Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Writing Life -- Wordsmith Wisdom

"Do what you love -- the money will follow."

"Follow your bliss."

These quotes have spoken to me -- resonated mightily -- my entire life. It's rather appalling to me now that I didn't obey them decades sooner and hang my writing shingle a long time ago.

I've been a writer all my life -- I just didn't BELIEVE (rely on) it before 2007 as a means of income. And that's a shame. But I'm relying on it now and it makes me feel happy, alive and contributory. 

I was a spectator before - left like an alien. The work I did before 2007 (executive secretary, administrative assistant,  etc.) was an act, a role, and I felt like a fraud. Even though I was very good at it, it wasn't me -- it's what was "expected" of me by others (loved ones) who never really felt I could make it as a writer -- and they communicated that to me in unspoken ways. To this day, a couple of them still do, but it's out of concern/worry and love and I accept it as such (instead of as a judgment of my ability).  I just don't adopt or embrace their concern and worry anymore -- which helps enormously! 

I have developed complete faith in myself as a communicator (on paper!). I've honed the craft and often impress myself these days with what I come up with (which was a rarity years ago). I know who I am when I write: a craftsman... a wordsmith... a
force of nature.

Oddly enough, instead of this knowledge making me proud or arrogant, it makes me humble. Words can be whispers, wonders or weapons; it's all in how you wield them.

My passion to write was a gift I was given before birth. I was CREATED to write -- I didn't DECIDE to write. From the moment I learned how to build sentences I've been captivated by stringing words together, pulling out thoughts and feelings and putting them on paper to reach out and touch others. God gave me the passion to write and the perseverence (addiction!) to keep at it in journals, letters, and blogs all along the way, even when writing for a living seemed quixotic.

It isn't always EASY - but it's nearly always enjoyable. That's because I only accept projects that I feel certain I'll ace and enjoy. I freely decline Elance projects  that are offered to me if the subject matter or formats don't resonate with me.

My criteria for selecting projects begins with one rule: What I agree to write has to matter in some way -- not just to my clients, but to me. It has to help someone in a significant way.

I don't take projects solely to make money -- I take work that will make a difference in the realms where I agree making a difference is vital. On the few occasions (early on) when I haven't followed this Prime Directive, I've regretted it, so I don't do it anymore. My heart has to be in it or I can get miserable pretty fast!

I'm going to turn down two new projects tomorrow -- ones that came ONLY to me (as an invitation) -- because they don't float my boat. I have plenty other clients to keep me busy right now, and besides... I turned down a project last month from a former client because it was finance-related (YAWN!) and he just got back to me with a project that I want to do... so I've discovered that I don't lose clients by being true to my Prime Directive; it shows folks that I'm in it for MORE THAN THE MONEY, that I must be as passionate about every project I accept as the client is. That way we both know that what I agree to do is going to receive my complete focus and best effort.

I have a really great client now who is referring his clients (who need copywriters) to me these days. The only "problem" (I say with a grin) that I have with him -- and them -- is that they think (or have been taught) that long form sales letters and landing pages are the ONLY way to go -- even for $39 items. It drives me nuts! 

For starters, I despise writing long-form sales copy, and unless the product or service is expensive (more than $100) or not well understood, I think a 500-word sales piece is entirely sufficient. My rationale: most Internet seekers are busy people who just want to find what they need and buy it; having to slog through 1600 words of copy to find the offer drives them crazy. (I know it does ME -- and I love reading and writing! Many people don't!)

So today, per instructions from one of these wonderful gents, I adapted two 1600+ word landing pages and then wrote a third, 500 word landing page for the same offer. I'm absolutely convinced it will convert better than the "war and peace" (long form) copy.

The offer is for busy Adwords users who have wasted ENOUGH time and money already trying to get their ads to convert seekers into buyers. I singled 'em out right up front (target audience), gave 'em the scoop (identified the offer), gave 'em the guarantee of satisfaction, and provided links to their ordering options. My copy is powerful, concise and convincing -- but in no way bland (as the above description might seem to indicate). I provided no story line beyond what they can expect the service to do for them -- which is a LOT, while saving them oodles of time and even more money. Their decision should be a no-brainer if they fit the profile I outlined. They'll whip out their credit cards before they get halfway through the 480 words. They'd be nuts not to take the trial offer... absolutely NUTS! I want to take it -- and I don't even fit the profile!!!

In the long form copy the offer is so completely hidden in non-essential, feel-good colloquial chat that it seems whoever wrote it is trying to coerce the reader into a less-than-stellar deal. I'm not saying the copy isn't good -- it's fine for what it is -- but it goes on FOREVER and that's a waste of people's time. The offer is so good that the copy should have them almost at "hello."

A great $39-$99 offer doesn't have to overcome the seeker's "sticker shock," so the more concise and direct the copy, the better, in my opinion.

I think the client is going to split test the three ads, so we'll see shortly how they compete against each other. If my copy doesn't convert better, I'll be enormously surprised. If it does, they'll learn something new: why spend 3-6 hours writing a 1600 word ad (or pay a copywriter to do it) when a 500 word ad works better?

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