Why you should write the story behind your personal brand

Have you noticed that more business owners are sharing their personal story as part of their business branding?

I think it’s great. It’s an opportunity to get to know the business owner and understand why they do what they do.

People buy from people!

But some business owners are uncomfortable with the idea and prefer to keep their business and personal lives separate.

Read on for some tips on how you can tell your story without selling out, invading your own privacy or alienating colleagues and friends.

Have you heard of the late author Nora Ephron (who wrote the script for the film When Harry met Sally, as well as many books and articles)?

About a year ago, I watched a documentary about Nora and learnt that she was famous for the phrase: Everything is copy. 

Basically, she felt that anything that happened in her life was fair game and it was okay to write about it (and she did, ruffling a few feathers along the way!)

I think Nora was ahead of her time, because I’m Generation X (born in the ’70s) and I was definitely raised to believe that you don’t wash your dirty laundry in public!

But things are changing.

I don’t agree with categorising age groups – we’re all just people – but the increase in blogging and influencer marketing, arguably dominated by millennials, shows a massive shift towards people sharing their personal story as part of their business brand.

And the trend for content and social media marketing is very much geared towards sharing valuable content and storytelling, with the mindset that people buy from people.  

So how can you share your story as part of your brand in an *buzzword alert* authentic way? 

The simple answer is by being you. 

Because being you is your business’s USP.

Let’s be honest – there are thousands of people offering the same product or service – but they’re not you. 

It all goes back to your why.

Why did you start your business? What life events led you to your industry? And how have your personal experiences shaped the way that you work?

You can tell your story in several ways:

  • Choose a business name or logo that has a deep meaning connected to your story (you’ll need a professional designer for this).
  • Publish your story on your About page on your website (keep it separate from your home page though, that does need to focus on your customer).
  • Write relatable blogs that link your personal story with your business. 
  • Guest blog on other people’s websites or pitch to appear on their podcast.
  • Refer to your story on your social media posts and make connections with people who have had similar experiences.
  • Use tools such as Instagram stories to chat about your daily life and show what goes on behind the scenes of your business. 

If, like me, you’re a private person, it doesn’t mean you have to disclose every tiny detail of your life. It’s up to you how much you share. 

And your story doesn’t have to be tragic or unusual.

It may be as simple as wanting to work from home to be there for your children (in which case you’re part of a huge community).

Or maybe you have a fitness or educational goal that you want to share with the world. 

If your story does have an element of tragedy, trauma or sadness, you don’t have to alienate friends, family and  colleagues to tell it in an authentic way.

For example, if you started your business because you were made redundant, don’t word it in such a way that you sound bitter or critical of your previous employers (however tempting). 

If you became self-employed after a relationship breakdown, don’t waste your time and energy slating your ex.

Focus instead on the positives and how you turned a difficult situation around to create a better life. 

People love to see someone pull through difficult times. It gives them hope.

After all, if you’ve pulled through a low point in your life to build a business, maybe they can too.

If you come across as bitter or angry, it might work against you – use words to inspire people. 

Ultimately, it’s all about communicating your true self in a way that isn’t fake.

Don’t be tempted to make something up – it doesn’t matter if your story isn’t out of the ordinary.

If it’s true, you can weave it through all the strands of your marketing and social media engagement, showing prospective customers the real person behind the business. 

What do you think?

Are you drawn to business owners who let their guard down?

Or do you prefer clear boundaries between professional and personal  lives? 

I’d love to hear your comments.

Enjoy this blog? I do hope you found it enjoyable and valuable. Please feel free to share with your friends and colleagues.

Further reading. If you’re keen to tell your business story you may enjoy my blog Write as you speak – your readers will love you for it where you’ll be pleased to find out you don’t have to swallow a thesaurus to write good copy.

About me I’m Alison, a Freelance Copywriter living and working in Milton Keynes. The experiences of raising a child with autism and losing a parent to dementia remind me to value the power of words and communication. I believe in writing  clear, conversational copy that everyday people can relate to. 

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How formulas can help you write better copy

Can’t find time to write copy for your marketing materials?

Don’t know where to start?

Read on for part one of my three-part series on copywriting formulas that will time and help you write effective copy.

Image credit: Pixabay

Something I often hear from business owners is that they can’t find the time to write copy and blog posts for their website and marketing materials. And even if they can find the time, they have no idea where to start.

I get it.

Writing effective copy and content does take time. I love it but I still find it draining and I’m always shocked at how much faster the clock ticks when I’m copywriting.

And I know only too well how easy it is to start writing and lose direction.

Like most things, it’s all in the planning and in this three-part series I’m going to share some copywriting formulas that will not only save you time but help you get organised and write copy that packs a punch.

I’m going to start with an oldie but goodie: AIDA.

If you’re a copywriter or marketing type, you’ve almost certainly heard of this one. It’s the first copywriting formula I learned when studying The Complete Copywriter with the Writer’s Bureau. (I later went on to study Breakthrough Copywriting with The Copywriting Academy and Hubspot Inbound Marketing).

What does AIDA stand for?

Attention
Interest
Desire
Action

“Okay” you’re thinking “But what does that actually mean?”

Here’s a breakdown:

Attention pretty much speaks for itself.

It’s the first opportunity you have to get the reader/potential customer’s attention, so it has to be good.

Usually, the headline is the first thing to catch attention, although increasingly superb imagery is needed too, particularly for on-line copy.

Avoid click-bait headlines that don’t deliver on their promise. Probably the best way to get the reader’s attention is to think about what your ideal customer wants to know, so that your headline offers help.

There’s nothing wrong with a headline that ‘does what it says on the tin’. At least your reader knows what they’re getting from the off.

You may choose to be controversial or humorous, but think carefully about how this will translate to the reader. Shock-tactics might get you the wrong sort of attention and do your business more damage than good.

Interest

So the reader needs to have a reason to keep reading. The mistake many people make is to instantly start talking about themselves and what they do.

Bit of a turn-off, yes? But easily done.

A better strategy is turn the attention round to the reader and work out why they should keep reading.

Look for their point of paIn. What problems are they having? What impact is this having on them emotionally, physically, financially? What are their fears? Hopes? Dreams?

You will need to have a pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is to be able to tap into these emotions. If you’re unclear about who you’re trying to attract, you might want to take a step back and get really clear on who you’re writing for first.

copywriting formula ideal customer

Be clear on your ideal customer. Who are they?

Desire This is the point at which you influence your reader to want what you are offering.

Again it’s easy to start talking about what you do. Of course your reader does need to know what you have to offer, but you need to move swiftly on to what your product/service is going to do for them – how it will benefit them.

You want your reader to spend their hard-earned money on your product or service.

Think about this from their point of view.

Why should they?

What’s in for them?

For example, if you’re a massage therapist, don’t just tell them you offer great massage therapies and waffle on about all your massage qualifications. (You can always do this on a separate About page).

Help them visualise why they should get a massage. What are the benefits of having a massage? How are they going to feel after?

Avoid words such as ‘amazing’ and ‘brilliant’ to describe what you offer (if it is, they will tell you in reviews and testimonials).

Instead, paint a picture of how it will improve your customer’s life.

For example:

  • Get a great night’s sleep
  • Feel less anxious or depressed
  • Get relief from back or shoulder pain
  • Feel more confident and focused
  • Enjoy some time and space away from their responsibilities  
  • Feel happier and healthier

And finally, Action. 

This relates to Call to Action and it’s super important because if your reader has decided they do want to get in touch, you need to make it easy for them to do so.

Make sure your contact details, preferably a telephone number, are clearly see on every page of your website, not just the contacts page. And make sure they are clear and easy to read.

If you have a contact form, make sure it’s right there in front of them. (I’m going to write more detailed blog posts about calls to action in the coming months so look out for those.)

AIDA is probably the most well-known copywriting formula around. Some consider it old-fashioned and cumbersome.

I think it’s pretty good but in my quest to consume as much copywriting know-how as I can, I’ve discovered some other formulas which I believe to be easier and more effective than AIDA.

I‘m going to share these with you in parts two and three of this series – coming soon.

Until next time.

Alison x

I do hope you found this blog post valuable.

I’m always open to constructive feedback so please get in touch if you want to discuss. And feel free to share with your friends, contacts and social media.

Want to hand over all that time-consuming copy to someone else? Drop me a line: alisonbcopywriter@gmail.com or complete the simple form below and tell me about your project.

I’d love to work with you.

 

 

 

How to write your About page without being too me, me, me…

Some experts will tell you that you shouldn’t write about yourself, it’s all about the customer. And only the cutomer.

But how do you build a rapport with your reader and show them you’re someone they can trust?

me me meImage credit: Pixabay

Your About page is one of the hardest pages to write and many experts will tell you that you should focus purely on the customer and not write about yourself.

It’s a bummer really. You’ve spent years getting to where you are, sweating blood and tears, training, retraining, making mistakes, learning from mistakes…

So the suggestion that your reader doesn’t want to know about you is disappointing.  

Traditional copywriting advice recommends that you focus on the reader and how your product or service can benefit them. And when it comes to writing blog content the focus is on giving value to the reader.

I think rules are there to be broken and so, in my view, you can tell your story without losing the interest of the reader. 

And in some cases, I believe that doing so can help you build more of a rapport with your audience.

When people refer to your About page, they often mean the first page a visitor lands on when they visit your website (the home page). 

Arguably, this is the most important page and its job is to attract attention and guide the reader to take action.

This page needs to hook your reader and make it super clear what you do and what’s in it for them. They should be in no doubt how they can get hold of you, so a visible call to action (such as a contact form or telephone number) is vital.

Your home page isn’t the place to ramble about yourself. You’ve got a short window of opportunity to interest the reader. And so the focus needs to be on them.

But… there’s nothing to stop you having a second page where the reader can find out more about you.

To avoid confusion you can call it something more interesting than “About”. Here are some suggestions:

Who I am
My story
Why I became a copywriter/plumber/therapist

As a consumer, I do want to know who I’m working with before I part with my money.

If you’re a plumber, I want to know about your training and experience, so I can be sure my loo is going to work properly. And if you’re going to teach my children to play a musical instrument or help them with maths tutoring, I want to know more about your background.

On my Who am I? page, the first thing I do is give the reader the opportunity to opt out and go straight to my services page.  I give a short, bulleted version for those who just want a quick overview. And for the nosey types (like me) I suggest they settle down with a cuppa so they know they’re in for a longer read.

There’s a big focus on storytelling right now and I think your story, if relevant to your product or service, can play a key part in promoting your business and building trust with your client.

So I think it’s okay to get more personal in your About page, but remember to keep the Home page focused on the customer. Win win.

Until next time. Happy writing.

Alison x


I do hope you found this blog post valuable. I’m always open to constructive feedback so please get in touch if you want to discuss. And feel free to share with your friends, contacts and social media.

Want to work with me? Drop me a line: alisonbcopywriter@gmail.com or there’s a simple form on my contacts page.

The so what test – what it is and how it can improve your copywriting

Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to explain the benefits of your product or service to your potential customers.

Here’s a fun way to drill down into the detail and uncover new selling points.

If you’re struggling to explain your services in words on your website, blog posts or social media updates, try the so what test to challenge yourself and find inspiration for new ideas.

I’m not sure where it originates from (if you do know, please should and I’ll include a reference) but it’s a really useful tool for drilling down into the detail of what you actually do and how you can communicate it to your customers in the written word.

Before I explain how to do the ‘so what test’, something to bear in mind is that when you’re writing content you should be thinking about the benefits of your product/service as well as the features.

There’s a theory that your writing should be all about the benefits – meaning, what’s in it for the customer. (I’m not 100% convinced about this, but I’ll tackle that another time.)

So, if you run a decorating service you don’t just use the best paint (feature), you save the customer from committing crimes to DIY, you free up their weekend, you take away the stress and mess of painting, you save their marriage from the effects of yet another DIY disaster. These are benefits.

With me so far?

The so what test can help you really think about your business, what you offer, what’s in it for the customer and why they should choose you.

If you have a trusted friend or colleague, you might want to rope them in to help you with the test. You could even record it if you fancy a laugh.

I’m going to demonstrate the test here using my role as a copywriter and an imaginary friend:

Me: “I’m a copywriter”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “I write copy for websites and content for business blogs.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So that when customers visit the client’s website they read clear, persuasive copy that explains the purpose of the business.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can understand how that service/product will benefit them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can read blogs about the business and find helpful tips that might help them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they can get to know the business and start to trust them.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

Me: “So they visit that website again or recommend to their friends.”

Imaginary friend: “So what?”

“Me: “So when they’re ready to buy a product or invest in a service, they’re more like to choose that business”.

So that’s a pretty short example. The longer you go on, the more you will uncover about what you do.

My imaginary conversation could have gone off at several tangents. I could have talked about the benefits of high quality content for SEO, using appropriate keywords, optimising paragraphs and images to accurate spelling and eye-pleasing layout.

Instead, I focused on the importance of clear, persuasive copy and helpful content that builds trust with the prospective client.

Your turn now.

Just keep going and really drilling down into the detail of what you do and then think about how you can use that information to write great content for your website and marketing materials.

I’d love to hear how you get on. Did you uncover any selling points that you hadn’t previously thought about or used?

Alison

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and with anyone you know who would find it useful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

Write As You Speak – your readers will love you for it

Why plain English and your own tone of voice are better than long words and jargon.

In this article you will learn about the copywriting formula WAYS which stands for write as you speak.

Do you find the prospect of writing your own copy scary? Do you still have nightmares about that prim and proper English teacher who was only too happy to scribble across your homework in red ink?

Forget about them!

If you’re one of those business owners who thinks that your English language skills are not good enough to write content and blogs for your business, I have good news for you:

You don’t have to swallow a thesaurus to write good copy.

Think about your reasons for writing in the first place.

You probably want to sell, yes. But more importantly, you want to communicate your business message clearly to your target audience.

Before anyone is going to buy from you, you need to gain their trust and your content strategy (relax, I just mean your blog) goes a long way in helping your achieve that.

Clear, concise copy in plain English is more likely to resonate with your audience (any audience) than stiff, formal  language stuffed full of pretentious words.

And the easiest way to achieve this is to use a copywriting technique called WAYS:

Write
As
You
Speak

So what do I mean by Write As You Speak?

When writing, imagine you are having a conversation with your reader.

Think of it as talking to them, rather than writing for them.

If you suffer from writer’s block, you can record your message and then you can translate it to truly write as you speak (and you edit out the ‘umms’ and ‘ahs’ if you speak like I do!)

Here are some further tips to help you achieve this less formal style of writing:

  • Don’t use long words and jargon that nobody understands.
  • Write in short, simple sentences.
  • Keep paragraphs short  – lots of white space is visually appealing to readers.
  • Don’t be afraid to start sentences with “And” and “But” (Shakespeare did it, and so can you).
  • Describe your product or service in a factual, honest manner. Explain to the reader what it is and how it will benefit them.
  • Don’t tell the reader your offer is “fantastic” or “amazing” –  if it is, they can tell you when  they come to review it.
  • Use simple punctuation and break up your copy with bullet-points.
  • Keep in mind the saying “Humour doesn’t translate”. Tread carefully with the funny talk and consider your audience.
  • There’s a train of thought that it’s good to be controversial – it’s a quick way to attract attention. It’s your call, but personally I think life’s too short for trolls and hassle. There are better ways to get attention than being deliberately provocative.

Finally, remember the importance of focussing on the reader – don’t constantly talk about yourself (trust me, I know how difficult this is).

Think about your reader’s problems and needs, and what you can do to help.

Some examples:

Instead of: “With 10 years experience, I can write content and copy to a high standard.”
Try:  “Boost your site with engaging copy, optimised to increase your chances of being found on search engines”

Instead of: “I pride myself on taking amazing photographs.”
Try: “Breathtaking imagery to bring your site to life.”  

A good rule of thumb is one “I” for every three “yous” but don’t take this too literally! Just make sure the focus is on the reader and/or their business.

You are there to provide value to them, not tell them how great you are (hopefully they will do this for you soon enough).

Feel free to give feedback and add further suggestions.

Happy writing.

Alison

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and anyone you know who would find it helpful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

Six simple tips for starting your small biz blog

If you have a new business website, or you’re in the process of building one, you’ve probably already heard that it’s a good idea to add regular blog posts.

But what if you’ve never written a blog before, have no idea where to start or can’t think what to write about?

Don’t worry! I’ve put together six actionable tips that will help you to get started today.

It’s not a short read, so grab a coffee (or something stronger), get reading and start planning.

blog post image unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash

  1. Figure out who you’re writing for (and why) 

Blogging isn’t just useful for attracting new clients. It’s also a great way to establish relationships with people in the same industry as you.

The first thing to remember is that you’re always writing for the reader, not yourself. But think carefully about who the reader is for each blog post. And always keep in mind why you do what you do. 

If you’re writing for new clients, accept that they’re unlikely to buy your product or service the first time they read your blog.

Selling isn’t your main goal here. Writing your blog is more about building trust and demonstrating your ability to do what you do.

At this stage the reader may not be ready, or have the funds, to buy from you. So your blog posts will need to be valuable or entertaining enough for them to come back and visit again.

And it does work. I have a long wish list of products and services I want for my business. I know exactly who I want to buy them from too. And it’s all down to content I’ve consumed online (blogs, social media posts, podcasts) over a longish period of time.

As well as writing for clients, consider writing for other professionals in your industry. Yes, that does mean writing for your competitors! But try not to think of it that way.

Think colleagues, future collaborators, new best friends and the prospect of writing for them will become much more appealing!

These are the people who are likely to share your content on social media, help you out in return and tip you off about new opportunities and referrals.

2. Work out what you’re going to write about and when 

blog post writer unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash 

Blogging is part of a bigger picture – your content strategy. Whoah! Buzzword alert! Content strategy sounds scary, right?

But let’s break it down and really you’re just talking about what you’re going to write, how you’re going to share it (social media, email, community groups etc) and when. 

Get a plan in place and you can tie your blog posts in with campaigns and offers, seasonal highlights of the year, key dates across the year (for example, if you’re a dentist you could plan a blog post for National Smile Week or if you’re a vet, National Smooch Your Pooch day. You get the gist.) 

And finally, you can use your plan to hold yourself accountable. 

Finding the time to write blog posts is hard, especially when you have hundreds of other jobs to do that seem more relevant to your day to day business. But a plan can help keep you on track. That’s the idea anyway. I’m working on it too. Ahem.

3. Write *helpful* headlines

I’m not a huge fan of clickbait headlines that don’t deliver on their promise or deliberately stir the pot.

My take on it is this: Do you want customers or trolls? Collaborators or attention?  If it’s trolls and attention, or you just want to go viral, I’m not the right person to advise you! Life’s too short for drama.

If you want to attract positive connections and paying clients, then being helpful is the way to go. Write headlines that are valuable, inspiring and entertaining (and deliver what you promise in the blog post, even if there’s a twist).

There’s nothing wrong with being funny. As long as you actually are. Which is tricky, as humour doesn’t always translate. So again, it’s all about knowing your audience really well.

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to write ultra clever, witty/sarky headlines.

Sometimes it’s better to write a headline that, as Ronseal famously put it,  “does exactly what it says on the tin”. You’re not trying to win a creative writing award. You just want to attract good, solid, contacts and customers.  

The secret is in the value of the post. If you’ve helped, inspired or entertained the reader in some way, they’re more likely to remember you and come back to read more. 

3. Include eye-catching images

blog post six tips camera unsplash.jpg

Image credit: Unsplash

As a copywriter, I guess I should tell you it’s all about the words and only the words. But I’m a sucker for a great picture. (As an ‘autism parent’ I also know the value and power of visual communication.

So I think it’s fair to say that words and images go hand-in-hand. 

Nobody likes to read long, uninterrupted blocks of text. Alongside short paragraphs and eye-pleasing white space, images help to break up text and can be used to showcase products and illustrate points.

If you have a creative business with beautiful products or designs, then it makes sense to use your own photography as it provides an extra opportunity to show off your work.

Whether you take the pictures yourself or use a professional photographer will depend on your budget and skills.

If your budget dictates DIY photography, you can get pretty good effects with iphone cameras. And bloggers cameras (such as the Olympus Pen) can capture stunning results without breaking the bank. 

If you’re a service based business, you might want to consider using stock images. You can pay for these from sites such as Fotolia and Shutterstock or sites such as Pixabay and Unsplash offer them for free.

Word of caution – always check the accreditation/licensing rules for pictures. Never steal someone else’s photography and don’t just nab an image you like from Google.

Oh and one final word on stock images. Please, I beg you, don’t use the ‘random businessman in suit, phone in hand, gazing through conference room blinds’ image. So impersonal. If you’re going to publish people pictures use people in the business, not some random (sorry conference room guy). 

GOOGLE SEARCH PIXABAY IMAGE

Image credit: Pixabay

4. Write SEO friendly copy but don’t forget it’s for humans 

SEO. Heard of it? It stands for Search Engine Optimisation. And it can mess with your head if you let it.

If you haven’t heard of SEO, you’ve almost certainly wondered how you can get your site on the first page of Google.

There’s no easy answer to this.  There really isn’t. I’m constantly learning about SEO (I’ve taken advantage of free training with Hubspot and Yoast – check them out) but I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert. Is anyone? 

But I can tell you that adding a blog to your website will help. Especially if you add content on a regular basis and share it across social media.

Think about what people are likely to search for on Google (for example, clients that contact me via my website tell me they searched for Freelance Copywriter Milton Keynes).

If you write your blog posts around your key service or product offerings, you can include keywords (and similar words) in the title, headings, subheadings and main body of your blog content.

Try to do this naturally though. Don’t add keywords in the for the sake of it as it will interrupt the flow of the text, irritate the reader and won’t do you any favours with Google.

There are tools that you can use for writing SEO-friendly copy. For example, I have the Yoast SEO plugin for my WordPress site (I’ve also completed their free training SEO for Beginners).

Such tools are useful, but I always keep your eye on the flow of the writing. I think we can get so hung up on writing for search engines that we can ruin the quality of writing if not careful. It’s a fine balance between the two. SEO is important but always keep the reader top of mind.

5. Add credibility by using quotes and stats 

55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2018) (Source: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics)

Use quotes and stats from experts and industry leaders. It shows that you do your research and you’re engaged with what’s going on in your field. 

Don’t try to pass off quotes and stats as your own. Make sure it’s really clear that it’s a quote or a stat or you’ll make yourself look silly.

Use speech marks, a different font and name the source to make the quote stand out as I have with the Hubspot stat above. 

6. Remember to include a clear call to action 

So you’ve spent all that time writing and perfecting your blog post and now you’re ready to share it across social media. 

But wait. Where’s your call to action?

Writing blog posts isn’t easy – you’ve probably put your heart and soul into writing your blog post. So don’t miss the opportunity to forge a longer lasting connection with the reader by providing a clear call to action. 

This could be a number of things:

  • A contact form to subscribe to your email list (if you have one)
  • A discount code for an event or promotion 
  • Contact details to make an appointment for a free consultation with you
  • A link to another blog post or page on your website (which is also good for SEO)
  • Or even just a simple statement with a contact number or email address for further questions/enquiries (as I’ve done below) 

Just make sure it’s crystal clear what you want them to do and how to do it. 

So there’s six tips to get you started. What’s stopping you?! 

Until next time. 

Alison R Bowyer
Freelance Copywriter

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. I’m always happy to hear constructive feedback so do get in touch. Emai: alison@mkwordstudio.co.uk

How to brief your copywriter

As a small or medium business owner, you may be thinking about hiring a copywriter for the first time.

Read on to find out about how you can brief your copywriter to get the results you want from your copy.

If you’re a small business owner and you’ve approached a copywriter to write clear, conversational copy for your business, one of the first things they will do is ask for your brief.

What is a brief?

It all sounds terribly formal, but in truth your brief is a set of clear instructions about what you want your copywriter to write for you. It’s important but not something to be afraid of.

In an ideal world, you’ll already be very clear about what you want.

But this is real life and most copywriters will be prepared for the fact that you may not be 100% sure what you want at the beginning of a project.

If this is the case, your copywriter will probably already have a brief questionnaire template for you to complete.

This will be a form, probably in a Word document or similar, that asks all the relevant questions.

Alternatively, they may prefer to interview you over the phone, or in person, to get to the bottom of what you need.

Why is the briefing stage so important?

I can’t stress enough how important the briefing stage is.

Understandably you may feel that you’re too busy and just want the copywriter to get on with the writing.

You may even feel a bit aggrieved that so much is expected from you when you’re paying them to write.  But without a good brief, your copywriter is unlikely to deliver what you want.

You might be surprised to hear that the actual writing stage is only a small part of a copywriting project.

They will carry out loads of research and planning before they start writing.

The more information you provide, the more successful this research and planning phase will be.

Some copywriters will share their plan with you before writing (or once they’ve written a short section) so you can see if their interpretation of your brief works for you.

At that stage, if you’re not happy with the writing style or direction the copy is taking, you have an opportunity to speak up at an early stage.

But I don’t know how to brief a copywriter!

Don’t worry. Your copywriter will know all the right questions to ask (and if they don’t ask questions, don’t hire them).

If they ask you lots of questions, think of this as a good thing. It means they’re taking the time to understand your business and client-base, so they can write something that works.

Here’s a list of things they are likely to ask you, so you can be prepared:

  • Nature of your business
  • Number of employees (if any)
  • The story behind your business (your why)
  • Information about your product/service (what are you selling?)
  • Your target audience (who are you writing for?)
  • Your USP and why customers should choose you over your competitors (what’s special about you?)  
  • Benefits of your product/service (what’s in it for the customer – this is a crucial element and your copywriter will be able to help you with this)
  • Your desired tone of voice (friendly, formal, casual etc)
  • Keywords you want included in the content (for SEO) 
  • Word count
  • Your call to action (what do you want to happen next, ie email, call, form etc)

If your copywriter does ask you to complete a brief questionnaire, be prepared for them to ask even more questions once they’ve received it.

Think of this as a good thing – it means your copywriter has engaged with your project and cares about doing a good job for your business.

And so they should – that’s what you’re paying them for.

brief blog mk word studio.jpg
A detailed brief will give your copywriter the tools they need to write copy that works for your business

I didn’t realise there was so much to briefing a copywriter! I thought they’d just get on with it

It does seem like a lot of work. And that’s because it is. Forget the notion that anyone can write – a professional copywriter will do everything they can to understand your business first.

Think of your copywriter as a new business friend – not just someone who can string a few sentences together.

If you engage fully with the process yourself, you’ll get a better service from them, and content that gets you results. 

Until next time.

Alison

I do hope you found this blog useful. I’d love to know if you feel more confident and knowledgeable about the process of briefing a copywriter? Do you like the idea of someone writing for your business? Or would you prefer to do it yourself?

Feel free to drop me a line – I welcome constructive feedback. Here’s a link to my contacts page.

 

About me: I’m Alison, a Freelance Copywriter living and working in Milton Keynes. The experiences of raising a child with autism and losing a parent to dementia remind me to value the power of words and communication every day. I believe in writing  clear, conversational copy that people can relate to. 

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to work with me. 

 

 

 

Work for free? Don’t you dare!

By: Alison R Bowyer   Freelance Copywriter  

If you’re a freelance creative, you’ve probably at some point been asked to work FOC (free of charge). 

You’ve probably already seen blogs and videos poking fun at the concept of working for free, the point being that you wouldn’t expect to be given a free takeaway on the promise you’ll pay next time if you like the taste. 

The same goes for writing (or designing, photography etc). If a client wants you to produce creative work, they must pay you for it.

There are some scenarios where working for free may do you some favours. For example:

  • Building a portfolio. Although it can be argued that you can do this just as well by writing a regular blog, which will also attract traffic to your website.
  • Writing test. I’ve done this once and I got the job. It was for a large brand and I figured it was worth the risk. Only you can decide when it is and isn’t appropriate to do this.
  • Charity work. Maybe there’s a cause close to your heart and you want to offer your services. As well as making a difference, you can feel warm and fuzzy inside. It’s also a great way to build up experience. Just make sure you set a few boundaries first.

 

just-say-no-pixabay
No need to over explain when turning down free work.

Despite those examples, I still believe that working for free is a bad idea. If you’re tempted to work for free, it’s easy to understand why. 

Getting those first few clients can be a tricky business, and you can sink into a sort of depression in the early days if the enquiries aren’t coming thick and fast. This is when you’re at your most vulnerable to falling into the black hole that is working for free.

Seasoned piss takers People that ask for free work often have a knack of making it sound very tempting. You should hear alarm bells if you hear any of these phrases:

“It will get you more exposure.”   Um yes, more exposure as someone who works for free.

“I don’t have any money to spend right now, but I’ve got big plans for future.” And so do you. Working for free isn’t going to help you achieve them.

“This is a big opportunity for you.” It really isn’t.

mug-pixabay
There’s no excuse for being a mug. You deserve to be rewarded for your time and expertise.

When you’re starting out and your confidence is a bit low, it’s easy to grab hold of one of these carrots and convince yourself that you’re working your way up to where you want your business to be. 

The trouble with doing this is you’re likely to lose more confidence, get treated badly and start to feel resentful. You may even give up on self-employment and slink back to full-time paid work, with your tail between you legs, feeling that you’ve failed.

If any of this sounds like you, have a word with yourself. Because working for free means that you are handing over your talent and expertise for the good of someone else’s business. Your pain, their gain. Where’s the sense in that? . 

There are plenty of things you can do instead that will increase your confidence, improve your business and get you on the road to finding good, solid, cash-paying clients.

  1. Update your website and social media channels Are you visible on line? Do you have a website with easy navigation, concise writing and a clear call to action? Are you listed on appropriate on-line sites for your industry (for example, Pro Copywriters’ Network for copywriters). Spend some time going through everything and improving it. Ask a friend or colleague for feedback, and spend time looking at other websites. Don’t copy them, work out how you can make yours stand out and make it different. 
  2. Get blogging If you’re working in marketing, copywriting or social media, the chances are you’re already advising your clients to blog regularly. So practice what you preach. Blog consistently, even if it’s just once a week or fortnight to start with. Deliver something that is interesting to read and useful. Give away free advice. Try to be helpful to others in the same industry as you. I know, it hurts to do that when you’re trying to acquire new clients. But you’ll be getting your name out there, and there will be a ripple effect. People will start to know you. And of course, adding regular content to your website will help you get found on search engines. Just remember to share your blog on social media. Don’t have a website or social media? Back to point 1! 
  3. Continuing professional development. Read, read, read. Always keep learning. Even if you think you have all the knowledge you need for your chosen field, there’s always new stuff out there. Train for a qualification if you have the time. But if you don’t have the inclination (or money), there’s so much information out there for free. Look for people in your chosen field and read their blogs. They’re probably handing out their own advice for free. Learn from it. But don’t get carried away and pinch their content. Think about how you can incorporate that information into your business without being a copycat.

    Podcasts are another fantastic tool for learning, especially when you’re on the go. I listen to them in the car, waiting for the kids to come out of school and when I’m cooking dinner. 
  4. Take a walk. Not very original, I know. But if you’re going through a quiet phase, do something that benefits you and your business. Walking is great for your physical and mental health, zaps stress and anxiety, and clears your head for new ideas. I recently sprained my ankle and had to give up walking for a few weeks and it made a huge difference to my productivity. So I no longer begrudge taking 45 minutes out of my business to walk every day. It keeps me fit, generates ideas and sparks creativity.

I’d love to hear your experiences about working for free or being asked to work for free. Do you have any ideas to add to my list of things to do instead?

Until next time.

Alison

Alison is a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. She specialises in web content and business blogging. For more information about Alison, click here.

 

Your or you’re

Do you struggle to work out the difference between you and you’re?

Are you secretly worried that you’re using the wrong version and people are laughing at you?

Relax. Life’s too short to worry about grammar rules.

Here’s a simple explanation to get you up-to-speed and an easy-peasy method to work out whether you’re using the right version in your writing.

 

Do you struggle with the use of your and you’re?

Lots of people do. I even spotted the wrong version being used in a blog about writing good quality content! So, for those of you who are unsure:

You’re is just a shorter way of saying you are. For example:

You’re always so helpful.

You’re a great friend.

You’re going to frighten away potential clients if you don’t proofread.

Overkill on the last example!

Your is about possession. You may be thinking: What the hell does that mean? I hate explanations like that too, it’s like being back in English class. And some grammar rules are there to be broken (I’m doing that right now)

So instead of boring you with a long-winded explanation that you’ll probably forget, I’m going to show you some examples instead.

Your green top matches your eyes.

It’s your turn next.

Isn’t about time you did your tax return?

If you’re struggling to remember which one to use, just read the sentence back to yourself and use the words you are instead of your.

It will be pretty obvious whether that works or not

For example:

Your you are green top matches your eyes.

It’s your you are turn next.

See what I mean? When you say you are, it’s obvious that it doesn’t work in the context of these sentences. So the right word to use is your. It’s an easier way to work out which word to use.

It’s always important to proofread your work. A spell-checker won’t necessarily pick up mistakes like these, as they’re not spelt incorrectly. So it’s worth taking your time to thoroughly check what you’ve written. Ask a friend or colleague to help out (or hire a proofreader).

The beauty of writing for the web is that you can always go back and correct mistakes.

There’s a big difference between a sloppy piece of work that’s littered with mistakes and a carefully crafted article where a small typo has slipped through, so don’t beat yourself up if this happens.

But do change it quickly before anyone else notices!

Alison

 

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media. 🙂

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

When copywriting and caring collide…

If you’re a parent carer running a business, or thinking about it, this is for you…

I’ve read many articles about juggling parenthood with running a business. And I love them. It’s great to share thoughts and ideas.

I can relate to some of the experiences and advice, but my parenting issues are a bit different to most. My son has autism and learning difficulties.

I’m not saying my life as a working parent is harder, but it’s certainly different.

And when I read articles about juggling parenting and self-employment, there’s a tiny voice in my head saying, “What about me?”

Lately I’ve been wondering how many other self-employed peeps there are out there, simultaneously navigating their way through the world of business and special needs parenting.

All our children are different, and our experiences are different but I’m hoping some of the following would be helpful. At the very least, I’d love to hear your own experiences or tips.

  1. Acceptance

This could be a whole blog in itself! What do I mean by acceptance?

Firstly, I mean acceptance about your child’s disability. That means accepting that they won’t change their behaviour or needs to accommodate your business and schedule. You’re going to have to work around them!

Because their care comes first, always; so it’s a case of working out when you can focus on your work and how much time you have available.

For me, this means only working on client stuff when my son is at his special school. He’s extremely well-supported, so I can drop him off at 9am secure in the knowledge that I’m unlikely to hear from them during the day.

He sleeps well at night. This is a huge bonus, because it means I get to sleep too. In the early days, I would take advantage of this time to work on my business (more about this in point 2!) but I’ve come to realise that sleep is super important, and my productivity during those school (client) hours is far greater if I get 7 solid hours of zizz.

Secondly, acceptance about what you can realistically achieve.

In the early days, that might mean just one or two hours a week. That’s a good start.

Don’t worry if it’s a tiny amount of time. Just focus on what you want to achieve and try your best to do it. Yes, it might take longer than you would like. But it’s something. And in my view, something is better than nothing.  Even if you just manage to read one 10 minute blog about setting up your dream business, that’s a step in the right direction.

I’ve given up thinking about how much more I could achieve if I wasn’t a parent carer. To be honest, if it wasn’t for my son, I doubt I would have had the guts to go freelance anyway. I’d probably be 9-5ing in some faceless corporation by now, and bitching about Bob from Accounts. I have a lot to thank my son for!

  1. Self-care

Voice of experience speaking here!

You might be surprised just how excited you feel about starting your business, especially if you’ve felt dragged down by the stress of sorting out a diagnosis or suitable education for your child (experiences will vary hugely depending on the disability).

So what do I mean by self-care? I’m talking about the basics! Sleep, eating at the right times, drinking water and getting some exercise. I know how challenging this can be. The needs of your child can be overwhelming. But it’s important to try.

balance
A retreat would be nice! But I’m talking about the basics here – eat, sleep and exercise.

It’s surprising how invigorating thinking about something new can be. If you find time to study, read and plan your business, you might find that you have a new lease of life.

And that’s when it becomes tempting to neglect your basic needs in favour of putting everything into your business, on top of your caring role.

Please don’t!

Your child and business depend on your health. Take care of yourself the best that you can.

  1. Get help

You can’t do it all yourself. So get help if you can. This will mean things to different people.

helping-hands

My greatest help is having my son educated in a special school. He’s well supported, so I can relax when he’s away from me and his anxiety at home is reduced. I also take advantage of the playscheme his school offers in the holidays and as he gets older, I have will have options available for after-school club and further respite.

I also pay out for extra help with the mundane stuff. That means paying someone to help with the ironing during busy times, and someone to help with the dog walking. That’s enough for now, but my son’s getting older and what I need will change.

If you can’t justify paid help, try negotiating with family members. Draw up a rota of who does what. If you have other children, get buy-in from them. My older son (who doesn’t have a disability) has assigned jobs in the house, for which he’s awarded merits that go towards treats or experiences in half-term.  (Update: he’s now hit the teenage years, so increasingly this means cash incentives!)

  1. Make time for your heartbreak

I mean it.

Your child has a disability. It hurts. That never goes away. The fears for their future, wondering what caused their disability (I’m speaking as an autism parent here) and absorbing how much your world has changed. It’s always there, just underneath the surface.

chris-christmas
My beautiful boy.

As time goes on, you don’t think about it all the time. But every once in a while, something happens or someone says something, and reality of your situation slaps you straight in face. Sometimes when you least expect it.

However busy you are, however successful your business is, whatever other great things happen – just respect your own feelings about this.

It’s okay to feel really shit about this thing that you just can’t change; your child’s disability.  Sometimes you’ll be cool about it. Other times you’ll feel sad, angry, frustrated, depressed. Acknowledge your feelings. They’re real – as real as it gets. And only by accepting that, can you embrace your situation and build a positive life (and business).

  1. Be the best you can be

Be yourself. And be good at what you do, at work and at home. Work hard at building your business, and giving your child the care and quality of life they deserve.

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t be open about my caring role. Life has shown me that it changes people’s reactions towards me. It might even lose me business from time-to-time. But I’m okay with that.

Over time, I’ve come to realise that being a parent carer is a strength, not a weakness. And clients like to know who they’re working with. I’m the reliable type, so if I think I can’t meet a deadline or put the amount of work needed into a project, I don’t take it on in the first place.

Parenting a child with autism has taught me about communication, patience, empathy and given me the courage to carve out a different life to the one I thought I was going to live. My achievements might be small, but I’m proud of them. 

How does it work for you?

If you’re a parent carer, who also runs a business, I’d love to hear from you. What are your challenges and coping strategies? Do you have any tips to share?

Alison x

 

 

Enjoy this post? Feel free to share on social media and with anyone you know who would find it useful.

About me: I’m a Freelance Copywriter based in Milton Keynes. If you’re struggling to find the time, or inclination, to write engaging blog posts for your website, I’d love to help. 

There’s a simple form on my contacts page or you can call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).