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How to 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?

Me too. And I love it.

Read on for some tips on how you can tell your story without selling out or alienating your 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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Copywriting goals for 2018

Hurrah, January is out of the way and I’m ready to focus on the year ahead.

Read on to find out what plans I have for my copywriting business in 2018.

We’re already into February and it’s time to review my copywriting goals for the year ahead.

I deliberately set out not to set 2018 new year’s resolutions and, more controversially, not to put together a business plan until that first, tricky month was out of the way.

Experience has shown me that too much expectation in January tends to result in broken dreams and feelings of failure. Silly really. So I’ve been focusing my energies on getting updating my business processes and giving proper consideration to the year ahead.

Before I make myself accountable for my future plans, a little bit of background:

I set up, very quietly, as a freelance copywriter in 2015 and since then, I’ve worked on a number of projects. I started off by doing a few freebies for family and friends and then signed up to a freelance site to build confidence and get experience under my belt.

It didn’t take long to start getting direct enquiries via my website, which surprised me as I was new to copywriting and had taken quite a lengthy career break before. So over the last couple of years, I’ve worked for small businesses and a couple of bigger brands (who unfortunately requested I signed a Non Disclosure Agreement, so I can’t name them).

Looking ahead, I want to continue working for small and medium businesses. Mainly because that’s what I enjoy the most and, as a parent carer who works part-time, I’m wary of the time commitment bigger companies will want from me.

My main offering will be content for business websites and business blogs, but I’m happy to consider other projects (for example, last year I wrote a series of guides for an accountancy firm).

My copywriting goals for 2018

Networking and marketing my services

Firstly, I need to get much better at promoting myself. It’s been a real block for me that I’ve struggled to ‘put myself out there’ despite having good review from the clients I’ve worked for.

This is partly due to logistics, as I am a parent carer to a child with autism (so not always available for networking events) and partly because I believe I communicate more effectively in writing.

 

Continuing Professional Development

My best learning has been through working with clients and consuming the huge amounts of helpful content aimed at copywriters in the form of blogs, podcasts and downloads.

I’m planning to publish a diary of my ongoing CPD efforts for social proof and for general information purposes, so don’t miss that. There’s so much information and advice out there – I want to share it with you.

I do think it’s good to undertake some formal training every year  (previous courses include The Complete Copywriter, Breakthrough Copywriting and Hubspot Academy inbound marketing).

This year I have my eye on a couple of new courses. I don’t plan to offer social media management as a service, but I do want to get better at using it myself and to be able to offer added value to my clients by improving my own knowledge.  I love social media but I know I could be doing more with it.

I’m planning on completing the Hubspot Academy social media certificate, which is being released in the spring.

The other biggie is SEO. I’ve consumed so much content and information about SEO over the last couple of years and the only constant I have found is that there is no constant! It’s ever changing and the advice varies massively. 

I can add value to your SEO strategy through writing high quality content, naturally including keywords and relevant synonyms and optimised for readability.

I do want to increase my knowledge and although I will never market myself as a techy SEO expert,  I think I can add further value by increasing my knowledge.

As well as keeping up with current advice from experts such as Hubspot and Yoast, I have my eye on some SEO Copywriting courses to formalise my knowledge. There’s a lot of views around whether it’s necessary to complete a copywriting SEO course – the main argument being that you can learn it all online anyway – however I don’t think it can do any harm and it will add further proof of my knowledge and skills in this area.

Website updates (including pricing)

I’ve created a lot of new content for my website in order to target the right clients. The most crucial change is pricing. In the past I haven’t published fees as each project is priced individually.

However, I know that I can be reluctant about making queries when there is no ballpark figure to be found so after much thought, I have gone ahead and published my fees.

The fees published are not set in stone – prices will still vary depending on the type of project, research required, complexity of subject matter and word count. But potential clients will have a much clearer idea of the possible cost.

I’ve built my knowledge and experience slowly over the last couple of years. It’s been difficult. I’ve had to stop at times to get on top of things. But I’ve never let a client down, always delivered on time and always worked hard to create good content.

Despite setbacks and the occasional confidence issue, there’s still a consistent voice in my head telling me: “You can do this. You’re good at what you do.”

I’m giving that voice the respect it deserves. And if you’re a small business owner, I suggest you do the same. 🙂

Alison x

I do hope you enjoyed reading about my copywriting goals for 2018. 

I’d love to hear about you. You can use the form below to tell me about your plans for 2018 and if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to help.

Enjoy this blog? Please do share on Twitter or Instagram, or with anyone you think would get value from it.

Want to work with me? Please  complete the form below and I’ll be in touch within 24 hours.

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).

 

 

 

 

Our autism friendly breaks in Wales

In a parallel universe, I’ve just come home from a holiday in the sun, where I drank ice cold beer and dined on garlic prawns by the seafront.

I took long, lazy naps every afternoon, after a morning sunbathing by the pool, and sipped cocktails on the balcony in the evening.

I read books and bartered with the locals in backstreet markets.

Actually, I did none of this.

I’ve just got home from a week in Wales. The beach was wet and windy, we ate fish and chips and I listened to my instincts that were telling me bartering with the checkout man in Tesco was not socially acceptable…

Our 2017 break was our fifth trip to Wales in 5 years.

And we loved it.

Before our children were born, I hadn’t envisaged going to Wales every year. I always thought I would take country breaks in the UK – when I was 70.

But our family holidays – I imagined we would go overseas – probably the Canary or Balearic islands, where I  holidayed as a child.

But life has a habit of getting in the way of plans, and when it became apparent that our younger son’s difficulties were more than a delay (or, as one lovely person put it, just required a clip round the ear)  holiday destinations were the last thing on our mind.

By the time he was diagnosed at the age of 5, we had already been on several problematic UK breaks. There was that time he bounced off the walls in a Travel Lodge room until midnight (at which point my husband took him for a drive in the pouring rain to calm him down).

That first day at a caravan park when he freaked out at the sight of caravans and attempted to run away from us as we unpacked the car.

And the time we had stupidly shown him photographs of the pool and waterslide, only to find out he wasn’t allowed to go down it. I can hardly bear to think of the meltdown that followed and the crushing realisation that we had done completely the wrong thing. Epic fail.

But you see, autism creeps up on you. In the beginning, as the problems begin to surface, you suspect your child may have autism but you don’t really know what this means. And you certainly don’t know how to prepare your child for different situations, especially holidays. You have to learn this stuff (which we eventually did at a 10 week NAS course).

The heartbreaking pool incident happened during our first trip to Wales in 2012. We hadn’t prepared him properly and he was so anxious that we ended up stuck in a rigid routine of doing exactly the same things every day, and even then the slightest deviation from his self-imposed schedule resulted in tears and meltdowns.

His anxiety levels steadily rose throughout the week, but one good thing came out of it.

We discovered Welsh beaches.  Vast, open beaches. No pier, no ice-cream vans, no novelty shops or noisy beachside bars. Just sand, sea and the occasional dog walker.

In short, no distractions.

Perfect for an autistic child.

Yes, it was wet. Yes, it was windy. And then some.

But as our son ran along that beach, the loud noises and echolalia that had attracted so many stares in our everyday life at home in Milton Keynes were like whispers against the crashing waves and howling wind.

He could be as noisy as he liked.

There was hardly anybody around and those that were couldn’t hear him anyway.

The point is he should be able to make any noise he damn well likes anyway. And we shouldn’t give a toss about people’s reactions.

But fellow autism parents will understand how liberating this was for us.

I knew that we had finally got one thing right. We needed to get our shit together and learn how to prepare him for future holidays, but Wales was the right destination for us.

autism friendly holiday in wales borth
By the beach in Borth, not far from Aberystwyth. Our first trip to Wales – we made so many mistakes but he loved the beach.

The following year, 2013, I booked a week in a country cottage in the area of Dunvant, near the Gower peninsular.

Everything had changed in that year. Our son had been formally diagnosed with autism, learning difficulties and dyspraxia. We’d secured a Statement of Educational needs and he was due to start at a special school for autistic children in the coming September. And  during this whole foggy period, my dad had died from a 5 year battle with dementia.

I felt like I’d been run over by a train. I wanted to disappear, far away from home and see nobody, apart from my little family.

So I found a property in Dunvant, outside Swansea and close to the Gower Peninsula. It couldn’t have been more different to the busy caravan park where my son had struggled so much.

It was a huge 4 bedroom cottage nestled in several acres of land, with a massive garden and a trampoline for the kids.  Far too big for a small family of 4 but I didn’t care. My son needed this. And so did I.

As soon as we arrived in Dunvant, both our sons settled in straight away. They were 6 and 9, so totally unimpressed by the size and status of the place (unlike us, we ran round shrieking, “Oh my god!”)

But there was something about this older, very solid and tranquil property that seemed to make our younger son feel secure. I think it’s a sensory thing – he seems more at peace on older properties (maybe they absorb sound better?). Whatever the reason, he relaxed and so did we.

And the icing on the cake? The arrival of the Tesco delivery van, bringing all his familiar foods and treats.

In that huge garden, I could sip my coffee and watch him having fun without experiencing that familiar feeling that creeps over me when a stranger’s heard turns to look at my son. I didn’t have to explain the thing that I shouldn’t have to expain: He’s autistic.  

And once again, the unspoilt beauty of the Welsh beaches and their calming effect on him confirmed that Wales was rapidly becoming our place.

We had a lovely, relaxing time, enjoying the scenery as we drove to Oxwich Bay, listening to the Stereophonics (he now insists that we listen to Stereophonics on Wales trips, but only Wales trips).

autism friendly week in wales

Around this time Rhossili Beach was receiving a lot of attention as it had received a best beach award (in fact, a quick Google search shows that it’s constantly receiving awards).

Our secret was out! The Gower was officially the best place in the Universe and suddenly everyone was going there.

So the next couple of years we stayed in a converted barn in the less famous village of Brook, in Camarthenshire.

We were just a short drive from Pendine sands, a gorgeous 7 miles stretch of sandy beach. Another winner.

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We all loved the cottage in Brook, but having been there twice we felt that our son needed to experience different environments.

We encountered some difficulties on the first trip, but tried again a year or so later with better results. You can read about this in a blog I wrote for the charity Ambitious About Autism last year.

Here’s a link to that article: Sun, sea, cows and autism

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2016 in Brook, near Pendine Sands. His cheeky face says it all. Happy boy.

That brings us to now, 2017.

Having had two successful visits to the barn in Brook, we had a dilemma. Did we play it safe and go there again or try somewhere different?

Professionals and various public figures will always stress how important it is to push your child with autism out of their comfort zone (easy for them to say!)

As a parent – and someone who recognises that nobody actually really knows what this thing called autism is – I agree, up to a point.  And yet … routine, stability, reassurance – these are what our son needs. And when he doesn’t get them, we all suffer.

As parents, we need to encourage him, yes. But we also need to be well enough, mentally and physically to care for him. So sometimes the easier option is the happier option.

It was very tempting to take a third trip to the barn in Brook. It was a lovely property and we all felt happy there. A low risk option if you like. But I knew it was unwise to let him get too used to the same property. He needs to experience change, however small, to prepare him for the fact that nothing stays the same forever.

So, we booked a new cottage and prepared him carefully for the holiday (something that we’ve got better at over the years).

He wasn’t happy  at the thought initially:

“I want to go to the old cottage. The new cottage is garbage!” he cried.

We were able to overcome his resistance with a few promises:

  • We would still cross the Severn Bridge
  • We would book tickets for The Blue Lagoon, a waterpark in Bluestone he’s been to several times now
  • Tesco would deliver his favourite foods to our door
  • He could still get his favourite Happy Meal from McDonalds
  • We would take him to the seaside
  • The cottage had Wifi (risky this one, as you’re never sure until you get there but it’s a major bargaining tool)

I prepared a number of visual schedules and pictures to help prepare him for the trip ahead (which took 6 hours on the day).

This year’s cottage, situated in Tiers Cross (a rural area near Haverfordwest),  was similar to the one we visited in Dunvant back in 2014. Huge. And not another human being in sight!

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The property and grounds were smaller, but it was still a spacious, 4 bedroom cottage in a quiet location. There were no neighbours – just a few cows in the next field and a family of Pipistrelle bats!

He loved it. Especially the roll-top bath with built-in Jacuzzi:

“It’s making a FART noise” he said blissfully.

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He felt safe there. And so did we.

Safe from anxiety, prying eyes and the judgement of other holidaymakers who live in blissful ignorance of the difficult situations families like ours are faced with every day.

It’s fair to say our holidays to Wales are unusual. We have to micro-manage them.

And while other tourists may be researching the local history, restaurants and scenery, our priorities are more basic: McDonald’s, Tescos and accessible seaside, meaning not too many distractions, parking and a loo.

We spend a lot more  time in our cottage than the average traveller, so luxury and peace/tranquillity are important to us. Our son’s needs come first, but it’s our holiday too. We work hard and we want to relax, just like any other family.

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Our days out have to be planned, timed and spaced out (our son was bouncing off the walls, shouting and displaying high anxiety symptoms for several hours after our successful Blue Lagoon visit).

In the past we’ve made the mistake of not giving him the time and space to process exciting experiences, resulting in meltdowns which are horrid for him and us.

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 Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire. We had a fantastic time but have learnt the hard way that our son needs time to process days out.

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I may have been freezing while holding the bags on Newgale sands this year, but the sight of my two boys having a blast in the sea made it worthwhile.

And nobody in the ice-cream van queue seemed to mind a little boy wearing his mum’s towelling robe introducing himself to each and every one of them.

Once again, we’d managed a successful trip and, although it was touch and go at times, happy memories were made. That’s what counts.

Alison x

 

With thanks to Pixabay for Welsh flag and Gower coastline images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why inbound beats ‘in your face’ marketing

You’ve heard of inbound marketing but don’t know what it means for you.

And everyone keeps telling you should be blogging, but you still don’t know why.

Stick around and I’ll get you up-to-speed.

Whereas in the past, attracting customers was all about selling your business through traditional practices such as paid adverts, cold-calling and face-to-face selling, inbound marketing is about using content to attract potential customers through building positive relationships with them and establishing trust.

The goal is to make yourself helpful and valuable to people, so they’re more likely to choose you when they’re ready to invest in a product or service.

At the heart of your inbound strategy should be a commitment to treat people well, at every single stage of your business relationship with them.

And this doesn’t just apply to paying customers. You can use your inbound strategy to network and build meaningful relationships and mutual trust with other professionals in your field.

How can blogging help your inbound strategy?

Blogging can form a big part of your inbound strategy. If you already have a live website and you’re active on a few social media channels, then blogging is a brilliant way to engage with your readers and encourage traffic to your website.

It will also help you stand out as a professional in your field. Scroll through any social media feed and you’ll see many posts advertising the same services that you offer.

The chances are most people will scroll straight past them, writing them off as just another advert.

But give them a reason to visit your site and you’re one step ahead.

What are the benefits of blogging?

  • Adding regular fresh content to your website will make it more visible to search engines, so you’re more likely to be found on-line when people search for your service or product.
  • Visitors to your website are more likely to come back if they find interesting content that help them to solve their problems.
  • You can demonstrate your expertise and knowledge through your blog, effectively proving that you know what you’re talking about.
  • Sharing your blogs on social media gives people a reason to visit your website and come back.
  • You can use calls to action on your blog to encourage further engagement with your reader.
  • You can share knowledge and information with other professionals in your field, building meaningful relationships.

 

why blogging beats in your face marketing

What on earth can I blog about?  

The trick is to be helpful to your readers. So think about what problems they might have and how you can help them to resolve them.

Primarily, you will want to write articles that are interesting to your potential customers.

But don’t rule out writing for other professionals in your field. By doing this, you can demonstrate the level of skill and knowledge that you have.

It helps you to build mutual trust with other professionals and this, in turn, shows potential customers that you have integrity as well as ability.

You might find it useful to read my earlier article: Seven blogging tips for start-ups.

Where does social media fit in?

Social media is a fantastic tool for sharing your content on-line to your target audience.

A common mistake is to use it as a selling platform. This can be annoying for readers and even come across a bit desperate.

But sharing your blog is a brilliant way to engage with readers and an opportunity to show them that there’s more to you than empty sales patter.

So rather than publish a slightly desperate sounding message asking for work, share a blog post that will actually interest the reader and demonstrate that you’re the real deal.

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It’s perfectly okay to share blogs and content from other professionals in your field, as long as you don’t pass it off as your own work.

Credit them and you’ll probably find they do the same for you. Again, it’s all about building good relationships.

I hope you’ve found this overview of inbound marketing and blogging useful.  If you’re a small business owner or start-up,

I’d love to hear your feedback on this article. Just drop me a line alison@mkwordstudio.co.uk and tell me what you think! (There’s also a contact form below).

Until next time.

Alison x

Credit: Thanks to Pixabay for images.

 

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. 

Complete the simple form on my Get in touch page or call me on 07809 599055 (if it goes to voicemail leave a message and I’ll get back asap).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven tips for starting your business blog

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If you have a new website, or you’re in the process of getting one built, you’re probably already aware that you need to write a business blog to attract traffic to your website. 

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 seven simple tips that will help you to get started on your business blog today. So take a deep breath, grab a cuppa and enjoy.

1. Work out a content strategy

Don’t panic! Although not everyone will appreciate me saying this, your content strategy is really just a plan of what you are going to write and when.

Before you get started on your business blog, it makes sense to think about the subject matter for future blogs.

The beauty of this is you can work out how your blogs are going to fit together, think about some subjects that will fit in with seasonal highlights across the year and decide what your target audience would like to read about.

Set yourself a target to write 10 blogs initially. It’s not as scary as it sounds!

Sit down with a pen and paper, and think of 10 useful subjects that will be helpful to your readers.

For example, if you’re a cleaner, you might write a blog about how to get red wine stains out of a cream carpet or felt tip off the wallpaper.  Think of what problems your readers might have and how you can help resolve them.

The secret is to think of evergreen content that can be used again and again – this is when your blog has real value. 

I know it sounds daunting, but once it’s done you’ll have a bank of blogs to share with your audience on a regular basis. You can share them continually and they’ll be a permanent presence on your website, which is great for search engine optimisation (SEO).

Don’t worry that you’re giving away your trade secrets. That’s exactly what you should be doing. It builds trust with your potential clients and establishes you as the ‘go to’ person in your field. If your advice is good, they’ll come back for more.

And when their mates ask them if you they know a good cleaner, who are they going to think of?

You.

2. Write *helpful* headlines

Forget about being overly creative or clever when you write headlines for your blog. Instead, think of something clear but attention grabbling. Something that makes the reader think: ooh I must open this blog. An eye-catching image will help too (see point 3 below).

Your headline might tap into their curiosity (3 life-saving cleaning tips) or fears (why you should never use bleach on your laminate) or offer them something that promises to save money or time (clean your whole house for less than a fiver). 

I’m not a fan of click-bait headlines that fail to deliver what they promise or controversial statements that have the potential to stir up all sorts of issues.  Your business blog is there to attract people, not repel them so stick with helpful, valuable and entertaining.

3. Use eye-catching images

Although it’s my job, as a copywriter, to tell you that words are more important than pictures, the truth is they’re equally important.

Don’t think you need to get your camera or iPhone out to produce one of those glorious photographic masterpieces we all admire on Instagram (unless you’re promoting your photography business, in which case do).

Stock images are the way to go. There are loads of sites where you can purchase them, such as Shutterstock and Fotolia. Make sure you understand the licence and attribution rules before you publish them on your business blog. 

I’m guessing your budget isn’t huge. Maybe non-existent. That’s okay, because the good news is you can also get stock images for free.

No, I’m not talking about doing a Google image search or pinching a picture from someone else’s website. Do not do this, unless you fancy getting yourself into all sorts of legal hot water. 

I use Pixabay, but type ‘free stock images’ into your search engine and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

It’s surprisingly time-consuming choosing and downloading suitable stock images, so grab yourself a drink and sit down for an hour or so.

Choose a number of images that are relevant to your business area and download them in bulk. Now you have a batch of images that you can access quickly when the urge to blog strikes.

4, Sort out some keywords

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As a new business owner, you’ll be wondering how you can get your website performing on search engines.

There’s no easy answer to this.

If you already have a website presence and business email, you’ll have already received lots of SPAM messages promising you the No 1 spot. on Google. Your mail trash folder is the perfect home for emails like these!

If you do have money to spend, there are plenty of reputable SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media experts out there that can help you with your keyword research and social media presence. Good professional advice is always worth investing in. So if you have the cash, go for it.

But if circumstances dictate a DIY approach for now, there are some things you can do yourself to get your website SEO friendly. It’s not going to happen overnight, but your business blog will play a big part in getting you there,

First of all, think about your target audience and what they might type into a search engine. For example, if you’re a window cleaner in Milton Keynes then you may want to use window cleaner and Milton Keynes in your website copy and content.  They’re the obvious ones. Now think about other words that are relevant to the services you offer (maybe carpet cleaning, conservatory cleaning etc).

Sit down with a pen and paper and think about what you might type into a search engine if you were looking for the services you offer. It’s hard to be objective because you’re so close to your own business so ask some friends and colleagues too. Don’t overthink it. Often, the first word that comes to mind is the first word that you would use on a search.

Once you’ve established some keywords, work them into any content that you write. Current opinion is that your keywords should only make up 5% of your body text.

So be extra careful not to ‘stuff’ your content full of your keywords. Search engines are sophisticated and they look for high quality content, so this approach is more likely to have a negative effect.

It’s more important that your content makes sense, is written well and that your keyword appears naturally within the content. Always think quality over quantity.

There are lots of other things you can do to optimise your business blog for search engines, I will cover these in a separate blog.

5. Quote your heroes and heroines

There’s nothing like a meaningful quote to give your blog the feel-good factor.

 It shows that you’re engaged with what’s going on in your industry, and that you’re aiming high. Don’t try and pass it off as your own wisdom though. You might get yourself in trouble and you’ll definitely make yourself look foolish.

6. Get serious with stats

Maybe it’s because I have a deep-rooted fear of numbers, but I think stats add a serious element to any blog, making it more credible and (forgive me for this) more grown up.

You can use stats in many ways. They can support a message, add credibility to your message or play on fears.

Taking that last one (fears) as an example, I read a report a few years back about business owners losing customers due to spelling mistakes on their website.

The statistic was scary, something like 50%. Imagine that. Losing 50% of potential customer, just because of a few spelling errors! Enough to have you googling the nearest proofreader (or hiring the clever proofreader that included that statistic on their home page).

Don’t overdo it with stats though. Your business blog needs to be readable and digestible to a time-poor audience. So one or two well-placed stats to illustrate a key point should be more than enough.

7. Add a clear call to action

This is really important, Every page on your website, including your blog, should have a call to action. Whatever page of your website your reader is on, they should be in no doubt about how to contact you.

Your blog is not a sales pitch though, so don’t keep referring to your business or contact details within the body text of your blog. Keep it entertaining, informative and inspiring, but not pushy.

It is perfectly acceptable to have a paragraph or line about you at the end of your blog providing more information about you and your contact details, so make sure you include this. 

The most important thing about your blog is that it should be clear, error-free copy that projects the professional image you’re aiming for. It shows that you’ve taken the time and care to create something really good, indicating that you’ll take the same care with the product or service you’re promoting.

So there you have it! Seven simple tips that you can use today for your business blog. What’s stopping you?

If you’re a start-up or small owner, I’d love your feedback on this blog. Did it help you feel more confident about getting started?

And send me a link to your business blog when you do get writing.  I’d love to read it and see how you’re getting on.

Until next time.

Alison x

 

 

 

 

How copywriters cut through the crap

By: Alison R Bowyer     Freelance Copywriter

Have you ever been short of time and stuck in a conversation with someone who goes on a bit too long?

You know the type. What could be a 2 minute story takes 20 minutes and you’re obliged to listen.

It goes something like this:

They tell you about their journey into town. The traffic they hit. How little Timmy said he wanted a wee half-way there. How it was busy in the high street. That they nearly  walked past the shop because they were keeping an eye on little Timmy. How they finally found what they were looking for. But it wasn’t in their size. Only it turned out they did have their size. So that was lucky. They weren’t sure if they should go for the black or red. But they settled on the red because it went with their red top. If only they could afford both. But the red will be perfect for the Christmas party. And just as they were paying, little Timmy wet himself…

Painful isn’t it?

What you really wanted them to say was this:

“I bought a fabulous pair of red shoes in town on Saturday. Too bad little Timmy wet himself while I was paying.”

Or even better:

“I went to town and bought some red shoes on Saturday. They’re perfect for the Christmas party.”

The End.

But you’re polite. So you listen. You nod. You laugh in the right places. You might wet yourself too if they don’t hurry up. But you hang in there. Because you’re nice. And a good friend. And in this situation, it’s probably the right decision.

But imagine you were reading their story on their blog or in an email. Would you carry on reading? Or just find something better to read?

Now imagine that your friend is a business and you are a potential client looking at their website or blog. It’s full of long-winded, waffly sentences and unnecessary detail. Social niceties and loyalty don’t come into it. You’re bored and irritated. Nothing they’ve written has convinced you to use their service. So you’re off; to check out their competitors.

Many business owners write their own content. Some reason that it will save time and money. Others are so passionate about what they do, they just want to talk about it. And most are so focused on how pretty their website looks that they forget about the power of words.

Why is this a mistake? Because ultimately words are still the most effective tool to communicate your message clearly and concisely.

That’s where a copywriter comes in.

A copywriter has emotional distance from the business. They’re focused on the customer’s experience. So they write it in such a way that the reader feels that there’s something in it for them; that they count.

Sentences are shortened. Flowery, unnecessary words are slashed. And pointless information is removed (of course Timmy wet himself, he’s 2).

A copywriter knows that your audience wants you to cut to the chase. Communicate your message clearly. Tell them about your service. And how it will benefit them. Together with a clear call to action. So they contact you. And not your competitors.

They will weed out passive sentences that make your content sound wooden and detached. And check for readability stats, to ensure your content is written in plain English that’s easy for any demographic to understand and relate to.

Your copywriter will check that your content is visually appealing. They’ll use bullet-points, line-spacing and quotes to break it up. And check that factual information is correct and relevant.

And when that’s done, they’ll proofread it again and again. They might read it out loud. Or backwards. Some even hire an extra pair of eyes in the form of a proofreader or editor.

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Ultimately, your copywriter wants the same as you; they want your business to succeed.

Until next time.

Alison