using humour in copy

Funny guy: Is your business scared of using humour in copy?

I belong to an awesome group of copywriters on Facebook. A common thread I often see is how business clients are afraid of using humour in their business website copy and social media.

Personally, I remember only two clients over the last 5 years who’ve actually requested I write funny and quirky copy for their new websites. Dream client!

I’m actually a big fan of writing content which shows wit and personality because differentiation is crucial when it comes to winning and keeping customers. If you’ve read Steve Jobs’ book, you’d know that man thrived on being different all his life – would we ever have Apple if Steve had decided not to stand out or do something drastic?

Add playfulness to your business copy:

• You’re one faceless provider out of a possible thousand in your industry. Witty content makes you memorable.

• Humour makes you more likeable –  do you recall clearly who the funny and popular guy was in your school? I like people who poke fun at themselves heaps better than people who insist on telling me how great they are (cue jargon).

• Jokes and comedy shows are popular because they make people laugh – think Ricky Gervais and The Office or his recent Optus ad.

Humour is important in life – laughter is the best medicine!

• Humour makes you approachable and human – two qualities clients like when it comes to choosing who to buy from.

• It makes your copywriter’s life much easier. Corporate jargon makes us grumpy and whinge.

Now I’m not saying you have to turn into an industry joker and get your clients laughing all the time BUT injecting some fun into your business content definitely makes you more likeable, memorable and a top choice for when someone wants to buy something.

Simply, people like doing business with people they like. People remember who made them laugh.

According to Hubspot, online followers love those brands which make them smile and entertain them.

In our copywriting world, I think no one does humour better than this copywriter and author of Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur. As a result, Kate has a large following both online and offline. She’s witty and so likeable that you can’t help but buy from her.

Twitter research shows that if a person sees something that makes them laugh, they’re likely to remember you when it comes time for purchase. This is a whopping 72% of people – now who wouldn’t want this type of statistic when it comes to sales?

How NOT to use humour in content

One thing to be careful of when using humour to write copy including social media posts is…you don’t want to try too hard.

Using humour wrongly in your business can be a double-edged sword and turn off your audience. Find out what people want to hear/read/see and what actually makes them laugh, not what you or your social media manager thinks is funny.

No one likes that guy who laughs at his own jokes – whether online or in real life. You want to be the cool gal or dude who gets called over by others in a party immediately when they see you so they can listen to you. Don’t be that person who’s forever looking to catch someone’s eye to share their latest (according to them hilarious) anecdote.

Yes I like Oreos…

Oreo cookies are famous for coming up with posts that people like and relate to. They are currently sitting at 846,000 followers on Twitter. This post made history when it was tweeted during the Super Bowl in 2013. I still remember it almost 4 years later.

What do you think of using humour in business copy? Has it worked for you in the past? I’d love to know in the comments. Or tweet me @rashidatayabali.

create great content

How watching Masterchef can help you create lip-smacking content

I love #MasterchefAU, it’s one of the only TV programs that actually adds some value to my life – I enjoy the nail biting and drama during the cooking, the gasps and sympathy for the contestants who are messing up.

The contestants are wholesome and nice to each other (no backbiting drama here) while the judges are fair and provide good, on-the-spot feedback.

Plus I’m always eager to see what eye-pleasing suit Matt Preston is wearing.

Similarities between Masterchef and copywriting

While watching an episode on the Invention test, I concluded the Masterchef formula for creating a winning dish is similar to creating content for a business or a client.

So if you’re a small business owner wanting to create his own content or a copywriter looking to improve their copywriting skills, I recommend watching an episode of Masterchef.

Think about a typical challenge;

  • There’s some anxiety and nerves experienced by the contestants because they’re dealing with a new challenge.
  • Ingredients are chosen by the contestants or by the judges. Often they have to ‘hero’ a particular ingredient.
  • The judges provide a brief which the contestants follow.
  • The winning dish meets the judges’ brief, has no flaws and pleases the eye.
  • The cook who often wins, is in control throughout the process, has planned what they’re going to cook, knows their ingredients and the processes.
  • The winning dish often has the cook’s personality added to it and presents well.
  • The dish of the day is memorable and what the judges say they’d like to order again.

See where I’m going with this post?

If you’re a small business owner who wants to create engaging blog posts or popular social media posts, follow the winning formula below to create extraordinary content your customers will love.

Prepare for the cook-off

You’ve never created content before but you need it for your business. Where to start? How do you create content that gets your customers buzzing?

Read and research the type of content competitors are creating on their social media pages and websites – what’s popular with the target audience? A post that generates negative comments is as useful as one that oozes positivity.

Think of your own brand and business – what do you want to be known as? What’s your brand personality? Tackle some common issues faced by customers using humor for example. If you create a blog post on ‘10 funny things customer service professionals have said to customers,’ follow that thought to your social media pages, spinning it in different ways using a slideshare or infographic.

‘Hero’ a specific business advantage

Sometimes business owners know what makes their business special, other times you need a fresh pair of eyes like those of a copywriter to bring out those qualities. Brainstorm the ‘ingredients’ you think makes your business special and see if they can help you differentiate yourself in your field (be honest!).

For example, your business may have some great talent like a social media expert who gets interviewed in the media or guest blogs; profile them to help your business stand out.

Always write a copywriting brief

Writing content without a brief is like trying to replicate a recipe blind – save yourself the stress.

In the brief ask why you are creating the content? What’s special about what you’re offering? Without a brief you may create content that no one likes or responds to. As a small business owner, you want people to react to your blog posts, social media posts or tweets not have them disappear into a corner of the cyberworld.

Create a content writing system and process

Follow a process, create great content consistently and in a timely manner so that you reach as many people as possible. If you have a writer in-house, ask them to create an editorial calendar and include topics for the next six months, schedule tweets and Facebook posts to keep the momentum going.

Be open to feedback

Rarely does a Masterchef contestant do well by ignoring George and Gary’s feedback. Listen to what your customer is saying, tweak content and present in a way they want to consume it. For example where are your customers? On Facebook or Instagram? Do they like short posts or longer, more informative blog posts?

Be authentic and create from the heart

Do you like eating bland food? I don’t.

I like my food balanced between sweet and sour, a kick of chilli and some crunch. What’s the point of writing bland content that no one reads? Inject your own voice and business personality into it, don’t be afraid to experiment with different voices.

Be open, raw and honest (so your customer can’t help but connect with you). Masterchef uses this ‘humanness’ to keep their viewers hooked.

Present your ‘dish’ well

Well presented content is easy to read, doesn’t overwhelm the reader and doesn’t try to pretend to be something it’s not.

All winning recipes on the Masterchef shows are beautifully presented – can you hear Matt saying presentation, presentation, presentation?

Your content should have customers eager to dip into the next serving.

Next time you want to create content for your business, think of the way a Masterchef would approach creating a delicious, memorable and award-winning dish.

Answer the question: What makes you and your business extraordinary?

What did you think of this post? If you liked it please share with your fellow Masterchef watchers who might also be copywriters or business owners.

 

 

copywriting tips

4 copywriting tips I often share with beginners

No one ever talks about how they dealt with their very first copywriting project. Fortunately, I’m here to share my copywriting tips with you.

It finally happened one morning and you got an email asking for a price on writing website copy, after spending weeks or months hoping someone would notice your website. After doing a victory lap around your living room, chances are you’re probably feeling a little green with anxiety.

Having been in the writing business for four years, I decided to put together a list of copywriting tips and tricks I used in my first year of writing for businesses. I still use most these copywriting tips and techniques 4 years later and hope they’ll help you too.

Research your client and his/her business thoroughly

Before you get on that briefing phone call, or email them a copywriting brief, take the time to know their business inside and out.

Read up on any news articles, read their website content, and LinkedIn profiles of the main people you’ll be talking to.

Doing this as a new and unfamiliar copywriter shows you care about their business, you can ask the not-so-obvious questions giving you more valuable insights you can bring to the writing process, and it’ll give you a confidence boost!

The more you know about your client, the easier it’ll be to write good marketing copy.

Ask what they don’t like about their current copy

Often as a new copywriter, eager to impress, the important question about what the client doesn’t like about their current website content doesn’t get asked.

Why are they rewriting the website content? What’s wrong with the current written materials? Sometimes, it’s a change of strategy, or a branding exercise. Ask the question and you won’t produce copy that gets the thumbs down, smashing your confidence as a writer.

Create a good copywriting brief

To be honest, in my four years of freelance copywriting, I haven’t created a comprehensive, copywriting brief – an email brief has always done it for me. But I know other copywriters who won’t proceed with the client unless the copywriting brief has been signed and sealed.

There are advantages to writing a copywriting brief; both you and the client are clear on scope which avoids troubles later on. I’d highly recommend you create a copywriting brief for each new project – big and small. Here is an example of some copywriting documents including a brief you’ll need as a newbie copywriter.

Be realistic with deadlines

In a bid to win jobs, many new and inexperienced copywriters promise the client unrealistic turnaround times. If this is your first copywriting gig and you’re writing on a tight deadline, you won’t do your best work especially taking into account how much time researching the client takes and organising your thoughts.

You don’t want to be a frustrated copywriter and have a pissed-off client calling or emailing you repeatedly for their copy!

If you need two weeks to complete a copywriting project, then add in a couple extra days to the deadline as long as it’s not affecting the client’s timelines.

Work within their deadlines and project delivery times always.

Never missing a deadline is one of the unspoken commandments of being a trustworthy and reliable copywriter who gets repeat work.

Don’t skimp on thinking time

Most times I’m either thinking of my client’s new project or thinking about the first draft I have written or have yet to write.

Being a successful copywriter means you have to take time out to think.

Ideally after completing a first draft, set it aside for a few days to let it sink into your brain. Go back to it with a fresh set of eyes before sending it off to the client.

ps: When bub was small, I used to think about work when taking a shower, something about the water drumming down opened up my neurons!

I hope these tips help you become a better copywriter, I’d love to know from seasoned copywriters on copywriting tips you’d give to a new copywriter.

 

copywriting Sydney

Why I like being a small fish in a big copywriting pond

When I started freelance copywriting, I took it one day at a time because I had a newborn to look after. I enjoyed every client and feature article I wrote, took my time and learnt as much as I could. Sometimes I had multiple deadlines and after a sleep deprived night (nights!), I was hunched over furiously pounding out words and trying to keep it together. NOT FUN!

4 years later, I have two full days where I take my time to learn, write, blog and network with others on social media and I have two to three clients who give me repeat work.

I may not be making more than what I made in my full time job some months but I’m enjoying working on different projects and slowly building up my client base.

Sometimes, seeing other copywriters land big jobs or seeing their impressive resume does make me a little envious but on the whole, I like being a small fish in the vast pond of copywriters and here’s why:

  1. I have only one or two copywriting projects going on at any one time, so each copywriting client or project gets my individual attention and devoted thinking time.
  2. During slow periods, or just when I’ve completed projects, I pitch feature article ideas to publications and look for new markets or businesses to target.
  3. I love the writing process, not just the end result. I’m proud to say many of my first drafts are accepted by the clients without significant changes.
  4. I have time to network on social media from which I’ve won jobs or touched base with new clients.
  5. I take the time to sit down with clients and know exactly what they need – no rushing through the process. I’m a big believer of letting ideas percolate in my brain.
  6. I’m passionate about other things apart from writing, and being a small fish means I have time to do other side projects; like that novel which is currently sitting at 40,000 words.
  7. If I think a client is not suited to my style of work, I refer them on to other copywriters rather than struggle with the job, deliver less than stellar work and resent the client.
  8. I prefer to develop a longer working relationship with one client rather than once-off work from 5 different clients.

Being a small fish has allowed me to spend maximum time with my little boy and grow a business around him.

I don’t see the point of telling him “No! I have to work, shoo!” when he’s asking me to get down on the floor and play cars with him.

That’s why I started a home business in the first place – give myself the flexibility to play cars with him whenever I want (correction: when he wants).

Sometimes, the thought of growing bigger does cross my mind. However tempting it is (like that choc bar that constantly calls out to me in Woolies), I turn my back firmly on the idea – for now.

I’m happy where I am in my business, and feel no need to grow.

I’m also not yet ready to stop enjoying my work and feel the pressure of deadlines breathing down my neck like Dementors.

What would you prefer to be? A small fish in your business niche or one of those big, fat fishes?

ps: A small disclaimer is that I can be a small fish thanks to my hubby who makes enough to support us and buy the occasional chocolate bar at the shops…

 

writing podcasts copywriter

7 writing podcasts to boost your creativity

Podcasts are (IMO) the best thing since sliced bread. Before podcasts came along, I would have said it was red velvet cupcakes. But not anymore.

I’ve picked up so many useful tips and information while listening to podcasts and so if you’re looking for some inspiration on writing, then I’ve got you sorted!

An added benefit of listening to a podcast is it helps me while away time while sitting in traffic (and avoid road rage) and in the playground. No more yells of “Let’s go home now it’s really boring!” (that’s me wanting to go home).

In this post, I’ve decided to compile 7 great writing podcasts for you to whack onto your ipod or download to your phone:

  1. So You Want To Be A Writer – This podcast run by Valerie Khoo of Australian Writers Centre and Allison Tait, freelance writer and author is my all time favourite. They cover all things related to writing (other quirky things on the menu are Valerie’s dogs, gardening and Allison’s Procrastipup) and their writer in residence segment is outstanding.
  2. Hot copy podcast run by Kate Toon of ‘Toon’ fame and Belinda Weaver where they talk about copywriting processes, give tips based on their experiences, share writing resources, interviews and plenty of laughs with one goal in mind: help you become a better copywriter.
  3. The Newbie Writers Podcast comes from South Australia and is for you if you have an idea for a book but don’t know where to start! Damien and Catharine (a published author herself) interview authors who have been published and share where to begin, some tips and tricks in planning that novel, plus chit chat.
  4. The Wheeler Centre podcast is produced in Melbourne and features the best in books, writing and ideas. There’s some deep issues being tackled by this podcast. At the least, you’ll learn something new!
  5. Kill your darlings podcast says they talk about fresh, clever writing that combines intellect with intrigue. I’m intrigued already!
  6. Your Creative Life is run by Vanessa Carnevale who is a life coach, women’s fiction writer and also an occasional freelance writer. The podcast aims to help writers connect to their creativity, listen to conversations and insights with writers, authors and creative entrepreneurs, and get inspired about the writing process and living a creative life. A lot of creativity here!
  7. Penmanship dabbles in Australian writing culture hosted by Andrew McMillen, a freelance journalist and author based in Brisbane. The podcast features Australian writers, journalists, editors and publishers. Guests discuss their career, craft and inner life. Penmanship aims to provide unique insights into the creative process, mechanics and skills behind the best writing in the country.

So there you have, 7 fantastic writing podcasts to give you that rush of creativity after your morning coffee! So get listening and writing.

finding the right outsourcing partner

Finding the right outsourcing partner (do you know where to look?)

Outsourcing.

It’s a word that gets bandied about by entrepreneurs, small and big business owners and even the barista in your favourite cafe. Everyone talks about it, most business owners know they should be doing it but where do you begin to find the right person? If you ask the question, you’re likely to hear a vague ummm…

Think of it like a marriage – they need to be compatible with you, want the same things from life (in this case, your business) and they’re willing to work hard at it.

I’ll share 4 easy ways in which you can find the right outsourcing partner for your next project or business:

Freelance platforms

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, it’s become easier to find the right person through websites such as The Freelance Collective which covers many creative professions ranging from animators to virtual assistants or The Clever Copywriting School which has a searchable directory of copywriters and even a concierge service to help you find the best writer for your project.Another one to mention here is The Business Bakery Directory geared towards small businesses.

I haven’t mentioned well known websites where freelancers have to bid for projects and cost undercutting is the name of the game, because you won’t find the best, most knowledgeable person for your business there – paying peanuts will only get you monkeys.

Paying peanuts will only get you monkeys.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups both private and public are sprouting faster than you can say ‘mushrooms’. While I lurk in many groups often silent, they’re a good way to get referrals for outsourcing partners. I’ve found referrals from who to order my son’s birthday cake from to where I can find a social media manager for my business.

I’ve landed copywriting clients that otherwise I’d never ever meet in the real world and sent business to my network. People often rave about those who’ve impressed with their services, Facebook is a great way to meet these people. Examples of some Facebook groups that I belong to; Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, Aussie Bloggers, geographical mum groups but you need to send a Join request or pay a fee.

Other places to find someone to outsource to are Google+ communities.

LinkedIn

Love or hate LinkedIn but it’s a valuable way of peeking into someone’s professional life to see if they’d be a good partner. LinkedIn profiles are usually kept updated (slap on the wrist if you haven’t updated yours) and you can see who your potential partner is connected to making it easy to approach and ask for an intro – like asking a mutual friend to set you up on a blind date but instead of a swanky restaurant it’s a conference room.

Ask your network

Last year, a contact shared a lucrative job opening at a well known brand and asked if I knew anyone who was suitable. While I didn’t at that time, asking someone in your personal network for a recommendation will get you names that have been vetted already – so no trial and error here!

So that’s it, these are ways I’ve used to find the right people for my business. Any others you use or have heard of?

become a writer

writing courses

This blog post was sparked from a discussion I had with a close friend two days ago. She wants to start writing but has no idea where to begin. Considering I went through a similar situation 4 years ago, I thought the advice and tips I gave her would be useful for anyone out there wanting to become a writer.

Set aside 5 minutes each day

The hardest part of starting any new project is…the beginning. If writing for hours feels a bit daunting then set aside 5 minutes to jot down ideas or even write a couple of sentences in a journal. Do it at a time, either morning or evening, when there are no distractions or children demanding your attention. The aim is to build a writing habit.

Find writers groups

Writer groups can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn and even through Twitter hashtags. If you feel intimidated because you have to chat to strangers, simply join and read what people are talking about.

The advantages of joining such groups are; it keeps you connected to what’s happening in your area or city when it comes to events, meeting authors and other writers, it keeps you motivated; there are always others who ask the same questions and you have a forum for asking your own questions and receiving advice.

Take a writing course

Doing writing courses got me started off on the freelancing path and I avoided making many of the mistakes beginners make – so I got published faster. If you want to write children’s books, do a writing course specifically focusing on it or a blogging course if you’d like to blog.

Get a coffee

If you want to write but want to gauge what the industry is like, find a writer who is already doing what you want to do, then offer to take them out for a coffee. Even if they say no, at least you’ve made the connection and most people will say yes!

Find an accountability buddy

I offered to be my friend’s writing buddy and so can you. Find someone you know who also wants to write and buddy up with them to keep yourself accountable. Set one to three goals for every week and catch up with your buddy weekly via email or phone to see how much progress you’ve made. This exercise will get rid of your excuses and keep you motivated to achieve more.

Don’t fear rejection

Rejection can take on many forms for a writer; the important thing is not to fear it. View it as a learning opportunity and check how you can turn it into success. For example, one editor’s rejection could be another editor’s commission.

Keep trying.

I’m interested to know how you got started as a writer. Was it through blogging, writing for free or through work?

 

writer bad habits

Are these bad habits failing you as a writer?

Happy 2016!

Bad habits. Everyone has them – I can list a few that I’m currently trying to kick like not watching more than an hour of TV, moving around more (a lack of which has already led to two physio sessions early this year).

As a writer though, bad habits can be the difference between getting constant work and not. After freelancing for the last four years and a bit, here are some common habits I’ve seen or experienced that can set you up for failure:

  1. Not setting goals leaving you directionless and procrastinating away or working on projects that don’t lead anywhere like a no-through road.
  2. Setting unrealistic goals which are a road to failure.
  3. Setting easy goals which leave you feeling dissatisfied.
  4. Not meeting deadlines – This is a strict no-negotiable rule if you want to become a successful writer. My writing tutor once told us that she met her deadline while in hospital with a broken leg.
  5. Not fact checking your work – Not checking your work for accuracy will not inspire confidence in your abilities to produce work that’s of great quality. Here’s a great post on why you should do it each time.
  6. Envying the success of others – Total waste of time, why not focus your efforts on setting goals and then working hard to achieve those?
  7. Accepting low paying work which makes you feel demoralised.
  8. Not wanting to network – I dread networking events at the best of times, but when you work from home like I do, you need a link with the outside world and these events are a great way to meet new people.
  9. Not asking for help – You’ve had 5 pitches rejected and no response from letters of introduction you’ve sent out to potential clients. Rather than stewing over the rejections, ask a fellow writer for some advice.
  10. Not pitching – You come up with great ideas but don’t send them to editors for fear of rejection. Stop fearing rejection and just do it! The more you pitch, the easier it gets.
  11. Not marketing yourself and your services – When people ask what you do, you usually avoid telling them you’re a writer. Next time, say it proudly and see where it leads you.

What bad habits do you indulge in that are stopping you from becoming a good writer?

Why I’ve decided to stop writing on-spec for magazines

In the last two months, I’ve written two on-spec articles for two different publications and both were rejected.

The rejections didn’t hurt as much as the fact that I had put in a fair bit of time writing both pieces (a personal story and a feature article with experts). I’d carefully studied both publications, ensuring I didn’t write what was already written in past issues and wrote to their guidelines.

Now there could be a number of reasons why the stories were turned down:

  1. The articles weren’t suitable for the publications at the time.
  2. The editor didn’t want to accept the articles because he or she had run similar articles in the past even though I was assured that they would still accept it if there was a fresh angle to the story.
  3. One of the 1,000,000 reasons why stories are turned down by editors.

I was often told in my writing courses that an editor would ask a writer to write on spec if he/she doesn’t know the writer and wanted to know if they can deliver to their guidelines. Fair enough, but being published in a magazine which requires this is not for me (and I’ve known this for some time) and as a writer I prefer to focus my limited time and resources on where I’ll receive maximum benefit.

I made a professional decision as a freelance writer/copywriter to write an article only if my pitch was accepted and commissioned rather than writing an article which may never see the light of day.

It comes down to purely business reasons:

  1. I prefer a firm commission which means I will get paid once I submit my article
  2. If I’ve been published many times over in the last few years then I can be relied upon to deliver
  3. It’s a waste of my time to research and write an article which can be turned down due to a million reasons some of which may be out of my control despite having delivered my best work.
  4. I’d rather put that time into finding a client who loves my work so I can make a steady income or pitching ideas to editors who I have worked with in the past who love my work.
  5. I don’t want to waste time trying to place already written articles in other publications when I could be coming up with better ideas instead to pitch to magazines.
  6. It was my third try with one magazine and I’d vowed that if it didn’t happen despite my best efforts that I was going to leave it. So now I’ve struck off both these names of my publishing bucket list!

So from this month on, one of my rules is NEVER to write on-spec just for a byline in a known or even local magazine. It’s simply not worth the angst and my time would be better spent elsewhere.

You might prefer to write on-spec or not. Tell me why you would or wouldn’t write on spec for a magazine as a freelance writer.

3 mistakes you’ll probably make as a new freelance writer

So you’ve decided to freelance? Awesome!

You’re sitting at your desk on a normal working day and reading a particular magazine to see whether they take freelancers. As you browse through the publication, your mind is filling up with potential story ideas. You quickly jot them down, perhaps mind map these and open your email to write a pitch to the features editor. You do some quick research, find stats to support your idea, write it up and hit send. That’s your first mistake guaranteed not to land you a commission.

Mistake #1: Being overeager to send a pitch

The process from having an idea to finally pitching it can be long often taking over a few hours to a few days. Don’t be in a hurry to send a half-baked pitch to the editor especially when  you’re starting out, sleep on it, flesh it out and make sure it’s a great pitch. A fantastic pitch will improve your strike rates by landing you more commissions and help in building a relationship with the editor.

Mistake #2: Not reading the magazine

This error has to make any list that talks about the mistakes made by new freelancers. Not reading the magazine is like going to swim and not knowing how to float (maybe a bit dramatic but true!). One writer said on her blog that a freelance writer who’s thinking of pitching to a new magazine needs to read and analyse it with more concentration than a college textbook. Going in blind is never a good idea plus it’s a time waster and the editor won’t take you seriously.

Mistake #3: Getting nervous about writing

As a freelancer who’s been in the business for over three years now, I can guarantee that the hardest part of freelancing is getting a pitch commissioned, not actually writing the article. If you’re still feeling queasy about writing the article, plan ahead by contacting and interviewing your experts as soon as you’re commissioned and give yourself plenty of time to write two to three drafts so you can get the article perfect before submission. Treat the article the same as if you’re trying to eat an elephant – one mouthful at a time!

Happy writing!