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If I had £5 for every time someone said, “I don’t want a lot written – it’ll only take five minutes”, I would be rich.  The fact is no copywriter will attempt to write something as important as marketing copy in a few minutes.  If they profess to … I would seriously doubt their professionalism and standard of work.

Long copy or short copy?

Many people assume it takes a lot longer to write 500 words than it does to write 50 words.  Wrong!  It is much easier to write 500 words on a given subject than to summarise that message into 50.

Try it for yourself: write a twenty word sentence and then try to say exactly the same thing in four or five words.

Writing short copy needs economical use of words, command of the language and a great deal of skill.  It’s not something you can do in five minutes.

The copywriting process

Before starting writing, your copywriter needs to understand your business. That takes time.  If you engage your copywriter on an ongoing basis, they will of course become knowledgeable about you and your company, which speeds up this part of the process.

Your writer will also have to be briefed.  They must understand the ‘proposition’.  For example: they need to know the purpose of the copy, how and where it will be used, and who your target market is.  That takes more time.

With that information under their belt, your copywriter will move into the planning stage.  Everyone works in different ways.  Some writers will plan the copy on paper or make a list of the main points perhaps, while others map it out mentally.  Time-consuming research is often needed too.  How are we doing for time?  Is that five minutes up yet?

The next stage is actually writing the draft copy.  While an average typist will have a typing speed of around 40 words a minute, remember this is a  copy typing rate.  It does not allow for the creativity and time needed to craft powerful copy.

Once the draft copy has been written, it must be printed and checked.  The copywriter will check every word carefully to make sure it is correct, accurate and is delivering the right message.  Here at WORD-right, the copy is always checked by two different people.  That’s because when you try to proof something you’ve written yourself, you only see what you think you’ve written, not what is actually there.  Is the time up yet?

Next, the copywriter has to compose the email to you, attach the file and send it – OK that bit doesn’t take long!

Now it’s over to you: the client.  You might want some revisions.  So the copywriter goes back over the copy, ‘tweaks’ it, and the printing and checking stages are done all over again.

So even if you just want a short bit of copy, can you really expect anyone to do all that in five minutes?

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Having recently celebrated WORD-right’s 5th birthday, we’ve spent some time thinking about the last five years.

Like many people who venture into life as a full-time copywriters, I had several illusions which were quickly shattered.  My plan was to work like mad through the winter months.  In the summer I would work part-time … sitting outside with a long cool drink and a laptop, creating compelling copy in the sunshine.  The reality check started on 4th July 2006!

Real life copywriting

A copywriter’s life is fascinating, sometimes stressful, but never dull.  Because we work from home, we are seldom off duty and frequently speak to and see clients in the evening, as well as during the day.  Deadlines must be met and we often burn the midnight oil to complete a rush job.

The past five years have been a roller-coaster ride.  We moved from Sussex to Chipping Norton, with a two month stay in Portsmouth in-between.  Not many businesses can boast launching in three different counties in their first nine months!

Mine of information

In my opinion, a copywriter must have a thirst for knowledge.  This is an essential attribute if you are going to become a freelance writer.  Some of our more ‘eclectic’ copywriting subjects have included Santa’s Grottos and Christian Healing!

We were fascinated to learn how Pringles tubes were made.  Writing about alpaca breeding provided a firm footing for a dog breeder’s website.  I’m now almost an authority on beauty treatments thanks to Serenity at Sibford, and The Cutting Edge in Banbury is educating us in the art of hairdressing.  And have you any idea how many different types of hairdressing scissors you can buy?  We didn’t before we met the Scissor Man!

The delights of freelance copywriting

Apart from satisfying our desire for knowledge, our greatest pleasure has come from working with a host of amazing people.  We tend to work with our clients on an ongoing basis, several of whom have been with us since 2006.  Each business is unique and the people working in these businesses are hard-working and inspirational.

As well as clients, we work alongside other professionals who help us deliver our service.  A special thank you must go to our pernickety proof-reader who has been making sure our every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ crossed for the past two years.  In our opinion, every copywriter needs a Proof Fairy!
So you want to be a copywriter?  Recommendations …

We are frequently contacted by would-be copywriters looking for advice.  If this is you, here are some of our recommendations:

  • Be prepared to work long, often unsociable hours – the job isn’t over until the deadline’s met
  • Give your clients 150% and then some more – remember who pays your wages
  • Learn your craft, never stop learning and pay attention to detail
  • Keep up-to-speed with everything going on – technology doesn’t stand still and nor should you
  • Don’t forget your work-life balance – copywriters need days off too!

Finally … if you dream of sitting in the sun writing, invest in a large garden umbrella … or you won’t be able to see the screen on your laptop!

What the future holds for WORD-right

WORD-right’s services have evolved over the past five years.  We added WEB-right, our small business website package, to the mix in 2009.  In 2011, we launched our Copywriting Masterclasses.  This year we have also gone ‘International’, working for an interesting combination of overseas companies.

Because we are passionate about the power of the written word, we want to help encourage more talented writers make a career in copywriting.  That project is already in the pipeline.

And of course, most importantly, we will be continuing to work with our client companies.  Thank you to them all.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Listening to a podcast of Friday’s Banburyshire Info Business Show has prompted this blog. The conversation between Chris Hogan of OxCopy and Ray Avery of Bloxham Mill Business Centre suggested home workers often have a problem finding suitable venues for meetings.

We work from home and make no secret of the fact.  We have a well set-up office, which means lower overheads and we can keep our travelling time and costs to a minimum.

As copywriters, we work for companies literally all over the UK and overseas, and we are able to work remotely.  We have several long-standing clients who we have never met!  They’re like old friends, yet we wouldn’t recognise them in the street.  In this situation, the meeting problem never arises.

However, when we moved back to Chipping Norton and started to develop our local business, it was clear we were going to need a venue for meetings.  Like many other home workers, we held meetings in coffee shops, hotels and even the odd pub.  We also sometimes take advantage of the facilities at nearby Bloxham Mill Business Centre.

But a couple of years ago, we accidentally discovered the marketing benefits of holding client meetings in our home.  By inviting clients and prospective clients here, we give them a sense of security.  If they have a problem, they know exactly where we are and how to find us.

Some companies are reluctant to use outsource consultants who shroud themselves in anonymity.  Many home workers don’t reveal their address and only use a mobile phone.  How do you know if that person is in Wick or Wolverhampton?  If I was entrusting work to someone, I would want to know where to find them!

So holding client meetings at home works for us.  Our clients come along, sit at the table with a coffee (and the odd biscuit or cake) and it’s business all the way.  We are open and visible and our clients appreciate that approach. They are reassured to see we genuinely are a local business, living and working in the community.

There is a down-side of course.  An at-home client meeting usually means a frantic flurry with the duster and vacuum cleaner and the dog has to be on her best behaviour.  But it’s a small price to pay!

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

As I’m sure you know, the WORD-right crew are big fans of social networking.  In our opinion,  Twitter and Facebook are musts for any business.

As a copywriter, I follow other writers on Twitter.  We regularly communicate and there is a great sense of fellow-feeling.  But I’ve recently unfollowed three copywriters – all for the same reason – swearing!

There is good and bad in every business sector.  There are as many good builders as there are fly-by-night ones.  Copywriting is no exception.  I always urge people, if they are planning to use a professional writer, to check out the standard of their work.

Perhaps now I will recommend checking them out on social media too.  A copywriter is meant to be good with words.  If the best they can manage is to string together a few four-letter words, would you want them writing about your business?

If a copywriter can’t express him or herself clearly and succinctly without resorting to profanity, my recommendation is they find another job where professional standards don’t matter!

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

When we first set up our copywriting business some 5 years ago, we offered our services (free of charge) to several charities and good causes.  Why?  We wanted the experience and had time on our hands.  Much to our amazement … nobody ever responded!  We were totally ignored.

Having worked in the charity sector, this really shocked me.  Willing volunteers are hard to come by and my policy was never to refuse any offer of help.  In fact there were times when I had so many volunteers they became a positive liability, and took a lot of management!  Other neighbouring charities could never work out how I managed to find such an abundant supply of able-boded and enthusiastic young men and women (and no, I’m still not telling!).  But I appreciated every offer and the help and support they gave me and our organisation.

Today we still are involved with some charity work and I’m pleased to say we haven’t been turned down in years.  But the purpose of this post really is to support a fantastic offer which one very kind-hearted person has made.

Courtesy of Twitter, I came across Joanna Geary’s blog – she is offering her services to a (preferably) English speaking organisation for 2 – 3 weeks this year.  If you are involved with a charity or have charitable connections, please take a look at Joanna’s skills and experience and remember – gift horses really shouldn’t be looked in the mouth!

Buying a service online can sometimes be a lottery.  And if that company has glowing testimonials, they must be good, mustn’t they?  The answer to that may well be ‘No’!

Not from a verifiable source?  Don’t trust it!

When you find a company online, check out their client testimonials.   If they are from an anonymous source, we recommend you look elsewhere.  Any testimonial from the ‘Marketing Manger’ of ‘a major supplier’, or from a XYZ ‘Consultant’ could well be a work of fiction.  They might as well come from Miss X of Bangor, and you know what her reputation is like!

Testimonials can only be taken seriously if they are from a verifiable source … that is a real person, from a real live company.  And if you have any doubts, give them a call and double check.

Testimonial plagiarism scam!

If this sounds cynical, here’s a scam we’ve recently come across.  We were checking our website for plagiarism using Copyscape, a specialised application based on Google’s Search Engine.  Electronic copy can be very easily stolen and how would you ever know?  By running a check, that’s how.

And that’s just what we did.  To our total amazement, it wasn’t any of our own copy which had been stolen, it was one of our testimonials!  The original is on our website and states our client’s name, company, and a link to their site.  We’ve spoken to our client, who assures us he was the original author.

So how did an almost word for word copy turn up on a large London-based branding company’s website?  Is it any wonder their testimonial came from an anonymous source?  Of course not … it couldn’t be attributed to a real person, because it wasn’t real, it wasn’t factual … it was STOLEN!

More stolen testimonials

We dug a little deeper and found at least one other fake testimonial on the company’s website and another which is suspect.  This is morally indefensible.

Here is a large London branding and website development company with a very high-profile MD who, if personally innocent of plagiarism, is clearly guilty of not keeping his finger on the corporate pulse.

So ‘Mr X from London’, you can expect a formal letter of complaint.  And we will expect an explanation, apology, and removal of any bogus testimonials stolen by your company or your employees.  Unless of course you decide to do nothing … in which case we might be forced to ‘name and shame’.

You can check out your online copy for plagiarism by visiting

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Increasingly, more and more people are working from home.  Many small business owners operate from home, and employers are encouraging staff to do the same.  There’s no doubt there are huge benefits: no more sitting in traffic jams wasting hours every day … a cup of coffee when you fancy one … and of course no expensive office rent to pay.

But working from home doesn’t suit everyone.  If you’re not disciplined, there’s a danger you won’t get any work done and, if you’re used to being in a busy work environment, it can be a very solitary existence.  So what can you do to make sure working from home is a positive experience?

1. A dedicated place of work

If you’re going to work from home, the first thing you’ll need is a dedicated office space.  You might already have a study, or a spare bedroom you can convert.  Perhaps you can create some space in the attic or even a home office in the garden.  The important thing is to have somewhere you actually ‘go to work’.

OK, some people can be disciplined working at the kitchen table or in the sitting room with the TV on, but they are in the minority.  Even if it’s just walking up the stairs or up the garden path, physically going to your place of work will help your mindset.

2.  Don’t paper-shuffle!

There are hundreds of distractions for anyone working from home.  Allowing them to take over your day is the home worker’s equivalent of paper shuffling.

There’s no problem with hanging your washing out if it’s a fine day.  But if you then decide to mow the lawn, clean the car, or watch the golf on TV, you could be on a slippery slope!

3.  Educate your family and friends

Not everyone understands the home working concept.  If your friends and family are guilty of just popping in because they ‘were just passing’, nip it in the bud!  They wouldn’t be able to visit if you were working in a formal environment, so don’t encourage day-time social visits.  And, no matter how much pressure you’re subjected to, make sure all your family and friends know you’re not the unofficial babysitter, dog walker, or personal shopper, simply because you’re at home during the day.

4.  Plan your days

Working from home isn’t an excuse to sleep late, take 3-hour lunch breaks, or knock off early!  If you do that, you’ll never be a successful home worker.  On the other hand, you have to know when to stop too.  Working from home can mean you’re ‘on call’ 18 hours a day, but like everyone else you need to take time out.

The answer is to plan your days.  Set your working hours and keep to them.  If you take an extra long lunch break one day, make up the time by working another half hour in the evening.  If you burn the midnight oil one night, take some time out the next morning.

Sit down each morning and write yourself a list of things to do that day.  Prioritise them, and tick them off the list as they’re completed.

If you’re a workaholic, you’ll need to plan in some leisure time too.  There are always going to be times when you need to work in the evening or early morning, but don’t overdo it.  If your phone always rings when you’re having dinner, let the ansaphone pick it up – that’s what its there for!

5.  Overcoming loneliness

If you’re used to working in a busy environment, the home worker’s solitary life-style can be a bit of a shock.

While social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can help and allow you to communicate with others from your desk, they do have their drawbacks.  If you spend too much time on these sites, your work will suffer.  You can overcome this by planning the time you spend on social networking each day, so you reap the benefits but don’t damage your business.

Business networking events are great for home workers.  Obviously the objective is to meet other people and ultimately increase sales, but they are also a good social opportunity and will get you out of the house on a regular basis.

If you are working alone at home, it’s important to engage in some out-of-hours social activities.  This might be a visit to the local pub or going to the gym for a workout, joining some social groups, or perhaps attending evening classes.

Get it right, and working from home can be a fulfilling experience.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

Ceri Booth - Miss Wales Finalist

Ceri Booth - Miss Wales Finalist

As a Tutor with the Institute of Copywriting, I have around 50 wannabe copywriters under my wing.  Many of my students have now completed their course, but still keep in touch.  It’s always good to know how their copywriting careers are progressing. 

There are always students who stand out … it might be their skills, or motivation … or just the way they give 120% in everything they do. 

One of these students is a young lady called Ceri Booth.  Not only is she an exceptionally talented writer, but at the age of 22, she is successfully running her own business and … is a finalist in the Miss Wales contest! 

At the time of writing, Ceri is currently in the lead in the online polls, and it only takes one look at her picture to understand why. 

So if brains and beauty are your bag … pop along to the polls and cast your vote for Ceri here.

Jeremy Clarkson at the 2008 Auction

Jeremy Clarkson at the Chippy Lido Auction of Promises 2008

It’s that time again when everyone in Chipping Norton is fastening their seat belts and getting into ‘top gear’ for the annual Auction of Promises. 

The auction is the highlight of the local fund-raising calendar and raises much needed money for the local lido.  The 2009 theme is James Bond and  007! 

WORD-right is getting into top gear too – we’re big fans of the Lido Auction.  Last year we helped in the run-up to the auction by sponsoring the newsletter and writing the copy for the auction’s dedicated website.  We were delighted to be part of the team which helped raise a massive £18,000 for such a good cause. 

This year we’ll be back in action again sponsoring the copywriting for the event.  Organiser Ken Norman has already had a good response and the pledges have started to come in, with still 3 months to go! 

For the 6th year running, Chipping Norton’s most famous (or is it infamous?) resident Jeremy Clarkson, will be the entertaining and hard-hitting auctioneer.  The 2009 auction will be held at Chipping Norton Lido on Friday 3rd July.  This coincidentally will be WORD-right’s official 3rd birthday, giving us the opportunity for a great night out to help us celebrate! 

With the James Bond theme, one is tempted to wonder if:

• Jeremy Clarkson as James Bond and compère Ken Norman (M) will be donning their tuxedos
• Will they be serving martinis (shaken … not stirred of course) instead of the usual wine?
• And the biggie … is there any chance of Jeremy Clarkson driving an Aston Martin into the lido?   

The dedicated auction website will be live soon.  Watch the Oxfordshire Copywriter’s Blog for more details.  Remember … you heard it here first!

Last night saw the first networking evening of the B2B club at Bloxham Mill, a prestigious Business Centre near Banbury.  The evening was organised by the Mill and sponsored by BM-IT, one of the companies based there. 

From the minute we arrived to a very warm welcome, it was clear this was going to be a great event.  After some lively networking, guest speaker Steve Cunningham took the floor. 

Steve Cunningham is an inspiration!  He lost his sight at the age of 12 and is living proof of how guts and determination can overcome any odds.  He has set land and water speed records and was the first blind person to fly round the UK.  If that isn’t motivational, I don’t know what is!  Steve’s watchword is ‘Go MAD’ … Make A Difference.  And without a doubt, he made a difference to everyone attending the event last night. 

In the early 1990s, I worked for the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) fund-raising team.  It changed my attitudes and, as a copywriter, I am now passionate about the accessibility of print.  My Area Manager was blind and he was one of the most amazing people I’d ever had the privilege to meet.  Like Steve Cunningham, he never let his blindness stand in the way of his goals and aspirations. 

Its hard for any sighted person to understand these challenges.  Even if we don a blindfold, we’re secure in the knowledge we can take it off and life will return to normal.  One of my most vivid memories of that time was having to eat a cooked breakfast wearing a blindfold.  I still shudder today at the experience.  You can’t begin to imagine how awful a fried egg can be when you can’t see what you’re eating!  For someone who couldn’t master an everyday thing like eating breakfast, I’m lost in admiration for Steve Cunningham who is not only a record breaker, but is also a successful, active, and dynamic business man.   

All in all, it was a sensational evening.  We networked with around a 100 like-minded people, were well fed with a stunning buffet, and came away with an impressive ‘goodie bag’.  This both delighted and bewildered me.  My bag contained an umbrella … very useful for someone who loses them at the rate of about 2 a year!  However, when I put on my marketing hat, I was bound to wonder why it wasn’t branded with a sponsor’s name?  Perhaps the organisers, who did a brilliant job, should be talking to Jody Fletcher of Banbury’s Chilli Promotional Products.  She’ll soon get them sorted out and making the most of their marketing opportunities!

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