Your quotation has been accepted, the deadline's set and you understand the brief. As a web copywriter, your mission clock is ticking and you know what you have to deliver. Here, based on one Gloucestershire copywriter's recent freelance experience, are 7 tools to help you on the way to another copywriting success.
1. Project timing software
When every minute of writing time counts, it's vital to know exactly how much work you've done for each client. And of course, it's a great way to monitor your hourly rate. Some writers log their time with pen and paper. Increasingly, the web copywriter can turn to online or software timers. I've found the Java-based open source Hourglass application invaluable. Get it from the Sourceforge website.
2. Keyboard shortcuts save time
Knowledge of essential keyboard shortcuts saves time when a deadline is approaching. Whether you're Alt-tabbing between open windows or using Alt-codes to quickly insert a special character, knowing a few keyboard shortcuts will soon make a difference when the clock's ticking.
3. Fine tune your natural curiosity
For web copywriting as for any kind of business writing, well-developed curiosity and a questioning nature is often the key to the extra customer benefit or new perspective that will delight your client and make their website even more engaging. Never forget the ‘copywriter's friends': the open-ended questions that begin with who, what, where, when, why and how, when you're interviewing a client about their business.
3. Pen(cil) and paper
Old fashioned they may be but these stalwarts of creativity have a vital place, particularly at the earlier stages of a project. Sometimes, the most impromptu writing tools (an old envelope or the back of a magazine) hold the key to a killer idea. In our age of keyboards and screens, don't be afraid to combine the best that old and new technology offers.
4. Learn how to mind map
This fantastic technique, originally developed by the British writer and thinker Tony Buzan, is easy to learn and apply. Mind mapping exploits the fact that our brains work in a non-linear way; it's easy to use with paper and pencil or with mind mapping software (try the open source Freemind application). Whenever you want to brainstorm a project, design layouts or write articles (like this one), mind mapping will quickly and easily help you get your thoughts in order before you fire-up your PC.
5. Buy and use a digital voice recorder
Did you ever start to write and realise that you'd forgotten some vital detail from a client interview? A digital voice recorder (something like the easy to use and very affordable Sony ICD P520) is a boon in any sort of meeting. What's more, it's easy to download the recordings to your PC for reference while you're planning or writing that web copy. As a matter of courtesy, always ask permission to record in a meeting. In my experience, no client has ever declined; they understand how it helps you use their valuable time more effectively and avoid time consuming call-back enquiries later.
6. Invest in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
You would be surprised how often mains power suffers tiny spikes and surges, even in areas where you would normally consider power supply to be reliable. We're not talking hours-long outages here but momentary blips that you'd barely notice unless they take out your PC as a deadline approaches. Simple units from Riello UPS or APC will condition power, protect against spikes and give several minutes’ emergency runtime if the electricity fails. Anything that enables you to save your work and power-down your PC in a controlled way has to be good. If you've ever lost work to a power outage you'll understand why. . .
7. Data backup tools
Of course you've got autosave enabled in MS Word and you regularly hit Ctrl Save don't you? But as well as this, do you backup your work on a daily or weekly basis? Whether you use DVDs, a USB drive, an external hard drive, a networked computer or online backup, some form of regular backup is essential. Like buying insurance, you hope you will never need to use these tools to restore your data but. . .
None of these tools will help you if you haven't got a natural gift as a web copywriter. But assuming you have a flair for your body copy, metatags and well-integrated keywords, they will help you to make the most of your ability on the way to satisfying another copywriting client.
Al Hidden is a freelance copywriter based in Gloucestershire, England. His background is in technical sales, marketing management, technical writing, copywriting and PR. He specializes in technical, marketing, PR, website and SEO copywriting and copy-editing for large and small organisations in Gloucestershire and the rest of the UK.