Good copywriting needs to talk to people. Rationally and emotionally. When your words press all the right buttons, they can motivate action. And great copywriting is all about action. The most supported online copywriting courses you will find. Copywriting, coaching and mentoring.
It’s a well-known marketing mantra: Only work with your ideal clients. The flip side of this is to say no to clients who aren’t right for you and your business.
As a seasoned copywriter, I’ve got a checklist of warning signs that let me know when a potential customer and I aren’t right for each other. If you’re a new copywriter, you might be thinking, “Say no to customers? I wish”!
But… it will happen.
The truth is that the wrong copywriting clients will do more damage than good. Why? Because you don’t ‘get’ them and they don’t ‘get’ you, which results in…
Spending way more time than you quoted on project management and revisions.
A confidence crisis that makes you rethink your copywriting skills and processes.
An unhappy client.
An unhappy copywriter.
Unless you catch it early, by the time you decide it’s not working you think it’s too late to back out.
Pro tip: It’s actually never too late to back out of a copywriting project. Lose money before you lose your mind.
Your goal as a copywriter is to develop your own early warning system for the wrong type of clients.
Signs you’re talking to the wrong copywriting client
They haggle with you on your quote
Someone who doesn’t respect your price doesn’t respect your value. If your copywriting quote is above your client’s budget but they still want to work with you, reduce the scope of the project before you reduce your hourly rate.
They won’t pay the deposit
If a soon-to-be client won’t pay the project deposit, you can count on spending time chasing up the final payment too. Trust me, make the deposit non-negotiable. And call it a commencement invoice to give it a great sense of action.
They don’t have time to complete the copywriting brief
You can’t write great copy out of thin air. If a client doesn’t have (or won’t make) time to give you the information you need to write the copy, you can bet the project is going to drag on. And that time is money out of your pocket.
They are rude
This is about personality, and getting along with your copywriting client is just as important as the money stuff. You don’t need to be best friends—but work should fun! For you and your client.
I invite you to add to this list to create your own copywriting client checklist. Hopefully, these points will help you avoid some of the pain I experienced over the years!
But, how exactly do you turn copywriting work away?
What about the dreaded famine of freelance life?
Shouldn’t you make hay while the copywriting work is available?
Can I mix any more metaphors?
Two strategies to turn away work without losing face
If you’re feeling uncertain about saying no straight out, you can use one of these two strategies.
Name a ridiculous price. Jack your copywriting quote up so high, they’d have to be a little crazy to say yes. Beware, they might say yes! Hopefully, the sweet price you named will sweeten any tough moments along the way.
Name a ridiculous lead time. You can say you’re happy to help, but you can’t get to the project for several months. The danger, of course, is that they will wait, but you have plenty of time to steady yourself.
If the thought of working with some copywriting clients makes you feel like your gut is filled with bricks and no amount of money or time will help, heed the warning. Just suck it up and say NO.
Now we get to the meat of the matter…
How do you turn work away without burning your reputation?
Is it possible to say no to a client so they actually think you’re amazing?
My magic phrase for saying no, with style.
Are you ready?
“I’m not the right copywriter for your project”.
Say it again with me.
“I’m not the right copywriter for your project”.
You can even add in an apology: “I’m sorry, but I’m not the right copywriter for your project”.
This phrase works so well because:
It acknowledges that copywriting isn’t a one-size-fits-all skill.
It flatters a client that their project requires the skills of a specialist.
It might be enough to leave it at that. Or, you have to explain why just use a few phrases such as:
“I think you’ll be more successful with a copywriter experienced in [insert area]”.
“I’m not confident that I have the right skills to achieve your objectives”.
These statements tell the client that you care more about their results than your ego. Even if it’s not true, it sounds amazing.
And if it’s about personality—and you’re getting pushed to explain why—just explain it.
“I don’t think we will work well together—and to achieve the best possible results, it’s important that you work well with your copywriter”.
Then you stop talking.
Tips for making this magic phrase work for you
Be polite. Always be polite.
Be grateful—and thank them for considering you.
Refer them to others. That’s right.
That last tip takes you from being a professional copywriter to being an awesome, helpful super-copywriter that this client will refer to their friends. Because the clients you say no to could know your ideal client! That’s why it’s worth your time and effort to leave them smiling (even when you’re gritting your teeth).
So remember, when your gut is screaming no, smile and say, “I’m not the right copywriter for your project, but I can refer you to other copywriters who will be able to help”.
Have you got your own tips for turning work away gracefully? I’d love to hear them!
Some four-letter words have a lot of power. Good and bad. Words like…
Love. Hope. Hate. Help. Fuck. Can’t.
But there is another four-letter word that can destabilise everything about a person. About you.
This word is used in a lot of introductions at conferences and it utterly undermines the person. It eats at their confidence and their authority.
The word is JUST.
“I just have a blog.”
“I just work part-time.”
“I just…I just…I just…”
Each introduction that contained the word just told me that any impressions of greatness I’d formed were probably wrong.
You see, there is a whole lot of can’t, won’t or shouldn’t behind the word just. You can apply that to the word only as well.
These words are full of excuses.
They tell me what you’re not doing. Not what you are doing.
“I don’t have any influence. I’m just the copywriter.”
“I can’t charge that much. I’m just starting out.”
“I can’t approach an agency. I usually just work with small businesses.”
“I’m just one person.”
These are all statements I’ve said – to others and to myself.
But just is a trick to make us feel okay in the comfort zone. After all, if we don’t reach for a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal), we won’t fail. Not failing is good, right?
Don’t fall for it.
Don’t mistake my message
You don’t always have to dominate everything. You don’t have to be at the top, the most famous, work with every big brand.
But don’t talk yourself out of something before you’ve even begun.
How is it done?
Next time you hear yourself saying “I’m just…” – to others or internally – STOP. Ask yourself this. Am I excusing myself from going after something more? Or am I setting a boundary I am okay with?
If it’s the latter, carry on. I salute you. If it’s the former, spend five minutes considering if your goals are really stretching you enough.
Either way, try that statement again without the word just.
I’d love to know… Do the words ‘just’ or ‘only’ pop up when you talk – to others and to yourself?
I don’t expect everyone to understand my career as a copywriter as intimately as I do. I honestly enjoy the chance to explain what I do. But there is a substantial grey area between people understanding that a copywriter can help and understanding the mechanics of how a copywriter can help.
It in this grey area live misconceptions and misunderstandings.
I think I’ve heard them all but these are the most common.
Misconception #1: Copywriting is easy.
It’s commonly thought that writing is easy. I mean, we all write. Shopping lists, emails, love notes. And they’re easy, aren’t they?
So writing the copy for a website page, ad or brochure can’t be that different.
Copywriting requires a lot of preparation, research and planning before you even begin to write but it also requires a great deal of know-how. Many people don’t realise there is a lot to learn about the technical aspects of copywriting.
Choosing which words will push someone’s buttons isn’t a slap-dash random selection. It really is a process of crafting and honing the language to motivate the desired action.
Sometimes the words will just flow – which is awesome – but that usually only happens when you’ve practised copywriting techniques so often that you don’t have to over-think them any more.
Correcting this copywriting misconception
If you have a client who tells that they could write the copy easily, clarify why it is they need a copywriter.
They might not appreciate the value of your role and the effort you will put in. That alone could be a red flag that you might not be a good fit for each other.
If they have a lot of confidence in their own writing skills, you might suggest they write it themselves and simply work with an editor instead. Be sure to have an amazing editor to recommend.
Misconception #2: Copywriting doesn’t take long
Following on from copywriting misconception #1, if something is easy it won’t necessarily take a long time to do.
Think how long it would take to type out a page of copy. Not long. And if you type quickly, it takes even less time. So that’s how long it should take to write, right?
As I explained above, the copywriting process is time-consuming because it involves a lot of steps. As a copywriter, you must get a clear understanding of what is required. You have to be able to walk in the shoes of the business owner and the customers and you have to plan and write the copy that will connect the two. Then you have to edit and edit and edit until you’re left with only the words needed.
Each step takes time (when it’s done well).
Copy that’s completed quickly will often skip one or many of these steps. The result is lacklustre, bland copy that doesn’t sell anything.
Correcting this copywriting misconception
Be realistic and clear about how long the copywriting process will take, factoring in the other projects you have on and that little thing called life you sometimes have. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down as short-cutting your process will often lead to more revisions.
If clients want something done more urgently than you scoped, find out why and judge if that pressure really is urgent. There is nothing more frustrating than working all weekend to meet a client deadline only to discover they’ve suddenly shifted priorities.
In many instances, urgent isn’t actually urgent after all.
Misconception #3: Copywriters don’t need a detailed brief
When time is short, busy businesses don’t want to fill out detailed copywriting briefs. They want to trust in the expertise of their copywriter. And copywriters should be creative enough to fill in the gaps.
Without a detailed brief, a copywriter simply cannot write authentic copy that differentiates their client’s business.
As a copywriter, it’s important to ask about the values of the business and how teams work behind the scenes. It’s critical to make sure you know exactly who they are targeting and what causes them pain. You have to intimately understand how the products and services on offer will solve that pain.
The questions in my copywriting brief are three pages long. That’s just the questions. Once a customer has filled out their ideas, we spend an hour talking them through on the phone. The brief often ends up as five, six or more pages.
Gaps in the brief mean that you the copywriter don’t have all the information. If you don’t have all the information, you can’t zero in on the details that win customers.
Correcting this copywriting misconception
Patiently explain why you need the brief completed in as much detail as possible and that you can’t proceed without it. Once it becomes a non-negotiable item, projects often proceed more smoothly.
In my experience, if a client doesn’t have time to complete the brief the project will not end well (as they also won’t have time to give you revisions or pay your invoice).
Misconception #4: Writing short copy is quicker than long copy
This is a big one because it’s logical that fewer words would take less time to write.
So wrong. Imagine every piece of copywriting is a block of marble and the copywriter has to chip away at that marble until that shape is revealed in all its glorious detail.
Now imagine that regardless of how big or small the copywriting project is, a copywriter begins with the same-sized block of marble.
If you have a smaller shape to reveal, you have to take more time sculpting.
Every copywriting project needs a brief, research and planning. Every copywriting project involves several drafts and a few rounds of revisions. Shorter projects usually involve more editing. A lot more editing.
Correcting this copywriting misconception
As I mentioned above, always be realistic and clear about how long your writing process takes. Point out that shorter copy is often harder to write than longer copy and stick to your guns.
Misconception #5: Editing existing copy is faster than writing it from scratch
Can you just finesse the copy I have? Can you just take my existing copy and make it more sales-focused? Can you edit what I have to make it more readable? Can you just give it some pizzazz?
Surely copywriters can just make what’s already written more awesome, and save time and money for their clients.
Well, it is possible. But think of it like this. When a copywriter is asked to edit copy that requires extensive editing, they are essentially trying to rearrange the piece of a puzzle to make a different picture. It can be time-consuming to try and make something new with those pieces.
When a copywriter writes from scratch, they create a whole new (and hopefully more amazing) picture. And speaking from personal experience, although I spend more time briefing, researching, planning, writing and editing, not only are the results better but it’s a more efficient process.
Correcting this copywriting misconception
Review the copy you’re being asked to edit before you quote. It might be that it really does just need a few small edits but if extensive edits are needed, come up with a realistic plan on how long it will take you.
Also, explain the other options available (like writing it from scratch) and how much they cost. In my experience, the full rewrite only cost a little more (which made it an appealing option).
So there you have it
Five common misconceptions about copywriting and some simple strategies on how you can blast them out of the water while remaining polite and professional.
The upshot is:
Be realistic about how long projects will take you
Be practical about how much work you can take on
Set clear expectations for your clients
Stick to your guns
What can you add? Are there misconceptions I’ve missed?
But professional copywriters don’t have the luxury of waiting for a lightning bolt of inspiration. We’re in the business of meeting deadlines, delivering exceptional copywriting when we promise we will.
There is no time to be tired, bored or lacking in imagination.
There is no secret to this
Throughout my copywriting course, I explain (and explain and explain) that solid writing comes out of a solid process.
When you know how to construct a piece of copywriting, the pressure is off. You have a starting point, an outline, a guide to follow. When you know how dig into a business’s story, their audience and their offer (and you do), you can rest easy because you will find the copywriting gold.
When you follow a process, your copy begins to write itself. That’s when your creativity and imagination get a kick up the bum and starts to pull their weight.
So what is the truth behind the myth of writer’s block?
#1 You don’t know enough
If you don’t really know how the product or service works, you can’t zero in on the small but extremely significant details.
When you haven’t done enough research, you can’t see all the possible connections.
If you don’t truly understand the audience you’re writing for, how can you turn those features into benefits that will stop someone in their track?
#2 You don’t know where to start
This is when the blank page really does mock you but who cares what a blank page has to say?
It’s not writer’s block, it’s simply writing without a plan.
#3 You don’t have confidence in yourself
You got the job, you’ve taken the brief but now that it’s time to write a little voice whispers, “Are you really up to this?”
If that is happening, you need to hush that little voice to silence! (Keep reading for some tips on doing just that.)
#4 You’re not in the mood
Perhaps you’ve got a big worry that’s distracting you. Or a more exciting project you’d rather be working on. If this is the case, don’t kid yourself that it’s writer’s block, okay?
How to bust your own writer’s block and get unstuck
Do more research
Fill the gaps in your knowledge. Research the product, the service, business and the industry. Can you get any hands-on experience with the product? Talk to the people who deliver the service? Walk around the business? Talk to an industry body?
I often find interesting angles and ideas start popping out when I’m more physically involved (as in, not simply researching on the computer) in my research. A simple walk around a factory can reveal nuggets of pure gold. If that’s not possible, just seeing what everyone else is doing can help you eliminate yawn-worthy angles for your writing.
Copywriting formulas are a great way to give your copywriting some general structure before you start writing. I’ve talked about the Pain-Agitate-Solve formula before as it’s a personal favourite of mine, but there are others.
The classic marketing formula is AIDA, which says that copywriting needs to:
If you choose to use a copywriting formula, remember that it’s simply a framework to order your thoughts.
Clarify your research by asking yourself:
What is the problem being solved?
What impact does that problem have?
What is the solution being offered?
What action do I want people to take?
Just start writing
This sounds so simple because it is.
Set a timer and force yourself to write.
No social media. No emails. No phone calls.
No pondering for too long.
No editing, correcting or formatting.
Just let the words flow and don’t stop…
I find that by forcing myself to write without distractions or editing, I’m more open to ideas and connections (as I don’t overthink what I know).
Even if you’re following a copywriting formula, just do a brain dump on the page and see what you get!
Don’t start at the beginning
For high school and university assignments, I would write the bibliography first. Why? Because it was easy and I started writing. It’s exactly the last tip suggested. Just start!
You don’t have to start at the beginning. I rarely write headlines first and I usually leave a website homepage until last.
Start with some easy copy first. Maybe that’s the contact page.
Or leave the headline and introduction and jump straight to the features. I often leave place markers in my copywriting such as:
Introduction – open with single biggest pain point.
Something about making that pain more visceral.
I start writing here.
Do something else
If you have that big worry I mentioned above, take care of it! If your brain is popping with ideas for the copywriting project that’s more fun, do that instead!
If you’re just in a funk (and it happens) give yourself an hour or so off. Read a favourite novel, watch a movie, go for a walk… get inspiration from the world around you.
Assuming you’re not going to miss your deadline, do what you need to do to remove distractions. When you do, your brain will be unencumbered and free to produce awesome copy.
Give yourself a pep talk
Dan Pinks talked about the internal chat we have with ourselves before a big moment.
He explained that positive self-talk (such as, “you’ve got this!”) is more effective than no self-talk. But he offered an even more effective approach. Ask yourself a question. Like, “Have I got this?” Then tell yourself why you do. You’re reminding yourself of all the reasons you have to feel confident and preparing yourself to be awesome.
If the client booked you, they did so for a reason. So go and prove them right!
Don’t take yourself so seriously
No one’s life hangs in the balance. I hope!
Take a breath, make a coffee and remember that this is just the first draft. Everything builds from here.
This week, I want to share a recent interview by Yaro Starak, creator of the Entrepreneur’s Journey.
Belinda Weaver: From Being A Freelance Copywriter To Making Money Selling Information Products - YouTube
Sometimes, the idea of becoming a freelance copywriter (or any kind of freelancer for that matter) can feel like standing at the edge of the chasm in Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know the one where he has to do the leap of faith?
Many people talk about quitting their day job with nothing more than their self-belief (and the threat of starvation) to drive them forward.
That approach never appealed to me.
I’m too cautious and too organised to risk failure just on a lack of planning.
You might have heard me mention how I ditched my marketing day job after working building up my copywriting business in the evenings and on weekends. Sounds straight-forward, doesn’t it? But I did so much more to make my transition a successful one.
In this interview, I share the details of how I:
Made sure I had the skills I needed to be a copywriter and business owner (while I worked full time)
Used opportunities in my day job to practise my new skills
Leveraged my existing connections to get my first few jobs
Started using social media to build relationships and position me as an authority
Quit my job and landed my first retainer client in one meeting.
Then, once my freelance copywriting business had taken off, I realised the need to refocus my work and life. It led to a second transformation, from a person who gets paid to work on projects to a teacher, coach and mentor with digital products I can sell without requiring ongoing labour.
Each transformation was carefully planned so ensure my income was never compromised.
Each time I jumped out into the chasm, I knew there was a bridge there… because I built it.
If you want to quit your job, listen to this…
“Belinda Weaver offers one of the best examples I have ever heard of someone carefully planning and executing the transformation from full-time employee, to freelancer (paid-by-the-hour or per contract), to independent blogging entrepreneur selling her own teaching products (earning money while she sleeps).” Yaro Starak.
Belinda Weaver: From Being A Freelance Copywriter To Making Money Selling Information Products - YouTube
Surprised? I mean, surely the price is all that matters? Right?
When I started out as a freelance copywriter, my eagerness to help prospective clients shone brightly right from our initial meeting. This eagerness and excitement spread to them and they would ask me for a quote. So I would send through a written copywriting quote. And then … nothing.
This would happen again and again, and I just didn’t get it. Finally, I realised that it wasn’t my price killing my conversion rate. It was how I presented that price.
You see, I kept it really simple: one page with a table. In that table, I included a few one-liners about the scope of the work and the total price in red.
I cringe to think about it now.
I turned all the value I offered into a number and then highlighted it in red, as if to say: WARNING WARNING WARNING!
Then everything changed
The sales process is far (far far) from over when you send through a copywriting quote, even when it seems like a sure thing. In fact, this moment is probably one of the most critical in the sales conversion process because when you put something on paper it sticks around as a reminder, long after your charming phone manner is forgotten.
So I changed my one-page quote into a six-page proposal for investment that sells me right from the opening paragraph. It went something like this:
PAGE 1: Greetings, objectives and requirements
The first page is the equivalent of an introduction. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already spoken to a prospective client, or met them even, this first page of your copywriting proposal is your chance to create a significant impression.
Be polite from your opening sentence. You will probably have some fluff in the email that goes with the sales proposal, but it pays to welcome the reader to the document as well.
Describe your understanding of the project objectives. This reminds the prospective client that you have been listening and that you understand what they want to achieve.
Provide an overview of the project’s scope. If that means asking a few more questions and repeating yourself a little, don’t worry. It will save you the awkward conversation later on when they tell you they didn’t need a direct mail series—just one letter.
All of this demonstrates that you listened when they talked and you understand what they need.
PAGE 2: Introductions and reminders
Introduce yourself and your business with a reasonably brief summary that helps to demonstrate your experience and credibility.
This could be adapted from your website’s About page, but your goal is to remind your reader why they thought to contact you in the first place. And consider that your quote might be passed around to other people who don’t know you, so this section could help sell your skills to them as well.
PAGE 3: The specifics
Your clients are itching to know the price. They’ve been bugging you about it since you started talking. And at last, you can give it to them.
This is when you spell out exactly what your service entails in glorious technicolour. Even if you think it’s all standard stuff (“Oh but everyone does that”, you think), remind them! And customise it for the project and client.
I start this section with an overview of my process. Just like your bio, you want to remind your readers (especially the ones you didn’t actually talk to) that you have a rock-solid process that will deliver results.
Explain your service and your deliverables. I include a summary introduction about each particular service I offer, outlining why it is important and the value it offers a business. Then I detail each inclusion, like the copywriting brief, additional research, writing, two rounds of revisions and professional proofreading. For each inclusion, I explain the payoff/benefit.
A detailed copywriting brief that helps me fall in love with your business, just like I’ll get your customers to
Expert research to supplement the copywriting brief
Engaging and compelling copywriting that gets your customers excited about saying yes
Two rounds of revisions to make sure your copy is juuuuust right
Professional proofreading, cos no one likes typos
The point is that by the time your reader gets to your price, the value you offer is neon-sign clear.
After you have done all that, list the project investment.
Choose your words carefully here. You are asking them to invest in their business… not take on an expense. It’s a very different proposition.
Sure, some clients will flick to the price first, but your aim is to take them on a journey so that by the time they get to the price they actually see your service as an investment—a valuable investment.
Another great way to boost credibility is to include screenshots of client exclamations about how amazing their copy is.
Don’t have those? Start collecting them!
Won an award? Include that too!
What you’re trying to do is control the moment after they see your price. They might be mildly surprised. They might be utterly shocked.
You need to fill that moment with PROOF that you’ve delivered for others.
PAGE 5: Call to action
Every piece of marketing needs a call to action and your proposal is no different [FIRST NAME].
Yes, you discussed sending them a proposal. The implication is that they will book you if they are interested. But don’t ever leave that to chance.
Ask them to take that next step!
Tell them what the next step is so there is no confusion. Do they pay a deposit or do they give you written approval for the project then pay? Do they email you or fill out a form?
PAGE 6: Terms and conditions
As a wrap-up to your proposal, it’s really important to spell out your terms and conditions. Terms and conditions not only make you look professional, but also help clarify your relationship from the get-go. Don’t make them too long though, eh?
Too long? No way.
Now, I’ve got six pages here but the document usually ends up closer to ten pages.
Possibly, more if my copywriting client needed a website and a brochure, or they were also thinking about an email marketing series.
And you know what? That’s okay.
I always assume my prospective client would make their decision without talking to me again. That means I made sure they had all the information I thought they needed to make a decision in my favour.
Is it a lot of work to create this kind of copywriting proposal? It can be.
Is it worth it? Definitely.
But here’s a pro tip… once you create a template of your proposal document and templates of your services blurbs, it’s actually very easy (and quick) to put together.
Oh, the elation of a copywriting enquiry! Someone wants YOU to write their copy. Cue happy dancing all around your office (or kitchen).
Then, they ask, how much will it cost?
You crash back to reality, and your stomach fills with stones.
How much should you charge for copywriting? How long will the job take? How much are you worth?
Whether you like it or not, copywriting rates are deeply linked to your value… the value you bring to the project and the value potential clients think they’re getting. Often, there’s a big, echoey gap between these two points, with nothing but your sales patter to bridge it.
Should you charge per word, per hour or per project?
This is probably the most common question copywriters ask about how to price their copywriting services.
Charging per word means that you quote a price for each word you write and complete a word count at the end. I think this style of quoting is a lot more common with American copywriters than with Australian copywriters. In my opinion, it reduces your creative value to a matter of cents and that doesn’t feel good.
Charging per hour is quite similar in delivery. Your copywriting quote includes an estimate on you think you’ll spend on the project but your invoice is for the time you actually spend. And they may be different. This pricing structure is more common with popular (and experienced) copywriters, who can give accurate estimates of how long the copywriting will take. The risk is that if it takes longer, the client has to pay more.
Charging per project is usually a fixed price for the entire copywriting project. The price covers all the inclusions of your service (spelled out in your copywriting quote), and if you spend more time than you quote for, tough luck. However, if you work faster than your quote estimated, you win!
I recommend copywriters quote per project. When you can tell a client a fixed price for a project, everyone has more certainty. Clients know how much they will have to spend and you know exactly how much you will earn. Any way you can reduce anxiety around money, do it!
Who keeps time?
Whether you choose to charge per hour or per project, tracking your time is essential.
I don’t know a single, experienced copywriter who doesn’t track the time they spend in their business. Writing copy, yes, but also the time spent on admin, marketing, accounting and lead generation.
Tracking your time will help you understand how long it takes you to research, write, revise and do project admin. When you analyse the data, you will see patterns of where you lose time and when you need to be more disciplined (did that blog post really need 5 hours of research? No).
When you understand where and how you spend your time, your copywriting quotes will become more accurate. You can also work at becoming more profitable through efficiency (working for less time than you’re charging).
In the first year or so of Copywrite Matters, I was extremely busy but my income wasn’t great. I didn’t seem to be earning that much for all the hours I was putting in. So, I took some time to review my time sheets. I realised that I spent more time on non-billable work than on billable copywriting. I had a wait list of clients but I wasn’t organising my day for billable work. I also realised that for each copywriting project, I spent more time on the project admin than I quoted for.
As a result, I streamlined my project admin with checklists and templates. I also enforced stricter marketing allowances for myself and started using the Pomodoro Technique to boost my billable productivity. This is just one example of how tracking your time can help you become more profitable.
At a more basic level, you’ll get to learn how long it takes you to brief a client or write a webpage or brochure.
It’s up to YOU to learn how long tasks take you and manage your own time. Sometimes, you’re ahead. Sometimes, you’re behind. Tracking your time can help you stay ahead more often than not.
When you’re thinking about how to quote for your copywriting, you have to factor in:
Creative thinking and brainstorming
Researching and writing the copy
Revisions (usually two rounds of revisions or three versions) including talking through revision comments
Proofreading (by you or outsourced)
General project admin (such as emailing and record keeping)
I generally estimate 60% of the project time is spent on writing the first draft, 25% is spent on revisions and proofreading and the rest is spent on project admin (from taking the brief to sending the final invoice).
That’s a rough guideline, but the point is how long it takes you to write the first draft is NOT how long you quote for. There are lots of time-consuming elements for every project that you also have to cover—and tracking your time will give you a feel for how long ‘the rest’ takes.
Is it just A + B + C = Big copywriting quote?
My first step in working out how much to charge for copywriting is to look at the word count or the number of pages, calculate how long it will take me to produce the copy – that’s research, write and revise the copy. If I have no idea, I start with “producing 200 words in an hour” and go from there.
Then I add time for the copywriting brief (1 hr), 30 mins of additional meeting time and multiply that by my hourly rate. Then I add an estimated quote for proofreading. These are the basics of each project: briefing, writing, revisions, proofreading, admin.
I have a quoting spreadsheet that I can use to plug numbers in.
Sometimes, it’s a good number straight off. Other times, I would look at the total and think, ‘That’s crazy! No one will pay that!’
Then, I fiddle with the numbers until I felt I had something that was:
A realistic reflection of how long the job would take me.
A measure of the effort and professional value I was offering.
A reasonable price to expect someone to pay.
Creating a copywriting quote is absolutely a balancing act between time, value and market acceptance.
How long is each piece of string?
How much should you charge for each type of copywriting project? I know that’s what you really want to know. And…
… it depends. I know that’s an annoying answer but it really does!
An (average) website page will take about 2-3 hours + briefing + proofreading + admin.
An A4 brochure will take about 3-5 hours per page + briefing + proofreading + admin
An email series will take about 1-2 hours per email + briefing + proofreading + admin.
A blog of about 500 words on an uncomplicated topic will take about 1-2 hours + proofreading.
But these are pretty loose guidelines. For each project it depends on:
The topic – is it complicated or relatively basic? This will influence how much research is required.
The objective – is this is a brand awareness piece or a conversion piece?
Is it part of a larger project? Is copy being repurposed or written from scratch?
How long does it really need to be?
How much will the client pay?
There are a lot of variables, aren’t there?
But the BIG one is… how big is the problem this is solving. That is the biggest indicator of how much someone will pay.
The larger a project is the more efficiencies your copywriting quote can factor in. What the what now?
Let me explain.
You’ll have to do the same amount of preparation and project admin whether you’re writing one page, or ten. So the ‘cost’ of the project admin gets less and less for each page you add. Your writing will also get faster as you get into the flow and immerse yourself in a project. This is why smaller projects can be surprisingly expensive to do.
Does that mean you charge less for additional pages? Hell, no. But, it’s important to realise that, as you’re putting a copywriting quote together your time will average out and hopefully you will end out ahead.
At first, your copywriting quotes will result from a lot of guesswork. As you gain more experience, they will become more accurate.
If every single copywriting quote is accepted, your quotes are probably too low. If none are accepted, you’re probably pricing yourself out of regular work.
So now, it’s over to you.
What’s your process for quoting? Do you make up the numbers or take a scientific approach?
This blog is for Ismail Ishaq who sent me a question after subscribing. Thank you Ismail! I hope this answers your question.
Too many businesses tick social media off their marketing ‘to do’ list, setting up snazzy-looking profiles and auto-posting their latest blog post each week.
But successful social media marketing is so much more than simply turning up and looking good.
Social media marketing isn’t that different from going to a dinner party.
Tell me this. Would you go to a dinner party, sit down and expect everyone to come and talk to you? Of course, you wouldn’t. The only person who gets to do that is your Gran (who can’t stand up for long).
You would turn up when everyone else was going to be there. You would mingle and chat with other guests. You would respond when people talked to you. You would try to be interested and interesting.
Successful social media marketing is no different.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve already thought, “I have too many other priorities than hanging out on social media!”
Well, this post is all about how you can skyrocket the engagement around your social media marketing in just 5 minutes a day.
Your 5-minute breakdown to social media superstardom
Set a timer.
Spend 1 minute finding an article your followers would be interested in or find value in.
Your social media platforms aren’t simply a way to share your own content. When you become a content curator, sharing valuable and insightful articles from other businesses, you become the go-to page for need-to-know news and advice. You begin to demonstrate you’re a subject matter expert and thought leader. Two very good labels to have.
If you find more than one article you want to share, using a tool like BufferApp makes it easy to schedule the content you find over the day or the week.
Spend 1 minute sharing that article across your social media pages, adding and formatting comments relevant to each platform and audience.
Think about how you can generate conversation around the piece you’re sharing. Share your favourite insight from the article or ask readers if they agree (as just two examples). You’ve got a whole minute to think of something and it will be time well spent.
Now you’ve spent two minutes making your pages a hub of fantastic content.
Spend 1 minute reading other social media posts and share at least one update. Keeping up to date with the people and businesses in your network will help you stay relevant in their lives. You might have a conversation starter, discover some more exceptional content to share or file away some points to discuss at your next networking event.
When you share other people’s social media posts, they’re more likely to share yours!
Spend 2 minutes commenting on other posts and discussions. Allow 2 minutes for this part of your 5-minute breakdown as it’s the time that will potentially yield the greatest reward.
There is no ‘trick’ to this. If you want people to engage with you, engage with them first. Be generous with your comments and advice, help people where you can and generally be a good sport to be around. When you do, you will begin to see people making time to respond to your posts.
How to make this really work
I don’t know anyone who isn’t pushed for time. Be super strict with your timer. Only spend the allocated time on each task.
Aim to find and share one article. Only read a few updates. Comment on one or two posts. If you catch yourself thinking, “I don’t have time today”, remember that spending just 5 minutes a day will accumulate to big results, like a snowball going downhill.
You’ll find more people are visiting your social media pages.
You’ll see more people liking, sharing and commenting on your posts.
But more than both of these things, you will begin to build a loyal tribe of fans around your business.
I think that’s worth just 5 minutes a day, don’t you?
If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked a million times… how much should you inflate claims to draw people to your marketing?
Okay. Maybe not a million times. More like 10 or 11. Okay. Twice. I’ve been asked twice.
So how much should you inflate your marketing? Will exaggeration and hyperbole get the right kind of attention?
Let’s recap on what we’re talking about here.
Exaggeration and hyperbole
Exaggeration is a statement that represents something as better or worse than it really is.
Hyperbole is exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
I have a million things on my to-do list today.
I nearly died of shame.
I was on hold foreverrrrrrr.
It’s not a simile or metaphor, though. A comparison is happening but it’s completely overstated the matter for humorous effect.
Hyperbole in (clickbait) headlines
Who doesn’t want to write the headline that goes viral? But the overuse of hyperbole in headlines is becoming tiresome. We’ve all seen them -– the clickbait headlines. Sites like BuzzFeed, ViralNova and Upworthy and even Huffington Post use them to drive traffic.
Transferring them to a business context you see formulas like:
“This simple copywriting technique will blow your mind”
“The new social media platform everyone is talking about”
“Are you making the one mistake that destroys your business reputation?”
“I tried this new headline formula and you wouldn’t believe what happened next”
“Copywriters hate this new writing trick”
Click-bait headlines are kinda fun to read but leave you feeling a bit grubby afterwards. I have to admit, I feel a bit dirty just writing those.
As copywriters, we aim to write clever headlines that get readers’ attention. Using power words to tap into emotional motivation is part of strong copywriting. Using hyperbole (over-exaggeration) tricks readers into satisfying their curiosity. If the article doesn’t live up to its promise, readers are left feeling cheated. When it happens time and time again, the brand is tainted.
Tips for writing great headlines without resorting to hyperbole
1. Focus on benefits that align with the readers’ interest
2. Use numbers and percentages
3. Incorporate keywords people are using
4. Use subheadings to back up your big headline promise
Hyperbole in marketing
We’ve talked about hyperbole in click-bait headlines… let’s dig into exaggeration and hype in marketing. Because there is plenty of it and it’s not always so obvious.
Hype is marketing something with exaggerated enthusiasm and is often linked with the deception of publicity that is inflated or downright false.
Dramatic claims can be eye-catching, but you can get into trouble fast when they are out-and-out lies.
If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.
Phrases like “fastest”, “best” – in fact, most words ending in “-est” – “only” and “leading” sound nice, but they have to be backed up before they will be believed. Even phrases like “revolutionary” will raise an eyebrow unless there is some truth to make it credible.
The world’s leading…
Try this revolutionary new approach to…
The only way to truly know if…
Tips on avoiding hyped-up marketing
Usually, definitive statements are good for credibility but exaggerated statements about performance will send your credibility into the can.
1. As you write such statements, ask yourself – could this be proven in court?
2. Dig into the uniqueness that does exist. And it’s there if you dig deep enough.
Realism and authenticity
Realism is the exact opposite of the hyperbole and exaggeration I’ve highlighted so far. It’s the tendency to view or represent things as they really are. But let’s be real (ha!) – being completely realistic isn’t always going to sell too well. Being real will.
In the new world of digital marketing, authenticity sells. Think Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign, subverting the traditional advertising message of perfection. Small businesses are trumping big business (and their big budgets) with authenticity and transparency: This is who we are. We are real.
Before the internet, Avis nailed it in the ’60s with their classic, “We’re only #2 so we try harder” campaign. As a challenger brand, they constantly try harder for every customer and can’t afford to offer anything less than great customer service.
It’s brilliant. It’s real.
Tips on authentic marketing
1. Be open and transparent about how you do business. A spade can be a spade.
2. Use a conversational tone of voice. Let your marketing sound like something real people would say.
3. Offer concrete information rather than jargon and fluff.
4. Connect with people (see #1), honestly.
So there you have it. Are you over the clickbait headlines or do they still hook you in? Have you come across blatantly hyped up marketing that left you feeling cold? Share it in the comments!
After a copywriter I respect was regularly pointing out typos on this blog, I admitted that I needed help. So now, my copywriting gets proofread. Client work. Blogs. Email marketing. If more than one person (me) is going to read it, it gets proofread.
But then I start fiddling about (usually with my own marketing). I’m a copywriter. I can’t help it.
A new sentence here, a few adjustments there and BOOM, typos.
I think my fingers have a mind of their own. And they don’t like me.
Is it nice up there?
I know what it’s like seeing typos in other people’s work; our shoulders straighten a little as the corners of our mouth lift into a smirk.
Hmph. Incorrectly placed apostrophe. LOSER.
The moral high ground is secure.
But what’s your responsibility here? Should you point typos out?
Some people feel it’s inappropriate to point out typos. Like pointing out someone else’s shit parenting.
I love the Polish saying that translates to, “Not my circus, not my monkeys”. In other words, not my problem. But that’s not how I feel about typos.
I want to be told but there are ways to point out typos and ways NOT to point out typos.
I’ve been told that as a copywriter I should be ashamed of any typos I allow to be published. That as a copywriter, my work should be flawless.
Comments like that make me feel like shit.
On the flip side of that scenario, a blog subscriber recently contacted me to let me know about two errors in the presentation slides for one of the bonus videos. (That’s right, when you subscribe you get my copywriting cheat sheet and three videos explaining my top three tips… but I digress.)
It was a wonderful email. It was polite and friendly. The overall content was praised, the production was praised and the specifics of the typos pointed out. Sure, I was cringing but I didn’t need to sit in my car and cry about it.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I am not perfect. When I write I am a flurry of ideas and words, scrunched-up paper and Post-it notes. I type so fast that keys have actually sprung off my keyboard in protest. I make mistakes but I do my best to minimise them.
How to point out typos
Calling out typos on social media is the equivalent of laughing and pointing like Nelson on The Simpsons. Even if you have the best intentions, it makes you look like a jerk.
Seriously. You’ve had a snicker at the blatantly wrong spelling, punctuation or grammar. You may have even shown it to someone close by so you could share a laugh. It’s okay. We’ve all done that.
But when you’re actually contacting the author, hop down from the moral high ground and be nice about it. They’ll appreciate it a lot more and you’ll feel like you’ve actually helped someone (rather than knocking them down a peg or two).
Being told you have a typo is bad enough but not being able to find the typo is torture! Pointing the author towards the actual error is a great help.
People make mistakes. Forgive them.
Editing your own work is hard.
And you might not be right. We all make mistakes!!
How do you do it?
I polled my buddies on Facebook, Twitter and Google + and it seems that most people would let the author know, privately, and want to be told, privately.
So what say you, good reader?
Do you let people know they have typos? How do you do it?
Do you want to be told?