Copywriting for Creative Artists

I'm passionate about what I do - I've been writing creatively since before I can remember, and every major gamble of my life so far has been related to the pursuit of my dream of being a writer.

At 16, I chose to study A-level English Language when my sixth form college had no extra-curricular creative writing groups to join. My friends all studied Geography.

At 20, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, abandoning an Astrophysics degree after passing three semesters, and moving to an obscure course, BA Language, Literacy and Communication, due to all the 'proper' English degree programmes being full.

At 27, I took another gamble, quitting my job as an agency-based online news writer to pursue freelance opportunities.

Each time, I'm convinced that I made one of the best decisions of my life so far - and the drive (some might say obsession) that led to each of those decisions is something I know many people in creative disciplines have to deal with for themselves.

Jennifer Whalen

Jennifer Whalen is a Minnesota-based photographer who publishes an annual Imagezine showcasing her latest work.

For her 2012 Imagezine, she enlisted my help to provide candidate text for her on-page captions and pull-quotes, which she provided a first round of feedback on. I edited the captions again, and Jennifer then made final tweaks before using her favourites in her publication.

The Jennifer Whalen Photography 2012 Imagezine was published early in the new year and all the available copies were quickly distributed to clients, leading to a reprint. For me, it was a thrill to collaborate with an artist in a different creative discipline than my own, and a great example of how words and pictures can work together to create something stunning.

Jennifer says...
"Bob responded for my tweet about needing a copywriter for my annual magazine publication that I hand out to potential clients. The job wasn't super-big but, as a visual artist, it's hard for me to articulate exactly what I want to communicate to future clients. Bob was able to provide insights and ideas about how to best communicate ideas in a concise way. He was able to word ideas in a way that was still my voice. I would recommend Bob to visual artists!"
To view Jennifer's 2012 Imagezine, click here.
To visit her website, click here.
To read more about this project, click here.

Jennifer Whalen Photography

Jennifer Whalen Photography publishes an annual 'imagezine', showcasing some of photographer Jennifer Whalen's most inspiring images from the past 12 months and giving existing and potential clients the chance to see what their own wedding could look like through the eyes of this talented and dedicated Minnesota-based artist.

Jennifer takes a unique approach to photography, avoiding the stiffly posed shots that sap the life out of many ceremonies, but also steering clear of unposed action shots. Instead, she looks to capture the spirit of the day, taking in all of the colour of the event and making the most of its geographical surroundings to enhance the effect.

Zealous Good

I replied to a general call for assistance from Zealous Good founder and CEO Brittany Martin Graunke via Twitter - the organisation were readying to launch their new website design, but needed a catchy slogan to place at the top.

The existing headline was "Connecting donations to charities in need.", which sums up exactly what Zealous Good is all about - rather than blindly placing donated items with the charities they support, they are a kind of matchmaking service, deciding exactly which charities would benefit most from a particular item, and making sure that it reaches the best recipient.

However, Zealous Good needed something a bit snappier for their relaunch, so I offered to send over a few suggestions.

Choosing the Best Tagline

Within ten minutes, I had sent three possibilities over to Brittany:

Helping make gifts of the things you give.

This one's not ideal, as it contains the slightly vague word 'things'. However, I felt that it helped to make clear that donations are not just handed over and forgotten about - every item represents a 'gift', in that it is directed towards the most beneficial recipient. In this way, each donation becomes more thoughtful, without needing any extra work on the part of the giver.

Helping your goods to do the most good.

This one's a little wordy, but I wanted something that would play on the idea of 'goods' being material possessions, alongside 'good' as the positive outcome of a donation. In both of the above examples, I wanted to start with a verb - in both cases, 'Helping' - to highlight the role of Zealous Good in achieving the desired positive outcome.

All Give, No Take.

Clearly more of a sales slogan than either of the lines above, I offered this simply for comparison - along with a warning that it could come across as a little impersonal for the type of work Zealous Good are involved in.

The Final Decision

As you can see from the screenshot, Zealous Good eventually decided to go with the slightly altered "Helping your goods do great.", a variation on the second option I'd listed for them.

The final version is snappier than my original idea, but I think it still achieves all of the same ambitions, and I'm delighted that I was able to suggest something that was reflected in the final wording of Zealous Good's website.

It also allowed Zealous Good to differentiate themselves from other organisations that operate in the US with taglines similar to my original suggestion - an important step in making sure the Zealous Good brand is able to develop with the strength and individuality that it deserves.

Zealous Good's site launched in early February and I was equally delighted that Brittany emailed me to let me know - it looks great, and I'm sure it's going to help a lot of deserving causes.

To visit the Zealous Good website, please click here.

Do I Need a Freelance Copywriter?

If you've arrived here via Google, there's a good chance that you need a freelance copywriter - otherwise you wouldn't be looking, right?

However, there are still a few questions to answer to be absolutely sure, and it helps everyone if you know what you're looking for.

So, let's be logical about this, and answer the easiest part first...

Rightmove Overseas

Rightmove Overseas were one of my long-term clients during my five years at Adfero. I supplied them with regular news content about their target market - overseas property in a number of popular holiday destinations.

Feature content helped to boost the SEO effect of the shorter, daily posts, and Rightmove Overseas were happy to give me a byline, which I still appreciate.

While I admit it was sometimes a challenge finding news content about a relatively short list of destinations, I was able to settle on a mix of tourism-related research, new transport routes, and less time-sensitive travel-guide posts.

As I write this, Rightmove Overseas still rank at number one for 'property in Portugal' on Google, and I was pleased to hear from them not long after I first joined Twitter.

Rightmove Overseas say...
"They were good articles... I can't imagine it's easy to think of something new to write that often. It must take some talent and concentration."
(Comments originally made via Twitter)

Read some of my overseas property features at Rightmove Overseas.

Improving Search Visibility Without Keyword Stuffing

The definition of 'SEO' has become frankly lamentable in the past few years.

Article databases whose entire library consists of keyword-stuffed, poorly spun content ruled the rankings for a little while, but Google's Panda update sorted that one out.

Even so, you can often tell that a site has been 'optimised' when the opening paragraphs contain entire phrases that don't make much grammatical sense, yet are repeated two, three or four times.

The really sad thing about that, from my own point of view as a lover of language, is that there's really no need to destroy your sentence structure in order to rank highly for your target keywords.

First of all, there's usually a way of including them that at least approximates proper grammar, and won't trip up the vast majority of readers.

But you can go further - and optimise your site without touching the existing on-page text.

Custom Callback Functions for Google Reader

Long-term readers of this blog will know how much I love Google Reader's sharing settings, which allow you to embed a list of headlines into a website.

The headlines are drawn from any one folder in your Google Reader account, so you can collate multiple RSS feeds into a single news feed that updates in near-real time.

I've used the functionality in both professional and personal applications - in my former agency role, it meant press releases on a particular subject could be viewed on a publicly accessible page, which made it much faster and easier to find things to write about for difficult client briefs, while I now use the same approach to embed headlines into a number of my different websites and blogs.

The particularly good thing about using Google Reader to embed RSS feeds into a web page is the 'callback' function.

This is the piece of Javascript that decides how your headlines will look once they are displayed on the page, and by default, it shows a fairly basic table with coloured headlines, a border, a title and a link to Google Reader's 'public page' for that folder of feeds.

However, it does not have to look like that...

Freelance Writing for SEO Agencies

The vast majority of SEO agencies offer search-optimised blog posts as part of their service; however, if you don't have a large team of talented writers in-house, you could soon encounter problems.

You need to make sure you have enough copywriter capacity at your disposal to meet your clients' needs, as well as to deal with any sudden increase in demand.

Equally, however, an in-house team may be much harder to downsize if demand drops.

This is where freelance copywriters can help your agency to capitalise on demand for SEO blogging from clients.

Rachel Feltham, BD Recruitment

Rachel Feltham is a former recruiter with BD Recruitment. She has now left the company, but is still among my favourite Twitter contacts.

I will always think fondly of her lyrical job ads - especially those set to the tunes of Christmas songs - and am thrilled that she took the time to recommend me on my LinkedIn profile.

Rachel says...
"Bob is a truly creative and talented writer. I would seriously recommend him."
(Recommendation originally made via LinkedIn)

Natalie Collard, A Kid's Life

Natalie Collard owns A Kid's Life, an eCommerce site that specialises in traditional toys and gifts, and high-quality handmade nursery furnishings.

Over the course of several months, I have worked with Natalie to revise her product and category descriptions, giving her unique, search-visible text that also lends a consistent textual style to her site's pages, with the scalability and flexibility needed to help a fledgling eCommerce venture to find its feet at the appropriate pace.

Natalie says...
"I am very impressed with Bob's writing. We have worked together to target the most popular parts of my site, and have seen visitor numbers grow as a result. It's great to have a copywriter who is flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of A Kid's Life, and who I know I can trust. Working with Bob has been really great!"
To visit A Kid's Life, please click here.

A Kid's Life

A Kid's Life is the work of Natalie Collard, an internet entrepreneur and mum. Like many modern-day parents, she wanted good-quality, traditional toys, games and nursery furnishings for her offspring, but couldn't find anywhere that sold everything she wanted in one place.

Unlike some other parents, though, Natalie decided to start her own online store, listing only carefully selected products from the best manufacturers - many of whom are artistic individuals, or are UK-based, meaning purchases from A Kid's Life help to keep money within the country's economy and cut down on the carbon footprint associated with importing goods made in the Far East.

I don't have kids of my own, but I do have nephews and nieces, and I fully appreciate the difference it makes when you give a child something they can cherish for years to come - not to mention the fact that sturdy wooden toys and games often survive the kind of rough handling that would smash plastic into a million tiny, sharp pieces.

Article Spinning for SEO

'Article spinning' is something you may have seen mentioned in relation to SEO or to website content in general - in fact, it also sometimes goes under the names of 'content spinning' or simply 'copy spinning'.

It stems from the need to populate your website's pages with unique content - so that you don't fall foul of Google's "some pages very similar to those already shown..." filter, and vanish from the SERPs completely.

The problem with article spinning is simply finding the best way to do it. There are automatic systems that use thesaurus software to inject synonyms throughout a piece of text, but these are notoriously hit and miss.

(Actually, at this point, let me tell you about Kindergangster...)