Writing a Brochure That Sells Your Products and Services

Handsome man with pipe writing a brochure at his typewriter.

Your brochure can be one of the most effective tools in your marketing tool kit. So before writing a brochure it’s critical to make strategic choices about what you put in it so that it differentiates your products or services for your market and against your competition.

The most important criteria when writing a brochure  is that it says what your target market wants to know, rather than all you want to tell them about how great you are. So you need to understand “What is the information your target customers want to know so they can make a decision?”

The following are the strategic choices you need to make before writing a brochure:

1.  Who is your target customer?

  • What outcomes are the seeking?
  • What problems do they want to solve that you can help with?
  • What is important to them?
  • What do they need to know to make a decision?

Really understanding your customer helps to write a brochure that is specific and targeted, rather than full of generalisations, and that will peak your audience’s interest. Ask your current customers and potential customers to get some feedback before you begin writing your brochure.

2. Who is your actual audience?

  • Who will read the brochure?
  • Who exactly will buy your product or service?
  • What is their role in the family or business?
  • What influences them?

This will help you with writing the brochure content that best suits your audience and provides what they need to know to make a decision. If you are selling to a business, you need to identify the decision maker and target them as your audience.

3. What is your objective in writing a brochure? What do you want it to do?

  • Educate the audience about the need for such a product or service?
  • Make them aware that your product/service exists so they want to find out more?
  • Give them information about your products or services as part of your service delivery?
  • Sell your product through the brochure?

The different objectives will change the writing and style of your brochure.

4.  Choose your positioning for your product or service. What makes it stand out from the crowd and what will you focus on when writing your brochure?

Is it:

  • High class, top of the range, high price?
  • The lowest price available on the market?
  • The best value-added services package?
  • The most number of options available?
  • Or many other options?

Choose what’s right for you.

The quality and focus of your brochure needs to illustrate your positioning. For example, high-class, top-of-the-range product needs a high-class, top-of-the-range brochure.

5. How do you stand out from the crowd when writing a brochure? Know your competition.

Questions you will want to ask when writing a brochure are:

  • How are your products or services better than those offered by your competition?
  • What do you offer that’s unique to you?
  • How does that match up with the outcomes your audience wants and what is important to them?

This is a critical step in identifying your core message before writing your brochure content. Align what your stand-out qualities with your target market research from Steps 1 and 2.

6. What is your budget for your brochure? Does it match your positioning and meet your objective?

Your budget will determine the layout and quality of your brochure. It will also determine your next steps.

Now all you have to do is start writing your brochure content — or get a professional copywriter to do the writing for you. This is followed by designing the layout and getting the brochure printed. The second blog in this series will help you do that.

These steps are a great process to go through every time you are writing any marketing content for your product or service. They’re based on a simple premise: the better you know your customers, the better you can serve them.

For Part 2 of this post, go to Writing and Designing a Great Brochure.


Copywriting To Motivate Consumer Mindsets

Copywriting is not normally a term associated with psychology. But there is no doubt about it, copywriting is a powerful means to motivate and shape consumer mindsets. In this blog, we look at how you can leverage copywriting to activate readers’ unseen motivators. Getting them to think, buy and act upon your word.

The underlying psychology of copywriting
What really makes your consumers tick? Any copywriter who can answer this question holds the Midas touch. If you wish to profoundly influence your target market, you need to understand their psychological make-up. Only then can you pitch your copywriting in a way that resonates with their ‘hot buttons’ or hidden motivators. This is what we call ‘psychologically groomed’ copywriting. A tool that can help you:

  • ingrain brand loyalty upon your consumers’ psyche
  • break down sales resistance by appealing to reader emotions
  • understand what issues your readers face and seek to solve.

Sound good? Let’s look at how you can psychologically groom your copywriting.

It all begins with an understanding of your consumers’ decision-making process.

Emotion is your chief copywriting ally
The human brain functions on three basic levels — instinctive, emotional and rational.

Effective copywriting strategically appeals to all three.

Now, most of your customers would say that their purchasing decisions are rational. Driven by logical reasoning like: I need a new pair of shoes because my current pair have grown uncomfortable. Yet emotion primarily drives consumer decision-making. Your consumer may feel compelled to buy those new shoes because:

  • I feel embarrassed that my shoes are in last season’s style. Your consumer doesn’t want to feel out of date or fall behind the fashion flock.
  • All the other girls are wearing shoes in this new style. Theirs look much smarter than mine and I don’t want to be left out. Your consumer wants to fit in and be accepted.
  • I haven’t seen anyone else wearing this style of shoe…I could be the first. Your consumer is exhilarated at the notion of setting a new trend.

All these are examples of ‘hidden motivators’ your copywriting can play to. There are many more, like:

  • health
  • exclusivity
  • time
  • social or business advancement.

The key is to know the motivators of your particular target market, then tailor your copywriting to fit.

Use copywriting to ignite consumer instinct
Emotion arouses instinct, thus providing another powerful copywriting tool. Say you are pitching to new mothers. Their maternal love arouses an instinct to protect and nurture their baby. Or perhaps you are marketing income protection insurance to executives. Their instinct for self-preservation is aroused by fear of losing income and lifestyle.

Tap into those instincts which dominate your consumers’ action, then tailor your copywriting to fit. A great way to do this is through storytelling. Take readers on a journey where you arouse their instincts, engage emotions, then show them how much better their life will be with your product.

Roll out the rationale in copywriting
So what follows an emotional decision to act? Rational brain functioning! Your consumer employs logic to rationalise their decision. Psychologically groomed copywriting helps them in this process. Outline vividly how much better and easier life will be once they have taken the desired action.

Say you want to sell a designer handbag. Your copywriting should detail the quality of finest leather, intricate hand stitching and exquisite detailing. Outline the investment potential of the bag too. It complements any outfit, offers generous space with clever organisation. Plus with timeless style, your consumer can enjoy her bag all season and it will last her through many more.

Walk in your consumers’ shoes
Just as an actor immerses themselves into character, you must become your consumer. Psychologically groomed copywriting requires that you understand your consumer’s most heartfelt desires, needs and feelings. Then choose words that resonate with these, painting a picture of their ultimate satisfaction. This copywriting method is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Copywriting — why you should make your words visually appealing as well as persuasive

Super long sentences, tombstones of text, wallflower headlines…ugh! When it comes to copywriting, good looks matter. Copywriters sometimes neglect the aesthetics of their work. We get so caught up in what the words say that we forget the importance of how they look. But visual presentation is a hurdle your copywriting must sail over to get read at all! And this is not a job that lies solely with a graphic designer.

Truly terrific copywriting starts with the end in mind

I’m not arguing against the importance of your copy’s message here. Without a doubt, crafting compelling, persuasive and appealing content is a chief concern of every copywriter. But our content is always bound for a final destination — whether online or in print. So a graphic designer will need to take your copywriting and make it look incredible within a visual layout. Quite a tall order when you’re delivering a solid slab of unbroken content. As a copywriter then, you need to keep in mind the medium your content is bound for. Break up your content into easily definable ‘bite-sized’ chunks. Draw out strong word elements to highlight key messages. These are just some things you can do at the copywriting stage. There’s plenty more.

I’ll be sharing some easy and effective ways for achieving aesthetically pleasing content in this blog. So you can instantly put greater visual appeal to work in your copy.

But first, let’s take a look at why good looking copywriting is so important.

It’s not just about making graphic design easier. It’s about doing justice to your copywriting and making this even better! Visual presentation can:

  • help your copywriting appeal to your audience
  • support your content in achieving its purpose
  • make it easier to navigate your copywriting
  • guide your reader to better follow and understand your copywriting
  • unfold your copywriting like a story to improve persuasiveness
  • logically lay out key detail and information
  • capture and convert time-poor readers at a glance.

Visually effective copywriting encompasses varied pace and different presentation tools

Here are some great techniques you can use.

Include a headline
Here it is…the first line of copy that your reader will see. So you should seldom write copy without a headline. A headline makes your pitch for you right up front. It hooks the readers’ attention and determines whether they see benefit in reading on. If you are a copywriter, you’re concerned with crafting a powerful punchy headline — as you should be. But you should also use visual savvy to boost headline impact by:

  • setting your headline clearly apart from the rest of your copy
  • making your headline 10 words maximum as a general rule
  • setting your headline in a larger font than the body text
  • using a different coloured font…but don’t get too funky
  • leaving a little white space between your heading and body copy.

Soup up the subheadings
Subheadings are vastly underused but make a valuable tool for any aesthetically-minded copywriter. They visually break up paragraphs, group information and clearly drive home key ideas. Plus subheads work in tandem with your headline. Telling a compelling ‘at a glance’ story to time-poor readers. Tricks to using subheadings include:

  • keeping the message simple — a clear summary of the following paragraph in a few words
  • having one idea per subheading — so readers can pick and choose information of interest
  • getting action-oriented — using your final subhead as a call to action to convert your readers.

The silver bullet for visually appealing copywriting
Nothing turns a reader off more quickly than great swathes of unbroken content — especially for today’s readers who like to scan. So bullet point lists are a great way to make your copy visually easy to comprehend and succinctly emphasise important info. These are perfect for time-poor readers with short attention spans.

But bullet points can be a double-edged sword. You should use them judiciously. Avoid lengthy bulleted lists — 6 or 7 bullets per list are generally the most you want without overdoing it.

Pull out the pull quotes
A pull quote is a short extract from your copy strategically positioned on the page. Pull quotes are a terrific way to highlight your key ideas. They break up your copy in a visually striking way too. Set your pull quote in a larger font size to create greater visual priority.

Short is sweet for paragraph length
Keep your paragraphs and sentences short in your copywriting! Succinct paragraphs are heaven to modern readers’ eyes. They are easier to digest, take little work to read and look better too. The same goes for sentence length. Aim to keep your average sentence length under 20 words. (You can find the average sentence length in Word, as we explained in a previous post at www.wordnerds.com.au/2009/02/copywriting-basics-aim-for-a-short-average-sentence-length/)


Finally…easy on the font
Don’t extend your creative flair to font choice. A common font will pack a much bigger punch than Wingdings or the like. Stick to one font throughout your copy too. You can select a font family to differentiate headings and subheadings. If you do want to mix it up a little, have no more than three different fonts in one piece of copy.

Remember: consistency is the key to visually appealing copy. So be consistent with typefaces and headline sizes for headlines, subheadings and body copy.

So the next time you need to do some copywriting, infuse visual appeal into it. Your readers and clients will love you for it.


Storytelling for Copywriting That Delivers

Storytelling has the ability to capture attentions and deliver messages in indirect ways.

I recently read the most riveting book in a single day. I’d meant to sneak in a chapter here and there for a bit of R&R. But a few pages in and I couldn’t put it down. Once I’d finished the book I felt a real loss — what was I going to do with myself now? What I did was head right out to buy the second and third instalment in the trilogy! Hurrying off to the bookstore, I just couldn’t believe how emotionally invested I’d become in the characters and plot. So I started thinking about how such skilfully woven storytelling could translate into copywriting.

My actions were exactly those which I want my copywriting to inspire in others. I was a captive audience, instant convert and my interest translated into a sale. What’s more, I’ll always keep an eye out for new books by that same author now.

So in this copywriting blog post, we’ll discuss why storytelling can have profound impact on your copywriting. Then we’ll look at how to ensure this impact is positive.

But first, why is storytelling such a powerful copywriting tool?

I’ll give you three great reasons.

Ignited imagination makes for powerful persuasion

Get your consumer emotionally connected with your copy and you’ve hit a home run. Whatever action you want people to take, you need to invoke feeling behind this. When people feel sympathy they are moved to make charitable donations. When people feel empowered they want the product that instigates this sensation. So put storytelling to work in your copy and you’ll stir feelings that persuade readers to buy what you’re selling because storytelling makes your copy more meaningful.

Storytelling is the art of subliminal selling

A carefully crafted plot takes your readers on a journey. Each stage of that journey is signposted: need, solution, even fresh possibilities. But often your readers don’t notice what they’re absorbing along the way. A great story will leave your concept, purpose and desired action firmly implanted in your readers’ minds. In the end they may not know why they must act — they simply feel they must. In essence, storytelling when copywriting sells to the subconscious.

Storytelling in copywriting is all about the feel-good feeling
We’re surrounded by stories in our everyday life. Movies, books, even the exchange of news with our friends. Stories feel very natural to people – even reassuring. Herein lies the power of storytelling through copywriting. When your audience feels comfortable they’re more receptive to what you have to say. People instinctively distrust a sales pitch. But storytelling leads your reader down a different path — one of new ideas, exciting possibilities and wonderful solutions. So you can skip right over resistance and scepticism to an open-minded, interested audience.

But under every great story must be an even greater strategy!
When copywriting we need to do more than just spin a good yarn. We don’t write to entertain alone. We want that captivated audience to finish reading our copy — then take action. We want them to pick up the phone and call us, race out to buy our product (like I did with my books) or reach into their pockets for a generous donation. Creative copywriting always has a purpose and it is crucial that you don’t lose sight of this just to tell an entertaining tale.

So how do you make storytelling both strategic and scintillating?

Here are some quick tips to make sure your storytelling has a happy ending:

  • Ensure your story is directly relevant and supportive to your purpose.
  • Keep it interesting — boring stories get left on the shelf as will your product if readers fail to engage with your tale.
  • Stick to what’s relevant — beware your story overtaking your point.
  • Make your consumer the hero — show the reader the results they’ll enjoy when they get your product or service. Will they be the envy of their neighbours, make a difference in the world, have a better life?
  • Know your consumer inside out — build your story and their heroism on that knowledge.

Give storytelling a go in your next copywriting project. You’ll be thrilled at the results…and probably rejuvenate your creative juices to boot.

About the author: Naomi Cox is a Word Nerds copywriter who has held marketing and public relations positions in corporations and government departments in Australia and New Zealand.

Michael Gladkoff, the Director of Word Nerds, delivers storytelling keynotes and workshops around Australia. For more information, visit Speech Power.

Writing a Media Release that Makes the News

Writing a media release is a science but getting it into print is an art! A media release can add power to your PR for free — not to mention getting your brand, news and company in front of many eyes fast. The trouble is journalists are time-poor, detail- hungry and bombarded by media releases by the minute. The cutting room floor of a newsroom is home to countless media releases that are lucky if they’ve had their title read — not the fate you want for your news story. So this post is about how to write a media release that gets noticed.Here are top tips for writing a media release that gets into print or broadcast:

1. Make your media release news, not marketing

Editors and journalists are not in the business of free marketing. Writing an advertisement thinly disguised as a media release will cost you. Not only will you fail to make it into print but you’ll lose credibility for future media release coverage. Journalists and editors are often community focused, be it the public at large or a niche group. So what you need in your media release is hard news that:

  • solves a genuine need for your audience
  • offers fresh and relevant information
  • adds unique value to readers in some way.
The key is to separate what is big news to your company from what is newsworthy to your public.Now here is a golden rule: never send out a media release for the sake of it. Wait for a story that holds true news value. You’ll enjoy greater print potential and media relationship building.

2. Hit hard in the headline when writing a media release

Your headline is ‘first base’ when it comes to writing a media release. Get an editor to read past this and the print potential jumps. But fail at this first hurdle and it’s all over. Your headline must be a succinct, compelling summary of your key message. What is your unique news point? Why should your reader read on? Your headline should express all this in just a few words.

3. The first paragraph of your media release must say it all

Writing an effective media release means capturing the essence of your story in that first paragraph. Oftentimes an editor will run your headline and first paragraph only. The rest of your release may be cut entirely for space reasons. Now here is the punch line – a strong first paragraph comprises one or two sentences at the most. So you must get really clear about your news point.Use the who, what, where, when, why and how framework to hone your first paragraph.

4. Back up the claims when writing a media release

Sweeping, unsubstantiated sales claims have no place in your media release. Editors and journalists won’t run a story unless they’re sure of its factual integrity. So appoint a credible company spokesperson and support your story with quotations and details. Always have your spokesperson approve their quotes before dispatching your media release! Many editors will print these verbatim without ever speaking directly to the source. In fact, quotes are a great timesaver for deadline-driven editors and can boost your publication chances.

5. Lose the fluff when writing a media release

News space is valuable real estate, so editors want to get straight to the facts. Strip out hype when writing a media release and present neutral factual information. Develop a corporate media release template if you don’t already have one.

Standard presentation is:




<<first paragraph>>

<<body copy>>


<<your contact details>>

<<spokesperson’s contact details>>

It’s good practice to dispatch your media release via email including details of photo and interview opportunities.

A print-worthy media release begins with a strong story and finishes with savvy writing. There are plenty of strategies for getting your media release into print too. Like targeting your editors and journalists, writing for online publication and more…but we’ll cover this in another post.

Choosing the Right Copywriting Style to Sell Your Products Online

What’s the best copywriting style to sell your products online?


It depends on your products and the type of buyers you’re targeting.

One helpful guide I have used over the years is How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy by Herschell Gordon Lewis. In the book, Lewis defines the fourteen main catalogue copywriting styles, and when it’s best to use each one.

Although the book was published twenty years ago, the ideas presented are just as applicable today to selling your products online.

Lewis defines the fourteen copywriting styles as:

  1. Jes Folk
  2. Down Home Personality
  3. You-You-You
  4. Shout
  5. Quietly Upscale
  6. Image All The Way
  7. Touchstone
  8. Narrative
  9. Minimalist
  10. All The Facts
  11. Informational Educational
  12. Snob Appeal
  13. I Am The Greatest
  14. Plain Vanilla

Lewis uses a fictitious Tex-Mex salsa product to show the 14 types of copywriting style.

Jes Folk Copywriting Style

Although the Jes Folk copywriting style is easy to read and entertaining, Lewis warns that readers can get tired of it after a few pages.

I went all the way down to Matamoros to sample this ‘Tex-Mex’ salsa, and danged if it isn’t  hotter than an El Paso afternoon. We don’t call it “Hell-Fire” Sauce for nothin’, and it if don’t give your tastebuds a pretty strong bite, you got us beat before we start.

Down Home Copywriting Style

Lewis notes that this style of copywriting makes readers feel that they are being addressed directly, but it might be difficult to come up with interesting stories for all products in a catalogue.

My aunt Maria vacationed in Mexico and was so excited she phoned me. “I’ve found the hottest ‘Tex-Mex’ salsa I’ve ever tasted,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I bought a case, and I think you ought to have it in the catalog.” Aunt Maria isn’t often wrong, so we made an exclusive arrangement with the small Mexican company that makes “Hell-Fire” Sauce. If you’re brave…or if you love real Mexican sauce…you have to get some.

You-You-You Copywriting Style

This style of copywriting, which addresses the reader by repeating the word ‘you’, is promoted in many copywriting books. Lewis believes it can work in catalogues but becomes repetitive if you have many items to sell.

You think you’ve tasted hot pepper salsa? Oh, no, you haven’t. That is, you haven’t tasted the real salsa until you’ve dipped a spoon into our “Hell-Fire” Sauce and sprinkled a little on your salad. Your tongue will tell you: You never knew a hot sauce could be this good.

Shout Copywriting Style

Shout copy is the easiest to write (and requires many exclamation marks).

A Hell-Fire Deal on “Hell-Fire” Salsa! 14-ounce bottle, $2.49!

Quietly Upscale Descriptive Copywriting Style

According to Lewis, this style of copywriting was popular during the early 1980s when baby boomer yuppies, its main targets, were past their status-seeking phase.

For your next party, this unusually hot sauce with the unusually hot name can be the evening’s hottest topic of conversation.

“Hell-Fire” isn’t for everybody. In fact, we don’t recommend its daily use, because it makes every other sauce seem so tame…

Image All the Way Copywriting Style

This style of copywriting ties a known person or place with your offering, and is less subtle than Quietly Upscale Descriptive copy.

If JP Morgan and John D Rockefeller came to your home, they’d know whether to stay for the authentic Mexican dinner you’ve prepared. “Hell-Fire” on the table means genuine “Tex-Mex” on the palate.

Touchstone Copywriting Style

When copywriting using the Touchstone style, you connect your product to a known base, called a touchstone.

In 1912 the Mexican bandit and folk hero Pancho Villa escaped to the United States. After his triumphant return in 1913 he formed the famous Division del Norte. One of the prizes he brought across the border was a recipe unlike any tasted before: “Hell-Fire.” When Villa became governor of the state of Chihuahua, he served this unique hot sauce to special guests at his dinner table. Now you can serve it to your special guests.

Minimalist Copywriting Style

This copywriting style works well when you have limited space, such as a digest style catalogue.

Famous “Hell-Fire” Salsa–the very hottest. 14-oz. bottle, $2.49.

All the Facts Copywriting Style

Lewis writes that this style of copywriting is based on two assumptions: 1) The more the reader knows, the more likely they are to buy your products. 2) The more you tell, the more the reader will believe you. All the Facts copy is well-suited to business-to-business catalogues and websites, because business buying decisions tend to be more logic based, and the buyer usually needs to justify the decision to another person in the organisation.

“Hell-Fire” Salsa–Bottled in limited quantities in Matamoros, this authentic “Tex-Mex” salsa combines red peppers, jalapenos, green chilli peppers, peeled and chopped beefsteak tomatoes, scallions, and a touch of cilantro. Our peppers are transplanted from their original site in French Guiana to a private orchard outside Matamoros, where parallel climate ripens them to produce the hot capsicum extract. Our master chef Pablo grinds the pepper to a fine powder. Soaks them in brine to “loosen” the flavour, then marries them to the tomatoes in our special sharp vinegar.

This copywriting style might be most suitable for this product if you are selling to chefs and food connoisseurs.

Informational/Educational Copywriting Style

Although this copywriting style might not lend itself well to the sample product of salsa, it can work well for products such as software, garden supplies, electronics, and chemicals.

Cilantro is the fresh leaf of the coriander plant. This delicate fragrant-pungent leaf is one of the oldest spices known to man. When the Romans used finely chopped cilantro to season their bread, the spices had been known for thousands of years. Each 14 oz. bottle of “Hell-Fire” salsa includes both cilantro and…

Snob Appeal Copywriting Style

According to Lewis, the style of copywriting works when snobbery is in vogue. The copy, layout and illustration need to match perfectly for Snob Appeal copy to work.

Only 1,200 bottles…ever, this entire year. Our exclusive “Hell-Fire” Salsa is made from such rare herbs, under such rigidly controlled conditions, that only 1,200 bottles will be available this year. We must limit any purchase to two bottles (subject to availability, of course). Each numbered bottle carries the Seal of Elegance. Handsomely gift boxed for your favorite gourmet who cannot obtain this elsewhere. 14 ounces, twenty-nine dollars.

I Am the Greatest Copywriting Style

This copywriting style speaks for itself. Those who believe it’s the best product will buy, and the rest probably won’t. The challenge is answering the question: Better than what? Discerning buyers want proof that it’s better.

The Best Salsa. In comparisons tests, our Kitchen Board rated this salsa superior in consistency, palatability, and flavor. Unlike other sauces tested, “Hell-Fire” contains genuine tomatoes and fresh spices, producing a greater degree of effectiveness, when applied to both tortillas and salads. $2.49, unconditionally guaranteed.

Plain Vanilla Copywriting Style

This copywriting style might be the right choice if you want to keep it simple and give your readers a break from too much text. Lewis recommends it for multi-product catalogues of household staples.

“Hell-Fire” Hot Salsa–14 oz. bottle. Ingredients: red peppers, jalapenos, green chilli peppers, beefsteak tomatoes, scallions, cilantro. $2.49.

Choosing the right copywriting style for your catalogue or website will depend a number of factors including your industry, products and market. Lewis notes that readers can get bored with one copywriting style if it’s overused. For catalogues, he recommends breaking the catalogue into themed sections and using one style in each section. Although How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy was written before the widespread use of the Internet, you can apply this advice to ecommerce websites as well.

Note: How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy is available online on Amazon. Also, we will be glad to discuss our copywriting services to boost your online product sales.





Is Ineffective Graphic Design Diluting Your Copywriting?

A copywriter can spend hours creating a message that captures the essence of your business and persuades readers to enquire or buy. But even the best brochure or website copy can be negated by ineffective graphic design. An example is reverse type. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, reverse type is when light coloured text is used on a dark background – for example, white text on a black background.

Advertising pioneer and innovator David Ogilvy believed that reverse type should not be used. In Ogilvy on Advertising he wrote, ‘Advertising agencies waste their clients’ money repeating the same mistakes. I recently counted 49 advertisements set in reverse type in one issue of a magazine, long years after research demonstrated that reverse type is difficult to read.’

Robert Bly, copywriting authority and author of The Copywriter’s Handbook, agreed with Ogilvy when he wrote, ‘Never do anything to make the copy difficult to read. Type should be set in black against a clear white background – not a tint, not white on black, not in color.’

Ogilvy’s and Bly’s opinions on reverse type are supported by research. Colin Wheildon, editor of an Australian motoring magazine, tested the assertion that reverse type is difficult to read and lowers comprehension. He published his findings in Type & Layout: how typography and design can get your message across – or get in the way.

Here are Wheildon’s results that show how much reverse type can lower comprehension.

Colour combination Comprehension (percentage of readers)

Good Fair Poor

Text printed black on white 70 19 11

Text printed white on black 0 12 88

Text printed white on purple 2 16 82

Text printed white on royal blue 0 4 96

From these results you can see that reverse type lowers comprehension levels of text – so if you want readers to understand your message, don’t use reverse type for large amounts of text.

Another test conducted by Williams Sonoma, a major US gourmet food and cookware catalogue, found that its sales increased by 33 per cent after simply switching the type in one catalogue from reverse to black text on a white background.

After listening to the experts and reviewing the research, it is clear that it’s best to not use reverse type in your printed publications and websites. Although it might look stylish, it decreases the effectiveness of your copywriting.

Freelance Copywriting – What’s a Fair Price?

A common question about freelance copywriting is ‘What’s a fair price?’

Business people are often unsure of what they should pay for freelance copywriting services provided by freelance copywriters.


New copywriters might not know what they should charge for their freelance copywriting services.


In this post, we’ll look at the issues businesses face when they need freelance copywriting services. It will also help freelance copywriters charge fair and competitive rates for their copywriting.


We’ll begin by looking at a hypothetical copywriter and her experience of moving from being a full-time employee to working in freelance copywriting.


The Story of Ms Copywriter


A writer, we’ll call her Ms Copywriter, works as an employee for an Australian company. She hears that she can charge $70 per hour if she becomes a freelance copywriter. Ms Copywriter works for a good company. She has job security, but she’s tired of commuting to an office every day.


Ms Copywriter calculates what she could potentially earn as a freelance copywriter. She figures she’ll earn $2,800 per week from freelance copywriting if she works a 40-hour week.


She calculates the yearly income she can earn from copywriting.


“Wow,” she says to herself. “I’ll be making $134,400 if I only work 48 forty-hour weeks each year.” (48 weeks x 40 hours per week x $70 per hour)


Ms Copywriter is on a salary package of $70,000 in her current position. She thinks about the larger salary and the freedom that being a freelance copywriter will bring. She finally summons enough courage to resign from her position. Her family and friends tell her she’s crazy for quitting her secure copywriting job to become a freelance copywriter, but Ms Copywriter tells them she will substantially increase her income by becoming a freelance copywriter.


Note: The salary amount above is typical for a copywriting position in Australia. The figure will vary by country but the general concepts still apply.


Ms Copywriter Learns the Sad Truth


A few months later, Ms Copywriter has had some success getting freelance copywriting work. She feels busy but she’s not making the income that she expected. What’s the problem?


The answer is billable hours.


When Ms Copywriter first thought about becoming a freelance copywriter she mistakenly believed that she would be able to bill for all of the 40 hours she worked each week.


Freelance Copywriting is a Business


To be successful, freelance copywriters need to treat freelance copywriting as a business – not a hobby. Besides copywriting for her clients, Ms Copywriter needs time for sales, marketing and administration activities. Experienced freelance writers realise this.


Michael Meanwell, author of The Wealthy Writer, has been a freelance copywriter since the early 1990s. He writes that only around half the amount of time freelance writers spend in their businesses is billable. The rest of the time is spent on administration, sales and marketing, and other activities needed to run a business.


In the case of Ms Copywriter, she’s probably only able to bill for 20 hours of work each week if she’s working a total of 40 hours per week. In reality she’s making $1400 per week (20 hours x $70 per hour). This isn’t taking her business expenses into account.


Even if she works from a home office, she will still need to advertise, drive to meetings, make phone calls, create a website, have stationery printed, etc. If she keeps her costs low – we’ll say $200 per week – she will be spending $10,400 each year.


Let’s look at the overall profit Ms Copywriter will make in a year.


Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $70 per hour) – $10,400 = $56,800


So she’s now making $10,200 less per year – but she’s working the same number of hours as when she had a full-time job as a copywriter.


To make what she earned in his previous copywriting job, Ms Copywriter will have to charge $83.75 per hour.


Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $83.75 per hour) – $10,400 = $70,000


Although this may sound expensive to some, it’s a fair price for copywriting based on a comparison of what a copywriter can earn as an employee.


If Ms Copywriter decides to work 50 hours per week, she might only be able to bill for 25 of them. In order to earn is much as she earned when employed as a copywriter, she would have to charge $67 per hour.


In addition, by offering freelance copywriting, Ms Copywriter will forgo many of the benefits she received as an employee – for example, personal development and training events to develop skills. Ms Copywriter will need to pay for these types of activities, so they need to be factored into the amount she charges for copywriting.  


Freelance copywriting is a professional service


Copywriting is a profession. Many years of study and hands-on experience are required to become a proficient copywriter. If Ms Copywriter charges around $95 per hour for her services, she’s charging much less than other professionals, such as solicitors and accountants, charge for their services. If she’s a good copywriter, she can potentially increase sales of her customers by millions of dollars.


Another point to consider is the premium that freelance copywriters should earn for taking the risk of being in business. By leaving her secure job, Ms Copywriter has taken significant risks. What if she can’t find enough work for extended periods of time? What if a few clients don’t pay her? To justify the risks taken to move into a freelance copywriting, Ms Copywriter should earn more than she earned as an employee. This premium needs to be added into her hourly copywriting rate.


The Cheapest Freelance Copywriting is Not the Solution


Some businesses will search for the lowest price to get their freelance copywriting done. They usually get what they pay for.


One strategy is to get the work done overseas in countries such as India and the Philippines. Although there are many intelligent and educated copywriters in these countries, cultural differences make it difficult to get satisfactory freelance copywriting from them.


To be a copywriter, you need to live in the country and understand the cultural and linguistic nuances. I have lived in Australia and the United States and feel comfortable writing for these markets, but I don’t feel that way about writing for UK readers in the UK.


You probably have experienced this cultural gap when you have received calls from overseas call centres. The people are friendly and most can speak English well, but there is a communication gap. This same communication mismatch arises when outsourcing copywriting to overseas copywriters.


Although these overseas writers charge much less per hour for freelance copywriting, I have heard that it often takes many more hours for the same amount of work due to cultural and communication issues. Plus there are extra costs involved in communicating with overseas copywriters. So in the long run, outsourcing freelance copywriting overseas won’t save any time or money. If you do save a bit of money, you probably won’t get return on investment due to lower quality.


The main reason people select offshore freelance copywriting is price. But price shouldn’t be the main factor when choosing a copywriter. Would you select a dentist, doctor, accountant or solicitor based strictly on price? If you had a toothache, would you go to someone working out of their backyard shed and charging $5 to fix it? You wouldn’t. Yet some businesses entrust their reputation and image to offshore copywriters charging ridiculously low fees.


Contracting with a Freelance Copywriter to Work In-house


Hiring contract copywriters to work in-house is another option. But by the time the business pays the hourly rate plus benefits and employment agencies fees, it will probably be less expensive to hire a freelance copywriter.


With a contract copywriter, the company needs to find desk space, a computer and other resources. These are a hidden costs that might not be considered.


A contract copywriter working in-house probably won’t be as productive as a freelance copywriter  working offsite. Most business are lucky to get four or five productive hours per day out of their employees. A large portion of most working days is taken up by employee interaction, staff meetings, tea breaks, etc. A contract copywriter can quickly fall into this routine of low productivity, so they will end up costing more when compared to a freelance copywriter working offsite.


Another hindrance for the contract freelance copywriter working in-house is the open plan office setup found in many organisations. Whether writing a novel or business plan, good writing requires silence and solitude. Most modern offices don’t provide the distraction-free environment required for quality copywriting.


Lessons for Copywriters and Companies Hiring Copywriters


The aim of this post is to enlighten both copywriters and organisations purchasing freelance copywriting services.


Freelance copywriters need to realise they are in business. It’s common that billable hours are only half the total time spent each week in the business.


Organisations hiring copywriters need to realise that copywriting is a profession. Choosing a copywriter strictly based on price is a mistake.


Although most copywriters don’t charge as much as solicitors or accountants, they are professionals who have spent considerable time and money developing their freelance copywriting skills. This must be taken into account when paying for freelance copywriting services.



About the author: Michael Gladkoff is a copywriter, speech writer and editor. His company, Word Nerds, provides copywriting, business writing, speech writing, editing and proofreading services to a wide range of businesses.


This article may be reproduced on other websites as long the author is credited and the source website, www.wordnerds.com.au, is included.




What Many Advertising Agencies Don’t Know About Copywriting (continued)

We sparked some debate in our last copywriting blog post ─ What Many Advertising Agencies Don’t Know About Copywriting. We feel it’s good to have some controversy about copywriting and we’re replying to the comment.


We wrote the article to highlight the fact that some copywriters don’t focus on the customer in their copy. We looked at some copywriting samples from advertising agencies to show that they use the words ‘our clients’ when the word ‘you’ would be more effective.


We didn’t pull this idea out of thin air. All the copywriting books that we’ve read recommend using second person (‘you’) in your copywriting.


For instance, a seminal work on copywriting is The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly. This book was first published in 1985 and has been reprinted several times.


In The Copywriter’s Handbook, Bly writes about what he calls ‘customer-oriented copy’.


One technique to help you write for the reader is to address the reader directly as ‘you’ in the copy ─ just as I am writing to you in this book. Copywriters call this the ‘you orientation.’ Flip through a magazine and you’ll see that 90 percent of the ads contain the word ‘you’ in the body copy.


Bly shows the difference between customer-oriented copywriting and advertiser-oriented copywriting in the following examples.


1. BankPlan is the state-of-the-art in user-friendly, sophisticated financial software for small business accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger applications.


2. BankPlan helps you balance your books and manage your cash flow. It also keeps track of customers who haven’t paid their bills. Best of all, the program is easy to use — you don’t need special training.


Which  do you think is more effective?


In the previous copywriting blog post we showed that many advertising agencies fail to apply ‘you orientation’ in their copywriting. Their copy is more like the first example above.


Robert Bly isn’t the only one to write about customer-oriented (second person) copy. If you do international Google searches for the phrases “second person” copywriting and customer-oriented copywriting you’ll finds hundreds of copywriting blog posts and articles about the benefits of writing directly to your readers.


So when advertising agencies write ‘our clients’ instead of ‘you’ in their own promotional copy, they aren’t ‘wrong’ ─ they’re just not being effective as they can be.


We welcome your comments.

What Many Advertising Agencies Don’t Know About Copywriting

One of the basic rules of good copywriting is to speak to your readers. A simple copywriting technique that helps you speak to your readers is to use the word ‘you’ in your copy. Grammatically speaking, this is called ‘second person’. If you don’t remember your grammar terms from school, ‘I’ and ‘we’ are first person pronouns, and ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘they’ are third person pronouns.


The consensus among copywriters is that using second person when copywriting is one of the best ways to connect with your readers.


I did some research and found that many advertising and marketing agencies don’t know this simple rule in their own copywriting. Some of these firms are internationally recognised as the top marketing and advertising agencies. You’d think they would know better, but I guess a big name doesn’t always guarantee quality copywriting.


Let’s look at a few of the examples of how some marketing and advertising agencies fail to use second person in their copywriting (I’m not mentioning any names here because I don’t want to offend anyone).


Examples of copywriting that aren’t customer focused



1.We offer our clients a full spectrum of advertising related services.

2. We offer our clients common sense advice that helps them grow their businesses.

3. Our attention to detail and timelines and our solid production base enables us to offer our clients the best results.


4. This level of integration allows us to offer our clients coordinated campaigns.


5. We offer our clients a full suite of communications solutions including brand strategy, market strategy, marketing support, public relations, website analysis, web design, web marketing, and advertising services.


6. We offer our clients a comprehensive range of programs and services.


7. We offer our clients an insightful and personal approach, full of creative energy, and dedication to your individual business needs.


8. We offer our clients strategic and creative leadership across a full array of marketing communications.


Do you see what these companies have missed with their copywriting?


They use the phrase ‘our clients’ when they should write ‘you’ in their copywriting.


Why is this important?


Copywriting is selling with words


Copywriting is the art of selling with words. One of the basic rules of any sales interaction is ‘assume the sale’. If you use second person in your copywriting, you are assuming that the reader is already a customer. If you are timid and afraid to assume the sale, your copywriting won’t be as effective.


We can tell from the examples above that many copywriters don’t have sales experience. They might have strong credentials in public relations, marketing or journalism, but they don’t understand sales and the art of persuasion.


Simple copywriting changes can make a big difference


Let’s quickly fix the sample sentences to see how simple changes greatly improve the copywriting.


1. We offer you a full spectrum of advertising related services.

2. We offer you common sense advice that helps you grow your business.

3. Our attention to detail and timelines and our solid production base enables us to offer you the best results.


4. This level of integration allows us to offer you coordinated campaigns.


5. We offer you a full suite of communications solutions including brand strategy, market strategy, marketing support, public relations, website analysis, web design, web marketing, and advertising services.


6. We offer you a comprehensive range of services and programs.


7. We offer you a personal and insightful approach, full of creative energy, and dedication to your individual business needs.


8. We offer you strategic and creative leadership across a full array of marketing communications.


There are other changes that I would make to improve these examples, but I only want to deal with one issue in this copywriting blog post.


How to measure customer focus in your copywriting


At Word Nerds we use a free online tool that measures how well we focus on the customer in our copywriting. It’s called the WeWe Customer Focus Calculator and you can find it at http://www.futurenowinc.com/wewe.htm.


Simply enter a web address, or paste your copywriting in, and it tells you how much you are focusing on your company in your copywriting versus how much you are focusing on your customer.


These are sample results of  some copywriting we checked on the site.


For the copy you submitted:

Your Customer Focus Rate: 85.71%

You have 6 instances of customer-focused words.

Your Self Focus Rate: 14.29%

You have 0 instances of self-focused words.

You have 1 instance of the Company Name.

You speak about your customers approximately 6 times as often as you speak about yourself.




If we find our copywriting has a low Customer Focus Rate, we go back and improve it.



You don’t have to look very far to see examples of poor copywriting. Large and respected advertising agencies don’t necessarily know what good copywriting is. They fail to speak to their customers when copywriting.

Remember that copywriting is about customers, so speak to them directly by writing ‘you’.