There are moments when you sit down to write and the words flow so freely you can barely keep up. Those times are golden. Less fun, however, are the days when a blank page leaves you paralyzed.
Writer’s block doesn’t mean you can’t write, it’s just that whatever you write feels all wrong. It’s not about finding any words, it’s about finding the right words.
Everyone suffers from writer’s block from time to time. Even the world’s greatest writers have dealt with it, except William Faulkner, who once famously said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
For this of us not as lucky as Faulkner, however, writer’s block doesn’t have to keep us from expressing ourselves in a blog, book, or tweet. What can you do when the words don’t appear (besides crying or screaming)? After 20 years as a professional writer, I’ve developed a few strategies to get unblocked.
1. Walk away
Staring at a blank screen won’t magically make words appear (I know because I’ve tried more times than I can count). In fact, it can make me so frustrated and frazzled that it actually becomes counterproductive.
When I’ve looked at a cursor blinking on a sea of white so long that my eyes glaze over, I shut my laptop and leave the room. Whether I take a TV break or go outside for a walk, sometimes a change of scenery or some fresh air is all I need to get my creative juices flowing again.
2. Force your hand
Taking a break can be helpful, but pressing deadlines demand immediate action. Need to buckle down and get shizz done? Try a few tricks to make yourself stay focused.
First, eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone and close all other windows on your computer (consider installing a Chrome extension like StayFocused if you are prone to cheat and check Facebook). Then make yourself write something—anything—for 25 minutes before allowing yourself to take a break. Rinse and repeat until you finish your project. This is called the Pomodoro Technique, and it’s a simple but powerful way to accomplish almost any task.
3. Use Prompts
Whether you are trying to write sales copy for a launch, a blog post, or the next Great American Novel, you may find value in using writing prompts. These creative ideas are designed to trigger the imagination.
There are thousands of sites and apps that offer writing prompts for free or for a very small cost (you can start here). They may sometimes seem silly and irrelevant, but give yourself over to the exercise. You might be surprised what ideas it dredges up.
4. Talk it out
Can’t write? Try talking instead. Pull out your phone and start a voice memo. Let yourself ramble about the topic at hand. Approach it like you’re explaining the subject to a friend, and keep it conversational. Don’t worry about stammering or even making sense, you can edit out or rework everything when you later transcribe your diatribe.
If you’re someone who’s intimidated by writing, you may find you’re better able to express yourself verbally and then transcribe what you’ve said. Also, this approach is helpful for perfectionists who may find it easier to make mistakes when they aren’t staring you back in the face.
5. Bribe yourself
If all else fails, use the carrot-and-stick strategy. Promise to treat yourself to something special (a massage, a new purse, a margarita) if you write a certain amount by a set time. It can help to make this pledge public, like announcing it on Facebook or to your biz bestie, for some accountability.
You can take it a step further and commit to a punishment if you fail to meet your writing goal. Maybe you’ll pay your biz bestie $20, do your husband’s least favorite chore, or give up cocktails for a month. Pick something that hurts just enough to motivate you.
I know all too well how debilitating it can feel to have a deadline looming and suddenly have no words, but don’t give up. It won’t last forever (it never does), so just keep pushing through the discomfort and frustration. It’s always more rewarding to finish something than to quit. Happy writing!
With two degrees in journalism, 20 years of professional writing experience, and a well-read blog myself, I’ve learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to a quality blog post. Unfortunately, I read a lot of bad writing online.
Too many business owners throw up poorly written posts and then wonder why their blogs aren’t delivering results. If you want to achieve measurable success with blogging, there are some questions you should ask yourself before you publish any blog post.
Taking the time to ask these eight questions before you publish a post will help you create the kind of content that will converts browsers into buyers…and that’s the whole point of having a blog for your business, right?
1. What’s my ‘why’?
Are you clear about your goal? Just throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick isn’t a plan. You need a content marketing strategy that clearly outlines why you’re creating content, for whom, and how it’s intended to help the reader. Have your bigger picture in mind before you write so you can be certain your topic is serving the overarching goals.
2. Did I do my research?
Even if you know your subject matter like the back of your hand, it’s smart to at least spend some time browsing what others have written about your topic. Don’t steal! The goal is to find gaps in what’s already out there. Coming up with a unique take on the topic or providing information that’s not already readily available will boost the chances of your post getting read.
3. Who’s my audience?
Believe it or not, your blog isn’t all about you or your business. It’s about your reader (who should be your client/customer). Why should they care about what you’re writing? Your content needs to speak to and benefit the reader. Always.
4. Is this post relevant?
If you know your intended audience (and you better since it’s your ideal client), then you can make sure your post has the type of information they want and need. If it teaches them something they can put into action immediately, you’ll build trust with your reader and show your value, which is a recipe for eventually generating sales.
5. Is it interesting?
Read your post (and perhaps have someone else read it, too). Are you yawning by the end? While you don’t have to be the most clever writer (I’m certainly not), you do need to write something that people will want to read. In addition to choosing a topic of interest to your client and providing useful info, you should also break the post into easily digestible chunks with plenty of subheads or lists.
6. Is there a call to action?
There’s no point in writing a great blog post if the reader is left asking, “so now what?” Always include a call to action with any blog post. Whether you finish by asking a question to encourage comments, direct readers to another post on the site for more information, or provide a freebie in exchange for an email address, end your post with a way readers can take an action.
7. Did you edit (and edit again)?
I reread every post I write multiple times. I like to check it for spelling and grammar (I use Word’s spell check function and the Grammarly app, but they don’t always catch everything), and also for nonessential or redundant words. Finally, I like to make sure I’ve provided proper attribution for any quotes or references, and add outbound links to related content. It can also help to have someone else read your post to catch things you may overlook.
8. Can readers find it?
“Build it (or write it) and they will come” doesn’t apply to blogs. You can’t just write a blog post and hope people will find and share it. Brainstorm a list of ways you’ll publicize your post, including sharing it across social media multiple times, sending it to your email list, and adding a link to it on your email signature.
Blogging doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Asking these eight questions every time you write a blog post will help you win readers and, eventually, clients.
In a seemingly overcrowded online space, it can feel hard to stand out. How do you differentiate yourself from every other person in your industry trying to do the same thing? How do you get known for what you do? It can feel impossible.
The truth is, you’re just overcomplicating it and overthinking it. Really, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Standing out online can be as easy as just being yourself.
Wait, what? My big piece of advice is to “just be yourself”?! I know what you’re thinking here, that seems too easy, like something your high school teacher would say.
It can be that easy. I believe what makes your brand stand out from all the others is the you factor. There’s no one else doing what you’re doing who is doing it exactly how you’re doing it. You’re your own sparkly little unicorn, my friend.
How do you really make your you-ness shine on your website? It all comes down to your About Me page. That one page can have a huge influence on your online presence. It’s the key to getting closer to your audience, showing them who you really are and what makes you different, and wooing them into buying your products and services. It’s not the only factor in determining those things, but when done correctly it can really help.
As a copywriter, I’ve seen a fair share of About Me pages, and I tend to look at them from a slightly different angle. I’ve come up with 5 key ways you can make your About Me page stand out, while feeling authentic to you and your brand.
Make it About Them
I know it’s called an About Me page, but what it really should be called is an About My Ideal Clients page. Yes, you want to give your audience more insight into who you are, but you also want to share with them how you can help them and why they should care.
Let’s be honest, people care about themselves and what you can do for them. I don’t mean that in a negative way, it’s simply normal to put yourself and your needs first. So if your About Me page only focuses on you and how awesome you are, it’s not providing a lot of value to your audience.
Some of the best About Me pages start out by talking about what they can do for their audience. They put it all out there and clearly show the reader why they should care about what they do.
If you’re a copywriter, talk about how your copywriting will help their business. If you’re a branding expert, talk about why having a strong brand will help them. It’s all about what they can get out of it.
It doesn’t have to be all about how you can help them, but at least some of your About Me page should be dedicated to that. You can also share more personal information about you—and I think you should—but start off by diving into why they should care about what you do in the first place.
About Me pages should also showcase your personality to your audience. That’s really how you stand out, by displaying your uniqueness and letting that show through your copy. The words and phrases you use play a big role in this.
If you want to stand out, use your biggest strength, which is you. The fact that you run your business and you are doing things your way is what makes it different. The words and phrases you put on your About Me page can help highlight that. If you’re fun and quirky and really into Harry Potter, that’s totally cool. You can reference that in your copy. Heck, you can even make Harry Potter jokes if you want.
I know that seems unprofessional or like oversharing, but it’s really not. The more you show your personality and what you like and dislike, the more the right people will be attracted to you and resonate with you.
Using language and phrases that are fun and engaging helps to loosen up your audience. Rhey feel like they know you a little better, which makes them trust you more. That trust can build as they continue to come back to your site again and again until one day they become loyal fans. If you’re building a community, you definitely want as many loyal fans as you can get.
Include Fun Facts
It is an About Me page, after all, so include some fun facts about you. After you’re done talking about how you can help your ideal client or how your work will change their lives, be sure and talk about you a bit.
It’s okay to share whatever kind of information you want with your audience, you don’t have to tell them your whole life story (but you can if you want to!). You get to decide what you share with your audience.
Adding fun facts creates a bond between you and the reader. Maybe there’s something you share they can relate to. Or maybe it’s something that makes them like you more. Whatever it is, sharing personal details gives them a sense of knowing you on a deeper level. They no longer feel like they’re reading random content on some stranger’s website. They can identify with you.
You can include serious facts, like how many years you’ve been in business or what your college degree was. You can include light-hearted facts, like you only eat ice cream on a full moon or you’re a total coffee junkie and can’t talk to anyone before you’ve had your first sip. Just make sure it’s true and authentic to your brand.
Keep it Concise
I know I said earlier you can share your whole life story if you want to, and you can, but keep it short. People don’t want to read a 10-page autobiography. A few summary paragraphs will do just fine.
The majority of people are skimmers, meaning they aren’t going to read all your content word for word. And if it’s really long paragraphs with a lot of text, chances are they won’t read it at all.
You have to cater to what people want. Keep your paragraphs short, and keep your sentences short, too. Try not to ramble when possible. Don’t take forever explaining a simple idea.
Tell a Story
Another really great way to make your About Me page stand out is to trigger some kind of emotion. When people feel an emotional connection or spark with something you’ve written, they’re more likely to remember you and come back to your website.
To trigger those emotions, use the technique of storytelling. This fits in so perfectly on your About Me page, which is essentially all about telling a story. Share a moment or memory with your audience. Go into how it made you feel or how you reacted to it. If you have a strong personal story about why you started your business, share that.
Be real, raw, and open. The more emotion you can trigger in that person, the stronger they will feel that bond with you.
Your website should be doing some of the work of getting clients for you. If it’s not turning your casual readers into loving fans, then something isn’t adding up. The magic of an About Me page is it helps you connect with your audience.
Take some time to be intentional about what content you’re putting out there and what message you’re sending on your About Me page. Really use it to help you stand out in the online world.
Melanie Kernodle is the Chief Content Strategist and Copywriter at CopyRefresh. She’s passionate about helping solopreneurs create amazing content that helps attract their ideal clients and grow their business. When she’s not writing, you can find her chowing down on some tacos or reading a personal development book. Join her free email course to help you write better copy, or find her on Twitter and Instagram.
After running my freelance writing business for more than 12 years, which I still do for a select group of corporate clients, I’ve learned quite a lot about the best ways to find work.
Freelancing comes with plenty of ups and downs…there are months when you can barely see straight because you’re so busy to weeks when you wonder if you’ll ever work again. When work seems to suddenly dry up, you can panic or pout—or you can take proactive steps to fill your calendar.
Today, I want to share five tactics that have always helped me go from slow to swamped.
1. Solicit Repeat Work
When facing an open stretch on your calendar, shoot an email to your client list. Let them know you’re taking new assignments. This process takes a few minutes and delivers at a high rate. Why shouldn’t it? These people know the quality of your work and realize you have no learning curve. If they have work to give, they’re happy to hand it off to someone they trust and don’t need to train.
2. Request Referrals
If your client outreach e ort doesn’t generate new projects, don’t stop at no. Follow up with the same people and ask for a referral. Let them know the types of clients you’re seeking and the projects for which you’re best qualified. Again, these are the people who know your work best. If they believe in you, they will likely have no problem referring you to others in their network, perhaps a coworker or a peer in their industry
3. Look for Connections
Make a list of companies you’d like to add to your client list. Research who hires writers at each and see if you find shared connections between you and them on LinkedIn. If so, send an email to the mutual connection and request a warm introduction. Mention your experience in similar industries, and explain that you’re looking to expand your client list. If the contact agrees to an introduction, follow up quickly with the prospect to further explain your qualifications and how you can help him or her.
4. Try Collaborations
Tap into your network of freelancers, which (hopefully) you’ve been cultivating over time. Email, call, or meet with peers and let them know you’re taking on new projects. Another writer may have too much work and would love to subcontract to you. Or a photographer or graphic designer may have a client who also needs copywriting. There’s real power in collaborating, but you’ll never know what’s out there until you ask.
5. Cast a Wide Net
Don’t overlook family and friends. We often forget that everyone (even our own cousins or high school classmates) are also working professionals with vast networks of their own. Post about your search for new clients on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks. Or, if a public outcry feels needy, send a polite email to those you trust.
You’ve heard it before: “Your website is your #1 salesperson.”
It sounds great, right? A 24/7 sales machine that lands clients while you sleep. Sign me up!
But let’s be honest: is your website actually doing its job? Is it truly attracting—and converting—the clients you want? If not, your web copy might be to blame. Here’s how to fix it.
Know who you’re talking to
I know, I know: this isn’t anything new. You’ve surely heard you need to identify your ideal client before you can write for them. But it’s true: If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you won’t know how to talk to them on your website.
The words you use, the benefits you talk about, your brand positioning will either attract or repel people. If you don’t know exactly who you’re trying to attract, you won’t know how to attract them, which means you risk repelling them. Needless to say, that isn’t great for business.
When you think about your ideal client, ask yourself these three questions:
- Who would benefit the most from what you offer?
- What kinds of people do you most want to work with?
- Who of the above would actually be able to pay for what you offer?
Get really, really specific. A good test to see if you’re getting targeted enough is to ask yourself, “What does my ideal client’s typical weekend look like?” If you can’t answer that question, you need to go deeper.
Show a clear, tangible benefit
When writing their web copy, many entrepreneurs—especially those with service-based businesses—tend to get vague: “I help women find clarity and vitality so they can get more out of life.”
The problem is these kinds of general, aspirational platitudes aren’t likely to get people to hire you. Before someone gives you their money, they want to know what, exactly, they’ll get.
A better way to frame what you do is to answer the question, “What results do you get for your clients?”
That’s your sales pitch: a tangible solution to a real (and often painful) problem. Your dream clients aren’t looking for “clarity and vitality,” they’re looking for a way to stop feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out, or a way to stop feeling ashamed of their body, or a way to improve their marriage. They’re looking for concrete changes that have tangible results.
[Tweet “When writing web copy, focus less on what you do and more on what they’ll get.”]
Focus on your audience
Tough love alert! As much as we obsess about how we present ourselves on our websites, the fact is, it isn’t about us—it’s about our readers.
The goal of your website is to keep your target audience on the page by showing them they’re in the right place. If they have to read three paragraphs to figure that out, they’re not likely to stick around.
Because remember, your audience is busy and selfish (and I mean that in the most loving way possible). They simply don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to read your life story before knowing whether you can help them.
The only way to keep them engaged is to make it easy for them to see why they belong on your website: Who they are, how you solve their problem, and what benefit you bring them. For every sentence you write, ask yourself:
- What is the goal of this sentence?
- Does this help my audience understand whether I can help them?
- Why should they care?
[Tweet “If what you’re writing doesn’t do anything to engage your audience, cut it.”]
Use your audience’s language
Most advice you read about writing web copy says, “Write the way you talk.” It’s good advice, but I’d like to offer something even more powerful: Write the way your audience talks. Literally.
Write down the words and phrases your clients use to describe their problem. Note how they talk about the benefits they want. Note the words they use to describe their pain point and how they feel about it. Then use those words in your web copy.
- No jargon. Avoid using phrases and terms that might be confusing or difficult to understand. It doesn’t make you look smart—it makes your audience click away.
- No vague generalities. Enough already with vague promises like, “Live the life you want.” What does that actually mean for your clients? Has anyone ever come to you saying, “I just want to live the life I want”? If not, don’t put it on your website.
- No cutesy or clever names. You don’t want your website to be boring, so you name your design package “Brand Beautification.” Instead of an “About” page, you have a “Discover” page. Instead of offering “Copywriting” services, you offer “Power Pages.” The problem with all that cleverness? No one knows what the hell you do and they aren’t going to stick around to find out. Make it easy for your audience to find what they’re looking for by using the words they use to describe what you do.
- No corporate speak. Even if you’re B2B, overly formal web copy is a turnoff. Remember, buying is an emotional decision, not a rational one. People buy things they want—and wants are emotional. So use words that appeal to their emotions. For example:
Develop → create
Difficult → hard, tough, frustrating
Learn → find out, discover
Refrain from → stop
- No clichés. Good copy is unexpected. If your reader can guess the next word in the sentence, they’ll disengage. Keep it original and relatable.
Make your site scannable
Unless you’re completely new to the internet, you probably know this already: Writing for the web is different than writing a document. Attention spans are shorter. Eyes are tired from reading screens. Our lizard brains can’t keep still.
If you want to keep your audience’s attention on your website:
- Use headers. Clear headers (using your audience’s words, please!) help the reader quickly find what they’re looking for, without having to read paragraphs of text.
- Short sentences and paragraphs. Use simple sentence structures and keep your paragraphs to 3-4 sentences max.
- Use white space. The benefit of short paragraphs is a lot of white space, which helps lead your readers’ eyes down the page.
- Highlight key points. Use visual cues like headings, quote boxes, italics, bold and bullets to pull out important or compelling words and sentences.
Really, the golden rule is: Make it easy on your audience. This isn’t the next Great American Novel. It isn’t a thesis statement. It isn’t your autobiography. It’s your website—and if it isn’t working for you, it’s working against you.
Elissa Bertot is a communications strategist who helps purpose-driven solopreneurs create brands and messages that attract their ideal clients and sell what they do. Through her consulting and copywriting business, Favor the Bold Communications, she empowers her clients to be unapologetic about who they are and the value they bring so they can make a statement that can’t be ignored. When she’s not writing and strategizing, Elissa’s usually traveling, eating and drinking wine, and running or hiking so she can eat and drink even more. To learn more about how to attract your ideal clients and get more sales with your website, get Web Copy that Works, a free five-day e-course, straight to your inbox.
Selling is probably my least favorite thing to do. It feels sleazy and icky and it’s really uncomfortable. But without selling my services, I wouldn’t have a business. Or a roof over my head.
Thankfully, the days of knocking on the door or picking up the phone to telemarket are over, especially for those of us who do business online. (Fun fact: The worst job I ever had was selling pantyhose over the phone. Yes, for real. I lasted until lunch the second day and never went back.)
Today, we get to sell our products and services online—with our websites, through connections we make in online networking and through our email lists. And sometimes it still feels sleazy. But it doesn’t have to.
It all comes down to the angle you take in your promotional copy: Why are you selling what you’re selling and what’s in it for the end customer? From there, make it easy for your audience to read (and say yes).
Defining Your Why
Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, is a “manifesto for those who want to inspire others,” according to his website. He encourages readers to determine why they’re in business and why they chose to do whatever it is that they do. From there, you can inspire others to buy from you.
While I know that finding your why is a powerful exercise, you don’t necessarily need to define your “why” with every piece of content that’s meant to sell something. Instead, I encourage you to simply remember why you’re offering a particular product or service when you’re writing. Hint: It’s not to make money. That’s just an added perk.
Most entrepreneurs are in business because they saw a need and chose to fill it.
- Coaches help other business owners grow.
- Designers help business owners get their visual message out.
- Personal stylists want to help others really look their best.
- Health and fitness experts want to help clients learn how to live a healthy lifestyle.
You get the picture.
Think about why you’re offering a product or service as you craft content to sell it. You’ll be in a better frame of mind than simply thinking about those Benjamins, and you’ll be able to tailor your copy around what your audience needs and wants.
What’s in it for the End Customer?
People need to know what’s in it for them before they make a purchase.
- If I pay you to develop my website for me, what am I going to get out of it? (Saved time, less frustration and a more professional-looking website.)
- If I hire you to handle my accounting, what’s in it for me? (A balanced business account, a budget that works and hopefully a better experience with the IRS.)
- If I pay you to watch my dogs for me while I’m out of town, what’s the benefit for me (or my dogs)? (Peace of mind that my dogs are taken care of, a fun and frolicking weekend at the dog park—for the pooches, of course.)
As you craft your sales pages and emails, highlight what’s in it for the end customer. Hit on their pain points and let them know how you’ll take that pain away. Doing this also illustrates you truly know where they’re coming from. And when customers feel understood, they’re more comfortable making a purchase.
Make it Readable
Traditional sales pages are longform. That means they’re usually longer than most other pages on your website. There’s so much to cover on a sales page that it’s really not possible to shorten it too much. Benefits, features, the offer, the objections, testimonials from happy customers, etc. A lot of information goes into selling a product or service, especially if it’s a premium (more expensive) offer.
Because of this, it’s important to make sure your sales copy is easy to scan. I mean, people are lazy, right? (Raising my hand.) Not every visitor to your website will read every word you offer. A sad fact for this copywriter. Your audience will scan blog posts and skim through your about page, looking for the juicy bits. They read pull-quotes, subheads, and bolded words, looking for something that jumps out to them. Break up your sales page text with bullet points and graphics and make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for—what’s in it for them and the price.
The copy also needs to be conversational, like you’re talking to a friend. Not the friend you go out drinking with on Friday night necessarily, but a friend who they can confide in. Or your favorite client. A conversational tone makes your readers more comfortable. They trust you more. Which makes you less sleazy and them more willing to buy from you.
In the end, you do need to sell if you’re going to stay in business. But if you’re finding that no one is clicking on your offers, it might be time for a second opinion on your copy. Are you overselling? Illustrating what’s in it for them? Ask a mentor or coach to take a look and give you some honest feedback on what you’re including in your sales pages.
Quick Tips to Writing Great Sales Copy:
- Start by acknowledging you know how your audience feels.
- Touch on how you are going to solve your audience’s problem.
- Anticipate questions and answer them—before anyone can even ask.
- Know what objections your audience will have to buying, and counter them.
- Write like you’re talking to your favorite client, in a friendly and conversational tone.
- Don’t oversell. If you’re sending an email series to sell something, don’t go overboard. One email a day is plenty.
- Establishing some scarcity is fine, but this isn’t do-or-die. Don’t overdo it.
Abby M. Herman is a copywriter and content coach and owner of Write Solutions. She lives and works in the Phoenix area, helping service-based business owners get their written message out to the masses—in their own voice and on their own terms. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.