Kate Waddon Copywriting

We all need words. Let me help you find the right ones.

What to tell your freelance copywriter

baby-74163_1920You need some writing doing, and you’ve engaged a freelance copywriter. Splendid stuff. It’s all going to be fab and you’ll get the content or whatever it is that you need.

Then the phone goes, and it’s your new writing buddy. You were busy working on something, now this stranger has called and he or she is asking you random questions about what voices you like. It’s all a bit bunny-in-the-headlights.

I try to email new clients first, and arrange a time to speak, and also indicate in the email what we’ll need to talk about. However to give you some advance warning, here’s the information that your writer will need to know to hit the ground running.


What do you want writing?

So far so obvious. But, this is the starting point of any conversation. Website, blog, brochure, cereal packet, a combination…

What is the topic? Now, a good writer should be able to write about anything, with a steer from you and the right information. However, if  the writer has a background or experience in your subject, it’s good to discuss this early on, and can get your relationship off to a great start.

Roughly how much writing is needed? This will help establish timescale and cost.


Where will the information come from?

If you have a website, is it factually accurate? This is especially worth asking if you’re having a new one written. Are there other websites that give the technical information (such as manufacturers’ sites)? Any internal documents that would help, or publications such as brochures and flyers? Post things over if necessary. Do you have expert colleagues that the writer should talk to?

I often remind clients that as I charge by the hour for most projects, the more info they give me at the start, the cheaper it will be for them.

And yes, we all use Google. Sometimes I even use books…


Who is your audience?

The copywriter may ask you if it’s B2B or B2C. Tell them off for using jargon (unless you speak it fluently yourself). Is the writing for experts, professionals, or “The Trade” (I love that expression)? If so, the writer needs to know this, to adjust the “jargon level” and avoid being patronising. Is the writing for customers? If so, what sort of customers do you want to attract? Are you trying to sell to them, give them information, or both?


What tone of voice do you want to use?

If your organisation has a defined brand, this will be clear to both parties. Indeed, you might have a handy Style Guideline document to refer to or send the copywriter.

Even if you don’t work for a massive multinational with brand documents to draw on, the chances are that you really understand your audience and know how best to speak with them. But how do you communicate this with a writer?

A good way to establish this is to think about other bits of writing that you like. If you can give the copywriter examples of websites whose tone you like, that’s always helpful. Sometimes, I’m given samples of websites that people really hate – not such a positive way of thinking about things, but at least I know what not to do…

It can help to think of simple adjectives to describe the tone of voice. Words clients often say to me are “friendly”, “professional”, “approachable”, “formal”, “light-hearted”, and my favourite, “the cheeky chappie next door”… Sometimes clients mention publications – “the audience is a bit Telegraphy”, “like Esquire”, and again, that’s helpful.

If you’re struggling with this, just say. A few hours spent working on a tone of voice exercise can really help.

If you’re a freelancer or sole trader yourself – i.e. you are your business, a good writer should be picking up tone of voice tips just from listening to you. So talk. Talk lots, please.


Any other services?

Dog walking? Coffee making? Well, maybe not, but image researching and blog uploading could be needed. There are also other things like proofreading and copy-editing that may need doing aside from the actual writing.

It’s also a good time to ask for other bits of advice. Can the writer recommend a photographer/SEO expert/printer? We usually can.


SEO terms?

Are there any key phrases or headers you want to use? These can be obvious, even if you’re no expert yourself. You may have a list – send it over.


The nitty gritty

Namely – deadline and budget. Have both of these in mind, and agree them from the start. Even if you just agree to be flexible, at least it’s an agreement. And don’t worry – if you forget these points, your new freelancer certainly won’t…

Also establish a way of working. Do you want the writer to show you a sample page before writing all twenty? Is it going to be an iterative process with lots of drafts and input from you, or do you want to just hand the whole thing over, get it off your desk, and wait for the full first draft? What are your communication preferences – email, mobile, carrier pigeon?

Ask for the copywriter to sum up your chat in an email. Hopefully they’ve been capturing the conversation, and the action points for both parties.


These are the main things that it’s good to sort out from the start, which will hopefully help establish a productive relationship. So hopefully when you have that first chat, you’ll know what information to have prepped and ready to go. Failing that – ansaphone…


How do I get freelance copywriting work?

Leading on from last week’s blog (spot the New Year’s “post weekly” resolution), there’s an area I need to focus on more closely: how do you find freelance writing work? Here’s how I keep the wolf from the door…


Networks and contacts

This is a good way to start out. Hopefully you’ve left any job without burning any bridges (well, perhaps some minor singeing…), and people will be pleased to recommend you, or even farm out a project or two to you.

As your portfolio builds, you’ll start to develop a reputation, and a new business network will grow. However, hopefully you’ll keep your original networks as well, and I still get work from former colleagues, friends and friends-of-friends. I was very lucky – I had a reasonably high-profile tourism job (high-profile isn’t hard to achieve in West Cornwall), and knew a lot of people, including designers.


Design agencies and web designers

Many smaller agencies don’t employ their own copywriters. It’s often easier and more cost-effective for them to have a pool of freelance writers to hand should they be needed. On the whole, agencies and designers like having a professional writer on board, as they know they’ll get quality copy, on time. (Waiting for the client to deliver the copy often stalls a project.)

I work with a few agencies, and a couple of freelance designers, and this is always thoroughly enjoyable work. It’s great when the words, images and design come together, and working with designers is can be a great way learning more about your new trade. Definitely worth a speculative enquiry.

I would add that occasionally you keep a client once the job has finished. For example, the website has gone live, however the customer may want blog posts or newsletters writing in the future. Great stuff. Just tell the original design agency out of courtesy, as they are the ones that initially got you the gig. Always make sure you’re not treading on any toes/breaking any contracts by working for the client solo.


Writing and content agencies

This is another good avenue. On a more practical level, you don’t have to trawl for work, you get paid regularly, and as writers, the people you’re working for actually get what you’re about. The best writing briefs I get are from a content expert, who knows exactly what info I need.

For larger agencies, you often have to complete some form of writing “test” as well as providing your CV and samples of work. The test can be a helpful way in if you’re just starting out and don’t have a massive portfolio to draw on.

Occasionally, some agencies like you to look like you work for them, so be prepared for multiple email addresses. You also may need to sign a contract. Some agencies pay better than others – again, be aware, and a little light Googling is advisable.


Website and blog

Your website is your shop window, and a great chance to showcase your own writing.  Have a look at other writers’ websites and see which approaches you like. Make sure you’re aware of the things you’ll be telling your clients that they need: calls to action, organic SEO, headings, perfect proofreading etc etc. Keep your testimonials and portfolio pages up to date (check with clients first).

Your own blog is absolutely key here. As well as providing essential content, it’s a great chance to flex your typing fingers and show off that writing. It lets potential clients know that you’re a good blog writer who understands the importance of keeping your website fresh and up to date. How do clients find you? Think about potential search terms as you’re writing, and I’ve recently been flirting a little with AdWords.

And please, when it comes to your own website, watch your own ego. No one wants to hire Byron to write their flyers.


Social media

Has to be done. Even if you’re mostly retweeting at the start, at least you’re Out There. Potential clients are likely to check that you are at least slightly social media savvy. Facebook and Twitter are the minimum.

If you haven’t looked at LinkedIn since you graduated, now’s the time to log back in. Reconnect with people who you think could help you, and keep your profile up to date.


Hopefully there are a few starting points here. All pretty obvious, none too tricky, and nothing anyone can’t try. Keep plenty of irons in the fire, and always look out for new sources of work. I haven’t checked out any of the “find a freelancer” websites yet, although I have friends in similar roles that have. It’s on my To Do list (honest). I’ll feed back.

Writing this today with Six Music on in the background, as ever, and feeling that I should actually be blogging about the beauty of music lyrics. RIP David Bowie, incredible wordsmith.


How do I become a freelance copywriter?

No fewer three people have asked me this week what it’s like to be a freelance copywriter. Assuming this is a New Year potential-change-of-career-and-direction thing, here’s the answer I should have given. (In real life, I was awfully waffly. Apologies.)

Here are a few things to mull over if you’re considering freelance writing.


Think about the money

It’s likely that you’re used to a regular income. Can you make the leap from monthly pay cheques to an as-and-when income? Are you prepared to live off savings/partner/family initially?

You can help make the transition by having some contacts and potential clients set up already. Have a website ready to go. Build a network. Gather together a portfolio of relevant work . Think about social media. My early work was through agencies – see what’s out there. In short, as they taught me in the Brownies, Be Prepared, and hopefully the gap between salary and freelance income won’t be a massive, scary void.

In these days of pushing web content, there is definitely work out there…


Managing the money

 Then of course, you have to manage your income, ongoing. No company accountant here. Keep a clear spreadsheet of what you’re earning and of every stage of invoicing.

You need to be able to quote, negotiate, and re-quote. I’ll be honest – it’s a real finger-in-the-air job sometimes to come up with a realistic price for a job. That’s why I prefer to charge an hourly rate and give a rougher estimate at the start – fairer for both parties.

Chasing clients for late payments is one of the least pleasant aspects of the job. It’s unlikely they are deliberately not paying you, so it’s important not to sound defensive or accusatory. I used to be terribly British about this: “I’m so sorry, I haven’t been paid. Please if you have a spare minute could you check to see if everything’s OK, and I am sooooo sorry to trouble you.” These days I’m more direct. “Please can you check the progress of my invoice dated x? I attach a copy FYI. Thanks.” Still polite, but putting the ball firmly in their court.

And you too will spend early January putting off your tax return.


Beware of distractions

Today, I cleaned the hallway because I didn’t want to do my tax return. This wasn’t ideal: tomorrow I now have a deadline plus the tax return, and a cobweb-free hallway will be small consolation.

Self-discipline is really important. It’s very easy to get distracted, especially if you’re working in your own home. If you think this really will be a problem for you, consider renting a desk in one of those fabulous rent-a-workspace places (with the added benefit of networking).

A spot of pottering in the garden or making some lunch can really help if you’re stuck on something, but on the whole you have to be as focussed as you would be if you had the boss breathing down your neck.  If you don’t work, you don’t earn – that’s a powerful motivator for the self-employed.

At least you won’t have the massive distraction that is Other People.


Freelancers work alone

A mixed blessing. There are worse things than being alone, as anyone who’s ever worked in an open-plan office will tell you. However, if you’re the type that thrives on workplace politics, gossip, or informal culture, maybe think twice.

In reality, you’re rarely completely alone, even if you’re sitting by yourself. Aside from the clients, I work with other writers, content experts, designers, programmers… Sometimes, I even meet them. This is good. As well as being a really productive way to move a project along, it reminds me of the need to brush my hair occasionally.

Networks of other freelancers can be helpful. Where I live in West Cornwall many people are self-employed, so I get the benefit of several informal networks (that sounds better than “I meet friends in Costa”). I also have a self-employed husband across the room. We don’t chat much during the day, but we do make each other coffee.

Social media can be a dangerous time sink if you’re feeling a bit short on company. Pop there for the odd watercooler moment, then shut it down.


You won’t have a boss

No, you’ll have several. And as a good freelancer, you treat each client as if they’re your number one priority.

I actually love this variation, and having a good mix of clients is part of the joy of the job. Cliché alert – no two clients are the same. Some like you to just get on with the work, while other projects have more drafts than an old castle. If you are writing a regular blog with a client, you usually develop a great working relationship with them.

To be a freelance copywriter, first put away your ego. Sometimes people won’t like your work. Sometimes they go against all your wise advice and do some really quite awful things to your beloved copy (and you’ll really sympathise with Sarah Beeney here). Sometimes they send drafts back with Track Changes scribbled all over it. Don’t take it personally. Just crack on with the next iteration, and deliver what the client has asked for. Of course, in your role as expert, you’re there to advise and guide them; but ultimately, it’s their decision.

Clients return to freelancers who are good to work with. Deliver your work on time and on budget, or give plenty of advance notice if this isn’t possible. Respond promptly. Be helpful. Be nice. Sorry if this sounds like egg-sucking training (but you’d be surprised by how unprofessional some freelancers can be).


Freelancing is wonderfully flexible

This is the great bit. If you know you can meet your deadlines, freelancing can really suit your lifestyle.

I have two small kids. I am always at the school gates for them. That’s a real privilege. Washing machine repairs, deliveries, dentist appointments, poorly children, poorly pets – all these little, everyday logistics are far easier without a workplace involved.

If you are good at managing your time, you can also fit in nice things – swim, gym, cafe, solo shopping… This is the reward for the tougher times when either you’re batting away at deadlines like a plague of mozzies, or when you’ve been hitting send and receive for hours and nothing comes in.

You also get to have full control of your timescales and prioritising. It’s like being a proper grown-up. (Even if you are working in your pjs and eating Kit Kats for breakfast, because you can.)


You’ll be writing for a living

 And this is the even better bit.  Doing what you love for a living, (mostly) on your own terms. And in the end, that’s what tipped the balance for me, seven years ago.

If you want to chat through any of this, please get in touch. (And no, it’s not because I’m desperate for human contact…)



Getting the right tone of voice for your writing

We’re very sophisticated at using different tones of voice from an early age. From our first playground moments, most of us are aware that we use certain words for specific people. We’re brilliantly adaptable at this, so there is no reason why we can’t get it right with our writing, too.

Using the most appropriate tone of voice for your website, blog or printed material makes sure that you are addressing the people you want to reach in the way that works best and appeals most to them. Are you talking to the teacher or your classmates?


What is tone of voice?

Simply, it’s how we speak, or in this case, write.

The easiest way to think of tone of voice is to imagine your brand is a person (easy enough if you’re a self-employed tattooist; harder if you’re a hotel). If you ran into them, how would they greet you? Are they chatty or quite formal? Are they relaxed or lively? Do they handshake or hug? If your hotel is a five star establishment catering for high-end business people, the brand-person will greet you warmly but politely, using fairly formal but cordial language. If it’s a seaside B&B, they might offer you a scone (linguistically speaking).


Why do we need one?

How a business communicates is a crucial part of its brand. A marketing expert could tell you that the voice builds confidence, helps identify the unique qualities of a brand, and creates consistency to support the brand values.

From the writer’s point of view, it makes sure we’re saying the right things to our audience. Some pieces of writing have to be general as they have a broad audience (the BBC news website for example), and then general principles of clear writing apply. At the other end of the scale, there are many businesses that speak to very defined customers – think of really esoteric products and services (erm…reptile food?), or very specific tribes (anything that’s opened in Shoreditch recently). If you’re writing B2B (business to business) text, you may be more formal than if you’re selling cupcakes to general customers.

You may be explaining a complicated service to a lay audience, and that’s one of the occasions when thinking about your voice is crucial – you can’t address your non-expert customers in the same way you’d speak to one of your colleagues. It often takes real conscious effort to step back and talk about your specialist subject using a different vocabulary.


How do we find our voice?

There are many good marketing businesses that can help you with this – it’s a great topic for a brainstorming workshop. This isn’t always possible or affordable, so here are a few suggestions, from the writing point of view.

Choose a handful of words that best describe your business. Quality, welcoming, good value, friendly, professional, expert, innovative, quirky, classic, business-like, relaxed, fun, creative… Go with three or four. If you’re a high-end retailer, you may have chosen quality, expert, classic, for example. Then, every time you write a section of text, look over it again. Think – do my words reflect these qualities? Use your chosen words, but don’t overdo it. Think of synonyms, and then you start to build your own vocabulary.

I create a lexicon for the business. For most of my clients, I have a list of words and phrases that suit their brand and (I hope) appeal to their audience(s). To return to the posh shop example, I may have added trusted, service, professional, indulgent, elegant, and no doubt a whole host of superlatives.

Next, how do you want to talk to them? Are you Big Sister dispensing hair care advice, or Vidal Sassoon doing the same thing? Do you want to seem friend or expert? Simple things like how often you use the word “you” establishes the level of warmth you want to get though, as it builds a direct rapport. Think about the real physical customers you come into contact with – how do they speak?

I’d also add, be as authentic as possible. Look how much we all cringe when politicians attempt to be more “street”. As a writer I’m used to being adaptable and borrowing other people’s voices – but I still know my limitations, and didn’t take on the job that required the writing to have “a Jamaican lilt”… If you have a colleague or friend who is closer to the target market than you are, use them!


Now speak!

 The best thing about this exercise is that you really think about the way you write. It’s good to pause and think about how you speak, how your actual business would speak if it could, and how your customers themselves speak.

Keep your three or four main words in mind, and go back to them constantly. If you read a page or paragraph and it doesn’t feel “extreme, funky, young” and you think it should, revisit that writing. I keep the lexicon, the word-list, in front of me when I’m writing for a specific client – it’s a handy crib if I’m feeling short of suitable words.

And as ever, I’m always happy to help, and can work with you to create a tone of voice document as a handy reference for your business writing (shameless, self-publicist, brazen…).

Writing online catalogue copy


As more and more retailers expand into the ecommerce market, they suddenly find themselves having to write online catalogue copy for their products.

Your website is your new shop display. You have a hundred words or so to sell the customer an item they can’t actually see. I really, really love catalogue copywriting jobs (hint hint); and here are a few tips for writing online catalogue copy.

Who’s the shopper?

You know your products, and you know who buys them. That’s the hardest part sorted.  Keep asking yourself: how would I speak with my customers if they actually came into my shop?

If the products are gifts, gently nudge the customer – “a perfect present for mums everywhere.”  Is humour appropriate? You don’t have to do the full I Want One of Those; however if you’re selling novelty socks or amusing mugs you need to add a splash of fun, otherwise the copy will appear dreadfully po-faced. After all, the customer is actively seeking out something funny. Just keep an eye on any word play, before it puns away with you… (sorry).

For more technical and practical products, give a straightforward and clear description – this customer needs the confidence that they are buying the right item, and that it will do exactly what they need it to.

Top-line info

To fit in with a catalogue template I once worked with, I had to write an introductory sentence for each product, of no more than 25 words.

As well as fitting the template, this is a helpful way to start populating your product text space. Get the top-line information into the first 25 words, and then hit return.  You’ve already got the product’s name or title – so use these first words to say more about what the product is, and highlight its main benefit or feature. Here’s one I wrote for a book:

“An absorbing account of the historic city of Winchester, former capital of England, told through lively words and lovely photographs.”

What are the benefits?

Be careful to describe the product, not the picture. What does it do? Anyone can see from the photograph that it has a red lid – but they can’t tell that it can hold ten litres…

Description is very important; however when someone is buying online, emphasising what it’s for, and how you can’t possibly live without it, is essential. Think with all your senses (or is it just me that goes around shops sniffing things?).

Tell a tiny story

If appropriate, going beyond the basic description and functions can really help to sell a product. Giving a background story to a product can help to capture interest, and gives you an edge over other retailers selling an identical product. Just a simple sentence can really lift a description.

Of course, this applies only to certain products. A back-story about the discovery of rubber is not very helpful if you’re selling tyres. If you’re selling traditionally-made candles in the other hand, a sentence or two about the production method helps to enhance the heritage-themed brand.

Don’t forget the SEO

What are people searching for? To use the above example, make sure that you get the phrase “traditional candles” in a couple of times. The top-line sentence is a good place to seamlessly slip in a key phrase: “This beautifully-made traditional candle” etc etc.

Be accurate

An online product description has to be accurate. Please please please triple-check any dimensions, materials, packaging information, prices, origins, and warnings. Don’t promise it can make chips and walk the dog if all it does is display a house plant.

Product misinformation is covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. If you are writing more than just the product description (such as delivery information), check out the online and distance selling regulations.

Watch your adjectives

Back to the less heavy stuff. If you’re writing for a large catalogue, this will eventually have you banging your head against a large thesaurus. Be aware of any words you’re overusing (I’m dreadful with “delicate” for jewellery; and after twelve pages of coffee copy, I completely ran out of words for “aromatic”). Always think whether the adjective enhances the product or helps describe it – if it doesn’t, don’t bother with it.

Calls to action

It naturally helps that you have a great big red “Add to cart” or “Buy Now” button next to the product description. I like to add in other calls to action: “Inspire your children”, “Delight a loved one”, “Sort out your tyres”. It keeps your catalogue copy dynamic and speaks directly to the reader.

Relate to other products

Hey, there are matching gloves! We also sell it in pink! You’re buying gin? Then you’ll need tonic!

You get the idea…

Be consistent

It’s easy to hand out snippets of copy to individuals across a business – but at least have them edited for consistency. When you get into a rhythm of writing catalogue copy – and let’s face it, there’s often a lot of repetition – a style will start to flow.


In a competitive market, having well-written online catalogue copy can really give you an advantage. Don’t put it off, or be tempted to let the picture do all the talking – it won’t.

It’s the difference between an engaging sales assistant and a surly one.

“You’re a what?” The trouble with “copywriter”.

“Sorry, what are you again?” asked the Nice Bank Lady.

“Copywriter. Freelance copywriter.”

“Oh” (scrolls). “There isn’t a box for that… What exactly do you do?”

Moot point. Polite answers only please.

“I, er, write stuff. Websites, blogs, signs, brochures, that sort of thing.” (Not dialogue, clearly.)

“OK, I’ll put you down as “Marketing.”

Copywriter is not a helpful term. “Copy” isn’t really a term those outside the industry know. Years ago, when most publishing was confined to a rarefied world that smelled of ink and rattled to the sound of printing presses, this wasn’t an issue. These days, copywriters (freelance ones like me anyway) work for a different market – one where the traditional language of editing is irrelevant.

Plus of course, the homophone “copyright” doesn’t help. I’ve met a few people who’ve assumed that I do some sort of legal thing involving stopping people using words. Fair point.

So, what’s a copywriter to call herself? Occasionally I’ve dropped the “copy” bit. Then I’ve put it back, unable to face the disappointment of those in the school car park, when they figure out that they’ve never leafed through me in Waterstones. It also feels a bit grandiose to give myself the same job title as Dickens.

I looked into this. As ever, my shallow start was with Wikipedia. I read: “If the purpose is not ultimately promotional, its author might prefer to be called a content writer.” Ooh, I quite like that. But is it too specific? And sometimes it is promotional (I hope). Occasionally I am a “technical writer”, but I’ll just wear that (protective and reinforced) hat when I need to.

As copywriter is an archaic term, why not really embrace the really old and use “Scribe”, or “Scrivener”? Or, as a copywriter in Cornwall, maybe I should adopt the Cornish term “Skrifyades”, translated as “female professional writer”. If only English had a similar succinct word for professional writer… It’s a great word, but hardly supports my mission to have a transparent job title.

Maybe the dilemma has been solved by a charming client of mine. “Wordsmith”, he said. “That’s what you are.”

Do you think the bank has that on its database?



Useful tips for web copywriting

There are a lot of articles out there giving copywriting tips.  I don’t claim to be a guru. I don’t train or mentor rookie writers – but after a few years in the field, here are the rules I use for my own copywriting.

Short really is sweet. Snippets of copy, interspersed with images, work far better than huge chunks of text. Subheadings help to divide the information up, and bullet points can also be useful. Likewise, keep your sentences snappy. When I was writing interpretation text, I was advised never to go over 21 words per sentence. I try to keep to this. (Please don’t go through this post, counting the words…)

Read it out loud. Do you sound like yourself? Can you imagine yourself using those words in everyday life? If you can’t, it’s probably too formal. Think about sentence length and vocabulary to get back on track. Your subject may be a formal one – but remember, even serious professionals don’t speak like dictionary entries.

Thinking about formal, there are a few grammar and punctuation conventions it’s OK to break if you’re writing for the web. Forget colons and semi-colons – the en-dash is the web writer’s friend. It’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition – “which shop is it in?” sounds more contemporary than “It is in which shop?” “Who” is more modern than “whom” – and “whilst” rarely reads well in web copy, the latter being rather old-fashioned. Again, try to imagine you’re speaking with your customers.

Which leads neatly onto – who are your customers?  What sort of writing will they respond to? If you’re writing for a surf shop, “awesome” works. If you’re selling legal services, reconsider your adjective. Does the tone work for your brand or subject? Naturally, tone of voice guidelines are available from katewaddon.co.uk. Just saying… (A phrase I promise not to use for insurance or medical copy…)

The vexed question of SEO. Yes, Google loves content. So do readers. If you’re optimising your copy for search engines, never lose track of readability (see my earlier blog post on SEO copy).

Please please please proofread your copy. It always amazes me the amount of good websites that have glaring typos. Ask a friend or colleague to read it for you – it’s hard to spot errors in your own work, even if you’re a tip top speller. Using a spell checker can be good, but they’re not infallible – “its hard to pots errors in you’re won works”, for example.

To hire a copywriter or not? OK, I declare an interest here… However – there isn’t always a need to use a professional copywriter, and I would be showing an appalling lack of integrity if I said otherwise. Even if you do engage a copywriter for your web copy, it’s worth bearing the above points in mind. However clever and creative your copywriter wants to be, the basics need to be in place.

Bearing in mind my mantra of “short and sweet”, that’ll do. Keep it simple. Try to enjoy it. You know where I am if you need me.

Copywriting with Abbas Marquees

It’s been a busy old summer so far – a nice mix of new and returning clients, which is perfect for business. I was very happy to get a call from a regular client, Abbas Marquees, to write their new website copy.

I’ve worked with James and Nina Dickson at Abbas Marquees a few times over the years. One of the really great things about having a long-term relationship with a client is seeing how the business develops. Every time I work with them, it feels that they’ve expanded yet further.

Suddenly we have these amazing tipis (tents used by nomadic Norse tribes. Great for packing up and hauling over icy fjords, even better for parties), outdoor kitchens, five-star portable lavatories and permanent outdoor structures.

The tricky thing about this is making sure the copy does not become too crammed. There’s a lot to say; and the trick is to make sure you don’t try to say it all! For example, Abbas offers a huge range of marquee accessories. Chandeliers, lighting-up disco floors, Bedouin-style drapes, braziers – plus all the practical stuff like chairs, tables and lighting. Add to this a range of services (project management, sourcing catering and entertainment, actually putting up the tents), and there’s a lot on offer.

I suppose the style I aim for is “busy but not bombarding”. I want to get across the incredible energy of these people without exhausting the reader! The key is highlighting a diverse range of services without the tedium of lists. Abbas Marquees really do pull rabbits out of hats for their clients, so we emphasise that there is a lot more on offer, and you just need to ask…

What’s the tone for this? James and Nina have always given me a pretty free rein with this, so to be honest this copy is probably closer to my natural voice than many things I write. A lot of their clients are looking for wedding venues or marquees for events so we’re looking for approachability, reassurance and professionalism, plus a sense of fun. For anything to do with weddings it’s essential to build up both rapport and trust.

I really like Teapot Creative’s website – very visual with a nice, clear layout.  I hope it works for Abbas Marquees and that their business continues to grow. And for me it’s always a joy of a job as writing about events and celebrations can’t help but lift the spirits. Trying very hard to come up with an excuse for a Nordic-style tipi party…

Keeping it calm

I wrote recently about the importance of capturing the right tone for a client. I’ve just finished working on a website for Nicky Rangecroft, a therapist and mentor – a great case study on how to work with a very specific and sensitive voice.

Nicky, a Psychology of Vision-trained coach, works with individuals, families and businesses who have identified a need to change; and through coaching and workshops, Nicky guides them as they work towards these changes.  As you can imagine, this is an interesting tone of voice to get right. It needs to have warmth and understanding, yet mustn’t drift off into vague healing speak which is not what Nicky is about, and could alienate her corporate clients. Like any business website, it needs its calls to action, but these mustn’t jar.

The answer, of course, came from Nicky herself.  Nicky speaks beautifully – you can see why she does the job she does, as her language is very calm, very reassuring, with a lovely rhythm and flow to this. Capturing this simply involved taking notes from our conversations – I haven’t written that much by hand since my finals – and taking down verbatim as much of her own phrases as I could. (Slight digression – I once worked with a wonderful writer, a museum head of interpretation. A highly-qualified woman, she told me that actually, the most useful course she’d ever done was shorthand.) The result, I hope, is copy with integrity that reflects the client’s own idiom, with calls to action delivered in a friendly, inviting way.

The designer on this project was Lena from Biz and Bytes. I’ve known her for years, and she put me in touch with Nicky. We formed a nice, productive triumvirate of Cornish freelancers. Like the copy, the website is cool and uncluttered. Nicky works internationally, but the style has more than a nod to her native Cornwall. Copywriting for Nicky was a joy – there is clearly something calming about writing in this voice. I didn’t even mainline coffee. I hope Nicky’s clients get the same feeling from it.

Kotomski Classic Interiors

I write for all sorts of organisations and areas, and as every parent knows, you don’t have a favourite. However, I have to say that after writing lots of technical stuff, it was a joy to sink into the luxurious chaise longue that is the world of interior design.

Kotomski Classic Interiors is a London-based interior design company. I wrote most of the copy for this website, working with Martin Kotomski, whose company offers a bespoke interior design service. He works mainly in the Classical style, timeless and elegant, so that set the tone for the copy…

As the company is very much about Martin and his skills, to have integrity the web copy needs to reflect his own idiom. This sounds fancy, but mainly means writing in my notepad like a mad thing while the client speaks, and trying to capture as many of their own words and phrases as possible. These can then be woven into the main text or occasionally used as headers or captions. When an individual is putting themselves forward as part of the brand, this lexical identity is essential. So, Martin and I chatted a lot, I scribbled lots of notes, and he sent lots of info through on email.

However, the copy here is very much in a supporting role – it’s the pictures that will get the main response from the audience. Me too, to be honest. I am completely captivated by the black claw foot bath on the home page…