1. Get a domain name. Should you use your own name, or a keyword-rich name? How about both? The copywriting gurus tell us to brand our names, because YOU are your business.
One important fact: Be sure to get the dot-com version of your name, not .biz, .net, .org or any other form. You can buy all those versions if you want to, at about $10 each, but I don’t believe it’s necessary.
Most people assume your domain name is .com, and if you use anything different and someone else has the .com, all your marketing efforts will result in sending them traffic instead of you.
To get your domain name, one of the most popular places is GoDaddy.com. You can get a domain name for under $10. If your website is hosted by BlueHost.com, where mine is, you can often get 2 free domain names a year, so check that first and you may save the $20. Also, it makes it easier to renew your domain name if everything is in one place.
2. Get a WordPress website: You need a WordPress site. Don’t even bother with anything else, because WordPress attracts the search engines better than any other website you can set up. They have tons of attractive themes, and it’s easy to change content on your own.
Note: It’s very important to get a self-hosted WordPress.org site so you have full control of your site, and can optimize it for the search engines. You will need a hosting system such as Blue Host or Host Gator. Although WordPress.com may seem like an easier choice initially, you have limited control of your content and have to pay to remove ads on your site – not what you want!
3. Get help. I definitely suggest you get help setting up your site. Go to Elance.com or oDesk .com and type in “Wordpress Website Designer” in the search bar. You’ll find plenty of people who create websites.
Check their portfolios for designs that are attractive, and contact those designers to get a quote. You can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $2000. But for a starting website, you should be able to find a good designer to set up a simple website for a few hundred dollars.
Note: Please don’t skimp on this and try to set it up yourself. Unless you’re a technical wiz and also a graphic designer, you’ll end up frustrated and spinning your wheels while you should be doing more important things, such as writing your web copy and samples.
Your website has to look professional if you hope to attract high level clients who will pay you professional rates. It’s your first impression, so don’t go for the bargain basement route to save a few dollars. This is an investment in your business, and a legitimate business expense.
4. Creating a brand
As a copywriter, YOU are your brand. But it’s also a good idea to find a way to stand out from the crowd and be memorable. You don’t need a logo, although you can have one. You can also have an image or color that people associate with you, or a tagline that you always put with your name. (Hey, you’re a copywriter.Write a great tagline for yourself!).
Of course, combining a logo, image and tagline is more powerful, and will make you all the more memorable.
It’s become my trademark image. Everyone who comes to my website remarks, “Oh, you’re the copywriter with the girl with flowers on her eyes.” I also created a tagline, Fresh Customers Daily, because….who doesn’t need a steady influx of customers? Plus the word “fresh” goes well with the daisies.
I also created a tagline, “Inspiring Health for You, Your Family, Our Planet.” This helps web visitors know what my online magazine is about right away. If they identify with being healthy women who eat organic food, or they aspire to be healthy, they can’t wait to sign up.
Anyone who doesn’t identify with what I offer will leave the site, and that’s fine. They will not enjoy my newsletters, or buy the products I offer.
What market do you want to attract?
Think carefully about the market you want to attract.
Before you start working with a designer, it’s a good idea to come up with some colors and designs that you like. This will reduce the time and expense, because your designer won’t have to guess what you want and present a bunch of ideas you don’t like. Buy some magazines that your target market reads. What recurring colors and images do you see?
Then spend an hour or two clicking onto different natural products websites. You’ll notice that many of them use the colors of nature, such as greens and blues, to brand themselves. If you want to work in the fitness industry, stronger colors such as red, black and silver often go well with muscle building.
If you want to specialize in women’s health, you might use warmer reds and oranges.
Tip: Please don’t use pastels, even if you specialize in children’s or babies’ health. They are old school and horrible on the web.
Bottom line: Your branding immediately identifies who you are, and helps you attract the right customers. Take the time to develop an online persona. It will help you stand out from the crowd, and bring you more business.
If you find this hard to do on your own, work with a branding expert or a good graphic designer. He or she should ask you questions about the market you want to attract (not necessarily about your personal preferences) and come up with images and colors that will attract those customers.
Remember, it’s all about your customers, not about you.
5. Your web pages
Your website doesn’t have to be big to start. You can start with the basic pages: Home, About, Services, Samples, Contact, and Blog.
Home page: This is where you talk about your CUSTOMERS, not about you. The biggest mistake most rookie copywriters make is to say: “Hello! I’m so-and-so, and here’s what I can do for you. Here’s how I help my clients.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
You put this information on your About page. Yes, people want to know about you, but first they want to know if they came to the right place. You see, everyone is tuned to the radio station WIIFM, What’s In It For Me? Your home page has to immediately connect with your audience and say, in essence, “I understand that you have these problems or needs, and I can help you.”
The sole purpose of your home page is to get your readers to stay on your site, and take a specific action. It could be to call or email you for a free consultation, or to sign up for your newsletter.
I would choose the newsletter signup as your number one goal, because then you have your visitors’ contact information and can market to them through your newsletter or blog.
Otherwise, they may be interested, but not yet ready to act. So they leave your website and forget you exist. That’s the reality of our hyper-active lives. Get their name and email address, and you can develop a relationship that eventually leads to business.
Here’s where you talk about yourself. But I caution you to always think about how this relates to your customer. You’ll see that every time I mention something I do, I say, “What this means for you is….”
Even on your about page, everything on your website is about your customer, not you. That’s why you’re in business, to serve your customers. The better you serve them, the more they will reward you by becoming loyal customers and paying you what you ask for.
Here’s where you describe the services you offer. You can keep it fairly simple, and have a brief paragraph about each service you offer, such as writing web copy, sales pages, or direct mail.
Anyone who contacts you will ask, “Can you send me samples of work you’ve done in this area?” Don’t panic. They will never think to ask if you got paid for the work. Gradually, as you get paid work, you can add those samples to the top of the list, and remove any that you are less proud of because your skills have improved.
Here are some easy ways to create samples.
1. Interview a manager at your local health food store, about trends. What are people buying these days? What categories of items are selling best?
Then write an article and see if your local newspaper will publish it. They are always looking for local news. See if the store will post it on their website. They should be delighted, as it’s free publicity for them.
In addition (and if you can’t publish it elsewhere), publish it on your own website as a sample. This shows you are a published author.
2. Interview anyone you know who has some expertise in natural health, such as an acupuncturist or naturopath, or a fitness instructor at your local gym. You can even interview someone you meet online on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Most people are delighted to have an article written about their services, and if you post it to LinkedIn, it will raise their profile. (See specific techniques for using Linkedin, in a later section.)
3. Choose a few supplements or products you personally use or endorse, and write great product descriptions of about 250 words each. Or find some natural products on Amazon.com. Study the descriptions and improve upon them. Create a PDF with some attractive images, and post this as a sample on your site.
Remember, no one will ever ask if you worked with this company or got paid. They will just assume you did.
4. Write your lead generation tool, also called an ethical bribe. This becomes a sample of your writing. Choose a topic you would love to write about, such as eating low carb, or 10 Steps to Stronger Abs.
Write a report, guide or cheat sheet that you will give away to “ethically bribe” people to sign up for your newsletter. (Yes, you need a newsletter to showcase your expertise and keep in contact with prospects.)
This becomes your showcase piece of copywriting, so make sure to research the content and write it in an engaging manner. Add some eye-catching images, and create a professional report that you can be proud of.
If you need help, get a graphic designer to finish it for you. It’s not a big job, and you can find a designer on Fiverr to do this for $5-$10. Don’t forget to proofread it! And get a few other people to proof it for you as well. Despite the fact that in almost every published book, even from the biggest publishers, the odd typo or two creeps in, your perspective clients will be less than impressed with samples that are riddled with typos. After all, you are selling copywriting services. Even though copywriting is not the same as editing, in their minds typos are associated with sloppy work.
Make sure you are easy to contact! Have your name, phone number and email address on the footer of every page of your site, as well as on the contact page.
It’s amazing how many people are impossible to find, because they neglect these crucial elements.
Your website is likely to come with a Contact Us form already set up. Should you keep it? Here are the pros and cons.
The Contact Us form does keep you from getting SPAM, because the spammers can’t get your email address by crawling your site. On the other hand, it puts a barrier between you and your visitors. They can’t immediately email you or call you, and that can be bad for your business, especially when you’re just starting out. Some people don’t like to fill out forms, so they will just leave your site.
I’ve always opted for having my name, email address and phone number clear and visible everywhere on my site. I’ve paid for it in SPAM messages, and had to get a SPAM filter, which doesn’t always work well. Sometimes important messages from clients or prospects get caught in the filter, and I’ve probably missed a few along the way.
However, I also get calls and emails regularly, which leads to more business. So you be the judge of what works best for you.
7. Blog & WordPress Know-how
Your newsletter or blog will be your most important way to get and keep clients. I will go into this in detail in future sections. Just be sure to set up your website so you can upload blog posts. The most important point I want to make here is to advise you to learn how WordPress sites work. There are many inexpensive courses, and free videos on YouTube.
It’s really important to become proficient at using WordPress for two reasons:
1. Once you start blogging, there’s no way you want to depend on a graphic designer to upload your blog for you – at least at the beginning. Strive to never outlay more money than you need to, until the big bucks start rolling in. Then you can decide what you want to outsource, and what you can do easily for yourself.
2. You may get clients who want you to blog or write regular newsletters for them. These clients will most likely want you to upload the blog posts to their server. Again, you can outsource it, but I find that I can usually upload a blog post in about 15 minutes.
I always save these tedious mechanical tasks for later in the day, when my brain is tired from writing. As well, in the time it takes to instruct an outside person to do this, I can generally do it myself and save the money. And if you do outsource it, you have to know what to provide to that person.
Once you start making money, you may want to hire a VA (Virtual Assistant), but at first you have to know every aspect of your business inside out. Knowing how to use WordPress is definitely a skill you need!
8. Final notes on setting up your website
A lot of people get bogged down on all the logistics of getting a domain name and setting up a website. Don’t let this happen to you, or you’ll never get your copywriting business off the ground.
At the end of this book you’ll find a handy checklist to get your business set up. Set goals for yourself, and keep moving forward.
Your website doesn’t have to be perfect. You can keep tweaking it as you go along. As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!”
9. Get your name and keywords out there
Now that you have your website set up and some samples ready, it’s time to get your name and keywords out there. The number-one best way to do that is to start a newsletter or a blog. What’s the difference?
To me, a blog is about one topic, and can be roughly 500 words. A newsletter has a main topic, and some smaller sections such as news, events, or a section to sell books or products.
I use both. I publish a newsletter for Healthy Organic Woman, with guest contributors providing some of the content. For my copywriting site, I create a blog post right on WordPress, and then use Aweber to send it to my list. I believe they are the only email service provider that sends out blog posts.
Once you set up the system, your blog posts are automatically uploaded to Aweber when you publish them on your WordPress site. Then you just press “send” and it goes out to your list.
10. Build your list
This is the most crucial thing you can do. You want to capture the name and email address of everyone you come in contact with. The reality is that many people you connect with on social media will not become your clients – at least not right away.
But you never know when they suddenly need your services months or even years later. (You’re in this for the long haul, right?). In fact, the biggest client I ever got was through someone I met on LinkedIn. He never gave me business himself, but he liked my newsletter so much that he introduced me to the owner of a company, and they became one of my best clients ever.
So you never know. Publishing a newsletter or blog keeps you in peoples’ minds. But even more important, it showcases your writing and your expertise. You also build up a catalog of past blog posts or articles on your website. When prospects ask for samples of your writing, send them to your blog posts and they will instantly see that you know what you’re talking about.
What will you write about? At the beginning, you have to do some research and learn about marketing techniques. Study some natural products websites, and write about the mistakes you see, and how they can be improved. (Don’t name the site!)
Warning: Don’t ever contact the owner of a website and say, “I noticed that your website content isn’t very good. Would you be interested in my helping you get more sales?”
Bad mistake. First of all, the owners may have written the content themselves. (If they’d hired a professional writer it would likely be better!). And if they paid someone to write it, they will feel like they wasted their money. Worst of all, no one likes to be criticized, especially from a stranger. (I tried this technique once, early on, and learned my lesson.)
To top it off, you will be considered a spammer. I get email blasts regularly from SEO companies, telling me my site is not optimized, and they can help me rank higher on Google.
I know they’ve never been to my site because they would see that I’m an SEO Copywriter, and actually rank high for my keywords. I just delete these spammers, and vow never to work with anyone who contacts me this way.
11. Sign-up box
It’s crucial to have a sign-up box on your home page, and on every page of your website. Don’t bury it at the bottom of a page – even if your web designer wants to put it there. Many WordPress templates come with a signup box at the bottom.
Move it to the top right hand corner, especially on your home page. Conversion experts are people who specialize in online behavior and help companies optimize their site to “convert” visitors into paying customers.
Their studies reveal where the human eye moves, and have proven time and again that the upper right-hand corner is the optimal place for people to see your sign-up box.
You also need to offer a lead generation tool in exchange for email addresses, (as discussed throughout this book).
12. Post to social media
Once you start publishing your newsletter or blog, you want to get it out to the world, not just your mailing list. That’s where social media comes in.
Social media has revolutionized the way we do business. In the past, you’d have to make cold calls, send out letters or postcards, or pay for advertisements.
Today that’s all changed. At no costs (except time) you can meet potential clients on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and any other social site you’re on. Which site is best? Hands down, it’s LinkedIn for business.
Why? Because LinkedIn is a business networking site. Think about it. You go to Facebook to share news and photos with friends and family. Twitter and Pinterest can be great lead generation tools.
But on LinkedIn, people are actively looking for vendors, suppliers, and business partners.
In fact, I built my whole business from scratch on LinkedIn. The next chapter of this book explains how, so you can do that too.
13. Get your keywords out there
Every blog post on your website should be optimized for your keywords, such as “health writing,” or “fitness copywriting.”
WordPress is remarkable for helping you rank on Google. After you’ve written a number of blog posts with the same keywords (obviously you have to think of creative blog titles so they don’t all sound alike), Google will see you as an authority site, and you’ll rise higher in the search engines.
I regularly have people contact me because they typed in the keywords “health writer” or “natural health marketing” and my site came up on page one of their searches. This takes time, but it’s a very valuable strategy.