How to find a good copywriter: 6 fundamentals

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So you’ve taken the plunge and decided to hire a copywriter to help you with your project. But how do you find the right one? Read the first of 2 blogs on the 6 fundamentals to finding a good freelance copywriter.

How to find a good copywriter: 6 fundamentals

The top 3

  1. Decide what you want

Firstly, you need to work out precisely what you’re looking for.

Lots of freelance copywriters have different specialities, for example, B2B, consumer, technical or industry-specific. But there are many fantastic copywriters who cover a whole range of specialities (like me). What’s important is that you are impressed with their previous work and that you feel they fit with you and your business.

To get the very best from your copywriter you’ll need to brief them well, so you must be sure what it is that you’re asking them to do. Consider not only what the project is, but also think about your budget and your deadline too. Being clear in the beginning will save you time in the long run.

 

  1. Personal recommendation

Once you’ve decided what you need, you can start looking for your perfect person, and the best way to do that is for you is to tap into your network. Is there anyone you’ve worked with before who might be able to recommend someone?

The vast majority of my work comes through word of mouth, which is very reassuring for clients. And it also gives me peace of mind to know that a potential client wants to work with me because they’ve heard I’ve done a great job before.

If you don’t manage to find a personal recommendation there are also lots of valuable online resources to point you in the right direction. LinkedIn has a wonderful community of copywriters, and even googling ‘freelance copywriter’ will get you started.

 

  1. See their work

Probably the most important point: you must be happy with your copywriter’s writing ability. Great writers will be more than happy to provide you with samples of their previous work so ensure you get hold of these and have a proper read through. You’re looking for engaging and compelling well-structured copy that’s skilfully written. You’ll know it when you see it.

 

Look out for the next 3 fundamentals in my next post, coming soon.

 

Do I really need a copywriter?

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Great content is crucial to all aspects of marketing your business. It doesn’t matter how fantastic your company is if you can’t communicate this effectively to your customers. Which means you need exceptional writing.

You probably know your business best of all. And, you know what it is about your business that you’d like to communicate to your customers. Plus, you’re good at writing. So why would you need to pay someone else to write your content for you?

Here’s why.

 

It saves you time  

Creating compelling, engaging content can take up a huge amount of your time. It’s not just a simple case of sitting down and writing. You have to research, fact check, proof read, proof read again, gain stake-holder approval, make copy amends and so on. This is in addition to actually writing the words.

Hiring the right copywriter will allow you to spend your precious time on other projects.

 

You’ll get more bang for your buck

In terms of the overall cost of a project (for example, the design, the images and the printing or backend IT work), the cost of paying someone to create the most important part – the words – is actually a tiny proportion of the budget.

Engaging, professionally written marketing copy will help you to sell more product, or build a better relationship with your customers. Very simply, it will deliver you a great return on your investment.

 

It removes the stress

If you’re writing your own content you are quite likely having to fit this around your day job. By using a copywriter they’ll remove the stress of you having yet another project to attend to. You won’t have to worry about carving out the time in your diary, or writing your content sporadically whilst you’re also attending meetings, writing reports, fielding calls and responding to emails.

Writing effectively is very difficult to do when you’re under pressure. So having someone to do the writing for you makes it one less thing for you to think about. This is especially true if you are looking for a local freelance copywriter and want to meet them occasionally and leave them to get on with the job.

They’ll do a better job than you

A good freelance copywriter is a specialist at writing persuasive and compelling content. They will have reams of experience writing copy for many other businesses across a number different industries and media.

They’ll take your messages and create a story that’s engaging and interesting and that will ultimately help your business. They’ll do this because they know how to. And they know how to because they’ve done it many times before.

 

You know too much

You know your business. In fact, you’re an expert. But you’re not your customer.

You know what it is that you need to tell your customer but you’re not the best person to tell them. The problem is that you’re too close to it.

Knowing all the intricacies of your business means that it can be hard to be objective. You could be too ‘sales-y’, or use business jargons and acronyms. A good copywriter will know your audience and your messages and will be able to convey those perfectly, while hitting the right tone.

 

They’ll keep it fresh

Using a copywriter will inject a new lease of life into your content.  A new set of eyes will see those bits that need bringing up to date or a new perspective.

If you’d like some help as a London freelance copywriter, I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch.

 

 

‘Let’s eat Grandma’

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The power of punctuation

 I firmly believe that punctuation and grammar are essential for great copy.They demonstrate that you’re able to express your words in a coherent way and that you have an ear for the rhythms and nuances of the English language.

Using grammar and punctuation correctly not only gives your writing structure and ensures it makes sense, it also helps the reader to ‘hear’ how your words sound.

So why is it so important?

 

Ambiguity

Using incorrect punctuation can radically change the meaning of your message. For example, ‘let’s eat Grandma’ and ‘I like cooking my family and spending time outdoors’ both sound much less scary when commas are used correctly!

When your punctuation is wrong, your words can become ambiguous and hard to understand. And creating confusion is a guaranteed way to isolate potential customers.

 

Creates trust issues

Seeing grammatical errors raises concern over trust and credibility. Online, customers may be more wary, thinking your communication is spam or phishing and they may not take anything you have to say seriously.

Analysis of UK online purchasing habits in 2011 demonstrated that as many as 50% of customers will not buy from a websiteif they detect even one spelling error on a page (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854). That’s a huge amount of business to loose over a thoughtless mistake.

And on a practical note, mistakes in punctuation can affect the functionality of a web page, potentially rendering it useless.

 

Shows a lack of professionalism

Lastly (and probably the most important point), copy containing grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes make the brand look ignorant and careless.

There are many people out there (myself included) who judge a brand on their punctuation. A lack of attention to detail in its communications indicates a general apathy around the business’ work. When a company uses copy that’s badly punctuated or grammatically incorrect, it is saying that it doesn’t really care. And that is incredibly damaging to a brand.

Some people love to hate: On Facebook, the page ‘The Grammar Police’, which includes real life examples of incorrect grammar and punctuation, has nearly 160,000 likes, while on Pinterest, the board ‘bad grammar, punctuation, etc.’ has been pinned 269 times. By putting business information out there that is grammatically incorrect could not only lose you customers, but there’s a very real chance you’ll end up humiliated.

 

How to avoid punctuation mistakes:

  • Check your punctuation as you write. The Well-Tempered Sentenceby Karen Elizabeth Gordon, or the Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation are excellent resources to have handy. Or websites such as grammarly.co.uk are equally valuable.

 

  • Use a style guide for your brand to ensure consistency. Some words are grammatically correct written a number of ways. Stick to one way of writing it to avoid looking sloppy.

 

  • Take a break before you proof read your work. Fresh eyes will more likely pick up any mistakes.

 

  • Have a friend check your work. Sometimes being too close to your text means mistakes slip through.

 

For workshops and training on grammar, contact us now.

10 top tips for effective copywriting

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Part 2: 5 more to follow

My last post revealed what I consider to be the top 5 tips for great writing. There are 5 more that can help extend the effectiveness of your communication.

1. Interrupt the text
A huge, great swathe of text is a sure-fire way to disengage your readers. It’s hard to read, tiring on the eyes and boring (there, I’ve said it).
If you do have a lot to say around one subject, it’s essential to interrupt the words with headings, subheadings and lists. Taking a break from the words makes it much easier for the reader to stay interested. And they’re much more likely to remember what they read when they do get to the end.

2. Think about the why
Your audience will be bombarded with messages every single day. Before you start to write your copy you must have conviction that writing it at all serves a purpose. Will it get lost and forgotten about? Make sure that wherever your copy is placed it has a reason for being there at all.

3. Tell the story
I like to think of commercial copy as a thing of beauty. Yes, it has to be persuasive and compelling, but it also has to connect enough with the reader to ensure they get to the end.
Storytelling helps with this connection. Your copy needs to flow in such a way that your readers will want to know what happens. Address everything in the right order, outlining the problem and then the solution. Keep them interested right to the very end.

4. What’s next after the text? Have a clear call to action
Successful copy attracts, resonates and persuades your readers.
It’s all very good having a great story, engaging words and an interested audience. But what are you asking them to do?
Click? Share? Like? Tell people? Get in touch? By the time your reader gets to the end of your story they need to know what they have to do next.

5. Proof reading
I don’t just mean to check grammar and spelling (although, of course, that’s true).
I mean read the whole thing, read it again and then again. Are you happy with it? Would it resonate with you as the reader? Reading it aloud is particularly helpful. And if you’re still unsure, convince a friend or colleague to read it too for their honest opinion.

Encouraged? Energised? Daunted? Writing great commercial copy can be a huge undertaking but is also hugely rewarding. If you’d like an expert to help please get in touch.

10 top tips for effective copywriting

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Part 1: The top 5

I’ve been lucky enough to work in an industry that I love for nearly 20 years. While writing persuasive, engaging commercial copy fortunately seems to come quite naturally to me, it is a skill and a learned craft – one that I’ve carefully honed over time.

Over the years I’ve worked out what it is that works in commercial copywriting, and what doesn’t. In a two-part post, I’d like to share my top 10 list of copywriting essentials. Here is the top five to begin:

 

  1. Clarity

This is probably the most important point. By being 100% certain on your message, you can be crystal clear and get to the point quickly. Gracefully, yes, but fast.

Your reader will most likely be incredibly busy (and probably at work), so you’ll need to grab them in the first line. If they’re having to read three paragraphs before they get to the point, they’ll switch off.

 

  1. Understand your audience

Chances are your readers are not reading your material for pleasure. They want to solve a problem. Understanding what your reader is about is key to effective marketing.

So before you even start to think about writing, have an imaginary conversation with your intended reader. By keeping in mind there’s a real person reading your work, this should help you stay relevant. Your audience is only going to keep reading something that interests them.

 

  1. Set the tone

In my experience, most customers still use emotional drivers in their decision-making. So once you’ve worked out your audience, think about how you can connect with them emotionally.

Think of the tone in how you speak with them. Are they official and professional? Warm? Fun? Can you joke with them or do you need to stay formal? And once you’ve nailed your tone keep it consistent.

 

  1. Be truthful

You love your brand and you want your readers to go away loving it too. Which means they have to trust you. Be compelling, yes, but most of all be authentic. Be engaging and still truthful. Be passionate, while avoiding ‘fluff’. Include proof: testimonials, case-studies, statistics. These will instil in your audience a sense of believability.

 

  1. Simplicity = readability

Your audience will likely be skim reading the words, taking only a couple of points on board before they lose interest. Successful commercial copywriters know this, which is why we like to keep things simple.

Avoid jargon and overly complicated language if you can. More simple words are more readable, more memorable and therefore more effective.

But it’s not just the words that need to remain simple. To keep your reader interested, the whole look and feel of your text needs to be inviting too. Use a minimal number of words in a short sentence and keep your paragraphs tight and to the point. Making your copy easy to read pretty much dictates how long your readers stay reading.

 

Look out for five more tips on copywriting, coming soon in the next post.

Why copywriters rock

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You want to love how your business is represented, right? Then you need the innovative work of a copywriter.

When most of us think business, we think statistics, results and money. Employ an experienced freelance copywriter and expect creative flair that is complemented by a business mind.

So exactly what do copywriters do better? They multitask. A copywriter assumes the role of marketing director, sales director, SEO (search engine optimisation) specialist, industry spokesperson, social media consultant and blogger. And for a freelance copywriter, it’s second nature to focus on detail so they usually become an editor and a proofer too.

It may be that all your business needs is a professional freelance copywriter. A copywriter’s aim is to keep it fresh, exciting and engaging. Business talk can easily become samey, so a copywriter will introduce current and professional content that emphasises the unique points of your business, and give you the edge. They are experts at linking your business to the online community, so not only will your current clients love it, new prospects and potential clients will also be reaching for the talent you’ve got.

And if you’re looking for a freelance copywriter Northampton, at The Copy Co absolutely no copying other writing is allowed, no matter how clever the cat is. A great copywriter is brave enough to be different.

A professional copywriter will also welcome feedback from you, engage in a more personal relationship, and flex with your business. If you’d like to explore working with a professional copywriter or a freelance copywriter Milton Keynes, get in touch today.

 

 

Professional writing: how to write for business

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Even if you’re not in communications or marketing, many situations call for professional writing. In fact, most business owners and employees regularly need to write professionally at work. And for owners and managers it’s an important part of marketing your company. Here are three things to think about if you need to create professional writing or write for your business.

 

1. Decide what your brand language is

To make your business look and sound professional, you need to use the right language. Simplicity is key. This means making sure that your language is accessible. Our work with an NHS trust requires us to write in Plain English. If you’d like to understand more about this, visit The Plain English Campaign.

It might be necessary to use corporate language and phrases because professional writing is often formal. However, this doesn’t mean that your writing has to be jargon-heavy. Use formal language to set the tone but mix it up with simpler phrases. Vary the length of your sentences to give your writing a natural rhythm, and then read them back to make sure that none are too long and the meaning is clear.

2. Use the right tone for your business

It’s equally important to get your tone of voice just right. This is very closely connected to language and the two are dependent on each other. For example, a more formal tone of voice will include more formal words and set phrases. The most important thing to bear in mind here is consistency. Have a tone of voice in mind and stick to it so that your message is clear and accessible. This lets you reach out to your audience, manage their expectations and leave them with a positive impression.

3. Make it personal

When you want to sound professional in your workplace draw on personal experience. Remember that you have insider knowledge of the company, its culture and its ambitions, so use this to your advantage. You might want to start by listing some bullet points and ideas. Ask yourself some questions: who are your audience? What do they need to know? How do you want them to react? By using what you know, you will be able to write authoritatively and people will trust what you say.

Copywriters put together professional writing for clients on a daily basis. Reports, presentations, corporate documents, internal communications – we’re well versed in them all. Sometimes hiring a copywriter is the right thing to do so we can make sure that your writing does its job.

For help writing professionally or to enquire about copywriting services, join other savvy businesses who use our skills and contact us to find out more.

The top 5 grammar concerns

2015 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
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As a copywriter with nearly 20 years of experience, I am well placed to list the top five grammar concerns of clients. Other copywriters who may stumble across this blog will most likely feel similarly. This list is not exhaustive, and is my educated guesstimation of the most commonly asked grammar questions. These have been compiled from clients over the years and London, Milton Keynes and Northampton copywriting staff I’ve had the pleasure of working with.

The top five grammar concerns:

  1. Capital letters. I must admit every time I am asked to capitalise a job title I desperately want to shout “NO!” But truth be known, when I started out in my very first copywriting job I was asked to use upper case for job titles. However, put simply, it’s just not correct. As a general rule, I point clients and writers in my Northampton copywriter collective to The Economists’ style guide. When you mention this and the BBC, there is generally less to argue about. There are a number of rules on capitalisation, so I intend to post on this topic soon.
  2. Apostrophes. One of my clients, who shall of course remain nameless, laughed when I produced a set of reminder cards on the correct use of apostrophes. To stick up near your computer, I said! Being the fun person she is, she saw the positive in this offer to help. Other times, I have had clients incorrectly correct my use of apostrophes. I can see why apostrophes are confusing. So I’ve another post on the subject that hopefully makes some of the rules clearer.
  3. That or which? Perhaps this should be extended to: That, which or who? This is also worthy of a post of its own. In short, however, ‘that’ refers to a thing, ‘who’ refers to a person and ‘which’ is designed to give the reader more information. In technical terms, ‘that’ should be used when you have what’s called a restrictive clause. This means your sentence contains limited information: ‘Any keyboard that works well is worth keeping.’ If you read it out loud and then replace ‘that’ with ‘which’ – and then read aloud again you should hear the difference. By comparison, ‘which’ is used for nonrestrictive clauses (offering extra information): ‘The keyboard, which was secondhand, was worth keeping.’
  4. Commas. To comma or not to comma, that is often the question. Personally, I am a fan of clean copywriting. By this I mean the fewer the hyphens, commas and added extras, the easier it looks to read. I’m sure most designers would agree. However, I also know the comma is vital. And there are more rules for the use of the comma than I have space for here. The easiest way to consider your use of commas is to ask: where do I want my reader to pause? The featured picture articulates this perfectly.
  5. S versus Z. As an Australian copywriter who has worked in Sydney, New York City and London, I’ve had to get used to both sides of this spelling conundrum. Strictly speaking, if you live and work in the UK, you should use UK spelling. So ‘capitalise’ not ‘capitalize’ and ‘programme’ not ‘program’. The easiest way to sort this out is to set your spell check to UK spelling (visit Tools/Language in Word). Now, if you are in the UK working for a US-based company, it can get tricky. In this situation, I always ask if there is a house style rule that requires US spelling. And then I ask who the reader will be. If your writing is being read by an American or published in the States, it makes sense to use US spelling.

 

For more on grammar or help with copywriting services in London, Milton Keynes and Northampton, email us now here.

 

3 steps to apostrophes: a copywriter’s guide

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Apostrophes need not be a catastrophe. Yet they are one of the top five grammar concerns. Perhaps the reason apostrophes make some folk (even writers) freak out is that there are so many rules.

So how can a copywriter best explain the rules? A top business copywriter or creative copywriter is most likely able to follow the rules without thinking about them. For anyone else, I would suggest three steps to help you remember. Likewise, if you are not a copywriter, but are concerned about being judged by your apostrophes, I’d recommend you check over your writing using these three questions. They are designed to help you decide how to use an apostrophe.

 

Three questions to ask when using apostrophes:

  1. Does the word own something?
  2. How many are there?
  3. Has the word been shortened from two words?

 

Here’s a sentence that has had all its apostrophes removed:

The copywriters pens arent very nice to use.

 

Now we can apply it to all three questions.

  1. Does the word own something?

Do the copywriters own the pens? Yes. So the word ‘copywriters’ needs an apostrophe. But where does it go? This leads us to the next question.

 

  1. How many are there?

If there is only one copywriter, the apostrophe goes before the S.

The copywriter’s pens arent very nice to use.

 

If there are two or more copywriters, the apostrophe goes after the S.

The copywriters’ pens arent very nice to use.

 

  1. Has the word been shortened from two words?

This is the question with the most rules attached to it. So here goes! Firstly, the word ‘arent’ is an abbreviation of ‘are not’ so it requires an apostrophe.

The copywriters’ pens aren’t very nice to use.

 

Now, what about this sentence?

The copywriters use pens.

 

The copywriters don’t own the pens in this instance, so there is no need for an apostrophe. Wait, even if there are two copywriters? That’s right.

 

Now, what about things that have been shortened, like acronyms, for example NASA?

If NASA owns a spacestation, it should have an apostrophe.

It is NASA’s spacestation.

 

What if there are two NASAs? No apostrophe required. Although it is an abbreviation, it is not bringing together two words.

There are two NASAs.

 

Another example of words that are shortened that often confuses is the use of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’. Same rule applies: are you shortening two words into one? It is = it’s.

 

But if not, it doesn’t need an apostrophe.

NASA sent its astronauts into space.

 

For more on grammar or help with copywriting services in London, Milton Keynes and Northampton, email us now here.

Giving blood rocks

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I first started giving blood when I was waiting a really long time for a visa (may share at some point in another blog). I thought I might try and do a few things to help out, like donate blood. I’m not particularly scared of needles or blood, but I have to admit I was always slightly terrified of having a big needle jabbed in my arm and a cupful of my blood taken.

Turns out, it’s really easy and doesn’t hurt a bit. And you get to talk with really lovely nurses while they are collecting.

Recently, one of the conversations went along the lines of, “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Of what, dear?”

“Well, I’m a Northampton copywriter who works for all kinds of businesses. I work as a healthcare copywriter, as well as for other industries like food, fashion and business, that kind of thing. I’ve just helped put together Northamptonshire Healthcare’s Annual Report.”

“Good for you. Can you write about giving blood?”

Makes sense. If only we talked, tweeted and wrote more about it, more people might consider it.

So here it is: a dedication to all the great people who collect blood – especially those I’ve met in and around Northampton. My favourite spot is the Moulton School because you get to look at cool teen art hanging on the wall. But that’s just a bonus.

I’ve not met one cranky nurse or had a bad experience. In fact, giving blood is kinda fun. You feel great because you know you are helping someone. And I often look around the room and think how wonderful humans are. There are not many places that give you that feeling.

I once read in one of the newsletters sent to me as a donor that a man named Barry Hyman has been donating blood for more than 50 years and has saved potentially more than 450 lives.

Barry, you rock.

And so does giving blood. Although, I would highly recommend you follow the nurses’ guidance for eating well, drinking loads of water and not exercising beforehand. I happened to do a light 30-minute workout about an hour or so before donating once and I felt so woozy they had to fan me like I was Liza Minnelli.

But apart from that, if you don’t already, giving blood is really worthwhile and so easy.

According to the NHS site www.blood.co.uk over a quarter of us need blood at least once in our lifetime. What more reason do you need?

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