You can write your own copy – in fact, you must
I was at a networking meeting recently, and someone said: ‘Once you’ve written an online course, you can’t write the copy for the website. You must engage a professional copywriter.’
The group murmured assent and I sat silent because I write my own copy for my online courses and wouldn’t have it any other way.
I would encourage you to write your own copy too, then seek feedback from friends and colleagues and have it professionally proofread. Or you could engage a copywriter to give you feedback and write the final draft.
But you must write the first draft. No one knows your business as well as you do.
Your websites and marketing material must sound like ‘you’
Your copy needs to sound as if you’re talking directly to your potential customer or client in your own voice. I’m sure we’ve all been tempted to copy a bit from someone else’s website, then change a word or two to make it seem like our own. No matter how much you tweak it to avoid plagiarism, it never sounds right.
Get the structure right first
Of course, there are some basics that you need to get right, and apart from thinking about your audience, which is a requirement for all writing, you need to think about the structure.
What are the key messages you want your readers to take away, and what action do you want them to take?
I’ve recently been helping a relative write a brochure for his business, and his first draft was just a brain dump with information all over the place. The first thing I did was try and work out what he was saying and then I rearranged his text under different headings.
Just sorting out the structure, identified where he needed to write more and what areas he should prune. He worked with the structure I’d given him and in the next edit, I was able to give him more detailed feedback on his sentences and words.
The final copy was clear, conversational and well written – in his words and voice, not mine.
Use headings to help people skim-read
My relative’s original copy had no headings, and headings are essential for writing brochures and web copy. Not everyone will read every word from start to finish and headings make it easy for people to skim-read to find the sections that interest them the most.
Writing headings doesn’t come naturally to me, so I always edit them separately to see if I can improve them and make them better for search engines in online copy.
Use bullet points appropriately
My relative had a debate with his partner about the use of bullet points. She wanted to reduce their brochure to a few bullet points and use striking images to catch attention.
While I agree images are important, a brochure or website entirely in bullet points seldom works because bullet points are not conversational enough to engage your readers.
Bullet points come into their own to back up information or outline steps in a process.
Ask ‘why?’ to dig out the benefits
If you want to be persuasive, a basic marketing technique is to write about benefits. You don’t have to get into slick marketing speak that could turn your readers off. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking yourself ‘why?’.
For instance, if a real estate agency prided themselves on helping present a house well, they could say:
We use our contacts to fix maintenance jobs.
They could make that a benefit by adding a few words:
We use our contacts to fix maintenance jobs so your house looks more attractive to buyers.
Or change the word order:
Make your house look more attractive to buyers by using our contacts to fix maintenance jobs.
Save yourself from yourself
I suggested at the beginning that you seek feedback on your writing. The person at the meeting who said ‘you can’t write your own copy’ has a point – sometimes you leave out important information because it seems too obvious to you to bother stating.
That’s why you need feedback.
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