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How To Write Marketing Copy That Sells Your
Freelance Design Services

by Shaun Crowley

This tutorial will help you write powerful website copy, or copy for a mailer postcard, to help you sell your freelance design services to new clients.

By the end of the tutorial you will:

- Have a page of dynamic copy that really sells yourself as a freelance designer.

- Understand the fundamental rule at the heart of all copy: thinking in terms of benefits.

- See at first hand how you can learn the craft of copywriting, so you can integrate it into your service—and even offer full marketing agency creative services within six months!

The tutorial is split into four activities. Each activity focuses on an achievable writing task and reveals essential tips for writing persuasively. Practice the rules revealed in this tutorial and you'll be on your way to writing sales-boosting publicity for yourself and your clients.  

Activity One

Think of a simple pen. Any normal pen on your desk will do—maybe a pen that you use to sketch with. Pick it up, take a look at it.

Now try to sell the pen in a paragraph of writing.

Initial reaction: Not sure where to start? Don't worry, the prospect of writing sales copy can be daunting without any formal sales training. Maybe that's why so many designers are easily dissuaded from learning how to write marketing copy, to integrate into their design service. This is good news for you, because it's really simple when you know how. Let me walk you through the process.

Pick up your pen again and take a look at it. Can you identify a feature that helps you to sell the pen? A feature is a fact about the pen, an aspect that makes it useful. For example, my pen has a fine tip. It is also 1/4 inch in diameter. These are examples of product features. Try to think of another feature of your pen.

When you have a feature in mind, ask yourself what benefit this feature provides you with, as a user of that pen. A benefit describes what the user gains as a result of the feature. So for example, my pen has a fine tip. That means I can sketch fine drawings and write cleanly and crisply.   My pen is also 1/4 inch in diameter, so it's easy to hold and comfortable to write with. Both of these sentences are examples of benefits. They show how the user benefits from the pen's features.

Feature = what the pen has (fine tip)
Benefit = what the pen does (allows you to sketch fine drawings)

Hint: benefits are active; they include verbs (sketch, write, hold).

Now try converting your feature into a benefit. If you're stuck, use the linking phrase ...which means that... to help you (i.e. It has a fine tip, which means that I can sketch fine drawings and write cleanly and crisply).

Found your benefit? Then congratulations, you're half-way to writing your own promotional materials!

Activity Two

Staying with the features and benefits model, let's do the same with something a little bigger than a pen. Let's try your computer. Identify three features that make your computer desirable.

Think about the screen, the keyboard, the mouse, the general look, the hard-drive, the programs, the price, the service package. Try to remember why you bought it. What features attracted you to this computer above all the others?

Now think about the benefits of those features. What do the features mean for you? What do they allow you to do?

Write your three benefits next to their respective features. If it helps, use ...which means that... to link the features and benefits together.

Here are the three features and benefits for my lap-top PC.

Feature
It has a laser-guided mouse

Benefit
... which means that... I eliminate infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming cleaning, so the mouse is more pleasurable to use.

Feature
The computer weighs less than 10 lbs

Benefit
... which means that... I can take it anywhere; I can take it to client meetings without hurting my back.

Feature
It has 3 hours of battery life

Benefit
... which means that... I can write assignments by an open fire in my local puband write for hours with a pint of my favorite English ale.

I hope you're starting to get the idea now... that copywriting is all about identifying attractive features, and then saying how the reader benefits from those features. If you can do this, it really doesn't matter if you're a good writer or not; you've mastered the art of selling. (Copywriting is simply the art of 'selling in writing', or 'salesmanship in print'.)

But we're not done yet. There are two more activities to go before you're ready to write your own publicity material!

Activity Three

Take a closer look at your three computer benefit statements. For each one, ask yourself: is this the furthest I can go with that particular benefit? Can I continue, turn it into an even bigger, more general benefit statement?

For example, my laser-guided mouse eliminates infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming cleaning, so the mouse is more pleasurable to use. But what does that mean? Is there a benefit to this benefit?

I suppose you could say that a more pleasurable-to-use mouse means that my copywriting assignments run smoother. And if my copywriting assignments run smoother I work quicker. And if I work quicker I earn more money.

So I can continue with this 'pleasurable to use' benefit until I reach an even more persuasive benefit: 'I can make more money.'

Try doing the same thing with your three computer examples. Carry on using ...which means that... until you have found your most attractive benefit, as I have done below.

It has a laser-guided mouse
... which means that the mouse is more pleasurable to use
... which means that my writing is smoother
... which means that I finish my assignments quicker
... which means that I make more money
... which means I can go on longer vacations

The computer weighs less than 10 lbs
... which means I can take it to client meetings without hurting my back
... which means that I can avoid aches and pains and therefore stay more active
... which means I play tennis three times a week
... which means I can live my life to the full outside work

It has 3 hours of battery life
... which means I can write assignments by an open fire in a relaxing English pub
... which means working is more pleasurable and less stressful
... which means I can enjoy relaxing with my family in the evenings without feeling stressed.

This activity might seem a little OTT. Clearly, it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that the long battery life of my lap-top means I can enjoy relaxing with my family. But the aim of this activity is to get you into the habit of searching for benefits, even those general benefits that don't appear obvious at first.

A good copywriter not only isolates key features and translates them into benefits, a good copywriter should also question whether those benefits can be taken further. Another lesson in the art of selling.

This advert for Ikea proves just how far you can go with a benefit. Buying an affordable kitchen doesn't just mean you save money, it means you can afford to work less, which means you can spend more time playing with your children, as demonstrated in the visual.

To finalize Activity 3, let's try putting your benefits into a meaningful paragraph of copy. Take your favorite computer feature/benefit example, and try to present it in a few sentences that run together, like this:

The new Dell Inspiron 1300 includes a laser-guided mouse. Now you can avoid infuriating icon flickers and time-consuming mouse cleaning. Your mouse will be more pleasurable to use, your written assignments will run smoother, and you'll work quicker tooso you can start earning more money!

Hint: Try to write the paragraph the way you would say it aloud. Pretend you are writing to a single personuse the word 'you'.

How did you get on? Does your paragraph look like a real advert? If so, well done, you're now ready to write your own publicityand your clients' publicity! If it needs improving, don't worry, writing trip-off-the-tongue copy will come with practice.

Activity Four

Before you start writing your marketing copy, let's take a look at what you can do. You've learnt how to identify product features, how to turn them into benefits, and how to turn benefits into even more persuasive benefits. Now it's time to put all these points into practice.

You're going to write a paragraph of copy for your own business, to use on a mailer postcard or on your website.

First of all, draw up a list of features and benefits for your business services. This will be a little harder than the features and benefits you identified for your computernow you have to think about the sort of services you offer (these are your features), and then think about what it all means for your client (these are your benefits).

Here's an example to help you:

Features
I specialize in print, web, 3D, and Flash design.

Benefits
I work across media, so you get one consistent look for your whole campaign, with everything in on time.

Features
I use state of the art computing equipment.

Benefits
I have the best equipment, so you can be sure your project will run smoothly right up to finished piece.

Features
I have international customers.

Benefits
My design has global appeal, so you get more effective promotions in your overseas markets.

Features
I include proof-reading as part of my service.

Benefits
My free proof reading service saves you time and money, and gives you the confidence that your finished publicity will be free from costly mistakes.

Remember to evaluate each of your benefits as you did in Activity 2. Can you take any of them further? For example, the benefits I have identified in my list above aren't completely final. I can continue with them like this:

  • If I can get "a consistent look for the whole campaign and everything in on time", then I can ensure my clients' campaigns will be a success.
  • If the "project runs smoothly right up to finished piece", then my clients will find me easy to work with.
  • If my design makes for "more effective promotions in your overseas markets", then my clients will strengthen their international reputation.
  • If my design is "free from costly mistakes", then the publicity will communicate quality values to my clients' customers.

Go through all your benefits and try to exploit each one. Then re-work your features and benefits into a section of copy, like this:

Call on XYZ Design Services, and you will...

Ensure your whole campaign is a success
I specialize in print, web, 3D, and Flash design. Because I work across media, you'll get one consistent look for your whole campaign, with everything in on time.

Use a designer who's easy to work with
I have the fastest, most up-to-date equipment, so you can be sure your project will run smoothly right up to finished piece.

Strengthen your international reputation
My design has global appealas reflected in my international client base. Count on me if you want to improve the effectiveness of promotions in your overseas markets.

Communicate quality values
My free proof reading service saves you time and money, and gives you the confidence that your finished piece will be free from costly mistakes.

Did you notice the three tricks I used in the copy above?

1. Reinforce features with benefits: in the four sections of body copy, I introduced a feature then reinforced with a benefit. The feature acts as the rational argument for using my design service, the benefit acts as the emotional argument.

2. Use headlines to highlight the key benefits: I headed each section of copy with a sub-headline that communicates the most persuasive benefit (those extra benefits I identified after I had written my original features/benefits list).

3. Use command verbs: To make these sub-headlines more engaging, I presented them as commands, so they are directly telling the reader to do something, and therefore make the reader sit up and take notice.

Now you can sell your freelance services by using the ideas in this tutorial to write powerful website copy, or copy for mailer postcards!