As a copywriter, it's my job to know what makes *YOUR* customers tick. Ask me anything!

Natalie Smithson
Apr 11, 2018

Are you a tech disruptor? Are you into digital innovation? Do you want to use technology to make the world a better or more imaginative place?

Then, chances are, you're ambitious, creative, and big-hearted. I'm a Digital Innovation Copywriter and you're *just* the kind of person I work with.


AMA about how to write persuasive copy for your website!

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What is your stance on whether technology is a nuetral influencer that we can use at our discretion, or a contributing factor to shaping culture in biased ways?
Apr 18, 1:59PM EDT0

Technology is developed by humans so we are the influencer, not the technology. We choose to develop technology, we decide how it's used and for what purpose, and we have the power to bias that use for our own gain or for others. Tech is just tech. It's how we use it that matters.

Jun 2, 5:49PM EDT0
How much of your job is finding what it is the customer already wants, and how much of it is predicting what your customers will want?
Apr 18, 4:48AM EDT0

There is no prediction in conversion copywriting. It's driven by data. By that, I mean results from research. You can use analytics to work out where people most frequently drop off your website, for example, but you can also interview people about how the website makes them feel - it's all data. This mix of quantitative and qualitative data allows you to inspect what people want and need from your product or service, so what they respond well to and what's perhaps missing. You can then test the theory that more or less of XYZ will result in a higher rate of conversion, then you keep testing the result. The copy itself evolves with your findings. >> More on the process

Jun 2, 5:42PM EDT0
How did you realize you want to be a copywriter? What preceded your career choice?
Apr 16, 9:15PM EDT0

I've been writing for websites since the internet first landed, but I didn't call myself a copywriter. I was in marketing, editorial, or communications. All of the general skills I learnt over the years assisted my move into copywriting, but even that was gradual. When I realised my background in qualitative research, psychology, and anthrozoology could all be used to fuel my career as a conversion copywriter, that's the day I knew I'd found my calling. (At last!)

Apr 17, 8:58AM EDT0
What tools and skills do you use day in and day out to do your job?
Apr 14, 1:08PM EDT0

I probably can't tell you even half the number of tools and skills I use because a lot of it is on autopilot! Certainly, my internet usage is way higher than most people. I'm permanently plugged in, researching, reading, writing, and networking. I use Airstory to organise my research and to write. I use email and apps like Slack to communicate with others. My website is on Wordpress. I'm active on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up with industry news and connect with people in my niche (digital innovation and tech disruptors). I use browser shortcuts and extensions to speed up processes. 

Apr 16, 6:15PM EDT0
What copywriting medium do you prefer writing for – online, DM campaigns, television, etc?
Apr 14, 6:09AM EDT0

I'm a digital copywriter, so it's all about the internet for me! I like the fast pace. Copy can be erased and replaced in a second. It's an interesting landscape and I think there are big changes ahead in the way we view and consume content online. Communication is important here and this is the area I'm most keen to explore. It's fun to be part of the evolutionary process and I can't wait to see what the future brings :)

Last edited @ Apr 17, 8:40AM EDT.
Apr 16, 5:57PM EDT0
What mental skills and strengths are required to succeed in the copywriting industry?
Apr 13, 5:45PM EDT0

Interesting question! Certainly, natural curiosity is a huge plus. Copywriters have to do a lot of research before they write. If you enjoy learning and discovering new things, you'll uncover more than most. The more you know, the better your copy will be. You need to be meticulous if you want to produce exceptional copy. Not just making sure there aren't any typos, but that you've gone deep into a story so that your expression of it truly motivates your reader to take action (to convert). Lazy copy won't get results. I'd also say you need grit. Writing copy can be an intense process, so it can feel very personal if feedback is critical or you feel your work is undervalued. You need to get used to defending your process and your work, plus strengthen your skills at every opportunity so that you are confident to always sell the value it holds. This will see you through in the end.

Apr 16, 5:53PM EDT0
Do you think there are any major differences between writing copy for online or off?
Apr 13, 4:25PM EDT0

Placement is hugely important. If you're writing digital copy it needs to be found, it needs to be easy to read online, and you have to consider what people click on to get there and where they go next. This all affects how they access and receive the words you write. Offline, you consider where the copy will be seen - will it be for just a few seconds on a huge billboard, or is it available at a more intimate event where people have time to digest the detail of it? All of this has to be taken into consideration if the copy is to be effective ie. it's in the right place at the right time and in the right format.

Apr 14, 7:50AM EDT0
What's your advice to someone considering moving into the world of copywriting?
Apr 13, 6:10AM EDT0

There are lots of different ways to get into copywriting - in fact, it seems to be a trend that we copywriters take quite a winding path to get to where we are. I certainly did: First, you need to understand what copywriting is since there are many different types of writing. Read up on it and decide if it's the kind of writing you want to do (commercial). Then think about where you want to work. Do you want to be employed by a business/organisation or an agency, or do you want to work from home or in your own office as a self-employed copywriter? These experiences are very different, so it really depends on what suits you best as an individual - 9-5 or running a business. Finally, never stop learning your craft. It's a very wide industry so explore all your options, see what fits, and take it from there!

Apr 14, 7:08AM EDT0
What are a few of the problems associated with having multiple executives or teams involved in the decisions regarding a copywriter’s work?
Apr 13, 5:59AM EDT0

A project really benefits from having a select and tight-knit group of people working on it. That small group is heavily invested in a specific outcome. The more people that join the group, the less close they will be to the goal. Feedback especially can then stray into opinion or preference, rather than be constructive. Ideally, the copywriter is working directly with one member of a team who collates all feedback on behalf of the client. 

Apr 14, 6:56AM EDT0
In what ways does a client’s previous experience with working with a freelance copywriter influence the relationship between the copywriter and the client?
Apr 13, 3:31AM EDT0

When a client has worked with a copywriter before they already understand the value we bring to their project. There's no need to explain what copy is or why it's so important to use a professional. They set aside an adequate budget and understand they get what they pay for. Plus they respect the copywriter's time as a fellow business owner. The most important point is about mindset. Freelance copywriters don't work *for* clients they work *with* them. The copywriter and client work together, but separately, each in their own field of expertise, to produce the best work. However, it's not to say all these things don't happen with a client who has never used a copywriter before because they certainly do.

Last edited @ Apr 13, 6:56AM EDT.
Apr 13, 6:35AM EDT0
What types of content have you worked with before?
Apr 13, 1:46AM EDT0

Before I set up my own copywriting business I spent many years working in marketing, editorial and communications teams across various different industries and non-profits. As a result, I've worked on most types of content over the years, including web copy, blog posts, ebooks and eguides, whitepapers, brochures, lookbooks, social media content, infographics and case studies, right through to artwork for business cards, stationery, banner stands, and promotional swag. It's not possible to be expert in everything when you're the only member of the team, so when I set up on my own, I decided to strengthen my skills in copywriting then specialised in conversion copy. Digging really deep into one area has been hugely rewarding so far :)

Apr 13, 6:18AM EDT0
Why is a sense of compatibility with one’s editor vital for a successful piece of writing?
Apr 12, 9:24PM EDT0

I'm not sure compatibility is the right word. What you need is the right team to fully understand and meet the goal. If I've written something that doesn't serve the goal, I expect my editor to pick me up on it. Likewise, if my editor suggests a revision that doesn't meet the goal, I challenge it. The copywriter and editor both have the same goal and their mutual job is to keep the final piece of copy on track to serve that goal as accurately and best they can. It's teamwork, so it works best when every member of the team supports the other. In that sense, compatibility makes for a far better working relationship and, likely, a better outcome.

Last edited @ Apr 13, 5:03AM EDT.
Apr 13, 4:56AM EDT0
In what ways does content writing and SEO differ and how does one establish a balance between the two, to produce interesting and functional content?
Apr 12, 6:08AM EDT0

Regardless of what you're writing, the words need to resonate with your reader. When I write web copy, I find out what matters most to them and how I should approach it in the research and discovery phase of my process: Content writing, which generally refers to blogging, can help build trust amongst your readers or establish you as an authority on a subject. SEO is about making sure those posts show up in search results when people are looking for information on the topics you write about. You'll need to learn the basics of SEO so you at least understand how it works. I recommend Kate Toon's free bitesize SEO course to begin with:

Apr 12, 2:50PM EDT0
Why is it important for a copywriter to establish as to whether the client has a hard deadline by which materials must be delivered?
Apr 12, 6:08AM EDT0

Deadlines are important; a lot can depend on them. Me delivering the final copy to a client is only one part of their project. Other things need to happen before and after that, so if the copy is delayed that can throw everything else out. Say you're waiting for delivery of something at home. You took time off work to be there, but the driver is late or doesn't show up. You're going on holiday tomorrow so can't reschedule. Now you're not only without the thing you needed, you're irritated and in a bind. Meeting a deadline is no different. If the client is on a tight deadline, you need to know, but all of this is agreed before a project starts and confirmed in a contract so everybody knows what's expected and by when.

Apr 12, 8:34AM EDT0
How should one go about attaining credit for blogs or articles written for a company and how does attaining credit for one’s writing become a great source for new referrals?
Apr 12, 5:55AM EDT0

Any accreditation should be agreed beforehand. Check if your name will be used alongside the work and/or that you can use it in your portfolio. Get this agreement in writing. Once you start to build a portfolio, you can send examples to clients who are thinking about hiring you. Make sure these samples are relevant to what they want or what they do. People need to see what you're capable of, so don't be shy to promote your work. Also, ask for testimonials from happy clients and see if they'll refer you. All of this helps build your credibility as you seek out new opportunities. 

Apr 12, 8:23AM EDT0
What are the crucial questions you ask your prospective clients to determine as to whether you will accept a contract from them or not?
Apr 12, 5:32AM EDT0

It's not really about whether or not I accept a client, it's about finding out whether or not we gel. Naturally, the deadline has to be do-able, the budget has to be agreed, and I have to be capable as much as they are cooperative, but the rest - for me, at least - is about how strong we are as a team. The clients I work with are ambitious, creative, and big-hearted. They hold lofty dreams and work relentlessly towards them. So I ask about their challenges and what's holding them back. I ask what they're looking for in a copywriter and how they think I might help. Then we know if we're a good fit. And if we're not? No hard feelings. There's a copywriter out there for everyone!

Apr 12, 8:15AM EDT0
Why is it necessary for a copywriter to establish as to who will be generating the topics and ideas involved in a project and how does this affect the length of a particular written piece?
Apr 11, 11:34PM EDT0

The most important thing to establish is who you're writing for. This feeds any ideas for what you include in the copy, what format it takes, and how long it should be. I suspect you're talking about blogging and content, rather than online conversions and copy, but the principle is the same.

Apr 12, 7:53AM EDT0
What are the terms of a nondisclosure agreement and how does signing a nondisclosure agreement negatively affect the career of a copywriter?
Apr 11, 7:41PM EDT0

The Terms of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) are set by the client. For copywriters at the start of their career, it could be limiting if they are not allowed to use any element of the project for their portfolio. And of course, it's damaging to any copywriter if you break the NDA! If you don't understand any element of the NDA or have concerns about signing it, consult a lawyer before you do. I'm not a legal expert and can only comment on my own personal experience.

Apr 12, 7:49AM EDT0
What are some of the multimedia tools a copywriter should have experience using and how does this experience affect the overall pricing of said copywriter’s services?
Apr 11, 7:29PM EDT0

Use of multimedia tools makes communication between the copywriter and the client easier and faster. That's a benefit to everyone. It's the difference between walking to the library to check a book out at the desk and ordering the book online for next day delivery to your home. Amazon alone proves that people will gladly pay for a more delightful or convenient experience. It suits us all better. As for the tools I use, well I'm a digital copywriter and tech enthusiast so I happily use a lot of them! Here's a sample of tools I've used before: Dropbox for file sharing, Airstory to research and write, Zoom for video conferences, Google Docs to share documents for comments, Signable for online contract signatures, Slack for team chat, Asana for project management. It also helps to know about tools that can help your client in their general marketing efforts once the copy is produced. For example: Drift for welcome messages on a website, Typeform for online surveys, Hotjar to track users on a website, Buffer to promote content on social media (also Hootsuite), Canva for creating images (also PicMonkey and PicsArt). Copywriters don't have to have experience using any or all of these tools, but if you want to be organised, efficient and an asset to your clients, why not use the tools at your disposal that enable this and can help you thrive. 

Last edited @ Apr 12, 7:23AM EDT.
Apr 12, 7:20AM EDT0
In what ways is establishing your client’s major competitors and uniqueness an essential element of your copy and how should one go about highlighting this aspect in their copy writing?
Apr 11, 7:20PM EDT0

Competitors have everything to do with the copy you write. The very thing you want to highlight is a distinction. What makes you different from everybody else? Why choose you? As a conversion copywriter, a fundamental part of my job is to research the customer. They tell me what they want from the client. More importantly, they tell me what they get from the client that they don't get elsewhere. Or they tell me what they don't get from a competitor. The result is the same. They choose the client for a specific reason and this is absolutely the thing you must highlight in your copy. Let's take Netflix as an example. Years ago, if we wanted to watch a film we had two options, go to the cinema or wait until it was shown on TV. There was no real choice and certainly no flexibility - you watched what was available at the time it was shown. Then video stores opened up and we found choice. Then DVD mail services arrived and flexibility started to creep in. Finally, we could stream live to our computer or TV. Then Netflix comes along with "See what's next. Watch anywhere. Cancel at any time." to offer choice and flexibility in abundance as part of one simple service. The line of copy I quoted above is on their homepage: It's the first thing you see.

Last edited @ Apr 12, 5:04AM EDT.
Apr 12, 5:03AM EDT0
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