freelance writing online

How I Got Started Freelance Writing Online: A Day in the Life of a Content Writer

Freelance writing online—a part-time gig to fill your spare time, a common misconception that many have.

Sure, writing online can be a fun hobby for some; however, for others, it’s a passion that fuels a fire that some simply don’t understand. Content writing is oftentimes a thankless job—in some cases, you work hours on end researching and toiling over a keyboard creating an outstanding piece of content that doesn’t even garner you a byline. So why bother doing it?

Here’s my answer: because it’s my passion.

I’ve been a writer my entire life—I kid you not. Before I could even write, I was telling wild stories that my family would write for me so I could have a copy to show off to my friends, family, and maybe my own children someday. That passion turned into a love of reading and a love of creation, one that spurred my love of education. An odd combination, sure, but it all comes together, I promise!

I knew college was my dream in elementary school, but when the time came, choosing what road I was going to take and what I was going to do with the rest of my life…

Talk about an impossible task!

freelance writing online

Freelance Writing Online: From Dream to Present & Future

What started as a love of education and wanting to educate other’s, quickly fizzled out as soon as the job market told me that becoming an educator wasn’t ideal. Teachers were getting laid off left and right, so why bother wasting my time and tuition money in a dead-end dream?

Okay, so it was time to choose a fallback option. I loved to read and create, so English was an obvious choice, but what kind of job could I get as an English major… Besides teaching English? Enter in Dr. Terri Fredrick, and there began my journey in professional and technical writing. This was a professor who encouraged us to look at every option available, including freelance writing online.

She taught us every lesson in the book:

  • How to spot scams
  • How to research clients
  • How to cold-pitch ideas
  • To not count yourself short

However, the lesson that stuck with me the most was to do what you love.

Upon graduating in 2013, this English major with her background in professional and technical writing knew that she wanted to write, but oddly enough, there weren’t all that many positions open for in-office writers. So, despite my family’s objections, I headed online, hit up ProBlogger.com, and landed my first writing position for a journalistic style website.

freelance writing online workspace

How do writers land a work-from-home online job? And what does their day-to-day writing from home look like? Cassie Boss, Express Writers' expert writer, shares her story and tips. Click To Tweet

Interested in working from home and writing? We’re always interviewing for additional writers. Send in your resume or samples here!

Freelance Writing Online: Part-Time Gig or Full-Time Job?

The overall job outlook for writers and authors is projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and with traditional publishing declining due to the uprising of online publication, the demand for online freelance writers is expected to grow.

The overall job outlook for writers and authors is projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The overall job outlook for writers and authors is projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still not sure if freelance online writing is for you? Read our expert writer's advice! Click To Tweet

What does that mean for anyone looking to start freelance writing online? Is this a position for part-timers looking to fill in some downtime? Alternatively, are there real possibilities to go full-time and make a living?

It all comes down to your intentions and personal preferences. For those looking to make a hobby of it, there are plenty of opportunities, both paid and unpaid; however, for those looking to make a career of it, I have some advice:

Prepare to get dirty and fight for your position.

Becoming a full-time freelance content writer takes a lot of time, patience, dedication, and yes, maybe a few tears along the way. Just like any other dream, you must be willing to work for it.

When I first started my journey into freelance writing online, I figured my degree would be enough to land me quality work, but just like with any other position, I had to prove that I could tough it out.

This meant researching and writing on topics that I didn’t love, working long hours and when I finally had the opportunity to take on freelance editing, it meant working overnight shifts, effectively putting my social life on hold.

Peace, Coffee, Love mug

What made it even harder, personally, was the fact that my circle didn’t believe that freelance writing was a “real job,” simply because I worked from home. To most, a “real job” consists of putting on business casual clothing, driving into the office and working 9-5. A “real job” wasn’t working in your home office at varying times researching and writing on topics varying from healthy keto recipes to Kim Kardashian’s latest relationship dramas.

Online freelance writer with her dog beside her napping

While it wasn’t a traditional reality, it was my reality, and I loved it. Not only was I writing, but I was continuing my love of education because I had to continuously research topics for client pieces, and I knew I would be educating others once they read the content I was creating.

I was living my dream…. I am living my dream.

Becoming a Full-Time Online Freelance Writer

I could go on to tell you that to become a full-time freelance writer online you must create a website, pitch your ideas and network, but I’m not going to. There are enough blogs and how-to articles out there that do just that.

That said, here are my tips on how to become a full-time online content writer.

1. Put Yourself Out There

By putting yourself out there, I mean get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I’ve learned anything in my 6+ years of freelance writing online, it’s to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone. Since I was trained in literature during my school years, never did I imagine I would end up writing about digital marketing, celebrity entertainment, or health and wellness.

As a freelance writer, you can choose your niche; however, if you are just starting off, you need to prove your skills just as you would in any “real” job. This means researching and writing on topics you aren’t that familiar with and providing top-quality content that delivers results. Don’t be afraid of writing outside your comfort zone because it could be the difference between going full-time and struggling to land work.

2. Build Your Network

Okay, so I said I wasn’t going to go there… however, I’m going there. Building your online network matters more than you know. Writing is a creative art, even if it is technical in nature. You are creating something from nothing, and you need to have a network of people surrounding you to endorse your skills and help guide you on current trends. Think of it this way; your network works a lot like an artist’s online portfolio or a business’s testimonials page.

Having a strong network of people to endorse your work is one of the best ways to prove to future clients that you are capable of completing given tasks. Better yet, this network can also work to give you feedback to help shape your future work. Having a networking profile, such as a LinkedIn profile, is beneficial on so many different levels because it helps you continue learning from industry experts, all while allowing you to showcase your talents to prospective clients—all of which are vital steps in your journey to freelance writing online.

3. Your Client is Your Customer, Treat Them as Such

Another essential lesson I’ve learned through my years of online freelance work is always to treat each client as if they are the only one you have. Whether you found a steady job with a content creation agency or are choosing individual assignments on your own, each client needs to be treated as if they are your only focus.

Freelance writing online is a service that you are providing, and just like any other service, you are being hired to fulfill a customer’s needs. Treat your clients with the respect they deserve and always give them your best work. If you don’t feel like as if you can do their assignment justice, do the right thing, and tell them so. The absolute last thing you should be doing is handing in [email protected]$$ed work. That’s not going to get you the reputation you want. So, remember, the client is your customer, treat them as if they are the only one you have, and give them the quality work they deserve.

4. Let Go of Stigmas

If I’m being honest, this is probably one of the biggest struggles I had to overcome as a freelance content writer. Between disapproving loved ones, the stigma of being “lazy,” not having a “real job” and dealing with the instability of the job market, there were many times when I felt that freelance writing online simply wasn’t a viable position.

Here’s the lesson—I let outside influences tell me that it wasn’t viable, when, in fact, online content creation is a booming industry. With over 1.6 billion websites online, businesses are turning to online freelance writers to create expert-level writing that will attract new readers that will eventually lead to new customers.

That said, let go of all stigmas! The more you tell yourself you can’t, the more real that negativity becomes.

LET IT GO!

If you're serious about freelance online writing, here are Cassie's top 4 tips: be prepared to get out of your comfort zone, build your network, treat clients with respect, and let go of stigmas. 💓 Click To Tweet

Get Serious About Freelance Writing Online

Sure, while many individuals turn to freelance writing online as a source of extra income or even just as a hobby, there are many out there that want to make this more than that and turn it into a full-time career.

To do that, you must get serious and buckle down. There are dozens of different ways to go about finding a freelance writing job, but until you let go of those stigmas I mentioned earlier and start treating this as the passion you claim it to be, you won’t see much in the way of results.

Get Serious. Put Yourself Out There. Live Your Passion and Create Something Amazing!

awesome cta

how to improve your writing skills

How to Improve and Transform Your Writing Skills and Create Powerful, Zero-Fluff Content

What separates good writing from great writing?

You’ve got the fundamentals down and then some. Your grammar is flawless. Your flow is impeccable. Your source formatting is perfect.

Those are all fantastic qualities – but they aren’t all you need to produce outstanding content.

For that, you need something more, or, in some cases, something less.

The key to creating top-notch content your clients and readers will love is to lose the fluff. Replace your empty phrases with power words. Cut out the filler, and make room for more actionable, insightful language.

Trust me, it works. Power words and stronger language tap into our emotions. Harvard research has proven that emotions are a bigger driving factor in our decisions than logical calculations.

A style of writing like this doesn’t just come to us.

It takes research, practice, and dedication. Today we’ll discuss steps on how to improve your writing skills and transform your content.

6 Steps on How to Improve Your Writing Skills

1.    Understand the Basics of Good Writing and Why They Matter

2.    Take a Closer Look at Your Language

3.    Cut and Cull Filler, Fluff, and Fallback Words

4.    Use These Exercises to Build Better Habits

5.    Proofread with Power Words in Mind

6.    Final Checks: See How Your Work Measures Up

steps on how to improve your writing skills

The key to creating top-notch content your clients and readers will love is to lose the fluff. Learn transformative #writing skills in this post by @JuliaEMcCoy 📝 Click To Tweet

Starting Out: Make Sure You Have the Fundamentals Down

I did mention that good grammar, flow, and citing practices are fundamental to good writing. So before you set out to empower your content with stronger words, make sure you’ve got all the basics taken care of.

This isn’t to say you won’t ever make a typo or fail to link to a source properly – everyone does it. Yet, we need a solid base to work off of.

Think of the blog you’re creating like a house you’re building. Even if you paint and clean the exterior, it won’t cover up for using old materials. Consider it like a piece of music. You can have the best mastering toolkit out there – but a poor mix can only be polished so much.

If you’re wondering how to improve your writing skills and grammar, I recommend a tool like Grammarly. It’s a free add-on for Chrome that’s helped millions of people improve their grammar, and even find better word choices.

I also wrote a book for online content writing beginners back in 2016, the book I wished I’d had when I started out, called So You Think You Can Write? The Definitive Guide to Successful Online Writing. Check it out on Amazon.

For sourcing your work correctly and getting better flow, there’s nothing better than analyzing the experts. I love Jon Morrow from SmartBlogger, and Henneke at Enchanting Marketing. Stay original, but draw inspiration from the content you want to emulate.

Now onto the main part of our guide – how can you take a piece with perfect grammar and great fundamentals and make it even better?

If you’re wondering how to improve your writing skills and grammar, I recommend a tool like Grammarly. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

Examine Your Vocabulary and Pick Power Words

Great writing isn’t just about saying something – it’s how you say it that is important. Take the following example – examine the difference between the first and second image.

Images from OptinMonster

Those power words trigger something in our psychology. Think about how bad it would feel to miss out on something – or how good it would feel to get a freebie.

Power words can activate positive or negative responses. In either case, they drive some type of reaction. They can take the same message and magnify it, enriching the copy and facilitating a better connection with the reader.

I get this question all the time. How do you know what constitutes a power word? Admittedly, some subjectivity is in play. If you want to get a quick start on empowering your vernacular, check out this resource from my agency containing 120 amazing power words – plus 10 calls-to-action you can use for more results.

The importance of writing skills for content creators doesn’t just mean the ability to crank out thousands of words per day or follow client instructions. It means being able to go above and beyond with language that commands reactions.

Here are some tips for choosing power words:

  • Be Unique and Ultra-Specific: The more your words stand out, the better. If you can choose a word that describes what you’re talking about in more detail, do it. Remember, being as specific and precise as possible strengthens the overall message of your writing.
  • Express Urgency and Describe Degrees: As shown in our last example, power words can reinforce the time-sensitivity of a message. You should also look to reinforce the degrees of what you’re talking about. If something is better than good, or worse than bad, pick a word that expresses it.
  • Always Stay Relevant and Useful: Remember, we aren’t beefing up our vocabulary just for the sake of it. Don’t use elaborate words just to be using them. Make sure your choices reflect the content you’re writing and the mood you’re trying to create. Otherwise, you’re being wordy for the sake of it, which could count as fluff – but more on that later.

 

Image from Pinterest

'Choosing power words tips: Be unique, specific, express urgency, and stay relevant' - @JuliaEMcCoy on improving writing skills Click To Tweet

Mood is another thing to keep in mind. There are different power words to use depending on what emotion or vibe you’re trying to cultivate.

Creating a step-by-step guide? Give your readers amazing advice to help them command results and see incredible changes.

You can do this for the entire spectrum of emotions and human urges. Fear, excitement, lust, bravery, and more.

Even with a general idea of power words, you may be curious about how to work them in. The good news is you don’t need to extend your word counts that much. In some cases, you can make room by eliminating weak language.

Learn to Spot Fluff, Then Cut and Cull it Out of Your Writing

Fluff, filler, and fallback words can befall even the best writers out there. We all do it – sometimes it’s just too tempting to get wordy even if the situation doesn’t necessarily call for it.

Again, there is some subjectivity in play when determining exactly what counts as fluff. However, your quest to transform your writing requires you to make this determination and change your approach accordingly.

Fluff could be thought of as “the extra words” which don’t add much to the sentence – if anything. Could the same point be made, as strong (or even stronger) without a word? Then that word is fluff.

Image from Pinterest

Cutting the fluff is key for making room for your power words. It’s also great for keeping your reader interested, making each piece feel unique, and strengthening the message you’re trying to convey. Here’s a quick set of steps to help you find filler and eliminate it – or better yet, avoid falling back on it to begin with.

  • Start with an Outline: Concise writing, by default, will have less filler. If you’re worried your piece will get fluffy, start with an outline. It will help you stay on track and cover the important points without drifting too far out of focus.
  • Don’t Get Too Descriptive: Just because you’re being concise doesn’t mean you have to be too detailed unless the subject calls for it. Fluff isn’t just extra words that add no value – it can also be extra details that aren’t necessarily appropriate in the piece you’re writing.
  • Remove Redundancy: The key to impactful writing with crisp, powerful language is value. Your words should compel, and say a lot with a little. Because of this, there’s no need to use different words to say the same thing over again. You can explain the same thing in multiple ways if doing so strengthens the message, but less is more in most cases.

The process of removing fluff usually comes into play during editing. However, there’s a better way to eliminate fluff – do it as you write.

Of course, this is easier said than done. The best way to train yourself to write powerful content with zero fluff is the same way you train yourself to do anything else – with the right exercises.

Image from one of my favorite marketers ever, Henneke at Enchanting Marketing

Once you get the right techniques and use exercises that can build good habits, it becomes much easier to get inspired toward creating impactful content.

'Steps to detect fluff: create an outline, avoid getting too descriptive, and avoid redundancy - @JuliaEMcCoy on improving writing skills Click To Tweet

Use These 3 Exercises to Improve Writing Skills

When you’re trying to put power words into your writing, you’ll find old habits are hard to break. If you’ve relied on tame terminology and fluff for a while, you’ll also take a while to transform your writing.

The best way to improve your technical, promotional, and creative writing skills is to try these helpful exercises.

1. Find Your Fluff Fallbacks and Cut, Cut, Cut

This writing exercise begins in the editing phase. When you’re learning how to spot fluff, you’ll start by plucking out those unnecessary elements from your writing. Maybe you have a thing for adverbs, or you’re a person who loves their prepositions.

Whatever your fallbacks are, they will usually fall into a few specific categories. Once you find these, challenge yourself to write without them. If you find it too hard to avoid them completely, set a goal such as having no more than 5 cases in the piece you’re working on.

2. The Reverse Word Count Trick

Copywriters are familiar with the concept of minimum word counts.

But what about maximum word counts?

Yes, you may know me as the “long-form queen,” but even I have a maximum. 🙅

When you’re writing a sentence, read it back afterward and ask yourself: Could I use fewer words to get my point across? This is the “reverse word count” trick.

You don’t always have to splice every modifier or adjective out for the sake of brevity. However, learning to say more with less can help you avoid filler words and ensure you aren’t adding words in just to reach a total.

When you’re writing a sentence, read it back afterward and ask yourself: Could I use fewer words to get my point across? This is the 'reverse word count' trick. - @JuliaEMcCoy on strong #writing Click To Tweet

3. Broaden Your Vocabulary: Use Powerful (But Simple) Language

When we talk about putting power words into our work, complexity immediately comes to mind. But since we’re using them to make a connection with the reader, it is often better if they are simple. Try replacing your generic words with powerful alternatives – but only if you know their meaning. To widen and broaden your vocabulary, use Thesaurus.com. I use it constantly when looking up a more powerful synonym.

Image from Jar of Quotes

Mr. Grishman’s quote also has an extended version, where he tells us to go sparingly on the second category.

This applies especially to industries full of terms that qualify as “jargon.” Don’t write in phrases you have to think too deeply to understand, or you’ll turn off your online readers. If you have to search and contemplate for the meaning of the word, your reader may have to do the same thing. If they are required to keep a dictionary tab open just to get through your piece, they won’t even bother.

Power Writing Requires Power Proofreading

I want to close out by letting you in on a secret about proofreading your work – it’s easier if you use power words.

Why is this?

There’s a secret that seasoned writers and editors know about when it comes to checking your copy. If you read it out loud, you’re less likely to skim over errors. How do power words factor in?

Imagine you’re reading your work aloud in front of a crowd of eager listeners. Is the pressure on yet? Good. The best way to feel confident is to bring a presentation that makes you confident.

Ask yourself – would you feel better reading a generic script full of weasel words? Of course not. You want to have something powerful that attracts attention and keeps your readers hanging on your every word.

When you’re reading your copy back, don’t just make sure it flows well. Ask yourself if there’s any way you could change out words, eliminate some or add others in to strengthen what you’re saying.

When you’re reading your copy back, don’t just make sure it flows well. Ask yourself if there’s any way you could change out words, eliminate some or add others in to strengthen what you’re saying. More on great #writing ✍️ Click To Tweet

This may not always come into play. However, when you’re doing your proofreading and editing, you’re more likely to find spots to put power words.

'Looking where to put power words? You can do this through proofreading and editing. - @JuliaEMcCoy on improving writing skills Click To Tweet

Compare Your Work to See Where You Stand

Putting power words in the right places is the best way to change your writing from good to great. However, how can you know whether your writing is really more impactful than it used to be?

The key lies in comparing it. When we talk about comparing our writing, we’re usually told to compare it to our favorite writers. We did list that tip earlier, but it isn’t the only type of comparison you should be making.

You can also compare your improved writing to your old writing. It’s a great way to see how much stronger your words sound, and how much of a difference power words really make.

When you’re learning how to improve your writing skills, taking a look back at your older work may even make you twinge a bit. That’s a good thing, though. You’re seeing how far you’ve come and how much progress you’ve made.

Transforming your work with power words requires an understanding of the importance of wording choices. It also means practicing with the right exercises, and even carrying it over into your editing.

Powerful writing with less fluff means more value for your clients and your readers – it’s a win-win.

copywriting advice

57 Timeless Pieces of Copywriting Advice: Secrets to Improve Your Writing Skills

The history of marketing dates back to the early century as ancient art.

Barkers were hired in the Babylonian seaports by merchants to announce the arrival of spices, wine and fabrics.

In Greece, Greeks hung “Lost” posters in an effort to find and reunite with jewelry, children, or even slaves.

In Pompeii, billboards were extensively painted as signs that were used to announce carnivals, plays, and races.

These early realms of marketing drew on tactics, tools and strategies that you still use today, as a marketer to promote your products and services or brand.

You might be asking, “But Julia, why does this matter?”

Tell me why we need to know about advertising history

Source: GIPHY

Besides being fascinated with all the stories that you never imagined could’ve happened years ago, knowing history can affect how you work today — especially in copywriting.

You’ll even get to know what type of content has moved societies, and why some content trends remained effective until today.

Marketing history can help you learn:

  • How you shouldn’t organize a campaign
  • How you can comprehend and guide the constant human psychology
  • Forgotten fundamentals of marketing
  • Unusual copywriter strategies that work
  • How to save time and money by testing the right decisions
  • New publicity insights that you never imagined could be possible
  • Straightforward strategic thoughts of verified advertising directors

Lastly, knowing about the history of marketing and good copywriting can introduce you to a few of the best copywriting experts of all time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know timeless copywriting advice from the classics?

Today’s post is dedicated to your ongoing inspiration as a writer. As a writer, I know more than anyone it can be hard to get the muse to strike. Browsing through a few quotes from some of the greats in our industry can help re-ignite that love of writing inside your soul. Let’s dive in!

timeless pieces of copywriting advice

Top 57 Timeless Pieces of Copywriting Advice: Secrets to Improve Your Writing Skills

Here are the best 57 copywriters of all time and their best ideas. Although some are passed away and others alive, their ideas are timeless and very inspirational.

While you will be familiar with some names, others will be totally new to you. However, what matters is how you can apply their timeless advice and ideas into your copywriting career today.

Note that these experts have been sourced from various disciplines because our most memorable advice as copywriters can sometimes come from other unrelated fields.

The advice or quotes do not just govern our writing, but also relationships with ourselves and others.

We gain the insight to not just sell products and services, but also use the power we have to transform people’s lives.

Here are the best 57 copywriting experts of all time and their best ideas to give you insights into writing to engage and succeed. Learn and enjoy!

1. “Be vivid. Tell a story. Don’t be bland.” – Seth Godin

This copywriting tip is absolutely timeless because of how much it inspires us all (as online creators) to be original. That’s about as foundational as you can get with writing advice.

Giving your own insights, unique thoughts, additional expertise, and new perspectives on something will give you that edge you need to stand out in today’s sea of content.

Seth Godin’s timeless advice is all about writing copy without fluff, which in his words he calls “weasel words.” They do not add any value or flesh to your story, but makes it bland and dull.

Be vivid. Tell a story. Don’t be bland. @ThisIsSethsBlog Be inspired by Seth and 56 other #copywriters Click To Tweet

2. “Swap places with your readers.” – Ann Handley

According to Ann, in her book “Everybody Writes,” you need to swap places with your readers to get a feeling of what goes through their minds while reading your copy.

Is your point clearly brought out throughout your copy?

Is your tone honest?

Have you been hooked into the content despite it being of no interest to you?

Did you enjoy reading it?

If you answer yes to all the above questions, then your copy is ready for the reader, otherwise, revise it.

Create a lasting impression in your readers’ minds by writing interesting, factual and memorable content.

Swap places with your readers. - @annhandley This & 56 other bits of wisdom from top #copywriters in our blog Click To Tweet

3. “Where a web page is the terrain, the copywriter’s the tour guide, instructor, concierge, maître d’, and of course, sales clerk. If the copy can’t seal the deal, it must offer something compelling to start some sort of relationship.” – Barry Feldman

Write compelling content that is good enough to lock in your prospects. Even if they don’t buy now, they can buy in the future.

Feldman recommends writing engaging content that converts: here are the copywriting strategies that work to retain your prospects.

4. “Copywriting with passion, creating a shared, emotional experience of desire, delight, excitement, and awe, is the primary challenge all copywriters face.” – Aaron Orendorff

Just like any other profession, it takes passion for you to succeed in your field.

Passionate copywriting can help you create exciting, delightful and compelling copy that will leave your readers wanting more.

5. “Begin your bullets with dynamic action words, and keep them brief and punchy.” – Casey Demchak

Add powerful bullets in your copy, beginning them using action words while keeping them sharp and short.

Bullets are always a must in our Write Blog posts to make every long-form content easier to read.

Source: Express Writers

6. “Decide the effect you want to produce in your reader.” – Robert Collier

Whether you are a direct mail or self-help copywriter, Robert Collier is a name that should ring a bell. He was prominent in the copywriting field and lived between 1885 and 1950.

Collier is best known for his book, “The Secret of the Ages,” that he published in 1926 and sold over 300,000 copies in his lifetime. He’s a legend in faith, abundance, visualization, desire, and of course, copywriting.

Collier’s books sold for millions of dollars. He shared and explained the direct-mail letters he wrote and why they were successful in his book ‘The Robert Collier Letter Book.

How did he manage to write many successful sales letters?

He explained the secret to his success as a copywriter: you must first decide on the effect you want your copy to have on your audience even before you can start writing.

What kind of feeling or emotion do you want to trigger in your audience? Could it be flattery, envy or pride? Any of these trigger words should get you started in selecting the right effect you want on your reader upon reading your copy.

With the chosen effect or emotion in mind, write to invoke that specific feeling. Start out with intensive research to kick-off your writing for a pre-determined emotion in your audience.

7. “Show your product in use.” – Victor Schwab

Schwab kicked-off his career as a secretary and lived from 1898 to 1980. He worked for Maxwell Sackheim at Rathrauff & Ryan’s.

He successfully improved Sackheim’s copy and that saw him get promoted to a copywriter position. That’s how he became “the greatest mail-order copywriter of all time.”

Schwab was a deep researcher and used coded coupon ads to track his outcomes. He evaluated his copy appeals, calls to action, headlines, copy length and split runs.

He created comics for Dale Carnegie, Sherwin Cody (Classic English Courses) and Charles Atlas, a bodybuilder, as a content marketer.

Source: Do You Make These Mistakes in English?: The Story of Sherwin Cody’s Famous Language School PDF

He explained through his book “How to Write a Good Advertisement” that you should put your product in action for it to be successful.

Schwab explained that it has been proven that, your product can get more attention when you showcase it in your advertisement while in use. For instance, accomplishing or doing something using the product for your audience. According to W.S. Townsend, “that makes it live and breathe and serves right in front of the eyes of the prospect.”

Similarly, incorporating videos on your landing pages can improve your conversion rates, which can double your landing page conversions.

8. “In writing, rhythm is defined by punctuation and the stress patterns of words in a sentence. Long sentences sound smoother, while short sentences make your content snappier.” – Henneke Duistermaat

Keep your sentences concise for readability and ease of understanding.

Use rhyming words to create compelling content.

Duistermaat explains how you can make your words swing and swirl in your copy.

9. “Open like a Reader’s Digest article.” – John Caples

Agencies like Ruthrauff & Ryan’s that clearly “understood” advertising had it easy during the Great Depression.

Seen as a hard-sell mail-order shop, before the Depression, with templates similar to tabloids, the agency was perceived to warn people of sensitive issues, just like a soap ad warns of bad body odor.

However, the most successful copy headline ever was written in the shop’s humble premises.

Working for this agency, John Caples mastered the art of crafting mail-order copies based on perfected results.

His ability to get to the point in no time brought him to write a great headline for a music company “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano, But When I Started to Play!-“

The success of the headline saw Caples dominate the advertising industry for almost five decades. He wrote the copywriting book ‘“Tested Advertising Methods” and has an industry award named after him.

Caples says Reader’s Digest is specific, telegraphic and packed with facts and a few adjectives to arouse curiosity in your readership.

Similarly, open your blog posts with short (even one-word) sentences and use the right quotes. 

10. “Tap into one overwhelming desire.” – Eugene Schwartz

Schwartz lived between 1927 and 1995. He was not just a successful direct-mail copywriter who addressed businesses and individuals with killer headlines like “Give Me 15 Minutes and I’ll Give You a Super-Power Memory,” but wrote various legendary books like Breakthrough Advertising.

Going for at least $95 on Amazon, the graduate-level book offers insights into direct-response copywriting. He covers how to write irresistible landing page copy, writing exercises that can improve your copy and how you can get what you want by giving people what they want, among other great ideas.

Schwartz was pushing for writing a copy that meets a single main desire, despite its complexity. He said, “Tap into one overwhelming desire in the hearts of many people actively seeking to meet it at the very moment.”

No matter how important a copywriter you are, getting this critical step wrong would render your copy useless.

Getting it right could get the world ticking and dancing to your tunes.

11. “When we talk about something negative, it doesn’t have to be dramatic, but there should be some cost of turning your offer down. What’s yours?” – Amy Harrison

Studies show that we respond better to positive people and positive messages. Therefore, it’s better to write in an optimistic tone for your content to convert.

12. “Make the advertiser the character.”  Maxwell Sackheim

Maxwell Sackheim wrote one of the most powerful headlines in history for a patented English mail-order course dubbed “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”

This magnetic headline saw the ad run for about four decades, a period many businesses can’t even last.

However, his effective strategy of making the advertiser a “character” was less known.

Your advertising letters should come from the words used by your customers.

A good example is his disarming letter ‘The Gloucester Fisherman” that was written for his client Frank E. Davis. The client showcases his weaknesses in his inability to write, but only took part in what he does best: fishing.

Source: Good Morning Gloucester

He is honest in the letter about his ugly side. He wants to make a living and hopes for customers who can buy his catch.

13. “Develop a Unique Selling Proposition.” – Rosser Reeves

Rosser Reeves began his career as a reporter in Virginia and lived between 1910 and 1984, and later relocated to New York City.

He was another great marketer during the Great Depression and joined Bates agency in 1940.

Reeves had an eye for the finest things like food and drinks, in addition to being well-read and well-traveled. He believed that the goal of advertising is to sell and he did just that.

He successfully ran several campaigns ranging from marketing Colgate toothpaste to Viceroy Cigarettes. However, his most famous ad was for Anacin. It promised customers to relieve them from depression, pain and even tension, in an amazing way.

Source: Medium

His aim was for customers to recognize a particular, unique brand proposition. He was following the footsteps of Claude Hopkins and John E. Kennedy by mimicking the no-nonsense approach to “advertising must sell” taken by the duo.

Reeves focused on identifying a product’s unique benefit, feature or meaning and repeatedly putting emphasis on it in an advert as a way of selling a unique proposition to prospects.

For this reason, Rosser Reeves is known as the “Prince of the Hard Sell.”

The unique selling point (USP) has gone through so much alteration and revision since its invention by Reeves.

Today, your USP doesn’t have to be unique as long as it’s persona-driven or founded on a metaphor.

When you restate your USP and when you repeat words are two totally different things.

Keep that in mind.

14. “Copywriting is way more than putting words onto a screen. … [the] context and situation that influence the copy is called user experience.” – Neil Patel

User experience is more important than ever. Your audience wants a great experience using your product, reading your copy, etc.

Write interesting content with your audience in mind to ensure they have a great time reading your copy or merely browsing through your website. You’ll need these 5 essential content marketing skills from Patel as a copywriter to give your audience a great experience.

15. “Find the inherent drama in your product.” – Leo Burnett

Leo Burnett was named one of the 20th century’s 20 most influential business leaders by Time Magazine in 1998. His career began then, and he lived from 1891 to 1971, atop being the only advertising executive named by the magazine.

Burnett built one of the largest ad agencies worldwide during the Great Depression.

He believed that every product has a story or drama behind it.

How do you find this?

You need to dig deep into your subject with honor and love while being obedient to your hunches as you work really hard.

Burnett used representations of American values in the form of mythical creatures to tell great stories. Some of these characters include the Marlboro Man and Jolly the Green Giant.

Source: Pinterest

A good example of this concept today is well represented in Volkswagen’s advertising story “Once More – The Story of VIN 903847.”

16. “When you don’t give your customers enough information, the right information, or put it where it needs to be on the page, you run the risk of giving them the impression that you care more about the sale than them.” – Jen Havice

Your customer should come first and so are their needs.

Provide them with informational content that answers all their queries and meets their needs.

Havice explains how you can create persuasive yet informational content to increase and retain your readership.

17. “Wrestling with a 2,000-word essay is not unlike birthing a calf. A life is at stake here. Your job is to make sure it survives.” – Demian Farnworth

When writing long content, ensure consistency throughout with regards to creating a compelling copy that will interest your readers and keep them engaged all the way from the start to the end.

18. “Value is best communicated when it’s designed to be believed, not just described.” – Bernadette Jiwa

Create valuable content your readers can believe.

19. “When your customers feel that you’re talking to them on a deep emotional level and understand their hopes, fears, and desires better than the competition, you’re gonna get the sale.” – Adam Kreitmann

Get to know your audience–their fears, hopes and desires on a deeper level and communicate that in your copy.

Relate with your audience emotionally and watch your content attract more prospects, and ultimately sales.

20. “Write to one person, not a million.” – Fairfax M. Cone

Fairfax M. Cone lived between 1903 and 1977, only to begin his career in 1929 at Lord & Thomas that was based in San Francisco. He became a manager at the company in 1939 before relocating to New York City a couple of years later as the vice president.

He took over the company’s largest account, the Lucky Strike cigarettes account, before launching his own agency “Foote, Cone & Belding,” in partnership with Albert Lasker.

Cone advocated for honesty and clarity in place of clever and cute copy. He explained that real people with real issues only wanted honest and clear solutions, not clever and cute ones.

These people want INSTANT answers.

He explained that good advertising is written for a specific person, and when aimed at millions, doesn’t work.

Your goal should be to discover your ideal readership or audience. Get to know your reader’s profession. Is she a farmer, a marketer like you, or simply a teacher? Where is she located?

Discover who your ideal reader is. Once you know her location, interests, profession, etc., write to her and her alone.

21. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Shakespeare 

Use concise and brief sentences to create your copy.

Keeping your sentences short makes your point easy to read while maintaining the flavor of your copy.

22. “Your prospects need a reason behind your product based on three factors: why your product is the best, why your prospects should believe you and why they need to buy the product right now.” – Brian Clark

Your prospects could be wondering why they have to buy your product when they are better off with what your competition offers. After all, they know your competition better and your products don’t seem to have any difference.

This is where you come in to differentiate your product from your competition. Find a winning difference between your copy and that of your rivals. As discussed earlier, you need a deeper understanding of your unique selling proposition (USP) to set your product apart from the rest.

23. “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.” – Joe Pulizzi

Your customer comes first and so are their interests and needs. Get to know them and what they want and give them just that because they only care about themselves.

Write to them based on what you know about them.

24. “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.”– Mark Twain

Your draft is simply your ideas put on paper.

Use it to create a well-organized, clear, intelligent and compelling story to share with your readers

25. “Transubstantiate your product into something else.” – Bill Jayme

One of the world’s best direct-mail copywriters in today’s magazine industry was Bill Jayme (lived from 1926 to 2001).

Jayme considered himself a star in “junk mail”.

He launched his career at Time magazine with a great unorthodox “Cool Friday” letter in which he addressed his audience as “Dear Reader,” before he spoke a little off-topic and delved into his main point.

Before becoming his own boss, Jayme also worked for CBS and McCann-Erikson.

Jayme wrote subscription letters for various publishers in the 60s, 70s and 80s, including Esquire, Smithsonian and Businessweek.

Some publishers even offered him up to $40,000 for each letter he wrote.

He had his way of making friendships with his readers by being fascinating and respectful of their intelligence.

He had a way of getting into the minds of his editors, publishers and even readers based purely on intuition, his gut feeling.

Magazines like Mother Jones, Bon Appetit, Worth, Cooking Light, New York, Smithsonian, and Food & Wine owe their existence to Jayme, a true testament that his approach worked.

He capitalized his motivation and creativity to produce magical copies or letter: transubstantiation is all about transforming a service or product into something ‘magical.’

For instance, when selling a course on mastering PCs, he didn’t focus on the features of these devices, but on the end result, the greater benefit that his readers actually cared about.

He focused on success.

This is how he began his letter:

“You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. If you’re planning to succeed in business over the coming decade, you’ve now got just two choices left. You can come to terms with the computer. Or you can marry the boss’s daughter.”

In this letter, instead of selling the various parts or features of a personal computer, he sells the ultimate benefit of using a PC, a new experience. It is only by mastering computing basics that users can get a taste of that life.

26. “Everybody in the world divides his mail into two piles.” – Gary Halbert

Gary Halbert (lived between 1939 and 2007) is a direct response marketing legend who came into the limelight after his 381-word human psychology marvel letter was published.

He is known as “The King of Copy” and “Prince of Print.”

He created a business at the back of the letter, which was later bought by Ancestery.com.

Several legendary ads he successfully published followed in later years. You can find his marketing letters on an online print newsletter called Gary Halbert Letter.

Gary shared several lessons on direct response culture, amongst them is how you can sort junk mail.

According to Halbert, we all divide our mails into two piles, the first being A-Pile and the second B-Pile. The first pile comprises of letters that are either personal or appear to be so. Everything else falls under the B-Pile: catalogs, bills, brochures, envelopes with sales messages printed on them, printed announcements, etc.

When you create direct mail promotions, ensure that your letter falls under the A-Pile. The reason is that we open all our A-Pile mail and only some of our B-Pile mail.

With the internet age, not just readers are a click away, but also your competitors. The only time you have to grab their attention is four seconds.

So, do whatever you can just so your audience can notice you.

Get attention and keep it at just that.

27. “Free is the most powerful word in the copywriter’s vocabulary. Everybody wants to get something for free.” – Robert W. Bly

Use free yet powerful words to captivate your audience such as guarantee, easy, quick and free.

The Copywriter’s Handbook shows you how to use the right language to successfully communicate to your audience.

28. “Do not worship at the altar of creativity.” – David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy (lived from 1911 to 1999) is another legendary in advertising, the father of copywriting. He was called “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry” by Time magazine in 1962.

He is the author of two great books “Confessions of an Advertising Man” and “Ogilvy on Advertising.”

I highly recommend you to read these books.

Ogilvy’s sophisticated look in suspenders, polished manners, and a British accent created an aura of casual elegance in the headlines and content of ads he created.

His brevity and elegance are seen in many of his pieces, including the “Guinness Guide to Oysters,” “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt,” “How to Create Advertising That Sells,” and “At 60 Miles An Hour” for Rolls-Royce.

Source: Swipe.co

Create advertisements that are interesting enough for readers to take their time and read and even go ahead to make purchases, not having them see your creativity in every piece you craft.

He became famous for his direct-response speech to advertisers in India, recorded on video. He said that we all know the kind of ad that works and their equivalent dollar values.

He then advises copywriters and marketers not to worship at the creativity altar.

What did Ogilvy mean by creativity?

You can sell your product successfully through “advertising that sells” without focusing your attention on the product itself.

Ogilvy emphasizes that you repeat your winners. You can increase your readership by making a maximum of five repetitions in your copy.

Clearly, when he mentioned “creativity,” he meant that as long as your ad is generating some revenue, there’s no need to make alterations to it based on your creativity or just for the sake of change.

If your ad still generates revenue 6 weeks down the line, consider keeping it running. Even if it’s 12 months, keep it running. Twenty years, just keep it running.

Unless your new principles are repeatedly backed up based on results, stick to your fixed principles.

Ogilvy isn’t against innovation. He just wants that you start a trend rather than follow it.

He says you can save yourself from general advertising’s manifold lunacy by worshiping at a direct response alter rather than a creativity altar.

Don’t forget your job is to sell.

29. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

Be as honest as possible with your audience in your copy. Communicate with them heart to heart.

30. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

This quote by Da Vinci is very inspirational.

It is meant to influence your writing style to a form that resonates well with the reader.

Your writing style should be readable, concise or short and very simple in the reader’s eyes. Your readers will better understand your copy when you keep it simple.

31. “You can have everything you want in life if you will help enough people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

One of the most successful salesmen the world ever witnessed was Zig. Moreover, he was an honest businessman and an enthusiastic teacher.

He is proof that ethics and business can co-exist. Zig simply means that your success as a copywriter is not dependent on a particular product, article or even person.

Your success is totally hinged on the number of readerships you can attract with your writing. The more people you can help with your writing to reach their goals and get what they want, the more success you can attain.

32. “The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” – Thomas Jefferson

You don’t have to look at copywriting as an expense. When you save a penny, it is just that or even a cent lost.

When you invest in your writing to become a good copywriter, you’re not spending on an unnecessary cost, but a lifetime investment.

33. “We have become so accustomed to hearing everyone claim that his product is the best in the world, or the cheapest, that we take all such statements with a grain of salt.” – Robert Collier

Your audience can smell hype from a distance. Don’t just claim to be the best copywriter with the cheapest services, but prove your worth.

Your readers don’t need the hyped salt, keep it low.

34. “Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.” – Shirley Polykoff

Before founding her multi-million-dollar advertising agency, Shirley worked for Foote, Cone & Belding.

She became one of the advertisers through her “Does she… or doesn’t she?” promotion of Clairol. The campaign saw the company’s customer bases rise from 7% to about 50% of the female American population, increasing sales from $25 million to about $200 million.

When you write ad copy, you’re simply conversing with your prospects. Therefore, your language and style should be simple and similar to that of your audience for them to relate to your product or service.

35. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything.”- David Ogilvy

Talk to your prospects and give them enough reason why they should buy from you. They are more intelligent than you think.

Use more than just one or two words to convince them to choose your brand.

If possible, tell them a story. We all like nice stories that we can identify with.

36. “Poor copy cannot overcome faults or gaps in dealer distribution; it cannot even cash in on the finest dealer setups. But good copy can, and does, surmount many dealer difficulties, making them secondary, and selling in spite of them.” – Victor Schwab

Writing a good copy is key in winning your prospect’s heart and money. Once you win them, any difficulty or fault regarding your product or service becomes less important.

Writing good ad copy sells not just your product or service, but also the person or company responsible for making the product.

37. “Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.” – William Bernbach

You don’t have to use questionable language and shocking techniques to draw prospects to your brand. It takes just good writing with good taste and some creativity to sell your product or service.

Write well to attract a larger audience.

38. “Make it simple. Make it memorable.Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” –  Leo Burnett

Write simple and attractive content to lure your readership.

Readers find great content fun to read and easy to remember. Isn’t that just what you want?

39. “You must make the product interesting, not just make the ad different. And that’s what too many of the copywriters in the U.S. today don’t yet understand.” – Rosser Reeves

Research, research, and research.

Discover what’s unique about your product or service. why should your prospects get excited about it?

Write just that. Do not exaggerate your product by advertising what your product can’t even achieve.

Be honest. Make your product just as interesting as your copy, and watch your sales grow instantly.

40. “The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” – William Bernbach

Be honest with your prospects. We all love honesty.

41. “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” – Howard Gossage

Create interesting content for your readership. Make your ad as interesting as possible.

42. “Make your advertising too valuable to throw away.” – Sonia Simone

As the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger, Sonia Simone emphasizes the importance of writing for value. Your copy should be so important that no one can afford to throw it away.

43. “A copywriter should have an understanding of people, an insight into them, a sympathy toward them.”  – George Gribbin

You need to understand your audience, your target market. Know their needs and create a product to help meet that need.

When you focus on understanding your audience well first, you can write copy specifically made for them that meets their needs.

44. “Believe me; nothing works as well on the web as deadlines.” – Clayton Makepeace

As one of the highest-paid copywriters in the market, Clayton Makepeace recommends using urgency to motivate your audience.

Create a deadline for your promotion and have it in the call-to-action.

45. “Every product has a unique personality and it is your job to find it.” – Joe Sugarman

Find your product’s unique personality and use it to create your unique selling proposition.

Differentiate your product from your competition and sell its unique personality.

Always write unique content. Your readers will appreciate that.

46. “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.” – David Ogilvy

It goes without saying the essence of your headlines. Your readers will decide to read your copy — or not — based on your headlines.

Create killer headlines to attract more readership.

47. “Wake up and realize it’s not 1964 anymore. You can’t rehash that old stuff. Don’t use scandalous blog headlines on your business website if you want conversions. Talk and write like a real person.” – Peep Laja

Be realistic in your writing and create great headlines for your copy. Don’t forget to test your content titles the right way.

48. “If you can just support the emotions that they’re feeling, and you can do it with integrity—you really do have the solution—then you don’t really ever have to sell hard, or even push to sell.” – Ray Edwards

Understand your audience’s needs and emotions. Use integrity to give them the support they need.

Write copy aligned to your reader’s needs and emotions. Speak their language and use their voice in your copy.

49. “I believe writing copy for Mr. Spock is a recipe for success. If something is logical it is, by nature, persuasive.” – Art Anthony

Write a logical copy to convince your readership.

Check out these copywriting tips for Mr. Spock by Art Anthony to take your writing skills a notch higher.

50. “When you are looking directly to your swipe file for inspiration, don’t look for phrases to copy, or formulas to fill-in-the-blanks. Think about the psychology behind the copy.” – Casey Meehan

You can write great content from an existing copy. But don’t copy phrases from the original-inspirational copy.

Understand the psychology behind it and work from there.

51. “Nobody has the time or patience to read linear content. Instead of writing long indigestible blocks of text, make your content skimmable.” – Tania Cheema

Write skimmable content with 1 to 3 lines in each paragraph.

Write copy with short paragraphs to enable your readers to skim through your content easily and judge whether it’s something they want to read or not.

52. “If the average person needs a dictionary to translate your copy, you’ve lost multiple sales already.” – Martina Mercer

Write your copy in a simple style using simple words.

Your audience can easily read and understand your content when it’s written in simple language.

Don’t use jargon or complex words.

Mercer offers these great 7 copywriting tips to help you write easy to read and understand copy for reduced bounce rates and increased sales.

53. “Use words – all words – with an eye, ear, and nose for the odor of skunk. If you’re not sure how a reader will interpret or respond to a word … if it’s possibly confusing, ambiguous, or offensive … that’s your signal to look for a different way of saying it.” – Will Newman

Avoid ambiguous words in your copy.

Use simple, easy to understand words. You don’t want to confuse and offend your readers.

54. “The often overlooked subhead is really a stealthy and lethal ninja writing weapon just sitting there quietly waiting to be put to good use.” – Gary Korisko

Incorporate sub-headlines in your copy. You can use this guide to write killer subheads in your copy.

55. “The best marketing – and the best copy – is not about duping the reader into believing something, but about amplifying their need, alleviating their fear and exciting them to action.” – Joel Klettke

Know the needs and fears of your audience and showcase them in your copy.

According to Joel, persuading your audience to read or buy your product isn’t enough.

Call them to take action at the end of your copy.

56. “Curiosity will open up your mind, and therefore, the world; an inquisitive mind is easily one of the writer’s greatest strengths.” – Julia McCoy

Yes, a quote from yours truly!

So You Think You Can Write?” is my bestseller on Amazon, launched this April 2016; and I’ve heard from others that it offers timeless copywriting advice. This quote is from page 173—and this sentence simply sums up what I learned along the way, as a self-taught writer.

When you are curious, you get to learn and discover new things that you can share with your audience. Your readers are always hungry for new information. Your own curiosity will see you quench their thirst and feed them with the information they want to read through discovery.

so you think you can write book by julia mccoy

57. “Your job as a writer means placing enough information in front of your audience that they can see your point, rather than be utterly swayed to it. It’s critical to know your audience well so that you don’t over- or under-persuade.” – James Chartrand

Know your audience to write for them without over or under doing it.

Advertising Today as It Was in History

In 1477, the first printed English ad that offered a prayer book for sale was in the form of a 3-by-5 inch handball.

This was followed by the world’s most sustainable ad campaign in ancient years: “Colonizing America.”

In “Soap, Sex and Cigarettes,” the author, Julian Sivulka, states that all marketing campaigns are aimed at luring settlers and investors to the new world, with a promise of free land.

Advertising today has the same persuasive power it had over 300 years ago.

However, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s when advertising differentiated. It evolved and various positions emerged to help meet the demand for the services in the market:

  • Researcher
  • Copywriter
  • Account executive
  • Commercial illustrator
  • Advertising Agent

It was the copywriter who carried the day and dominates the field today.

Sivulka commented on the Roaring Twenties ads saying, “It was obvious that the most prominent member of the advertising team was the copywriter because illustrations and photography are almost interchangeable.”

In the 21st century, this notion remains true for all content marketing agencies. Of course, professional copywriters nowadays are equipped with modern copywriting skills such as writing content that is SEO and social media ready.

We hope these pieces of copywriting advice has inspired you to develop new content marketing ideas that can attract your target audience to engage and help you reach those conversions you’ve been aiming for.

Just a note: Don’t hesitate to delegate copywriting tasks when things have become too overwhelming for you. Check out our Content Shop to find the right service for you.

writing clear sentences

6 Super Simple Tips for Writing Clear Sentences

In content, there’s not much worse than bad writing.

Bad writing can turn a great idea into muddled gibberish.

Bad writing can make you sound silly or unintelligent – even if you’re a smart cookie.

Bad writing is easy to spot but notoriously difficult to fix if you don’t know what you’re doing.

As it turns out, writing clear sentences is both an art and a science.

When you get it right, your content sings.

On the flip side, when you get it wrong, you end up complicating simple ideas. You lead your readers down confusing paths and lose your overall impact.

What’s a writer to do?

Learn how to write clear sentences. Learn how to cut the fat from your writing to improve clarity, but keep your unique voice intact. Today, we’re sharing our best tips to help you do it. Ready to tighten up your writing?

Clear writing is key to effective copy that speaks to your readers in your #contentmarketing. @JuliaEMcCoy shares 6 simple tips to writing clearer sentences that you can implement right away. Click To Tweet

guide on writing clear sentences

Your Guide to Writing Clear Sentences: Our 6 Top Tips

1. Beware Meaningless Filler Words

If you’re not paying attention, meaningless filler words can sneak into your writing. Like so:

If you’re not paying attention, there are meaningless filler words that can sneak into your writing.

These bloat your sentences with useless gunk. The most common perpetrators include the phrases you see in bold above, plus their variations:

“It” or “there” + “be” verbs:

  • There are
  • There is
  • There were
  • It is
  • It was

Relative clauses:

  • That
  • Which
  • Who

Generally, most sentences can live without “it” or “there” + a “be” verb (is, are, was, were) followed by a noun and a relative clause (that, which, who). These types of phrases are called expletive constructions.

In other words, they have no meaning. They don’t help your sentences. Get rid of them!

Another example:

It was my favorite time of year because of that crisp weather and falling leaves.

Slash those filler words, and you get a sentence that’s much more concise and to the point:

My favorite time of year has crisp weather and falling leaves.

Once you’re cognizant of filler words, you’ll start catching yourself using them. Pretty soon, your reflex will be to nix them altogether. You’ll be writing clear sentences unconsciously rather than cluttering them up.

2. Self-Edit & Bring in an Outside Editor

The best ways to catch and eliminate those filler words from point #1? Self-edit AND bring in an outside editor to check your work.

Why both?

Because ruthless, constant editing is one of the best methods to clarify and simplify your writing. Multiple editing passes help distill your thoughts and ideas down to their clearest forms.

This is also a top tip from one of my copywriting heroes, Henneke Duistermaat.

In my interview with her for The Write Podcast, she mentions paying attention to the corrections your editor makes. Listen to their feedback! That way, you’ll learn as you move forward and avoid committing those errors again.

You’ll be writing clearer sentences in no time.

henneke duistermaat on improving your copywriting skills

Tune into this episode for more writing tips from Henneke!

3. Write Shorter to Write Clearer

Do your sentences tend to go on… and on… and on?

To write clear sentences, write shorter. Slash your sentences in half. Insert periods instead of commas.

write shorter sentences

Take this example from a fashion blog:

I’ve been wearing a lot of old favorites and remixing closet classics this season, but if there’s one thing I can’t resist buying every autumn it’s a cozy knit!

It’s unnecessarily long. The main idea gets lost along the way (she can’t resist a cozy knit). If we shorten this up, we can make it clearer and more impactful.

For instance, we can start by splitting the sentence in two. All we have to do is look for the comma and add a period, instead:

I’ve been wearing a lot of old favorites and remixing closet classics this season. But, if there’s one thing I can’t resist buying every autumn, it’s a cozy knit!

Better. Now we can omit filler words and cut this down even more:

I’ve been wearing lots of old favorites and remixing closet classics this season. But, every autumn, I can’t resist buying a cozy knit!

The shorter sentences help us follow this train of thought better. The whole thing is clearer and less meandering, so we get to the point quicker. (This helps hold your readers’ interest!)

Shorter sentences help readers follow your train of thought better. This and more #copywriting tips in this new blog post by @JuliaEMcCoy. Click To Tweet

Speaking of the main point, that’s another great tip to remember:

4. Don’t Bury the Lede (The Main Subject of Your Sentences)

In journalism-speak, the “lede” is the main subject of your writing. (Copy editors and journalists started spelling it “lede” to help distinguish it from the “lead” in typesetting.)

don't bury the lede

When you “bury the lede,” you unintentionally hide the main point of your writing.

Not good. Why?

Because clear sentences begin with the main subject.

This is a good example of burying the lede from The MLA Style Center:

example of burying the lede

“Known for her unmatched skills as a hostess – after all, she had been a debutante who became a socialite whose husband sat on the boards of half a dozen of the city’s most prestigious cultural organizations – Mary felt right at home discussing her plan for the summer fund-raising luncheon with the museum director.”

The subject of this uber-long sentence is Mary. Where is Mary? We can’t find her in the sentence until 209 characters have gone by.

She’s buried.

Another good example of burying the lede in a sentence: using the passive voice.

For instance:

Her plan for the summer fundraising luncheon was discussed by Mary and the museum director.

Passive voice buries the subject of the sentence at the end. We have no idea who is discussing the plan for summer fundraising until the very last words.

Instead, we should put the subject at the beginning:

Mary and the museum director discussed her plan for the summer fundraising luncheon.

That way, our readers won’t have to play detective to figure out who (or what) we’re talking about. This is a major key to writing clear sentences.

5. Avoid Redundancies to Improve Sentence Clarity

Redundancy can be a clear sentence killer.

It happens when you add different words with the same meaning to a sentence, or repeat words or phrases unnecessarily.

redundancy example

The above example of redundancy is obvious. However, it can be subtle, too:

  • We’re planning to meet at 12 o’clock midnight.
  • Don’t revert back to your old ways.
  • She will briefly summarize the report.

All of the above sentences are short, but they can be clarified by removing the redundancies.

  • We’re planning to meet at midnight. (12 o’clock and midnight both refer to 12:00 a.m.)
  • Don’t revert to your old ways. (“Revert” means to return or go back to a previous state.)
  • She will summarize the report. (A summary is brief by definition.)

This chart from the Speak Good English group on Facebook is a great resource to help you avoid common redundancies:

helpful chart on avoiding redundancies in content writing

Do your readers have to play detective to figure out who (or what) you’re talking about? @JuliaEMcCoy shares #copywriting tips for clearer, crisper writing in this new blog post. Click To Tweet

6. Use Writing Tools to Hone Your Craft

Final tip: Don’t forget to use all the writing tools at your disposal. There are plenty of great ones out there that can help you craft clearer sentences.

  • I regularly recommend Hemingway Editor because it focuses on simplifying your writing, Hemingway-style.

the hemingway app

  • To check out the readability score of your writing, plug it into Readable.io. It tells you what education level a person needs to be able to understand your work. The lower the grade level score, the easier it is to read.

the readable app on a tablet

  • Adding the Grammarly plug-in to your word processor or browser is a good way to catch usage errors while you self-edit.

grammarly for self-editing

Writing Clear Sentences: It’s in the Bag

The key to writing clear sentences is recognizing when your grammar gets sloppy. It’s knowing what filler words look like and how passive voice sounds.

The best way to learn all of these concepts is to edit, edit, edit.

Self-edit all your writing. Then, hand your writing over to a trusted editor. Listen carefully to their feedback and add it to your writing toolbox.

If you’re still struggling, enlist high-quality editing and grammar tools. They’ll help whittle down your writing further.

Don’t worry: You CAN and WILL improve. It just takes practice! ✍️

grammatical errors

5 Top Grammatical Errors to Avoid At All Costs in Your Marketing

In the grammar world, there are mistakes, and then there are MISTAKES.

You know what I’m talking about:

The little errors are evidence you’re human…

… While the BIG errors will cost you time, money, customers, etc., if they appear in your marketing.

Usually, we can let the small ones slide. It would actually lead to more wasted time if we gave them our attention.

Meanwhile, the Big Ones can hurt us, so avoiding them IS worth our time.

This is exemplified in the 10% vs. 10x rule (which I discussed with CoSchedule’s CEO in an episode of The Write Podcast).

  • The stuff that’s worth your precious resources is going to 10x your business growth.
  • The remainder may or may not help you grow. These types of actions offer 10% growth, at best. Instead of leaping to the next level, you’ll inch your way there along the 10% path.

Framing your marketing this way will help you decide where to invest your time.

Take, for example, a small error like a typo in an email sent to your subscribers.

Will it matter in the long-run? Do you need to rush to fix it and send out an apology?

michael-scott-no

Not so fast!

As Grammar-Nazi-snobbish as I am, it’s probably not hurting your sales that you accidentally spelled content “contant” in paragraph two. Although good gosh, it rubs me so wrong to see that in typing.

But what about the big, glaring errors? What if you have a major typo on your hands? Those could erode your reputation as a credible source of information. I still remember the day Joe Pulizzi called me out about a stat we published in an infographic. The number was off by a million. 🙁 Now that was a typo, and to be called out by Pulizzi was so crazy for me! I quickly acknowledged it, and my team and I fixed the statistic and republished same-day.

So, the ones that could really put a dent in your rep are the ones we want to talk about today. The “10x” mistakes. Read today’s blog to stay accurate, free of errors, and continue to establish yourself as a trustworthy authority online.

Let's talk about 10x typos - the ones you never want to make online (versus the ones no one cares about). @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

grammatical errors

5 Easily-Missed Grammar and Spelling Errors That Hurt Your Content Marketing (And What to Do About Them)

These errors are easy to miss if you don’t know the grammar rules that govern them.

However, once you have the rules down, you’re not likely to make these mistakes ever again.

1. Misusing “There’s” and “Here’s”

Here’s a question not many people ask themselves while writing:

“Are my subjects and verbs in agreement?”

hmm

The answer can make a big difference to the clarity of your sentences.

Subject-verb disagreement looks like this:

  • Here’s lots of tricks to make your life better.”
    • The subject of the sentence, “lots of tricks,” is plural (there is more than one trick).
    • The problem? The verb, “here’s” (a contraction of “here is”), doesn’t match up. It’s singular.
    • Instead, we need the plural form of the verb so everything matches up, i.e., “Here are lots of tricks to make your life better.”

For an example of subject-verb agreement (what we want), let’s return to the first sentence in this section:

  • Here’s a question not many people ask themselves while writing.”
    • Subject of the sentence: “a question” (singular – it’s one question)
    • Verb: “Here’s” (singular – “here is”)

Expletive Constructions

If the above is too confusing to remember, it’s actually better to avoid these kinds of sentences in your writing.

That’s because phrases like “here is,” “there is,” “here are,” and “there are” are all examples of expletive constructions.

According to Grammar Revolution, “In the world of grammar, expletives aren’t swear words. They are words that serve a function but don’t have any meaning.”

For instance, the word “there” is unnecessary in the expletive construction “there is”:

grammar-revolution_there-is

You can often write sentences without using expletive constructions – they won’t lose their meaning. (Screenshot via Grammar Revolution)

Why it matters: If your subjects and verbs don’t agree, or if you use too many expletive constructions, your writing will be less clear.

Your sentences will sound ungainly and a little strange, even if the person reading it isn’t aware of the grammar rule you broke.

Avoid expletive constructions in your online content. No, they're not swear words: they're words without a meaning. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

2. Using the Wrong Word in the Right Place

Consider these sentences:

  • “Content marketing is better for building trust then traditional marketing.”
  • “I don’t want to loose my favorite pen.”
  • “The affect the movie had on me was incredible.”
  • “Their at the bookstore looking at science fiction.”

Clearly, the writer has the right intentions. If you read these out loud, they sound correct.

The problem: They used the wrong words in the right places.

This is a common error. The English language has a long list of words that sound exactly the same, but have different meanings/functions in a sentence. They’re called homophones:

  • Then/than
  • Here/hear
  • Loose/lose
  • Affect/effect
  • They’re/their/there
  • Your/you’re

A. Then vs. Than

The sentence: “Content marketing is better for building trust then traditional marketing.”

Why it’s wrong:

  • “Then” connotes a period in time.

What to use, instead:

  • “Than” is used for comparing two things, like content marketing and traditional marketing in the sentence above.

The Grammar Police on Twitter had to explain this to Nike, sadly:

B. Loose vs. Lose

The sentence: “I don’t want to loose my favorite pen.”

Why it’s wrong:

  • “Loose” means the opposite of tight. (Memory trick: The two o’s make the word look long and loose.)

What to use, instead:

  • “Lose” means to misplace something, be deprived of something, or to fail at a contest or game. (To spell “lose,” you lose an o.)

C. Affect vs. Effect

The sentence: “The affect the movie had on me was incredible.”

Why it’s wrong:

  • “Affect” is a verb used to describe a change that’s happening (usually, not always).

What to use, instead:

  • “Effect” is usually a noun that describes the result of the change. (Remember, to talk about “the effect” of something, you need two e’s, as in “the e” Also: The movie can affect you as you’re watching it, but the effect it has on you happens later.)

confusing-words-affect-effect

Image via Writing Explain

D. Their vs. They’re vs. There

The sentence: “Their at the bookstore looking at science fiction.”

Why it’s wrong:

  • “Their” is a possessive pronoun meant to show belonging to a group of two or more people.

What to use, instead:

  • “They’re” is a contraction of the phrase “they are.” To determine when you need it, sound it out in place of whatever “their/they’re/there” you’re considering.

Additionally:

  • “There” refers to a place or moment in time.

Why it matters: When you use the wrong words in your sentences or mix up homophones, you look like you don’t know what you’re doing on a very basic level. If you can’t even write a simple sentence correctly, what could that say about your work in general – especially if your work involves writing for a living?

Avoid using the wrong word in the right place. This online #content common error could present you (the author) as sloppy. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

3. Misuse of Apostrophes (Mixing Up Plurals and Possessives)

What’s wrong with the following picture?

oldnavy_letsgo

Image via Gawker

“Lets” is not a word.

What’s missing here is the apostrophe. Without it, we can’t form the contraction for “let us” – “let’s.”

What other times should you use apostrophes?

  • When you’re noting belonging or possession, i.e., “Dan’s car,” “The kids’ lunch,” or “Sally’s horse”.
  • When you’re using a contraction, i.e., “You shouldn’t do that,” “I don’t care,” or “Let’s see what we can do.”
  • Don’t add apostrophes everywhere like you’re Oprah (“You get an apostrophe! You get an apostrophe!”).

sports-bar

Is the owner of this bar named “Sport”?

Image via HubSpot

Why it matters: Inconsistencies in punctuation look unprofessional. They also make your content writing look rushed, like you couldn’t be bothered to stop long enough to put your apostrophes in the right places.

Don't misuse apostrophes in your online content. They make you look rushed and unprofessional. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

4. Blatant, BAD Misspellings

Did you know that the human brain can read words that begin and end with the correct letters, even if the middle is jumbled up?

live-science-jumbled-letters

Despite this fact, there’s no excuse for really obvious spelling errors.

None.

A photo of the White House taken with an

(Especially if you’re a presidential candidate. *facepalm*)

Image via Impact

Every single word processor out there has spellcheck. Why aren’t you using it??

Why it matters: Point blank: Blatant, glaring spelling errors that jump off the page make you (and your team) look lazy.

Don't make blatant spelling errors in your online #content. The typos that jump off the page make you (and your team) look lazy. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

5. Using “In Regards To”

This one, unfortunately, is a common phrase you’ll hear too many smart people repeat.

Lots of people say it/write it when they want to introduce a new topic without yanking the rug from under their audience’s feet.

Often, you’ll see “in regards to” used to help smooth the way.

First of all, it’s incorrect. The proper way to put it is “in regard to.” It means “in reference to.”

Second of all, “regards” are your best wishes, greetings, or compliments to someone else. In the olden-days of letter-writing, you would put “with regards to ___” or “give my regards to ___” at the end of a note when you wanted to send your love or affection to someone other than the recipient.

regards-dictionary

Third of all, “in regard to” doesn’t mean much. It’s just a wordier way of saying “concerning,” “regarding,” or “about.”

Stuffing your content with clunky phrases like this weighs it down, making it harder to read.

Instead of quibbling over whether there’s an s at the end of “regard,” try to omit this phrase from your writing. Look for a more concise alternative, instead.

Why it matters: “In regards to” is not only clunky and incorrect, it’s also overly formal. Sprinkling this phrase liberally in your writing is a quick way to sound pompous and silly while alienating your audience.

Click To Tweet

Wrangle Your Spelling/Grammar and Keep Your Content Marketing Rep Intact

As marketers, it’s our job to be the best communicators to connect with our audiences.

If you commit any of the above grammar goof-ups, your reputation, authority, and marketing ROI will be on the line.

Don’t let one mistake topple what you’ve built. Be vigilant about good grammar and spelling to make your communication as clear and effective as possible.

It should build your authority, not tear it down.

 

 

content creator

How the Right Content Creator Can Completely Redefine Your Brand

Thinking about hiring a content creator for your business?

Just do it.

You’ve probably heard that line a few thousand times before.

The magic of Nike’s signature call-to-action wasn’t built by accident.

The content creators, writers and marketers behind the campaign crafted a line that would make the brand feel more inclusive.

It speaks to everyone, not just athletes, by urging them to follow their aspirations.

Plus, it’s catchy as heck.

Would you want the same thing for your brand?

A lot of your success and reach online comes down to finding the right content creator.

This is a necessary step when it comes to building your brand.

91% of B2B marketers agree.

B2B Using CM

Adding an expert content creator and writer to your creative team will save you time, money and shape your brand’s identity.

So what are you waiting for?

Just do it.

Let’s talk more about the role of a content creator in business, why a content creator benefits you, and a brief history behind today’s modern content creator.content creator blog

What is a Content Creator?

You may already be familiar of the job of content writing and content creation without ever having come across the terms.

Unlike some of it’s comrades that disguise themselves in tricky acronyms – LBO, BT, BI, SQL, GN – content writing and creation is exactly what it sounds like. (By the way, at least one of those acronyms doesn’t exist, see if you can find it!)

Content writers create content to garner interest in your brand. Blogs, web pages, ad copy, social media posts, ebooks, how-to guides, videos, this very paragraph you’re reading – it’s all the work of highly skilled content creators.

The main difference between anyone simply making a WordPress site, creating a post and jotting down their feelings and a content writer is the hidden technicality of this type of writing.

As you read this blog you’re coming across keywords, links and other techniques that content writers weave in to the content to optimize it for the web.

Can you tell?

I hope not. Content creators are ninjas of the written word. They adhere to the rules of SEO by sneaking them in without interrupting the natural flow of the content.

No matter what, the ever-changing algorithms of optimizing online content will always fall behind the number one rule. The one rule to rule them all: creating high-quality content.

Why You Need a Content Creator

Unless you plan on heading up your company by day and transforming into a content writing ninja by night, the best solution is to hire an expert content writer.

Fulfilling a detailed content strategy shouldn’t be another box to check on your daily to-do list.

Gaining the full benefits of content writing requires 100% attention. You want someone passionate about growing your brand who can bring fresh eyes and follow through on your content strategy.

Not convinced? Let us show you why you need to hire a content creator:

1. It’s Cost Effective

How often do you come across ways to both grow your business and save money?

Outsourcing content creation to a freelance writer or agency will save you the time and cost of training them. In fact, the highest percentage of outsourced content marketing is content creation.

Content creators charge a multitude of prices, so the best strategy before hiring is to know what you want and how much you’re willing to pay. Remember that quality is key to successful online content.

You may be able to get a cheap deal on Fiverr, but quality content isn’t something you bargain for.

We break down our pricing into three quality levels to cover a range of content needs.

2. It Will Save You Time

Content writing is more complex than churning out a few blogs when you feel like it. It takes time to produce high quality content because it’s more than just writing.

This type of content creation is a mix of research, editing, proofreading and formatting to craft high-ranking and high-traffic content relevant to your brand.

It’s okay that you don’t have time to memorize the latest SEO trends for 2018. This responsibility will be taken on by your content writer.

3. Fresh Content Will Keep Your Brand Relevant

Bringing in a content writer to be the voice of your brand will give your audience a whole new perspective.

Content creators are like students taking a course on what your company is. They will learn the ins and outs of your brand identity and turn it into a conversational piece to relay to your clientele.

Consistent content will also keep your online presence up to date. Posting fresh content across all platforms will help you rank higher in search engines.

Are you convinced yet?

Before you hire a content creator it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you want. Set your goals so that you can communicate them:

  • How do you want to sell your brand?
  • What type of content do you need?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want someone in-house or outsourced?

Answering these questions will point you in the right direction.

How Did We Get Here? The History of Content Creators

Content writing wasn’t born out of thin air.

It comes from a long ancestry of using messages to communicate.

Finding a connection between a blog centered on Apple’s new iPhone robot and Egyptian hieroglyphics may seem like a stretch, but just hear me out.

From the prehistoric era to today, writing has been one of the top modes of disseminating information.

Perhaps we’ve traded out wooden tablets for Android tablets since then, but at its core, the goals of writing have always remained.

Where Today’s Content Writing Originated: Going Back to Mesopotamian Cuneiform in 8,000 B.C.

The essence of all writing is described as a “system of graphic marks representing the units of a specific language.”

The first recorded writing system was the Mesopotamian cuneiform, which evolved into four phases from 8000 to 1500 BC:

  • Clay tokens: stood for symbols of a code to categorize and track the amount of items you had. Clay was formed into geometric shapes to mirror the goods they were representing.
  • Pictographs: signs and impressions that represented numbers and specific items. These symbols replaced physical tokens.
  • Logographs: or symbols that represented phonetic sounds. For the first time, writing was no longer tied to counting or tracking objects. People wrote names and titles.
  • The Alphabet: signs that stood for one particular sound that the voice made. This made room for combining multiple signs to represent a whole new word. From the first alphabet came many more renditions, each originating from a particular region.

With each new written form of communication, came the intrigue in spreading that information to a wider audience.

By the time 1450 rolled around, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press brought forth a revolution. There was an enormous demand for sharing and preserving ideas in print.

In the 1970s, the first renditions of the internet were introduced and the written word was launched into cyberspace.

We’ve been disseminating information from pixels on a screen ever since.

Today: The Shift for Content Creators and Businesses

The power of words is undeniable.

From Shakespeare to hashtags, it’s all about condensing down your identity into a series of signs and symbols.

You can persuade, influence, communicate and create an impact without ever making a sound.

Imagine the impact you can make writing to the four billion people using the internet worldwide?

Well, that made your ears perk up.

The demand for creative content has always been a major part of business strategy. Whether it’s print ads, press releases or commercials, companies have found ways to speak directly to their audience.

Then came Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

With over 3 billion active users, social media has become the language of the people. It didn’t take long for companies to realize that they needed to jump on board to become a part of the conversation.

But it’s more than just showing up.

Having a Facebook account or generic landing page is not enough to sell your brand. The audience on the web today researches services and products they want to support. They buy from brands they want to be associated with.

Customers are looking for a full fledged relationship with your brand, not a one night stand.

To build that relationship, you need to speak to their needs. The best way to do that is through carefully crafted content.

Content writers can turn generic blogs into love letters.

It’s not a skill to be overlooked. Content writing was named one of the top freelancing skills for 2018, with the median salary of over $40,000 a year.

Creating Great Content: It’s More than a Blog

Even if you spend only a few minutes scrolling through articles, chances are that you soak in some of the information.

With the unique ability to speak directly to their targeted audience, content writers are able to recognize what is important to the reader.

The impact of their words reaches far beyond the time you spend actually reading or viewing their content, even if you don’t recognize it.

Remember, we’re ninjas.

The best content creators find what’s at the core of the product they are selling, and emphasize that. Dos Equis was never associated with the most interesting anything until their manly mascot came around.

Putting creativity at the forefront of your content strategy is a way to reach consumers without overselling your brand.

One content creator, Nanette Burstein, and her team turned the negative connotation of “like a girl” on it’s head in the Always marketing campaign. The #LikeAGirl movement urged girls and women of all ages to aspire to reach bigger goals and celebrated their accomplishments. The content Nanette created associated Always with female empowerment while also selling more feminine products.

Metro Trains had a very simple message for passengers: don’t mess around on trains. Instead of posting signage and warnings, their creative team designed a video depicting “Dumb Ways to Die” with a catchy jingle and cute characters to match. The result? Over 165 million views on YouTube and counting.

I think they got their message across.

Content creation does not have to be directly associated with the products you’re selling. It’s about creating content that’s appealing to your target audience while also sharing your message.

Creating valuable content transcends your products. At the end of the day, you’re building a relationship between your audience and your brand.

Content Creators that Care: Building My Team to Support a Growing Industry

Though my brand, Express Writers, absolutely does offer high-quality content services, I also grow it as a means of supporting a community interested in online content.

Have you read our ultimate guide on What is a Content Strategist, yet?  Check it out here! You can read it online or download and save for later.

Beyond the products we sell, we offer resources to businesses, freelancers and anyone wanting to learn about content marketing.

I started the Write Blog, Write Podcast and #ContentWritingChat as a way to continue the conversation about what’s important in the writing world to everyone, not just our customers.

I’ve even built an online content marketing and strategy course to help everyone learn the skills to be successful in the content realm.

You, too, can become a member of the content creator ninja society.

There’s no need to keep these skills secret. Content creation is not about competition. The purpose of writing has and always will be to share and preserve valuable content.

Maybe your creative content team will come up with the next gem worthy to have a seat next to Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke,” or Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?”

The possibilities are endless when it comes to building content around your brand.

So don’t take Volkswagen’s “Think Small” advice, no matter how well it worked for them.

It’s your content.

Think big.

pasop formula

How to Sell Your Products & Services Online With Targeted Copy Using the PASOP Formula

Ever wanted to set up a sales email sequence or campaign, but had no idea where to start with the copy?

Well, I have some good news.

Copywriting formulas exist for these exact scenarios.

In other words, you don’t have to start from square one or reinvent the wheel.

Think of copywriting formulas as blueprints. They give you the plans to build an incredibly persuasive argument for customer action. You just need to fill in the blanks and personalize the blueprint so your resulting email campaign or sequence is targeted and personal for your audience.

As you know, when your writing is both of these things (targeted and personal), you’ll be more successful in your endeavors – meaning you’ll get more opens, more clicks, more sign-ups, more conversions, or more sales.

That’s why I’m here today to talk about a really great formula/blueprint that gets serious results, especially for email copywriting and drip campaigns.

This particularly compelling copywriting blueprint is the PASOP formula:

Problem, Agitation, Solution, Outcome, Problem.

Let’s talk more about it, and how to use it in your sales-focused copy. Ready?

what is the pasop formula

What Is the PASOP Formula? A Nitty-Gritty Definition

With any copywriting formula, you use the provided blueprint to structure your argument. (The goal of any type of copywriting is to spur the reader to action, so every sentence you write contributes to your argument in some way.)

With PASOP, the argument is structured like this:

  • Problem
  • Agitation
  • Solution
  • Outcome
  • Problem

pasop formula graphic

Let’s talk about how each element ties together and leads to customer action – whether that means a purchase, a sign-up, or simply clicking a link to a landing page.

1. Problem

With this formula, your argument begins with presenting a problem the reader has.

You can state the problem simply, or you can go into more detail.

2. Agitation

After you state the problem, it’s time to stir the pot. This is the “agitation” part.

How do you do it?

You swim around in the problem. You get into the reader’s head and tell them how they must be feeling about it. You empathize.

Ultimately, you want to make them nod along and think, “Yes, this is how I feel. This is my problem.”

Or, in internet-speak, you make them think, “THIS.”

It just means you emphasize the pain the problem causes. You dig in a little. You make the problem twinge for the reader. You make them wince.

The point of agitation is to suddenly make the reader’s problem much more immediate and urgent. They don’t want the pain, and they don’t just want a solution. They need it.

3. Solution

After agitation, it’s time to give your reader some relief. It’s time to show them there’s a way out, a way to make the pain end.

This is your unique solution to the problem, something only you can provide.

This part should make your reader go, “Ahhhhh. Sweet relief.” (Or something similar if they’re not the dramatic type.)

Note: PAS is a much more common formula than PASOP. The former is the original, the latter is a variation.

Here’s a PAS example on its own, in action, via Copywrite Matters:

4. Outcome

What are the eventual outcomes for the reader if they use your solution? Tell them to sweeten the deal.

Including the “Outcome” part goes a step beyond PAS. In many cases, this is just extra proof that the solution is awesome and works.

For example, a testimonial is a great way to show a positive outcome in action. You can also use data that proves the solution works.

5. Problem

Here’s where things get interesting. After you show your solution and the possible outcomes for the reader, you loop back to another problem.

This problem may or may not be related to the first one you presented at the outset of your argument. It just should be relevant to your reader.

And then, you stop there. You leave that final problem lingering in the reader’s mind – a literal cliffhanger, which sets them up to anticipate your next email/message, where you’ll repeat PASOP and give them a solution.

This is the main reason PASOP works so well for email sequences and drip campaigns. It naturally meshes with the delayed messaging format. It keeps your audience wanting more, because you leave a question dangling that begs an answer.

Your readers should look like this when you get to the second “P” in PASOP and dangle that cliffhanger:

When & Where to Use the PASOP Formula in Your Copywriting

PASOP is persuasive, all right.

But where should you use it in your copy to nab more customer action – more sales, more conversions?

Turns out, there are places where this formula naturally works very, very well.

1. Email Drip Sequences and Campaigns Set Up as Auto-Responders

Above all, PASOP is perfectly suited for email drip campaigns.

Many marketers and writers approach drip campaigns and sequences with shudders, but implementing the PASOP formula for these tasks can make them ridiculously easy to write.

An email drip sequence begins when someone opts into a lead magnet (i.e. by entering their email address/information into a form on a landing page) or performing some other action that warrants a response from you (making a purchase, abandoning a shopping cart, visiting a page more than once, signing up for your newsletter, etc.).

Once they do this, a pre-written sequence is triggered and hits their inbox. One email is sent at a time over a set period of days.

Here’s an example of one of my sequences in ConvertKit.

convertkit sequence

This sequence is triggered to invite people to my masterclass and allow them to get to know me, after they sign up for my free lead magnet on content strategy skillsets.

Each email is written strategically so it pulls the user/customer/reader further into the fold. If your end goal is to get the reader to make a purchase, the sequence of emails sent over a span of days helps warm them up to get them closer to that action.

When you use PASOP in these sequences, you’ll nail that persuasive tone and potentially inspire more action from your readers.

Done right, email drip campaigns can sell products completely hands-off!

Here’s how PASOP usually breaks down in an email sequence:

Email 1

  • P – Present a problem (problem #1) relevant to your readers.
  • A – Agitate the reader so they feel some emotion about the problem. Make the problem sting a little.
  • S – Present the solution to problem #1 (which is not necessarily what you’re selling).
  • O – Show a positive outcome from using the solution. Provide data or testimony that proves its worth.
  • P – Bring up another problem (we’ll call it “problem #2”), one you leave open-ended. This is the cliffhanger dangling at the end of email 1 that builds anticipation for email 2, where you’ll provide the solution to problem #2.

Email 2

  • P – Begin by presenting problem #2 from the end of the last email.
  • A – Agitate the problem and stir the pot.
  • S – Present the solution to problem #2.
  • O – What are positive outcomes of that solution?
  • P – Bring up another problem at the end of email 2 – we’ll call it problem #3. Leave it unanswered, and maybe hint that the solution is coming in email 3.

Email 3

  • P – Present problem #3 to the reader.
  • A – Agitate the problem. Make the reader feel emotions about it.
  • S – Present your solution, which is what you have been building up to this whole time. This is where you link to a sales page or landing page and really sell it.

As you can see, each consecutive cliffhanger builds up anticipation for email 3, which provides the final solution. This not only helps you sell more, it helps you get more opens for your next emails in the sequence.

Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers is a noted promoter of this method, especially for emails. In fact, in this Inc. interview, she described it as her favorite copywriting formula:

2. Blogs and Landing Pages

While it’s perfect for email sequences, PASOP could also be employed as a blog or landing page outline with equally great results… especially if your content needs to have a strong call-to-action.

If you do use it in this fashion, divide your blog or landing page topic into three “acts” or related problems. Use PASOP to lead the reader through the story, one problem at a time.

The formula will keep them reading through your entire post. Then, when they reach that final solution at the very end, they will be fully warmed-up to respond to your CTA.

3. Promotional Tweets

How about tweeting with PASOP in mind if you’re doing a little promoting?

The great thing about using the formula here is it ensures you’re providing value right off the bat. You’re not making the reader jump through hoops – you’re stating the problem and giving them a solution and outcomes immediately.

This helps hook readers and keeps them interested in what you’re saying as you lead them through an entire sequence of tweets. Ultimately, these could culminate with a call-to-action and a link to whatever you’re promoting (your final “solution”).

4. Webinars and Presentations

Want to keep people hanging on your every word during your next presentation or webinar?

Yep – Just say “PASOP.”

Present a problem with major relevance for your audience, evoke emotions by stirring the pot, entice them to stay in their seats by providing immediate value + a solution, then rinse and repeat.

Just remember to keep your ending problems in each PASOP sequence open-ended for a short amount of time to build suspense, then close that open loop.

PASOP Examples in Action: Awesome, Persuasive Emails, Conversion-Friendly Landing Pages, and More

This formula can get a bit confusing if you only talk about it. Let’s look at it in action to see how it works.

1. CoSchedule – One-and-Done Riff on PASOP

Here’s a riff on the PASOP formula in an email from CoSchedule. They send this one after you sign up for their free Headline Analyzer:

As you can see, it doesn’t quite follow the formula to a tee, but it uses the basic structure to great effect – and in very few words!

If you find CoSchedule through their popular Headline Analyzer tool, they use this email to introduce you to their blog. Smart stuff.

2. Copy School – A Landing Page Take on the Formula

Here’s another example of PASOP in action on the landing page for Copy School by Copy Hackers.

It starts out by identifying a problem you, the reader, probably have. Then they push on that problem and make it hurt just a little (that “voice in your head” telling you you’ll fail):

Next, they present the solution and outcomes: signing up for Copy School plus what you’ll get out of it.

No more “guesswork,” better performance, and a “clear understanding of what makes a message succeed or fail” – those are the outcomes, as well as “functional mastery over email and web copywriting”:

There’s no additional problem presented, here, because PASO is convincing enough on its own.

This example is an excellent demonstration of how to use the formula in a way that suits your needs – meaning, you don’t have to follow it to the letter. You can make it your own, leave out parts, and play with it.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable enough with your copywriting yet to do that, you can absolutely follow PASOP as a rigid outline and still get great results. That’s the beauty of using a formula!

3. The Sales Funnel Architect – Nailing the Cliffhanger

Here’s an example of the final “Problem” portion of PASOP (that last “P” in the acronym) from The Sales Funnel Architect:

The email ends with a problem (not fully understanding the sales funnel can lead to gigantic mistakes in your marketing campaigns), and it doesn’t provide additional information. The problem is just laid out there…

And that’s it. You have to wait for the next email to get the solution (in this case, the additional information you need to fully understand sales funnels).

Compelling, right?

That’s the point.

Be More Persuasive and Sell More with PASOP

You don’t need to come up with inventive, ground-breaking copy every time you want to sell something.

If all writers tried to do that, our brains would be mush. No one has that much creativity.

Instead, rely on what already works, on what’s tried-and-tested. A copywriting formula provides a structure to follow, giving you legs to stand on.

All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Then – boom. Persuasive copy. More clicks. More conversions. More sales.

Sound good?

Of course it does. However, you might not be totally confident in your copywriting skills. (Or maybe you’re not a copywriter at all!)

If that’s you, Express Writers can step in. Let us write compelling email sequences for you, ones that work. Check out our email copy packages, and let’s do this.

online content primer

Your AP Online Content Primer (Essay Writing Styles You Learned In School Vs. What Real Online Content Is)

“So what should I know about online content versus what I learned in college? Do I have to unlearn AP English?”

I’ve heard that question from new writers more times than I can count.

Unlearning something doesn’t seem like the best way to approach a new writing position… or is it?

Even though you might know how to write, do you know how to write for the ​online ​reader?

It’s waaaay different than what you learned in school. AP classes may have gotten you college credit, but they do not hold nearly the same weight for online content.

When starting out as a freelance copywriter, producing engaging online content is not so much about “unlearning” what you’ve been taught. It’s about building on foundational skills you’ve already acquired.

But…

We’re going to get real for a bit.

It ​is, ​in fact, about breaking the rules a little.

Exhibit A:

lets break the rules English

Courtesy ivcc.edu

NONE of these rules apply to online writing.

(Rule #1: throw it OUT. In fact, you should always use first-person pronouns. So, pretty much do the opposite of English Composition 1 up there.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love great literature, the classics, and English classes. And, I think a fundamental love for English is fairly crucial for online writers. I was a straight-A student who absolutely loved her English professors in college… and they loved me, too (one actually told me I’d written the best essay on Shakespeare’s Hamlet he’d ever read).

But, here’s the fact.

School-taught English essay-writing skills are NOT anywhere close to online content writing skills.

While AP Language and Literature courses pave the way for synthesizing sources and developing arguments, online content should be thought of as a new class. Maybe one that some schools will end up offering in the future.

Well, I want to make it simple.

Over the last several weeks I’ve compiled the below guide, just for this specific pain point: figuring out college English rules vs. online content rules. Let’s call today’s blog: your AP online content guide.

AP online content primer

AP English vs. Real Online Copy: A Look at Why Online Content Matters Today

Print is dead.

I never liked that phrase.

I don’t think it is true. Even Amazon agrees. Their first-ever bookstore went live 10 miles from my house this March.

amazon bookstore launches

What is true, is that digital content has become a viable option for anyone consuming media. It’s the go-to for a culture demanding immediate answers.

However, it goes beyond the scope of reading your news online. Almost everything has been digitized to surpass the lifespan of your average piece of paper. Plus, it’s just more convenient.

In the last ten years, the paperless campaign has grown extensively. In addition to being a cost effective and environmentally friendly option, it’s honestly just easier for people. Why get my electric bill sent to me in the mail when I can view it online?

Not surprisingly, schools have opted for the digital option as well. In a few years from now, the stereotypical student hauling a 20 lb backpack could completely disappear from college campuses. This may be the case sooner in California, where a law was passed to make all textbooks available electronically by 2020.

When it comes to our education system, research compiled by Business Insider found that the majority of students prefer digital texts, even though they cannot always retain the information as well.

Perhaps it’s the gentle blue light of the screen that calls to people from all demographics.

When comparing print and digital readers, the American Press Institute, found that those favoring digital sources were more likely to admit that they value the quality of the content.

Print and digital readers also interact with the content in different ways. Making content available online paves the way for readers to build a relationship with a company because following, liking and subscribing are only one click away.

Print-and-digital-engagement-graph

Now more than ever, readers value digital media. This makes the call for an AP Online Content course all the more relevant for beginning freelance copywriters.

A Look at How We Consume Media in the Modern World

Now that we can comprehend just how many people get their daily dose of all things text from online, we must understand how they absorb content. Phone and computer screens are an entirely different experience than flipping pages in a book.

I don’t remember ads popping up for tissues as I read through the final chapters of Where the Red Fern Grows. Although honestly, that would have been very useful.

Our screens are filled with distractions that draw a reader’s attention away from the content and onto something more distracting.

I’m losing you. Does this GIF help?

Online content writers have taken on the difficult task of asking people to stay on a page for an infinitely longer amount of time than the average GIF does.

It’s a careful balancing act between being informative and engaging.

Writers should include references to pop culture – and blogs often do.

However, just by mentioning the new season of Westworld, I may quickly send viewers away to anxiously Google the trailer.

 

Please come back.

More often than not, readers are scrolling through written content so that they only absorb what stands out to them. Unlike AP classes, the content is not carefully analyzed and graded. The sole purpose for online content is to engage readers and speak to them.

Okay, so by now you’re probably ready for the meat of our guide.

That would be the biggest, tangible reasons (with screenshot proof) of why/how online content differs from the English-writing styles you learned in college.

…Hold your horses.

Before we get there, I need to make a very important point.

A VERY important one.

Although Online Content is More “Readable” Than College Essay Writing, Online Content is NOT More “Sloppy”

Many, many (x that “many” by 100,000) new writers think that dropping the essay style means dropping a lack of writing finesse altogether.

Dear God.

This GIF of Dwight sums up how I feel about this, pretty well.

No.

(X that by 1,000,000.)

In fact, I’ve talked to the chief editor of SmartBlogger, who helps create convincing “hooks” that are a big factor to their site earning 100+ new subscribers per day. 

Do you know how long he’ll spend editing this “hook” – a little matter of 100 words or less, the first words in the blog?

45 minutes or more. That’s after it’s been written, folks.

So, fine-tuning online copy into something beautiful – living, readable, NON-stuffy-college-AP is a work of real art.

And time.

Effort.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s continue into the real differentiation points.

How and Why Online Content Differs from AP English: 3 Big Differentiation Points

Now it’s time for a little show and tell.

1. Online Writing Has a More Conversational Content Structure

Consider the structure of online marketing expert Neil Patel’s blog when compared to an AP Language response that scored an 8, just one point away from perfection.

That’s not fair, you say.

Of course we acknowledge that a professional blog and AP essay are like comparing emails and Snapchat messages but here, the writer’s objective is the same: to persuade.

For English essays, you may have been taught to write in the most logical order. The structure of your paper could read something like A is true because B, C and D. In contrast, bloggers pick their letters from a Scrabble bag and find their own way to prove the same point.

In school, many of us are taught that a new paragraph distinguishes the start of a new topic. The same goes with most AP tests. The structure is rigid and formulaic.

New paragraph, topic sentence, supporting ideas, repeat. The format continues until the time runs out.

This static structure is perfect for graders and students alike. Follow the formula, and you will at least score a mediocre grade until you embellish it.

For online content, keeping a tight knit structure is a sure-fire way to get readers off your page.

Compare the same blog as pictured above to a page pulled from the novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the difference in structure is clear.

jekyll and hyde vs online content

Scrolling down a page and turning a page are not the same experience. For online content, readers eyes are locked on the screen.

Blogs have to be structured differently because of the way viewers interact with them. This means altering the length of your sentences and varying your word choice. The overall structure is more of a conversation with the reader.

Just look at how many paragraphs from the book start with the same word:

He sprang,” “He turned,” “He thanked.”

A mere glance over at Patel’s blog shows a vital difference in structuring online content.

In online content, it’s all about readability. In other words, a differentiated variation and pace in each sentence.

Blogs must engage with the audience as if they’re individual participants. Though there is a basic structure, there is no hard fast rule of how many topic sentences you must incorporate.

The importance lies in the rhythm of your writing.

In this case, paragraphs do not always need to distinguish a change in topic. They should instead follow the flow of your thoughts. Just like writers take a natural pause when typing out their ideas, readers too need a mental break to digest the information.

Another reason why the generally accepted paragraph structure just doesn’t fly for online content is that we have other tools in our belt.

Nothing screams “I’m moving on to my next point!” louder than a heading.

Variation is key when it comes to constructing a stellar online paragraph. Keeping that in mind, here are a few rules to follow:

  • Incorporate both short and long sentences and paragraphs to break the monotony. If you’re going to make a few points all in one block of text, follow it up with a short sentence. See. It’s effective.
  • For online content, the average paragraph should be between two and four sentences. Include one sentence paragraphs in between to emphasize a point.
  • Avoid beating a topic to death. Unlike an AP exam, you don’t have to repeatedly prove your extensive knowledge to the audience. When it’s done, move on.

2. Online Writing is Shaped by Your Style

Online content does little to quiet the voices in your head. If anything, it encourages them.

The basics of writing are taught at a young age. Teachers scribble red marker over the missed capitalization and add commas where students forget.

Though grammar is a fundamental stepping stone in learning how to write, it does not necessarily make you a great writer.

“What voice in my head? I don’t have one.”

That was the response of one 12th grade student in Long Island after being asked to free write.

You would think this would be the easiest assignment for a teenager. In reality, all of the grammar lessons in the world had not prepared her to share what she really felt.

Students are constantly reminded to keep “I” statements out of their writing.

While in context, this is the correct way to approach writing an analysis on To Kill a Mockingbird, the same style rules do not apply for online content.

As a content writer, your words speak directly to the reader.

That’s you!

Blogs are filled with empathetic language to relate to the audience. It’s all about emotional marketing value (EMV).

For example: the words exploit, urgent and miracle are much stronger language to use when selling an idea to an audience.

From our friends at CoSchedule

Just look at how many times Neil Patel directly connects with the audience in this line.

You, you, and you again.

Selling products on Instagram is not a flashy topic in the slightest, but he’s found a way to connect with readers by directly calling them out.

Now, imagine the lack of connection if he’d written:

“A popular Instagram account already has followers and customers that want to buy their products.”

Bam! Point made.

Inserting your own voice into your writing will distinguish it from the masses of online content. You can make it personal by adding anecdotes and details that are specific to your experience.

Having a distinctive voice will also make your writing more relatable.

A blog isn’t a paper you turn in at the end of fifth period. Blogs are conversations.

Choose your language on purpose. Don’t be afraid to talk to your audience. Defy your teachers and use “I” statements. Just don’t use them too much, you’re only one piece of the puzzle.

3. Online Writing is Formatted for Readability

No matter how enthralling the content of your writing is, people see your writing before they start actually reading it.

Where speed is a key factor in AP English, appearance holds the same weight for online content. Nothing instigates a quick click to a new website faster than large blocks of text.

This point is made apparent when circling back around to Patel’s blog and the page from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Say goodbye to the five paragraph rule. Blogs are all about white space.

Shorter paragraphs are essential because they imply simplicity. Even if you are writing about a heavy topic, readers will be able to navigate through the blog without feeling intimidated. The rule new topic, new paragraph, doesn’t apply here.

Look closer at Patel’s blog. In only nine sentences, he’s managed to include seven separate paragraphs.

Had he chosen to combine all of the sentences into one paragraph, it would look too overwhelming.

Before reading a chapter of a book, I always check how long it is. I’m more inclined to read two chapters that are ten pages each as opposed to one twenty page chapter. In my brain, the small break awarded to me after I finish the first chapter makes me want to keep reading.

Line breaks visually show readers that they can handle the material. They gently coax them in as they whisper, “We can do this. It’s not too dense.”

Most online content is screened rather than thoroughly read, so shorter paragraphs also allow you, the writer, to emphasize what is important.

The best way to accomplish this is by including short, one sentence or even one word paragraphs. They also break up more detailed content to directly speak to the audience.

Do you need more reasons to include short paragraphs?

Good, because the list keeps going.

Why short paragraphs? Well, they…

  • Create a dramatic effect
  • Highlight a specific idea or statistic
  • Directly address the reader’s emotions
  • Can be an effective call to action
  • Catch the reader’s attention

Short paragraphs shouldn’t be thrown in purely for drama. You must carefully consider your language and the benefit to your piece as a whole.

Also, you do not always have to switch back from long to short paragraphs. That will just create an awkward and noticeable pattern in your writing. Short paragraphs can be added in sporadically or even follow a more gradual decline in words.

The Final Test

Are you ready to take the exam?

If this was indeed the end to the brief course in AP Online Content, what would your grade be?

The good news is that there is no final exam, learning to write is a continuous process.

Although scoring a 5 on your AP English exam didn’t exactly prepare you for the world of online content, don’t let it hinder you either.

Instead of unlearning what you were taught, try to learn more.

At their core, these extensive English courses are building blocks for everyone to become strong, honest writers. The approach to writing as a process and emphasis to write on demand, are solid preparation for the tight deadlines required by many clients.

Although I hope you never encounter a client that uses a stopwatch.

There is no need to curse your teachers for the lessons they taught and for those they left out. What is vital to understand is that writing online content and writing an AP English essay are not the same thing.

Writing a blog with the same scientific approach as a student does for AP English will not score too hot with audiences.

But that’s the thing, it’s not about the grade anymore.

Online content puts you in both the student’s and the teacher’s chair.

Expand Your Knowledge in Online Content

As an online content novice, it can be hella difficult to navigate your way through this world alone.

Beyond structure, style and formatting, you’ll soon encounter lingo like SEO, algorithm, responsive, tags, meta and well, you get the picture.

So – don’t go it alone.

If you like to read, here’s a few books I recommend to assist your knowledge of why and how online content fits into today’s world. Disclosure. I wrote two. But they’re really good, and lots of others think so, too.

Need structured, 1:1 help? Trying to comprehend the extensive ins and outs of content marketing can feel like diving in the deep end before learning how to swim. That’s a big reason behind why I created a course last year – to answer those massive questions in profitable content strategy.

And, of course, we also have to ask… Need some backup with writing your own online business content?

Don’t worry, we won’t let you drown. Our writers weren’t born with the ability to produce perfect online content. Writing is a skill that takes constant research, devotion and above all, practice. After completing more than 11,000 projects to date, we know all about that. Check out a few of our expert team writers here. And if you need some help, talk to us about how to get started. 

julias masterclass cta

marketing content writer

Your Essential Guide to Finding an Awesome Marketing Content Writer

Did you know?

In today’s content marketing, 47% of all content creation is outsourced.

Content creation CMI

This number has increased, year after year, but it’s never been as high as this year.

It’s common now to have 99% of your brand content completely written by someone else. After all, we have to run our businesses, right? (Write?)

Now that we’ve cleared up that you share a commonality with every other marketer, outsourcing to a marketing content writer, let’s talk about how to find that writer.

THAT’S the big question.

No matter what you’re selling, the most important thing is how you get your message across.

Read on to learn more about why & how to hire your next best business rockstar: a great marketing content writer.

finding a marketing content writer

Why Hire a Marketing Content Writer?

Real talk for a second.

Today, in our online world, you can’t just write your message in any old way.

For example:

“Come and get it! This is what you want! We have what you need!”

Ugh. That doesn’t work anymore.

If the copy isn’t well-written, none of the phrases you send your customers tell them anything about the product you’re selling.

Come and get what?

I bet if your potential customers were to keep reading, the content wouldn’t wow them with any real explanation.

That is where a marketing content writer steps in.

The goal of content writing should always be to promote interest in a brand or specific products.

The best type of content marketing does not lay all the cards out on the table.

These covert creative writers integrate SEO techniques while also producing high quality content that can organically stay on message. The content has the perfect mix of education, entertainment and product placement.

You might dabble in writing yourself, but this is an entirely different ball game.

Think of all of the written content that you incorporate into your business: blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, ad copy, email campaigns, holiday cards. If you’re running your own business, it’s nearly impossible to take care of everything alone.

If you haven’t already considered content marketing, you’re in the minority.

As of 2018, 91% of B2B organizations utilize content marketing strategies.

Content-Marketing-Usage

Writing is no walk in the park, especially when it coincides with marketing.

Marketing content writers have to think about even more than producing well written content. One major component of this type of online marketing is optimizing content for search engines. Writers have to integrate keywords, links, meta descriptions and headers into their content seamlessly. This requires an incredible amount of research and skill. Writers also have to edit, proofread, publish and distribute the content so that it reaches the widest audience. This all has to be done while keeping the content easy to read, relatable and engaging.

Is this something you have time for?

I’m guessing your answer is a swift no. In short, the best decision for every business is to hire an expert marketing content writer.

5 Steps To Help You Find a Quality Marketing Content Writer

If you’ve ever searched the depths of Craigslist, Facebook or LinkedIn, you can easily see that writers are plentiful. The problem is that not all of these writers may be perfect for your business. In fact, not all of these writers may even be able to write.

Anyone can call themselves a writer – the trick is finding one that can actually write.

finding a writer cartoon

Also, for you as the client, hiring a content writer is a process. You need to have a strategy and expectations before you start. For example, you should know the answers to:

  • How do you want to position and sell your brand online?
  • What type of content do you need in order to match your content marketing goals?

These are questions you need to ask yourself before hiring anyone.

Beyond the specifics of marketing your brand, you also have to figure out what type of person you want to work with. Do you need someone to be constantly on call or can they work on their own schedule? Are they able to meet deadlines? If you’re hiring a writer to work remotely, you’ll need someone who can effectively communicate.

Remember that marketing content writers are more than just writers.

Yes, writing is their main job but they are also strategists. They need to be familiar with SEO and marketing just as much as they need to write high quality content.

Take time with the hiring process. Utilize these tips to help you find the perfect writer.

1. Set Clear Expectations

The right writer will be able to help you create a strategy for your content, but you also need to consider this on your own. Do you want someone who can edit themselves? How many blog posts do you need? Are you looking for more than web content? Setting expectations ahead of time will give applicants a sense of the workload and help you organize your tasks.

2. Include Requirements in Your Job Posting

Have you ever read a job posting that asks you to include your favorite band in your email response? These potential employers aren’t just messing around. By asking a random question or including specific instructions, they are ensuring that applicants pay attention and read thoroughly. When hiring a writer, you always want to ask for at least three writing samples, a resume and a link to their portfolio or published work. You can take it to the next level by requiring a specific email subject line or another detailed instruction at the end of the post.

3. Test Your Applicants

You can choose to include a paid or unpaid test to ensure you can work with potential applicants. One effective test strategy is asking for a new example of a blog post that incorporates a specific keyword. You can also make this relatable to your company. Many content writing jobs ask for this, like this one from Texas Monthly posted on Craigslist:

Craigslist-Post

We have a very specific writer testing process at Express Writers that includes a proctored test (timed test that we set up with multiple questions on copywriting, SEO and content marketing), and a written sample with guidelines and specifics. 90% of candidates that come to us do not pass this testing process.

4. Be Specific with Hiring Expectations

Most writers are hired on a 1099 contract basis. They may have their own rates but you should have a budget in mind too. Will they be able to include a byline? Do you have a specific word count? These are all things to consider before you talk in depth with applicants.

5. Hire a Writing Agency

Searching for a writer on your own can feel overwhelming. A few scrolls through Craigslist and LinkedIn can quickly send you through a black hole online.

Even with samples, how can you ensure a writer’s content will be on point with your business? Can they guarantee no spelling errors?

Writing quality is at the top of our priority list. Only 2% of writers pass our applicant tests. They are verified from the start, and continuously trained on SEO and best marketing practices. Read more about our process.

express writers process

A final draft from the writer still jumps one more hurdle before being sent to a client. Our content quality specialists check every project to ensure it meets both the client and our standards.

Full transparency of our pricing and quality levels, as listed here, ensures everyone is on the same page.

4 Tips for Hiring Content Writers

With all of this research you may start to realize one thing: writing isn’t easy. It’s important to consider the quality of content you are paying for as opposed to only quantity. Don’t get bogged down by strict SEO guidelines when you’re trying to find the voice of your brand. Expert content writers can effortlessly fuse marketing techniques while producing high quality content.

1. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Rates

Consider why one writer charges $10 per post and the other charges $50.

Don’t look for a bargain when it comes to your content. Top notch writing will be more expensive, but it’s well worth the value. Not every business requires the same type of copy.

We’ve broken our pricing down to three quality levels: General, Expert and Industry.

express writers pricing

Each level ranges in research, SEO integration and voice to fit every niche.

2. Quality First

Don’t have it in your mind that you need 5 blog posts a week no matter what. Quantity is worth sacrificing in favor of quality content. When hiring a writer, you’ll quickly be able to tell whether they are writing for a real audience or only for the web.

3. Remember Your Readers

Yes, you will be reading this content but you’re not trying to sell to yourself.

Think about your audience. What are topics that they want to learn about? How can you help them get the most out of your products as opposed to just selling them more? The best content writers will turn your one time customers into loyal followers.

4. Don’t Forget About the Marketing Side

The whole point of integrating more content into your site is to further market your brand. There is a delicate balance when optimizing content for online. Don’t overburden yourself with keywords and SEO strategies. Find a writer that will seamlessly work those things into their content without you even noticing.

Summarizing The Top Traits of Superstar Content Writers

Now that you’re equipped with all of the strategies on how to find the best content writer for your business, be prepared to be flooded with applicants. The narrowing down process is a tolling and time consuming task.

Lucky for you, not all writers are the same.

There are a select few skills that every great content writer possesses that sets them apart from the rest. Once you can identify these, you’ll be on your way to hiring the perfect candidate. Here’s a shortlist.

Top Writing Traits to Look For

  • Comfortable adapting to different subject matter and audiences
  • Ability to thoroughly research and use reliable online sources
  • Clear understanding of SEO
  • Pro at managing their time
  • Strong editor and proofreader
  • Unique voice that shines through
  • Clean formatting skills
  • Expert at using language to communicate

All of these traits distinguish superstar content marketing writers from their counterparts.

The ability to adapt means that even if you are running a fitness business, the writer that you hire will be able to think outside of the treadmill. They can write about a winter squash recipe while still sparking the interest of dedicated gym rats.

Thorough research goes in line with adaptability. An expert writer doesn’t mean that they are knowledgeable about every subject. Their expertise refers to their understanding of deciphering credible online resources.

Knowledge of SEO is just one aspect. The best content writers will also keep up with the trends to ensure their content ranking is continuously high.

It’s likely that the content writer you hire, especially if they are outsourced, will be juggling a few different projects at once. Professional content marketers set deadlines for themselves even when none are required so that they are always on task.

A great writer is also a great editor. Even spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. The best content writers continuously proofread their work. They also can edit themselves when it serves the quality of the content.

Some content writing is like following a basic formula. However, writers that go beyond the formula do so by distinguishing their unique voice throughout their work. A writer’s tone can bring life to otherwise monotonous subject matter while still sticking to the point.

In a matter of seconds, your audience will decide whether or not to keep reading. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the content at all.

Clean formatting plays a large role in keeping readers engaged.

Exceptional content writers will structure their articles so that it is pleasing to the eyes as well as the mind. This means including bulleted lists, numbers, bold titles and breaking up large blocks of text.

Above all, content writers are trying to reach people through their words. The best writers have a command over the written language. They don’t try to fluff their content with confusing language or stray away from the focus of the article. Instead, they speak to people as if they were right beside them, and show instead of tell.

Are you Ready to Hire an Expert Marketing Content Writer?

All of this information may make it seem like hiring a marketing content writer is overly complicated. The truth is that it is definitely not. Finding the perfect writer or team or writers to take over your content online is crucial to running a successful business. Investing in content will help you reach a wider audience and keep them coming back.

Outsourcing is a great option when hiring marketing content writers. You have a better shot at finding a freelance quality writer rather than training an in-house team to handle all of the responsibilities. Using a professional content service will ensure high quality content that is specifically designed to reach your target audience. Outsourcing also gives your team the opportunity to focus on their areas of expertise.

Producing high quality content is our bread and butter.

Over the years, we’ve curated an expert team of writers with a passion for content writing and a deep knowledge of industry tools.

Our team of marketing content specialists will set your business apart from the rest by creating engaging copy for any of your marketing needs.

See your online presence grow and invest in a truly valuable content marketing strategy with the right writer. Talk to us today.

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freelance copywriter

How to Start Your Career as a Freelance Copywriter

Around 2007, Don Draper and Mad Men catapulted copywriting to the top of nearly everyone’s “possible career” list, even if they already had a career.

Back then, I was just a 16-year-old homeschooled, bespectacled nerd, going through an early semester of college, exploring how to make money online, and writing fiction books.

But, if I was starting my career and knew about the show, I’d probably have bought a typewriter and researched positions listed by ad agencies.

The truth is that the lifestyle of a copywriter isn’t nearly as fanciful as the characters on Mad Men.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this career path isn’t full of creative freedom, flexibility and the occasional Old Fashioned.

So, what does it mean?

That brings us to today’s topic. Let’s dive in and talk about how to start your career as a freelance copywriter.

The lifestyle of a copywriter isn't nearly as fanciful as the characters on Mad Men. Learn all about real-life freelance #copywriting in our guide. Click To Tweet

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What is a Freelance Copywriter?

Whenever I used to mention to my family that I was earning work as a “freelance writer,” back in 2011, I had to remind them what the word “freelance” means.

For some reason they’d get too distracted by the “free” part and assume it meant making no money.

Working freelance means working on a contract or project basis. As a freelancer, you choose clients you want to work with, set your own rates, create a schedule and hold yourself accountable.

Freelancing is one of the most on-demand types of work. As a copywriter, accepting jobs from various clients allows you to diversify your portfolio.

“Copy” is just another term to describe words. To take it one step further, copy is the written content used to market a specific brand or product. Copywriters create content for promotional and commercial use. Copy can be used for advertising, websites, billboards, email campaigns, newsletters, you name it.

As a freelance copywriter, you may find yourself creating catchy taglines for magazine advertisements or composing a unique blog article optimized for the web. You’re a covert salesperson, and the main tool you’re working with is your words.

How to Get Started as a Copywriter

Luckily, freelance copywriters do not have to invest too much in equipment. Mainly all you need is a computer, internet access and Microsoft Word.

You may think you have a knack for catchy taglines but “Got Milk?” wasn’t built in a day.

Just like any other job, you have to gain experience in order to become better. The main difference for freelancers is that you have to seek out these opportunities. With the surplus of blogs, magazines and pretty much anything on the internet, inspiration is easy to find.

Read!

One of the best things you can do to become a better writer is to become a better reader. Find blogs, websites and magazines that you love and subscribe to them. Find out what makes them so compelling to you and try writing this way.

Get Organized

As a freelancer, you will have to make your own schedule. I know, this is awesome, but it can also be overwhelming without any strategy. There are a few ways to go about this depending on your work style. You can go classic day planner route or try a free organization app. It’s good to become familiar with these programs now, because it’s likely that one of your clients will use them to organize their writing assignments.

A great tool freelancers is Asana – this can help you organize tasks, set deadlines and attach files.

Get Experience

I advise to not take on a paid project without developing a writing portfolio. Most jobs you apply for will require you to send writing samples. They also want to see that you have published work online or in print. If you’re just starting out, you can build your portfolio by starting your own blog, taking unpaid gigs for friends and family and contributing to websites.

Research

At its core, copywriting requires you to be a skilled writer.

However, there are many other trends to keep up with depending on the type of jobs you take. If you run a company’s blog for instance, you need to know how to optimize your article for search engines. Sometimes it’s not enough to create captivating social media posts. Platforms are constantly changing their algorithms which affect how much your post will be seen.

Explore online tutorials, videos and training materials to help you along the way.

I teach an SEO writing course just for freelancers, marketers and agencies. Grab your copy of my cheat-sheet to SEO writing for free:

What Type of Copywriting is For You?

As a beginner, it’s good to try everything. However, as you gain experience you’ll find topics that you prefer to write about and copy that you prefer to write. Each type has its own style and purpose.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Includes: Website content, blogs

Focus: In addition to creating high quality content, SEO copywriting also needs to enhance the webpage’s visibility. There are a ton of different techniques to make a page rank higher, but the best SEO copywriters can integrate keywords, links and calls to action without affecting the readability.

SEO content writers can stay busy and make a great living. I teach a short one-week course on SEO writing with over 100 enrolled students. If you’re looking for a full-circle training on SEO writing, this is the course to take.

Technical

Includes: Articles (web and print)

Focus: Technical copywriting requires that you have an area of expertise. These articles will be less about creating a fun story and more about sharing specific knowledge and research with your readers.

Creative

Includes: catchy phrases for advertisements, blogs, branding

Focus: Remember the Kit Kat jingle? Of course you do, because it was written to stick in your mind. Creative copywriters try to tell a story with their words, which makes them prefect for developing a company’s image and brand.

Marketing

Includes: billboards, advertisements, emails

Focus: It helps to have a background in marketing for this type of copywriting. The advertisements, email campaigns and even billboards you’ll be creating need to influence the public by speaking to their needs, while not sounding too sales-like.

Content

Includes: how-to guides, blogs, newsletters, social media, scripts, billboards

Focus: As a content writer, it’s good to know what topics you’re passionate about. Content copywriters develop blogs and newsletters dedicated to providing more information about a certain subject or product. Your writing is meant to turn one-time customers into dedicated followers because you provide them with useful information.

It is not required to pick a specific niche as a freelance copywriter. You do not want to limit yourself at first. Naturally, you will find that you enjoy writing in different styles and for different purposes. As this starts to happen, you can focus in on one area to take your skills to the next level.

Copywriting is a Real Job (Don’t Forget It)

Freelance copywriters make a good living, but it requires a lot more hustle than working a typical job. It’s good to be aware that work will not always be consistent. You have to continually seek out new projects. If you want to be taken seriously as a freelance copywriter, you have to be serious about it too.

Just like you’ll be promoting other products, learn to promote yourself as well. It’s a good idea to create a website, LinkedIn page and social media accounts that promote your new position. These are the perfect first places to post your work, network with other copywriters and seek out new clients.

Set standards for your work.

Unlike many other jobs, you can set your own fees, which may be difficult depending on the type of client you’re working with. This is one of the most confusing parts about freelancing. Everyone goes about setting their rates in different ways. You may find some copywriters charge per word while others have a set fee.

When setting your rates, factor in your experience level, type of research you’ll be doing, time, value of the material, revisions and deadline you’re given. It’s easiest to charge a flat fee for specific types of writing. For example, you can charge $30 for a 500 word blog post, which includes the time you spend researching. On average, this should take around an hour. With more experience, you will naturally become faster at the process and your prices will increase as your writing develops.

Different types of copywriting require different rates. Remember, this is how you’re making your living. Even though you are not a full-time employee, you are providing clients with material that is integral to their business.

I talk more about this in my video on freelance writing:

Time to Get Started in Freelance Copywriting?

Honestly, the best way to start a new venture is to jump right into it.

The more your write, the better of a writer you become.

You may find yourself developing a jingle for water bottles or writing blogs about the latest trends in at-home exercise. Early on, you’ll be able to find jobs through LinkedIn, Facebook, Craigslist and Indeed. You will learn both the type of writing you’re passionate about, and also the type of client you want to work with. Writing trends are constantly in flux, but one skill will never go out of style is the ability to write well.

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