The secret to become a successful copywriter? Write less.
Yes, it means being able to get a message across in the shortest, most concise and most engaging manner possible.
But that’s not all.
Writing less is also about, well, actually having less writing to do. Think of it from the context of ‘Quality over Quantity’. Having attention divided by five different projects will invariably result in inferior work compared to when if I just had two projects. And if I could just focus on just one project at any one time, I think the work delivered will only get better.
“But hey… you’ve been doing this for donkey years, shouldn’t you be able to work faster and maintain consistent quality at the same time?” Asked an asshole.
Yes, of course. If it’s the usual marketing drivel laden with mindless superlatives and catchy buzzwords, then yeah, I could whip something out with relative ease.
The thing is I’m fed up actually; fed up with writing junk, tired of BS layered over more BS and often feel sick reading stuff that I’ve written in a rush just to meet a deadline.
If only I had more time. Truth be told, these days, I do.
This is my fourth year of being a fulltime freelance copywriter, and I feel that I’m writing less, but delivering more value to my clients that I ever had in my career.
Firstly, I’m fortunate enough to work with clients that allow for the critical incubation period. And secondly, I have made a conscious choice to take in less work.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, it might sound downright counter-productive. But do my existing clients appreciate my dedication, incisiveness and insights? I sure hope they do.
I could be wrong though, some writers let-fingers-fly on intensive and continuous word-spill, and only then go on to pick what’s good and relevant to be included in a piece of work. I guess I’m just more deliberate and patient with my approach.
And to be honest, there’s no secret really. It just takes time, provided you’ve already done a bit of hard time in the industry to start with.
In my 15 odd years as a copywriter, the word ‘different’ is something I’ve constantly heard from clients.
There nothing wrong with wanting to be different, but the truth is copywriting alone cannot position a product or service as being different in the eyes of consumers. If what you offer is also being offered by a gazillion other competitors, then simply saying ‘we’re different’ isn’t going to cut it.
Difference does not come from how copy is crafted, it comes from the core of your business itself. A few examples:
- A totally new or innovative product that fills an existing untapped need (I know, not the easiest thing to discover)
- The difference in serving customers (you have to go beyond saying ‘thank you’)
- The way your company operates or a distinct difference in culture (easier said than done)
If your business cannot align itself with any of the above points of differentiation, then sadly the copywriting can only be skewed or tweaked to a certain extent. We copywriters call it tone and manner of delivery; which is to craft the same message your competitors are saying in an alternate way.
But tone and manner can only differentiate how you are saying it, but not what you are saying. Sometimes, how you say it can make a difference, but if your business can figure out something totally different to say, then your proposition becomes more meaningful.
If you want to be different, you’ve got to back it up by living and breathing distinctiveness. Don’t just expect a different copywriting tone and manner to mask the same-ol’.
You have to be the crazy one, the misfit, the rebel, the troublemaker… the one who see things differently.
Sometimes it’s hard – even after being a copywriter for 14 years – I don’t have it easy all the time.
Often, when I’m tasked to write something, I can immediately get cracking. Words swiftly turn into sentences, which leads to paragraphs. Some jobs take minutes, other hours and the rest days, but the word-flow is constant and premeditated.
I know exactly where I’m heading, and I’m usually pretty confident that the client will appreciate my take on their product or service.
There are times however; I’m left staring at a blinking cursor. Minutes turn into hours before I write even a single line of copy, which I re-hash over and over again until I realise that I’ve actually been watching TED talks the whole day.
I curse myself for being an idiot. The client has trusted me and I can’t even string a couple of decent sentences together. Idiot!
These are the days when self doubt creeps up stealthily and I conclude that I’m not really a good copywriter after all. Then I shut down for the day and grab a… errr… cool, refreshing beverage, pondering whether I should have become a word-challenged pilot instead.
Another day dawns and the struggle continues, despite the looming deadline.
Then I stop working on the copy and start looking at the product or service I am writing for, just to see if there’s any inspiration hidden within the brief, e-mail conversations or materials.
Nothing. Zero. Zilch.
Finally it hits me. Maybe it isn’t me; maybe it’s the product or service that’s flawed in some way that my internal sensors aren’t being activated.
A weak product or service is the antidote to inspiration. Even the world’s best copywriter can’t turn a Proton into a Toyota in the eyes of the consumer.
If I can’t write a reasonably good piece of communication that promises some decent benefits to the consumer, perhaps the product or service needs fixing.
But of course, I can’t tell that to the client. Can I?