Charging per word doesn’t add up

October 19, 2021 § 2 Comments

I still have copywriting enquiries asking me how much I charge per word. That’s a bit like asking a builder how much they charge per brick!

The fact is you’re not actually paying for a number of words, you’re paying for a solution. Just like you want your builder to solve a problem, never mind how many bricks it takes.

Wordcount is one element I take into consideration when I quote for a job – but only one. There are many factors a copywriter needs to bear in mind when they price up a job and time is a big one. Many people imagine that proofreading a 1,000-word ebook would be cheaper than proofreading a 10,000-word ebook. But it’s not necessarily the case that the smaller book is going to take less time. I’ve worked on some shockingly-written ebooks which haven’t needed proofreading so much as rewriting. It’s not the number of words from the client that’s the issue but the quality of the client’s writing in that example.

When you hire a copywriter you don’t just want some words written, you want the right words written – words that are going to make an impact with the audience you want to reach. That takes time.

Even while I’m writing this blog, I’m not thinking about writing around 500 words. I’m thinking about how to persuade those that think copywriting is just about the number of words you write that it’s actually much more than that.

Copywriting is also about proofing, checking, rewriting, jiggling text around for the best sentence flow until you, the WRITER, knows that you, the READER, would be persuaded and motivated by the words you’ve written. That’s the content test I use: what difference would the words I’ve just written make to me? And planning that sort of writing takes time.

You wouldn’t dream of contacting a solicitor and suggesting that you don’t want to pay because you’ve only got a quick query. (And if you did you wouldn’t get very far.) But somehow recognising copywriting as a professional service is a step too far for some people.

Getting your message over in nine words and not 90 is a tough discipline. It’s time-consuming.

If you have any doubt about that, try this exercise: Finish the following sentence so you have just nine words in total: “We’re different because…… ”

Let me know in the comment box what you came up with.

You have 8 seconds to catch me!

October 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

Your website copy needs to put up a good fight for my attention.

If your website copy hasn’t got my interest in 8 seconds, I’ll be off. It could be and, is most likely to be, your competitor’s copy I’ll be reading next and if they do a better job, I’ll give them more of my time.

It’s not just me who has the attention span of a flea. Data collected for online reading patterns shows that we’re all the same – your potential customers included.

Diddle around or make your copy a hard read and you lose a reader AND the chance of a sale.

Your website copy needs to:

  1. Get to the point. Visitors haven’t got time to read details like how long your business has been going before they find out what exactly it is you offer.
  2. Explain what you can do for them. Don’t bother to talk about how wonderful you think you are. Of course you think that.
  3. Be chatty, friendly and engage visitors. My blog post Let’s get chatty with the written word explains what you need to know about using the right language. Whatever your product or service is, people will seek out the techy stuff if they need to know it. Most don’t so won’t. They’re looking for a solution and just want to know if you have it.
  4. Be written so that a 12-year-old would be able to understand it. Successful web copy is usually pitched at the reading age of a 12-13-year-old. People haven’t got time to work out precisely what your copy means. You either tell them straight or they move on.
  5. Say it succinctly. Of course when you’ve hooked a reader they’ll want to make sure you know what you’re talking about and will have a look around your website for more information, maybe some customer testimonials and possibly case studies involving past work. So there is a place for lengthy copy but you’ve got to get them interested first. Your home page, the logical order of your site and the clarity of your words need to get their attention straightaway so that you can reel them in.
  6. Get it right. Nothing, nothing. nothing switches off reader interest more quickly than a mistake – in spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence flow. Visitors will be on and off a badly written page before you can say “Whoops!” And there’s no room for excuses like “anyone visiting the site will know what we mean.” Make errors on your website, aka your calling card and you’ll get prospective customers wondering where else you’ll be happy to make mistakes.

Good design has a big part to play in the success of a website and will hopefully attract attention in the first place. But the right words will make sure the content keeps that attention. You only have 8 seconds to persuade a potential customer that your website is the one they’ve been looking for. Choose your words wisely.

Let’s get chatty with the written word

October 11, 2021 § Leave a comment

The best way of getting copy read is to make it an easy read – and to make it FRIENDLY.

If you and I had a conversation about your product or service, we’d chat about it. You wouldn’t talk like a text book because you know I’d switch off pretty quickly. You’d concentrate on trying to ENGAGE me and interest me and get on with me.

However…put the same conversation into the written word and something strange tends to happen.

Instead of trying to be the reader’s friend – as you absolutely would if you were standing face-to-face with them – the written copy suddenly starts trying to impress them. We’re still talking about the same product/service but instead of chatting away, the written copy uses big words and formal language.

I’m not absolutely sure why this happens and I know I’m not alone at favouring the chatty/friendly approach because many successful companies have tone-of-voice style guides which insist that all copy should follow conversational lines.

For those companies who use posh language, perhaps it’s because they feel that conversational-type writing dumbs down their offering. Written language is a permanent record and possibly companies feel they can’t afford to make their offer seem light-hearted. In my opinion, they can’t afford for the copy NOT to seem relaxed and the company, approachable.

There’s no way you’d be able to get round to have a chat with all your prospective customers. You can get the written word to many of them. Be chatty, be friendly, put yourself in a position to make more sales.

Let’s talk: the all-purpose CV

September 15, 2021 § Leave a comment

There are many reasons you may need a CV right now and many reasons that the one you usually send out is not quite right.

Chances are, you may be applying for a job role that hasn’t ever featured on your CV before. You won’t be the first to decide to (or have been forced to) change track as far as your career is concerned. There are pilots stacking shelves in supermarkets so you won’t be alone in having to set sights a little lower than usual.

There are single job vacancies attracting hundreds of applications and what we’ve got to do is get your CV at the top of the shortlist. What makes it stand up to the competition and, most importantly, stand out from the competition?

Are there any typos? (Please don’t rely on a spellcheck. The spellcheck says yes to ‘They’re over there eating their picnic’ but also yes to ‘Their over they’re eating there picnic.’)

Free CV writing sites can churn out exactly the same reports on each CV it receives (I know that because I uploaded mine and my son’s and received the same comments for both) so you can’t rely on those.

Whoops – bad punctuation can change the whole meaning of a sentence

Grammar…I can put that right for you.

But something you probably haven’t considered is reordering the information in your CV so that it becomes an all-purpose document about YOU that can be used for most job vacancies and APPLY to most job vacancies. The specifics can be left to your cover letter.

Oh, the joy of having a CV that you can send over to a batch of vacancies instead of reordering it for each one or, worse, bypassing some jobs you KNOW you could do because your CV doesn’t punch out your strengths for the role and you don’t have time to edit it.

Call me, Julie, on 07946 450708 and let’s talk .

Let’s talk: online shopping

July 26, 2021 § Leave a comment

Online shopping is convenient. That’s the positive dealt with.

I get that it can be a lifeline for elderly people (particularly those who struggle to walk loads, drive or carry heavy bags) – ironically, though, the elderly are the age group least likely to use the internet.

So, what’s my issue with online shopping? There are a few…

  • Pictures can be deceiving. Wonderful photographs show the product in its best light but when you receive the item you realise it’s nowhere near as wonderful as the image made it look. (Think estate agent photos.)
  • Size matters – a lot. Most people in their online shopping career have received something that was bigger – or smaller – than they imagined it would be. That’s not the fault of the retailer. They’re good at making sure the dimensions or weight are all there in the product description. The customer can be bad at checking those details however.
  • It feels or smells wrong. However good the product description, words can’t tell you what other senses can and only when you shop online do you realise the touchy-feely side of shopping makes a big contribution to your decision to buy or not buy.
  • Extra cost. You pay for delivery (rightly so, of course) so convenience comes at a price.
  • Deliveries not coming on time. Only the other day my daughter didn’t receive an order of shoes and a bag she’d ordered to complete an outfit for a wedding she was attending. (I would never buy shoes online but they’re only one of a long list so I won’t go into that.)

Every one of the above criticisms can’t be thrown at traditional shopping where you see it, touch it, smell it, decide not to buy if it’s too big/small and walk away with it in your hand just seconds after paying for it. Bliss.

To hold or not to hold on?

March 4, 2021 § Leave a comment

We live in times when it’s rare to phone a company and speak to a person – and if you finally get through to someone it’s because you’ve been prepared to hold for ages and ages.

So when we make a call and it seems hopeful that if we hold on we might, eventually, speak to a human we’re then faced with the dilemma: are there enough hours in our life to do that?

I called my bank yesterday about a new debit card they’d sent out. Got through straight away – to a message which told me that their teams were very busy helping customers with the most urgent queries or in ‘vulnerable situations’ and telling me I should only continue to hold if my query was urgent. I thought it was urgent but I wasn’t in a vulnerable situation so went for the option of leaving my number so they could call me back. To be fair, they did and within an hour at that so, all in all, not a bad experience.

A bit later I had to call my doctor’s surgery whose operators were also very busy. The answer message told me, over and over (in the most boring of voices), that the surgery was operating a full triage service and it might be quicker for me if I completed an online form. I didn’t want to see a doctor, didn’t need their triage service, so had to hang on until a ratty receptionist answered and gave me a minute of her precious time. Ok, they may have to put up with timewasters but I don’t think I was one of them.

Thames Water was also busy this morning (busier than normal, according to the message) and I had to press button one, then button two, then button one again, with a message all the while telling me that I would probably find the answer to my query on their website (which I had visited before having to call because I couldn’t find the answer.) Finally I was put on hold to actually speak to someone but soon hung up because the wait was being made worse by devil hold music!

In the past when people have moaned to me about their telephone experiences, one of the top criticisms has been the message which tells you where you are in the queue. I don’t mind that because I enjoy the progress of moving from number 10 to number eight and so on. (Agreed, getting from number two to number one always seems to be the longest wait.)

I’m very definite on where I am in the hold music debate: I can’t stand it and appreciate the holding systems which allow you to choose whether you want the music or not: silence for me every time.

Then, of course, there are companies which outsource their call centres to other countries. I don’t like this calling experience even though it means I’m speaking to a real person. I know this is a huge generalisation but often either I don’t understand all that they’re saying or they don’t understand exactly what I’m saying. It takes the shine off the ‘personal touch’ experience.

Is it that companies don’t value the telephone call anymore so they feel they can cut costs, slash their call handling team and continually direct customers and potential customers to their website.

It’s come to something when even cold calls take the form of automated messages – I get quite a few of those.

Get to the point if you want to be heard!

January 15, 2021 § Leave a comment

My husband’s broken back isn’t mending well and he needs to see the orthopaedic consultant again because months after the injury he sometimes can’t walk – at all.

That’s it: the story in a sentence.

Anything else I tell you is detail that you may not need or want to know. It will almost certainly detract from the ‘story’ which is the main issue here. We can get to extra information when I know I’ve got your attention.

The physio who referred him back to hospital clearly didn’t know that trick. He’s not a writer, true, but I would have thought he’d know how to prioritise cases. Face-to-face, he told my OH that it was important he got an appointment as soon as possible because seizing up wasn’t what the back injury should be doing now.

That’s what he SAID but what he WROTE was long and dreary with the most important point dangling at the end of the letter.

It’s a salutary lesson for anyone in any kind of business:

  1. Put the most important point first.
  2. Use language you’d use if you were talking to somebody.

That’s it! Get to the point if you want to be heard.

Your copy’s a reflection of your company. Make sure it does you credit.

October 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

Your copy is a reflection of your company and how you work.

If your website is littered with mistakes, potential customers will worry that your work is slapdash too.

The same goes for anything else you use to spread awareness of your company – sales letters, social media posts, ad campaigns. It’s vital to iron out any problems with punctuation, spelling and typos.

People will judge you on your copy, make sure it does you credit.

Why write ‘your’ when you mean you’re…

October 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

Why would you do that! Why would you write your when you mean you’re? It’s a grammatical crime and it’s not too difficult a rule of the written language to get right – so get it right!!

Your = belonging to you. You’re = contraction of you are. I’m pretty sure most people know that. I’m aware that a lot of people get it wrong, though. Why? Stuff like that matters to your reputation.

Many of the potential customers of a company will have spent the seconds it takes to learn the difference between the two spellings. So imagine what they feel when they see a company telling customers: ‘Your welcome’.

Your/you’re is a particular bugbear of mine – as is: to, too and two. It annoys me when people get them wrong because we’re hardly talking the subtleties of the written language here. They are regular, everyday words that you can’t be forgiven for getting wrong.

Also, for good measure, I’ll throw in there, they’re and their. ‘Over there, they’re looking at their shopping.’ The words have different meanings, different spellings but just happen to sound the same…

If people see you making sloppy mistakes in your copy, they’ll straight away wonder what sloppy mistakes you make in your business. It’s as simple as that (and not its as simple as that!)

Why a copywriter doesn’t need a copyeditor

October 7, 2020 § Leave a comment

Take a break and come back to your work later

I tell people time and time again that the worst person to read and check copy for mistakes is the person who wrote it. It’s good advice and I’ll always stand by it.

However it does beg the question that if I’m writing copy – one of several services I offer – who checks it for me?

The quick answer is: nobody.

So do I employ the advice I’m happy to hand out? Honestly…no.

There are reasons for that though

Number One: I wrote this blog the day before I posted it! As random as that sounds, it plays a big part in getting words right. It’s an absolute fact that, as you write, you tend to read what you think you’ve written. However if you take a break and revisit the words an hour or a day later, you’ll spot errors you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Today I didn’t see mistakes in the blog but edited sentences that I realised were unnecessarily long.

Number Two: Writing is my job. It may sound obvious but, of course, it’s true. While you may have spent years training to be, for example, a counsellor, I spent years training to be a journalist and many more years honing my skills to edit other people’s work. The written word, grammar and punctuation is what I’m an expert on. Using the counsellor example again, I may be able to dish out advice but there’s no way I could ask for payment for it in the same way a trained counsellor could.

Number Three: I know (among other stuff!) to check little words. The likes of ‘in/it/is/if/on/has/had’ are some of the tiddlers that often get away. They’ll pass a spellcheck because they’re spelt correctly – it’s up to you to make sure they’re used correctly.

If you’re 18 and starting out you could have a go at Number Two. More helpful to more people will be Number One. Whatever stage of your career you’re at, Number Three is essential.