Every single time I’m hired to write sales copy, I go through the following stages…
Stage 1-The Brief
Head spinning with ideas, flurry of brainstorming, lots of day dreaming and “thought naps” where I brainstorm different concepts for half an hour, then take a nap with a pad and pen nearby and see what my subconscious kicks up as I’m drifting off, scribbling down the notes as they come to me.
This stage is like pure play. As far as I’m concerned it’s like being in an adult ball pool. It is a lot of fun.
Stage 2 – The Research
Here I compile all the information given to me, do my own research and create a huge file of details to wade through, analyse and review their relevance against the sales copy.
Before studying screenwriting, originally I was going to study law and so this is where I pretend I’m a barrister working on a big case, combing through the details and looking for that nugget of gold to win the whole case. (Boy do I know how to enjoy myself!)
This is serious play. I eat a lot during this stage.
Stage 2 – First Draft AKA What The Hell Am I Doing?
After spending so much time being free and creative, the first draft is the hardest, most horrible stage and it surprises me how much I hate it ever time it rears it’s ugly head. As Steven Pressfield advises in Do The Work, The best thing is to get it over and done with as quickly as possible, and I say to myself:
“This will be godawful, and that’s okay”
It’s difficult trying to put all those beautiful ideas and concepts into a strict form and you’re also faced with the fear that what you put down on paper is never going to be as perfect and persuasive as you imagined in your mind.
I never let people see my first drafts because you might assume I was mad, lazy or just very very bad at copywriting.
I will also think all of those things whilst I’m writing it, so I’m not going to compound those feelings by letting other people in on the “Amy’s nuts” action. 🙂
This stage is hellish. I procrastinate a lot, my flat gets very clean, I drink too much tea and I seriously consider dancing in a nightclub for a living convinced that I’m destined to fail as a copywriter. I change my mind about the dancing when I look down at my writer’s chocolate biscuit belly.
Stage 3 – Turning My Back On It
After splurting out the first draft I usually want nothing more to do with the abomination I’m convinced I’ve created so it gets shelved and I go off and do something else for at least a day or two. Which might mean the first draft stage of another project…out of the frying pan…
Stage 4 – Therapeutic Editing
When I’m ready to pick up what I wrote I’m usually laughing and also pleasantly surprised. Laughing at some of the crap I’ve put down, and pleasantly surprised because it’s not all tosh as I had imagined. The red pen comes out and I play and cut, like copywriting topiary. Except it’s never going to look as good as a bush cut into the shape of a bird…
I start to regain my confidence at this stage and play around with the theme, the order and crack the back of it to get it to flow nicely.
Stage 5 – Final Copy
Now I’m really starting to work in a flurry. Polishing phrases, making sure all the points I wanted to get across are in there without being cramped, making sure it ramps up to poke the reader’s emotions and putting in places for testimonials, buy buttons, guarantee terms and tightening the sub-headings and headline before sending off to the client.
This is where I swing between pride, confidence and pure panic that it’s going to bomb.
Stage 6 – Feedback And Superstardom
When the feedback comes back, the client likes it AND the copy has improved sales, or enabled a 5 figure launch you start to feel pretty good. This is where I break out my strut (in private) and feel on top of the world.
I start to believe I am far more powerful and important than I really am and I may even daydream about being in my own documentary. I may or may not do my own voice over narration whilst carrying out mundane duties like making tea and toast.
This is a ridiculously enjoyable stage, but fortunately it passes. I’d do my own head in if I was like that all the time, and constantly narrating your own life can get in the way of social occasions.
Thankfully, it always comes back to stage 1 and we start the journey all over again…