How to make a template your own
If you’re like a lot of online business owners, you’ve probably got a ton of templates. People give them away as freebies (*ahem* Templates with Personality). You get them as bonuses for enrolling in a course. You can buy ebooks full of templates.
Hell, you can even Google “template for email when your client ghosts you” and probably come up with something useful.
And maybe you’ve tried to use those templates. Maybe you didn’t really know how to use them. Maybe they’re just collecting dust in your Google drive.
Maybe you think you’re too cool for templates.
#truthbomb: No one is too cool for templates.
But you are too cool to use templates in their given form. You know, word for word, with phrases or a style that’s totally not you.
Blindly copying and pasting a template is basically an epidemic. Like, you’re not being original. You’re not doing your own work. You’re actually stealing someone else’s work and lying about it. You’re creating a brand that’s not you. You’re not being authentic and people can tell. You’re not doing yourself any favors. At all.
Before we dive into the so exciting topic of this post, let’s first take a minute to discuss why templates are actually a good thing.
Prevent you from starting from scratch every time.
Show you what works.
Save you time.
Help you write faster and better.
Keep you focused and on track.
And a shit ton of other really cool stuff.
I know you’ve got a veritable bounty of templates stashed away. You know, templates for emails. Templates for newsletters. Templates for opt-in offers. Templates for autoresponders. Templates for sales copy. Templates for about pages. Templates for services pages. Templates for blog posts. Templates for home pages. Templates for sales emails. Templates for social media posts. Templates, templates, templates!
But it’s time to rethink HOW you’re using templates.
How exactly? you ask.
Reframe them as a tool or as a guide. We can think of them as a jumping off point. We can see them as inspiration.
Not something to copy and paste. Not an end point. Not a finished product.
Templates are cool and all, but you’ve got to make them your own.
Here’s a few ways you can make a template your own.
Five-finger-discount the flow.
Does the template just seem to roll off the tongue in an easy way? How is the writer doing that? With a mix of sentence structures? With certain language or transitions? By telling a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end?
This one might be a little tough to nail down because flow is a weird writer word no one can really define, but try and make your piece have that same flow (whatever that means to you).
Spend some time looking at the template. Reading it. Getting a sense for how it sounds and how it accomplishes that sound.
It sounds complicated, but I promise it’s doable. Especially after you’ve done it once.
Make friends with the format.
Okay, this one’s not *specifically* related to copy, but you’ve probably got some design templates hiding somewhere.
I know I’ve got a whole folder called “Design.”
So…do you like how the template is laid out? Does it have a super bold headline, a fun quote block, or even some funky spacing? Does it use pictures in a super strategic way? Does it use a certain font? Padding between sections?
If that’s what’s catching your eye, play around with your format and see how you can make it your own.
(As long as it makes sense for your brand. Don’t start using someone else’s brand colors and fonts because you’re getting yourself into the same copy and paste trap as copy templates.)
Steal the structure.
Is the template set up a certain way? Like, intro, pull quote, point one, point two, list, point three, pull quote, conclusion? (To be super vague.)
Take a peak at how the template is structured and see how you can build your content the same way.
This is something I do ALL. THE. TIME. (Yes, I’ve got a Google doc called simply, “Swipe File.” It’s even got a fancy clickable TOC so that I can go to exactly what I want without scrolling through the whole document.)
Say I’m working on a sales email. I know I’ve got a couple sales emails stashed in my swipe file so I go check ‘em out.
And I see that the sales email started with a series of questions. Then, it tosses in some reassurance (you know, “You’ve got this, boo”) before diving in to a more detailed discussion of pain points and what the person is currently experiencing.
I go through the entire thing, noting what each paragraph or section is doing. (I’ll often use the comments feature to make notes to myself, just FYI, in case you’re feeling like copying my idea.)
And then? I see how I can recreate that with my copy.
Take the tone.
Maybe you really, really like how friendly and approachable the copy is. Maybe it’s super witty and a little bit sarcastic. Maybe there are so many puns and pop culture references it makes you squeal like a teeny bopper in the front row at her first boy band concert.
See how you can bring that tone in to your writing. (Again, IF and ONLY IF it makes sense for your brand.)
Maybe it means taking yourself less seriously. Or writing more casually and conversationally. Maybe it means you need to write with a little more authority.
Try to get a sense for how the copy is making you feel.
I know, I know, eye roll.
But if you can understand how it makes you feel (supported, taken care of, understood?), you can reverse engineer to create a tone that will make your people feel that way.
If you want to write something authoritative, like you want to be seen as the expert among experts, you might need to write a little more formally. (Without erasing all traces of personality, of course.)
If you want to be seen as the sassy BFF that knows best, you want to write in a straightforward but friendly way. Like the way a friend would *actually* talk to someone. None of that: “You’re destined for so much greatness. You just have to harness it” woo-woo talk.
Wanna practice? Download Templates with Personality to get your hands on 10 templates that you can make your own.