How to write your website copy when you’re not a writer

Feb 14, 2018 | Thoughtful Brand Storytelling

I work with a lot of visual creatives (makers, photographers, graphic designers) and ideas-driven creatives (coaches and other entrepreneurs), and I know how hard it can be to write your website copy when words aren’t your natural means of expression. Having to fill a whole website with them can be a daunting task, heck I am a writer and it’s still daunting! I also understand, that especially early on in your business, paying someone to help you with them isn’t always an option. 
 
 
Yet most people have the same struggles and make the same mistakes with their copy. So if you need to write your own website copy, then here is the best advice I can give you: 
 
 

Spend time thinking about what you really want to say first.

I know there is a temptation to just get some words up and have it over and done with, but this is perhaps the biggest mistake that people make. Writing copy is a hundred times easier if you know what you are trying to say, and this means laying the groundwork by building your brand first. At the very least you need to know who you are attracting, what you offer, how you offer it, and why you are offering it. It also helps to have an idea of what your brand values and beliefs are and why you are different from your peers.

What problem are you solving? 

Whether you offer products or services, this is the single biggest question you need to ask yourself. People buy solutions to their, either emotional or practical, problems. The problems that you are solving are your clients’ or customers’ pain points,  and you need to show that you understand these, and offer a real solution. This is also the part of your copy that they will identify the most with, so take your time over it. The other way of looking at this is features vs. benefits. The features of a new brand of vaccum cleaner might be its powerful sucking ability, and small compact design. The benefits are that it saves you time, and takes up less space in your home. You need to mention the features, but lead with the benefits. 

Plan your website.

I start every website by drawing up each page on an A4 piece of paper. I work out where each and every text box is going to go, and then I assign a function to each one. What information needs to go here? What do I need to say? What do I want my reader to do here? Your website needs to make sense and there should be a flow to it, which can only be achieved by a little bit of planning. You also want to avoid duplicating information and phrases as much as possible. 

Say it out loud.

If you’re not a writer, then the chances are that you will express yourself far more clearly and naturally in speech rather than on the page. This is why I always have multiple Skype conversations with client. So if it is just you then maybe ask a friend to interview you, or ask yourself some questions, and record the answers. Type up what you’ve said word-for-word. You will need to edit it, but the chances are that it will be far closer to what you actually want to say than what you would have written otherwise. 

Keep it simple.

This is a classic mistake. If you’re not comfortable with words it can be tempting to use long words and overly complicated sentences to try to fake it. But good copy isn’t fancy, it’s clear. Just because something sounds intelligent doesn’t mean it is. I sometimes use The Hemmingway App to check I’ve kept things succinct. 

Don’t just write the copy you think you should.

Some people fall into the trap of writing what I call “stock” copy. It’s the same words that you see everywhere. It’s the words people think they should say, rather than what they want to say. Just because you are a business coach doesn’t mean you need to offer “a proven plan to get you making six-figures in a matter of months, while  still spending time with your kids”. It is incredibly easy to spot, and doesn’t generate trust or respect in the reader, so is a colossal waste of time.  What are YOU actually offering?  That is far more valuable than an empty promise. 

Professional but personal. 

A lot of websites tend to either sound way too uptight and serious, or like they were written by an overly excited teenager. Admittedly this is a hard one to get right. This is where recording yourself talking about your business can be really handy. Imagine you are talking to a prospective client when you do it, you’ll want to be friendly and enthusiastic, but you’re also not going to swear or call them “peaches”.  A personal bugbear of mine are websites that say “we” when it’s obviously just one person and their laptop! There is no shame in being a one man or woman band. 

Ask for specific feedback.

Ask the person you know who is best with words to read over your website. If you are lucky they might proof it as well. Also ask a few more people to have a read of it, and ask them specific questions to respond to: Is this clear? Do you understand what I’m saying? Do I sound like someone you would like to work with? If you know people who are part of your target market – so much the better! 

 

I hope this is helpful. One of the hardest things about setting up your own business is that you have to, at least in the beginning, do everything yourself, and this means attempting things that are outside your comfort zone (I know this from my own experiences of building my website and doing my own brand design).  Finally, I should probably say, that if you would like to hire someone to help you with all of this, then please do have a look at my Work With Me page where I outline my services!