This is a guest post by William Lyth. William is a freelance copywriter who writes sharp and compelling copy for startups and small businesses. If you want to boost your traffic, content and conversions – send him a message at williamlythcopywriter.com.
You don’t need to be a world-class copywriter to make money, heck — you don’t even need to be good…
Don’t believe me?
“The first draft of everything is s**t” – Ernest Hemingway
I couldn’t agree more with that quote – if Hemingway couldn’t write a masterpiece in one session – good luck trying to do it yourself!
Forget perfection when you’re writing — save it for your edits.
Many people are quick to give up on things if they don’t nail it on their first attempt.
It’s rare for that to happen in anything – as for writing… it’s no different.
Whether you’re a rookie copywriter or an experienced one, 30-40% of your time in delivering a project will – and should – be spent in the editing phase.
Over time, your first drafts will inevitably improve but your editing time, when taken seriously, is what turns your copy into gold.
If you’re regularly writing over 3000+ words each day — you’ll know that the editing process can become a headache when your workload is beginning to stack up.
Don’t get me wrong, I love editing but it requires discipline to stop it from eating up more time than it requires.
If you are working with an editor, these tips are still relevant as nobody likes having a ton of corrections to make. A couple of pointers from a skilled editor should give you some valuable tips to help you improve your writing — but it isn’t their job to drag your work across the finish line.
So save yourself, and your editor, some time and edit like a pro!
1. Write your first draft
Should you have used a colon or semicolon? Could you have explained that last section a little better? Don’t worry too much while writing, as these things can be cleaned up later.
I’ve worked alongside some super slow writers before, and the reason — they all wrote as if they were using a typewriter with only one sheet of paper left to use. I’m a huge believer in flow states so cherish them when they come and don’t allow your inner-editor to interfere (just yet).
For more on flow states, watch this TED video by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the guy who invented the concept of “flow”:
2. Take a break
Even if I’ve achieved a smooth working flow, I always take a breather so I can come back to the screen wearing my editor’s hat, with a fresh pair of eyes.
From my experience in working with editors, whenever I was jammed with tons of articles to write each day, if I wrote and edited in one session without taking a break, my work came back with clumsy mistakes. But whenever I take a break after my first draft — those mistakes are rarely there.
3. New task, new scenery
One of the biggest perks of working from home is the freedom to work wherever you choose to.
It’s hard to stay sharp when you’ve barely moved a muscle for hours. Should I have lots of editing to do, I’ll head somewhere else to tighten up my copy. Even if it’s sitting on the other side of the desk you’ve been working at — it helps!
4. Correct all mistakes before reading it through
This may seem super obvious but I find it’s best to get all of your typos out of the way first, otherwise, you’re reading from top to bottom focusing on typos, which takes your focus away from the tone and overall feel of your copy — editing and proofreading are not the same thing.
I recommend to copy and paste your work into Grammarly (an awesome FREE spell checker) tick all of your mistakes (9 times out of 10 they are correct) and then get back to your edit – and then – read it through again to make sure you’re happy with it. If you are happy? Great! Now it’s time to clean up your typos and grammatical errors.
5. Get your computer to read it back to you
A common editing tip is to read your work out loud, while this is a decent tip, I have 2 issues with it:
- For long-form writing, it can become tedious having to keep reading it back to yourself.
- If you’re working in a public place, you’re gonna piss people off!
So, a safer option, get your computer to read it back to you.
If you are working from a Mac computer, there’s a built-in function!
- Go to System preferences
- Search for “speech”
- Tick the box for “Speak selected text when the key is pressed”
- Highlight your text and then press Option+Esc to hear it read back to you.
If you aren’t working from a Mac computer, Acapela Box is a great alternative.
This simple editing tip always helps me tighten up my copy and to catch that sneaky typo that managed to slip through the net.
6. If in doubt, send it to a friend (but not your best friend)
When writing long-form copy such as white papers or brochures, you may feel 95% finished but you have that little bit of anxiety before sending it over.
Maybe this is a new client (or a difficult one!) and you just need some honest, constructive feedback.
If you truly want valuable feedback, never ask someone that always praises your writing! Instead, send it to someone who won’t be scared to try and pick a few holes in your work. (That one friend that seems to disagree with you on everything is usually the best person to ask).
You may not agree with every comment but occasionally you’ll be surprised with a valuable piece of advice that helps you improve your copy.
This is a guest post by William Lyth. William is a freelance copywriter, specializing in fresh, clean-cut, copy to boost your business! Send him a message at williamlythcopywriter.com for your free website copy report!