Today’s question comes from Monika M, who asks, “Every time I have to start a new copy project, I freak the f#!% out. Is there anything I can do to make starting easier?”
Ah, yes: Sheer, unadulterated, new-project, blank-page, “What if I can’t do this???” panic. Well, I have two pieces of good news for you. First, it gets better. With some practice and some patience, eventually, you’ll get to the point where you won’t “freak the f#!% out” at every new project. You’ll know the rules, you’ll know the process and, after some light time-wasting, you’ll dig in.
Second, I’ve got a few steps that will help you get past that blank page panic right now. Ready? Here goes:
1. Bullet your main points.
The nice thing about copywriting (versus creative writing) is that you have a very clear message that you have to convey. In no particular order, answer the following questions:
– What’s the main benefit to the reader? (What’s in it for them?)
– Are there any other benefits to the reader?
– What information, facts or features do I have to support the benefits?
– What main action do I want them to take after they read this?
– Are there any secondary actions for them to take if they don’t take the main action?
2. Organize your main points.
Now, you can start moving things around. Don’t worry yet about what the actual form of the piece will be (email, direct mail, web page, etc.), but move your main points around so that your biggest benefit to the consumer is at the top of your page.
Move the supporting information, facts and features to that benefit underneath it. Next, put the second benefit to consumer (if there is one) and the supporting info under that and continue to do so with any other benefits.
Move your main action point beneath this and any secondary action points beneath that.
3. Make your copy doc outline.
Even before you start filling it in, map out the parts of the piece you know you’ll need to put in the copy doc. For example, for an email project, it might look like this:
CALL TO ACTION
This outline might change as you get to writing, so don’t be too concerned about getting married to the various parts. The more important thing is that you have a road map to loosely follow and a list of the components so that you don’t miss anything.
4. Fill in your outline.
Now, start moving elements from that list of main points into your copy doc outline. Don’t cut and paste, though: copy and paste. Some elements, like the main benefit, may go into a few different places (subject line, snippet, headline, for example).
As you move your main points into your outline, you may find you have to revise your outline. Fine! It’s flexible. You may also find yourself re-evaluating whether or not a secondary benefit is important enough to fit into this project. This is also good: be ruthless about putting in only the most essential points.
5. Flesh it out.
Let the copywriting begin! Now that you’ve got an outline with all of your main points in it, start filling it in even more with the genius words that net you the big bucks. Remember to stay within your client’s brand voice and to be as concise as possible.
Then write and revise until it’s golden!
Your turn! Did you try these steps on a new project? How did it go? Or do you have different techniques for conquering blank page panic? Let us know in the comments below.