Was updating the customer testimonials on my commercial writing site the other day, and came across this one (excerpted):
“Not only does Peter intuitively grasp where we need to go with a project, but his writing truly inspires my design. Bottom line, Peter’s spoiled me with his talent and he’s always my first choice.”
Now, I don’t include this to preen, but simply to underscore what happens when you’re a good writer (and you’re not the only one who thinks so…) – one who, in this case, enhances the quality of a graphic designer’s work. When that happens, they’ll go out of their way to bring you in on projects whenever possible. And why wouldn’t they? You make their portfolio stronger and their clients happier, and both lead to repeat business and referrals – for BOTH of you.
Which makes solid writing skills, arguably, one of the most potent marketing strategies commercial freelancers have going for them. Good commercial copywriters who craft effective copy make their clients’ lives easier and their businesses more profitable. Do that consistently, and you’ll get invited back again and again, and steered to other work.
And unlike other marketing strategies (i.e., cold calling, direct mail, email marketing, networking, social media, etc.), being a good writer “markets” you without you having to do much other than what you do naturally.
Sure, you still need to do your own marketing campaigns to let the world know you exist, but all those outreach efforts end up turbo-charged when your skills are a few cuts above. Till eventually, you may not have to do much marketing at all anymore. It happens all the time to good writers. The world starts coming to them.
A good analogy? A really good book will have a long shelf life (literally) because it’ll benefit from strong reviews and powerful word-of-mouth advertising, while a mediocre one – with few or no “champions” – will struggle to find an audience, and will likely quickly sink into the nether regions of the bargain bin.
Obviously, however, not all commercial writers are created equal. I feel fortunate to have innate writing ability (though, yes, I still cringe at some of the copy I wrote in the early days of my business). Others’ skills may not be as strong or natural. And let’s face it. While the commercial writing field – like any – certainly rewards those with superior skills commensurately, it doesn’t exclude those with modest gifts. Given the staggering amount of gruesome writing in the business world, those who can simply provide solid (if unflashy), coherent copy can find their niche.
So, what makes someone one of the better writers? Well, for me, a very partial list would include, for starters, a lot of technical things: writing like you talk, telling stories in your writing, avoiding $50 words, making sure your writing has the right cadence, and more. It also means understanding marketing fundamentals like audience, features/benefits, and USP (Unique Selling Proposition); being a good listener so you give your clients what they want the first time; and being able to quickly visualize how copy for a particular project needs to be structured and flow in order to maximize its effectiveness.
And a ton of other things. But I want to hear from you (I’m doing a teleseminar in a few months on the subject and would love to use your comments and observations – with attribution, of course).
If you (and/or your clients) consider yourself an excellent writer, what skills, gifts or talents contribute to that reputation and have them coming back again and again?
How has being a top-notch writer made your marketing easier?
Have you always had natural ability, or have you honed initially-less-impressive skills over time?
If you’ve demonstrably improved your writing skills over the years, what books, resources or ideas made the difference for you?