Updates. Ideas. Rants. Techniques. Opinions. Blog.

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A Great Website is a Russian Doll of Messages

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a beast of a website.

With dozens of pages and very little existing copy to speak of, it’s a been a big undertaking. I was reluctant.

“It’s okay, we’ve planned the messaging,” said the client. “We’ve gone through and decided what you need to say on every page. So it shouldn’t take too long.”

Alarm bells, right?

If you’re a copywriter, you know that deciding what to say is where the magic happens. For all your stylish execution, if the messaging isn’t on point, you’re screwed.

And that’s exactly where so many website projects seem to go wrong.

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Let’s Stop Being Negative About Being Negative

I was talking to a client the other day about negativity in copywriting. We discussed the notion that you should never use a negative word, like ‘don’t’ or ‘frustrating’ or ‘painful’.

And, reader, it was painful indeed.

It’s another of these nonsensical copywriting ‘rules’ – usually the product of:

  • A copywriter who needed to find a topic for a blog post
  • A client who trusted that blog post to be well-researched and informative
  • An understandable desperation to make copywriting a one-size-fits-all science – something that’s easy to do and judge for quality

In reality, copywriting is a creative balancing act. The skill of using the most appropriate techniques for a given moment.

So, for the sake of balance, here’s when I think negativity is a positive for the task at hand.

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The One Thing You Should Know About Your Customers

Whether you’re putting an email together or building a brand from the ground up, audience is everything. The golden rule of branding and copywriting is that you need to understand your customers – their motivations, their interests, their desires.

That’s why the first step in a big new copy project is often a customer survey – a look at perceptions and preferences that you can use to underpin your decision making. Things like where you’re most likely to reach people, or what’s most likely to convince them.

But there’s one thing I see that’s overlooked again and again. A single finding that affects everything.

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You Lost Me At Model

It’s Christmas! Almost.

And (spoiler alert) Christmas is all about selling you stuff. Retailers are having the time of their lives, but they’re also facing cut-throat competition where only a perfect little Penguin will do.

Everyone’s trying hard for a heartwarming Christmas ad. But not everyone’s doing a great job.


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Swiped: .rising’s Incredible Generosity

You don’t get something for nothing.

Take this blog. I spend my time writing and promoting posts, sharing thoughts and advice on life as a freelance copywriter. And I don’t get paid for it.

But I still expect a return. It’s nice to see my subscribers list growing. It’s lovely to get some feedback. It’s great that people share my website through social media, and Google (reluctantly) starts caring about what I do.

If I didn’t believe that blogging delivered some kind of return, I wouldn’t do it. I have better uses for my time.

So you get to read the blog for free.

But not for nothing.

And it turns out that giving something away is a particularly potent form of persuasion.

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With Love From A Freelance Copywriter

Let’s talk about love. Do you love your girlfriend? Your husband? Your children?


I recently saw a lorry delivering the regal bread Kingsmill. I noticed the big photo and pondered the idea that it might just contain one giant loaf of bread. But, more relevantly to a blog about being a freelance copywriter, I noticed the copy.

It said – ‘Love Bread. Love Kingsmill.’

And it got me thinking about my relationship with bread, and in turn the choice of words that we use when selling.

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A Freelance Copywriter That Knows Nothing

Smart businesses know the value of a freelance copywriter. They understand that, when it’s time to put what you do into words, the specialist, independent knowledge of a freelancer quite simply can’t be beaten.

But let’s get it straight. This isn’t about the expertise or insight that a copywriter can bring, although that’s important. The reason that companies get what they need from me is not what I know, but what I don’t.

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Is Your Security Writer Batman?

A masked figure in black lurks in a cave. He embodies fear itself, striking terror into the hearts of thousands. He taps away on his keyboard, building fear with his choice of words.

It sounds like Batman, but it’s a copywriter doing some work for a client in security.

And I’m not sure why he’s wearing a mask.

As a copywriter with several clients in the security industry, I sometimes work hard to invoke fear. It’s a dark art – and perhaps a cheap tactic – but fear in copywriting is necessary for certain clients.

It’s a powerful technique. But is it right to feed a sense of threat in your readers?

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Copywriters and The Truth

Following on from my recent blog post about the value of deception in copywriting, I thought it would be interesting to do an about turn and share my thoughts on the truth.

Lies are essential to the work of a copywriter. But like a magician covering his slight of hand with patter, a good copywriter employs enough truth to make his lies invisible.

Here are just two of the techniques that I use most regularly to reassure readers that the brand I speak for is an honest one.

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A Copywriter With Liberal Commas

If you are looking for a copywriter or working within the industry, it would be understandable to assume that copywriters write flawlessly. But incorrect grammar is everywhere. From website copy to the flyers that drop through my door, I’m continually amazed at the number of errors that get in the way of reading and understanding. […]

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