For business owners who self-describe as “not a good writer” or say something like “I hate writing,” copywriting likely feels a natural piece of marketing to outsource — especially for a copywriting project as massive and permanent as your website.
But why does copywriting sometimes feel just as hard for those of us who are comfortable with our writing skills and even enjoy writing in other contexts?
For strong writers, it can feel especially bewildering to find yourself hitting a wall when you try to write your homepage copy. Or to feel like copywriting should come easily, only to end up writing a services page that sounds forced, stilted, cliched.
For strong writers, hiring a copywriter might not feel right. It may seem inauthentic, somehow. Because shouldn’t you — who loved English class! — be able to write about your own damn business?
Here’s the thing. Even strong writers benefit from hiring a copywriter. On the flip side, even folks who hate writing can write fabulous, flowy copy for their own website.
Because copywriting from a flow state isn’t about your writing prowess (or lack thereof).
Copywriting can feel hard for anyone — good writers included — due to three reasons (none of which are about writing skills):
- Uncertainty about your message
- No clearly defined target market (or a lack of insight into the target market)
- A lack of confidence in the value of what you offer
Through the process of working with a good copywriter, you’ll likely overcome most of these hurdles. But whether you end up outsourcing your copywriting or going the DIY route, it’s valuable to understand which of these three (or all of them) are getting in your way.
Keep reading to see which of these reasons most resonates with you.
Uncertainty about your message
Copywriting, like all writing, is only as good as the ideas behind it.
If you sit down to write an essay, you have to have a point of view or a purpose for writing. Only after you have your main ideas gathered can you really go to town with the actual writing, or you’ll end up staring at that blinking cursor waiting for inspiration to strike (hmmm, sound familiar?).
In the same way, when you start writing copy for your website, you have to first be sure of what you’re writing about.
Some of you might have read that and immediately thought, “Obviously I know what I’m writing about! I’m writing about my business!”
I hear you. But I encourage you to have a more fleshed-out, unique message than “my business exists.”
Otherwise, it’s kind of like deciding you’re going to write your term paper on…. Edgar Allen Poe, full stop. Your essay can’t be another straight biography of this guy — you have to choose an angle. Like… How Edgar Allen Poe embodied the myth of the tortured artist. (My 11th-grade term paper topic, ha!)
So what is your message? To me, it’s easiest to arrive at this answer by comparing your business to others. Try to answer these questions:
How is my service or product different?
What do I stand for that others don’t?
What do I want to be known for?
Is there a gap in the market that I am filling?
If you’re stuck, try these questions:
How does my service or product make my customers’ lives better?
Why did I get into business in the first place?
What keeps me going when things get tough?
When I’m doing a website copywriting project for my done-for-you clients, I have a behind-the-scenes step that I call: “Core Message.” This is where I take my research and write a concise 1-3 paragraph narrative about my client that answers the question: “What is [client] all about?”
I then use this paragraph to guide the website messaging and strategy.
Here’s an example of a “Core Message” I wrote for one of my recent clients:
No clearly defined target market (or a lack of insight into the target market)
One of the top reasons copywriting feels challenging is that the writer doesn’t know who they’re writing to. Alternatively, it could be that you do know who your market is, but you don’t know the hearts and minds of that market.
To illustrate how crucial this piece is, imagine you are invited to prepare an inspirational speech for an audience. Only, you aren’t told who the audience is. It could be a university graduating class, a keynote conference for executives, a group of kids at a summer camp. Could you confidently write and deliver that speech without knowing who the hell it’s for?
If you tried, you’d likely end up with a vague speech with tired phrases like, “Dream big…” And it would feel really, really hard to write.
So, how do you define your target market? Here are the questions I’d ask myself if I wasn’t sure:
Do I want to work with a specific industry? (e.g. life coaches)
Do I solve a problem that only certain people have? (e.g. people with chronic acid reflux)
Do I work best with a certain personality type? (e.g. introverted leaders)
Does my work or products appeal to a certain value? (e.g. minimalists or the zero-waste crowd)
Do I want to work with people at a certain place in their journey/life? (e.g. business owners ready to scale to 7 figures)
Many of my clients hesitate to get this specific with their target market because they worry about excluding people. So, I’d like to offer this reframe of the “target market question”:
Defining your target market is never about keeping people out. It’s about calling people in.
Let’s go back to our inspirational speech analogy for a moment. I’ve watched J.K. Rowling’s commencement speech to Harvard a bunch of times because I find it so damn powerful. And guess what? I’m not a Harvard student. It’s been years since I graduated from any university, actually. Yet, it still resonates with me at different stages of life.
I can only imagine how seen and heard those Harvard students felt at that moment, as the intended audience. They were deliberately called in. I wasn’t. But I still felt impressed by the emotion.
So if you’re scared to niche in your marketing, try to believe me that what’s most likely to happen is this:
Your target market will go nuts for you. And some people outside your target market will recognize your magnetism and want to work with you or buy from you too. (Others will feel repelled, but hey, you don’t need them for a successful business!)
Finally, as the showrunner of your business, you are 100% allowed to accept clients or customers who are technically outside your niche. But your marketing and copywriting will focus on your target market — and so will be way easier and more effective!
A lack of confidence in the value of what you offer
The analogy I’m using for this section is…. Job interviews.
You can learn every strategy in the world to ace job interviews. You can sit in the interview and mirror the interviewer’s body language, come prepared with questions to ask at the end that make you seem engaged and intelligent, practice your firm handshake to death. But if you secretly believe that your skills aren’t that important or that needed… you’re going to feel uncomfortable and forced during the interview. Ultimately, you’ll have a hard time getting the job (or getting paid well for the job).
This is because that lack of confidence in your value oozes into everything, especially preventing you from clearly articulating what you offer and why you should be paid well for it.
And when it comes to copywriting, that is the formula for making copywriting for your business feel simple and enjoyable. “Here’s what I offer, and here’s why I should be paid well for it.” (You can also think of it as “Here’s what I offer, and here’s why it’s so crazy valuable!”)
So if I were to ask you to create a statement that shares what you offer and why you should be paid well for it, could you do that with ease?
Or would you feel a surge of panic and shame?
If you aren’t confident, deep down, in the value of what you offer, then you need to get to a place of honest recognition of your value before you charge into copywriting.
Here are some things that helped me:
Copywriting is hard if you don’t have the foundations down
A lot of us approach copywriting like it’s this activity that exists outside of everything else. We think the elements of copywriting are: Words, style, voice, flair!
But the real elements of copywriting are: Knowing your message, calling in your target market, and cultivating confidence in your value.
Get these foundational pieces in place, and copywriting will feel so much easier.