Writing Copy for the Web

27 replies
Good Afternoon,

I'm interested in writing copy for the web. I've been working on a website and have a few questions:

1. Without an actual portfolio, is it appropriate for me to use my site as my primary sample?

2. Need some advice on design. I'm using Wordpress and am not really happy with the themes. Design options are so limited. I want the site to be simple but attractive. Would a designer be able to work with a Wordpress site?

3. Getting traffic to my site. I know SEO is important and I'm using Yoast. Any other suggestions? I thought perhaps a free newletter.

4. I haven't yet done an About Me page. Been struggling with what to put on it. What do you think with being up front about the fact I'm new to the field. As a newbie, I'm willing to work for reduced rates and guarantees.

Hope I haven't over stayed my welcome. Thanks for your help.

Powerful Words
#copy #web #writing
  • And the good people waited in eager anticipation...whispering in hushed tones tinged with a touch of sarcasm "Thank goodness another copywriting website AND a newsletter to wade through"

    But said "Steve The Copywriter" - "What if (and I know it's a big if) this website and newsletter was fresh, interesting and entertaining and choked full of great "how to" information.

    Written with real enthusiasm by someone who had a genuine passion for copywriting.

    Someone who had relentlessly studied all the techniques, looked at all the angles and found (almost) new and powerful ways to persuade. Someone you could tell cared about their clients and getting results. Without the hype. And it wasn't crammed with the same old stuff we've read 1000 times. And what if it didn't mention Claude Hopkins and the Schlitz beer ads - but somehow managed to put across that concept in a new and enlightening way"

    And the good people said "You know what, we might be tempted to read it"


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author powerfulwords
      Steve the Copywriter (now that's original)

      It appears you're another arrogant freelancer desperately trying to be clever.

      By the way, read the sales copy on your profile...nothing haven't read a thousand times before.

      PowerfulWords
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  • Profile picture of the author Andrew Gould
    Steve's one of the good guys, he was trying to help you, and he offered sincere advice.

    I think you need to read what he wrote again (if only because your attitude will have lowered the chance of anyone else responding).
    Signature

    Andrew Gould

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    • Profile picture of the author powerfulwords
      Hi Andrew,

      I understand what he was trying to say. However, I would have appreciated a specific answer to at least one of my questions.

      Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author dragsternj
    if you have no portfolio you have none. I would leave it off for now

    for wordpress you need someone who is a designer/developer and can either custom make a template or modify an existing one to your liking. Just a designer may not be able to help

    SEO by itself is a huge topic and a free newsletter only works if you have subscribers, which you probably do not have. Initially google adwords may help or offer your services on boards like this

    I personally would not state that i am new and would also not do the reduced rates but guarantee is fine. You are a writer and if you are a good one you should be able to come up with an about page which makes you unique and stand out. If you can not than you may be in the wrong field

    Best of luck
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Banned
      Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post


      It appears you're another arrogant freelancer desperately trying to be clever.


      PowerfulWords
      Barf. Weak mettle. Way to go man. A chump he may be at times but not on this occasion.

      Btw he is actually quite a clever chap. Annoyingly so granted.

      Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post


      I understand what he was trying to say. However, I would have appreciated a specific answer to at least one of my questions.

      Thanks
      Thanks for nothing you mean. Spit it out. Just say it.

      Your interpretation is up the creek.

      He was, he did actually provide you with a highly useful answer but you in your obstinate 'newbiness' wouldn't be able to see the wood for the trees if they poked you straight in the eye.

      Snapping at a well established copywriter such as Steve when you're the one asking for help here, will I guarantee it go down like a lead brick in this sub forum.

      I think you're on your own with this one.

      Smoking hot,


      Mark Andrews
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  • Profile picture of the author ReferralCandy
    I'll bite.

    Without an actual portfolio, is it appropriate for me to use my site as my primary sample?

    Depends on the quality of your site. It better be good! If you have no portfolio, start building one. Offer free services to charity/non-profit organizations that you're passionate about.

    Would a designer be able to work with a Wordpress site?


    Yes, absolutely. That said, this is probably the least of your worries if you don't have a portfolio yet. Build your portfolio first.

    Getting traffic to my site. I know SEO is important and I'm using Yoast. Any other suggestions? I thought perhaps a free newletter.

    Start with great content. If you have nothing useful to say (and most of us don't when we're starting out), aggregate resources that you find useful and interesting. Do something genuinely useful, for free. That's how you get traffic. The newsletter is something you can start once you've got a following to begin wtih.

    4. I haven't yet done an About Me page. Been struggling with what to put on it. What do you think with being up front about the fact I'm new to the field. As a newbie, I'm willing to work for reduced rates and guarantees.


    As a start, I'd suggest talking about yourself. What's interesting or unique about you? What do you do that nobody else does? How did you end up that way? You communicate your writing skills and your personality.

    Good luck.
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    Measure, manage and incentivize customer referrals with ReferralCandy.

    PS: Looking to get more repeat customers for a physical store? Check out CandyBar's digital loyalty cards!

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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Banned
      Originally Posted by ReferralCandy View Post


      As a start, I'd suggest talking about yourself. What's interesting or unique about you? What do you do that nobody else does? How did you end up that way?
      Not that anyone will be interested in 'you' personally of course Mr Anonymous (OP).

      All they'll be interested in is what is in it for them personally. By means of benefits conveyed. Succinctly and clearly. To the point.

      Talk in the 1st person as opposed to the 2nd person and you'll go nowhere fast. At all.

      Basic copywriting 101. Done and dusted. Over and out.

      Smoking hot,


      Mark Andrews
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  • ...I think the heatwave in the UK might be affecting me.

    For a few seconds I thought I saw a couple of posts from Mr Andrews.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      ...I think the heatwave in the UK might be affecting me.

      For a few seconds I thought I saw a couple of posts from Mr Andrews.


      Steve
      Steve! Glad to know we're not the only ones sweating our b*lls off.... it's been about 8 days straight of 90 degree heat here on the east coast of the states.

      And yes, you're right... it appeared a ghost of copy past has arisen from the ashes... welcome back Mark!
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post


      ...I think the heatwave in the UK might be affecting me.

      For a few seconds I thought I saw a couple of posts from Mr Andrews.


      Steve
      +

      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post


      ...there was a flickering match and Mark has driven the charrabang into the forum car park (without bumping the bollards?).
      Muffles a guffaw.

      Smoking hot,


      Mark Andrews
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      ...I think the heatwave in the UK might be affecting me.

      For a few seconds I thought I saw a couple of posts from Mr Andrews.


      Steve
      I saw the same thing. You're not going crazy. Ghosts DO exist!

      P.S. Welcome back ya old geezer!
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
        Banned
        Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post


        I saw the same thing. You're not going crazy. Ghosts DO exist!

        P.S. Welcome back ya old geezer!
        Oh bollocks! The Pescetti is still yabbering away here lol.

        Love ya man. How is southern Oregon? Settling in?

        How's Harry? Found him yet?

        Smoking hot,


        Mark Andrews
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        • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
          Originally Posted by Mark Andrews View Post

          Oh bollocks! The Pescetti is still yabbering away here lol.

          Love ya man. How is southern oregon? Settling in?

          How's Harry? Found him yet?

          Smoking hot,


          Mark Andrews
          No. Mark stop yabbering away a while ago. I'm a ghost too.

          Harry? I'm the midget Sasquatch. I see him every single day brother.
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          • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
            Banned
            Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post


            Harry? ... I see him every single day brother.
            In the coffee house? One of many?

            Really? Hmmm seems at odds.

            Smoking hot,


            Mark Andrews
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  • powerfulwords,

    The point I was making was...

    Nobody gives a rats ass about you, me or any other copywriter unless they can see some incredible value.

    For your inter web site to work it really does have to be extraordinary good. Showing your potential clients that you will bring them what they crave - solid results and big profits.

    And all I did was give a few suggestions showing how you might be able to do it.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
    An excellent resource to write a professional services website is Dan Furman's book, Do The Web Write.
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  • Shawn, it's about the same here in the sunny UK.

    So I wasn't hallucinating, there was a flickering match and Mark has driven the charrabang into the forum car park (without bumping the bollards?).

    Should be fun. Welcome back Mark.


    Steve
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  • Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post

    1. Without an actual portfolio, is it appropriate for me to use my site as my primary sample?
    It's plenty "appropriate," but it's not ideal either.

    Here's the best suggestion I've ever heard for getting started in copywriting:

    If you can't get any clients right away using just your website, write a sales page for some random company and use it in your portfolio. If you're concerned about the actual company finding out that you've used their brand name in your marketing, just come up with a fictitious name.

    Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post

    2. Need some advice on design. I'm using Wordpress and am not really happy with the themes. Design options are so limited. I want the site to be simple but attractive. Would a designer be able to work with a Wordpress site?
    You mean wordpress.COM themes, right?

    Wordpress.ORG themes are some of the most versatile, flexible, powerful themes ever developed. Really, you can find a wordpress.org theme that's just as good as anything a designer will build for you (I hate to undermine my web designer friends but it's true). And I'm not just talking about DESIGN features, there are free plugins for just about any feature you need:

    - Contact forms.
    - Spam filters.
    - Ecommerce storefronts.
    - Etc.

    Of course, you need to be self-hosted to get access to these themes and plugins. But trust me, it is so, so worth it.

    Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post

    3. Getting traffic to my site. I know SEO is important and I'm using Yoast. Any other suggestions? I thought perhaps a free newletter.
    Traffic and SEO aren't quite the same thing. 'Traffic' is how many people visit your site. 'SEO' is how well you rank in the search engines. 'SEO' determines (partially) how much traffic you get, but you can have huge amounts of traffic without fantastic SEO.

    And yes, a free newsletter tied to a mailchimp account with high quality content is a fantastic way to build traffic--But it has nothing to do with SEO.

    Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post

    4. I haven't yet done an About Me page. Been struggling with what to put on it. What do you think with being up front about the fact I'm new to the field. As a newbie, I'm willing to work for reduced rates and guarantees.
    Bad idea.

    You are much better off either:

    A) Avoiding the topic of how experienced you are.
    B) Creating portfolio samples for imaginary companies to create the perception of being experienced.
    C) Getting a full time job with an ad agency and going freelance after 6-12 months.

    Of these three options, the last one ('C') is by far the most ideal. However, I understand that that may not be an option for you, so you might want to just go with option 'B' (the made-up portfolio) or 'A' (avoiding the topic altogether). But any of the options above is better than the 'I'm inexperienced and will work for next to nothing' angle, trust me.
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  • Lets not fret and fuss too much about testimonials.

    Does anyone believe them anyway?

    Maybe...

    And yes, they are great to get and can very useful to dish out.

    Over my illustrious 28 years in the wonderful world of copywriting I've received quite a few.

    I enjoy reading them.

    But I never use them.

    Because the clients all have NDA's and the (c) for the work.

    It's a bit like "they" wrote it (clients love that idea).And as they paid for it I'm happy for them to say it's theirs.

    And nobody has ever said, "Steve, we must see testimonials, samples, a DNA trace and dental records before we hire you"

    Seriously nobody has ever asked.


    Steve
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    • Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      Lets not fret and fuss too much about testimonials.

      Does anyone believe them anyway?

      Maybe...

      And yes, they are great to get and can very useful to dish out.

      Over my illustrious 28 years in the wonderful world of copywriting I've received quite a few.

      I enjoy reading them.

      But I never use them.

      Because the clients all have NDA's and the (c) for the work.

      It's a bit like "they" wrote it (clients love that idea).And as they paid for it I'm happy for them to say it's theirs.

      And nobody has ever said, "Steve, we must see testimonials, samples, a DNA trace and dental records before we hire you"

      Seriously nobody has ever asked.


      Steve
      The best approach to testimonials, IMO, is to hire someone on fiverr to create a video testimonial. Two video testimonials are worth more than 500 written testimonials.

      - Andy
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  • It's a sort of irony - I always (as we should) tell clients to use testimonials.

    But as a copywriter I don't - and clients say "Steve, it's good to know you haven't got people hyping you beyond reality, because I don't expect to make $5,000,000 a day from your wondrous words"

    It's a shock for us all when we do (lol).


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Hmmm what is a testimonial?

    As Shakespeare said, "A testimonial can help you sell more". Or maybe it wasn't Shakespeare.

    Anyways...

    When you watch a commercial on T.V. do you really believe the people acting out the script are crazy about the product? Or do you think they're just looking for a gig to further their acting career...maybe get a paycheck? Build a resume?

    When you watch an infomercial do you really think all the people giving glowing testimonials are crazy about the product? Many infomercials will have members of acting classes sit in and then stand up and give testimonials.

    When a radio announcer does a commercial telling you how great a product is...do you think he really cares about the product...or is he only doing it for money?

    Do you really think Tiger Woods drives around in a Buick?

    Do you think Shaq drives a Chevy Malibu around?

    Did you know there's a whole industry that's set up to write blurbs for movies just so they can put it on the cover of the DVD or movie poster or whatever? Best movie of the year... Bob Smith NBC (example).

    Lots of books pay to have raving reviews done to promote them.

    All the big time marketers take turns writing reviews for each other to pump up their buddies product. Is that ethical?

    Fitness infomercials will hire people in great shape to be in their videos even though they've never heard of the program before they were hired.

    Supplement companies pay steroid using bodybuilders to advertise their supplements...pretending it's what got them so huge.

    Seen a new drug advertised on T.V.? Think that old couple sitting on the porch swing smiling ever actually used the stuff?

    Is it ethical to pay someone to give you a testimonial...even if they hadn't the slightest idea your product existed before you offered to pay them for an endorsement?

    And also...most of the above people I mentioned wouldn't give you the time of day unless you paid them. Is that ethical?

    And so, what do you do when you have no testimonials?

    Fake them?

    Is that ethical?

    No?

    Why because it's only honest if you pay money first?

    Just wondering...

    But in the meantime...

    You could have your friends write something for you.

    You could quote excerpts from newspapers and magazines.

    You could quote Doctors.

    I've seen testimonials also used in the following way...no name, just something like this:

    Does the product work?

    It did for the housewife in Idaho that made a gazillion dollars as a part time mistress...

    or the janitor in Nebraska that retired by selling pencils...

    the bald man from Alaska that built an outhouse by doing back yard kidney transplants...

    Oh well, I'm done with my rant for the day...carry on.
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    • Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

      the bald man from Alaska that built an outhouse by doing back yard kidney transplants...
      Made me laugh but I also grabbed the domain name

      alaskabackyardkidneytransplants.com

      I should have the content up this weekend. I also tried to get

      backyardkidneytransplantsinalaska.com

      but it was taken--probably by the bald dude.
      Signature
      Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
      - Jack Trout
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      • Profile picture of the author powerfulwords
        Thanks for all the great advice, and to Steve, my sincere apologies.

        PowerfulWords
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        • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
          Originally Posted by powerfulwords View Post

          Thanks for all the great advice, and to Steve, my sincere apologies.

          PowerfulWords
          Yeah, Steve's advice was right on the money... in which he simply means....

          "be different and stand out"

          It's gettin tougher and tougher to get noticed these days... and if you notice the stuff that makes the news or goes viral, it's different.

          Not saying you're trying to make the news... but just try to be different and you'll stand out among a sea of mediocrity.
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  • Profile picture of the author rockawesome
    If you're just starting out, a lot of the advice given above can seem overwhelming.

    (Don't get me wrong -- just about every reply is pretty great stuff. It just might take a little more experience than it sounds like you have to appreciate it.)

    Here's what worked for me: start working for free. (Well, not quite for free -- for reviews.) What you want right now is three things:
    1. Experience you can reference when negotiating with potential clients
    2. Networking opportunities for new work (a great way to get better clients)
    3. Confidence

    The third one, confidence, comes when you've done enough work to have a pretty nice portfolio. The reason confidence is important is that it lets you charge good rates for your copywriting service.

    As far as the first two go, the way to get them is simply to offer your work for people. Go onto a forum/community/etc. such as this one and let people know you're willing to write some page content for them. One time, I wrote an email to the maker of one of my favorite apps and offered to do some content for free -- he had me write his next newsletter.

    Anyway, this is going on too long, so I'll just say one more thing: lurk. Raed forums and blogs about copywriting. You'll learn a ton about getting gigs and what you need to get your first work.

    Be teachable, and good luck.
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    Need a great content strategy, but don't have the time to analyze traffic and create great content yourself? Visit www.rockawesome.net to see professional content marketing plans that cost less than an intern.

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