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October 6, 2010

How To Get Great Copy Without Hiring A Copywriter

Most business owners now understand the importance of strong copy. What many business owners don’t realize is there are other alternatives to paying a fortune for great copy.

Most of these do require a nominal investment. But nothing compared to the huge fees for copywriting. A big part of the value a copywriter brings to the table (aside from marketing knowledge and being a wordsmith) is a fresh perspective. It’s that second set of eyes from a new perspective that can catch mistakes and provide more successful approaches.

Unfortunately, copywriting is deceptively simple. Almost anyone that can write to any degree thinks they can write great copy. Creating a piece of copy that causes the reader to take the action of spending money simply from reading words on a page is no easy task.

1) How A Simple Copy Critique Can Improve Your Copy

Perhaps the simplest way to improve your copy is getting a copy critique. In the direct marketing industry this is a common term. Professional copywriters use copy critiques to sharpen each other’s skills and copy. You can either hire someone to do this for a few hundred dollars typically, or you might be able to find someone to do it for free. Just be careful that you are getting someone who knows what they are talking about.

The biggest value here is having things pointed out to you that you missed. It could be a headline that’s unclear. Or a part of the copy that causes the reader to stop or bail out. Even your entire approach may be all wrong. These are all things you can find out with a simple copy critique.

If professional copywriters can improve from a copy critique, imagine what it can do for someone who’s not a copywriter.

2) How A Simple Rewrite Of Your Copy Can Help

The next step up from a copy critique would be a copy makeover. Not all copywriters offer this, because sometimes if the copy is way off track, it’s more work to rewrite it than just starting from scratch. The key to this is you are doing most of the legwork. Not recommended for rank beginners at copywriting. However, if you’ve got a sense of good copy and you can get something together in rough form, sometimes a simple rewrite of your rough draft can produce some great copy. And again, because it takes a lot less time than writing from scratch, you’ll save a bundle on copywriting fees.

Be careful because not everyone has the same definition or scope of what a rewrite entails. Some just fix the worst parts. Others do a complete rewrite and edit of what you’ve written. So read the fine print and find out exactly what you are getting before you commit.

A rewrite is more expensive, but still a fraction of hiring a freelance copywriter to create your copy from scratch.

3) Get A Free Consult From A Marketing Consultant Or A Professional Copywriter

Most copywriters and marketing consultants offer a free consult upfront. There’s nothing wrong with calling a few of them to get some contrasting opinions. In the process you’ll most likely pick up some great ideas that you can apply to your copy. Just having a short conversation with someone who knows marketing can give you some great insights.

You can generally tell pretty quickly whether you are dealing with an experienced copywriter verses a rookie. Be careful in putting too much stock in anything they say.

Test it out for yourself first. Make sure that it’s a direct response copywriter/marketing consultant. They are the only one’s who use methods proven to sell, as opposed to just creating general awareness of your business.

If you are speaking with a marketing consultant focus the conversation on the sales strategy and positioning of your product. If you are speaking with a copywriter focus more on the specific aspects of your copy. The most important parts of your copy are the headline/opening and your offer.

4) Model Your Copy After Proven Marketing Promotions

If you have to do the copywriting yourself without any help, be sure to have a successful model available. Avoid generic templates. Model your copy after an example that’s already proven to work. Only then will you be sure to at least have the structure in place that follows proven sales formulas.

What you want to do is copy the structure, not the content. Try to stay close to the structure because the further away you get from the original the less likely you’ll end up with a winner. For example, when modeling this classic headline, “They laughed when I set down at the piano, but when I played…” I’ve seen some people leave off the second half of the sentence. That destroys the curiosity building power of the headline.

Also changing it from “laughed” to some other emotion like cried can be risky. So be careful. Try to make a fill in the blank template out of it.

Here’s a simple example. “They laughed when I _______, but when I _____.” Do this with every sentence in the copy, not just the headline.

This is probably the single best way to write your copy if you aren’t a professional.

5) Record Your Best Sales Pitch And Then Have The Recording Transcribed And Edited

The other simple way to write copy yourself is to do this. You need someone that knows how to sell. If you aren’t good at sales then have someone else in your company or else have a friend help you.

The key to this working is to have a good sales person, record their best “pitch” live and uncensored. Then have it transcribed and edit it to take out the um, ah, etc. Do NOT edit into something that takes away the conversational tone. Be careful to maintain the essence of what they said.

That’s why you really don’t need to write copy. You can record it being spoken by a sales person. You end up with the same end result. Just make sure you have a good sales person and they know your product well so they can make the best pitch possible.

These are the five best ways I know to improve existing copy or create it from scratch. The power is in getting an outside perspective, using proven principles of selling, and using the time saving of rewriting rather than starting from scratch.

Ken Hoffman is a strategic business adviser and direct response copywriter. He is the author of “Scientific Advertising For The New Economy.” Download his free report, “17 Website Conversion Strategies To Boost Your Bottom Line.” Download it now from

13 Responses to “How To Get Great Copy Without Hiring A Copywriter

    Trying to get good copy without using a copywriter is like trying to have good teeth without using a dentist.

    How will this work exactly?

    Mike Druttman, Copywriter

    avatar Rob McVey says:

    Hi, we are a web development agency, and we use Copify. All the copywriting we have had through Copify has been 100% spot on, and works out at only 3p per word.

    We have used freelancers directly in the past and paid as much as £80 for 350 words, you can get the same work done on Copify for £10, all the writers are UK and are vetted by the website to ensure top quality.

    Anyway, good blog post, hope this proves a realistic alternative!

    avatar Ken Lempit says:

    Suggesting that someone use a consultant’s time with no intention of hiring that person is suggesting they behave in a way which is borderline unethical. It certainly is not a nice way to behave, using others in such a fashion. Since most sole practitioners have fairly low hourly rates (in the neighborhood of $60-80 usually), nearly any business with serious intent could afford a one-hour paid consultation. Such a request to a freelancer would likely be over-serviced anyway. My two cents.

    avatar Naomi Pickin says:

    I agree with Mike and Ken, an ill judged piece which really shows no balanced view, a lack of research and is absolutely unhelpful to the profession as a whole.

    Many copywriters whether ‘rookie’ or seasoned have made a decision to become a writer based on their experience, skills and passion for writing. It is certainly not a way to make a ‘quick buck’ it takes hard work and commitment.

    Given your mindset, maybe next time my car needs servicing I should call my local garage for some friendly advice, do you think they would be more than willing to talk me through the technicalities with charge?

    If you want a result then hire a professional or at least pay for their hour of time for the invaluable advice they will undoubtedly be willing to impart.

    Oh, stop it. You’re killing me. HUGE fees. I love it. I’d comment further, but I’m laughing too hard…

    avatar A M Clark says:

    Perhaps it’s just my writer/editor brain working overtime, but if you’re writing an article about copywriting (DIY or not), shouldn’t your own copy reflect a strong understanding of English, e.g., correct usage of simple word choices such as verses/versus, set/sat, or I/me? This way, the reader may be inspired to hire you to write copy, instead of empowering novice businesspeople to try to write their own copy based on the dubious ideas suggested in the article. I know it’s impolite to “hard sell” in these articles, but this is enthusiastic “un-sell” without the subtle “sell.”

    Having a good copywriting skill is a must. But being a good copywriter is another story.

    I really enjoy reading your tips of copywriting here. Hope to see more good articles from you… in the future?

    avatar Ken Hoffman says:

    I never thought this article would get such a rise out of other copywriters.

    However I don’t care. I didn’t write the article for copywriters.

    What I think does the industry a disservice is the many copywriters who work at substandard rates. This article only suggests there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

    Hey, there’s plenty of articles on why you must hire a pro copywriter. I merely have provided another option.

    avatar Barb says:

    Sorry Ken, but the rise you are getting from your dissenters is duly deserved. To suggest there are other options for getting good copy is like telling someone with an itch not to scratch it. If the itch isn’t scratched, it just keeps on itching.

    avatar Ken Hoffman says:

    As any good copywriter will tell you, I am a marketer first and foremost. I based this article on my personal experience, it is not based on theory.

    None of these comments are from successful marketers. I urge everyone who reads this to be very careful who they listen to. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation from people who are not successful in their field.

    I would love for a respected marketing person to comment on specifics in my article. Send it to Bob Bly, Clayton Makepeace, or any other successful direct marketing copywriter and have them post their comments. Someone who knows how to sell, not an ad agency creative, or corporate writer, or anybody like that.

    As far as Mr. Clark’s opinion that the article didn’t sell? I had a massive boost in ezine signups and 3 new potential clients from this listing alone.

    Grammar is highly overrated when it comes to selling. Most businesses don’t care about a grammatical error (that most people won’t even notice) as long as they are getting increased sales from the copy. Most writers however will act like an english teacher, quick to get their red pen out to correct everything.

    Mr. Lempit: Most of my colleages charge a whole lot more than $60/hour. What you are describing is what a basic writer would charge, not a professional copywriter.

    As far as using a free consult, that someone offers…in my opinion if the pro is offering truly valuable ideas, if they can’t persuade the prospect to become a paying client, that’s their problem. Not the person taking advantage of their free offer.

    I believe in charging plenty for giving high value. And I believe that whatever you give will come back. So I spent nearly two hours consulting with someone the other day for nothing. Did I feel like they took advantage of me? No, because I freely gave, and sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. But I don’t have this “lack” mentality that you seem to have.

    If you hate this article, then you will really hate my upcoming article, “Why Writing Has Very Little To Do With Copywriting.” If any of my dissenters can give me the answer to that proposition I’ll be surprised.

    avatar Virtual Avatar says:

    If you need a copywriter, there are a lot of people out there who are willing to help you for free. Consultants that are very generous can do it for you, so why pay when you can find help for free 🙂

    “None of these comments are from successful marketers” you say, Ken. I beg to differ.

    I am a successful English copywriter in the country where I live – Israel. Since I have spent over 30 years in this business I care a lot about how other people view this whole business of copywriting.

    I’m not saying that you have to employ a copywriter at all costs – perhaps you have the innate skills to do the same job yourself. But I would say that formulating concepts and arguments in a persuasive and credible way is a specialist task.

    After so many years at the wheel I still need to breathe deeply before I get into every new job – because they are all different and unique and need that special effort to ‘make them sing’.

    I cannot see how somebody who is not writing marketing texts full-time can hone their skills sufficiently to do a good and professional job.

    avatar Ken Hoffman says:

    A business owner knows his own business and market better than any copywriter will ever understand it.

    It’s not rocket science.

    Have you successfully written copy for your own products? That’s my definition of a successful marketer.

    There are plenty of people that can’t or won’t pay a professional copywriter. That’s who my article was intended for.

    Obviously, an experienced pro offers many advantages to someone attempting it themselves. However, as I said previously…there’s benefits to them doing it themselves…like knowing their market better than an outsider.

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