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Thursday, March 9, 2006

How To Write Copy That Pays The Bills - Part 1

As a freelancer, there’s nothing sweeter than hearing: Congratulations! You’ve got the job.

Except maybe for being told: Your copy was so on target last time, we want to extend your contract.

You smile, nod and shake hands with your new employer, all the while dreaming in delighted relief of the car you can now afford, iPod you can justify buying, or, more practically, light bill you can finally pay.

So how do you, the freelance writer, best leverage this potentially lucrative income-stream?

How do you write copy that puts YOU at the top of your clients’ callback list?

All you have to do is follow these simple rules:

1. Research, Research, Research. Boring, but crucial. Use your client’s creative brief, or develop your own. Clarify objectives. Identify the USP (unique selling proposition). Ask questions. Acquire samples. Google like crazy. Even (if people still do this) go to your local library and do some reading. Lexis-Nexis is your friend. Get the picture? This is the basic black underwear of your writing wardrobe. Not sexy, but absolutely necessary. Well-conducted research gives you greater insight into your client, their brand, their consumer/target, market trends, and more, and is the foundation for on-strategy copy. And on-strategy copy is what gets you repeat business. Repeat business pays the bills. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

2. Clarify the offer. Remember at all times that you are not selling the product, YOU ARE SELLING THE OFFER! The offer is what piques prospects’ interest and gets them one step closer to the purchase. Sometimes, the offer is the product (client sells 10 widgets, customer pays $10.00). Often it is not. Again, this is a good thing. Once your client has the good sense to offer a FREE trial, FREE gift, FREE shipping, buy one get one FREE (get the hint?), this gives you a tool to pull the target customer in with. A pull is always an easier sell than a push. So sell the offer. Not everybody wants widgets, but everybody loves free stuff. Never underestimate the power of greed.

3. Clarify the response mechanism. This really should be covered in your creative brief, but if for some reason it isn’t, you need to be absolutely clear on how you want customers and prospects to reply. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to give your client their money. They’re asking: “How do I get my free stuff?�? and you’re saying: “Here’s how. It’s really easy�?. Here’s where you give prominence to phrases like: Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx today! Order now, or go to www.asdfjkl.com more info! Click here to claim your free gift! Sit back and watch the orders come rolling in.

So there you go. You’re ready to start your first draft, so get to work.

Come back to the blog tomorrow for more tips on how to craft effective DM copy that pays your bills!

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