What I Do
I like to write and edit copy. It’s hard to write compelling words without taking some joy in the process. I love what I do, so a lot of the time the writing process is easy. But even when the work is hard, good writing sounds easy. It usually sounds like speech. Let’s call it conversational, shall we?
My process is simple. You tell me what you need and I tell you how much it will cost. You give me the details and I shape them into an outline, mold them into words, then buff and polish those words. You give my work a read and we discuss any changes you’d like to see. I make the necessary modifications, give it a final shine, and you’ve got your words to sell your product, your idea, your soul or whatever.
Punch Them in the Face
One way to get someone's attention is to punch them in the face. A more polite way is to write a catchy headline or slogan. Faced with a barrage of stimuli, people’s attention spans have become hilariously short. If you can’t engage someone’s imagination with your first ten words, there’s a good chance they’ll never read your next thousand.
Your headlines and slogans can be your most important copy. A crafty opening line can provoke an emotional response, get people to read your content, and make them more likely to like what you have to say. I research which words draw eyes and get clicks, and I specialize in saying a lot with a few words. If that fails, I’m also a pretty good puncher.
Fun and Funny
Unless you’re a comedian, your product is not a joke. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use humor to sell a refrigerator. Fridges are funny. They’re built like football players and keep things cold. Things like beer. Beer is funny. This paragraph isn’t. Maybe I’ll rewrite it later.
If you spend all of your time going for the laugh, you might have a hard time communicating anything serious. But if you get people to smile at just the right time, they’ll like you, trust you, and buy from you. I do my best to work just the right amount of humor into everything I write.
Passion, Ping Pong, and the Poker Viking
In 2012, I went on an international poker sojourn. I lived in Germany, Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, and Sweden for weeks or months at a time. My last stop was a small town in central Sweden, known for its table tennis team. I stayed with my friend. Let’s call him the Poker Viking, since he’s Swedish and an absolute master at my favorite form of poker.
While the Poker Viking brought a great amount of passion to the poker table, that’s not what I want to tell you about. One day, we went to the local ping pong hall. It was an enormous warehouse with about 40 table tennis tables. He spoke of his days as a semi-pro ping pong player, and showed me how to serve, slice, and spin the ball. I love all sorts of games, but table tennis was never my favorite. But listening to the Poker Viking passionately explain the intricacies of the game, I developed a new respect for the sport.
It doesn’t matter what you do or what you’re trying to sell. Someone somewhere is passionate about it. When I write about any topic, I do my best to excavate this passion from the subject. If I’m here to write about your videos of paint drying, I’m going to pick your brain to find out why on earth you found it interesting enough to pursue. The passion is in there somewhere. The key is finding it.
10 Things I Learned From Watching Paint Dry
“The pale white skin of the wall meets the passionate red kiss of the paint. From the first stroke of the brush, the wall is forever changed. The brush continues its rhythmic pace up and down, covering the wall in red from top to bottom. The last stroke leaves the wall wet.
“This is where we come in. Our state-of-the-art stop-motion photography allows us to capture the wall as the paint dries. The wall transitions from a dripping mess of wet paint to a crisp and vibrant surface. Watch in High Definition as an 8-hour process is sped up to an 8-second masterpiece.”
Yeah. It sounds about as fun as watching paint dry, right? But what if watching paint dry was fun? Anything can sound fun if you spin it the right way. Anything can be fun if you look at it the right way. After writing that copy about these paint-drying videos I just made up, I actually want to watch paint dry. I’m sure that whatever you hire me to write about is more interesting than watching paint dry, so I’m confident that I can communicate all of its excitement and benefits.
There was a time when getting a high search ranking meant stuffing your website with keywords. The problem is that when your only goal is to write a Search Engine Optimized (SEO) web page, you end up with a lot of wonky sentences. If my only goal with this page were to get people looking for SEO-related content to find this SEO-related page, then I might write things like SEO-related and Search Engine Optimized over and over so that my SEO page would be search engine optimized. The problem with these sentences is that no one wants to read them.
The good news is that companies like Google understand that no one wants to read these pages. So the pendulum has swung back the other way. Sites that are overstuffed with keywords actually get penalized in the search rankings. It’s now possible to write search-friendly text that is also reader-friendly. Depending on whom you ask, the optimal frequency for a keyword is between 1% and 4%. That’s high enough for the search engines to know what your page is about, but low enough to avoid using clunky sentences and repetitive text. The best way to get a great search ranking is to get a large number of incoming links. The best way to get those links is to write great content.