The Step No Writer Can Afford to Skip

I really messed up a few weeks ago …

I had a great project, and I was really excited about it. The product was an informational program. I read the entire thing — twice.

When I was finished, I felt like I really understood the product. I was personally excited about the benefits because I was a potential buyer of the program. I got so excited that I dove right in to writing.

Then, I submitted the first draft and waited …

The feedback was not good.

The Big Idea I had come up with — the one I was so excited about — didn’t match the product well enough. And, to make matters worse, I didn’t have any evidence to back up my claims that the product would work.

I had to start over — at the very beginning.

In fact, I had to start with Step One: Research your product.

I know how important research is, but I let my excitement rule my writing. I didn’t follow the basics — or the foundation — of writing great copy.

A good indication that you’re skipping the basics is sitting down to write without reviewing what makes great copy great …

Like Michael Jordan said, “The minute you get away from fundamentals — whether it’s proper technique, work ethic, or mental preparation — the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”

No wonder my first draft stank.

After I started over, and with a lot of help from my friends, I was able to finish the project with great feedback.

Since then, to make sure this doesn't happen again, I’ve gone “back to the basics.” I’ve studied up on all those things we can’t afford to forget — or ignore — no matter how long we've been copywriters.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about why great research is the foundation of great copy.

What are the biggest lessons you've learned from your mistakes? Go here to join the discussion.

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Published: May 20, 2013

4 Responses to “The Step No Writer Can Afford to Skip ”

  1. My biggest mistake wasn't lack of research. It was lack of focus. Instead of making my readers the center of attention, I concentrated on myself. And like you, my first draft got raked over the coals. Message received. Lesson learned.

    Here's lesson number 2: don't ask your former clients for available work empty-handed. That's the "book answer". Instead, come to the table with your own ideas. You'll make the editor's job much easier while you stand out from the crowd.

    Nicely done, Christina!


  2. My biggest mistake came early in my writing career when I didn't make my fee schedule clear - and ended up getting shafted by the client.

    But I wanted to comment on research. As a health writer, research is invaluable. Not only does it give me the facts, statistics and studies I need to prove the product's claims - but it's usually during research that I discover the theme of the project. Looking forward to reading what you have to say about it in your next article. :-)

    Guest (Deanna)

  3. Can I add how I appreciate the candor of Christina in writing this article -- and the other Comment writers (so far) for sharing their own 'mistakes'.

    I'm new to copywriting and these stories provide terrific encouragement.

    Mike Searles

  4. I was too familiar with the product as I have been selling it for two years. Therefore I tried to "sell" every single feature/benefit. That left my letter scattered, unfocused. Just like you I had to go back to basics and find the true focus for the letter. I think the new version is dramatically better. I'll see how it performs shortly.

    Thanks for the reinforcement of lessons learned (and occasionally forgotten).


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