How to Make Sure You Meet Your Deadlines and Give Your Clients the Best Copy You Can
When I was an aspiring copywriter, one of my biggest desires was to land my first client.
When I was an aspiring copywriter, one of my biggest fears was to land my first client.
It was quite the dilemma.
Finally, I figured out that my fear of landing my first client was all about my ability to deliver a good end “product.”
I’d sit and spend countless moments thinking:
“What if they hire me and what I write totally bombs?”
Or worse …
“What if I don’t turn it in on time, and what I finally DO turn in late, still bombs?”
At the time, I didn’t have very much confidence in my skill set or my ability to turn in something that I thought was “good enough.”
Fortunately, I decided to press on.
The good news is, these fears forced me to make sure I always meet my deadlines.
(They also helped me make sure I always turn in the best copy I can.)
That’s why today I’d like to share what I do to meet my deadlines and make sure the copy is up to par.
1. Make sure you know what you’re writing about.
This is a biggie. Often, the biggest source of procrastination and not meeting your deadlines is simply not having done the required research to know what you’re writing about.
This leads to putting off your assignment more times than you’d care to admit (I know, I’ve been there).
Don’t let this happen to you.
Instead, once you get an assignment, make sure you schedule at least one hour within the next 24 hours, to do some research.
Take a look at competitor’s promos. Take a look at your client’s current controls for the product or service you’ll be writing about.
Get a real sense of who you’re writing to and what you’ll be writing about.
Take copious notes. Make note of the kinds of promises and benefits you’ll want to make in your own copy.
Using a tool like Evernote or something similar is helpful here.
Doing all this research up front will make you much more confident about sitting down and writing a first draft.
2. Create a “drag and drop” outline (or do a quick “free flow” writing session).
This is another biggie.
It’s really hard to sit down and stare at a blank page.
I’ve done it before, but it makes the whole writing process A LOT harder.
So, here’s what I’ve done for myself.
First, you take all your research, benefits, etc., from all the notes you’ve taken …
And you “drag and drop” them into your word processor to create a kind of “skeleton” outline for your promo, article, or whatever project you’re working on.
This doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember, your goal here is to just get some words on the page and create a general structure of what you’re going to write.
For example, if I don’t have a headline idea, in my rough draft outline, I’ll write in “Headline goes here,” “Great Lead goes here,” etc.
This outline can be as basic or as complex as you like.
But please, whatever you do …
Do yourself a favor and don’t start with a blank page.
If for any reason you don’t like this “skeleton” outline strategy, here is something else I’ve done successfully.
Take an hour or so, and just “free write” your assignment. Your goal here is to simply fill the page with words.
You’re not shooting for perfection or great copy. Just free flow. Pretend you’re sitting next to your ideal prospect and tell him or her about the topic you’re writing on.
3. Decide on the emotion you want your prospect to feel (and then FEEL it as you write).
I think this has to be one of the biggest “secrets” out there.
Every top copywriter I’ve known or worked with does this (some do it consciously; others do it without even realizing they’re doing it).
If you really want to turn in the best copy you can, then you need to figure out what “emotion” you want your reader to have when they read what you’ve written.
This step is absolutely critical. Because emotion is what motivates us as humans.
Emotions drive us. They cause us to feel everything from inexplicable joy that makes us feel invincible and on top of the world … to feeling despair, where everything seems hopeless and futile.
These emotional “states” are why we do the things we do (especially when it defies logic or any kind of rational thinking).
This is why you want to make sure you decide in advance which emotion you want your reader to feel.
So take some time and really think about it …
Once you’ve decided on a primary emotion you want to convey, then here’s the secret:
Make sure you FEEL it as you write.
Do whatever you need to, in order to make sure you’re really feeling that emotion at a very visceral level.
This one “trick” is responsible for probably 99% of the success I’ve had as a copywriter.
4. Write with a timer.
I’m certainly not the first to advocate for this, but again, this is one of those “secrets” that work like a charm.
The legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz said he would always set a kitchen timer for 33 minutes and 33 seconds and then start writing.
He would do six of these “33 minute, 33 second” sessions.
I do something similar and suggest you do so too, if you’re not already doing it …
I do the “Pomodoro Technique.”
Instead of 33 minutes, you set a timer for 25 minutes. During that time, you do nothing but sit and write. If you don’t know what to write, you stare at the screen until something pops in your head.
When the 25 minutes are up, you take a 5-minute break and then go at it again.
The goal here is to set aside those 25 minutes focus on the task at hand.
At first, it might be really uncomfortable. But eventually, you get the hang of it and it gets you in a very powerful “flow” state, where things kind of come naturally.
This is one of those things that the more you do it, the easier and better you’ll get.
The goal is to do eight, 25-minute sessions (“Pomodoros”) per day.
Those are the four tips I use to make sure I meet my deadlines and deliver effective, engaging copy. Then, before I send it to my client, I do two more things …
2 Tips for Cleaning Your Copy Before You Send It Out
For the final step in my process, here are the two biggest strategies I use to make sure my copy is always clean and up to par …
1. Re-read your copy as you write each new section
This is something I’ve always done naturally and is just part of my process.
Let’s say you’ve written a headline and lead. Now it’s time to write the body copy.
Here’s what I do:
I’ll read word for word, from the headline down to the section of body copy I need to write. Then, I’ll set my timer (as I mentioned earlier) and get to writing.
When it’s time to write the next section, here’s what I do before I start …
I’ll read everything I’ve written from the top again to the new section I’m writing.
I do this with literally every section I write.
Tedious? 100%, yes.
But it helps me make sure I catch any errors and fix any areas I feel are still clunky.
2. Final check before hitting ‘Send.’
This is one of my own idiosyncrasies.
Here’s what I do …
After I’ve written the email to my client with my first draft of the assignment and attached the file … I’ll download the file again from the draft email itself.
I’ll open the document up and read through my copy one more time, looking for any errors.
Often, this helps me spot any last minute “issues” I didn’t catch while I was in the flow and writing.
Then, if all is good, I finally hit ‘Send.’
Yes, this might seem like it’s a little overkill …
But I can’t tell you how many times this has helped me catch glaring errors that I missed (even with all the re-reads I’d done earlier).
So there you have it.
This is what I’ve done for the past decade or so to make sure I meet my deadlines and ensure my copy is as good as it can be on the first draft to a client.
Use these as a starting point to explore what works for you.
As you actually try stuff out, you’ll develop your own “system” that works for you.
Do you have any questions about developing a copy process that works for you? Please share in the comments below so we can help.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »