Are you a versatile freelancer?

One mistake novice freelance copywriters make is to think of themselves as “writers.”

It’s an understandable error. Usually, those who get into this profession are people with a background in writing. They see freelancing as a way to write and actually get paid decent money for it.

But freelancing is really a service business. You provide a service (copywriting) to various companies, not because they want writing, but because they need copy to help them sell products and services.

Once you make that little mental adjustment, you realize that if you can provide one service, you can also provide other services. This is what most businesses do and it’s what you should do as well.

Versatile FreelancerThat’s the premise of a new book by Don Hauptman, one of the most respected copywriters in the industry. The book is called The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting.

Don shows a variety of ways that copywriters, or any type of freelancer, can make extra money using the core knowledge and skill they have as writers.

For example, Don starts out by talking about “critiquing,” which is a service I’ve offered my clients for many years. This is both practical and timely, given today’s tough economy.

Sometimes a client wants to work with you but doesn’t have the budget to pay your full copywriting fee. By offering a critique of ads, brochures, Web sites, direct mail, or other items, you can provide a valuable service at a lower cost. I’ve also found that it’s a good way to “audition” for some clients. Once they see how helpful your critique is, they feel less risk in hiring you for your premium services.

Don also covers public speaking, training, giving seminars, and other services, with lots of specifics and personal anecdotes about how he used these ideas in his long and successful career.

What I think you’ll enjoy just as much as the sound advice is Don’s writing style. He’s a master wordsmith and a well-known author of books on language and wordplay. I guarantee, Don agonized over every word to make The Versatile Freelancer a joy to read.

CLICK HERE to find out more and order your own copy.

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Ad copywriting tip: Tell an interesting story

Some of the best advertisements are built around a story.

This is an advanced copywriting technique and takes a deft hand to pull off, so I don’t recommend it to novice copywriters. But when you can do it convincingly, it’s a thing of beauty.

Here’s an ad I ran across while rifling through some folders this morning. This is probably too small to read, but you can click on it to download a PDF image of the entire ad.

print ad copywriting

Let’s take a look at a few things that make this ad work. Read more

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Boost response by positioning your offer

In direct marketing, everything is built around offers. In fact, to create a true direct response ad in any medium, you must do 3 specific things:

  1. Make an offer.
  2. Provide sufficient information to accept the offer.
  3. Provide an easy means of responding to the offer.

So, in any direct mail piece or ad, the offer is the heart of the message. But while a rose may be a rose, an offer is not an offer.

An offer is more than a fixed monetary exchange. A 50% discount is not the same as “buy one widget, get the second widget free.” In dollar terms, these are identical. But how you position this deal creates different perceptions and different response rates.

Offer positioning is a vital step in the copywriting process. And businesses should be open to suggestions for more powerful ways to position offers.

Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you have a magazine subscription offer. The magazine sells for $3 an issue and 12 monthly issues are $36. The publisher wants to test a price reduction of 50%. Here are a few ways you can position this offer:

This is more than wordsmithing. Buyers perceive each of these offer positions differently, each with a unique perceived value.

And what’s the value of testing different ways to position your offer? Better response. For example, most tests show that a “buy one get one free” offer will beat a “half off offer.” Why? Greater perceived value. Getting something free carries more psychological weight than saving money, even when the monetary value is identical. “Free” is easier to understand and more tangible that a percentage savings, which is an intellectual mathematical concept.

The takeaway? Don’t accept your offer at face value. Try different ways to position the offer to make it feel more valuable.

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Branding vs. selling: Which is more important?

Branding has not traditionally played a big part in the creation of direct mail, ads, and other forms of direct response advertising. That’s because direct marketing is all about selling directly to consumers and relies less on product recognition than retail marketing.

In recent years, however, as direct marketing has become mainstream and is now being used by businesses that sell through multiple channels, branding has become more important.

People like me who work on the front lines creating direct response advertising have to deal with clients who want to sell but who also demand adherence to branding guidelines, usually in the form of font, color, and graphic specifications.

It can be a difficult juggling act. The guidelines may be simple, requiring only the use of a logo, or difficult, enforcing highly restrictive design rules that curtail selling techniques.

When branding guidelines become too restrictive, it can hurt sales. Years ago, I began working with one of the top communications companies, helping them sell products and services such as DSL and long distance. I decided to break out of the overly restrictive branding guidelines and create mailers that I thought would sell better.

This didn’t go over well with others in the company and I received many complaints about the “look” of my mailers. However the response rates were high. In one effort, I created a self-mailer that met the annual call generation goal within 9 weeks. So I was allowed to continue.

Eventually, my “ugly” mailers provoked the branding department so much, I was asked to test a “pretty” and properly branded mailer. I did. The ugly mailer won hands down. Read more

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