In the last 3 months 87.9% of adults in the UK used the Internet (according to the Office of National Statistics)…
Now, more than over, it’s essential to communicate with your prospects effectively online.
That means in real time, sharing ideas, news and commentary.
But how can you get your message across in the best way possible?
In this article we’re going to look at 9 great resources you can use to help you write compelling and engaging copy – even if you have no previous experience or training.
Are you scriptophobic? (Don’t worry, a lot of us are!)
The idea of online publishing terrifies a lot of people – even professional marketers, CEOs and people with tonnes of knowledge and experience.
Well, I think you can split people into two camps.
There are those that are quite happy to write. It’s something they enjoyed at school.
They might have done it at university. They may love spouting their ideas and quips on Facebook or Twitter.
These people aren’t necessarily good writers, nor would they describe themselves as expert writers, but it’s something they can do when they need to communicate.
Scriptophobia is the extreme fear of writing in public. It affects even the most intelligent people. They hate writing. The idea of it appalls them.
For whatever reason – they might tell you it’s related to lack of skills or natural aptitude or bad experiences as a child – they lack confidence.
This can hamper a lot of start-ups and small businesses. Because unless you are lucky enough to have marketers and copywriters on the team right from the beginning, you need to produce written content to succeed online…
You need to write social media status updates, blog posts, welcome letters and emails, customer service replies… these are all forms of content marketing.
But here’s the thing…
You don’t need to be a copywriter. You don’t need formal training. You don’t need education.
All you need to do is write as you would talk everyday, using simple direct language.
And thankfully, there are now resources and tools to help you do this. I’m going to list some essentials here to get you started:
5 copywriting websites filled with insider tips, how-tos and swipe files
On the websites below you’ll find insider tips from the old masters as well as examples and ‘swipes’ of existing copy that’s proven to convert.
One of the best ways to learn is to look at what’s already working and apply some of those lessons to your own writing.
Copyblogger – Since January 2006, Copyblogger has been teaching people how to create online content that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds an online business. They have a good blog here which you can check out.
Content Marketing Institute – While the site is full of practical, how-to guidance, you’ll also find insight and advice from the experts, and an active community for discussing the latest news, information, and advances that are moving the industry forward.
ABC Copywriting – This copywriting service also has a free blog with useful tips.
101 Great Headlines – This one needs no explanation! This is a great swipe file to base your headlines on: 101 Great Headlines.
David Meerman Scott – David is a forward thinking marketer with fantastic advice on how to communicate with customers.
AWAI – The American Writers and Artists Inc is a US company offering copywriting courses.
If you’re interested in training as a direct response writer they do have paid courses but, if you’re just interested in learning about copywriting techniques, it has free content on this section of the website here. It’s worth looking at these examples and noticing the flow of the copy and the way they always hone in on the benefits.
And once you start to write, there are now fantastic tools to help you…
3 free software tools that will help improve your copy’s flow
Hemingway App – The author Ernest Hemingway was famous for his stripped-down writing style. He used short, simple sentences that got across his meaning as directly as possible.
Now there’s a fantastic free tool that applies his principles to your copy. It will automatically critique what you’ve written, then help you edit it for readability.
First write your copy. It might be a blog post or some sales copy. It doesn’t matter.
Next, paste your copy into the app.
As you can see on the top right, I had good readability, but there were three sentences (highlighted in red) that I could have made easier to read. So with a bit of deleting, I managed to get rid of those flaws.
This is a fantastic tool and really forces you to take a step back and look at what you’ve written from another perspective. Have I been too wordy? Could I cut out some of these words to improve the flow? It may seem strange at first but once you get going it’s actually quite fun seeing how far you can lower the score.
Grammarly – Personally, I don’t believe you should worry too much about sticking to all the official grammar rules when writing sales copy or blog posts (within reason).
Flow should come first and it’s more important that they sound conversational. However, with that said, if your grammar is often all over the place it can make copy difficult to read. If that’s something you could use some help with then make sure you check out this tool.
As well as helping you fix grammatical errors it also has some other neat features like their synonyms tool to help you find that perfect word. Grammarly is free and plugs in to your browser (please note: you might need to restart your browser after installation).
Unsuck It – This allows you to convert words that don’t flow well in your copy (like business jargon) and replace it with more to-the-point words and phrases that do. It’s a bit of fun but there’s also a serious point here…
When people see cliches in copy they tend to switch off so try to find ways of getting your message across to readers without slipping into business speak and they’ll engage with you on a more personal level.
BONUS: 4 great books about copywriting
There are a LOT of books out there about writing and it can be overwhelming browsing through Amazon at all the different offerings.
However here are 4 simple books which are worth taking a look at:
Swipe Files for the Lazy Copywriter (free eBook) – This eBook contains over 2,000 swipes of powerful, persuasive words and phrases to use in sales letters, blog posts, ads and articles.
The Elements of Style – This is a masterclass in how to be clear, concise and precise in all your communications.
The Adweek Copywriting Handbook – In this practical guide, legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman provides proven guidelines and expert advice on what it takes to write copy that will entice, motivate, and move customers to buy.
Right, that’s it for now.
How do you feel about writing copy and what tools, websites and books have helped you?
I’d love to hear your comments below.