How to write your ideal customer profile

If you’re just starting out your copywriting business, it’s a good idea to write an ideal customer profile which helps you define whose business you want to attract.

Copywriters usually offer a b2b service. Since that ideal ‘customer’ is actually another business, your profile should be built around your perfect imaginary business client.

There’s no special formula to writing your ideal customer profile, but here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

  1. Describe what you are selling as though to a child.
  2. Do you have any USPs?
  3. Who might benefit from your particular skills? Think about businesses in a certain industry you might have expertise in, your local area, or perhaps even certain members of the public such as educational providers, academics or students.
  4. Can you define a single ideal client? Do you have any conflictions between businesses? If so, write up the pros and cons of each and think about which business would benefit you most. Narrow down your profile to suit them.
  5. What are the benefits for them of using your product?
  6. What do they sell?
  7. Is their product considered a luxury or a necessity?
  8. If a luxury, how would you encourage their potential customers to part with their money? If a necessity, how can you make their product exciting, new and tempting?
  9. Does this business overlap a couple of industries – could it lead to more contacts?
  10. What scale is this business? How many people do they employ? Do they make a modest or a healthy profit?
  11. Does this business need you? Or do they likely already have a marketing department or not realistically have a budget to accommodate hiring a copywriter? How could you tailor your services to their needs and budget?
  12. What are their potential content needs?
  13. What problems does this business face now and in the future? Consider issues such as the economy, skills shortages, changes to the law, environmental pressures, an aging customer base.
  14. How can your skills help them overcome these problems?
  15. What are the benefits for you of working with this business?
  16. Where are they located (what area of the country and are the in the town centre or on the outskirts)?
  17. Describe that business’ ideal customer (remember, your income depends on appealing to their customers’ needs). Are they male/female, what is their age, why do they use this product, where do they live, what is their income?
  18. Think of people you know that might buy from this business.
  19. How long has this company been in business? Are they new and fresh or do they have heritage you can play on?
  20. Are they selling a contemporary service which appeals to a younger audience or a traditional product with an older demographic?
  21. How do they promote themselves and communicate with their customers?
  22. What kind of language do they use?
  23. What are the business’ values? Is it being cutting edge, is it providing a service no one else can, is it providing quality for money?
  24. Can your content help them reach new audiences?
  25. Is there an angle to this business that interests you? Such as its ethical policy, its affiliations, its work in the community. These all make great narratives for copy and press releases.

There are plenty more questions you can ask yourself, and if you wish you can begin another thread relating directly to that business’ customers.

However, you don’t want to get in too deep, but the more you begin to narrow down your ideal customer, the closer you will be to spotting the companies that could use your skills. Once you can show you are close in tone of voice and ideals, you will be in a firm position when you begin approaching these businesses for work.

How to get your first copywriting clients

When you start copywriting, getting your first clients can seem like a daunting task.

After all, you’re putting yourself out there where plenty have been before. So what makes you different? That’s an important question to answer as soon as you can because it is what will help define and sell your services.

However, answering that at the start of your career – when you just need a little experience – is probably impossible. You won’t know what you enjoy writing about, and what you’re good at writing about, until you start.

So here are some tips to help you.

  1. Join a content mill

Yes, they’re woefully underpaid. But if you have zero experience and can afford to spend a few months working for next to nothing, then it’s a good idea. I wrote about content mills in a previous post, so I recommend reading that first.

  1. Tap up your contacts

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+… all these avenues are reeling with potential clients. Get your CV up to scratch and delete those personal photos. Now start linking to your blog posts/articles regularly and make it known you’re looking for new clients.

Former companies you’ve worked for might also be willing to offer you a job writing the odd piece of copy for them. If you worked there for a while, showed real initiative and left on good terms, why not drop an email to your ex-boss asking if they need someone who knows the business to write a press release?

  1. Scour the internet

You need to spend a lot of hours scouring the internet, so get good at thinking up search terms that can pinpoint you to a repository of freelance jobs. Some job board sites include Work in Startups, Network Freelance, Blogging Pro and Glassdoor. Small-scale publishers, Gum Tree or Student Gems (which you can use if you’ve graduated within the last 3 years) are also great unknown places. You’d be surprised how many businesses list their odd copywriting jobs on there.

  1. Networking events

Search your local area for groups of likeminded people and their latest talks or events. Or groups of professionals in an industry that you want to start writing for. MeetUp is a great site to show you what relevant groups are getting together and holding events around you. Go armed with business cards and the intention to meet as many people as possible to spread your word.

  1. Send out a press release

The media is a great way to get your message across, but the press will only publish your release if it is relevant and interesting. The fact that you’ve gone into self-employment isn’t exactly newsworthy. But perhaps your new job is a million miles from what you used to do. Or maybe you worked in a particular industry for ten years, making you something of a specialist? A magazine in that industry might be interested in publishing your release.

Other angles include offering an incentive, such as money off for new customers or a free trial for the first 5 local businesses who get in touch. Make sure it’s well-written and concise before sending it to local press, trade press and relevant bloggers.

  1. Send out a sales letter

Do you live and work in an area with plenty of independent businesses? They too have a product to sell, and they need help doing that. Craft the perfect sales letter and send it to a list of say 50 businesses. Remember to follow up a week or two later, and try to do it in a memorable way so that it doesn’t get lobbed out with the junk mail, as per this example!

  1. Leave a trail

You’d be surprised by the effect of simply dropping information about yourself. Eventually, someone will call. Physically, a trail might be business cards you leave in venues, pin to noticeboards and hand out at networking events.

Online, this trail could be profiles you set up with different websites. Consider posting a profile on freelance bidding sites such as Elance and Freelancer with links back to you (although I wouldn’t use these sites to get your actual first job). Social media, online copywriting networks and portfolio websites – the more, the better. Try to keep them up to date with your experience and contact details. That is if you can remember where you’ve dropped all your crumbs!

  1. Go free

I know, I know, you need to eat! But if you’ve tried all 7 steps (and I mean really, really tried) and still have no joy? Then find a few worthy causes in your area. Charities, community groups, people who need your services but can’t necessarily afford them. Be honest and say you’re looking for exposure and experience. Offer to write them the occasional blog post, an advert or press release (for free) and you’re on your way to building your portfolio.

You can bet they will tell everyone they know because good deeds do not go unremarked in this day and age! They might even find their own way to reward you. Cake, anyone?

Finding your first copywriting client isn’t the easiest thing, but it’s so rewarding when it works.

How did I do it? A combination of content mills while studying, writing for my old employer, landing a job through Student Gems and writing for free for many publications. But it takes time, especially if you’re not going full-time freelance straight away.

But remember. What many copywriters don’t tell you is that there is also no definite end point. We are all – me included – still on the journey to gaining new and more diverse clients. So it’s important to regularly target new clients through these methods, otherwise your business will stall.

Have you found a better way to land your first copywriting client? Send me a message or leave a comment and let us know how.

 

How to write a business strategy

Writing a business and marketing strategy when you’re a freelance copywriter might sound overwhelming. It might even sound unnecessary. Believe me, it is both simple and necessary!

Why do you need a business strategy? Because with the best intents and purposes, getting your foot on the copywriting ladder can be a bit difficult.

To make the best impact and not become dispirited, it’s good to implement several different tactics at once. Having a plan will help you stand back, look at the overall direction you want to head in, and start moving.

Before we begin

Jot down all your ideas in a notepad for establishing your routine and marketing your services. Once you’ve got an outline, you can type them up in Word.

There’s no set formula but I use a basic table with 3 columns (first column for publications/activities; second for detail; third for deadlines). You can tweak what I suggest to make it work for you and your business – that’s fine!

Content

Your content is the most important thing to your business. But writing to promote your own cause when you’re probably not being ‘paid’ for it can make you likely to waver. By creating a regular plan detailing which days you write for what publications makes it much more likely you’ll stick to it.

Make a table with three columns. In the first, list publications you write for and then list those you would like to write for (there’s a really good article here about planning to approach new publications). In the next column you can go into more detail such as genres/article types. In the final column list the timeframe, such as when you will publish this content or, if you plan to approach a new publication, the deadline you will set to do that by.

Remember, by publications and businesses I mean those you write for under your own name. This plan is about getting your name out there – not any clients that pay you to write their articles anonymously. At present you might only be writing for your blog. Look for websites that take contributions. Even if it’s unpaid, you’ll be getting your name out there and earning lots of experience.

Digital activity and social media

This includes promoting your articles through social media and e-newsletters etc. On your table, detail which digital avenues you work with (e.g. Reddit, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, your online portfolio…) and next to each one write the days of the week you will promote certain links/campaigns/others’ posts through these avenues.

Try to have something to promote each day (Mon-Fri). For the days when you don’t have original content of your own, ensure you’re reading others’ work and retweeting/sharing. This earns followers and you can highlight the causes/topics you’re interested in.

Remember to use the social media ‘forum’ with respect: interact with other users and post observations. You could even start a regular segment such as your favourite blog or app of the week that you always run on a Friday. It is more engaging for your followers than merely seeing a series of links coming from your account!

And what about starting a monthly e-newsletter through your website? Setting one up is easy with free tools like MailChimp and gives you something free to ‘sell’ to your followers. You can use it to collate your articles from various different publications or even entice followers with articles solely published in your newsletter. Plus you can update your followers with tips, news and offers.

Advertising and promotion

Your copywriting is still a business that can benefit from promotion and advertising. This encompasses print/digital ads, direct mail, sending out a press release

Think about who needs your service. It’ll mostly be other businesses, so where might they find out about you? In your table, list possible publications (e.g. trade magazines, local paper) to advertise in or approach with a press release, as well as businesses you could approach directly with a sales letter, etc.

Then spend an afternoon getting quotes, contacts and artwork deadlines. If you’re going to attend networking events or conferences you’ll need business cards. These are also useful for dropping off in venues where customers can pick them up, such as restaurants, exhibition centres and libraries.

Events

Freelancing can also be a lonely business, so it’s refreshing to make a network of contacts through digital or in-person events. Scour Google for virtual conferences and webinars, and sign up to copywriting websites such as the Pro Copywriter’s Network and Copyblogger, a great way to get information on events. Hootsuite also often has virtual learning sessions helping you learn while connecting with others in your field.

Physical events are also ideal to get you out of the house. A site like Meet Up can help you discover what’s going on in your area that ties in with your interests. List these events under the first column in your table including any dates and activity/materials you want to have completed (i.e. business cards) in advance of them.

Bringing it together

You’ll notice how each field begins to overlap. This is good because you’re drawing connections between your activities. So long as all activities have the same end goal – to bring you more business – they will strengthen each other and, in turn, your brand. It also helps when setting yourself deadlines since one thing usually depends on another.

Next is buying or creating a calendar in Word. Detail everything (so make sure it’s a biggie!). Jot down the days you’re writing for which publications. Then the days you’ll spend devoted to finding new followers, for example, followed by the days you have any events, as well as print deadlines. And so on…

Tip: Use colour-coded keys and back up your calendar with a simple Excel planner like these templates from Hootsuite for more in-depth info on what you’ll be writing each week. That way your main calendar remains like an easy-to-read overview.

From here

Now your strategy is all typed up, scheduled and ready to go, it’s time to implement it. Write down the immediate action points that have arisen from your plan. Use these to inform your workload for the next week or two, to ensure you meet your deadlines.

Don’t forget that your business strategy will evolve over time and regularly need updating.  Depending on how quickly you work, set aside time to update it – every month…or three – whatever helps it stay relevant and progressive for your business.

Finally, good luck! If you have any questions, drop me a comment, I’d be glad to try and answer them.

Next week: I’ll show you how to find your first copywriting clients

5 proofing hacks for your business

Your copy needs to be spot on if you’re going to impress. There’s a lot of competition out there, and while customers won’t always reward you for getting it right, they will punish you for silly errors.

That includes spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Since you don’t know who might be reading your words, it’s also important to fact-check and ensure your copy doesn’t break any laws.

That’s why I’m going to share my top 5 quick and easy proofing hacks to make sure you get it right.

  1. Grammarly

Grammarly is an essential free tool to download. It helps flag up any common errors in spelling and missing words, and is clever at spotting punctuation and grammar errors, even teaching you as you go! It installs on your browser, in MS Word and on your PC for use on many different platforms. Grammarly also offers a year-long premium option, providing even more fixes and a plagiarism checker.

  1. Spell checks

While it’s OK to use MS Word spellchecker, don’t rely on it. It misses many an obvious mistake, and there are plenty of free spell checkers on the Web. My favourite is on Google Docs. How often does Google correct your search results and know what you want? Well, the Google Docs spell checker checks your words against the plethora of information on the Web. That makes it good at spotting errors in references, names, place names and even some international words and phrasing in addition to the usual spelling mistakes.

  1. Plagiarism software

Ensure you don’t fall foul of plagiarism laws by always running your copy through a plagiarism scanner. Grammarly premium offers this service or you can find a free one on the Web, such as this from Small SEO Tools. If you reuse product descriptions or content from the Web, make sure you rewrite it so it’s 100% unique. Otherwise, your search rankings will be lowered and you could even face a copyright suit. A surefire way to avoid this is to pay a copywriter to write your content for you. They’ll get it spot on and you get copy tailored to your business’ needs.

  1. Oxford Dictionaries Online

Consult a dictionary. Yes, some things you can’t get a robot to do! But don’t dismiss these humble reference tools. Oxford Dictionaries Online has a vast store of UK, US and world dictionaries to check spellings, pronunciation, similar words (synonyms) and encyclopaedic entries for notable persons and events. If you’re not sure how to spell a word, start typing and it will pop up. This site is especially useful for showing you how to use a word or phrase in a sentence and different spellings for US or UK English. Sites like Wikipedia are also invaluable, but always check their sources before citing ‘facts’.

  1. PerfectIt

Go pro and invest in PerfectIt – proofreading software that has an add-in built for MS Word. This software can run many tests on your work, including commonly misspelt words, inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation, formatting errors, and you can even specify your preferred spellings and punctuation use. Plus, once you’ve paid, it never expires! Even better, you can also try before you buy with a 30-day free trial.

It’s best practice to run your copy through as many proofing tools as you can, to ensure your content is up to scratch.

A supplement not a substitute

However, this is not only a timely procedure, it also isn’t 100% effective. Unfortunately, robots can’t catch everything and, in some cases, they even make suggestions that are incorrect – causing potential embarrassment.

These tools are a supplement not a substitute for accurate proofreading and need to be used with caution. You’d be surprised what kind of obvious errors slip through these filters, which can cost you big business.

Get perfect, tailor-made copy

So to get it right first time, it’s best to employ a proofreader or professional copywriter to ensure you don’t make these costly errors.

If you work with me, we can come up with the best solution for your needs. Perhaps you simply need another pair of eyes to spot any errors, you already have some content you’d like rewriting, or you want some copy creating from scratch.

Contact me today and we’ll get across everything you need to say in the best way possible.

My Tip for Writing Sales Copy

The modern world is fluid: there are no longer strict times to work, to go shopping, to connect with people. This fluidity is even more dangerous to those who work freelance, especially if that’s from home. It can be difficult to switch off from the endless list of things that can be done at any one moment, causing constant distractions – some welcome, but most not.

One of the bonuses of being a professional copywriter is that clients give you work. However, if you write sales copy full time, there’s a significant chance that at some point you will experience that awful feeling of writing yourself into a corner full of clichés, and it can be a tiresome task trying not to recycle your own work.

But it was while I was tuning up my new TV that I made a career-defining discovery. When you can’t think of any more ways to sell that ugly pair of leather cowboy boots simply take my advice and…turn on the TV.

Yes, you heard me. Turn on the TV.

Switch straight to the home shopping channels – you’ll find you have plenty. And, for once in your life, that’s a good thing.

Watching the endless hours of furious waffling will give you a crash course in how to sell. Home shopping channels are divided into hour-long slots where a presenter is challenged to shift as many units as possible, as though trying to bargain their way out of a hostage scenario. Often they have a whole range to peddle, but the real feats of salesmanship are the solus endorsements.

As the minutes tick away, the programme swiftly descends into farce as the host becomes desperate to snag that potential customer. It’s true. I have actually seen, with my own eyes, a frantic presenter furiously force the backstage crew to fashion a pet fish out of a carrot and a bowl of water, just to show off a panoramic camera.

But the highs (and the many lows) of this kind of television are invaluable to the ‘blocked’ copywriter.

As you sit there in your be-throned armchair, all smug in your new position as the ‘potential customer’, you can see what works – Wow, that mobile really does look like it has everything I want and at such a reasonable price – and what doesn’t – Hmm, I’d rather take memorable photographs of my grandchildren than my goldfish.

As we all know, one of the most important things in copywriting is selling the experience. And that is what these guys (usually) do so well.

To gain your trust, the presenter will start out with the product specifications – the brand, the quality materials, the craftsmanship – but before you know it they’ve segwayed these indisputable facts into the ways that this product will make your life easier, more efficient, and, in turn, make you a better person/worker/mother/friend.

The sole point of the programme is just like a piece of sales copy – it is to build a gradual argument for why this specific product will change your life, and by the end, even the most dismissive viewer can’t help but agree with everything they’ve just said. Except for maybe that bit about the fish.

Of course, I’m not saying this little technique is without its risks. Turning on the TV while you’re trying to work does, after all, take a lot of stamina, mostly to not let yourself get sucked in by Pointless or Bargain Hunt (I’m not judging). But, if you’re stuck on the roundabout of sales clichés, there are worse things you can do than switch to the home shopping channels. And besides, all that red-faced shouting and carrot-bobbing means they can be pretty fun too…