Mar 152007

Just a quick post today — it’s my better half’s birthday and my keyboard time is being rationed.

So, you want to write your own business or advertising copy…? My advice, perhaps unsurprisingly, is don’t. Hire a professional copywriter instead. It may cost a bit more up front, but you’ll get much better end results.

That said, if you can’t afford to hire a pro, or just want to have a crack at it yourself, here are a couple of links to help you on your way.

Copywriting for non-writers — some useful hints and tips from on writing more effective copy

Writing for the web —’s guide to how users read on the web, and tips on how to write for them

That’s all for now. I’ll post a few more useful links, and some of my own hints and tips here soon. Best of luck with your next writing project… and remember, if it all goes belly-up you can always drop me a line….

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Mar 082007

When you approach a new writing project how do you go about it?

For me it all depends on the project. If it’s a piece of fiction I find the best way for me is to get on and write it — let it evolve naturally. I’ve never been a great believer in planning my creative writing. Back in school when writing fictional stories in English class they asked us to provide a plan along with our finished work. I always struggled with this, and usually just wrote the piece and then mocked up a plan after the fact. Then I approached the head of English about it. He agreed that, given the standard of work I was submitting without planning, that I could forgo the sham of writing out a mock-plan and just concentrate on my writing. It’s always been that way for me when it comes to writing. Some writers plan meticulously before writing a word. Others just sit down and start typing. Commercial writing projects are a bit different — and here I find my background in IT project management useful. On commercial projects you have to:

  • Clearly define the project’s scope and agree it with your client in writing ahead of time.
  • Identify any assumptions that are inherent in the project and make them clear to the client
  • Estimate the cost/effort involved to deliver the project
  • Agree a timeframe for delivery of various components (first draft, revisions, etc.)
  • Track and communicate progress to the client

And all of this before you write a single word. So management skills are important when it comes to organising all the stuff around the writing, but when it comes to the writing itself I still don’t find planning very helpful. Once I’ve done my research and know my subject I tend to just sit down and write. Managing the process just seems to stifle my creativity and makes my copy less effective. It sounds crazy, but that’s just the way it works for me. Very occasionally I’ll draft out an outline to work from, but more often than not I just give my subconscious free reign to organise the information as I write, always keeping in mind the target audience the work is intended for and the ultimate goal of my client. I guess that’s what’s important at the end of the day is to find what works best for you and your clients, whatever that may be. That’s one of the exciting things about writing: the relationship between every writer and a blank page is different. We all approach a piece of writing differently, and given the same brief we’d all come up with something completely different. In this game you have to find your own way of doing things — no matter what the “experts” and “gurus” might say!

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Feb 072007

What do you do when you know a client is wrong?

Do you insist on doing things your way… which you know will yield better results for the client in the long run?

Do you shut up and follow the “customer’s always right” doctrine, suppressing your instincts?

It’s a tricky one!

I’ve been working on a brochure design and copy package for a small business client, and crafted copy that was designed to draw in the target audience (business executives and top HR Management), engage with them, sell the benefits and prompt them to action.

Yesterday I had a meeting with the client who said they wanted the copy to be “less conversational”, get rid of the words “you” and “your” throughout the copy, and generally make it more direct. I politely pointed out the wisdom of making a personal connection with the reader, pushing their emotional triggers to compel them to take action… but the client was insistent. They hadn’t seen anything like I’d delivered in this business before (… but isn’t that what they’d hired me for?).
They proceeded to practically dictate the content to me and, in my mind at least, destroy the effectiveness of the piece in question. It became merely a serial statement of facts: direct to the point of being blunt, dry and austere! I wondered why they’d bothered to hire a professional writer at all.

At the end of the day, after pointing out that I thought it was less effective, I gave them what they wanted. It’s their baby after all, and they’re paying for it.

It’s a shame, as it would have made a great addition to the portfolio — now the only portfolio it will ever see is the recycling receptacle beneath my desk.

The experience highlighted the importance of profiling your clients, and of targeting the ones who either already work with professional writers on a regular basis and appreciate the benefits you bring to the table, or who you know will see the value in what you offer without having to negotiate a protracted learning curve.Oh well — I guess you can’t win them all!



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