This post has been contributed by Ian Calcutt of cutjargon.com
Looking through my recent work folders I was struck by how diverse the jobs were. But I also realised that copywriters can solve business problems, and here’s how:
Over the last few months I edited blog posts for small businesses, produced articles for tech start-ups, wrote a how-to guide for a piece of kitchenware, compiled YouTube descriptions for a medical media company and helped develop the editorial strategy for a financial institution so they could share knowledge in the workplace.
A varied mix, yes, but in each case I was assisting a client to solve a problem. One thing connected them: they all depended on how words were put together.
Words surround us, from the text on this website to the millions of other places online. In the offline world every printed medium relies on words (or “copy” as they call it in the trade) to carry its message, no matter how many images it has. The same goes for video. Even works of art need a title.
The internet has massively expanded the opportunities for anyone to develop a blog, invent an e-book or type out the content for their personal and business websites, but it doesn’t mean they can or should do it all themselves.
Using text to best effect
Unfortunately, a large number of organisations fail to use words to their advantage, missing out on chances to build their brand or boost customer numbers.
A bad piece of copy doesn’t just mean that it has spelling and grammatical errors, although they do work against you by making the material seem unpolished and less credible.
You might think that you can write well and, if you are the owner of a company, you’d be the best person to do that because you know your business better than anyone. It’s a fair point. However, you can be so close to your subject that you don’t know what to leave out, or you may mistakenly assume that the readers are as well informed as you.
Therefore, poorly written text could be anything that’s too long for its purpose, crammed with jargon that puts off the target audience or generally lacking in clarity. That brings us to the matter of money.
Seek a specialist
Hiring a professional writer will save you the hassle of creating your copy, and they should be good at it otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it for a living. Creating written work from scratch does take a reasonable amount of time. For businesses that operate in a very specialised field, it also takes a while for a writer to familiarise themselves with it. Look carefully, though, and you can find specialists in certain topics, such as education, science, leisure, law or health.
Finding the right ‘tone of voice’ for your company is another aspect in which copywriters often specialise. Every business is different and their target customers expect a particular style.
It helps to give writers as much information as possible up front. Not everyone is used to briefing writers, or other creative professionals such as designers. In this case the writer should go through a process to ask you certain questions about your products or services, what kind of people they are aimed at and what’s notable about the way your business works.
Having a fresh pair of eyes on this is crucial. Copy can easily become mere descriptions of features that fail to explain how your products actually help the customer. Copywriters will also be valuable collaborators, working with you to come up with ideas for new posts and pages on your website.
For firms on a limited budget, another option is to make a rough draft yourself. It might be little more than a list of loosely assembled notes but the writer can take this as a framework, re-edit and flesh it out into a finished piece. This cuts the overall time and cost of the work.
Go in-depth for bigger rewards
When publishing online, remember that Google is getting increasingly sophisticated at analysing the content of web pages. It now downgrades low quality copy that’s stuffed with keywords in an attempt to ‘game’ the SEO system and rank higher in search results.
In short, it’s not only human readers who are turned off by spammy writing. You can avoid search-engine penalties by having genuinely useful material such as in-depth articles written in a natural language style. These include long-form blog posts, how-to guides, white papers, case study reports and journalistic news features.
Raise your profile
It’s hard for small companies to fill their own blogs and devise marketing material. Perhaps English is not your first language and you don’t have the confidence to spot mistakes. Even if you’re a natural with words, time is always your enemy.
Professional writers have a love of language and the skills to find the best words for the job. They improve your profile by bringing clarity to what you publish about your work, whether it’s “hard sell” marketing (such as advertising) or “soft sell” (newsletters, for example). As experienced wordsmiths, copywriters get things done on deadline and help you avoid the common writing pitfalls.
The price will depend largely on how many years of experience the writer has and where they are based. Either way, it’s money well spent. There’s not much point investing in a visually stunning website, snazzy graphic design and bespoke photography if the words don’t support them or explain things successfully.
Here’s a final piece of advice on working with writers. They appreciate clients who understand what they want and devote a suitable budget. A straightforward one-off project is a way to get started, though ongoing assignments are beneficial for all concerned because the writer learns more about your company over the months.
In a worldwide web that’s swamped with content clutter, good writing stands out. Stories should have a great ‘hook’ to grab the reader’s attention; they will get to the point without irrelevant waffle and have a properly crafted structure that works well right to the end.
To find out more about how copywriters can solve business problems and how copywriting can help your organisation, contact Ian Calcutt at [email protected] or via the weblink below.
About the author:
Ian Calcutt is a Leicester-based freelance copywriter. He has a 20-year track record in media and tech journalism. Now, as creator of the recently launched Cut Jargon (www.cutjargon.com), his mission is to help companies by making written material that avoids geekspeak, business babble and other corporate claptrap.