10 “Speed-Copy” Secrets
The better you get at writing good copy, the more clients will want access to your time.
In the beginning, you’ll want to give it to them.
But as time goes by, you won’t be able to.
You’ll try to cherry pick projects, taking on only those that won’t bog you down disproportionately to what you’ll get in return.
But what happens when you have no other choice than to just … write … faster?
You can try these tips …
Really DO Cherry-Pick Projects
It’s great to be eager.
But you’ll find there really are some copywriting jobs that just aren’t worth it. Which ones? Be wary, for instance, of poorly baked products with no clear audience or no clear benefit for the audience they’re meant to target.
Likewise, look out for projects without a passionate champion on the client side. If there’s nobody who can sell you on what you’re supposed to be selling, there’s a good chance you’ll have a hard time selling it to prospects, too.
And finally, look out for projects that don’t have at least 85% of the pieces in place before you get started. Unless, that is, you’re also being paid to help develop the product … a different and more involved job than just writing the sales letter.
Know Your Load
Four solid hours of writing, day in and day out, with rest of the day for calls, meetings, and email is actually a pretty solid pace. Sure, one can go longer when needed. But writing can be physically draining, if you’re doing it right.
Copywriter Bob Bly once told me that, while he also logs only about four hours on each project per day, he stays fresh by keeping two projects going at once and switching to four hours on the second project in the afternoon.
I’ve tried that. And sometimes it works. But frankly, once I start working on something – anything – I get too caught up in it to let it go. So I actively try to avoid other projects until I’ve got the first one completed.
Your style will be up to you.
Gather Your Resources, Part I
One of the best ways to accelerate the pace on any writing project is to feed it the nourishment in needs to get started. That nourishment is information.
Read up, interview, discuss.
Call the most central figure for the product that the client can offer and do a phone interview. Record it and start typing as you play it back. You’ll need other resources along the way. But this is where you’ll need to begin, if you want to make sure you burst out of the gate with as much power as possible.
Build Your Framework
Once you’ve got a grasp on the general direction you’ll need to take in the promo, you’ll want – no, need – to make an outline. Too many early writers skip this step. Many say they don’t need it.
Yet, for all but a rare few, unstructured writing shows. The benefit of an outline is that you know where you need to go. But you also know, as you pile up research and ideas, where you DON’T need to go.
And that’s equally important.
Gather Your Resources, Part II
Once you’ve pulled together a rough outline of where you’re headed, you’ll immediately start to see the additional holes you’ll need to fill.
Now it’s time to go out again and start digging. Pile up links, magazine clippings, notes from studying the product and the customer base. Notes from talking to the client.
Just for the record, the research part of your copywriting process should almost always take the most time. How much longer?
A fair breakdown, if you’re working with a product you don’t know well, is about 50% of your total time available spent on research. And then 30% on writing the first draft. Plus another 20% for polishing and revision.
Try Writing in 3D
You would think that writing the beginning first, the middle second, and the end last would be the best way to go. And for many writers, that’s precisely the path the follow. However, I’d personally recommend creating a writing system that’s a little more non-linear.
What do I mean?
Research, ideas, phrases … tend to arrive in a disorderly fashion, just like a conversation that leaps from one topic to another entirely.
So what I do is write in sections. I actually create separate, labeled parts of my file in Word. These sections match my outline or “mind-map” of the message I’d like to deliver.
Then, as I research and revise, I jump back and forth between sections, adding to one, tightening another, copying and moving pieces of ideas.
Each area fleshes out at roughly the same time, then I reorganize them to fit the more logical, linear outline that will underlie the final piece.
Write Your Close First
Here’s an interesting idea – start at the end. And I can give you at least two solid reasons to do this.
First, because the offer you write will, word for word, have more impact on the prospect than any other section of the promo – save for the headline and lead. If the offer stinks, you haven’t got a chance no matter how brilliant your copywriting.
Second, because knowing specifically how you’ll close the sale gives you a target to shoot for. This, too, is a great defense against the tangents that can knock you off the trail of your sales message all too easily.
Give Your Lead Room to Breathe
I know perfectionism is a killer problem for a lot of new writers. Get over that. Really.
Because you’ll kill yourself and your career trying to get the right word line-by-line. Especially when you sacrifice writing the bulk of the rest of that promo while you tinker and tinker … and tinker … with the lead.
Here’s an alternate idea … put the headline and lead copy in a separate document or somehow cordoned off from the rest of your promo. Open that alternate writing area whenever you’re working on the main document.
Whenever you have an idea about how to make the lead stronger, dip into that alternate writing window, make the changes and then jump back to the rest of the piece.
I do this a dozen or more times while I’m writing, with the headline and lead changing 10 … 20 … or more times before I’m through.
Learn to “Copyify” Your Notes As You Research
This takes practice. But you’ll write your copy much faster if, when you take notes from resources you’ll use, you record the notes directly into copywritten form.
For instance, not “Mention last year’s booming commodity market to support resource buying op” … but rather “Last year’s booming commodities market is the perfect example. Had you subscribed to my ‘Dirt, Rocks, and Other Investments’ advisory service then, you’d already be up XXX% on Mud Futures alone by now.”
You get the picture.
If you can record your ideas quickly in a form that’s close to the sound you’ll want for the final draft, obviously that cuts back future writing time.
Use Markers and Shortcuts
This last one is a small thing. But very, very handy.
Let’s say you’re writing and you need to cite a stat you don’t have at your fingertips, try just dropping in “XX” where that falls.
Or let’s say you need a subhead to transition between sections but the perfect one escapes you at the moment. Don’t get stuck. Instead, drop in “[SUBHEAD HERE]” and keep moving.
The idea is to preserve the momentum at all costs. Just make sure you search the replacement phrases and fill things in after the writing is done.
This list could go on, of course. But that’s a pretty good start.
One more tip: be sure to sign up for my weekly “Copywriter’s Roundtable” e-letter. It’s one of the longest running letters for marketers and copywriters (online since 2001) … one of the best, according to AWAI’s Executive Director Katie Yeakle. And it’s free. You can sign up here, where you’ll also get a free report
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