Do you have a couple of copywriting friends in your contacts you can ask to review your writing?
In fact, they don’t even have to by copywriters…
Your partner…your friend from school…your Dad or Grandma?
The key is you have a couple of people who you trust to be open with criticism and won’t be offended by any disagreement you might have.
The openness is essential.
If you haven’t got a copywriting peer group yet, you should try to cultivate one as quickly as possible, as it will make you a much more successful writer.
I personally have about five or six people I’ll variously share stuff with depending on what it’s for…
And that is NOT including people who need to read the copy anyway…such as editors, publishers or whoever the client you’re writing for may be.
The fact is: no sales copy should be published unless it’s had at least one other set of eyes on it.
But let me be clear, I’m not just talking proof reading here.
(HYPOCRITICAL DISCLAIMER: This email is an exception, hence it being so damn shoddy. Though strictly speaking, it’s not sales copy, so I’m not being too hypocritical. I try to proof it myself, but generally it’s a stream of conscious thing. I have little enough time as it is. As we’re friends, I hope you’ll forgive me. Anyway, back to my point…)
I’m talking about a critical eye that looks at elements such as pace and proof…that considers if something is particularly believable or rather unbelievable…someone who is able to suggest moving stuff around, developing certain sections…and most critically: DELETING STUFF COMPLETELY.
I often write about copywriters living in a bubble…especially if you work from home most of the time, as I do.
You need to find ways to avoid that…
Hang on, though, because this might interest you…
You see, I wonder if you’d be interested in getting hold of a simple guide I’ve put together that outlines my own copy training methods?
Hey, you might be above that kind of help – and that’s fine.
But of course there’s a chance one little idea lurks in this guide you’ve not thought about for ages and it could be this one little idea helps you write a piece of copy that performs better than you expected and earns you more money and industry plaudits. Maybe. Maybe not.
But it’s worth a look, right?
Don’t get trapped in your own mind
There you are…pacing the garden…staring at the wall…asking the dog for inspiration…interrupting your thought process every thirty minutes to make another cup of tea because you’re under some strange illusion it will help…and you’re desperately trying not to eat yet another gold bar because your partner will kill you when she gets home.
Sure, I get it.
And I’m with you…the writing itself is tough as hell…and it can often feel a real slap in the face to have someone tell you what you’ve just laboured over is wrong.
From speaking to a lot of copywriters over the years, I know this is a feeling many people have.
Here’s the thing, though…that’s NOT how you should be looking at feedback at all.
All that’s really happening is a fresh pair of eyes are looking to see if there’s a way to help IMPROVE your work.
You’ve done the groundwork…laid the seeds…covered them with compost…watered everything for few weeks…and bravo, you did damn well…
But if Monty Don waltzes into your garden and suggests you move your potatoes to the other side of the decking where there’s more shade or prune back your raspberries to encourage more growth…
You bloody well do it.
He’s not criticising…he’s just helping to IMPROVE the great work you’ve already done.
(For those outside the UK, Monty Don is a preposterously named celebrity TV gardener, who my friend and I have become strangely obsessed with as we become increasingly old and dull.)
(And a further needless aside to that aside…philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed gardening was good for the human mind…so it’s not completely square to be composting at 8am in the morning. Possibly.)
This is the problem with feedback…unless it’s very clearly positive…we sensitive old humans just can’t help take it negatively. Hell, even when it’s positive we sometimes take it negatively. You can’t win, huh?
But for the sake of your sanity…and especially when it comes to reviewing the written word…you need to see it for what it is.
Not all feedback is negative
I hesitate to resort to cliché and say you need to grow a thick skin…because I don’t really like that way of looking at it.
That suggests there IS a negative element to the feedback, which you need to accept.
I don’t think all feedback is negative.
I prefer to look at it in a more positive light and understand that together, you and your peers are looking to make something stronger.
Right now, I have a load of projects all at different stages of review:
I have my book back from my editor with his comments and changes. There’s plenty to do and that’s a good thing…because it means my book will be stronger.
I have two long copy promotions back from publishers and editors with comments that will help make the promotions stronger. In fact, I’ve just finished going through one and it’s already much better.
I have promotions going through legal approval, which is another layer of feedback…but in each case, the comments there are helping me better support my argument and strengthen the promotion.
And I have all sorts of other random pieces of copy – including blog posts, company mission statements and news articles – all being reviewed.
I tell you all this because I think there’s somewhat of a misnomer in copy: that as you become more and more experienced as a copywriter, you should listen less to the opinions of others…
‘Oh, there’s no need for you to look at that, darling…I’ve been doing this years now. I think I know what makes for good copy.’
And then you ‘sashay away’ into the distance.
Of course, that’s nonsense.
The market is always developing…customers are always growing more aware…industry-norms are always changing. No one writer can keep on top of it all, so it pays to share the knowledge.
A good writer needs a good editor
When I rocked up in Kings Lynn recently to meet the editor of my book for lunch (there’s no other way to arrive in Kings Lynn other than ‘rocking up’), he said something that I thought was very clever and insightful.
He went to great pains to express the notion that I was a much better writer than he…but his skill was in making sure my writing could be the best it can be.
Of course, telling me I’m a good writer is a smart move as it avoids me going on the defensive…but it’s also a clever and much more positive way of looking at the whole editing/review process.
So, no matter what stage of you’re copywriting career you’re at…make sure you cultivate a trusted list of contacts who you can share your copy with.
Remember too, it goes both ways…if they’re kind enough to review your stuff in a positive and constructive way…you should be ready to do the same with any work they share with you.
Doing so will only help strengthen your copywriting skills.