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Expanding your design business by integrating copywriting by Shaun Crowley

Freelance designers working in the marketing sector are facing a new challenge.

The small design jobs they once thrived on-brochures, local newspaper adverts, small-business websites-are now being taken away by bigger design agencies looking to replace lost revenues.

This trend got me thinking about new ways one-shop designers can compete with the Big Fish. I realized there's an obvious answer. It's learning how to write marketing copy.

If you're a freelance designer, you're the perfect person to offer a copywriting service.

1/ Hiring a copywriter/designer is a mouth-watering prospect for many marketing clients. They avoid time-consuming briefing and service-searching from using separate freelancers.

2/ You can present yourself as a full-service design agency, rather than a one-shop designer.

3/ Copywriting is a useful skill to help you to promote your own services.

When I present the idea to designers on my circuit, their first reaction is: "Well, it sounds great, but I'm no marketeer."

Not true, I tell them-you already have a good understanding of the marketing process...

- You design marketing communications materials
- You market yourself as a business
- You've probably written your own website
- You have an existing client base you can pitch your new copywriting service to.

"But I'm a designer, not a writer." Sure-your business is in images, not words. But copywriting is a craft anyone can learn. There's a formula you can work to, there are rules you can follow.

The time and commitment required for learning to write copy is not dissimilar to that involved in learning a new piece of design software.

OK, so you won't turn into a scintillating copywriter overnight-but learn the tricks-of-the-trade and you can offer a competent writing service for your clients in as little as six weeks.

So how do you learn to write copy?
Start learning the basic rules of copywriting. Buy a good self-help copywriting manual and practice for an hour per day. Tell your clients you are learning to write sales copy-ask them to give you a simulated brief to work on. As you practice, pay particular attention to the five essential copywriting rules:

1. Highlight benefits. Say how the product or service benefits the reader. What do the features of the product mean to them?

2. Be specific. Replace descriptive language with facts. People react to concrete examples, they tend to ignore opinionated adjectives.

3. Write like you talk. Use the word ‘you', like you're talking to a friend.

4. Be succinct. Stick to one idea per sentence and one point per paragraph. Remove any repetition or unnecessary points.

5. Use headlines and visuals. Elevate the main benefits in your copy by presenting them as headlines. Also ask yourself if you can communicate your messages through photos or images instead of words. Most readers will scan publicity, so headlines and visuals need to work hard.

All copywriting rules can be learnt, including the five tips above-you don't have to be a natural writer.


Shaun Crowley is the author of The Freelance Designer's Self-Marketing Handbook and 100 Copywriting Tips for Designers, ebooks available for download at www.marketing-designers.com and www.copywriting-designers.com


This article was published on Wednesday 15 November, 2006.
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