What I wish everyone knew about writing their copy (before they type a single word)

When it comes to writing your copy, you’ve probably heard it all. You’ve pinned every possible pin on every possible Boolean combo of “copy” and “template” and “write” and “easy.” You’ve read all the blogs and books on writing “good” copy. Maybe you’ve even taken a course.  But there are still some things people don’t realize but should absolutely know. Read this now and thank me later. #copywritingtips #writingtips #smallbusiness

Ahh, hindsight. Oh, to have a time machine. Or some sort of superhero-like look-to-the-past telescope. 

When it comes to doing anything — making a smoothie, heading out for a run, starting what we hope will be a wildly successful business — most of us go in hoping for the best. (I say most because…let’s be honest. Some of us have some stories we’re telling ourselves, am I right?)

Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always prevent bad things from happening.

Like, oh shit, I forgot to snap the lid on my Vitamix and now there’s açai dripping from the ceiling and oozing down the cabinets.

Whoops, I forgot to pee and now I’m squatting behind some bushes hoping there’s no 5-0. Or peeping toms.

My business idea totally bombed. (Again, some people will be all, “SEE?! I KNEW THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!”)

And, sometimes…well, sometimes, you can know it all but still not know *enough.*

When it comes to writing your copy, you’ve probably heard it all. You’ve pinned every possible pin on every possible Boolean combo of “copy” and “template” and “write” and “easy.” You’ve read all the blogs and books on writing “good” copy. Maybe you’ve even taken a course. (That’s another one of those best-laid plans…give it a swipe and tell me how many bunnies have taken up residence in that digital dust pile.)

After working with a bunch of clients on their copy, there are still some things people don’t realize but should absolutely know. Read this now and thank me later. Here’s a preemptive you’re welcome.

You have to know your audience.

You might recall that I declared this the 11th commandment. (No? Read this for a refresher.)

Before you can write any copy, you have to know your audience: who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, what they think (to the best of your non-mind-reading abilities, of course), where they hang out, and what they need help with for real.

Only then can you start writing copy that speaks to your client.

I mean, if you have no idea if you’re serving new moms who want to start their own business so they can say EFF YOU to the man and extend their maternity leave or middle-aged folks who have some free time on their hands now that they’ve climbed the corporate ladder a bit and want to explore some interests beyond their cubicle, then you won’t be able to use their language.

And when you’re not using their language, your copy isn’t going to speak to them.

So, you see, it makes no sense to start putting together a bunch of copy if you’re not sure who you’re speaking to.

Dial in your audience. Then, dial in your copy. Flip phone not necessary.

You’ll spend more time on it than you think. (And a lot of that time won’t be writing.)

Here’s the truth: Writing your copy is not a wham-bam-slam kinda deal. It’s a significant investment. Like, more significant than your significant other. 

You can’t expect to sit down and knock out all your copy in one day. Let’s manage those expectations, my friend.

What can you reasonably accomplish in one day?

A blog post and an accompanying newsletter. A bunch of social media content. The first draft (emphasis on first…also, emphasis on draft) of one page of copy — whether it’s your home page, your about page, your work with me page, your sales page, your autoresponders.

If you’re sitting down at your computer, cracking your knuckles and your shoulders and your ankles and your toes and thinking, “I’ve got this. I’ll have my website copy done today.” … you’re gonna be pretty disappointed.

That’s too much pressure. You need to give yourself time to think. To write a shitty first draft. To give it space. To edit. To let it sit. To edit some more. To walk away. To edit even more.

Notice how a lot of that time is spent not writing. It’s so important to take a break so you can get clarity. Clarity isn’t gonna come from forcing something. It’s going to come from writing a draft, thinking critically about it, revising thoughtfully. 

And you can’t do all that in a day. Unless you’re Hermione and you’ve got one of those timeturners. Even then…

You can change it. 

I’ve had clients come to me fangirling over another business owner’s website. While it’s totally accurate that I ask my clients what sites they love and whose copy they swoon over, it’s not so they can get all sad about how perfect this other site is and how they’re nowhere near that incredibly high bar.

(It’s so we’re not both clear on the style they like. But that’s not the point.)

What they don’t realize is how long it took that person they’re putting up on a pedestal to climb up there. 

Listen, that is NOT the first version of their website. (Don’t believe me? Spend some time sifting through the archives.)

No one arrived at the perfect website and perfect website copy after snapping their fingers, wiggling their nose, or rubbing an urn. (Also, friendly reminder: There’s really no such thing as perfect. K? K.)

You know what this means? 

You can change it. You can go back tomorrow, next week, next year, two years from now and rewrite something. Change a word. Restructure a page. Do whatever you want. Because — oh, here comes a cliché, please forgive me — progress over perfection. 

Just because you write something now doesn’t mean it’s forever. Need a permission slip to go back and change something? Here it is. 

I mean, don’t abuse it or anything. Make sure you’re not using this permission slip as some sort of excuse to get stuck and distracted redoing your entire website. (It happens. I know you know this.)

But if you discover your clients say “doughy” instead of “overweight?” Or they’re super into podcasts now? Or they’re ridiculously confused about the difference between Instagram Stories and IGTV? Absolutely adjust your copy to reflect that. 

Your business is constantly evolving. Your audience is constantly evolving. So your copy will constantly be evolving. 

These tips will help you get started on the whole progress not perfection thing. But if you want to dive deeper into what you *could* change, sign up for Sales Page Second Look. This copy review service will help you zero in on how you can improve your copy now and give you clear suggestions on how to make it stronger. You can learn more riiight this way.