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7 Steps to Savvy Copywriting
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Contrary to popular opinion, you can “teach an old dog new tricks.” I discovered this morsel of wisdom recently when I navigated new waters as a copywriter.

Truth be told, I knew as much about copywriting as I do Bar Mitzvahs. It just wasn’t a part of my creative repertoire. So when I came across an ad posted on craigslist.org, my initial reaction was to bypass it for the cardinal rule of writing, “write what you know.”

But, as a strategic writer, and true businesswoman, I’m always looking for ways to expand my portfolio, my client base, and my bottom line. (And you should too).

Days after seeing the ad, I shot a quick Email to express interest in taking on the project, as well as online samples of various works. After all, it seemed interesting and easy enough…

Here was my mission. A new clothing designer from India was seeking someone to create web content for a site she was launching, along with some product descriptions. Rather than concentrate on my lack of experience, I decided to draw from my relevant exposure as a person who loves fashion; as someone who, in my former life, worked for a P.R. firm and as someone who has had success writing greeting card copy.

The end result? With a little ingenuity and some creativity, I produced some great concepts that won me a new fan and a new client.

Here are seven savvy principles I learned along the way.

  1. Speak the language. Regardless of your knowledge base, “project” an expert image by using acronyms, lingo, and key concepts that are unique to the industry of which you are writing. For example, substitute words like separates and coordinates for pants and blouses.

  2. Test the waters. If possible, use the product or service you are endorsing. You’ll come across as much more convincing and credible if you speak from experience. It’ll also be much easier to convey a sense of passion.

  3. Do your homework. A simple Google search will give you background information and success stories of your client from which to develop the “big picture.”

  4. Get details in writing. This prevents miscommunication and wasted efforts. It also serves as a protective measure to ensure getting paid.

  5. Have at least one conversation on the phone or in person. Ah, the Internet! It has revolutionized the way we interact and increased our efficiency immeasurably. However, many people still like that personal touch. Speaking on the phone, or in person, also allows you to assess your client’s personality, which can go along way towards future relations.

  6. Give them more than they expect. Ideally provide multiple samples from which they can choose. Also, show some initiative by devising other ways that you can assist them in marketing their business even before they ask.

  7. Remember the importance of packaging. Make sure that the finished product always reflects positively on your client and your business.

As the expression goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

© Copyright 2008, Jennifer Brown Banks

Jennifer Brown Banks is the former senior editor of Mahogany Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Business Management and blogs at Penandprosper.blogspot.com

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