October 10, 2010Building a business out of nothing: how to use PPC advertising

There’s a great story over on the BBC website this weekend about a digital marketing agency that ended up with a business selling parrot cages. How? Why? The answer’s simple. They’re professional PPC (pay-per-click) and search marketing experts. And they decided to use their skills to find an untapped market.

It turns out that lots of people were searching for parrot cages online, but nobody was buying ads with related keywords. In other words, there was a gap in the market. By using PPC advertising the firm were immediately able to test the water — no waiting six months to …

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October 7, 2010How much time should I invest in self-promotion?

Continuing my series of blog posts for freelancers starting out in this game, I thought I’d take time to answer the most important question of all. As I’ve already covered, time management isn’t easy — but it’s a necessary skill. Some weeks, you’re going to be doing nothing but revising copy for a Friday deadline. Other weeks, you’ll be skimming your favourite blogs and playing internet poker while you wait for your next job. So how do you manage your time?

Let’s break it into five days for simplicity. I’d say, on average, I spend three days a week working, …

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October 2, 2010Do your freelancer a favour: write, don’t call.

“It’s good to talk.” At least that was the tag-line for the famous BT ad campaign of the 90s. But is it better to write? Of course, there are few things less personal than an email. But email is around for a reason. It works and, more importantly, there’s a record.

I’m all in favour of the quick phone call. In fact, I think it’s great when a potential client rings me up and asks me for a quick run-down of what I can do for them. It’s nice to be able to put a voice – if not a …

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September 30, 2010How easy is it to make it as a copywriter in London?

Occasionally I get asked for advice by people looking to make the move into professional copywriting. Alas, I don’t have time to respond to you all in detail, so I’m going to write a little bit about my experiences here.

I started out as a journalist. After almost two years of badly-paid freelancing and doing mostly unpaid internships in the editorial departments of medium sized magazines, I came to the conclusion that there simply aren’t enough jobs in journalism to go round.

Fact. As a copywriter, you will earn more than a journalist.

As a young journo, I was charging …

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September 20, 2010How to handle the ups and downs of freelancing

I usually blog about copywriting. Sometimes, I blog about my business. Sometimes, I don’t blog at all. Why? Well, because even though my blog is my number one marketing tool, sometimes, I get too busy. It’s the nature of freelancing. It’s not the kind of job where you can show up to the office, do a set amount of work as dictated by your boss, go home, then start the whole thing again tomorrow. You’re your own boss, but you’re also alone.

Snow days

At the start of 2010, it snowed. A lot. In fact, I was almost snowed in …

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September 6, 2010Does an advert have to be good to be effective?

What makes an effective ad campaign — and can these principles be applied to social media?

It’s impossible to avoid being bombarded with advertising in London. As a copywriter working in London, it’s even harder to not stop and take notice. Like a surgeon holding his knife like a scalpel and listlessly cutting into his Sunday roast, it’s hard for a copywriter to avoid dissecting other people’s work.

I see thousands of posters every morning. Sometimes the copy is good, sometimes it’s very bad. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes it’s long. Sometimes, I’m only looking at an idea, three words, …

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September 1, 2010Does Long Copy Work?

How effective is long copy?

The London Long Copy challenge is underway. For those of you who haven’t seen the ads yet, it’s a competition for copywriters and creatives based in London to design London Underground posters led by copy of between 50-200 words. Which isn’t much for a sales brochure, but it’s a hell of a lot for a great big print ad.

Who reads sales brochures anyway?

There are two schools of thought in copywriting. One: you get a little information in quickly. It’s better than trying to get it all in and not being memorable at all. …

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August 13, 2010Is cheap a dirty word?

I was recently lucky enough to have a conversation with an entrepreneur who runs a hotel booking website. I talked to him about my own personal experience booking expensive hotels in central London (hey, you do it a lot when you’re single) and I told him that I wanted the best possible quality at the lowest possible price. That’s the type of consumer I am. So it’ll come to you as no surprise that I googled “cheap 5 star hotels”. But why? Have you ever seen a single 5* hotel that advertises the fact that it’s cheap?

The fact is,

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August 8, 2010Copywriting for SMEs – should you change your game?

Every client is different. Fact. Some clients want you to make their business look young and dynamic, attracting investors. Other clients want you to make their latest product offering sound irresistible — to the right people, of course. But what all clients have in common is that they’re looking for you to improve on reality in some way — to take a story and tell it better. That’s the name of the game.

When you’re dealing with SMEs and start-ups, companies that don’t have much of an image yet, companies with products you probably haven’t heard of, the temptation is …

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August 3, 2010Buzzword Bingo: Social Media Edition

The cat’s out of the bag. For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing a lot about social media. Not here, (although I do blog about social media fairly regularly), but in my day job as a copywriter. I mostly produce content for the web and the web right now is all about… you’ve got it, social media. The problem is, as I’ve expressed before, social media is the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s how SEO was a few years ago — a lot of people portraying themselves as experts, with very few people knowing what they’re actually talking about. …

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