5 Entrepreneurs Share Easy Copywriting Secrets so that Designers can Earn More

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They say that it is not good to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, because you never get to the height of any one profession.

Web designers design and copywriters write. That seems clear enough. However, as Alan Martin of Cooper Murphy wisely points out that, “a client only needs a design done once, with occasional tweaks, whereas they always need copy.

Resumes Planet editor Gillian Stephens further highlights the need to be able to write compelling copies. “Refusing to learn basic copywriting skills as a web designer is a missed opportunity to make a lot of money.” You would also agree with Uxpin content strategist, Jerry Cao, that web design and copywriting go hand in hand. Designing a website without the actual content can lead to problems in the final look of the design.

Web designers are increasingly becoming aware of the wisdom of acquiring some basic writing skills in the course of their work. Even if you don’t want to offer the service to your clients, web designers also need copy for their own websites and portfolios.

It makes perfect sense to cultivate the skill to avoid paying a copywriter to do it for you. Here is what 5 web designers do to make copywriting easy and profitable.

Jerry Cao

Jerry Cao

Jerry Cao has been featured at FastCo Design, TheNextWeb, awwwards, Envato, VentureBeat and many others.

  • Follow the design

Some people believe that content should come first, but that is not the case when the the writer is a web designer. Web designers are visual creatures, so the best take-off point for their copy is the design. The copy has to tie in with the voice and tone of the design, so if the design is playful, the copy should be as well. If the design is formal, then slang and “cool” words are out of place.

Of course, the design elements depend on the nature of the website, and the preferences of the client. However, completing the design requires the actual copy so that the designer can choose the correct font type, color, and size.

What you say is actually not as important as how you say it.  Phrases, tone, and choice of words is all part of the basic design. Web designers understand these elements more than copywriters do, so designers are actually in the best position to create the right copy.

  • Make sure the copy fits

Waiting for copy can be frustrating because you have to make sure the copy should look good inside the boxes as you create the design.

Using Lorem ipsum as a placeholder does not give an accurate representation of what it will really look like with the actual content. You can go ahead, do your design, and write copy at the same time. You will see the final effect when all the elements come together.
Note: A good design does not compete with the text, and vice versa. If the user particularly notices one over the other, something is off.

Alan Martin

Clients

Alan Martin works for CM Copywriters, the company that writes copy lines for BMW, Xbox, Virgin, P&G and many others.

  • Use your website to practice

Web designers are their own best customers. They have free hand to express their individual styles and design principles in the look and feel of their websites.

Use your website to experiment with copy that works. Take the trouble to solicit feedback from your users, and when you have refined it to your satisfaction, use your visitor metrics and customer comments to convince clients that you can do both design and copy equally well.

Daniel Adams

iShift

Daniel Adams is a web developer from San Diego. He has been in the web design business for over a decade now. He shares his experiences at Instant Shift.

  • Use design principles to create great headlines

Web designers know how to catch the attention of their viewers. Use the same design principles you use to create websites that catch and lead the eye to where you want to create the same effect with your copy.

Design principles rely on human psychology to search for triggers. Evoking an emotional response with the use of shapes, colors, and perspectives is one of the main targets of designers, followed closely by evoking curiosity or a physical reaction in the viewer. Create your headline based on these design principles, and you will attract the user’s attention.

  • Use bullet points

It sounds so simple, but you would be surprised at how many copywriters take advantage of bullet points.

Designers know well the benefits of organizing the elements of a web page to lead the user to important parts of the page i.e. registration or the Buy button. Using bullet points in your copy will draw the eye of the reader to important parts of your copy. This is typically the benefits of engaging with the website in some way, such as registering for a free account, participating in a survey, buying a product, or simply staying on the page.

Keep bulleted points near the top of the page as much as possible, or at least above the fold. You want your viewer to take some sort of action, so it would be a shame if they miss your beautiful points because it was too far down the page.

  • Create the copy before the design

It may sound counter-intuitive for a web designer, but the fact is, it is easier to design a webpage when you know how much copy you have to accommodate.

Of course, you already have a general idea of your design based on your consultations with the client. However, creating the actual web page and putting in all the elements in place should come after you create the copy. This can also help you adjust your initial design ideas without causing you any pain or disrupting your schedule.

Writing your own copy in conjunction with the design has the added bonus of making the final product consistent and cohesive.

Peep Laja

Peep Laja

Peep Laja is the founder of ConversionXL – one of the world’s most popular conversion optimization blog

  • Make an outline

Creating a structure for your content is the most efficient way to create copy. Web designers tend to be a methodical bunch, so this should not be a problem. Extract key points from your research (yes, you have to do research, unless a client provides you with the information) and organize them into various parts of your copy. All you have to do after that is expand them to create your copy.

  • Focus on readers

You want everyone that visits your website to read your content. However, the reality is most people (79%) are skimmers. They will only read a bit of the content before moving on. You can deduce that these people are not interested to know what you are selling. Some copywriters cater to this behavior by keeping their copy short, but this usually means keeping back important information.

You could be missing an opportunity to sell to people who are interested and want to know more. About 16% of your visitors are readers, and the ones on whom you want to focus when making your copy. Instead of trying to woo the 79% and concentrating on the number of words for your copy, concentrate on speaking to the 16% that are most likely to take action.

Provide the 16% with as much information as they need to help them decide to push forward to a desired action, such as a purchase. If the user feels they are not getting all the information they need, they will delay action, or even abandon the page altogether. Your copy should be able to stand on its own without further intervention on your part.

  • Come back in the morning

Make the best copy you can manage.

When you are done, leave it alone until the next day, and then look through it with fresh eyes. You will usually spot errors, typos, and things you might have left out more easily after you have had some time away from the copy.

Do the same thing after you have completed your web page, including copy. You will more quickly realize how a certain block will look better in another place, or that the font you chose is not exactly what you wanted.

When you are satisfied that your work is perfect, send it to someone else. In fact, send it to two or three people. Ask them to review it and give you feedback and suggestions. Ask them if the information was clear, or if they had questions. Have a couple of fellow designers critique the work. They may have useful suggestions. Only publish your webpage once you have dealt with all the issues.

Rean John Uehara

Rean

  • Create a character

Most copywriters tend to use a second or third person point-of-view, and that makes it harder for the reader to engage with the copy.

A good way to create memorable copy is to give it a personality. You can create a character as the author who seems to be speaking directly to the reader in a personal way. Give your character a distinctive nickname that has attitude, and use quirks of speech to make the copy unique. If they can remember the character, they will remember the copy, and hopefully the brand.

Of course, your character and nickname has to be in line with the tone and personality of the webpage. You can create a character that’s funny, sympathetic, or authoritative, depending on the product. The important thing is recall, and engagement.

If the reader starts to identify with your character, that can be a massive help for conversion. You may even create a following that can boost brand recognition and reputation immeasurably.

  • Choose the information you share

You might think that your readers are interested to know what ingredients are in a muffin, or the technical specifications of a new gadget. They are, but only insofar as it pertains to benefits.

Instead of saying the muffin uses bran flour instead of wheat, you can say that it is gluten-free and safe for people that are gluten intolerant. Instead of saying the gadget has a rechargeable lithium ion battery, you can emphasize that it is portable and long lasting.

Focus on what benefits will accrue to the buyer rather than the features, which are often too technical for most people to understand or appreciate. Make the best use of your copy by giving people the information they want, rather than the information you have. Discuss the benefits of certain features in terms anyone can understand. Emphasize these benefits by repeating them periodically throughout the copy.

  • Converse with the user

The easiest way to write copy for a target market is to pretend you are talking to one of them. Picture the browser as being right in front of you, and you are having a conversation. How will your conversation go?

The first thing, of course, is introductions. Introduce yourself and your product. Imagine what questions the browser might want to ask, and provide the answers. You may not be able to think of all the possible questions on your own, so you need to do a little research.

A good source of material is forums for a similar product, service, or business. These are actual people and potential clients for your site, so pay attention. You can use the questions people post to give you an idea of what people want to know.

  • Ask the right questions

You can also use the questions you’ve gathered to provoke a reaction from your readers. Choose two or three that are likely to push a trigger response, and repeat them in your copy in varied ways.

Provocative questions could be “Do you want higher conversions?” or “Do you need a better website?” Don’t pull back. Hit them where it hurts most, and paint a scenario showing you understand exactly what they are feeling or thinking. This gives them the impression that you know what their problems are and you are the solution.

There is no reason why web designers cannot create good copy. Copywriting is a skill that follows the same principles as design, and in most cases, designers are much more aware of these principles than copywriters are.

It will take a bit of rethinking to get over the designer/writer barrier, but the creation process itself is not much different. These tips from designers that have made the transition to designer/writer should help you along.

About the author:
Paige Donahue is a Comparative Literature & Literary Theory graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. Her passion for traveling allows her to discover new ideas, try new activities and meet people. She also finds joy in helping others explore their creative potential. You can connect with her via Twitter and Google

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