56: Copywriting Hacks for People Who “Aren’t Good at Writing”
If there’s one common claim my clients make, it’s that they aren’t good at writing. Some will say flat out, “I’m not a good writer,” while others will admit that while they can do it for others, writing about themselves is impossible. Today I’m sharing 8 hacks that will help anyone get past the blank page.
On this episode, I share:
The differences between academic writing and marketing writing,
Lessons I used with my career coaching clients that apply to copywriting,
Tips for formatting text for ease of on-screen reading, and
How to make your written communication sound less stodgy.
WRITING ABOUT YOURSELF
If you’ve listened to at least a few of these podcast episodes, you know that I like to run my business on proof. I’m the type of person that feels like if I can point to something—if I can see it with my own eyes or hear it with my own ears—it’s possible for me.
That translates to my marketing and messaging as well. I’ve never been someone who can just wing it. I believe in building a strategy and letting that guide me to what I should be saying if I want to be 1) understood and 2) truly heard.
If there’s one common thread with my clients, it’s that they don’t feel like they’re good at writing for themselves. Some will say flat out, “I’m not a good writer,” while others will simply admit that while they can write for others, there’s a block when it comes to writing for their business.
Today I’m sharing 8 hacks that will make anyone feel like they can write.
My hope is that you can use these the next time you’re staring at a blank page, willing the words to flow from your brain to your fingers.
ACADEMIC WRITING IS DIFFERENT THAN MARKETING WRITING
Writing to sell is not the same writing as we were taught in school. I should know. After over 20 years of formal schooling myself, I started my business and found blogging to be the hardest thing ever.
I’m a good writer. Why is this so hard?
It’s because academic writing is much different than marketing writing.
You often don’t need a beginning, middle, and end. And if you include an executive summary, you’ve already lost your audience.
This means we have to unlearn a lot of the habits we were taught about how to write well to learn how to write effectively for business.
I want you to forget everything you think you need to be to sound more professional, less quirky, and different from the competition.
You don’t need a fancy formula. You just need a little oomph to begin.
HACK 1: STEP AWAY FROM THE SCREEN
When I worked as a consultant for nonprofits, I was often tasked with developing slides that not only conveyed the takeaways from our research, but also presented these takeaways in a visual way that wasn’t distracting.
I would find it so difficult to just get started. I would be worried about the words and the design at the same time, which made it impossible to focus on one thing.
Throw some training I learned something that changed my life—the best way to get started was with pen and paper, not worried at all about formatting, staying laser focused on the message.
That’s what I’m recommending to you: start with a brain dump. This could look like a few different things.
You could get out a pen and paper and start writing down everything that comes to mind. This is what I do with this podcast. Once I have a topic I want to share, I get everything out of my head about said topic. I don’t worry about organizing it or making it into a cohesive script. That comes later.
But maybe even that proves difficult for you. If so, I want you to open your voice recorder on your phone and start talking. Experience has proven that some of us can more easily talk about something than write it. Again, don’t worry about editing yourself. You can listen later and pull out the highlights.
HACK 2: IGNORE THE COMPETITION
As we’re writing, it’s easy to wonder, “How are others talking about this?”
Before long, you’re on a competitor’s site. You might align with how they talk about their brand and offers, but what you might not realize is how influenced you now are with how you want to talk about your own.
You know I strongly recommend having a good handle on who your audience is comparing you to. But I don’t want you to follow them or continue to use them as a barometer for your messaging.
If you do so, you’re never going to be able to have a clearly articulated point of view or fresh message.
When it comes to writing, stick to your own intuition and write from your perspective and yours alone.
HACK 3: USE FIRST PERSON
Everything you put out should be coming from a person, delivered to a person. Don’t speak in third person.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Instead of saying: “Every time you book with us, we make a donation to make your purchase carbon neutral. This means you don’t have to choose between leaving the Earth a better place and seeing it with your own eyes.”
I often read websites that sound like this: “Sky-high Airways is committed to protecting the earth. For every ticket booked with Sky-high , a carbon neutral donation is made.”
It’s not terrible, but it definitely doesn’t make the customer feel like the hero. It places the company as the hero. And, to be honest, it feels like standard corporate speak.
HACK 4: WRITE LIKE YOU SPEAK
One of the benefits of starting with a voice recording, is you can hear for yourself what it sounds like when you’re speaking your message.
Something weird happens when we translate our ideas from our brain to the screen. What makes sense in our head tends to end up come out rigid and too polished.
I blame some of that on how we were taught to write.
When you’re writing marketing copy, sentences can be 3 words. They can be 2 words. Actually, you can have a whole sentence in one word. Right? (See what I did there?)
This also means you can start sentences with “but” or “and.”
Make your sentences short to match the intention and rhythm of natural conversation. That will make it easier to read and digest.
And if you start to find yourself trying to be overly creative, just remember, clear over clever every single time.
HACK 5: CUT THE JARGON
Before I explain this hack, I want to start by recognizing this: you are an expert. And simply due to that fact, you speak differently the way your customers do.
We all use words that are specific to our industry. And some we just use to sound more intelligent. Here are some examples:
Strategic innovation for change makers.
It all begins with a paradigm shift.
We leverage cutting edge solutions based on industry best practice that take our engagements to the next level.
For some reason, speaking this way has become standard practice.
Here is the question I’ll ask you. Because ultimately, you’ve got a choice.
Do you want to sound smart or do you want to be understood?
The Flesch-Kincaid grade level test indicates how difficult written English is to understand. You want to aim for somewhere between a sixth and eighth grade reading level with your writing.
The Wall Street Journal and NY Times average between an 8-10.
But most business communications are at a level 12 and beyond. The test only scores to a 12, so you can imagine why this is troublesome.
The goal with your marketing writing is to engage and stimulate interest, not to impress. They always say if you confuse, you’ll lose.
Look at what you’ve got on paper at this point. Can you make your sentences shorter? Can you get to the point more clearly and quicker? If yes, don’t hesitate to do that every time.
HACK 6: MOVE FROM “WHAT” TO “SO WHAT”
I’m going to have an entire episode dedicated to this topic, but for now know this: people aren’t concerned with what you do.
I know, I know, you’re going to fight me on this one.
But they’re really not. They are about why it matters to them.
A lot of written communication I see focuses on the what. Back when I was career coach, one of the common mistakes I saw on resumes was that they were long lists of tasks performed. But employers don’t care as much about the fact that you managed social media. They want to know what the impact of that was.
- Did you create more engagement?
- Did you reach new audiences?
- Did you raise more money?
After every point you’ve written, ask yourself, “so what?”
Getting yourself in this practice will train your brain to remember to articulate what your service or product matters to your audience. Because that’s how they’re making their purchasing decisions.
There’s too much noise for us to pay attention to things that we don’t think will benefit us.
It’s all about relevancy.
HACK 7: BREAK IT UP
While these hacks aren’t necessarily listed in the order you have to take, if you have followed to this point you should have a solid draft on screen.
Chances are you have some long paragraphs. If so, now is the time to break them up.
Online reading these days is more like scanning. You have to make it as easy as possible for your audience to scan your information.
Paragraphs should be no more than 2-3 sentences.
Make use of headers that draw attention to main points.
And use bold and italics to emphasize text.
All of these tips will help your audience understand the importance of your message and take the time to absorb it.
HACK 8: LEAD THEM SOMEWHERE
The last hack I have for you is one we take for granted.
If you’re writing for your business, you must have a purpose. we never write just to write.
I want you to make it explicitly clear for your audience what you want them to do after they’ve read your content.
- Do you want them to read another blog post?
- Do you want them to schedule a consult call?
- Do you want them to find you on social media?
Whatever action you desire, you’ve got to let your audience know what to do next.
If you don’t, they’ll move on.
FACING THE BLANK PAGE
After listening today, I dare you to say you’re not a good writer. You probably just haven’t been equipped with the right training for the type of writing you want to do.
There might still be the chance that you don’t enjoy this type of writing and I get that.
I’m a bit allergic to tech and while I can feel my way around, it’s not the best use of my time. So I hire out when I need to, because I recognize not only the time but also the energy suck that can happen when I try to do this myself.
If you try out these tips and still prefer not to do it yourself, please reach out to me.
This is my zone of genius and I love pulling messages out of the exquisite brains of my clients and transforming them into words just the way they imagine.
If you’re interested in working with me, please schedule a consultation. If you’d rather set up a strategy call to build a plan for your copy and content, I’m available for that as well. It might just be the meeting you need to get unstuck.
Thanks for listening in and I hope these tips help you move from self-doubt to self-expression with a whole lot less anxiety.