Content, Writing, and Copywriting

By In Writing

Understanding Writing

Every writer is different, just like every painter. They all use the same tools, but some of them paint houses while others create art. This isn’t to say you’ll never find a house painter making art, but instead that you’re more likely to find an artist willing to paint houses.

This is because, while both of them can paint, only a true writer is capable of creating art. However, writing is only an art to some. For everyone else, it’s the second most common form of communication. Everyone you interact with will be able to do it the same way everyone can talk.

Because of this, many consider writing to be a trivial skill, like breathing or walking. Of course, put any of those people underwater or on a tightrope, and they find a new appreciation for the difficulties breathing and walking can present. Just like talking and singing in the shower are different from public speaking or performing on stage.

However, aspiring writers will quickly learn throwing clients in the pool or asking readers to sing karaoke isn’t good for business. But how does a writer demonstrate the difference between simple content creation and more complex forms of writing? Well, there are steps you can take to make your work shine. It just involves a little work.

Explaining The Difference in 15 Minutes

Years ago, if you were serious about your clients, you could take them out to lunch. Because there is nothing better than a hungry client for you to demonstrate the difference between good and bad writing. Just make sure you know their food preference. While taking a vegetarian or a vegan to a steak house might be a bold move, it’s unlikely to work in your favor.

With that in mind, we’ll use the example of a steak house for this article. Because even if you’re not meeting in person, you can still schedule an online meeting before lunch and have the same effect. The important thing is to make sure you can use food descriptions to explain how and why good writing sells and, more importantly, when it doesn’t.

For this exercise, you will explain the food to your client as if you were their server. From there, it’s only a matter of drawing comparisons between your client’s needs and their order – all before their lunch arrives.

Because if they’re hungry, and you’re describing their food in great detail, they’ll positively associate you with the food rush – especially if you’re good at selling yourself. But make sure the establishment you select is on par with your writing skills. If you’re in Washington, DC, I recommend The Old Ebbitt.

The Selling Points

If you’re in a restaurant with your client, choose whatever they ordered, and lead them through three explanations of their food. Compare each example to the relevant type of writing, from worst to best. You should be good enough to bang this out at the table or bring a pen and paper. Otherwise, you’ve lost the client.

Your associated price points should account for the time and research involved in each explanation. Let’s look at a few bullet points below and compare them to some typical restaurants in the US.

Your price points should look something like this:

Content ($0.05): Hi, have you decided what you want to order yet? This is the value menu at Burger King, Mcdonald’s, or Wendy’s. It’s okay, but you probably wouldn’t take a first date here.

Professional Writing ($0.10 – $0.15): I can recommend a grilled steak with a salad and your choice of two sides. We offer broccoli, fries, potato, and string beans. Which two would you like? This description is a little longer and more detailed. It’s also mid to high range in terms of writing and compares nicely to Applebees, Outback, or Red Lobster. You might not win any awards for inviting your date here, but it’s a far better experience than fast food. 

Copywriting ($0.20 and up): I’d like to suggest one of our aged, top-shelf cuts of beef. It’s a mouthwatering 8-ounce filet seasoned with a blend of fresh black pepper, cilantro, oregano, and thyme. We pan-sear it to seal the flavor, then grill it to your satisfaction over a hickory fire.

Temperature ranges start from rare, which is red, and warm in the center. Then we have medium, which will have a light pink and hot center. Finally, we can prepare your steak well, which will be completely cooked throughout and takes slightly longer to prepare.

We offer a fresh garden salad with cherry tomatoes and avocado to compliment your main course. And your choice of baked potato, garlic-grilled asparagus, seared lemon cauliflower, and steamed broccoli.

Adding our coconut-grilled prawns or teriyaki scallops is something the chef recommends, and I suggest pairing your meal with one of our exceptional wines.

May I suggest Antinori Badia Chianti Classico? It is a complex red with layered flavors, including chocolate and ripe fruits. Your steak will bring out the natural oak and spice of the wine. Or, if you prefer a white, we offer Cristom Viognier 2013, a perfectly balanced white with the taste of apple, honeysuckle, white florals, and a slight spice. Just be careful, as it’s a bit strong at 14% ABV.

This is what a class act looks like. There’s a well-trained and knowledgeable server working in an establishment that takes pride in what they do. You can tell simply by the presentation. And if you’re planning to propose to your partner, this is the place.

Breaking it Down

But what have we done in the above examples other than make everyone a little hangry? Well, we’ve given real-world examples illustrating the difference between writing styles and paired them with price points. Now our client has a direct mental image of what they get for what they’re spending. And this is the part where you recap and break it down a little more.

At $0.05 per word, content is the fast food of the internet. It’s cheap, filling, and broadly appealing over the short term. You’re not going to win any awards with it, but search engines will appreciate the regular updates to your site. And anyway, you can’t eat in a fancy restaurant every day. So some of your content will be fast food, and that’s okay.

At $0.10 to $0.15, professional writing will make up the bulk of your work. This includes articles that require uncommon knowledge, a bit of research and extra work, technical writing, or the main page content of a website. These are the sorts of articles that will be longer and more likely to catch the attention of readers. They’re also more likely to be shared, just like you’re more likely to update your Instagram with a photo of a meal from Red Lobster than Mcdonald’s.

From $0.20 and up, you’re in the range of copywriting. This is a varied niche, as there are ad copy, marketing copy, sales copy, and other methods of converting clients through writing. It also includes texts which require specialized knowledge, such as academic or medical writing and the kind of journalism that wins awards.

These are unique articles and content people bookmark, share, or return to over time. In terms of a restaurant experience, this is something you won’t forget and will definitely be sharing with friends and family. Did I mention the engagement proposal?

But, as with all things, you get what you pay for. And this is the perfect time to drive the point home with your client. Because high-end writing is much more than ‘per word’ content. The $0.20 per word rate is a ground-floor estimate. Good copywriting can run upwards of $1000 per page or more. Make sure your client understands this, or you’ll sell yourself and your talents short.

At this point, you should know whether you’re moving toward a sale or a fail. Now’s where you pull out three excellent bits of wisdom you read here. I’ll explain below in bullets.

1) Don’t sell when it’s already sold. In other words, if you’ve got the sale, stop selling. Never oversell. It’s the worst thing you can do. Imagine you’re on a first date with someone, and once it’s clear you like them, they start talking about marriage and kids.

For most of us, that’s a major red flag indicative of underlying insecurities. It’s the sort of behavior that goes from creepy to stalker real fast, and many people will nope right out of there. So, take deep breaths or pinch yourself. Whatever it takes. Just don’t oversell.

Relax. And for the love of all things professional, don’t ever have a celebratory drink at a first business meeting. You’re not friends. And if it’s your first meeting, you also don’t have a business relationship.

2) If it’s cold, be bold. A cold sale isn’t likely to close, so be bold. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Ask the client to pick a different menu item for you to describe. From there, you can lead into co-branding, establishing several products under a single brand and using them to expand your trust pool.

Anytime the client cools off, it’s an excellent opportunity to improve your ability to convert someone on the fence into a sale. And as a writer, you should already be capable of doing that with your writing. But if you need practice, now’s your chance.

3) If it’s not a sale, it’s a fail. This expression is misinterpreted to mean you’re a failure, but that’s not at all what it means. Think of your sales efforts like trying to catch a plane you’re late for. If you missed the plane, there’s nothing you can do. It’s gone.

So sit down, have a coffee, take some deep breaths, and get back on track. So if your sale fails, enjoy your meal. You’ve got nothing to lose now. If you keep the right attitude, you can lay the groundwork for a future business relationship. And that’s how you develop prospective clients from failed sales.

Ask the client what they liked and would like to see more of. Finish by asking if there was anything they didn’t like, and then ask if it’s okay for you to contact them again in a few months. Whether they say yes or no, it’s a lesson that costs less and is more valuable than any day at the university you paid to attend.

With practice, you’ll improve your success rates at closing new business. Before long, you should be turning away clients or increasing your fees to retain more lucrative contracts.

And if you’re having difficulty, switch things up a bit. Schedule your meetings before lunch, meet your clients at their place of business, bring a menu, and use the same pitch. Just be prepared to buy them lunch and come clean on the marketing aspect of your pitch.

Few things are worse than a hungry and irritable person trapped in a cubicle. And if you’re visiting someone in a corner office, you probably don’t need my advice, but thank’s for the read!

Marketing Yourself

For some writers, getting to this point will take time. Many copywriters are introverted and have difficulty closing cold calls or first-round meetings. But it’s not impossible. It just takes work and time.

Part of that work involves building trust and understanding. Introducing yourself and your services is just one part of the equation. You must also demonstrate how your writing will add value to an organization. Treat it like a new romance without poetry and flowers.

Do a little extra, be polite, and don’t mention your early adoption of Bitcoin or your part-time free gambling habit. Instead, put some energy into writing articles like the one you’re reading now. Use them to showcase your talents. Because if you’re not willing to invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

If you still need help or want more information, look at my article on five steps to marketing yourself better. And remember, what works for me might not work for you. Everyone is different, and we all find our own paths to success. Here’s wishing you luck on your journey as a professional writer!

Written by H. J. Buell

H. J. Buell is a world traveled author who writes across a broad range of topics. To learn more about his public writing, visit Amazon. For business inquiries, use the contact form on this site.