Say what you want to say

I was endless-scrolling through a Facebook group when a two-paragraph message caught my eye.

Help! I’m launching my website and can’t write my services page. Basically I want to help moms find time for themselves and incorporate self care into their busy lives. I know for me it helped so much…

 It took me all of twenty seconds to write back:

“You just said, ‘I help moms find time for themselves, incorporating self care into their busy lives.’ SO THAT’S WHAT YOUR WEBSITE NEEDS TO SAY.

I went on to explain what I’ll now tell you: Say what you want to say. Don’t try to think of this eloquent, flowery fluff way to describe your service or competitive edge. Because A) no one talks that way, and B) no one’s going to understand you anyway.

If you struggle defining your service, chances are you’re putting way too much emphasis on making yourself sound DIFFERENT.

Once, I worked for a company that defined themselves as The architects of the live brand experience. They trademarked it.

Now tell me what that means.

Let me tell you something you already know: If you’re a graphic designer, then you’re a graphic designer.

If you’re a painter, you paint. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re a plumber, you unclog toilets.

And if you help moms with absolutely ZERO time somehow sneak in a few minutes for self care, then damnit, that’s what you do.

There are things that set you apart, and there are ways to weave those things into the text on your website. But it should flow in a way that feels naturally.

The way you describe yourself and your service in everyday conversation is the best way to describe yourself in print.

Picture this: You’re grabbing a coffee with your old college roommate, who’s in town for the weekend. She asks you what you’re up to and you tell her you waved one finger to the corporate world and are trying to make things work on your own. She goes, “That’s SO cool!! So what do you do??” And you go:

“Welllllll basicallyyyyyyy—

WHATEVER comes after “well basically,” THAT IS WHAT YOU DO. If you take absolutely nothing away from this page, please remember this:

“Well basically” is your service. Read that sentence again. That is how you describe yourself to your college roommate, and that is how you should explain yourself to planet Earth. Because your college roommate knows you. She gets you. She LIVED with your ass for four long years, and if SHE doesn’t understand your, “Well, basically,” —

—Then how do you expect someone who doesn’t know your LAST NAME (but miraculously stumbled upon your website) to understand it either?

I write the way I talk. You see the series of all caps used above? I was waving my hands in the air prior to typing them. You can feel it right? That’s who I am. I am low-key eccentric and sometimes really feel what I’m write. But that’s who I am as a copywriter.

If you can’t describe who you are in print, then—

Actually, I have to stop that sentence to write this one: If you struggle describing yourself or service online, stop ripping on yourself because it’s the hardest shit in the world. It is so unbelievably fucking hard. Your story will always be the hardest one to tell.

Now back to what I was going to write.

If you can’t describe who you are in print, then grab your iPhone, call your fellow she-boss or that one friend who always lets you vent, and talk shop. And record the conversation. Don’t give your homegirl a speech or anything, just ask her what projects she’s working on, then let her ask you a few questions, and keep alternating until you have a real conversation on these three things:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do
  3. How you do it.

After the call, don’t touch the recording. Give it a day or two, then go back and listen with fresh ears. I promise you’ll be shocked by what you said. And you’ll probably come up with some killer one-liners.

When I take on a new client for web copy, they write their website themselves.

Seriously. Every great line I’ve ever written came out of my clients’ mouths, I just tweaked it and transcribed it back on paper.

You will be shocked by the awesome things you say when you stop thinking so damn hard about it. Website copy is no place for pristine, fluffy sentences that only come off as crap. It’s a place to get real, be direct, and be you.

Because that defining differentiator? That competitive edge you were trying so hard to express in words? That differentiator is you. No one can run your business like you can. So the voice of your company—the words on your website—have to sound like you.

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You have flaws. You f-up on a daily basis. And that should be ok.