Do you have some copy you need to write ASAP and have no idea where to start? I’m here to help you turn what you think into ink, in a blink!
Hey guys! It’s Alex. In this post I’m going to be sharing my 10-step writing process that I follow for every new copy piece I write, from the first outline all the way to the final draft.
I very very briefly mentioned these steps in another post…
I was inspired to do an entire copywriting tutorial on this topic after Jordan, one of my YouTube subscribers, wrote me to say he secured a monthly retainer with a direct response marketing agency he’d had been trying to work with after following this process – that literally I covered in 10 seconds.
Yes Jordan Yes!!! This is why I do this!
I figured many of you could benefit from me going a little deeper into my workflow secrets too.
And, like Jordan, guys if there’s anything you want to learn more about please comment below and let me know!
I release a new copywriting tutorial every single week so be sure to hit subscribe on my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss a single one! You might even be the inspiration for my next video!
As I’ve mentioned before, I hardly ever write a piece of sales copy in one sitting. And that’s because the whole process takes both the left and right sides of your brain, Einstein and Picasso! And you have to go back and forth between the two throughout many of these steps.
So as a quick overview, here is my 10-step copywriting process that I’ll be diving deeper into in this video.
1.Create An Outline – that requires that left side of the noggin.
2.Research & Brainstorm the Hook – That’s the right side.
3.Write The Hook (which is usually the lead-in to your sales message).
4.Finalize The Offer
5.Write The First Draft
7.Write The Second Draft
9.Complete The Final Draft
10.Send To Your Team or Client
This is the exact sequence of steps I follow every single time I write a sales offer. You can’t really skip ahead then go back later.
And I don’t know about you but, for me, it’s freaking impossible to switch back and forth between the two sides of my brain on demand. I tend to live more in my left brain, the more analytical, linear, editor side that thinks in frameworks and processes.
So getting into create flow state where I’m accessing the right part of my brain takes time and I often need to dedicate a whole day to each one of the more creative steps in my process.
Whereas the left-brain tasks I can do within minutes of each other and clump them together.
So, it usually takes me at least 6-7 sittings to write a major sales piece from start to finish – and some of the steps take way longer than others. To me there’s nothing worse than trying to squeeze everything out in one day. I cannot be creative if a feel pressured or stressed. Give me a comment below if you can relate!
Alright, so let’s dive deeper into my secret copywriting process! With each step, I’ll share a time estimate of how long it should reasonably take. That way you can block out writing time in your calendar for each copy project that lands on your desk. Now, your process might be different than mine, it all depends on what works for you! But I’m hoping this gives you a good place to start…
Step #1: Create An Outline (30 Minutes)
This is essentially the skeleton of what you’ll be writing – a simple list of bullet points outlining the flow and sections of your sales offer, with sub-bullets of key points you want to make under each one.
Your outline will be different depending on if you’re writing an ad, landing page, salespage, video script, webinar or social post, but normally it will start with a headline and end with a Call-To-Action.
In future posts, I’ll share the exact outlines I use for each one of these sales messages. So, comment below and let me know what one ya want first!
Step #2: Research & Brainstorm the Hook (1 Day)
This is my favorite part of the process. It involves chasing rabbits down a lot of different holes to find supporting stories or evidence that support your hook.
So the first thing you’ll want to do, depending on the nature of the product or service you’re selling, is determining the type of hook you want to use. A simple way to start is to go with one or all of what I like to call the “S-Hooks”
STORY – Tell a story (personal or fictional) that builds rapport and allows the reader to identify with you.
SCIENCE – Use science or statistics to build trust and create authority.
SUPPOSITION – Make positive assumptions about the reader that lead them to believe they will achieve the desired outcome.
I’ll go deeper into these types of hooks in a future post.
Once you’ve got an idea of the direction you plan to go, go to town in good ol’ Google. Find news stories, case studies, facts, legends, myths, quotes – anything that supports your hook.
At this end of this step you should have a document with a ton of random links, resources and text pulled from loads of different places. It’ll look like an unformatted hot mess of a document, and that’s when you know you’re ready to move onto step 3.
Step #3: Write The Hook (4 Hours)
Open a new document and using the research you found in step 2, start writing. This is a total brain dump and requires the rightest of the right side of your brain.
The goal here is to really tap into the feeling and emotion of the reader. Remember empathy is key in copywriting.
Before you start this phase of your writing process, you may even want to meditate a bit on the problem you are helping your ideal customers solve…
I like to think of the product first then reverse engineer it from there. Ask yourself…
What are the features of the product?
What are the benefits of these product features?
What are the problems these benefits help address?
What is the CORE pain point your ideal customer has?
Why has this person NOT been able to solve it in the past?
This is where you should start.
The #1 rule of this step is – No editing! Whatever you do, do not touch the backspace button. Just keep writing…. And don’t give a rat’s butt about punctuation.
Just write down anything that comes to mind. Sometimes I write words that aren’t even words they just sound like the word I want to use but can’t think of in the moment.
Step completely out of judgement. No one will see this but you. You can even try setting a timer at first, say 20 minutes, to get all your ideas out of that brain for yours. With a time limit, you won’t go into over-analyze mode and start critiquing what you write.
And just remember, the first 100 or so words will be garbage. But then the garbage will turn to pure gold.
Ok, once you have the hook roughly flushed out, set it aside and let it simmer. And move onto step 4.
Step #4: Finalize Details of Offer (1 Hour)
You offer is essentially the second half of your sales message, after the hook, as you transition to what it is you’re selling.
Introduce the product or service, stack up the value, outline the bonuses, note the regular price, announce the discount, play up the scarcity, explain the “Reason Why” for the scarcity, provide access and order details and, of course, have a call-to-action.
After this step, you should have a rough draft of an offer that answers the WHAT, HOW, WHEN and WHY of your offer for your ideal customer. What is it, how do they get it, when should they buy it and why?
Step #5: Write The First Draft (4 Hours)
Ok, by now you’ve already done a lot of the heavy creative lifting, but you’re not quite done with that right side of your brain. This step is about bringing it all together. You have a rough draft of the hook and a rough draft of the sales offer, now you need to combine the two into one cohesive sales message.
The trick here is making the transition or “sales pivot” as seamless as possible the classic “If this is you, I have something for you…”
During this step you’ll finesse the flow and pull out the key ideas or concepts that could become headlines or introductions to new copy sections, if you’re writing a sales page.
Once you have a first rough draft of the complete sales message, you’re ready for the next step.
Step #6: Copy Editing (3 Hours)
Copy editing is very different than simply proofreading. Copy editing is about finding any obvious gaps and/or disconnects in the copy. For example, maybe a loop is opened and never closed. Or maybe there’s irrelevant information that doesn’t lend itself well to the overall message and could create confusion. Or maybe there’s important information completely missing that we thought was obvious or self-explanatory.
Copy editing is where you slice, dice, move stuff around and critique.
At this step of the process, I really like to ask someone else to read my copy and leave comments or notes on anything they find confusing, wordy, redundant, misleading or incomplete. Other people are VERY good at finding the disconnects that we, as copywriters, have a hard time doing with our own writing. Either because of ego or we’re too deep in it that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
I’ll often use incorrect grammar, unintentionally switch up tenses, include a mix of pronouns like “I” and “we” or use cultural references or figures of speech that don’t translate well – even between Canada and America.
Listen, copywriters are sometimes the worst WRITERS if you’re gauging us using an academic linguistics meter stick! So don’t expect me to know how to spell, ok?
Step #7: Write The Second Draft (3 Hours)
Ok, after the copy editor has massacred your first draft, you can move on to writing the second draft.
This is where you finesse your sales message.
The thesaurus will be your BEST friend during this step.
Without getting too fancy or complex, look to use more interesting or descriptive words throughout your copy.
I like to read my copy OUT LOUD. Most people actually read by subvocalizing. so make sure sentences are succinct and transitions are seamless, and re-write any sentences that don’t roll off the tongue nicely.
Break up any paragraphs that are too long as walls of text will cause overwhelm and can cause a reader to disengage… and use ellipses for continuation between paragraphs rather than full stops.
During this step is when you’ll finalize the headlines. Notice how even though the headline is the first thing you’ll read in a sales message it’s not the first thing you write. I always write my headlines last, once the sales message is nearly complete.
Lastly, during this step, make sure the copy works in context. If it’s a video script, you won’t want to tell the viewer to “keep reading” for example. Or if this sales message appears after an opt-in, you’ll want to address that and thank them for signing. You get the idea.
By the end of this step, you should have a nearly completed sales messages and you can move on to step 8
Step #8: proofreading! (30 Minutes)
I NEVER proofread my own copy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve proofread my own copy and miss a million things. When we write in our own voice, our mind will effortlessly fill in the gaps because we already know what we MEANT to say.
So send your copy to a VA or someone with a high attention to detail. Even though a lot of copywriters, ironically, are horrible spellers, nothing makes you look worse than sending a sales page to your client with typos.
It takes no time at all so don’t skip this step.
Step #9: Completing The Final Draft (2 Hours)
Give your sales message one last run through and make sure it includes all 9 components of a Hot Offer, like testimonials, a guarantee, etc.
You can get my Hot Offer Checklist here!
During this step, make sure you also add in all the micro copy bits that are easy to forget, like the button copy, page title that appears in the browser tab, etc. If you leave them out, your client or team will likely use whatever their default is and it may not work well with your copy.
Lastly, include comments about the specific ways you envision your copy being DISPLAYED on the page, like any design elements or imagery that will really help bring your words to life. Even though all we do as copywriters is write words in black and white, we are creative beings and almost always VISUALIZE the message we are trying to convey. Nothing is worse than seeing your copy on a page that looks like crap or competes with your message, so take the time to offer your input.
If you feel the need, after this is all said and done, you can get your proofreader to do one last run through before you move onto step
Step #10: Submitting Your Work (20 Minutes)
This is when you send the final copy over to your team or client to implement. I highly recommend you do this in Google Docs – but create a separate document than your original. This allows your team or client to add comments and feedback, and any revisions made by them are tracked so you can see their changes and learn for next time.
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Whew! There you have it. My super secret 10-step writing process. If you found this post helpful, please leave me a comment below!
And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel…
And I’ll see you next week with a brand new post.
Till then, I’m Alex. Ciao for now!