8 Copywriting Tips that Make Your Life Easier
Has someone ever asked you for a bio? Or maybe you had to create one for your website or social media page. Total pain, amirite? One of my copywriting tips for small business owners makes this the most straightforward assignment ever.
The secret is, having key messages. Key messages are the facts about you and your business that you want your audience to know and remember.
Key messages are like Lego. You can build whatever you want if you have the bricks. Write your key messages once, and you can break off the bits you need, mix and match, and reassemble them repeatedly. Whether you’re creating a website, writing captions for your social media, or writing product descriptions, most of the work will be done if you have key messages. So HOW exactly do you write key messages? I’m glad you asked because I’m going to tell you.
READ THIS LATER: If you don’t have time to read this article right now, you can download the PDF version to your phone or computer and read it when you have time later.
The biggest barrier to having key messages for most small business owners is actually sitting down and writing. You need to book two sessions in your calendar of about 2-3 hours each. Remember, you’ll get your time back by saving time in the future. Something else to remember after you schedule your writing session: you have to keep the appointment! If the task doesn’t seem like fun to you, it’s an easy one to put off forever. Reminds me of my favourite New York Times comic of all time:
2- Think Like Your Audience
What makes that comic so great is the writing. (No offence to the artist, Bob Mankoff, or his drawing skills!)
Mankoff took something we can all relate to, trying to manage our calendars, and through a cute take on the usual question we ask in this situation, expresses how we may or may not feel about some of our own meetings.
In other words, the comic is relatable. Mankoff put himself in the mind of his audience.
Ask yourself, “What do I want the audience to do?” and write whatever will make them do it.
For instance, I wanted you to read this blog, so I made sure the headline promised you a way to make your life easier because I don’t know a single small business owner who wouldn’t want to make their life easier.
3- Craft a good headline
You know how if you’re planning a party, you instinctively put food and
drink as the priority over, say, decorations? Treat your headline, subject line or first line like it’s the main course and the house wine. If you don’t have a good line to catch people’s interest, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your message is; no one will read it.
4- Help people understand
You want your key messages to answer all of your audience’s questions. Take a minute to brainstorm the questions you commonly get asked and what you wish people knew about what you do. Then, craft your answer to these questions.
5- Keep it short
My writing instructor in broadcasting school used to say, “short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.”
That is perhaps an oversimplification, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago when I discussed the benefit of replacing boring words with interesting words. However, I think it’s a great guiding principle, especially the last two.
Short sentences are better than long or inverted sentences. Here’s an example:
|Inverted (not good)||Having completed her master of science degree in biomechanics, Jasmine Lee went on to found her robotics firm, called Jump, in 2016.|
|Compound Complex (less than ideal)||Jasmine Lee got a master’s degree in biomechanics before going on to found her robotics firm, which is called Jump, in 2016.|
|Complex (okay)||Jasmine Lee got a master’s degree in biomechanics and went on to found her robotics firm Jump in 2016.|
|Short (best)||Jasmine Lee has a master’s degree in biomechanics. She founded Jump Robotics in 2016.|
Every sentence doesn’t have to be short. That would read like an instruction manual for modular furniture.
However, l recommend using three simple subject-verb-object sentences for every complex sentence.
6- Don’t Write and Edit at the Same Time
Paul Devries said, “Write drunk, edit sober” in 1964. The aphorism has been wrongly attributed to Hemingway and Faulkner but still applies.
(Bonus copywriting tip: double-check quote attributes before you post them. As Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but it’s probably a bad idea to accidentally use a quote by Stalin because you didn’t Google it first.”)
Back to writing drunk, I don’t mean this literally. I mean, change your mindset between writing and editing. Write with abandon. Just dump all your thoughts on the page. Don’t worry about grammar yet. Don’t go back and read it yet. Author Anne Lamott calls this your SFD (Shitty First Draft). Once you have your SFD down you can go back and edit, preferably in a different session.
7- Clear over clever
If you enjoy being creative, it can be tempting to litter your writing with plays on words and subtle jokes. To keep your reader in suspense and reveal something important at the end.
Your writing can contain these elements, but not until you’re sure your readers have all their questions answered.
The best way to ensure you are being clear over clever is to use the BLUF method. BLUF sounds for Bottom Line Up Front. Remember high school English? No, me neither. But I have a vague recollection of my teacher (Rest in peace, Mrs. Berry) saying you need to start an essay by telling people what you’re going to be telling them.
Copywriting is no different. Put the whole point of each message right up front. Your audience will thank you.
8- Remember: people aren’t buying what you sell. They’re buying how what you sell makes them feel.
That means you need to think about how your audience wants to feel. Then, emphasize the parts of your business that help them achieve that feeling in your writing. Make sure that emotion is captured in your words.
So much of copywriting is about knowing when to follow the rules and how to break them for effect. That can’t really be taught, but it can be developed with practice. Reading other people’s writing is the best way to get a sense of how to string words together—screencap good copy when you see it. Of course, if this all seems like a ton of work you don’t have time for, you can always hire a pro copywriter.