How to be your own copywriter

Copywriting on a blackboardThe carpet of my office is covered in paperwork. It’s going down to the wire again this year. The deadline for tax returns is looming.

No more. This is the last time I wrestle with receipts. New year, new approach. In future, everything will be handed over to an accountant. It's time to start outsourcing some aspects of the business.

Inevitably, when you run your own business you tend to take on the roles of accountant, financial advisor, marketing manager and IT support when you’re starting up. Now, I want to hand over as many of these jobs as I can to people who know their stuff, so I can get on with writing. Although I plan to carry on with my own sales and marketing, it’s time to give the other tasks to those with experience in these matters.

In an ideal world, accountants do tax returns and copywriters write.

But it’s not an ideal world and perhaps for reasons of economy you‘re faced with the prospect of handling your organisation's copywriting. Or maybe you want to do your own writing and you’re looking forward to the challenge. Either way, here are some pointers to help you on your way.

  • Number 1 is to keep it simple. Use plain English and don’t feel you have to dress it up or use obscure words.
  • Don’t expect your text to be perfect first-time round. Just get everything down on paper and tidy it up later.
  • Once you’re happy with your first draft, put it to one side and let it stew for a while. Give it at least 24 hours, and then you’ll be able to correct and improve with a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Grammar is important – mistakes discredit your message. If you need some help in this area I recommend the following books: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, The Penguin Writer’s Manual by Martin Manser and Stephen Curtis.
  • Use language that flows. Read your text out loud; if you stumble over certain words go back and rewrite those sentences or paragraphs.
  • Make your descriptions as accurate as possible. Over familiarity with your product or service can sometimes blind you when it comes to writing a detailed description for your clients. Look at it through their eyes.
  • To avoid assuming knowledge on the part of your reader, get someone outside of your business to read your work. Then ask them to explain to you what they’ve just read. You'll soon spot any gaps in your communications.
  • Avoid non-committal language. If it sounds to you as though you’re not convinced by what you’re saying, your readers are not going to be either.
  • Review points that sound weak and think of ways to reassure your readers on areas that may give them cause for concern.
  • Tone of voice matters. The style you adopt should be appropriate for your type of business. Read more on this here.

This may sound a rather torturous process, but there are benefits to doing your own copywriting. Thinking about the message you want to convey to your customers helps you to put yourself in their shoes. You may also find it opens your mind to new ideas and gives you fresh insights into your business.

Finally, good luck and have fun!

And feel free to start sentences with conjunctions such as and or but – it’s allowed.

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