DIY web copy writing worksheet and template

Wed Nov. 18th 2015

This article is reproduced from Words for Breakfast with permission - a great copywriting business in Auckland.


Even if you're a business owner who likes to do things properly, when you're starting up, DIY is often your only choice.

Lots of fancy tools are making that much easier – Xero makes DIY bookkeeping almost fun, and Weirdly almost removes the need for a recruiter – but nobody's cracked a bit of software that will write your web copy for you.

So that's what this is. It's a template-come-worksheet to help you be a DIY web copy writer to tide you over until you can afford to work with us.

Strategy and positioning

This is the hardest (and most important part) of the copy writing process – and the step that most copy writers skip. It's where you decide what you want to say before you start actually writing.

Why is it hard? Because you'll be forced you to make some decisions. They'll feel scary because strategic decision-making is really about choosing what not to say. It can feel like you're missing all sorts of opportunities. That's ok. Live with that discomfort – clarity and focus is the only way to get anywhere in copy writing (or in any kind of marketing)

Understanding your reader

Before writing, you need to work out who your audience is. That's different to a buying group – those are all the people who could buy your product. What you need to do here is identify the people you can deliver the most value to – and the ones you'll make the most profit from.

Choose a target audience

This is the first of your scary decisions. You have to be exclusive. You can't talk to everyone who might buy your target. Why? Because if you try talking to everyone, you'll end up having to be so generic that you'll get no cut-through. Your only response will be indifference. It's a bit counter-intuitive, but if you're exclusive with your text you actually end up including more people.

Define your target audience as a person

OK. So you've been exclusive and defined your target audience. Write it down.

Now the real fun begins.

Don't just leave this audience definition as a vague sort of demographic eg. "Small business owner" or "household shopper with kids". To communicate compellingly, you have to get into the heads of your audience. So, I suggest dreaming up a real personality to represent your audience. Lots of people talk about this as "creating personae". You use your instinct to imagine a person who's likely to have thoughts, feelings and needs that represent the whole group.

This will allow your natural communications ability to come through - you'll instinctively adjust your writing to suit that person. This will ensure you're writing in a way that will properly connect with them.

Exercise: defining your audience as a single representative person

The following questions may help you to be specific. This is just a start point, not a comprehensive list .

  • What is your person's name, age and gender?
  • What does he or she look like?
  • What does your person do for a living?
  • What kind of home life?
  • What kind of hobbies does your person enjoy?
  • How do they interact with your kinds of product and service that you offer - with your brand in particular, and with the market segment in general?
  • How would you describe your person to a colleague?
  • How would your person behave at a party?
  • What else is important to note about your person?

Understanding your benefits

People only care about the features of your idea, product or service because it delivers them a benefit.

Consider the difference between the two warnings "live wires!" and "electrocution danger!" The first is simply a description of the problem. It requires the reader to extrapolate why they should care. The second focuses on what the issue is for the reader. This is benefit-driven messaging, and it's the most important part of persuasive communications.

When talking about your business you'll instinctively focus on, well, your business – you operate with integrity, you have expertise and great customer service.

Persuasive, benefit-led messaging means you have to move past what you offer, and talk about what your target audience will get. How do your products or services benefit your audience?

Exercise: what's my benefit?

1. Think about the person you defined in the previous exercise. Imagine them before they start working with you.

What's their life like? What are the challenges they're facing? What can you help with?

2. Now imagine them after you've worked with them. They've been a dream client and you've pulled out all the stops.

What is their life like now? What tangible benefit have they received? Maybe it's more money – but what is good about having more money for this person? Maybe they have more time – what could they do with that time? Maybe it's confidence – what can they do better now they have confidence?

3. Write down as many of these tangible benefits as you can think of. You'll use these to write your text.

Your reason for being

Thinking about your business in this way will help you come up with a 'big mission', that is, something your business cares about beyond making money. This is important because having a big mission will give people a reason to buy from you beyond your products or services.

Here are some examples:

Exercise: What's your reason for being?

Pretend you're billionaire and your business is a charity – what purpose does it serve?

Planning your web copy

Before you start copy writing, you have to do some planning. I know, I know. Boring, right? It's always the step our history teachers tried to get us to do, and always the one we'd skip. Trust me, it works.

Creating a good outline involves organising your thoughts, saying everything you need to say, and getting your boss or colleagues to check and approve it.

First, brainstorm all the points and information you want to include. What arguments can you make? What objections could your audience make? How can you address these objections?

Here's a basic site structure and template. I've noted down the detail you'll need for each section. Write these down now, before you start filling in the template.

Home page

Its job: highlight the main benefits of your products, idea or service and links you through to the rest of the site.

  • Info to include:
  • reason you exist
  • the biggest problem you solve for your audience
  • the main way your company benefits your audience
  • contact details

About page

Its job: Give readers an insight into the history of your company and what you care about – your big vision.

Info to include:

  • reason you exist
  • the biggest problem you solve for your audience
  • the main way your company benefits your audience
  • three other ways your company benefits your audience
  • detail about your history
  • contact details

Services/products page

Its job: details the benefits your services can offer to people

Info to include (for each service/product page):

  • the problem this service/product solves for your audience
  • the main way your company benefits your audience
  • three main ways this product/service benefits your audience
  • detail about the product/the way the service works
  • contact details

Contact us page

Its job: contact details and reminding people of the main benefits of your products, idea or service.

Info to include:

  • the main way your company benefits your audience
  • contact details

And now for the actual web copy template

Ready to get started? Download your DIY web copy template and work sheet here now.

For more help or to talk to us about professional copy writing that actually sells, get in touch with our team of awesome copy writers.

Written by Helen Steemson

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