A few weeks ago, I was doing a podcast interview and the topic of how to become a better writer came up. My stance on this was pretty clear: that as entrepreneurs, needing to write copy is inevitable. So, no matter how “good” of a writer you may be, you need to always be working on developing your writing skills.
The reality is that it’s not feasible for most people to outsource most of their copywriting. All of us should be working on developing solid copywriting skills and learning how to write for the web.
On the other hand, nothing makes me more crazy than the consistent devaluing of the role of a content strategist and/or copywriter in the website process. This is actually something I run into day in, day out as I go about my business. It needs to stop.
Copywriting for your fancy new website shouldn’t be an afterthought. Or worse yet, the thing you decide that you can DIY because you’re a “good enough” writer. Do you really want “good enough” results for your business, too? What’s the real cost of your bargain basement copywriting?
Here’s some food for thought when it comes to your next project that needs copywriting:
Plan First, Design Second
Typically, most people hire their designer first when they’re getting a new site ready to go or undertaking a rebrand. But how do you hire someone who “gets your vision” when you have no idea what your plan is? When you’re not even sure what direction you’re going in?
Hiring your designer, then waiting until much later to figure out copywriting and seeing how much money you may have left over for it, is a bad plan for a sundry of reasons.
First, you may make your designer go bat-shit crazy, as you’re not sure on key things such as how you want to structure your copy, what the buyer’s journey is on the site, and more. Expecting your designer to figure out everything that should be planned out via a Content Strategy is unrealistic and will potentially waste a lot of time.
Second, you hire your dream designer to create a truly amazing website, but now you have to DIY your copy because you’ve blown your budget on design.
In most cases, design should cost more than copy. But when you’re budgeting for your website, it shouldn’t be a 90/10 split in favor of design. It should be more like 70/30. So if you’re spending $7K on design, plan for at least $3K for your copy.
Without an appropriate budget in place for copy, you’ll end up DIYing it or get stuck with mediocre copy because you had a miniscule budget.
End result? Not having enough budget for copy will result in you ultimately doing your shiny new digital home a major disservice. No matter how beautiful your site is, if your copy doesn’t hold up it’s end of the bargain, your site isn’t going to help you meet your big goals.
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Mediocre copy from a friend of a friend who’s a “writer” is kind of like getting your wedding photos done by your cousin Larry—lackluster at best.
Then there’s the issue of conversion. That so-so copy sure as hell isn’t going to convert because all of your calls to action will be things like “submit,” and your copywriter, Mediocre Morty, will think that slider on your home page is a fantastic way to get more words on the page. (For the record, this is a horrible idea. Sliders totally suck.)
Think Before You DIY Your Copy
Let’s say you’re going to skip the pro copywriter route, and you’re planning to DIY all of your copy. It’s not the worst idea ever, until it is because your designer needed the copy yesterday and you’re staring a blank Google Doc.
Can some people really rock their DIY copy? Totally. I’m not so high and mighty as to think that only a pro can get the job done.
But do you know how many people end up stuck, frustrated and pulling their hair out? Too. Damn. Many.
I know because I talk to people like this every single week who finally decide to “suck it up” and hire a pro to handle it instead. Or they need to hire someone to fix a botched copy job from Mediocre Morty. It’s a crying shame because at that point, they’ve wasted so much time. Hours of their lives were wasted and are gone for good. Ones that would’ve been better spent, you know, working on their business or actually living their lives.
A few considerations for going the DIY route, starting with this: if you’re leaning this way, figure out why. Is it to save money? Are you worried that it won’t sound like you? These are legit concerns, but they just aren’t good enough in my book.
Think about how nonsensical it is to spend $4K on a pro photoshoot and $6K on a new website, then be unwilling to see the process through with copy that holds up it’s end of the bargain. Investing $10K on the visual side and $0 on copy that actually tells your story and sells your stuff is just plain crazy.
Unless you’re one shit hot writer, this is the definition of dumb. Sorry, but it is. Go pro all the way, or go home. (Getting A+ on English papers in high school doesn’t mean you’re good enough.)
If you’re hell-bent on DIYing your copy or need to go that route, invest in learning how to do it right. Learn the structure of pages, how to set up copy for skimmability, what the goal of pages should be, and most importantly, some basics on website conversions.
Given that writing is a cornerstone of running a business, training on this isn’t a bad idea, not for a second. Just know that you’re going to need to invest time and money in improving your writing skills and understand that it takes practice. (If you want solid copywriting training, check out my buddy Courtney’s Total Knockout course, which is open for registration right now. No affiliate income, I just like what she’s dishing up.)
As you plan updates for your site, or a shiny new one, don’t go bargain basement with your copy. Hire a pro, or learn to do it right, because with anything else you’re not doing your story, your design or your business any favors. Your business deserves words that work for you and help you get where you want to go.
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