The Essential Piece of Copy You Must Master to Convert Web Visitors Into Leads and Clients

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Let’s just admit it: this here online marketing thang can be a lot of hard work.

The blog posts, the website copy, the weekly newsletters, the email sales campaigns, the pitches to potential clients, the sales pages, the landing pages, the fresh social media content that must be posted each day so you can stay “top of mind” for those who may want to buy from you . . . phew, I’m tired just writing all that.

Some days the amount of content we have to crank out to generate traffic, interest from potential clients, and signed-on-the-dotted-line business feels exhausting and overwhelming.

And if you’re doing all this work, you want to see results – in the way of people signing up for your email list, setting up a free consultation, requesting more information, visiting your bricks-and-mortar store, signing up for a free trial offer, buying your products, or taking whatever the logical next step is in your customer relationship or audience engagement process.

If you’re getting consistent traffic to your blog or website but your visitors aren’t taking these actions, take heart – the problem could be as simple as adding the appropriate call to action (CTA) in your blog posts, landing pages, emails, website copy and other online (and offline, if you do print advertising) content.

What is a call to action? 

A call to action is a clear instruction in your written communications – your newsletter and blog posts, your Shop or Work with Me page, your social media status updates, your ads and other sales materials – essentially anywhere you communicate with your audience – that directs said audience to take a specific action.

In a nutshell, the call to action is the very clear and uber-specific instruction telling your readers what to do next.

Because just like in “real life,” if there’s something you want someone to do, asking them to do it directly and succinctly is usually the most effective way to get what you want.

Examples of calls to action include:

“Sign up here for free weekly tips and inspiration I only share with my subscribers”

“Come in today for 30% off”

“Buy now”

“Re-tweet this!”

“Leave your comments below”

“Click here to subscribe”

“Order now to take advantage of this limited-time offer”

See? Not so hard, right?

Where to Add CTAs on Your Website

The appropriate place for a call to action depends on the purpose of your website, and what you want readers and potential customers and clients to do after reading a piece of content. The key is to not leave people hanging – give them clear direction on what to do next within or at the end of each page or post.

First, you’ll need to determine the optimal action you want your readers to take, depending on whether they’re reading a blog post, visiting your website’s home page, or checking out your Work with Me or Sales page, etc.

Here are a few key places to put CTAs:

  • At the end of blog posts, asking for shares or comments or directing people to sign up for your email list
  • On your email opt-in form asking readers to subscribe to your newsletter
  • In a newsletter asking readers to click over to a blog post
  • Within your blog posts directing people to something else you’ve written on your blog or elsewhere
  • On the home page of your website directing readers to contact you for more information or to book a complimentary session
  • On a sales page asking for a sale (you’ll want a CTA in several locations on a sales page – but this is a topic for another blog post)

How to Write Your Killer Call to Action

Now that you have some ideas of where to place calls to action to generate the desired actions from your readers, it’s time to develop your CTA copy.

The length of your CTA copy will be determined by where it is and what you’re asking people to do. For example, button copy will be short and sweet and say things like “buy now,” “sign up today,” or “get instant access.” Where you have room to write to your heart’s content, such as at the end of blog posts, your call to action copy may be longer.

4 Tips for Writing a Strong Call to Action

Know your audience. If you’re writing for an audience of lawyers for example, your calls to action will be worded differently than if you write for, say, circus clowns. Call to action copy for accountants would be different than for artists. You get the idea. You want to write in a way that resonates with your target audience and uses the kind of language they would respond to, based on their needs and desires.

Examples:

  • Oyster, the Netflix of books, according to the interwebs, uses this call to action on their home page: “Read unlimited books, anytime, anywhere. Start for Free.”
  • The dating site OK Cupid uses this call to action on their home page: “Join the best free dating site on Earth. Start meeting people now!”
  • The wonderful novelty store Archie McPhee uses this call to action copy to get people to sign up for their newsletter: “Join the Cult of McPhee: Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter (A $700 Value!)”
  • From the home page of an accounting firm in my hometown: “Our dedication to quality, professional standards, and service is unmatched. Get in touch today.”
  • From a contact form on the website of a personal injury attorney: “No Obligation Free Consultation. Get Help Now!”

Define your outcome. For example, my primary goal is to get email subscribers. This is more important to me than getting social media followers, having people leave comments on my blog posts, or requesting more information. For you it may be different.

With that outcome in mind, the call to action I use at the end of most of my blog posts directs people to sign up for my email list. I don’t ask people to “follow me on social media!,” or “sign up for a free strategy session,” or “Click here to find out more.” It’s almost exclusively about the email list.

Examples:

Here’s what I use at the end of most blog posts:

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

If your primary goal is to get people to sign up for a free strategy session, you could use something like this at the end of the body copy on your home page:

  • “Ready to get started? Book your complimentary Discovery Session now by entering your email in the form below. I’ll be in touch within 24 hours to set up our call to see if we’re a good fit to work together.”

Use action-oriented words. Begin your calls to action with verbs like “download,” “join,” “sign up,” “share with your friends,” “discover,” and “register now,” etc.

Examples:

  • “Create an Event. It’s free.”
  • “Read the case study”
  • “Sign up and publish for free”

Convey the benefit. You want to demonstrate value and relevance to your target audience and offer a benefit that is meaningful to them based on their needs and desires.

Where I see the most need for this is in call to action copy on newsletter opt-in forms. Telling someone to “join my newsletter” or “sign up for email updates” just doesn’t cut it. There’s no benefit, value or personality whatsoever in those flaccid calls to action.

Instead, you want to get specific and focus the form copy on the main benefit your subscribers will receive, based on a problem they want to solve or a pleasure they want to gain.

Examples:

  • Tracy Matthews Jewelry opt-in copy: Is your jewelry box a mess? Sign up to receive your FREE guide: Clean It Like a Professional and Keep It Tangle & Tarnish-Free!  Added Bonus:  By becoming a member you are instantly privy to FREE jewelry giveaways, special jewelry offers, and video tutorials.

The opt-in copy here leads with benefits: how to keep your jewelry tangle and tarnish free, plus access to giveaways, special offers and video tutorials. 

  • Interior designer opt-in copy: Enter your email below to grab your free guide, “From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury.” (Plus weekly design tips and inspiration I only share with email subscribers.)

I wrote this opt-in copy for an interior designer. You can see it focuses on the result the interior designer’s target audience wants to achieve:  transforming a chaotic home into an oasis of practical luxury.

  • My opt-in form copy: Enter your email to get instant access to the FREE Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page (so you never have to accept work from someone simply because they have a checkbook and a pulse, ever again.)

My audience of creative business builders often struggles with getting the right kind of clients, so that’s the benefit I focus on in the opt-in copy: writing an About page in a way that attracts ideal clients. 

Bonus tip: Where appropriate, promise instant gratification. It’s human nature – we all love instant gratification. This will depend on your desired outcomes and goals for your site, but where you can use words like “Instant Access,” “Get It Now,” “Instant Download” and similar copy, you’ll often see an increase in people taking action.

Final Thoughts

As the wildly successful copywriter and marketing strategist Dan Kennedy says, “After the headline, the call to action is the most important element of successful copywriting.” Your call to action is the key to getting website visitors to take those oh-so-important actions like signing up for your email list, reaching out to you directly, or buying your products and services.

 [A version of this post originally appeared on the site, Successful Blogging.]

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

How to Do Your Own D-I-Y Website Audit to Increase Conversions

website audit to increase conversions

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Question: Do you dream of having a website that does the job it’s meant to do – namely, to serve as your 24-7 salesperson – so you can go about doing your important creative work without having to constantly worry about marketing yourself? 

Having a “web presence” just to make your business seem legit is not the sole, or even the most important, reason your website exists.

Your website needs to make a powerful connection with the buyers and customers you want. It should position you as the obvious choice for your ideal clients. And it needs to get those people excited to take the next step on the path to working with you or buying from you (and that next step needs to be clearly and compellingly laid out).

Your website is ultimately meant to get you clients and customers and sell your products and services. Full stop.

That process might involve three steps or twelve, and it’ll usually start with subscribing to your email list, but at the end of the business day, if you’re in business, the reason your website exists is to generate revenue.

Maybe your website is actually doing a little bit of that right now. If so, great.

Or . . . maybe it’s behaving more like a lazy employee with a bad attitude, who sometimes does a half-assed job of getting you the results you want, and other times does nothing at all.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here’s a simple checklist of questions you can ask yourself to gauge your website’s performance:

:: Is your website connecting with your ideal clients and customers?

:: Is it moving them to take the action you want them to take?

:: Is it conveying your signature marketing message, one that speaks directly to those you wish to work with and serve?

:: Is it crystal clear and uber-easy for potential clients to get all the information they need in just one or two clicks, whether that’s signing up for your email list, requesting a consultation, buying your stuff, or something else?

:: Are you employing tried and true, proven copywriting principles in your web copy? (For example, speaking to one person; using conversational language; addressing your clients’ needs, wants, desires, goals, and interests; using client & customer-focused language rather “I do this” and “I do that” language, and so on. The list, it do go on.)

:: Does your web copy instantly convey what’s unique and different about you and why your ideal clients should do business with you?

:: Does your web copy adequately coach the most important conversion you want on each web page? (Each of your web pages needs to have its own goal, and everything on that page should work towards achieving that goal. An obvious example is your newsletter sign-up or email subscriber landing page; it’s one and only goal is to get subscribers.)

:: Is the “path to buy” on your site clear and straightforward?

What I Look for When I Do Website Reviews

For each web page, I consider the questions above. That starts with an in-depth questionnaire in which my client answers a couple dozen questions about their ideal clients, their marketing message, what’s working with their web marketing and communications, what’s not, their website goals, and so on.

I start by looking at the three most important web pages: the Home page, the About page, and the Services or Work with Me, or whichever page the client sells from.

Here’s a brief checklist of the elements I review:

#1) Tagline: does it clearly convey something unique/special/different that makes the web visitor want to stay on the site and explore, or instantly identify what they’ll find on the website?

For example:

Abstract Art for the Unconventional Collector

Wedding Photography for Punk Rock Brides

Life Coach for Gutsy Entrepreneurs

Minimalist Silver Jewelry for the Style Savvy

#2) A clear call to action on each web page: a clear, specific instruction for what web visitors should do next.

For example:

Visit my gallery here.

Schedule your free consultation today.

Contact me here if you have any questions.

Buy now.

Your call to action will obviously depend on the page it’s on and the #1 thing you’d like your web visitors to do after reading that page. First determine the goal for each web page, then make sure CTA on each page reflects that goal.

#3) Understand your ideal buyer/customer and write web copy that speaks to them – you’re not trying to attract and sell to everybody, only those who fit your ideal buyer or client profile.

#4) Strong headlines on each page that convey a clear and compelling benefit so that the right people (those who love what you have to offer and who can afford it) will want to read the rest of your copy or check out the rest of your website. You want your headlines to be clear, compelling and benefit-driven.

#5) Customer/client-focused web copy/language, i.e. reader-oriented content and conversational one-to-one language throughout website. Talk to one person.

#6) Address objections somewhere – an FAQ page is a great place to do this. Create a page that answers questions your potential buyers or clients typically have about working with you; include anything that could be lingering in their mind as a reason not to buy.

#7) Guarantees/remove risk

#8) Proof elements – like testimonials and reviews, etc.

#9) A clear path to buy. It should be crystal clear what someone who is ready to purchase or move forward to working with you should do next, and it should be very easy for them to select that option and take the next step.

#10) Focus on the three most important pages first – Home page; About page; Products/Services/Work with Me page, or whatever you call the page you sell from.

Hat tip to AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc.) for the “5 C’s” of effective content:

:: Customer-focused – the content makes it clear you understand your audience

:: Competitive – your content conveys your USP or what I call your “meaningful difference”

:: Clear and easily understood, no confusing industry jargon

:: Conversion optimized – each page indicates what web visitors should do next and helps convert browsers into buyers

:: Consistent – products and web copy & language, etc.,  are consistent across the website

What You Can Expect When You Make These Website Changes

The great thing is, you don’t have to do everything on the list above to start getting better results from your website. Just start somewhere. Take baby steps if you have to, or heck, do a D-I-Y website improvement binge over the weekend. But just get going on this. If you’re getting consistent, quality traffic, your conversions will improve (and even if you’re not getting much traffic right now, more of what you are getting will begin to convert).

I’ve worked hard to get here (and I know I have some advantages as a professional copywriter and web marketing strategist) but I get consistent email inquiries from potential clients on a weekly basis, simply because they landed on my website, liked what they read, and knew what to do next to get in touch with me.

Very often, these are people I’ve never met or had a conversation with. I’ve never had any contact with them at all until they found my website, then reached out to me. Sometimes they got on my email list first, then a few weeks later reached out.

OR (and this always shocks me), landed on my website, read two blog posts and my Work with Me page, then reached out to hire me right then.

These inquiries consistently turn into clients I adore, and many come back to me for additional copywriting projects, marketing strategy, or consulting. Some of those projects are quite large and ongoing for many months, at the kind of investment level that makes it possible for me to do work I love, without doing the client-getting hustle, hustle, hustle all the time.

If that isn’t a simple & low-key way to find great clients and work on projects you love, I don’t know what is. 

And that is the power of using the right language, in the right places, on your website. [By the way, as you can see from my website, it’s FAR from perfect. In fact, it needs a massive upgrade, but I still do just fine.]

So, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t get clients from your website.

Why do I bring up that last bit?

I’ll tell you.

About a year ago, someone who read something I’d written about the power of effective website copy reached out to me to say that some marketing “guru” they follow said no one gets business from their website.

LOL.

I had to laugh (and laugh and laugh), because that’s typically the ONLY way I get new (and repeat) business. I don’t do cold calling, or send email pitches, or go to networking events. (Call me lazy, call me introverted to a fault, but that’s just how I roll.)

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with any of those methods. I’ve used them all at some point, and they work. And I’ll be happy to use them again if/when I feel inspired to.

But these days, I focus on doing an awesome for my current clients, and replying to email inquiries from potential new clients who find me through my website.

Yes, you absolutely need to get quality traffic to your site as well, but my traffic stats are shamefully low, and I still get great clients. I don’t need hordes of people to find me online, I need the right clients to resonate with my marketing message, then inquire about working together, and they do.

Let me repeat: That is the power of persuasive, compelling copy and a clear, easy-to-follow path to finding the right information, in the right place, on your website.

Want the same results for yourself?

If you KNOW your website could be getting you more clients, customers and sales, and you want it to happen NOW, so you can start getting those PayPal and Stripe notifications sooner rather than later, I invite you to reach out to me about working together.

I’ve got a full, comprehensive website copywriting package that may be just right for you. Or if you’re working with a more limited budget, I also offer a VIP Website Audit & Review, which includes a comprehensive website action plan with customized-for-you copy & conversion recommendations you can implement on your own to start improving your website results ASAP.

Simply reach out to me at Kimberly [at] kimberlydhouston [dot] com, and put “website copywriting package” or “VIP website review” in the subject line, depending on which service you’re interested in. I’ll get back to you within 48 hours during normal business hours. We’ll begin by discussing your project over email, then if moving forward makes sense, we’ll schedule a call to talk about your next best steps.

Would You Rather Push a Boulder Uphill with a Feather, or Nail Down Your Compelling Marketing Message?: A Question for Creative Business Builders, Solopreneurs and Small Business Owners

Let’s go way, way back in Internet years to late 2011/early 2012.

I was just bringing my writing business online, and was excited as all get out to finally launch my website and start selling my services on the World! Wide! Web! Yee-to-the-haw!!

I’d been helping clients with marketing copy, content, and other marketing initiatives for years; going live with my website would finally make it legit and “official.”

Ah, the rainbows and unicorns of those halcyon early days! The harp-playing angels on fluffy white clouds when I thought of the possibilities! The opportunities! The freedom! The revenue!

And yet.

By the end of 2012, I was experiencing one of the most frustrating, maddening, and exasperating periods of my business. I was exhausted and on the verge of giving up.

I’m talking tear-inducing, anxiety-producing, hair-pulling frustration, and the occasional to-the-hell-with-this-here-business-thing-if-it-has-to-be-so-hard crying jag alone in my apartment, while my friends were out doing “normal” things like going to dinner, or the movies, or out for beers and live music on a Saturday night.

Pushing a Boulder Uphill with a Feather

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any clients. I just didn’t have enough clients, and certainly not enough of the right kind of clients.

I wanted to serve creatives who were doing interesting things in their business who valued my expertise, and had an actual budget for marketing and copywriting. Yet I was attracting clients in all kinds of random, non-creative industries, many of whom were looking for bargain-priced services, and who didn’t always appreciate the value (and necessity) of persuasive writing/copywriting to their business success.

If you provide one-on-one services in your business, you know how frustrating it can be to work with the wrong kind of clients. Good people, just the wrong clients. Ahem.

On top of that, I was spending hours upon hours producing weekly content for blog posts, newsletters, and social media, yet it didn’t seem to be moving the needle. My email list growth was nearly stagnant, and I wasn’t faring much better in the attracting-the-right-kind-of-buyers department either.

And when I doubled down and worked even harder and longer producing still more content, thinking maybe “more” was the answer?  Nope, still no real change.

It was like pushing a boulder uphill with a feather.

[I covered this fun time in much greater detail in a 3-part blog series from 2013 called Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?]

Then It Dawned on Me . . .

In case clicking over to read that 3-part series is not in the cards for you time-wise, I’ll give you the short version of my epiphany here.

My big mistake, and why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted was three-fold:

#1: I didn’t know who my ideal client/target audience was and what they struggled with, #2: I wasn’t expressing how I was different from others who offered a similar product or service, and #3: I wasn’t making an emotional connection with my ideal clients. (You have to do the first two to be able to pull off the third).

The problem was my marketing message. Or lack of one, to be more precise.

That’s when nailing down and conveying the right marketing message to the right audience became my mission. I was NOT going to give up on making my fledgling business work. No way, no how.

If you read the blog series linked above, you’ll know I eventually worked my way through this exasperating conundrum by figuring out who my target audience and ideal customers were and what they wanted; determining my unique selling proposition (otherwise known as a USP, or what I prefer to call your “meaningful difference”); and using that information in all my content, copy, marketing, and social media, etc., to attract and make an emotional connection with my right people.

Once I did that, things started to improve. Bigly. I got more client inquiries. My email list started to grow. I started getting booked out with projects I loved working on, with clients I loved working with. I started earning more.

[By the way, I’m teaching a course for wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photographers later this year about how to do exactly this, based on my own experience + the work I’ve done with my photographer copywriting clients, helping them nail down their own marketing message.]

To be clear, the process of determining and implementing a marketing message that attracted the right audience took time. Things improved when I got clear on who I wanted to serve and what they wanted, but there were still adjustments to make and ideas to tweak.

Still, I started to see better results almost immediately, which gave me the motivation to keep going. And that was huge for me. It’s what kept me from giving up.  

That’s how it is in business – as you learn more about your ideal audience, you fine tune. Then learn more, fine tune more. Even now, several years in, I’m still fine tuning my understanding of my audience and how to best serve them, and adjusting my messaging, my marketing, and my offers accordingly.

What You Can Do Next

Whatever stage of business you’re in right now – just getting started, three years in, exhausted and ready to give up, or digging in your heels and declaring, “I’m going to make this work!” –  it’s always a good time to take a long, hard look at your audience and your messaging, and ask, “Am I attracting the kind of clients I want to attract? Am I attracting enough of them? Is my message resonating with the right people in this saturated, overcrowded online space?”

And if not, do what I did. Determine who you want to serve, what they want/need/desire, and what makes you uniquely qualified to serve them, and use those insights in your content, copy, marketing, and everywhere else you interact with your audience, so you can begin to attract and make an emotional connection with your right people.

Imagine the possibilities when you do that.  It might just be what your business needs to turn the corner and start feeling joyful to work in again.

Just don’t give up too soon.

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If you want immediate feedback from a professional copywriter and marketer on your website copy, customized-for-you answers to your top copywriting challenges, and clear ideas for improving your website copy ASAP to more effectively call in and convert your ideal clients, then check out my Creating Better Copy Personalized Help Session right over here.

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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