced newbies. Since I’ve been around a while, I’d be completely turned off.”
Tom asks two other trainers for feedback. He gets comments like…
“I’d love to recommend this to my own clients. Do you pay commission?”
“This program seems to be speaking to young kids who are in great shape. What about my middle-aged guys — the weekend warriors who pulled a muscle?”
The downside is, whenever you’re working with a small group, you’re getting honest but biased reactions. You don’t know if the one person you ask will truly represent your ideal clients. Sometimes your current and past clients won’t be able to say how they’d respond if they didn’t know you.
Time to test with a bigger audience.
(5) Share with your group on Facebook or LinkedIn, or share with your mastermind group.
This option tends to be one of the most popular ways for online business owners to get feedback. It’s a good option if you’re familiar with copywriting and you know what you need. Your challenge is to separate meaningful feedback from well-intended guidance that will steer you off course.
Generally, you’ll get better feedback from paid mastermind groups where people are committed to contributing to help each other. If you’re known as someone who does a lot of giving, you’re even more likely to get help when you ask.
Use this kind of feedback when…
…you already have a sense of your market and your inner radar will let you know if you’re getting off-the-wall comments that don’t apply to you. For instance, if they say, “I think women will absolutely hate that phrase,” you’ll need to draw on your own experience with female prospects.
… you’re wondering if your message reads smoothly and clearly. Do the sentences flow? Did you leave out the verb? A group will pick that up.
… the members of your group either belong to your audience or know your audience well
… the members of your group understand principles of copy so they “get” what you’re trying to do
… you realize you’re not in a safe space: fellow members are judging you as a potential resource they can hire, and your questions will mark you as canny or clueless
… you’re prepared to take action and know the rules of the game
Gilda shared her copy with her paid mastermind group. She got lots of comments from her fellow members. She suspected some of them were brilliant insights — the kind she’d pay hundreds of dollars to get in a one-to-one consultation.
But she also got some time-wasting irrelevant suggestions. A fellow member suggested, “Think about your money issues.” Gilda didn’t think she had any, but she was so shook up, she spent a lot of time wondering if she should do some journaling or hire a coach.
Gilda also got some very simple, cookie-cutter suggestions, such as, “Make sure you know your target client’s biggest problem.” She had to grit her teeth to keep from sending back a sarcastic response, such as, “If it were this simple I wouldn’t be asking!”
Tom set up a link to his copy in a Facebook closed group. He got a few half-hearted responses. One copywriter in the group made some good suggestions but responded to Tom’s follow-up question with, “Sorry, I’m on deadline.” Tom realized his questions would take a back seat to the copywriter’s paying clients.
Mastermind groups sometimes offer “hot seats.” You submit your copy and the leader offers a critique, sometimes with the help of group members.
Hot seats can be valuable when the leader offers to read your material before the session, taking the time to consider your niche and your goals. Most hot seats last 15 minutes, max. Depending on the leader’s skill and the status of your draft, this laser coaching may be enough to give you meaningful feedback.
Bottom Line: In a group setting, listen respectfully to the advice but take it all with a large grain of salt.
(6) Marketing coaches
Your marketing coach can be an excellent source of feedback, depending on her background and coaching skill. Some marketing coaches build critiques into their programs. Some have copywriting experience and have been copy coaches, so you’ll get awesome feedback.
Tom had worked with a marketing coach awhile back. This coach had little patience for detailed discussions of sales letters or launch campaigns. He’d give Tom’s copy a cursory review and say something like, “This is okay.”
Gilda’s coach referred her to a copywriter who also worked as a copywriting coach. Because the coach referred many clients to the copywriter, Gilda got a special rate.
- It’s not unusual for me to get clients who are working with high-end marketing coaches. They realize they can’t benefit from the coach’s advice till they get a good website, sales letter, lead magnet and perhaps other content. Without these basics, they just can’t move forward. An expense of, say, $1500 becomes a no-brainer for someone who’s spending $5-20K for a coaching program.
- Therefore, when you sign up for a marketing coaching program, find out exactly what you’ll be getting. Ask how many drafts of copy you can submit in a given month and what kind of turnaround you can expect. It takes a good hour to discuss a website or sales letter — and that’s after pre-call preparation.
- Ask your questions via email and keep a record so you can know just what you’re getting. And make sure you can afford to purchase supplemental services; you’ll almost certainly need to pay for design, and it’s not unusual to pay for copywriting, too.
All too many business owners end up with a terrific strategy, but they can’t implement it because their copy isn’t strong enough.
So if you’ve gotten this far and your copy still needs some TLC, or if you’ve skipped some steps and just want to get professional copy, your next step is a …
(7) Copywriting consultation
Many business owners resist the idea of a copywriting consultation. (I did too, when I started out.)
There’s no denying it’s the most expensive and intensive of all your options. But I’ve seen first-hand how a single one-to-one consultation can totally transform a client’s marketing.
A private consultation will surprise you. You won’t just submit some copy and get feedback. Your copywriter will talk about your copy in the context of your marketing goals. You should experience a significant shift, not just a few tips to get by.
Unlike your marketing coach or forum members, your copywriter is trained to come to your copy “cold.” You’ll talk about your copy in the context of your clients. You’ll get hours of focused attention, not just a few minutes sandwiched in between other business owners who have equally pressing questions.
When you work with a copywriter, you don’t have to sort through a pile of feedback to decide what’s useful and what to keep. You won’t have to write polite notes to well-meaning critics who just didn’t get what you were about (and didn’t have time to follow up).
When setting up a consultation, clarify your expectations. Make sure your fees include pre-work. Your copywriter should read your material carefully and perhaps ask some questions. You might get very specific tips to power up your copy during a call, but you’ll be getting a draft — not a rewrite. If your call is recorded (and it should be, if you’re paying), listen to the recording before asking follow-up questions.
I offer a strategic consultation and also a website review program. They’re not cheap. But so far every client has been surprised at the depth of understanding they now bring to their copy, and the way their whole marketing has been transformed.
You don’t need copywriting training to start writing your own marketing materials — your sales letters, web pages, blog posts, landing pages, and more. If you pay close attention to your clients and their needs, you’ll create persuasive copy.
And, with just a little training and a lot of revision, your audience will be asking, “Where’d you find that awesome copywriter?”
Get started with this free guide –
And if you’d like me to work with you on making your copy stronger, start with the Strategic Intensive. Click here to learn more.