Haris Halkic: Hi Gill, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting and consulting. Please, tell us more about your story.
Gill Andrews: Hi Haris. Thank you for inviting me.
I stumbled into all of this rather by accident.
I was working as an IT consultant when I went on maternity leave. I was planning to return to work in a couple of years. Not to get bored at home, I started a personal blog. while I was trying to make it grow, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a good website, how to get traffic, how to grow your list, and so on.
Soon, I was helping my blogger friends fix their websites, and after yet another friend hired me to help I realized that I enjoyed this way more than my old job.
So, I decided not to come back to developing software for banks and insurance companies but rather work on bringing together small businesses and people who would love their products and services but just can’t understand their message. This felt way more fulfilling.
I started as a content creator and a web consultant, and my first clients hired me for a website review. But soon I realized that every time I pointed out the issues with their copy, they would ask me to rewrite it.
So, at some point I changed my tagline to a “copywriter”, as I now write almost as much copy as I do website reviews.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelancing from your previous job? What’s your best advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Gill Andrews: I was lucky not to have the pressure to earn a full income right away, so I just quit my job at the end of my maternity leave and dived straight into building my business.
It’s difficult to give generic advice about this, though, as everyone’s circumstances are different.
I wouldn’t recommend doing it the way I did it, especially if your new business won’t have much to do with your current job.
So, unless you have some money saved or are confident enough that you’ll start getting clients right away, it’s a good idea to start freelancing on the side while keeping your office job and see how it goes.
Another thing is that building your business as a freelancer is way more complicated and difficult than it seems. If you’ve never looked into what it takes to run a successful one-person business, you should first do some research and decide what you’re going to offer and how you’re going to attract clients.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. Could you tell us more about how you get clients?
Gill Andrews: I’m an introvert who is very short on time. Sending cold emails or spending hours a day on social media isn’t something I enjoy. That’s why I have a strategy that brings my prospects to me without me actively chasing them.
Most of my clients come from organic search, but I also had people contacting me because they saw my face often enough on social media or have been my subscribers for a while.
I rarely get copywriting clients directly. Rather, people ask me to rewrite their copy after I review their website. Which was my plan all along: First, get someone to hire me to review their web pages. Then, impress them with my expertise and get hired to write copy.
Haris Halkic: On your website gillandrews.com you offer a website critique. What does it include and who is it for?
Gill Andrews: I offer different website critique packages.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have many website visitors yet, a quick homepage review is quite useful. I go through your homepage copy and design step-by-step in a 30-minute video, which helps you create a killer homepage as a solid foundation for your business growth.
If you have a product or a service page that isn’t performing well you can get a detailed review of design and copy, and a mock page that demonstrates how your improved page could look like so that you can get to improving it right away.
And if you know that you need to change many things on your website and want to finally have a website you’re proud of that also gets you clients, a detailed website review will help you with that.
Haris Halkic: Besides that, you write in-depth, well-researched articles on optimizing the web presence of small businesses and solopreneurs. What are the most common mistakes freelancers make on their websites and how can they fix them?
Gill Andrews: Hm, where do I start? These would be my top pet peeves:
- Not having your photograph and sometimes also your name on your homepage.
- Not telling your prospects explicitly what you do but rather saying something mysterious like “Wizard of words” or “Work smarter and save time”.
- Confusing navigation labels.
- Not having testimonials on your homepage, About and other sales pages.
- Unintuitive visual presentation of the content that makes website visitors work hard to figure out where to look, what’s important, where can they click, etc.
Here’s what you should do instead:
1. Put your photograph and your name prominently on your homepage. Your likable and trustworthy face will make your prospects like and trust you faster than a hundred words. Also, tell them your name right away so that your website visitors can connect with you faster.
2. Say in plain words what you do. “Copywriter for small businesses”. “Web designer for creative women-entrepreneurs”. If your visitors don’t immediately understand what you do, they have zero motivation to stay on your website.
3. Make your navigation labels as typical and as clear as possible. The quicker and easier your visitors understand what a label means, the more brain power (and time) they have to explore the rest of your website. Plus, if your visitors aren’t sure what they’ll find behind a label, they won’t click on it.
Not-so-good examples: Get to Know Me / How can I help? / Fees & Charges / Support yourself / Get in Touch.
Good examples: About / Services / Pricing / Books / Contact.
4. Testimonials from your former clients are the most powerful social proof, even more powerful than awards and degrees. Use testimonials in context on your homepage and other pages where you’re making a claim or where you want your visitors to take action.
5. Use more white space and consistent styling of the elements. Make things look like they function (for example, text looks like text and not links, headings don’t look like buttons). Don’t use too much highlights in the text, and so on.
There is a post I wrote that lists 20 common website mistakes with the visual examples and links to in-depth articles that will help you understand why this or that is not a good idea.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Gill Andrews: It depends on what I need to write – a copy for a client, a website review, or my own blog post or newsletter.
In the first case, I go through the brief I received from the client and our latest emails to focus.
If I’m writing a website review report, I just open a Word document and start writing while scrolling down.
For my own blog posts and newsletters, I usually prepare the outline and come up with the opening in my head, while cooking or doing groceries. This way, when I have time to sit down and finally write I don’t have to waste time agonizing about the first lines or the structure of the post and can get straight to work.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Gill Andrews: That’s an interesting question. Because now when I think about it I can’t remember. I guess it was a combination of reading a lot of in-depth articles while making notes plus putting every piece of knowledge into practice by writing a lot while marketing my own business.
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Gill Andrews: My favorite copywriter is Henneke Duistermaat from EnchantingMarketing.com, especially because I was lucky to see her “in action”. She helped me out a couple of times, and I still remember how I would send her my dull blog post headline and she would come back to me with something exciting and at the same time simple and crystal clear within 10 minutes. To me, it felt like magic.
These days, Henneke focuses on teaching copywriting and blogging for business, and I highly recommend everyone who needs to write well to attract clients to join her free writing course.
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
The greatest advantage is of course the freedom I have. I can stay at home with my sick child or take a longer vacation without feeling guilty or stressed about what my boss is going to say.
It does require a lot of discipline though, because taking off in the middle of the week to enjoy the sun or procrastinating suddenly becomes too easy to do.
Haris Halkic: Is there a daily habit that has contributed to your success more than any other?
Gill Andrews: Consistency. Showing up no matter what. I’ve been sending out my newsletter every Thursday for almost 1.5 years now, and I only missed 2 weeks when I was on vacation.
I’ve also done 243 daily website tips on Twitter and am now doing a website tips series on LinkedIn where I post every day, regardless how I feel or how much I have to do.
When people see how consistent you are in providing value, you and your work earn a lot of respect and many new fans.
Haris Halkic: If someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?