Copywriting Boot Camp from an experienced web copywriter.

Right you copywriting lot, pin your ears back and hush up at the back! (I warn you now; act out in class and you’ll discover that I’m lethally accurate with high-speed, chalk-based projectiles flung with force at your noggins, you little monsters…)

Over the next few weeks you’re going to get pearls of editorial wisdom aimed at new web copywriters and even those that have been around the block a bit, all spouted by some jaded old hack who’s been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive, sonny-Jim, and has forgotten more than you’ll ever actually know. Or something like that, anyway.

In fact, what you’re going to get in our new weekly editorial blog is some sound, solid and very practical advice on copywriting from a consummate professional with years of experience.

Lesson number one – motivation.

Motivation? Wait, seriously? Where’s all the stuff about Oxford commas, to hyphenate or not to hyphenate, that is the question, and all that other technical stuff that every web copywriter wants to know?

Be patient .That’s all coming, trust me. By the time I’ve finished explaining the finer points of morphosyntax, gone into agonising detail about the indefinite article or whether you really can trust that swine Paperclip icon to help you write a letter, you’ll be begging me to get back to the ‘should I wear PJs when working from home, or should I put real clothes on just in case someone calls round?’ conundrum.

So I promise you, we’ll get to all that technical stuff later. First, let’s look at how to stay motivated enough to be able to write sparkling web copy when you’re really, really not interested in the subject. At all. So here’s the secret…are you ready for this?

It’s a job.

I know, you were expecting more, weren’t you? But if you’re a web copywriter then your job is to write copy. The clue’s in the title. Unfortunately though, the job description doesn’t specify exactly what copy you end up writing. That, I’m afraid, is down to your clients.

Just like cleaning the roads, working in an office, farming, engineering or brain surgery, it’s simply a job. And that means you don’t get to dictate what that job entails, it tells you. In our profession the customer is your main focus (except when they argue about hanging apostrophes, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. See what I did there?). So the motivation to write that dull, dull, dull article about insurance – and make it interesting, useful and engaging to the end user is several-fold:

  • That’s what the customer has asked you to do so, by default, that’s probably what they actually want
  • That’s what you’re being paid to do
  • Do you really want to tell a paying client that you don’t fancy doing their article about insurance and would it be okay if you wrote about your visit to the Canary Islands instead? (hint: it’s really not okay)
  • You’re a professional with a reputation to maintain/build/establish (delete as applicable)
  • That’s what you’re being paid to do (yes, I know that’s already up there, but you need to appreciate the fact that this is a paying gig, just like any other occupation).

When you’re staring bleary-eyed at a computer screen on a Monday morning, it can be difficult to start channelling your inner Byron and wax lyrical about a topic that really doesn’t light your creative flame. However, from a professional point of view you are going to have to find that spark of passion and fan it, Bear Grylls’ like, into a raging inferno of literary artistry.

Kes’ tips for finding your copywriting motivation

  • Find a focal point to concentrate on, and then build the piece around that central tenet
  • Approach the subject from a more creative angle (as long as you don’t go off brief)
  • See it as a challenge to find out just how good you are as a writer
  • Adopt a more relaxed, conversational tone (again, as long as it doesn’t take you too far away from the brief)
  • Remember that your passion (or lack of) will shine through in the quality of your writing – so if you take a negative attitude to the brief’s contents, it’ll show, believe me. Then you’ll just be asked to rewrite it (thus devaluing your time, especially if the rewrite’s included in the original cost), or you’ll lose the client completely
  • Remember that you’re a professional
  • Remember that you’re getting paid to do this (again).
  • Find the fun in it man!

When someone asks you what you do for a living and you tell them you’re a web copywriter, I’ll guarantee that they’ll immediately be intrigued and demand to know more about your glamorous occupation. Smile sweetly, strike a pose and wax lyrical about how lucky you are to be pursuing a career you love. You don’t need to tell them how this week’s rent has been paid courtesy of 15 long and agonisingly technical articles on fiscal prudence.

You are, first and foremost, a web copywriter. You do this stuff for a living, and there are thousands of people out there, stuck in mundane, daily-grind jobs that would give their eye-teeth to be in your shoes (or slippers. Or onesie.).

Isn’t that motivation enough?

Now sally forth and get creative with that 500-word article on car insurance.

Class dismissed. I’ll be in my office if you have any questions.


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