Photographers: How to Write Your Website Investment or Packages Page

I recently received an email from one of my lovely email subscribers, a boudoir photographer, asking if I had a blog post or other resources on how to write an Investment page for a photography website.

I didn’t, but I thought that would make a great topic for a blog post, so here it is, my photographer friends! (Many thanks to Ashlee for giving me the idea.)

I know photographers have all kinds of ways of delivering their pricing information: some of you ask potential clients to reach out to request a pricing guide, others of you put detailed information about packages and pricing on your website, and still others say something like, “Packages start at X,” without getting into the nitty gritty investment details until the client reaches out to you personally.

What’s the best way to handle this on your website?  

Let’s discuss.

The First Thing You Need to Do

However you deliver your pricing information, one of the first things you must do is provide a clear path to buy, so your potential clients will see your Investment or pricing info page in the first place.

What does this mean?

A clear path to buy will look different depending on what you sell, and how you sell it.

Let me illustrate with an example:

If you were selling inexpensive sterling silver jewelry in the $20-$30 range, for example, you’d likely have just a couple of steps between the customer finding your website, loving what they see, and clicking on the “Buy Now” button.

That’s because $20-$30 is a relatively inexpensive price point. It’s not a huge investment that someone needs to think long and hard about, consult their significant other about, or weigh the pros and cons of.

They also don’t have to check 20 other websites to see what else is out there in the same genre of thing they’re getting ready to fork over their dollars for before they make a buying decision.

All they need to feel comfortable purchasing is a clear picture of the jewelry, a compelling product description and/or product size & specs, info about the return policy, and a readily available “Buy Now” button.

Those elements are likely already on the page they’re viewing the jewelry on, so the path from landing on the website to the actual purchase is mostly frictionless.

That’s an example of a clear path to buy.

If, on the other hand, the potential jewelry customer encounters obstacles – they have to search high and low for the return policy, or the product specs, or delivery info, or the “buy now” button – they will leave that website faster than green grass through a goose, because there are at least a thousand other websites out there selling nearly identical sterling silver jewelry at the same price point where the path to buy is simple and clear.

Implementing Clear Path to Buy on Your Photography Website

Why all this talk about a clear path to buy?

Because unless you provide a clear path to buy, your potential clients aren’t likely to stick around your website long enough make it to your Investment page. 

I want you to really think about this, and how it applies it to your photography business.

With photography, the path to buy is different than our silver jewelry example, of course, because the investment is much larger.

There are more steps involved in making a sale, more personal attention required, more wooing of the client necessary, and therefore a greater need for persuasive client communication.

It needs to be crystal clear and super-easy for the potential client to take the initial steps in your sales process – from the second they land on your website and decide they’d like to learn more, to filling out your contact form or emailing you for more information – or you may lose them.

If there are obstacles between your potential clients’ desire to learn more about your services & pricing, and actually getting that information, they’ll likely move on the next website in that long list of at least several dozen other photographers who do what you do that came up when they googled “wedding photography Cincinnati” or “Austin portrait photography,” or whatever search term they used to find you.

Don’t give them a reason to do that by putting obstacles in their way. Make sure the path to buy on your website is so easy a caveman could figure it out, so your potential clients can easily and intuitively find and read your Investment page.

Ok, you understand the importance of a clear path to buy. That’s the first step.

How to Write Your Investment Page

Now that you’ve laid out a simple and intuitive path for your ideal clients to your Investment page, what should go on this page?

This assumes, of course, that you share the details of your photography packages on your website, which is what I recommend.

I know there are photographers (and other service providers) who would disagree, but having pricing information on your site weeds out those who can’t afford your services, and saves you from having to field inquiries from them.

It pre-qualifies the inquiries you do get, which is better for everybody.

This is how I do it on my website. Which means I generally don’t get emails from folks who have a tiny budget for copywriting and marketing services. There’s no long, drawn out, back-and-forth between me and the potential client only to discover several emails or conversations in that I’m not in their budget, after all.

If you don’t want to share the details of your pricing info on your site, you can simply say “Packages start at X,” so potential clients have some idea what to expect.

An Easy, No-Fuss Investment Page Template

Just so we’re on the same page here, I’m going to share one possible template you can use.

There are many ways to write what is essentially the “sales page” for your service offering – and that’s what your Investment page is, by the way, a sales page for your service. (If you Google “how to write a website sales page,” you’ll find 18,100,000 results. Have fun!)

What follows is NOT the be-all, end-all, “you must do it this way or you will fail” Investment page template.

What this template IS, is a very basic, very simple way to write your Investment page so it’s more client-attractive & effective than simply slapping up your prices and calling it a day. It’s straightforward and quick to knock out, and you don’t have to be a copywriting ninja to make it work.

You can get this handled in an afternoon, then when you have the bandwidth and the funds, you might want to take a basic copywriting course. You can find them online for not a lot of money. (If you’re doing any amount of business online – and if your website is meant to generate client leads, then you’re doing business online – you’ll want to learn the basics of copywriting.)

Here’s the template in a nutshell:

  • A Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client
  • Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points
  • Your Package Details and Pricing Information
  • Social Proof/Testimonials
  • A Call to Action (including an opportunity for folks who aren’t ready to commit to a consultation to reach out to you for more information)

Start with a Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client

First things first – you must know who your ideal clients are and what they desire in order to write compelling headlines (and to write the rest of your website copy too, of course).

It’s not within the scope of this blog post to go into detail about how to write headlines. You can find many, many headline formulas and templates with a quick Google search. If you want to check out the detailed blog post I wrote on this topic, you can do so from the live link right here in this sentence. : )

Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points

Next you want to have a short client-focused paragraph or bullet copy that speaks to your ideal clients and what they want. The goal is to grab them by the eyeballs by demonstrating that you understand their fears, hopes, dreams, desires and goals related to the kind of service you provide.

You want to warm up and romance your potential clients before you start throwing prices at them. Otherwise it’s like asking someone to marry you on the first date.

Keep in mind, you are writing this page, like all your website pages, using client-focused copy. That bit is very important.  Write your website copy to address your potential clients’ needs, hopes and desires.

To see examples of client-focused headlines + first paragraphs I’ve written for creative clients, check out the “Web Copy for Creative Businesses” category of my writing samples page.

There’s only one true “sales page” there, but the principal in each example is the same: a client-focused headline + client-focused paragraph or bullet points BEFORE you introduce what you have to offer. Most of the writing samples in my “Web Copy for Creative Businesses” model that.

Your Package Details and Pricing Information

If you already have your package and pricing information on your website, it’s simply a matter of adding the other elements I’ve outlined here before and after your pricing info where appropriate.

Social Proof

Add a “what others are saying” or testimonials section with a few quotes from clients about working with you. This builds trust.

A Call to Action

Create your call to action based on what you most want your audience to do next. In the case of your Investment page, you’ll most likely want folks to reach out to you for more information or to set up a complimentary consultation.

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Here’s an example of call to action copy I wrote for a wedding photographer client a few years ago:

Ready to get started?

I photograph a limited number of weddings each year to ensure you receive the personalized service you deserve.

Contact me today for your no-strings-attached consultation to lock in your ideal date.

[Photographer email address & phone number here.]

Here’s one I wrote for a wedding photographer client more recently:

Want to get in touch?

To schedule a no-obligation consult or in-person meeting to discuss your special day & see if we’re a good fit to work together, please fill out my contact form here. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours during normal business hours.

Or feel free to email directly at [email address], or give me a call at [phone number].

I can’t wait to hear about your wedding plans!

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For Potential Clients Who Aren’t Ready to Book a Consultation

Of course, some people who land on your Investment page are not going to be ready to book a consultation, but you still want to give them a next action to take.

They may be interested in your services, but have lingering questions about your pricing, your process, or if you’re a good fit for them before they commit to a one-on-one meeting or phone conversation.

To accommodate these folks, you’ll want to add a line that says something like, “Feel free to reach out to me with questions about packages & pricing, my complimentary consultation, or how I work. I’ll be happy to help you figure out if we’re a good fit.”

Your potential clients are afraid that when they reach out for more information, they’re going to get a sales pitch, so you want to alleviate that fear as much as you can in your Investment page copy.

In my copywriting business, I tell potential clients we can hop on the phone for a 15-20 minute no obligation conversation as a first step. I let them know that in this call they can share what they’re trying to accomplish with their website, and we can chat about my services and determine if working together makes sense.  That way they know there won’t be a sales pitch. This call is about me and the potential client exchanging information, and that’s it. No pressure, no hard sell.

Here’s that template again in a nutshell:

  • A Headline That Makes an Emotional Connection with Your Ideal Client
  • Short Client-Focused Paragraph or Bullet Points
  • Your Package Details and Pricing Information
  • Social Proof/Testimonials
  • A Call to Action (including an opportunity for folks who aren’t ready to commit to a consultation to reach out to you for more information)

Alternatively, you can write your Investment page like a straight-up Sales Page. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be aggressive or overly “salesy” when writing this copy.

Here are two resources you might want to check out if that’s the route you decide to take:

#1: The Naked Truth Sales Letter Formula. Many very wise and skilled copywriters recommend this sales page template, and I’ve used it myself for my own stuff occasionally. It’s one of the quickest ways to just get something down on paper you can work with to create a good sales page. (The article references writing a “sales letter,” but the principles are the same when you’re writing a sales page/sales message for your website.)

Some of you are going to take one look at that formula and think, “No way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks am I using that model to write my Investment page.” That’s fine, but do yourself a solid and take note of the timeless copywriting principles you’ll find therein.

#2: This is an article written by Amanda Genther called My 8-Step Process for Writing Sales Page Copy. It’s pretty darn good, especially if you’re writing your own sales copy for the first time.

Dos and Don’ts

Let me finish off this long-arse blog post with a few dos & don’ts.

I reviewed many, oh-so-many, wedding, portrait, boudoir, and lifestyle photography websites to see what my photographer friends are up to on their websites to prep for writing this blog post, and noted some good, and not-so-good, practices when it comes to Investment pages.

Here ya go:

:: Do call the page “Investment,” “Services,” “Wedding Packages,” or similar in the navigation menu/button copy. You can call it “Pricing” or “Price List” if you wish, because at least that’s clear, but I think “Investment” works better. The bottom line is, you want people to be able to instantly find your pricing & packages information. It all goes back to the “clear path to buy.”

:: Don’t call it “Details,” or “Information,” because it’s not immediately clear to people that that’s where they’ll find the packages & pricing info.  Remember, you want a smooth sales process, the fewer obstacles, the better.

:: Do make it about your client and their needs.

:: Don’t go on and on about your camera equipment or other tech-related photography stuff on the Investment page. Your potential clients don’t really care about that.

:: If you’re going to tell people to contact you from your Investment page (and you are), do give them your contact info ON THAT PAGE, or paste in the direct link to your contact page at the end of your Investment page copy.

You’d think that would go without saying, but I saw some version of this on several sites I looked at:

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Hello! Thanks for stopping by and checking out my website. I’d love to hear all about your plans for the big day! You can customize any of my photography packages. My base wedding package begins at $3,400, and all packages include image files.   

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And that’s it, end of story.

There was no call to action directing folks to get in touch, and no contact information. You have to scroll back up to the main menu at the top of the website, then click on the “Contact” page nav button to reach out to the photographer. This is an obstacle in the path to buy. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

:: Do tell people about your process and how it works. Many photographers don’t do this, yet most people have never hired a photographer for anything, and are uncomfortable if they don’t have all the information about what to expect. So give them that. You can do this on an FAQ page, and link to the FAQ page from your Investment page with a call to action like, “Want to learn more about my process? Check out my FAQ page here to get all your questions answered!” or something similar.

:: Don’t refer to yourself in the third person, as in, “John is available for weddings worldwide.” It’s off-putting and creates a barrier between you and the potential client. Better to be warm, personable, and approachable by writing your copy in the first person.

:: If you ask folks to email you for pricing information, do say something like, “wedding packages begin at $3200,” or “portrait sessions start at $500,” or similar to give potential clients some idea of what to expect.  You don’t want to waste their time or yours if they have a maximum budget of $2000, and your lowest cost package is $3500.

:: If you do include detailed pricing information on your Investment page, lead with your higher priced packages for price anchoring.

Conclusion

And there you have it. I hope this resource helps you write an Investment page for your photography business that vastly increases the number of high-quality client leads you get.

Resources for Photographers

By the way, I’m launching a budget-friendly course for photographers, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers, in Fall 2017.

This course will help you determine who your ideal clients are and what your unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference” is, & teach you how to use that information to create a client-attractive marketing message for your photography business that helps you stand out in an overcrowded market, attract & connect with your ideal clients, & get more bookings.

Get on the VIP notice list to find out when the course launches right here.

What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells

magicofthinkingbig image

[EDITING NOTE: This post was originally published in November 2014. Because its topic and principles are evergreen, and because I’ve gotten lots of questions lately about how to write for your ideal clients and how to “paint a picture” with your web copy, I’ve decided to republish it.]

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Wherein we talk about how to create killer copy for your small business website by painting a picture, and I give you an example of how it’s done . . .

So a few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house drinking wine, chatting, and having a gay old time, as the old-timers say.  On the way out the door, I stopped by her bookshelf – I’m a sucker for spying on what other people read – and spotted a book called The Magic of Thinking Big: Acquire the Secrets of Success . . . Achieve Everything You’ve Always Wanted, by David Schwartz, Ph.D.

(Even though this book is a classic published way back in 1959, I’d heard of it; in fact, it was on my mental list of “inspiring books to read soon.”  A mental list which, miraculously, hadn’t been erased by all the booze I drank on vacation last week, or I might never have remembered I wanted to read it.)

While the book is certainly worth reading so you too can train yourself to “harness the power of thinking big,” what I want to talk about today is a specific passage in the book that perfectly describes what your small business web copy needs to do if you want to attract your ideal clients and customers, and that thing is “paint a picture.”

This picture you’re painting with your copy is of your ideal customer’s ideal outcome, and if you do this well, these ideal customers will want to give you money for your products and services. 

Say, wouldn’t that be just swell?

Painting a Picture with Your Web Copy

On page 71 of the afore-mentioned book, the author tells us to “see what can be, not just what is.”  Which is a perfect instruction for small business copywriting.

He illustrates this concept by telling us about a successful realtor he knows.  This realtor is selling lots of unattractive rural property that other realtors in the same area can’t sell on a bet.  How does our realtor do this?  By selling the property not as it is, but as what it can be.

As the realtor states:  “I develop my entire sales plan around what the farm can be.  Simply telling the prospect, ‘The farm has XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town,’ doesn’t stir him up and make him want to buy it.  But when you show him a concrete plan for doing something with the farm, he’s just about sold.”

So here’s what successful realtor guy does:  He comes up with three possibilities for what the farm can be, and sells prospects on one of those three possibilities, fully fleshing out the benefits of owning this farm so the prospect can see in his mind’s eye exactly what an idyllic life he will have once the farm belongs to him, revenue-producing possibilities included.

Keep this technique in mind as you’re writing your own small business web copy.  You want to highlight the benefits of your product or service.  (“Sell a good night’s sleep, not the mattress,” as a famous copywriter once said.)  In our example here, the “XX acres of bottom land and XX acres of woods” are features, not benefits.  And while it may necessary to mention features at some point, remember “facts tell, benefits sell.”

The Realtor’s Painted Picture

In my favorite of the 3 scenarios, our realtor paints a picture of the farm converted into a riding stable.  Why does this work so well?  Because the farm is near a big city, which means access to a large, sophisticated market of eager end users of the riding stable. Our realtor knows that big city residents of a certain income level like to escape to the countryside to enjoy the great outdoors on weekends, and that many of those people like to ride horses.  All he has to do now is sell the potential buyer of the lot on this scenario.

So, instead of selling his prospect on XX acres of bottom land, and XX acres of woods, and is XX miles from town, he shares the compelling vision of a thriving riding stable business, with glossy horses and wholesome couples with disposable income riding off into bucolic nature with their picnic baskets full of expensive artisan cheeses and fine champagne. (OK, I made that last bit up – there is no picnic in the realtor’s painted picture, but there would be in mine.)

Using this method, our realtor says, “Now, when I talk with my prospects I won’t have to convince them that the farm is a good buy as it is.  I help them to see a picture of the farm changed into a money-making proposition.”

Smooth, right?   He is not selling the land, the dirt, the acreage – the features, in other words – but the full-blown dream of a horse farm with a riding stable and beautiful couples riding happily through the trees, which they will pay handsomely to do.

So whatever it is you sell, help your clients and customers see what can be for them, in their particular situation. Show them the payoff of using your product or services by selling them the solution, the results, the vision of what can be.

A Real World Example from the World of Interior Design

Now, let’s look at a real-world example of copy that does not paint a picture from the world of interior design.  Specifically, an interior design business’s “About” page.

Why an “About” page, you ask?  Well, here’s what I see over and over again on interior design websites and blogs:  designers using their About pages to list their education and design credentials, when what they should be doing instead is “painting a picture” of their ideal customer’s ideal outcome, while weaving in their credentials and experience.  Because even in your About page, you want to paint a picture of what you can do for your clients. 

This is a much more powerful way to connect with your prospects on an emotional level, which is key to driving more sales in your business.

(And because I would never want to hold anyone up to ridicule publicly, names and specific details have been changed to protect the innocent in the following example.)

Jane graduated from Parsons with a degree in interior design and a minor in studio art. She is an active member of ASID Carolinas Chapter and the local design community.  She attends many conventions and workshops locally and internationally to stay on the cutting edge of design. Jane makes each project unique for each client and has a fine-tuned ability to work with a variety of interior design styles and settings.  Her signature style combines practicality with sophistication.

Where do I begin?

From a strictly writerly perspective, that copy commits a cardinal sin – that is, it tells rather than shows.  We want to know HOW Jane makes each project unique for each client – show us.  Also, it’s boring.  And thirdly, it talks about Jane, not the client.

When looking at this copy from a “painting a picture” perspective, you can see that, beyond being deadly dull and not really saying anything very useful to the client, it does not, in any way, shape or form, make an emotional connection with the reader/potential client and show them what can be by working with Jane.

Here’s how we might improve Jane’s copy:

You’re one-of-a-kind.  An iconoclast.  The “rules” you follow in life are your own.  Not everyone gets it. And you want your home to be a reflection of your unique perspective.  Your approach to life can’t be replicated on an assembly line, and your home’s interior shouldn’t be either.  

Hi, I’m Jane, an expert in telling your story, your way, through your home’s design. Together we’ll create a truly singular space that boldly expresses your one-of-a-kind personality and translates your unique sensibility into a home that could belong to no one but you. 

My approach to design is less about rigid rules and color schemes and more about translating your personal tastes and preferred lifestyle into a sophisticated oasis that is luxurious, yet livable. The result?  A home that gives you that “I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-live-here” feeling every time you walk in the door.

Jane could add more “painting a picture” copy here, then add information about her training and design credentials.  But she should lead with painting a picture

Now obviously, if I were writing this copy for an actual interior designer copy client, I would meet with said client to get the details about their target audience and their target audience’s needs, wishes and desires so that I could write copy specifically for that audience.

Here the copy I wrote was meant to appeal to a design client who has a strong vision, knows what they want, and wants to work collaboratively with a designer to achieve their dream home design.   The copy would be vastly different if “Jane the interior designer” only worked with Moms on a budget with young toddlers in tow, or a family with teenagers and a grand home on the beach, or empty nesters looking to pare down.  You get the idea.

So that, my friends, is how you paint a picture with your copy.  

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

What a Copywriter REALLY Does (How I Work)

In Part One of this blog post, Should You Hire a Copywriter? (The answer may not be as easy as you think), I shared my thoughts on when I think you’re ready to hire a copywriter, and the minimum required “good-to-haves” before you do so. I also shared links to a couple of other articles by well-respected copywriting experts addressing the same question.

In this installment, I’m going to share my process of working with copywriting clients in detail, so you can get a sense of what really goes on, learn more about how copywriters work and what they actually do (it’s SO much more than simply writing), and if you’re wondering, find out why the investment for copywriting can sometimes seem “high” (which of course is relative).

Hiring a Copywriter? Some Things to Consider

Something to keep in mind as you look to hire any kind of service provider is their level and type of expertise. If possible, you want to hire someone who specializes in providing services to your specific kind of business and/or the specific marketing channel you need help with.

For example, I’ve been writing marketing communications copy & content since 2001. I have a background in advertising, PR, sales, and marketing, so I understand the role that marketing copy plays in the bigger picture of business-building as a whole.

Over the last several years, I’ve narrowed my specialization to writing copy for websites and other online communication channels almost exclusively, and almost exclusively for clients who have a creative product or service to sell.

I still write other kinds of marketing copy occasionally [brochures, press releases, blog posts, e-books, case studies, etc.], but I’m mostly focused on online communications – email newsletters, autoresponder sequences, lead magnets, blog articles, etc., and website copy in particular. 

Writing web copy is a specialized skill. In order to write effective web copy that moves your site visitors to take the appropriate actions (for example, signing up for your email list, contacting you for more information about your products or services, setting up a free consultation, etc.), you have to have knowledge of how websites work, how people read and interact on the web, and an understanding of Internet-based content strategy and creation.

If you plan to write your own website copy, that’s fine, just educate yourself first about the differences between web copy and copy/content for other marketing channels. You can’t just throw some old brochure copy you had written once upon a time up on your website, or have your niece who’s an English major write your web copy.

The First Thing I Do When a Potential Client Reaches Out to Me

Not everyone who reaches out will be a good fit. If you’re a service provider too, as many in my audience are, you know this very well.

And as you also know, the pain of ignoring your instincts and working with a client who is not a good fit is not worth the money you made on the project. It’s just not. Life is too short for that nonsense.

And that’s why this first step is so, so important.

Once I hear from someone that they’re considering hiring a copywriter and want to find out more about working with me, I reply with an email telling them I’d love to hear more about their project, and that the first step is what I call a “get acquainted” call.

I also sometimes share the link to my Work with Me page if they haven’t checked it out yet, so the potential client can get a sense of what I do and the investment for my services before we get on the phone.

The “Get Acquainted” Call

The “get acquainted” call is a 15-20 minute no obligation conversation where we briefly look at the potential client’s website together, and I share a few top-of-mind thoughts about copy improvements they can make on their own.

I ask them questions about what’s currently working for them with their web marketing and what’s not, how their web copy is performing, and have them tell me about any big challenges they’re facing with generating clients and new business from their website.

I then ask them to share a few specifics about what they’re trying to accomplish with their website right now, and we chat about my services and determine if working together makes sense.

It’s my policy not to quote prices over the phone, but occasionally I’ll give a ballpark estimate of what the investment will be for the service they’re considering.  Not usually though.

At this point, we’ll end the call, and either one of two things will happen – they’ll need to think about all we discussed and agree to let me know within a few days if they’d like me to write up a customized proposal for the specific copywriting project they’re interested in, OR, they’ll ask me to go ahead and write a proposal for services then.

At this point, there’s still no obligation on either side. However, if I don’t think the client is serious, OR, if they’re not a good fit for whatever reason (say, they’re not far advanced enough in their business yet to drop several hundred to $3-$5K on copywriting when there are other things they need to have in place first), then I’ll share that with them, and ask them to circle back around with me if/when they’re in a better spot with their business.

Not all my copywriting services require a proposal. If a client chooses one of the services on my Work with Me page exactly as is, then there is no proposal phase, the project then moves on to the invoicing and service agreement stage.

The Proposal Phase

If, however, the potential client has a custom project, and is ready to move to the proposal phase, I ask them to give me 2-3 days to do the research and writing required to create the proposal.

Before writing the proposal, I do research into the client’s niche/market and competition, and review their current website thoroughly. I consider everything they shared with me during our initial call about what their challenges are and what they’re trying to accomplish with their website and other marketing outreach, and write a custom proposal based on that information, plus what I feel the best course of action is.

Each proposal includes the following sections:

  • Scope of Work
  • Copywriting Objectives
  • Target Audience Information
  • Possible Objections to Overcome
  • Initial Observations and Recommendations
  • An overview of background/prep work I’ll do before writing the copy
  • Investment (usually includes 3 options for moving forward)
  • Proposed Project Timeline
  • Action Items Needed to Commence Project
  • Next Steps (which includes the date by which I need to know if it’s a yes or a no; I usually ask potential clients to get back to me within 48 hours, or 3 business days at the very most after receiving the proposal. If they need longer than that to make a decision, I know they’re waffling/not serious/not ready for this step financially.)

In the Investment section, I typically give the potential client 3 options for moving forward: a basic option, which consists of exactly what they asked for and nothing more, say, home page copy + a compelling tagline; a mid-level option, which includes everything in the basic option, plus a couple of other copy deliverables I think would benefit them and help their business; and an “all the bells-and-whistles” option, which includes everything in the mid-level option, plus additional copy deliverables that are “nice-to-haves,” along with 2-3 months of strategy consulting, among other things.

To give you an idea of what that looks like, here’s an Investment section of a proposal I wrote in summer of 2016:

INVESTMENT

Option 1: Home page copy + About page copy: $998, with a 50% deposit of $499 upfront, and the remaining balance of $499 due upon project completion.

Option 2: Home page copy + About page copy + Newsletter Signup Landing Page Copy: $1498, with a 50% deposit of $749 upfront, and the remaining balance of $749 due upon project completion.

Option 3: Home page copy, About page copy, Newsletter Signup Landing Page Copy, + 2 Hours of Strategy Consulting to be used within 90 days of project completion:  $1649, with a 50% deposit of $824.50 upfront, and the remaining balance of $824.50 due upon finalization of all copy. (2 hours of strategy consulting at a 50% discounted rate of $75 per hour.)

[I’ve raised my prices since writing this proposal, so if I were providing these copy services today, the investment would be higher.]

I also let clients know that, given my typical project schedule, there will be at least 30 days between project kick-off and project completion, and sometimes as long as 6-8 weeks for bigger projects, which means a minimum of 30 days between paying the 50% deposit and paying the final balance.  I like to share this information with clients so they have it for budgeting purposes, as I find it helps them feel more at ease with the investment.

I have occasionally let people break up the investment into 3 equal installments if that works better for them.

The Proposal Review Call

A proposal review call isn’t always necessary, but if a client needs clarification on anything in the proposal, or just wants to talk it through together step-by-step so they’re crystal clear on each element of the document, the suggested service package, or any other details, we get on the phone and review the proposal together.

Once the client has the proposal, and a review call if necessary, they have 48 hours, or 3 business days at the very most, to let me know if they’d like to proceed. As I mentioned above, if a potential client needs longer than that to make a decision, I know they’re not serious, or they’re not ready for this step financially.

I always try to determine this beforehand, however. I don’t want to spend hours writing a proposal, going back-and-forth over email, and dealing with other “I’m-not-really-serious” waffling actions, only to have the potential client not move forward.

It’s fine for a client to make a decision after reviewing the proposal that they don’t want to move forward, I don’t mind that, but if it took them days and days, and multiple emails, and a phone call or two, and endless, relentless questions to get to that point of no, then that’s a huge waste of my time and theirs.

This is fresh in my mind, because I recently dealt with that very situation, and when all was said and done, I had spent 12+ hours dealing with someone who decided not to move forward.  This person did not respect my time, but I let it happen, so I have no one to blame but myself. That’s no way to run a business, and I’ve learned my lesson. Never again.

Invoicing & Client Services Agreement

Once the client says yes to the proposal, if it’s a custom project (service packages purchased exactly as they’re described on my Work with Me page don’t require a proposal), the next step is invoicing and the client services agreement.

The client services agreement includes a project summary, payment details, the project timeline, information about changes and revisions, cancellation policy, and so on.

I spell out in the agreement that when I say yes to a project, that means I must say no to other projects that come my way, so if the client cancels the project after I have already begun work, I retain the down payment.

The client is paying me to write copy, but they’re also reserving time on my schedule, and I cannot rebook that time if they change their mind.

The Work Begins!

Once the client signs off on the services agreement and pays the 50% deposit, the work begins, woohoo!

At this point I send the Client Intake Questionnaire. It consists of 25 questions about the client’s business, their audience, what sets them apart among others who do similar work (if they don’t know the answer to this, I help them figure it out), who their ideal clients are, their goals for the copy, and other questions designed to help me get crystal clear on their vision for their business, the copy, and the outcomes they want to achieve.

I’ve had so many clients tell me that just the act of filling out the intake questionnaire has helped them gain clarity on the direction of their business, what their competitive advantage is, and what they want to achieve with their marketing and their business overall.

I usually ask clients to return the completed intake questionnaire to me within 3-5 business days. I then go over it with a fine-tooth comb, highlighting anything I need further clarification on, noting concepts and ideas that will help them stand out in their niche, pulling out phrases and ideas I can use in the copy, and generally getting crystal clear on what I call their “big idea,”  – essentially, the answer to the question, “Among all the other _____ [thing they do] out there, why choose _____ [their business]?”

Next comes a phone call to review the intake questionnaire together before I start writing the first draft.

Now It’s Time to Do Research & Other Pre-Writing Prep

In addition to thoroughly combing through the intake questionnaire and reviewing it together with the client on the phone, I also do the following before I begin writing:

  • Review client testimonials and other feedback from previous clients
  • Review current website & website copy
  • Review any marketing collateral the client has used in the past or is currently using
  • Research competition online
  • Brainstorming and concepting to come up with the client’s “meaningful difference,” and what I call the “hook” – the combination of things that set them apart in their niche and that are part of their BIG IDEA, as mentioned above, which is the answer to the question, “Among all the other ______ out there I could buy from, why choose to buy from ______?”

This is an abbreviated list, but you get the idea.

After all the above is completed, I put together what I call the “Core Message Doc.” This document contains information about:

  • The client’s “big idea”
  • The common objections they receive for resisting the sale and how to overcome those objections
  • Information about their ideal clients and unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference,” and how to craft a compelling marketing message using this info so the client can authentically stand out in their niche
  • Voice, tone & other language notes to use when writing the copy
  • Features and benefits of the clients’ products and/or services
  • Values the client wants conveyed in the copy

And so on.

Then and only then do I begin writing.

So when I “write copy,” I don’t just sit down and write. The writing part comes after many hours spent doing other important things first, including gaining a deep understanding of the client’s business and the results the client wants to achieve, AND how I can help them get there. 

The Writing Process

The writing process is fairly standard.

Once the prep work above is complete, I write the first draft and send it to the client for feedback. I give them specific instructions about the kind of feedback I’m looking for, and ask them share anything else they think is relevant for me to know before I write the second draft.

With this first draft, I also include a document called a “Copy Rationale/Explanation of Approach” – this is a separate document explaining in detail why I made the copy choices I did.

Once the client has had a chance to review the first draft and the copy rationale doc, I ask them to put their comments, proposed edits, and feedback in writing on the draft, and send it back to me.

Once I receive this, we schedule a call to review the first draft together before I write the second draft. I like to do this to be sure we’re on the same page about changes that need to be made before writing the next draft.

I then write the second draft and send it to the client with their edits, feedback and suggestions incorporated, and give them the opportunity to give me another round of feedback.

Although I offer 2 rounds of revisions on all copywriting projects, it’s rare that I have to do more than one round of revisions. It’s happened 2-3 times in the last 6 or 7 years, but that’s it.

Once the final revisions are made and the client signs off on the project as “complete & final,” I send the invoice for the 50% balance of the project fee.

Then we hug and do a happy dance, and break out the champagne!

Ha ha, just kidding about that last part. My clients aren’t local, so we don’t see each other IRL, as the kids say. But I would love it if we could! 🙂

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helps you understand why copywriting is so much more than “just writing,” and that good copywriters, in addition to having strong writing chops, also know a great deal about marketing, sales, how to help you stand out and get traction online, and other business-building topics.

We’re not “just writers,” and copywriting is not “just words.”

I will leave you with this, in the words of the great marketer, businessman and copywriting genius John Carlton:

Working with a copywriter is gonna be one of the most time-and-money intensive relationships you have in your business.

Copy is the MAIN ELEMENT in your ability to attract prospects and close them as customers. (Yes, the quality of what you offer matters… but never forget that the Marketing Graveyard is crammed with superior products that died horrible and fast deaths because no one figured out how to sell them.) ~John Carlton

If you think you’re ready to hire a copywriter for your creative business, check out my copywriting services here.

If you’re not quite at that stage yet, but could use some expert advice on your current copywriting challenges, check out the super-affordable Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session here.

Think your business is not “interesting” enough to stand out online and attract more clients & bookings? That’s where you’re wrong, my creative friend.

I get emails on a fairly regular basis from blog and newsletter readers who tell me they have no idea how to differentiate themselves online.

They understand there are many, so very many, other people online offering similar products and services to theirs, and they know they need to differentiate themselves to be able to attract their ideal clients and get more bookings, sell more art, or get more people interested in checking out their offerings.

But they’re at a loss for just how to do this, declaring themselves and/or their businesses, “ordinary,” “too similar to other businesses out there,” and sometimes even “just not that interesting.”

[The cheerleader in me wants to say, “Don’t say that about yourself, yes you are interesting!!!”]

I mean, of course I get it. (Do you even know how many other copywriters there are out there? Thousands, upon thousands. Upon thousands. That’s a whole lotta copywriters.)

And it’s not just blog and newsletter readers emailing me about this, a few of my clients have also shared that they don’t feel they have anything uniquely compelling to offer to get more traction online with their desired audience.

One of the questions I ask on my copywriting client intake questionnaire is:

Let’s say I turn out to be your ideal client. Could you give me two or three reasons why I should pick you/your business, versus another business with similar offerings?”

I typically get one of two responses:

:: The client understands how their business is different from others with similar offerings, but doesn’t know how to express that difference in their web copy in a way that compels their “right people” to reach out to them about working together.

OR . . .

:: They honestly have no idea how their business is unique in the marketplace, or why anyone would choose to work with them over others with similar offerings.

What I say to blog readers and clients alike is that it’s not usually one big thing that sets you apart, it’s a combination of smaller things, that woven together, make up your “meaningful difference” and help you stand out to the clients you’d most like to attract.

Let’s take me, for instance. I’m a copywriter, one of thousands, as we previously established.

BUT.

:: I work mostly with creatives; and I specialize in writing web copy, mainly. I’m also well-versed in web marketing, so I bring that knowledge to the table too. And I have a background in PR, advertising and sales.

:: Plus, I once studied photography, applied to art school, and got accepted to the photography program at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, which gives me some “street cred” (do the kids still use that phrase these days?) with creatives who want to hire me.

All of those elements taken together make up my “meaningful difference,” which becomes part of my compelling marketing message. And that compelling marketing message is what continues to get me clients who are just right for my services.

Now, there’s a wee bit more to it than that, which I’ve written about at length before. You can check that out in this 3-part series on the tale of my 3 business-repelling web marketing mistakes and how you can avoid them

But what I want to say to you today is that you DO have something unique and compelling to offer: your experience, background, founder story, talents, skills, gifts and abilities; the type of clients you work with and the kinds of products and services you offer, all combine to make up your meaningful difference and your compelling marketing message.

So don’t tell me you/your business is boring, or that you’re “just not that interesting.”

It’s so not true. 🙂

If you want to learn how to figure out what your “meaningful difference” is and how to implement it in your web copy to attract more of your ideal clients, read the 3-part blog post about how I did just that and how you can too –> here

And if you’re a wedding, portrait or lifestyle photographer and you’d like to know when my upcoming course, 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers, is ready, get on the interest list right over –> here

3 Simple to Implement Web Copy Tips To Help You Sell More of Your Stuff

If you’re trying to get better results from your website in the way of more client & customer inquiries, e-mail sign-ups, and sales, and things aren’t going quuuuite the way you’d like them to at the moment, the solution could be as simple as a few strategic website copy tweaks.

Fairly simple to implement things you can do today that can have a big impact on your results over time. Or hey, maybe even tomorrow under the right circumstances. 🙂

These three copy improvements are what I call “The Three C’s” – clarity, client-focused copy, and clear, compelling calls to action.

I recently wrote a post about this topic over on the Artstorefronts blog, and though the post is geared to artists, anyone, in any kind of business, can benefit from applying these 3 simple web copy tips:

Learn more here about using clarity, client-focused copy, and compelling calls to action to sell more of your stuff.

 

[Want more copywriting tips? Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.] 

Embarrassing Web Copy & Marketing Fails

So the other day I had a meeting with the owner of a web design and development company who I may be working with on some upcoming writing projects.

Naturally, we got into a conversation about some of the unfortunate website mistakes we’ve seen over the years, on both the copywriting side and the design side – including our own.

Yes indeed, even the pros make mistakes and suffer web marketing fails.

For example, I remember back in the day when I was first getting started online. Those halcyon days when I actually believed that putting up a decent website, writing some basic copy, and doing a little bit of marketing each week was going to have new clients beating down my door, fairly busting a gut to work with me.

What actually happened?

Well, friend, they stayed away in droves, to quote the late film producer Samuel Goldwyn. (Well, ok, not completely in droves, I did get a few clients from that original website.)

But why so few? Why so many hours spent trying to be visible online to get merely mediocre results, despite doing everything I was told to attract clients through my website?

Turns out the problem was that my website copy was very “flackluster” (a new word I just made up on the spot to describe something that is both “flaccid” and “lackluster” at the same time, ha ha), and so it wasn’t doing me any favors in the client-getting and revenue-generating department.

And here’s the crazy part.

I knew exactly why I was getting these anemic results – I hadn’t figured out who my ideal clients were, or worked out what set me apart among others online who were providing similar services, and all this was reflected in my sad, generic, no-personality, underperforming web copy.

All of which lead to painfully average results.

Still, I dragged my feet for months to fix the problem.

I felt like I couldn’t step off the hamster wheel of blogging, social media posting and otherwise trying to be visible online for long enough to get clear on my ideal client avatar (ICA) and my unique selling proposition (USP), so I could write web copy that was actually compelling to my ideal clients.

Though I knew taking care of these two key things would start attracting more and better clients, and bigger paychecks, I resisted.

But finally, after too many months of craptacular results, and the looming fear that I’d have to go back to work for “the man” if I didn’t get this little challenge resolved, I decided I’d had enough and changed everything.

I got clear on exactly who my ideal clients were. I worked out what my “meaningful difference” in the marketplace was. I rewrote all my web copy, every last page of it, to be compelling, client-attractive and attention-getting to the people I most wanted to work with. I infused it with my personality, worldview and unique selling proposition.

And once I did that? Well that’s when things started to turn around fairly quickly.

I got more email subscribers almost instantly – from exactly the same amount of website traffic. I started getting client inquiries with email subject lines like “I want to work with you, please call me!” and “Photographer very interested in working with you,” sometimes several just like this in a single day.

I got more clients, and not just any clients, but clients who were ideal for me and who I absolutely loved working with. And I generated more income.

Again, I didn’t increase the traffic to my website to do this – I simply wrote better, more targeted, and more persuasive, personality-filled web copy that reflected my unique selling proposition and spoke directly to the kind of clients who were ideal for me.

Why, oh why hadn’t I done this sooner?

It pains me to think of all the wonderful clients, projects, and income I left on the table, simply because I wouldn’t slow down long enough to go off the grid for a couple of weeks to get my web copy in order.

But all’s well that ends well. And I needed to learn the lesson that not understanding my audience or my USP, coupled with the generic web copy that resulted, was never, ever going to bring in the kind of clients, projects and income I wanted.

So, what about you?

Is that where you are right now? Is your web copy “flackluster” and underperforming? Is it not doing its job?

(To be clear, if you’re in business, your website’s JOB is to get you consistent client and customer inquiries, new clients, and sales. If it’s not doing that, that’s a problem. A problem that must be fixed if you plan, like most of my clients do, to use your website as your main marketing vehicle.)

I’ve written about the importance of determining your target audience/ideal clients and working out your “meaningful difference” or unique selling proposition (USP) on the blog before. I even included free downloadable worksheets to help you get clear on these things so you can start getting more traction from your website.

You can check out those posts here:

The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it)

Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to)

Now, if you’d prefer some one-on-one guidance to help you get crystal clear on your target audience and “meaningful difference”/USP, and how to implement these things on your website for better business results, I make a few strategy sessions available each month specifically focused on these two critically-important-to-the-success-of-your business topics. If you’d like more details, simply email me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and I’ll send you the info.

From Full of Excuses and Failing in Business to Self-Made Multi-Millionaire: How a Dead Broke Carpet Cleaner Turned It All Around Using the Power of Copywriting and Direct-Response Marketing

Why is it that we so often stubbornly resist what turns out to be the most life-changing advice about achieving business success from those who’ve been there, done that, and know a thing or two, and refuse to do the one thing that might change things for the better and get us to the point of actual traction in our business?

The thing that might transform a wheezing, sickly, underperforming business from breathing its last dying breath into a revenue-generating, full-time income-producing thing of beauty we can be proud of? A business where the number of email subscribers, new client inquiries, and yes, sales, actually increases consistently?

I’d wager fear of the unknown and the natural tendency to avoid discomfort is probably right up there at the top of the list, wouldn’t you?

The trouble is, we often let this fear and avoidance dynamic keep us stuck inside our wretched comfort zones, where dreams go to die, all the while banging our heads against a wall, expecting something to change even as we won’t, as we go on doing the same ineffective thing day in and day out to get our business to grow.

Sometimes even to the point where the business withers and dies, and we have to – gasp – go back to work for “the man.” Oh, the horror!

Granted, not everyone reading this is in that position.

But plenty of business owners are – gravitating by default to the familiar and comfortable when it comes to marketing and selling, instead of doing something that might be uncomfortable, yet will yield far greater results.

Well, listen up as I tell you a story about a dead broke carpet cleaner who was failing miserably in his business until he discovered the power of copywriting and direct response marketing, then used this knowledge to turn things around.

And turn things around he surely did, going from flat broke and on the verge of giving up, to charging $25,000 per half day for his consulting services, and hanging out with the likes of people like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

Joe Polish is the guy.

As a lifelong student of marketing and copywriting, I’m always on the hunt for people in the copywriting field who are more – and I mean WAY more – knowledgeable and successful than I am, so I can soak up their wisdom and apply it to my business where it makes sense. Joe Polish is one of those people.

Polish is the Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., founder of the Genius Network Mastermind, and co-founder of a highly popular free weekly podcast on iTunes called I Love Marketing. After creating mega-success in his carpet cleaning business, he went on to teach what he learned about marketing to others in that industry, then created a highly profitable marketing consulting business.

But once upon a time, before the accolades, the successes and the abundant income, he was that practically bankrupt carpet cleaner.

Joe’s Story

You can check out Joe’s full story in his own words here, but in a nutshell, when he was in his early twenties and struggling in his carpet cleaning business, as in, on the verge of bankruptcy, dead broke and living on credit cards struggling, he got invited on a weekend trip that would change the course of his life forever.

On this jet-ski trip to the lake with his buddies, Joe met and struck up a conversation with the multimillionaire real estate investor who owned the jet skis, a man he rightly assumed he could learn a thing or two from. He told the guy about his carpet cleaning business and how poorly it was doing. He shared that he was thinking about getting into another, more lucrative kind of business. He asked the multimillionaire for recommendations for what kind of business he could get into where he could make more money.

The multimillionaire asked him, “Are there people in your industry making money?”

Joe replied that yes indeed there were, and that a few of those companies were even making over a million bucks a year. But he said those companies had an advantage, because they’d been around for years, and had lots of employees and were well-established in the market, with name recognition that he couldn’t compete with as a newbie.

After listening to these and many other excuses Joe made for why he wasn’t successful, the multimillionaire said to him, “If there are other people in your industry doing well and making money and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with your business, there’s something wrong with you.”

He told Joe he sounded like one of those people who think “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and that going into a new business wasn’t the answer. What he really needed to do was learn and apply fundamental business principles to his current business to make it work, said the multimillionaire.

In Which Our Hero Makes a Very Wise Decision

Our hero Joe takes this advice to heart, and decides he will do whatever is in his power to make his business successful, “or die trying,” as he said.

Cut to advertising and marketing. Except, instead of using traditional image-based or brand advertising, which essentially attempts to create a positive feeling or image around a product or company and build awareness of the brand – think car commercials and fancy perfume ads, for example – Joe decides to use the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing, which have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years, thank you very much. 

What exactly is direct response marketing you ask, and how does it differ from image and brand advertising?

Unlike brand advertising, which seeks to raise awareness, direct response marketing’s goal is to stimulate an immediate response or action, via print (yes, still!) or web communications. So on the web, that could mean things like getting someone to sign up for your email list, call you for an appointment, set up a free consult, reach out for more information about your products or services, or make a purchase of said products and services.

Direct response marketing works because, as Joe says, “it educates, motivates, and calls your consumers to take action.” (Unlike the Jeep commercial that leaves you full of daydreams about the rugged and adventurous life you might lead if you owned the latest version of the Grand Cherokee, but doesn’t provide a mechanism that allows you to take immediate action.)

And the thing that makes direct response marketing work its wonders? Persuasive writing – copywriting – writing meant to encourage action.

According to AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc., where I got some fabulous copywriting training):

Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to purchase, opt-in, or engage with a product, service, or company.

But back to our hero . . .

Joe was determined to make his business a success and willing to try direct response marketing to get there. As a result, he went from grossing $2100 per month to grossing $12,300 per month, in just 6 short months. Within a year, he had turned his carpet-cleaning business into a six-figure business.

He began a second business teaching others in his industry the direct response marketing techniques that helped him go from dead broke to six-figure success. He eventually sold the carpet-cleaning business and now generates millions in revenue from his marketing training business.

All because he got out of his comfort zone, stopped complaining about what wasn’t working and opened himself up to something that did, and took action by applying what he learned.

But Will This Work for Me?

Now, you can do “image advertising” or a “brand awareness” campaign if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with that, but just know that it might take months and months to see any kind of traction from your efforts.

Whereas with direct response marketing & effective copywriting, you can create web copy and other communications today that get potential clients and customers reaching out to you tomorrow.

I encourage you to read Joe’s story here, where you’ll learn a lot more about what direct response marketing is and how to apply it, if you’re interested. At the end of his story, Joe shares four proven strategies for marketing your business that worked incredibly well for him and over 6300 business owners in his industry.

And before you go thinking, “But I don’t own a carpet cleaning business, those strategies won’t work for me,” or, “I’m not comfortable using ‘aggressive’ marketing tactics,” keep in mind what I said earlier: the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years.

And you can adapt those principles in a non-aggressive way to your business and your marketing comfort level. (But don’t get too comfortable, mind you, because your comfort zone is where dreams go to die, and we actually want results here, right?)

Please note, I’m NOT saying you have to actually mail things to people or use the kind of direct response ads Joe talks about in his story (though that works too), but you can practice direct response marketing principles on your website.

If you click on the link above to read Joe’s story, pay special attention to what he says about the difference between marketing and selling, and his definition of what selling really is. I think you’ll find Joe’s definition of selling comforting.

The Takeaway

Over the years I’ve had several clients who don’t feel comfortable “asking for the sale,” or in some cases, even alluding to the fact they have something for sale.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those people make far fewer sales of their products and services than people who know they have to get comfortable with marketing and selling to be successful in business, or act in spite of their discomfort with it.

(By the way, I find it easy as pie to help other people with their marketing, but I’m not that terribly comfortable doing it for myself, despite providing marketing & PR services to my clients for over a decade. But I act in spite of my discomfort, because if there’s one thing I’m wildly passionate about, it’s having a successful business so I never, ever, E-V-E-R, have to go back to work for “the man.”)

That said, I get that Joe Polish’s style may not be right for everyone. I understand the strategies and tactics of other wildly successful marketers I’ve mentioned on this blog before, people like Dan Kennedy, Ben Settle, or John Carlton may be a little too aggressive for your taste.

I get it.

However.

From Polish, Kennedy, Settle, Carlton and other classic marketing mentors, to brilliant marketing types like Naomi Dunford, Ashley Ambirge, Marie Forleo and others – I take what works for me, what I can adapt to my shy-ish, sensitive and creative sensibilities, and leave the rest.

No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I see it. Instead, I learn and adapt, learn and adapt.

At the end of the day, if solopreneurs and small business owners who are afraid to sell, or think there’s something inherently wrong or sleazy about selling – and therefore resist learning how to effectively market online – would let go of that one very detrimental mindset, they’d be a lot more successful.

And I can say this, because I had to learn this lesson myself in the early days when I was first launching what was then my generic freelance writing business. I fervently wish I hadn’t wasted a year and half and then some working my fingers to the bone doing what was comfortable but wasn’t working, and applied tried-and-true principles of copywriting and direct response marketing instead.

But better late than never, eh?

So my plea to you is, become a student of copywriting and marketing. Even if you don’t learn from me, that is A-OK my friend, but find someone whose teachings and trainings you do resonate with, and learn from them.

Because as Dan Kennedy says, copywriting is the #1 skill to master if you want to increase your income. I wouldn’t be in the business of writing copy for my clients, or helping my clients optimize and improve their current copy, if I didn’t believe that.

In my case, learning from masters like Kennedy, Polish, Settle, Carlton and other copywriting greats has given me a priceless return on my time investment, many times over.

I wish the same for you.

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By the way, if you’re ready to get one-on-one strategic guidance to help you to write a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients {without becoming a pro copywriter}, I’ve got something that will help.

It’s not right for everyone, but if you’re interested in the details, you can check them out here:

The Shape Up Your Website Copy to Start Making More Sales 30-Day Fast Start: A Private Writing & Marketing Mentorship

 

If you’re ready to transform your website copy from lackluster to luminous, so it’s more compelling and client-attractive to your target audience and generates more client inquiries and sales this might  be a good fit for you. Click on the link above for details. 

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How to Write Headlines for Your Creative Business That Don’t Make You Cringe with Embarrassment (or, Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes)

Formulas. Blueprints. Templates. Rules.

I tend to dislike most of these things. And so do most of the other creative business builders I’ve talked to.

But when it comes to writing headlines, templates and formulas can help if you’re experiencing a rough patch while trying to create magnetic headlines for your creative business, especially when you’re first starting out.

Besides, templates and formulas are just a starting point, a way to get the creative juices flowing. You use them to get something down on paper, then you tweak from there, depending on your personality and your business and service offerings.

So today I give you headline formulas, blueprints, templates and rules.

Because if you can train yourself to write attention-grabbing headlines (you can), then your content is much more likely to get read, shared and acted upon. Good news for you, right?

How Important Are Headlines?

Some well-known and uber-successful copywriters suggest that at least half the time you spend writing a piece should be spent on the headline; it’s that important. Agreed.

You may have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, you can bet the rest of the blog post or article or sales page you’ve just slaved over will, unfortunately, be ignored.

And we’re trying to run successful businesses that rely on writing and sharing content that moves people to act, so ain’t nobody got time to be ignored.

That said, the body content of the thing you’re writing, be it a blog post, a newsletter, a sales page or what-have-you also needs to be well-written and persuasive, and it must deliver on the headline. But you knew that.

Golden advice nugget: When writing headlines for your creative business, keep in mind what your audience is thinking, and that is, WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me?” 

Now then, let’s talk about a few headline formulas.

Promise a Benefit or Arouse Curiosity

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

This is something I learned in my American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting training. According to the fine folks at AWAI, a powerful headline does these 4 things:

  • Begins to develop a relationship with your audience/potential clients
  • Delivers a complete message
  • Compels readers/potential clients to read more
  • Grabs the reader’s attention

Examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It) {Benefit: win more clients}

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it) {Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells {Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Pretty straightforward, right?

Using Curiosity in Headlines

Google will return over 14 million results when you search on the phrase, “creating curiosity in copywriting,” which tells you what a powerful concept curiosity is in persuasive writing.

If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential clients want the answer to. If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

:: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

:: Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

A site called Upworthy does the curiosity headline very effectively, by essentially creating that really annoying “clickbait” I personally don’t jive with. At all. But hey, it works for them.

You can read more about Upworthy and some background on why “curiosity-gap headlines” work here:

Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway 

Follow Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy’s Lead

As a copywriter and marketer, I follow Dan Kennedy’s work, read his blog, subscribe to his email newsletter, and read the occasional book he’s written. And while he’s not for everybody, his advice works, if you feel comfortable following it.

In Chapter 3 of his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Kennedy shares some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you can use to get people to read your sales material. (He mentions the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and wisely says, “That’s what your recipients will be if you do not command their attention and literally drag them into reading.”)

Of course, the same formulas can be used to create headlines for your blog posts and subject lines for your emails as well.

(Caveat: If you spend any amount of time online you’ll recognize these formulas, because so many bloggers, copywriters and other business builders use them. For that reason I try to use them sparingly, because I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s.)

Here are a few of Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Two other formulas Kennedy mentions that I’ve personally used are the “Secrets of” and the “How To” headline.

Examples from my vault:

:: For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring Lackluster About Page Into an Ideal Client Attracting Magnet

:: How to Create a Free Opt-in Offer Your Target Audience Will Love (and why you need to)

Check out three other effective headline formulas on Kennedy’s website here:

Three Killer Headline Formulas That Could Skyrocket Your Conversion Rates…

Use Specificity and Numbers

Let get real: we’re all crazy-busy trying to build our creative empires online, and the people we’re trying to attract are too. So you have to get their attention quickly.

One way to get straight to the benefit-driven point in your headlines and immediately hook your readers is to use specificity and numbers.

Why does this work so well?

Because specific details and numbers are more credible than general statements.

For example, which of these examples is more compelling and believable to you?

:: How to Make More Money Selling Digital Products

OR . . .

:: How I Made $6,557.68 Last Month Selling 2 Easy-to-Create Digital Guidebooks

And how about this . . .

:: Tips for Getting More Clients with Your Website

OR . . .

:: 7 Easy Website Tweaks You Can Implement Today That Will Double Your Client Enquiries

Here are two headline examples from my own vault that use specificity and numbers:

:: A Foolproof 6-Step System for Generating Dozens of Ideas for Blog Posts and Newsletters That Your Target Audience Wants to Read (in Under an Hour a Week)

:: How to Improve Your Small Business Website Content Today for Better Sales: A 7-Point Checklist

These kind of headlines reward the reader by letting them know the specific and compelling benefits of reading the article even before they’ve read a word of the body content. What a timesaver for your readers; they’re gonna love ya for it!

The Instant Clarity Headline Formula

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

Obviously, to be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader (or client or customer) can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

So if you’re a wedding photographer for example, maybe your clients want candid, natural-looking shots in which they look relaxed and happy. And the time frame they want it in is their wedding day. As for objections, they may feel there’s no way you – someone they don’t know all that well – can capture their special moments without making them looking posed and stiff.

So using this formula, a wedding photographer could come up with something like this for a blog post headline:

:: The No-Fail Formula for Getting Candid, Natural-Looking Shots on Your Wedding Day Without Looking Posed, Uncomfortable or Stiff

Or let’s say an interior designer wants to write a blog post to help her ideal client – a busy young family on the go with a couple of small children and a dog – undertake a DIY design project to spruce up their home. The end result they want is a luxurious home that reflects their specific taste and design style, but it also has to be practical and easy to keep up. And they don’t want their lives to be disrupted in the process, so the DIY project can’t take more than a month.

So our interior designer could write a blog post with a headline like this:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Now let’s talk about the “cringing with embarrassment” part. (or, How to Use Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles to Craft Compelling Headlines Your Target Audience Will Love)

The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I like to share with my clients when it comes to both getting ideas for content their target audience wants to read, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to spark ideas for blog posts your audience actually wants to read) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

(I wrote more here about using the magazine method to find out what your target audience wants to read.)

Publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather headline ideas for your own blog or newsletter?

And to make it super-easy, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your industry or niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines there.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

For example, suppose I want to generate headline ideas for an interior design business. So I go through some magazines in the home design niche over on our good friend Amazon, and putting my own spin on what I find there, I come up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I came up with these headline ideas:

:: The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

:: How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

:: Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

:: 5 Minute Styling Tricks You Can Learn Today

:: The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

:: How to Dress for Your Body Type

Book Chapter Titles

You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates. Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can get a look-see at what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, cruise through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

So let’s take our hypothetical interior design business and come up with some headline ideas from book chapter titles:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

Now let’s do the same for our fashion business:

:: How to Shop Like a Stylist

:: How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

:: 3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

:: The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

:: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

See, how easy was that? By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, we came up with 21 headline ideas, not to mention, ideas for what to write about in the first place!

Now just for fun, if you’re completely stumped for a headline idea, head on over to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Enter the subject you want to write about, and the generator will give you some headline ideas.

When I did this for the very article you’re reading right now, Portent suggested the following headlines:

:: Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes

:: The 5 Best Resources for Magnetic Headlines

:: How Benefit Driven Headlines Are Making the World a Better Place

And my personal favorite:

:: Why Copywriting Will Change Your Life

Fun stuff, huh?

So there you have it. Tons of easy-to-implement headline templates you can start using today to get your content read, shared and acted upon. And for still more writing magnetic headlines goodness, check out the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

If you’re serious about learning to write great headlines, you can head over to Copyblogger at the link below and sign up to receive the free e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines. I’ve got it and it’s good. Seriously, you’ll find dozens of easy-to-implement headline templates in it, so go to town, my friend:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

From Alexandra Franzen, here are 10 ways to write blog post titles, headlines & email subject lines that make people go, “whoa!”

And from Buffer, check out this in-depth post on how to write headlines for all the various kinds of content you’ll be writing as you build your online empire:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

 

Comments? Questions? Other headline templates you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

[Sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other goodies for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

 

For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It)

photography web marketing

[NOTE: Though this post is geared to photographers, the principles apply to all creatives selling any kind of product or service.]

Photographers, I love you. Fine art photographers, wedding photographers, lifestyle photographers, product photographers, pretty much all of you.

For years, I wanted to be among you:  a working photographer, making a living from photography.  I chased this dream for some time.  I took a year-long course in photography at my local community college, worked for a local photographer as an assistant, then put together a portfolio and applied to the photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Lucky for me, I was accepted into the program. Unluckily, I decided art school wasn’t in the cards for me at that moment. I moved to New York anyway and went to “regular” college, taking a few photography courses during the three years I lived there between other commitments.

I share this with you because I want you to know that my heart is with you, that I’m not coming to you strictly from a place of sharing advice on how to write persuasive web copy that can help you win more clients in your photography business, but also from a place of big, full-hearted, sappy love for the work you do every day.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about the simple yet powerful web copy tweak that can help you win more clients. But first . . . .

The Problem with Most Photography Websites

Many photographers make the serious mistake of assuming their gorgeous images will speak for themselves to sell their services and get clients, imagining that once a potential customer sees the talent evident in the online portfolio, they’ll immediately reach out and inquire about working together.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

While having a web presence and an online portfolio is a great first step, it’s not enough. The “build it and they will come” approach simply does not work online, where you’re competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers in your town who provide exactly the same service you do. And if you live in a big city, thousands of other photographers.

Since your potential clients can easily find at least two dozen other talented photographers whose images are just as stunning as yours with a simple Google search, you’re going to have to show them more than your gorgeous portfolio to get them interested in hiring you.

What Potential Clients Are Looking For

What a potential client is looking for when they land on your photography site is evidence that you clearly understand who they are as a client, that you have the solution they’re looking for, and that you, specifically, are exactly the person to provide that solution.  

In other words, they want you to be “the one.” They’ve been searching and searching online, and they’re feeling frustrated that they’ve already been to 12 other wedding photography/lifestyle photography/insert your photography specialty here websites, and they can’t distinguish one photographer from the next. They want to land on your site and think, “This is it, I’ve found the ideal photographer for my job at last. I can stop searching, cue the trumpets.”

This is why you get price-shopped, by the way. Because most photography websites look nearly identical to one another and most photographers provide similar services, the ONLY thing potential clients have to go on to distinguish you from your competition is your price, so naturally they’ll choose the person with the lowest price.  This is not the kind of client you want.

{To learn more about web surfing behavior and what potential customers are looking for when they search online for that thing you do, check out 7 Ways to Improve Your Web Copy Today for Better Sales: Basics for Creative Entrepreneurs. And pay particular attention to Item #2, where I share an example from the world of wedding photography.}

So how do you convey to your ideal clients that you’re the right photographer for their project? You do it through compelling, client-focused web copy. That’s the simple yet powerful website copy tweak that will win you more clients: CLIENT-FOCUSED web copy.

That may sound way too simple, but you’d be surprised how many photography websites don’t adhere to this simple, yet persuasive principle. (Lots of other kinds of websites don’t either, by the way, not just photography sites.)

Your web copy must connect with the reader/potential client and speak to what’s important to them as a photography client, as opposed to using company-centric copy that focuses mostly on the company, i.e., with language like “our goal,” “we have,” “we specialize in,” etc.

Because the edifying truth is, people don’t really care who you are, they want to know how you can help them. They’re seeking the answer to the question, “WIIFM?,” meaning, “What’s in it for me?”

So what you want your web content to do is make an emotional connection with your ideal clients through speaking directly to their desires, wants and needs in a way that makes them eager to do business with you.

Building the Foundation: How to Create Compelling Client-Focused Web Copy

To create persuasive web copy that effectively sells your services, you have to get the foundation in place first.  This is critical work that if left undone, will create frustration, vexation, and irritation (you can tell we love our thesaurus around here), loads of wasted time, and frankly, will attract more than your fair share of pain-in-the-butt, price-shopping clients. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On the other hand, if you do the foundational work first, creating compelling web copy for every page on your site, from your Home page, to your About page, to your Services and Pricing pages, and everything in between, becomes a breeze.

This foundational work consists of:

#1: Figuring out who your ideal clients are so you can speak directly to them with a targeted and persuasive marketing message

#2: Determining what makes your work, your process, your services, or the way you do business different, better, more special, or more compelling to these ideal clients than others who do what you do, also known as your unique selling proposition

I cannot stress enough how important these two steps are to creating your compelling marketing message; everything flows from this.  It will inform everything else in your business, from the kind of clients you work with, to the services you offer, to how and who you market to, to your tagline and your client pitches, and lots more besides.

Stick with me, I’m going to tell you how to do this.

{If you want to read the story of the exhaustion, struggle and overwhelm I experienced in my business and how I resolved it by figuring out my ideal clients and unique selling proposition, check out Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?}

Defining Your Ideal Clients

This is the fun stuff – where you get to dream up exactly the kind of person who would be perfect for your services and who you’d L-O-V-E to work with. 

Because the bottom line is, if you haven’t defined your ideal client/perfect customer/target audience, then you’re trying to talk to “everybody” with your web content – which means it’s most likely bland and boring and homogenous.  And that means that as lovingly crafted and well-written as it may be, it won’t convert the right readers into your dream clients and potential clients. Say it with me: bland and boring does not convert!

To find out more about defining your ideal clients, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your Audience Checklist, check out The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition

Once you’ve determined who your ideal clients are, you can begin to work out what your unique selling proposition is. Your USP is simply the collection of factors unique to you and your business that compel your ideal clients to choose you over someone else who offers the same product or service.  In fact, who you serve – your ICA or “ideal client avatar” – can be part of your unique selling proposition.

The benefit of a well-defined USP is that you’ll begin to connect with and convert your ideal clients, instead of ending up with the ones who make you want to plunge daggers into your eyes.  Because when a potential ideal client lands on your website and sees it’s not like the hundreds of photography sites they found when they were Googling that thing you do, they will stop and take notice, instead of trucking right on past your website never to return.

To find out how to uncover your USP, including the opportunity to download a free Defining Your USP Checklist, check out Creatives: How to Uncover Your Unique Selling Proposition (and why you need to). The downloadable checklist is at the end of the blog post.

In that post you’ll find a couple of examples of creative service providers doing differentiation right, so you can see what that looks like in the context of writing client-focused web copy. On a similar note, you might want to check out this guest post I wrote called 6 Authentic, Low-Cost Ways to Differentiate Yourself Online to Attract Your Ideal Clients and Customers.

Ok, So You’ve Figured Out Your ICA (Ideal Client Avatar) and USP (Unique Selling Proposition), Now What?

Once you’ve knocked out these two very important first steps, you’re ready to implement what you’ve discovered about your ICA and USP to create compelling client-focused copy on your web site. The foundational work you’ve now done makes this much easier.

I would start with the Home page and the About page first, because those are the two most visited pages on most websites.

(For more information on writing an effective About page, including a template created especially for creatives, check out For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring, Lackluster About Page into an Ideal Client-Attracting Magnet.  At the end of that blog post you’ll have an opportunity to get the template I use to write About pages for clients, gratis, of course.)

Now on to the Home page. You want to think of your Home page as a virtual storefront – unless you provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason to come inside, people are going to walk right on by.

On the web, that means potential ideal clients will click away from your site faster than green grass through a goose if you don’t instantly demonstrate value and relevance to them.

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and take some kind of action – such as checking out your products and services, signing up for your email list, or requesting a quote/more information, etc.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

Here’s a down-and-dirty Home page checklist that will help you get yours in tip-top shape.

An effective Home page will do these 5 things:

1. Demonstrate that you understand your target audience’s problems

2. Offer a solution to those problems by sharing the benefits of what you have to offer, clearly, concisely, and compellingly.

3. Explain how solving the problem will improve your clients’ lives. See copywriting power tip #1, below.

4. Let your website visitors and potential customers know how you’re different from the competition and what makes you uniquely qualified to solve their problems.

5. Include a clear call to action. Very simply, this means giving them something to do next that will deepen the relationship with you, such as reading your blog or signing up for your email list, etc.

Remember, all the copy on this page needs to be client-focused. It’s less about you and more about your potential client’s wants, needs, and desires.

Your Home page will demonstrate what you can do to make your clients’ lives easier, better, healthier, richer, more successful or what have you, depending on the exact product or service you provide.

While the blog post linked up here is not strictly about Home pages, you’ll find some helpful advice on wooing and engaging potential buyers with web copy:  Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly.

For the fine art photographers reading this, I know you may think that these suggestions won’t work for you. If that’s the case, I suggest you check out this post I wrote on how you can apply copywriting principles to what you do:  Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

A Powerful Way to Reel ‘Em In: Three Bonus Client-Attracting Copywriting Power Tips

Copywriting Power Tip #1:  “Paint a Picture”

Whatever services you offer – wedding photography, lifestyle photography, product photography, even fine art photography – you need to help your potential clients and customers see the vision of what can be for them when they use your services or buy your work – their ideal outcome.

A very effective way to do this is to “paint a picture” with your web copy. Get the nitty-gritty details of how to do that here:  What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells.

Copywriting Power Tip #2:  Inject Personality

One of the most common website faults among creative service providers is boring, bland, and flavorless web copy.  Remember, bland and boring does not sell.  And since bland, boring copy is a common malady all over the web, if you buck that trend, you’ll stand out – in a good way.

There are creative ways to invest even the most plain, utilitarian thing with personality through the use of compelling web copy. That said, creative services typically are not bland and boring, so your web copy shouldn’t be either. Copy with personality gets remembered, creates desire for your services, and more importantly, sells more effectively than homogenous, dull as dirt web copy.

This doesn’t mean you have to get crazy, mind you. If you’re more Josh Groban than David Lee Roth, then own it, and let that shine through in your web and other marketing.

To learn more about using personality in web copy, check out these two posts: How to Sell Any Boring Old Thing with Scandalously Good Copy and If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing.

Copywriting Power Tip #3: Tap into the Power of Emotion

One of the most important pieces of advice I can ever share with you about writing compelling copy that persuades people to buy your creative services, is to tap into the power of emotion in your copy. Buying decisions are emotional decisions.  People buy based on emotion and justify purchases based on logic.

You may have heard that little bon mot dozens of times, but what does it mean in practice?

Think about chocolate cake.  Or Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Mmmm, donuts . . . as Homer Simpson would say.) If people acted rationally they wouldn’t buy these things – sugar is bad for you, it’s not nutritious, and it makes you fat – it’s nothing but empty, unhealthy calories.  But cake and donuts are both multi-million dollar industries because eating them makes you feel good.

So when writing your web copy, you want to make an emotional connection with your ideal clients that makes them feel good, or excited, happy, inspired, relieved, encouraged, understood, relaxed, or any one of dozens of other emotions, depending on the exact service you offer.

So, how do you figure out the deeper emotional benefit you want to tap into? One way to go beyond the surface benefits your product/service offers to get to the core emotional benefits your customers want is through the use of what’s called the “so what?” technique.  It’s simple, and it works.

Learn the “so what?” technique and how to apply it here: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

The bottom line: you have to use client-focused copy to create an emotional connection – that’s how you stand out among all the other talented photographers online, and that’s how your right people will find you.

And there you have it, my talented photographer friends – the simple website copy tweak that will win you more clients: client-focused web copy, and how to create it.

I know this was a heckuva lot to take in all at once, so here are the steps again, simplified:

  1. Figure out who your ideal clients are and what they desire (I pointed you to a free downloadable worksheet for this)
  2. Determine your unique selling proposition (Ditto on the free downloadable worksheet)
  3. Use this information to create compelling client-focused web copy that speaks to your ideal clients wants, needs and desires, starting with the Home page and About page on your site

But wait, there’s more!

You might find this post I wrote on taglines valuable as you re-work your website copy to focus on your ideal clients. It’s a dead-simple formula for creating a tagline for your creative business in 20 minutes flat: Taglines 101: How to Create a Tagline for Your Creative Business.

Questions? Comments?  Leave ’em below! 

To get on the VIP List to find out when my upcoming course — 30 Days to a Magnetic Marketing Message That Sells: A Course for Wedding, Portrait, and Lifestyle Photographers — drops, head right over here.

[For more on writing copy that connects with your ideal clients, sign up for free weekly updates and get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & web marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]

Why Most Product Websites Make Me Sad: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsightly

I recently got a comment on my Facebook page asking for examples of what I consider good home pages for websites selling physical products.

Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of a single one.  Yep, that’s right, I couldn’t bring to mind even one example from recent memory of a website selling physical products that made a lasting impression on me. 

Then I remembered I’d stumbled on some I loved in the last year or so, but dang it, I didn’t make a note of them at the time, so they disappeared from my memory like a fine vapor, just like that.

And that is unfortunate. 

But it highlights the big problem with many e-commerce and product sites: most are entirely forgettable.

What bugs me about the default kind of product website (examples coming up) is there’s no wooing of, and engaging with, the prospective buyer. Many of these sites feature tons of images with short and boring product descriptions (well, if they have to be boring, at least they’re short, right?), how to order info, and not much else. It’s all, “Well, here’s what we got; we couldn’t be bothered to make it look/feel/seem compelling or desirable in any way – so how many bracelets/hoodies/cheese logs do ya want?”

Plus, there’s not much to differentiate one site selling jewelry/clothing/food items/what-have-you from the next.  Most are soulless, corporate things that don’t move or excite the likely buyer, or call up any emotion at all, except for “Next!” as the potential customer hits the back button or navigates back to Google from whence they came.

Here’s what I’m talking about. One of these sites is trying to sell us some lovely men’s jeans, and the other, sterling silver jewelry:

Jeans {<– Click here}

Sterling Silver Jewelry  {<– Click here}

Notice the cold, impersonal feel.  Notice how everything is jammed together on the page, with nary a finely turned phrase anywhere to increase desire for or connection to the products, or paint a picture of how wonderful it would feel to own them.  This makes me sad.

What you want is personality.  Memorability.  Warmth and approachability. Copy that engages with the likely buyer on an emotional level, copy that forges a human connection. You want to give your web visitors an experience. We’ve talked about using personality to connect with ideal customers and stand out online before here and here.

Ok, you say, now I know what ineffective product site home pages look like, but what about product website homepages that get it (mostly) right, ones that exude warmth, personality and a sense of connection, sites that are memorable, engaging, and use copy well? Well, I toiled over my computer to find you a couple of examples, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?

Daniella Draper Jewellery 

Take a look at this site. {Click on company name above} It’s beautifully designed. It’s memorable. It’s evocative.  There’s a person looking directly at you as soon as you land on the page. There’s warmth and a sense of human connection. The likely buyer of this jewelry (or “jewellery,” as it’s spelled here) is going to be intrigued enough to want to scroll down and find out more.  It employs easy and intuitive web navigation.

Admittedly, there’s not much copy on the home page, but there are several markers of personality, warmth, and humanness, from the image of the young woman at the top of the page, to the picture of Daniella herself, to the Instagram feed featuring shots of Real! Live! People! wearing the jewelry and otherwise keeping it real, as the youngsters say.

Two of the brief bits of copy on the home page – “Beautifully British: Handcrafted Silver Jewellery,” and “Incredibly unique, designed and handmade by Daniella Draper” – begin to give you a glimmer of what you can expect from your experience here, and naturally compel you to explore more of the site if you’re the likely customer for this handmade jewelry.

Compare this site to the two I linked up above, where as many products as possible are crammed onto one page, making the products look janky and cheap, even if they’re not.

Hiut Denim Co. 

Again, notice the beautiful design and easy and intuitive web navigation. {Click on company name above}

The “Do One Thing Well” tagline instantly conveys passionate attention to detail, a love for going above and beyond to craft something amazing. And the images and home page copy all support the “do one thing well” ethos.  Very nice.

But here’s what I simply adore about the Hiut Denim site: its fantastic use of a Founder Story to set itself apart from all the other companies online selling premium denim.

Check out the “our story” copy on the home page to see what I mean. It’s actually more than just a founder story – it’s the story of how Hiut Denim helped Cardigan, a small town in Wales once home to the biggest jeans factory in Britain, get back on its feet again after the jeans manufacturing operation moved to Morocco.

How can you not love this? –> “So we decided 4 decades worth of know-how shouldn’t go to waste. That’s why the Hiut Denim Company was born: To get the town making jeans again.” Call me crazy, but that actually gives me chills.  

And talk about differentiation!  What a powerful and effective way to set themselves apart from other premium denim purveyors and forge an emotional connection with the likely buyer – because after all, you’re not just buying finely crafted and beautiful denim, you’re helping a town hold on to its livelihood.

The J. Peterman Company  

I always have to share the genius of J. Peterman when I’m talking about pitch-perfect product copy, because it’s the pinnacle of gorgeous and evocative product copywriting. {Click on company name above}

The beautifully written copy here reads like a story (just click on any of the individual product images), one you aspire to become a part of, or one you identify with, if you happen to be the likely buyer. (And that is who we’re talking to after all – we’re not trying to convince the unlikely buyer to buy our stuff, we’re trying to appeal to those with a predisposition or pre-existing hankering for the product.)

As humans, we’re hardwired to respond to stories, and the copy on the J. Peterman site taps into that longing brilliantly.

If your business sells products of any kind, your time would be well-spent studying the compelling product copy on the J. Peterman site.

Conclusion

What do these product company web pages have in common?  They are evocative. They convey warmth, soul, and personality.  They are approachable. They make an emotional connection.  There are actual human beings involved. They make you want to stick around and explore, even if you’re not planning to buy the goods right now.  They are memorable.

And importantly, the combination of web copy, photography, graphics, and the stories they choose to tell all work together to create an experience that will resonate with the likely buyer. This is what you want.  

In the comments below, I’d love for you to share your favorite product websites and tell me why they resonate with you.  (Even if it’s your own!) Go ahead, share your thoughts; I’d love to see what other product sites out there are making an impact!

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