As web writers, we often have to “sell ourselves” … after all, that’s how we convince potential clients to contact us, hire us, and ultimately give us money …
But, what if that phrase — “selling yourself” — sends a shudder down your spine?
Well, I’d venture to say that if that’s the case, you may have skipped right over a very important step … don’t worry — I’ve made the same mistake more times than I can count. Because I love writing so much, I sometimes jump right into it and skip over one of the most important parts of any writing project …
Let me explain …
Step One is Research
Wait — don’t hit the “back” button just yet! Research doesn’t have to be painful, and just a little research will make a huge difference in your ability to sell anything — especially yourself!
That’s why step one for any project — whether it’s for a client or your personal elevator speech, freelance website, or social media bio — is always research.
Let me repeat that … step one is research! Or, in other words, the foundation of great web copy is research.
When you do your research first, you’ll:
Write faster, more efficiently, and even have fun — yes, even if you’re writing about yourself.
Find that your final draft is stronger and more compelling … ultimately convincing more clients to hire you.
Eliminate writer’s block! Research gives you stuff to write about — which removes the dread of staring at a blank screen.
Understand your potential client better, discover how to capture and keep his attention, and get more work.
I could go on — there are a lot of benefits of research — but the point is, you must research.
Even if you’re writing about yourself (and you likely know yourself very well), there are elements that still need to be researched. Some of these are:
- Your audience — Who are you writing to?
- Your competitors — What are you up against?
- Your product — What are you really selling?
If you’re trying to write about yourself without first thoroughly researching these three things, you’re likely approaching your copy from the wrong perspective …
Remember, it’s not about YOU, it’s about “WIIFM?” (Or “What’s in it for me?” … “me” being your potential client.)
So let’s take a closer look at each of these three essentials:
1. Research Your Audience
Before you write a single word, you need to know whom you’re writing to …
And, although many web writers make this mistake, you’re not writing to other freelancers or web writers.
Instead, you are writing to people who have the potential to hire you. Clients. Depending on your niche, your clients could be marketing managers, small business owners, or agencies looking to outsource.
Once you pin down your ideal clients, you’ll want to learn what they want, how they talk and feel, what problems they need solved, how they spend their free time, their age, and anything else you can discover …
Knowing these things about your prospective clients will help you attract them, connect with them, and ultimately sell to them.
Here’s an example to put this in perspective …
As a freelance web writer, maybe you suspect your ideal clients want to save time …
You start cranking out your home page copy talking about how you’ll save them so much time …
The only problem? Their most pressing issue isn’t time and therefore your message doesn’t convince them to contact you …
However, if you would have taken some time to research, you would have avoided that scenario by first understanding your ideal client and their true needs …
Here are two ways to better understand your ideal clients:
A. Ask your clients.
When researching why potential clients may or may not invest in your web-writing services, your best resource is your actual clients.
In many cases, a client will tell you exactly why they choose you over someone else.
All you have to do is ask. You might say something like:
“What is the biggest factor that led you to hire me as your web writer instead of another web writer?”
The sooner you ask this question, the better because you want the information while it’s fresh on their mind. You could even make this question part of your client intake process.
Then, you can use the information to better connect with other potential clients. (A word of warning though: if they admit to hiring you because of something like low rates — and you’re trying to raise your rates — you’ll want to find ways to appeal to different clients.)
B. Use social media.
When it comes to understanding your ideal clients, social media — especially LinkedIn — is a great tool. All you have to do is setup a business page and get a handful of members who are also your ideal clients.
If you’re using LinkedIn, be sure to check out discussions your ideal clients are involved in and reviews they’ve left for other service providers.
Remember: you’re trying to connect with people likely to hire you, not other web writers …
For instance, if your niche is web writing for small business owners, you’ll want a following that’s made of people who own small businesses.
Then, dig through their connections and other associations … ask yourself:
- What other groups are they a member of or what other pages do they “Like”?
- What do they say in their status updates? And how do they say it? What specific words do they use when talking about their business or work?
- What do they complain about? In other words, what problems do they need solved?
Keep an eye out for similarities and similar language. You can then use those things in your marketing … for example, let’s say you find that the majority of your ideal clients like “Wheel Of Fortune” …
You could market your services with a blog post titled, “3 Things Wheel Of Fortune Teaches Us About Small Business Success.”
2. Research Your Competitors
In addition to knowing who you’re writing to, you also need to know what your competitors are up to …
No, I’m not saying to copy them — that is often a recipe for disaster. But, you can learn a ton by watching your competitors — and their interactions with potential clients.
For instance, take a look at other web writers’ websites, but don’t stop there … dig deeper …
If one of your competitors has testimonials (and hopefully they all do), what specific traits are praised? Also, take note of the client doing the praising and their job title (if included).
For your competitors who are engaged in social media, which of their posts have the best response?
If they have a blog, which articles have the most comments and shares? Do the most popular have anything in common?
As you’re researching, pay special attention to the exact wording that your potential clients are using.
Additionally, you’ll find that many of your fellow web writers are willing to share their tips and tricks …
I think that’s because many of us don’t see ourselves as “competitors.”
Maybe that’s because there’s more than enough work to go around, or because we all have such different niches, strengths, and backgrounds …
Either way, most of us view this gig as “we’re all in this together” — especially other members of Wealthy Web Writer. In fact, a great place to connect is on the Wealthy Web Writer Facebook Group page.
3. Research Your Product
Finally, during the research process, you need to make sure you understand what you are selling …
When someone goes to your website — looking to hire you for your web-writing services — what is it that they want to buy?
Your first answer might be, “Well, of course they want to buy my web-writing services!”
But … do they really?
Think about it. What are you really selling?
Remember, people buy for benefits, not features. (That includes your potential clients.)
Anyone thinking about hiring you isn’t likely to hire you just for the sake of acquiring web copy …
Instead, they want what that web copy provides …
A blog post delivers the opportunity to reach more customers, build rapport with them, and extend the company’s reach.
A landing page is a route to more leads (and ultimately more sales).
Search Engine Optimization offers a better results rank — which leads to more free traffic from search engines.
A sales letter provides more sales (i.e., profit)!
An autoresponder series produces an automatic way to follow up with potential buyers and ultimately sell them something.
In other words, your potential clients want RESULTS!
They want to know you’re able to help them gain more visitors, more leads, and more sales.
And, you can do this with “proof” … which comes from research.
For instance, if you don’t yet have your own results, you can provide expert evidence that effective web copy is a solid investment that will bring them the results they’re seeking.
I’ve often said that “writer’s block” is a result of not doing enough research …
But, when you follow the research advice in this article, you’ll have plenty to write about. And, with plenty to say, you’ll likely find that writing about your web-writing services isn’t so difficult.
So what do you think? How do you research before writing your own web copy? Did I leave anything out? Let’s talk about it in the comments below …