Email Lead Nurturing Tips: What NOT to Do When Someone Acts on Your Email

The title of this blog post is about lead nurturing tips, which sounds positive and helpful, but in reality, prepare for a mini-rant. 🙂 Well, if you want the really ranty part, watch the video version below. Otherwise, skip to the true tips part.

What is Email Lead Nurturing? A Quick Refresher

When a random website visitor takes an action on a business website, like filling out a form to get a piece of content, the person goes from “anonymous” to “lead.” Since the person’s action suggests interest in the client’s business, the person will likely be entered into a custom email “nurturing” workflow. The concept: The person would receive a series of emails meant to engage them further and nudge them down the infamous sales funnel until they convert into a customer. (This is a VERY basic overview.)

Sometimes you don’t even have to take action on a business website to get entered into an email lead nurturing workflow. You could be the recipient of (or victim of, depending on your POV) a COLD email lead nurturing campaign. Yeah, spam laws, uh-huh. People still cold email and can skirt around laws if there’s some direct synergy between the business and the recipient. In theory. (Again, I’m not a lawyer! None of this is legal advice.)

For actual customers, meaning people who buy something from a client’s site, there are other email nurturing campaigns. These are more commonly known as customer retention campaigns. I’m talking emails sent to get people to come back and buy again or to stay engaged/subscribed. (Do you subscribe to a streaming service, like Netflix? Ever get emails saying, “Hey, we just added a new TV show you might like”? BOOM. That’s an example of customer retention campaigns at work.)

OK, enough of the overview. For the purpose of this rant post, I’m going to focus more on general email lead nurturing tips (for cold campaigns and ones that you’d be writing for clients’ businesses.)

Email Lead Nurturing Tips: Respond When Someone Answers Your Email

This is why you should always send the lead nurturing emails from a real person with a real email address, too.

Because here’s the thing: If someone takes the time to respond nicely to your email nurturing (ESPECIALLY IF IT WAS A COLD EMAIL), you better respond back. Otherwise, what are you doing this for?

This recently happened to me. A video production dude started sending me cold emails. I’m OK with this, as long as the emails are relevant to me (not spam). The guy owned a video production company and was looking for referrals and to make connections. So far, so good. I’m a copywriter. I work with videos pros, and I have clients who need video pros.

When I finally responded quite enthusiastically to his fourth or fifth email, he never responded back. I get that emails get lost and filtered. Anticipating this possibility, I ALSO went ahead and sent him a LinkedIn connection request (with a personal note, explaining he’d been reaching out to me via email and I finally had a chance to check out his site, and figured it would make sense to connect). He accepted the connection, but he never responded to my note.

OK, whatever.

But here’s where he REALLY fell down: He didn’t remove me from his lead nurturing workflow. I continued to get his emails asking for referrals and connections. It was like I had never emailed him or connected with him on LI. So, I pinged him on LI and said, “Hey, I’m still in your nurturing campaign, you might want to remove me, etc.” (I was very nice and friendly.) STILL NO RESPONSE. (I’d even mentioned that I had shared his info with a marketing firm I work with.)

Guess what? He’s lost my trust. I won’t be referring business to him moving forward.

BIG TAKEAWAY: Don’t run lead nurturing for the sake of running lead nurturing. Make sure you have a plan for any number of scenarios, including what happens if someone responds directly and positively to your email. At the very least, I should have been removed from the workflow. Maybe entered into a different one, but probably not in this case.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated example.

I see this happen A LOT.

Too many businesses run lead nurturing campaigns because some marketing guru told them this is what they should do. The problem: Too often, no one thinks through things carefully and no one revisits the automated campaigns once set up. They just keep going and going and going. Good luck to the prospect who actually takes a specific action or responds directly.

Email Lead Nurturing Tips: If You’re a Writer, Speak Up

If you’re a freelance copywriter, you can have an extraordinary influence on this process and can help your client avoid looking dumb. When you write the lead nurturing emails, think through the logic. What happens if the person takes the action you’re trying to get them to take, like downloading a piece of content or requesting a demo? Marketing automation is awesome and it DOES work, but we humans have to program it and tell it what to do.

Email Lead Nurturing Tips: Err on the Side of Caution and REMOVE a Prospect from the Workflow

If someone does what you ask them to do, REMOVE THEM FROM THE WORKFLOW. I get it’s scary. Suddenly, this “lead” might not get any further canned communications! Oh, the horror! But honestly, this is OK! More than OK! They’ve done what you’ve asked. Enter them into a NEW workflow that reflects they’ve done what you’ve asked. If they’re still a prospect, the goal of this next set of lead nurturing emails will be to nudge them further down the sales funnel. If the prospect actually converts into a customer, they should be rerouted to customer retention workflows (provided that makes sense for your business).

This isn’t brain surgery. It’s not hard, but it can be tedious to think through and set up, and that’s what causes the missteps, I suspect.

But laziness isn’t an excuse for sloppiness.

OK, end of rant. For now. 😉

Got more questions about email lead nurturing or some other aspect of copywriting?

Check out my YouTube channel or contact me with your Q.

Freelance Copywriter Invoice Template: Download Now!

If you’re looking for a freelance copywriter invoice template, you’ve come to the right place. In my video at the end of this article, I discuss what needs to go on your invoice. But feel free to skip it and simply download the goods instead. Note: These files should be fine, but I’m not responsible if anything goes haywire with your machinery or devices, K?

Customize the template to your needs. Reminder: Be sure to check out my blog post on how to charge for copywriting services and how to invoice as a freelancer (the latter article goes into more detail about the process of invoicing). And, of course, you’ll find more helpful videos on my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

How to Charge for Copywriting Services

Buckle up, bitches! This is going to be a long-ish post about how to charge for copywriting services. If you’d prefer to watch the video, it’s below, but note that it’s long, too. Honestly, this is SUCH an important topic that I suggest doing both: Watch the video below. Then, read the blog post. (Possibly more than once.)

Disclaimers: Remember, I’m in the US, in the Northeast, just outside of Boston. I can only speak to my experience here. What you ultimately charge for your copywriting services will be influenced by the marketplace in your location, BUT THE CONCEPTS I’m discussing below will apply, regardless. (Or they should, anyway.) Remember, I’m not an accountant, a financial advisor, or a lawyer. This info is meant to be educational only.

The biggest mistake new copywriters make when deciding how to charge for copywriting services . . .

They undersell themselves.

BIG time.

I get why, too. If something takes you a couple of hours to write, you might never dream of charging $400, $500, or even more, right? Because you’re thinking in terms of TIME instead of VALUE.

Understand (and embrace) the value you’re delivering to clients.

Remember, content drives sales. Content marketing is a 400 billion-dollar industry, and for good reason. Organizations use compelling content to lure in prospective customers—through emails, videos, podcasts, blog posts, landing pages, case studies, white papers, direct mailers, ads (both digital and print), and so forth.

Great content will help a company . . .

  • Build awareness about the brand
  • Boost engagement between prospects/customers and the brand
  • Convert prospects into customers
  • Keep existing customers engaged and interested so that they continue buying

At the end of the day, it’s all about sales, though.

And awesome content motivates people to buy, buy, buy.

But here’s the thing: When you develop a piece of content to help drive sales . . . it isn’t just driving ONE sale, right? The content continues to work. It doesn’t have an expiration date or shelf life—at least, not in the typical ways that we think. (It’s not like that lonely container of yogurt that got lost in the back of your fridge.)

Sure, a time-sensitive ad will have an expiration date, but you get the idea. Great content can have a long shelf life and it can continue to work on behalf of your client long after you bill them your one-time fee.

In other words: The content you create has immense VALUE. And you need to charge accordingly.

How to charge for copywriting services: Example time!

Let’s pretend one of your clients is an acupuncture clinic—and that one of the specialties of this clinic is fertility issues.

The clinic hires you to write a series of blog posts about infertility and how acupuncture can help and/or be a complement to traditional treatment.

You and the client discuss possible angles for posts, you do keyword research, and you come up with the following titles, all of which contain a good keyword phrase:

  • How Can Acupuncture Help with Infertility? The title itself is the keyword phrase. It receives 10 searches each month and has wicked low keyword difficulty (KD). However, a phrase WITHIN that phrase (“can acupuncture help with infertility”) has 50 monthly searches and a KD of 51. So this title will work doubly hard.
  • Fertility Acupuncture: What to Expect. The phrase “fertility acupuncture what to expect” gets 30 searches a month, but ranks 23 on the keyword difficulty scale, which is very good.
  • How Long Does Acupuncture Take for Fertility? Again, the title itself is the keyword phrase with 40 monthly searches and 25 KD.
  • Questions to Ask Acupuncturist for Fertility. Ditto as above with 90 monthly searches and 23 KD.

The clinic loves the topics and signs off on them.

From there, you talk to one of the acupuncturists. You spend a little over an hour on the phone with her, but she’s able to answer all the questions you have regarding each topic, so you know the drafting of each blog post should go quickly. (You remember to record the interview so that you can have it transcribed on Rev.com. See my blog post on must-have copywriting tools!)

Now comes the drafting. You do some additional research to get current stats on fertility, pregnancy rates, etc.

You draft the blog posts and share them with the client. Each one clocks in around 750 words.

The client has some revisions. You do those.

Then, they sign off.

You’ve been really good about tracking your time, and you figure, on average, each blog post took 3 hours to do (and that’s including the keyword research, call with the client, additional research, drafting, and revising).

Let’s say you’ve been thinking about an hourly rate of $60/hour because heck—that sounds really great to you! Maybe in your old job working for an employer, your hourly rate was $30/hour. So this is DOUBLE!

$60 x 3 hours = $180 per blog

You decide to round up to $200 per blog. A nice, neat number.

And at 4 blogs, that comes to $800, which is a nice, neat payday.

Or is it?

When figuring out how to charge for copywriting services, don’t undersell yourself!

The NEXT part is critical for anyone who’s thinking, “Wait, that sounds reasonable.”

Here’s what you need to keep in mind—and here’s where I encourage a shift in your thinking.

Think beyond the tangible thing you’re creating—the blog posts. And think about the inherent value in each blog post.

Let’s say the blogs are performing REALLY well. You’ve chosen great longtail keyword phrases with low competition, as described above. You’ve done a great job writing them. You wrote social media posts for the blogs to help promote them even more.

And the acupuncture clinic’s site has seen an increase in web traffic, thanks to those blogs. And, on average, it can attribute two new bookings per month because of those blogs.

(Note: Blog posts are usually considered “top of the funnel” content, meaning they’re being used to educate people who are in the research stage, not quite the buying stage. This is usually true, but I’d argue that sometimes people are in both stages at once—they need education, but they also want—and are willing to—take action sooner rather than later. After some people read these series of blogs and poke around the clinic’s website, they reach out for an initial consultation and treatment.)

Now, let’s say the acupuncture clinic charges $125 for the first visit and $100 for each subsequent visit. And that the average fertility patient books ten visits (including the initial visit).

$125 + (9 x 100) = $1025

You could say the lifetime value of a fertility patient starts at $1025. I say “start,” because there’s a good possibility that a happy fertility patient might refer business to the clinic—or come back for treatments in other areas. So, in essence, each patient is worth even more than you might think.

You’re starting to see it, right? The disparity between what you’re thinking of charging for these blogs and what the acupuncture practice makes from having such awesome content—content that attracts people to the site and convinces them to make an appointment. (And you can apply this logic to all content marketing, not just blog posts.)

To recap the numbers . . .

  • You charged a one-time payment of $200/blog. For the series of four blogs on fertility issues, that’s a payday of $800.
  • The clinic makes, on average, $1025 per fertility patient. And over 12 months, it brings in 24 fertility patients, which are worth over $24,000.

Even if we just want to look at the initial visit per patient—24 patients per year multiplied by an initial visit fee of $125 is $3000.

See where I’m going? Your blogs have much more value to the customer than simply the “hours” you took to write them. Charge accordingly.

Now, I’m not suggesting your charge $24K or even $3K. But they are worth more than the time you put in.

When deciding how to charge for copywriting services, you also need to keep something else in mind . . .

When you’re freelancing, your rates need to also account for other business expenses since everything is on your shoulders:

  • Taxes, like self-employment tax
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement

Often when you worked as an employee, those things were drawn out of your paycheck automatically. Now, it’s up to you to pay for them. Along with other business expenses, like computers.

See where I’m going? The blog content you create is worth more than simply the “hours” you spent doing it.

Bottom line: Avoid an “hourly” mindset.

Don’t give hourly quotes. Give PROJECT quotes.

Hourly quotes are dangerous for a couple of reasons.

  • First of all, you shouldn’t get penalized for being fast—or getting faster over time. You’re still delivering the same value, right? If something takes you two hours or six hours, as long as the value is consistent, THAT’S what matters.
  • Second, hourly quotes are stressful. For you. For the client. Too often, with hourly quotes, we fall into psychological traps. “Well, I quoted four hours, so I’ll take four hours.” But what if you could get it done in half that time? Think of what you could do with those other two hours? Now multiply that thinking across all the quotes you give over a week, a month, a year. Not to mention that clients can easily fixate on hours and lose sight of value. You don’t want to nitpick over this.

Project quotes let everyone breathe easier because everyone knows where they stand.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, especially if you’re new to this: “Well, Copy Bitch, this is all well and good, but I still don’t know how to charge for copywriting services. As in, what the heck should my project quotes BE?”

I got you!

Internally, you will need to develop a sense of how long it takes you to produce different types of content, on average.

Some of the stuff you’ll encounter as a freelance copywriter:

  • Blog posts, of varying lengths. Usually, you want to aim for at least 750/1000 words. Google rewards longer content. But readers also want to get answers to their questions/pain points. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be value in an occasional 400-word piece—there can be, but based on my experience, longer is better.
  • White papers (guides). The term “white paper” used to have a very specific definition 20 years ago (much more clinical/technical). Now, it’s often used interchangeably with “guide.” And that’s what it is. These can vary in length from a few pages to upwards of 20 or so.
  • Social media posts. I often write “batches” of social media posts for clients that we schedule out.
  • Copy for ads—digital ads, print ads, radio spots.
  • Video scripts. Everything from explainer videos to product videos to everything in between.
  • Case studies. Typically, you’re talking to your client’s customers.
  • Email marketing. Think longer newsletters, but also those simpler emails (sometimes text-based). You do more than simply craft the email copy, though—you write subject lines, preview lines, and the body copy.
  • Messaging/branding/content strategy. You might do an overall strategy or specific messaging campaigns that include several different components.
  • Content calendars. Often for the blog, but it can (and should) run the gamut of all marketing—webinars, podcasts, social media, premium offers (like guides).
  • Website copy. Full websites to specific landing pages.
  • Print pieces, like direct mailers and brochures. Yes, there’s still a place for these items in today’s marketing landscape.

When you’re getting started, sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith, give a quote, AND LEARN FROM THE WORK.

And here’s the thing: I’m about to give some of my numbers below, but keep in mind I’ve been doing this since 2002. If you’re new, I get that you might not have the confidence to give pricier quotes. Heck, I also get that the example quote I used above ($800 for the four blog posts) sounds reasonable to you. Especially if you’re doing work like that across, say, four or five clients a month. That’s decent scratch when you’re just starting out (or if it’s side hustle).

My point: Just make sure you are always considering the VALUE you’re delivering. Don’t let someone convince you to write for pennies per word. What you’re doing is so, so much more valuable.

Another point: When you’re starting out, sometimes you need to simply start getting money in the door. So I’d absolutely support someone doing four blog posts for $800—you’ll get solid clips to put in your portfolio and hopefully a client testimonial for your site and LinkedIn.

But over time, you should revisit the quotes. It’s perfectly OK and natural—and expected—to occasionally raise your rates.

You can also work on getting faster. Maybe you’re able to get into a good rhythm with a client and you can write awesome content for a blog post in a little over an hour. (It’s possible, depending on the client.) So aiming to get faster while still delivering the value is a great way to essentially give yourself a raise without even raising your quote for the client.

Give prospective clients a scope of work.

This will include the overall project quote. But it will also outline all the work that goes into the content you’re producing, like interviews, keyword research, drafting, and revisions. It will also state the timeline and financial terms.

Note: With first-time clients, always get a down payment. I ask for 1/3 of the project quote. (Don’t do any work until you get the down payment.)

The balance should be due within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft. Note the word “first” in italics. The reason you don’t want to require payment within 30 days of the client signing off on the final copy is because you could end up waiting a long time for payment. Like, what if the client drags their feet signing off on the copy? You shouldn’t get penalized. Asking for payment within 30 days of the client receiving the first draft also motivates the client to get you feedback about revisions, which brings me to my next point . . .

In your project quote/scope of work, tell clients they must request revisions within 30 days of receiving the first draft. Again, this motivates the client to stay on track—and helps move the project along. (Project management 101, people!)

Plus, it helps YOU plan. If you’re juggling multiple projects in various stages, you can plan your time accordingly.

Here’s a rough idea of how I charge for copywriting services. Note: These are 2022 numbers.

Blog posts. I typically charge $450/blog—give or take. They usually weigh in between 1000 and 1500 words. Anything more than that (and that’s something I’d know in advance), I’d charge more. I wouldn’t charge much less, even if they’re slightly shorter, because again, the value is still there.

Some blogs take me a couple of hours to write. Some might take me four. Not usually longer than that. You can do the math. $100/hour is a healthy rate for me and my needs—and for the marketplace I work in.

Remember, you’re delivering value. Blog posts especially have LONG shelf lives.

Email marketing. I’m anywhere from $75 to $100 per email. It’s worth noting that I give multiple subject line options and preview line options. And I typically provide an option A and B for the body copy. (Not all writers do this.) So if I’m writing a series of 6 emails, yeah—that could be $600. But again, the VALUE I deliver is there.

(We could start a drinking game with this . . . every time I write the word “value,” drink!)

Websites. I have a per-page range: $150 – $250/page. This includes everything: discovery call with the client, keyword phrase research, content/design strategy (usually a collaboration with the designer), basic messaging, and drafting each optimized page using SEO best practices. (Once you see all the work laid out like that you might be thinking, “Heck. Even $250/page isn’t enough.” You’re not necessarily wrong.)

The reason I do a per-page rate is because website projects almost always go off the rails. Clients will come saying, “It’s only going to be an x-page site.” But once you dig in and provide strategy, that will likely change (and be more). But if you quoted on what they presumed the number of pages to be, you’ll be screwed. So I always give them a per page rate. I will say something like, “Based on the current site we’re talking about, which looks to be this many pages, I expect the final quote to be around X. But this number can change if we add more pages.” (And, of course, during the drafting process, I would alert the client if it’s looking like there will be a significant increase in pages.)

Case studies. Effective case studies are usually short—think 1 to 2 pages, max. But they take A LOT of work because they usually involve talking to one of your client’s clients. I often start at $500 per case study (and I suspect I’m on the lower side).

Video scripts. Again, developing a script for a short video—like 30 to 60 seconds—might not sound like a lot of work, but it is. Especially since you usually need to think in terms of copy and video and provide directions for both. I’m anywhere from $450 to $750 per script (and I suspect I might be on the lower side, to be honest).

Don’t let short copy deceive you. Sometimes it takes more effort to write a compelling short piece—like a subject line, PPC ad, or case study—than it does to write something longer.

White papers. These can be tricky. I just wrote a 12-page white paper for a nonprofit. Roughly 4500 words. I’m charging $2000 (because it’s a nonprofit). But honestly, that’s probably more like a $4500 job, which would be roughly $1/word. Which feels right.

Content editorial calendars. I usually develop these calendars every quarter for clients. For a client that posts four blogs a month, I might charge anywhere from $350 to $500 for the quarterly calendar, which includes keyword phrase research, optimized title, and a brief synopsis of the angle.

Messaging/branding/content strategy. This all depends on how deep of a dive the client wants. Are you talking to their customers and building out buyer personas first? Are you doing an audit of current messaging (on the website, for example)? Are you providing a fancy presentation or a down-and-dirty document with messaging recommendations? Even the latter requires many hours of work, so don’t undersell yourself.

The challenge with messaging projects is that some (not all) clients have a hard time wrapping their heads around pricey quotes since the “deliverable” will only be used internally. It’s an internal document rather than a customer-facing piece of content, like a blog post or website page.

Something else to think about: Are you part of a team—like a marketing department—and your job is more focused on language rather than an overall strategy? That could affect your quote. No matter how you slice it, quotes for messaging projects can get big, fast. You need to know what the client expects to be delivered. A down-and-dirty messaging doc for a small business might be in the $1000 range (or even less). A more comprehensive branding/messaging audit where you’re part of a team for a big company? You might charge $3000, even $5000, or more.

Print pieces, like direct mailers and brochures. Again, this can vary widely, depending on the size. A direct mailer that’s an oversized postcard might be $500. But if it’s a long direct mail sales letter, it can be much more than that. (That sort of direct-mail copywriting is a true specialty. It’s not something I do.) Brochures and catalogs—this also depends on the size. A simple tri-fold brochure might be $750 to $1000. The more pages you add, the more work that’s involved, so the bigger your quote.

Closing thoughts on how to charge for copywriting services . . .

The most important thing you should take away from this article is this: Quote on the VALUE you’re delivering, not the hours it takes you to do a project.

Challenge yourself to get faster, while still delivering value. If you get faster with your writing—without losing quality—you’re going to give yourself an automatic “raise” without even having to get your clients to pay more.

Revisit your rates every year or so. Over time, you need to increase rates. For example, if you’ve been consistently charging $100 per website page, maybe you up it to $125 per page.

Be flexible and forgiving. When you’re starting out, you might opt to quote a little low until you build your confidence and to just get some money in the door. There’s a big difference between quoting a little low and letting someone take advantage of you. Avoid the latter. And forgive yourself when you get a quote wrong. Learn from it.

Wishing you much luck in your journey!

Want more great copywriting tips? Check out my YouTube channel.

If you haven’t already, mosey on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe. I share lots of copywriting tips—not just the hard skills, but also all the “soft” skills you need to run a successful biz as a freelancer.

How to Conduct an Interview for an Article

Wondering how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, guide, or some other piece of marketing content you’ve been tasked to write as a freelance copywriter?

Well, step right up. You can watch the video below . . . or keep reading for my tips and tricks.

How interviews in Copywriting Land differ from journalistic interviews

You have much more space to breathe as a freelance copywriter conducting an interview with a subject matter expert, or SME as we say in the biz (because we marketing writers love our acronyms and jargon).

As a journalist, you’re often tasked with interviewing people who have no desire to talk to you. That can lead to lots of stress and tension.

Luckily, when you’re a freelance copywriter, the folks you interview will be invested in what you’re doing. You’ll likely be talking to someone on the client side who’s an expert in what they do. Maybe it’s a doctor for a urology practice. Or maybe it’s a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of DOT compliance. They want to see you succeed since it’s beneficial for them and their business. So they’re usually happy to help. You don’t need to worry about it being an antagonistic interview like you might have experienced as a journalist.

That said,  you might still be nervous conducting interviews in this new setting as a marketing copywriter. This is normal, even for folks like me who’ve been at it a good long while. If you’re an introvert and you hate talking to people, conducting interviews via phone, Zoom, or in person can be challenging. Especially in person since that requires pants.

OK, so let’s get to some tips about how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, or other pieces of marketing content.

Develop your questions in advance and send them to your interview subject ahead of time. You’re going to want to do some preliminary research based on the angle of your article, blog post, or white paper. Develop questions from there and send them to the subject matter expert (SME). Keep it reasonable, though. I wouldn’t send more than 15 questions via email. If you feel you’re going to need to ask a lot more questions than that, double-check to make sure the focus of your article is focused enough.

Set clear expectations. How will you be conducting the interview? Over the phone? Zoom? Skype? Should they have their cameras on or is audio-only OK? When scheduling, let people know how long you’ll need them. Plan for more time than you need. It will be a treat for them if you complete the interview early. Suddenly, they might have 10 or 15 extra minutes in their day.

Always send a calendar invite and make sure they accept it. I always follow up a calendar invite with an email alerting them that I just sent it. (Yeah, yeah, I know.) And I paste the info in the email, just in case. I might be going overboard. But it works for me. You do you.

Send a reminder the day before or the morning of. Provide the details, like a Zoom link or phone number and the list of questions again. If you don’t send the reminder, then don’t be surprised when someone flakes out.

Show up early to the interview. You’ll likely be conducting most interviews via phone or Zoom. Show up five minutes early. You’ll be able to troubleshoot any glitches. And if your interview subject is early, they won’t have to wait.

RECORD THE INTERVIEW. Be redundant and use a backup device. I use Zoom and the memo function on my phone. I always alert people that I’m recording and explain why (because I can never read my own handwriting). I tell them that I promise I won’t use anything they sat against them in a court of law. This almost always elicits chuckles and puts people at ease.

And while all of the above is true, the real reason you want to record is this: You will listen better and more deeply if you’re not worried about taking notes. I think you should still take some notes, as needed. But put your focus on your interview subject. Follow their directives. Yeah, you don’t want the interview to go off the rails, but allow yourself to follow tangents that seem relevant or interesting.

Ask follow-up questions or clarification, as needed. Your interview subjects will likely say something that surprises you or that you want to know a little more about. ALLOW for this. Ask those questions.

Resist the temptation to bring yourself into the interview. I’ve seen this mistake one too many times. It’s not about you. Shine the light on your subject. (Unless in rare instances your experience is highly relevant or directly related.)

PAUSE AND TAKE A DEEP BREATH. And when doing so, simply say, “Great, I’m just double-checking my questions here. Bear with me.” This allows for a little breather and for you to catch any questions you missed.

Lean into the silences and let your interview subjects fill them in. They will, too, because it’s human nature.

At the end of the interview, set clear expectations about what happens next. For example, let them know when they can expect to see the first draft. Remember, in Copywriting Land, your interview subject will review, edit, and approve the final copy. This is one of the biggest differences between journalism and copywriting. In Journalism Land, people don’t get to approve or change their quotes. What’s on the record is on the record. But in Copywriting Land, it’s a little different. So explain what happens next: “I’ll be sending you a draft in a week. You can make suggested edits in the margins or if we need to discuss more complex edits, we can schedule a call.” Let people know they are welcome to reach out to you via email if they forgot something or whatever.

Be classy and say thank you. Send a quick email thanking them for their time and reiterating the next steps.

How to conduct an interview for an article – best practices for asking questions

Ask open-ended questions. Remember, the goal is to get people talking.

If you need clarification, ask for it. Say something like, “Can you elaborate?” Or: “Can you provide an example?”

Don’t be afraid to ask someone to dumb something down. You can even ask them to do exactly that: “Hmm. I’m not quite sure I understand. Let’s pretend I’m ten. How would you explain this concept to me?”

A great question to end all interviews (or some variation):

  • Is there anything you were expecting me to ask that I didn’t?
  • If there’s one thing you’d want a reader to take away from this article, what would it be?
  • Is there anything else you want to make sure I convey?

Remember, don’t fill in the silences. IT’S SO TEMPTING, I KNOW. But bite your tongue, especially when asking these closing questions. Let the interview subject fill in the blanks.

Final tips on how to conduct an interview for an article, blog post, white paper, or another piece of marketing content

Use a service like Rev.com or Temi.com to transcribe the interview. Either with a human or with their automated transcription, which is pretty good. It’ll make your life so much easier, trust me. Instead of spending valuable time transcribing the interview, you can focus on highlighting important messages, identifying great quotes, conducting additional research, and—oh yeah—writing awesome content. Plus, you’ll get to the writing part SO MUCH FASTER, which is good for the client and you.

Wondering how it’s good for you? Well, let’s say you charge $500 per blog post, and that includes initial research (keywords and topic), scheduling the interview with the subject matter expert, conducting a 30-minute interview, reviewing the transcript, writing the blog post, getting feedback from the client, and providing one round of revisions. If you don’t record and simply go by notes, I guarantee you’ll have overlooked something/forgotten something. And if you choose to transcribe the interview yourself, think of how much time that will take. I don’t care if you’re a good transcriber—it will take you at least 30 minutes (if you’re truly super fast) and more like an hour or more easily. What if you got that hour back for writing—or what if you get that hour back in your pocket?

Look at it this way: Let’s say it takes you five hours from start to finish to produce the final blog when you use a transcription service, but it takes you six to seven hours if you transcribe the interview yourself. You can do the math! Consider how much an hour of your time is worth.

Be kind to yourself, especially if you’re just starting out. And know that even if you end up doing this for years, some days will be better than others. Even now, I still have moments where I’m like, “Hmm. That wasn’t my best work.” It happens. The good news is that all that messy stuff happens in the background. In other words, the interview itself is not the final product—the piece of writing is. So even if it’s a little messy getting there, you can still make sure the final prose shines in the end.

Got other questions about how to conduct an interview for an article?

Get in touch and ask away. Always happy to help!

Is Copywriting Hard? NOPE (Provided You Like to Write)

A question folks ask me: Is copywriting hard to do or hard to learn?

Well, if you hate writing, then copywriting will likely be hard to learn and to do. It will probably be painful as well.

I often tell folks that working as a copywriter means always having another term paper due. That’s what it feels like. And for some folks, that would be the WORST. THING. EVER. It would conjure bad memories of high school and writing term papers on mind-numbing subjects at 2 AM while hopped up on Red Bull.

But for someone like me?

BLISS.

Bottom line: If you enjoy writing, you’re decent at it, and you’re willing to learn, then no—copywriting isn’t “hard” to do. And it’s an absolutely learnable skill.

I’m living proof!

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a fiction writer. I took a detour out of college and worked in radio where I learned about copywriting. I wrote promotional copy, liners, radio ads, etc.

In 2002, I started my freelance copywriting biz. The freelance aspect is perfect for me since it gives me plenty of flexibility to write fiction as well.

As for the copywriting part, I’m mostly self-taught. And I’m still learning because things change, like SEO best practices and email marketing best practices (just to name a few).

Are you thinking about getting into copywriting (also known as content marketing)? Do you need some resources?

To get started, I highly recommend the following:

Or check out some of my other blog posts about copywriting:

To recap: Is copywriting hard? NOPE. Check out my video below for more insights.

My Favorite Copywriting Tools

I’ll likely make this a recurring series, but to start, here are five favorite copywriting tools to add to your content marketing toolbox.

Note: If you’d prefer watching a video about this topic, I’m embedding one below from my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

1. Zoom

I was using Zoom pre-pandemic, and I’ve loved it since the beginning. Why do I feel the need for conferencing software? Couldn’t a phone call work? Well, with Zoom, you can share screens, which comes in handy (for example, when showing a website mockup). Plus, I can record the calls on Zoom as well. I can also have multiple people join the call (which is sometimes necessary—I’ve been on calls with five or six people on the client-side).

I’m currently on the Pro plan, which works great for my needs and budget. (The reason I don’t recommend the free version: The 40-minute limit on phone calls. You WILL have calls that go over 40 minutes, and it can be embarrassing or ruin the vibe when you have to pause and send out a new invite.)

Note: I record ALL client calls. I always let them know and remind them that nothing will be used against them in a court of law. (Which always elicits a chuckle.) Recording eliminates the need for me to frantically take notes (which I can never read anyway). Instead, I can focus on the substance of the conversation.

2. Rev.com

I mentioned above that I always record my calls. From there, I upload the calls to Rev.com to get the recording transcribed. I’ve used both the manual transcription where a human listens and transcribes word-for-word and the AI (artificial intelligence) that does an automated transcription. The two biggest differences between the two? Price and accuracy. Humans are much more accurate, but I got to admit the AI is pretty close (depending on how good the recording itself is—a client on a landline vs. in the car).

I tend to use humans for complex interviews involving medical topics (I do writing for a urology practice). But the AI works great for almost everything else.

As for pricing, as I write this, the human transcription is $1.25/minute while the AI is .25 a minute. (And keep in mind that this is a legit business expense for a writer. I have a line item in my business expenses for Rev.com.)

Note: I’ve heard good things about Temi.com, another AI option.

3. Keyword research tools

As a freelance copywriter, you’ll be writing website copy and blog posts. (To name just a couple of items.) One of the goals of those two types of content is to bring people in via organic search. To accomplish this, you need to know what phrases people are searching on—and then develop a content strategy and content calendar to support those themes.

Confession: I used to bristle when it came to keyword research. I have no problem optimizing the content for search. But I preferred having the keyword phrases handed to me. Why? I didn’t always feel confident in my ability to look at numbers and stats. And earlier keyword tools (think the early to mid-aughts) weren’t as user-friendly (in my estimation) for regular folks like me. But they’ve come a long way, and in recent years, I’ve embraced doing the initial pass at the KW research.

Luckily, some good free keyword tools exist. So you can start with those if you’re just launching your freelance copywriting business. But if you find that you’re doing a lot of SEO copywriting, for example, and the free keyword tools aren’t cutting it, I recommend investing in a paid tool. My go-to is SEMRush. Some folks just starting out might find it a little on the pricy side (again, I’m on the Pro plan), but it’s something to consider as you grow.

4. Lettercount.com

Lettercount.com is quick, easy, and my favorite price: FREE. I’ve used this site for years. It’s just a box that does a quick character count. Perfect for double-checking meta descriptions, title tags, tweets, and anything else restricted by a certain number of characters.

5. Canva.com

Canva has free and premium versions. I’m currently on the free, and it works for my needs, right now. Canva has ready-made templates and designs awaiting your copy and finishing touches. I find it incredibly intuitive, too.

Got other questions about copywriting?

Be sure to browse my Ask the Copy Bitch blog and my Ask the Copy Bitch YouTube channel.

 

Why Creative Product Descriptions Matter

Product descriptions absolutely should tell prospective customers the info they need to know. Things like material, quality, size, etc. All those features that will influence a person’s buying decision.

But consider all the product descriptions we encounter when we’re shopping for something. What will make yours stand out compared to all the rest?

Personality. Creativity. Something unexpected, like fun sentences and turns of phrases instead of the same ol’, same ol’. Some products are famous for their descriptions (like The J. Peterman Company). But I’d be willing to bet most products are famous for having boring descriptions.

Don’t be boring or predictable. Taking the time to craft thoughtful, funny, whimsical, engaging descriptions will resonate with customers, even if only on a subconscious level. At best, they will buy from you because of the descriptions (and they might share your product pages because of them as well…which could garner you more sales). And, of course, you’ll be able to solidify that all-important “brand voice” in your descriptions.

My nephew recently ventured into the world of ecommerce, and he asked me to help him with some of his products’ descriptions. Here’s a before and after. See what you think.

BEFORE THE COPY BITCH’S HANDIWORK.

AFTER THE COPY BITCH’S MAGIC EDITS…

Need help writing product descriptions…or maybe some other sort of copy? Check out my portfolio and service pages and let’s chat.

Just Say No to Marketing Jargon

A fellow copywriter messaged me the other day. He said, “Good morning. I need another less cliched word for ‘industry-leading.’ Whatcha got?

Now, you might wonder what the problem is with “industry-leading.” After all, if your company is the leader in its industry, why not say it?

Well, let’s break that down. Why should industry-leading matter to your prospect and customers anyway? Does it matter to your prospects? The answer might very well be yes, but not because you’ve simply stated your company is an industry leader.

So what could industry-leading mean? Perhaps it means the company is constantly putting stuff out in the marketplace that no one else is. Perhaps it means the company has an active and imaginative R&D department that’s constantly trying to improve products/services. Maybe it means the company has been at it a long time, and this longevity matters because in an industry where there are many fly-by-night companies (I’m riffing here), you can count on this company always being there.

You get the idea. It’s like the “show, don’t tell” advice fiction writers get all the time. Show your readers what you’re trying to convey rather than just saying it with marketing jargon.

Wondering if you’re guilty of using marketing jargon? We all do it from time to time, and the list is constantly evolving. Here’s a good list from HubSpot of 70 buzzwords and jargon to avoid.

Company Tagline Construction: What to Keep in Mind

I’ve been working with many clients lately who are rethinking their taglines or coming up with one for the first time. So I thought I’d write a post on some tagline “basics.”

What is a tagline?

In my mind, a tagline is a fun (yes, fun — we should all be having more fun, shouldn’t we?) way of branding what you do (or what your product does) in the minds of customers. The best taglines have staying power, and, over time, they can stand alone, meaning you could read or hear only the tagline, and you’d still know what it represents.

For example, I bet you can easily match the tags below to a company or product:

  1. Good to the last drop.
  2. We bring good things to life.
  3. When you care enough to send the very best.

But also keep this in mind: a tagline in today’s world is more than just a “line.” It’s a line that can create a whole new world of engagement for your customers and prospects…if it’s done right (more on this in a minute).

What are the Rules for Tagline/Slogan Creation?

I hate rules. Sounds so restrictive, and for every rule I give about taglines or slogans, I’m sure someone could easily give me a good example of someone breaking the rule well. So let’s call them guidelines.

  • Figure out what you want your tagline to accomplish. Should it incite passion? Should it educate? Should it be risky? Should it be clever? Why? Think about your prospective audience and consider what they would appreciate.
  • Brainstorm words you want associated with your business. Think specific and concrete, but don’t rule out thematic words like “enlightening” or “inspired.” A great place to look for words and phrases? Customer testimonials. Or ask your Facebook fans to shout out 2 or 3 words that describe your business, your service, your “essence.”
  • Brainstorm words you don’t want associated with your business. You know, like “poopy” or “swamp ass.” Unless, of course, those phrases apply in a positive way.
  • Now start brainstorming actual tags. Don’t edit yourself. And involve other people from your company. You never know where a brilliant idea is going to come from and you don’t need to be a writer or have a marketing degree to come up with something brilliant. However, when in doubt, hire a copywriter (like me! shameless plug!) to craft a tagline for you.
  • Keep length in mind. Typically, taglines should be short, punchy, and memorable. What’s the definition of short? That depends. The best taglines typically (but not always) fall in the five- to eight-word (or so) category.
  • Test, test, test. Test on current customers. Test it out with your Facebook fans (you could even turn it into a contest — have them vote for the best tag). Test it on people who know your business (e.g., your networking group, like BNI). Don’t allow people to simply say “I like this one.” Make sure they can explain why.

Yes, it’s FREE! Well, wait…

I just signed up for a free magazine subscription. Actually, the magazine comes out monthly, and you can buy the full 12-month subscription OR you can choose the “standard-level subscription,” which gives you four issues for FREE (if you qualify), one each quarter.  I’m signing up for this magazine because a client mentioned she thinks it has good info for me to follow regarding her business. She told me to sign up for the freebie since that would give me just enough of what I needed to know.

Fine.

Here was my experience in The Land of (Not-So?) Free:

Why don’t they say “Click here for your FREE subscription – one issue, one per quarter”? Oh, because apparently they want to play. Here’s what they said: “Request a standard subscription.” That doesn’t sound very free, but maybe that’s me being a poor sport.

When you click on the “Request a standard subscription” button, you’re brought to a landing page that says:

Free Subscription to <Name Redacted> Magazine
It only takes 2 minutes to complete this one-page form!

And then, beneath that, there’s a big yellow WARNING triangle that says:

Did you receive a FREE COPY at your address?
Or are you an existing subscriber?
If so, do NOT fill out the form below!
Instead, LOGIN to confirm your pending subscription, renew or change address.

And then below this is the World’s Longest Form For Something Free (27 fields to fill out). It includes a field that asks me the first letter of my father’s first name, for verification purposes (as Dave Barry would say, “I’m not making this up.”)

After filling it out (I forget to time it to see if it took two minutes) and submitting it, I kinda felt panicky, like I just agreed to getting slapped with a $50 invoice. There was nothing saying “Congrats! You’ll get your first free issue in 6-8 weeks. And we’ll send you three more free issues after that. If at that point you want to subscribe to our 12-month plan, you can do so. And if not, no worries — you’ll never get an invoice from us unless you decide to upgrade.” Instead, everything felt vague and confusing. Even the follow-up email made me feel like I had an “account,” which I guess I do.

Here’s my beef: if you’re going to give something away for FREE, give it away FREE and CLEAR. Do not make me jump through hoops with a long-ass form. Do not make me believe, after filling out said form, that I’m going to be saddled with an invoice.

Since I’m filling out a request for a free magazine, I understand you’ll need my mailing address (that’s already giving you much more info than I provide on most forms). But for everyone else out there who is giving something away for free, get only the basics: a name and an email address and include an opt-in check box for future communications. That’s it. Yes, I understand what you’re giving away is a bait piece, but really, if I give you my email address and my explicit permission to continue marketing to me, that’s all the info you need. And if I DON’T give you permission to market to me again, get over it.

I’m a marketing copywriter, so I understand the “client side,” trust me. But I also believe that by advocating for the customer side first, both sides will ultimately win in the long run.

Recap: If you’re really giving something away free and clear, say so and stand by it. Make it easy for people to get the goods. Respect the fact that for many, this is all they will ever want from you. And then move on and focus on the ones who do want to hear from you again.

Next week, I’ll be answering a question from a reader about whether free stuff should require any sort of form at all. It’s a good question. Stay tuned for my answer.