Several months ago I was speaking to a friend and former colleague about my copywriting journey so far. John and I have known each other for years. In my past life as an engineer, I worked alongside his company many times. We know and trust each other.
When I mentioned web-content writing, John’s eyes lit up.
You see, John has a successful engineering workshop. He also has a website… an old, tired website. He was keen for me to take a look at it and suggest improvements. Of course, I said yes.
You know when you land on a website and think, “Wow, this is really bad”? Well, John’s website was terrible.
John’s site was simple, just a handful of pages. However the content was poorly written, with a corporate tone aimed at upper management. The navigation was confusing, with no logical page sequences. There was no focus on “What’s in it for me?” Rather, the site was written in the typical “At Company X, we do this” kind of style.
This website was in bad shape.
I wanted to be certain I captured every issue and every problem area. And then I wanted to present the information in a professional, clear way.
I needed a template, a roadmap… and some expert guidance.
Coincidentally, AWAI was advertising Pam Foster’s “Site Audits Made Simple” program. So I checked it out and decided this is what I needed to get the job done.
A Clear Roadmap
Briefly, the Site Audits course lays out a set of logical steps. It starts with ideas on how to pitch your services… all the way through to using the Site Audit as a springboard for on-going work.
The program’s built around two principles: Usability and Content.
Usability focuses on how easy the website is to “understand, read and use.” Pam includes a 35-point checklist, giving you a roadmap to dissect websites and detect any deficiencies.
Content looks at how well the content does its job. Does it solve a visitor’s problem, keep them on the site, and then lead them toward a sale?
Once you’ve applied the Site Audit system to a website, you’ll have a full breakdown of what’s good and what needs to be improved. It’s all laid out in front of you.
So, now you can take this information and present it to your client. This is your chance to shine, to prove your professionalism.
A Professional Outcome
Select the most important points and weave them into a professional report. Pam’s course gives you useful tips and ideas on how to do this.
Include a complete list of your findings in the report. This way your client can clearly see their website for what it is, warts and all… a powerful visual cue for your client.
Email the report. Then schedule a meeting, either face-to-face or via Skype. Go through the list, selecting the “big hitters” and briefly explain why these points are holding back their website.
This is the point where you prove you are a professional… an expert who knows how to fix your client’s website.
What stunned me was John’s response when I ran him through the report. He is a self-confessed technophobe, but he could immediately see what needed to be changed and why.
And remember, I had previously worked with John in a completely different industry. He must have been wondering how much I really knew about web writing.
Our face-to-face meeting showed John I actually knew quite a lot. It positioned me as a professional, someone who knows their trade… and that gave John confidence in me.
So, what else can you learn from this experience?
Learnings and Outcomes
First, pretty well every website fails at least a few of the criteria from the Usability and Content checklists. And, not just small business websites.
As a generalization, it seems the larger the company, the larger the corporate ego. The need for a company to talk endlessly about themselves seems to go up as the company gets bigger.
Second, many business owners have no idea what constitutes a “good” website. This is not a criticism, merely an observation. They need guidance and will appreciate your expert advice.
Third, when you’re viewing a website with your client, be respectful. When making points that are critical of the website, maintain a professional approach. Never be insulting. Just focus on how things can be stronger.
As an example, John’s father-in-law wrote the web content. His corporate background was apparent in his writing style. We simply agreed the tone was not appropriate for John’s business and moved on to the next point.
Fourth, tell everyone you’re a copywriter. You never know what opportunities might arise. The Site Audit I completed for John is a perfect example.
And finally, you’ve just nailed your “job interview”! You’ve shown you are a professional, you’ve laid out what needs to be done… and you are the obvious choice to do it!
In case you’re wondering, John asked me to send a quote covering the work specified in the Site Audit. Remember, the report listed every improvement that was needed. So, compiling a formal Scope of Work and pricing the project was a breeze.
John was keen for me to get started. He wants to expand the site to incorporate a new direction for the company. So now, I‘ll be busy for quite a while…
Keep in mind, John paid me for the Site Audit, and now he’ll be paying me to re-write his site. You can’t ask for more than that!
Oh, I nearly forgot. Do a Site Audit on your own website. I did and, well… let’s just say it needs some work.
Have you used Site Audits as a foot in the door for on-going work?
Share your experiences in the comments below.