When I moved to New Mexico (many years ago) I decided to rent a place before buying. The market was tight so I rented a small townhouse. It was a little rundown but everything was fine till winter came.
That’s when we discovered the heater wasn’t working. In fact, the electric company had “red-tagged” the system. Major work would be required.
The owner of this property wanted to economize. So he got a friend and the two of them traipsed up to my attic. They weren’t especially young or physically fit. They were smokers. They tromped around in their heavy boots for two hours. I wondered what I’d do if they had a heart attack in my attic.
“We’ll come back tomorrow!” they chorused as they left.
“No!” I exclaimed. “You need a licensed electrician! I have to have heat!”
Knowing that the law was on my side, he gave in. An electrician showed up two days later. He emerged after two hours, shaking his head.
“I need more equipment,” he said.
He ended up spending a full 8-hour day on this property. The motor had been wired backwards. He had to go back and undo the damage – not just make a few fixes, which would have been possible if my landlord had called earlier (or taken a course or two on electrical systems).
We’ve all been there.
This story happens to be true, but as a concept story it fits many solo-preneur experiences. I used to dig into code and try to fix my own WordPress themes…till I gave up and found somebody who actually knew how the back end worked. I seriously considered taking some courses and learning to write code till somebody pointed out, “It’ll take years to be a great coder and you’re already getting kudos on your writing.”
Unlike furnaces and back end tech, copywriting seems so simple, anyone with writing talent could do it.
The truth is, copywriting differs from other kinds of writing. And even with training, copywriting takes time. It’s a skill you have to use frequently to keep your edge. That’s why I’ve been hired by marketing coaches who used to write their own sales letters (and did very well with them), and even other copywriters who just can’t get the piece to come together.
But even when you want to DIY, you don’t need to settle for less than stellar copy. You don’t have to choose between “lone ranger mode” and “hire a copywriter and let them do it all” mode. And one of my favorite copywriting groups has the slogan, “Nobody writes alone.”
Here are 5 ways a copywriter can help, plus 3 ways to study copywriting if you’d like to keep developing your skills.
(1) Bring a fresh, objective perspective.
“Too close to the copy” is one of the main reasons people hire copywriters. It’s hard to write about products, services and ideas you’ve gotten attached to. It’s also hard to walk away from words, phrases and metaphors you’ve created. Early on, I was warned, “When you get truly attached to something you wrote, that’s probably the first thing that has to go.”
It’s also hard to be objective about content when you’ve worked so hard to get it right. The truth is, as you change one sentence, you often have to go back and rework a section or move things around.
First, try walking away for a few hours or a few days. Often this simple step brings clarity. When I write copy, I build “walk-away time” into the deadline.
But walking away can bring new complications. How many times do you do this? How fast do you need your copy? And what if you find yourself caught up in something more critical — something you can’t delegate — or you just find you dread getting back to that sales letter one more time.
The good news: Unlike a furnace, your copy doesn’t always need hands-on tinkering. If you’d like to DIY, you can get a review or a consultation. You might need to revisit the big picture vision, or some quick and easy wordsmithing, or just some reassurance that you’re good to go and ready to launch.
(2) More time for the parts of marketing you can’t delegate.
Creating persuasive, engaging copy takes more time than most business owners realize. And once you start writing, it’s easy to get hooked. You figure, “I’ll just do this one thing …” and then the dog starts hinting it’s time for a walk. You realize three hours have gone by.
Hiring a copywriter means you have more time to work on the elements of marketing you can’t delegate … or drink more coffee, spend more time with loved ones, and enjoy the energy of the season.
Even better, you’ll save time on your future projects as well. You’ll learn some tips and tricks and gain experience faster than you would on your own.
(3) Capturing the essence of what you do (and how you do it better than anybody else).
Copywriters are trained to find your hidden assets and promote your best talents, without coming across as flashy. Today’s copywriting tends to be conversational and friendly, so you come across as professional and approachable.
As a a copywriter, I’ve often thought that one of my greatest assets was the ability and willingness to ask dumb questions. That’s because I’m usually in the same position as your buyer: not an insider, not familiar with the jargon, not clear on how this product or service would help an ordinary person.
You can try this technique yourself. Get someone to role-play your ideal customer. They’ll ask, “What can your service do for me?” and, “What would make me want to hire you?”
For a professional organizer, one answer might be, “I’m paying $200 a month for a storage unit and haven’t been there in over a year. I can’t face a week of clearing it out all by myself.”
Often there’s an interim step of clarification, especially on complex services. Here’s a simple example:
“So, I’d come to you if my desk had too much paper?”
“You’d be more likely to call if you’d been paying late fees because you couldn’t pay your bills.”
“Oh…what did you say your company does?”
(4) Make your service sound fresh and exciting.
To a copywriter, there’s no such thing as a boring product or service. And even when you’re promoting accounting, inventory management services or statistical consulting projects, ultimately a buying decision will almost always include an emotional component. A copywriter helps you make sure your copy will resonate emotionally with your audience.
Copywriters (including me) often love the challenge of finding the hidden gems in your business and polishing up your image — without exaggerating or misrepresenting what you do. My favorite testimonial came from someone who said, “I think you could write about a turnip and make it sound interesting.”
I’ve never seen a turnip up close but I’m up for writing about one.
(5) Help you use stories, metaphors and other copywriting tools so your copy flows smoothly … and makes it look easy.
Your electrician’s toolkit usually includes some tools the average homeowner doesn’t possess. Copywriters also have tools that aren’t familiar to most business owners, and they’re trained to use them wisely and well.
In particular, stories belong in the category of “handle with care.” You probably have many stories available to use in your sales letters, blog posts and website pages. The key is to find the story that fits your mission and decide exactly how you’re going to shae.
And if you’d like to create stronger copy …
If you’re thinking about becoming a copywriter, check out my course here — packed with how-tos, bonus and extras.
One of the best courses for business owners who want to DIY — Connie Ragen Green’s Real Simple Sales Letters.
And check out my course, Copywriting For Non-Copywriters, on Udemy.