Learn to Write for the Web: A Chapter from The Hundred Dollar Club Book

THDC BookSup guys! So, I’ve written a book with some buddies of mine. It tells the individual tales of a group of budding entrepreneurs who were each given $100 to start an online business with.

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff in there too, such as a guide to finding your own accountability group (and why you need to), what sort of businesses you can run online, how to figure out your target audience, and lots of other good jazz you need to know to start your own internet biz.

Basically, it tells you everything you need to know about getting an online business running.

And it’s FREE. Because we’re awesome like that. Below is an excerpt from the book. Not surprisingly, it’s the chapter about how to write for the web. If you want to skip ahead and just download the whole book, head on over to The Hundred Dollar Club website.

Learn to Write for the Web

From a business perspective, writing is all about selling. Every word you write should somehow be selling your business – but not necessarily your products or services. Seriously. Hear us out. The words you write paint the picture of what your business is all about – which is effectively selling your brand. You’re always selling yourself, your brand and your business – persuading people to give you the time of day, even if you’re not directly pimping your products out.

Every business needs writing. That’s a fact. Writing is how you pull people in and get them interested. Apart from filming a video or recording audio – both of which are a lot more technical and time consuming – how else do you connect with the people who visit your website? The crucial thing to remember is that good writing makes people feel something. And that’s what makes people buy stuff.

Think about it: are you more likely to buy a kayak because of its fabulous specs? Will reading about a kayak’s weight, colour, length, volume make you want to buy it? Hell no. But reading about the thrilling adventure you can experience on Lake Umbagog, or about the crocs you can see basking in the sunlight on the Amazon’s banks? Hell yes. The specs may help you decide precisely which kayak to buy – but you won’t even glance at them until you’ve decided you want to see those god damn crocs.

Broadly speaking there are two types of writing found on the web: copy and content.

Web Copy

Copy is what sells. It’s found on your about page, your services page, your home page, your sales pages (duh) – pretty much every page on your site (except your blog, but more on that later). Because you should be trying to sell your brand at every opportunity. If a piece of writing on your website isn’t furthering your business, why is it there?

Take your about page. That’s where people go to find out about you, right? Well, kind of. More pointedly – your about page is where people go to find out what you do… and how you can help them. Ah, there’s the money!

Copywriting is one of the most valuable skills you can learn for the betterment of your business. If you can’t learn how to craft your words in such a way that you can convince people to buy what you’re selling, you’re going to have a hard time er, selling. And if you can’t sell anything, you don’t really have a business now, do you?

Web Content

And web content? Web content is, well – it’s your blog. You might be thinking that running a blog will take precious time away from other, more worthy business endeavours, but blogging is one of the most worthy business endeavours there is, these days. No longer is blogging solely the realm of angry waiters and anonymous prostitutes, decrying the woes of their jobs.

Blogging is now a straight-up badass business tool. You can use your blog to: demonstrate your authority on a subject, keep your customers up-to-date, rank well in Google (we’ll talk more on SEO – that’s Search Engine Optimisation – later), build your brand, tell your story, have a conversation with people, find out what people want to know and give ’em the answers, stand out, help people, entertain, inform, and oh! the possibilities are ENDLESS.

So, yeah. You need a blog.

Tips for Writing for the Web

Maybe you’ve never written before – or at least not since school – and you’re afraid to put your words out there. You’re gonna need to get over that hump if you want to run an online business. Or, you know, hire someone to do the writing for you.

But writing’s really not all that hard. So long as you’ve got the basics of spelling and punctuation down, you’re good. And presumably you learned that stuff in school, right? And grammar? Well, let’s not worry about grammar. The ‘proper’ rules of writing do not apply to online writing – especially not online writing designed to sell. Because you don’t need to write how you’re supposed to write.

You need to write how you speak. So once you’ve written something, read it out loud and see how it sounds. Feel weird? Write it out again, in a way that sounds natural when you say it out loud.

There are a lot of ways to improve your writing. Of course there’s the obvious things: read a lot, study other people’s writing, copy other people’s writing to help you develop your own style, practice practice practice. All sound advice. But you’ve got a business to run, right? You don’t have time for that. So here are some hard and fast tips that will improve your writing:

  • Write how you speak. (Worth mentioning again.)
  • Don’t try to write how you wrote in school. School essays? No thx.
  • Write fewer words. Chop all useless words out. Seriously. All of them.
  • Avoid clichés like the devil.
  • Stop trying to be so damn fancy. Use common, everyday words. Remember, we’re trying to write how we speak here. And we want people to understand what we’re saying. So no big fancypants words just because you learned a new one.
  • Put the most interesting bit first. Journalism 101.
  • Write in the active voice, not the passive. It’s more exciting. (‘She kicked his ass.’ vs. ‘He got his ass kicked by her.’)
  • Focus on benefits over features.
  • Break things up into short paragraphs, because people have short attention spans now, y’all. Aim for three sentences per paragraph. Oh, and use headers to break things up, too.
  • Don’t ever use the word ‘irregardless’. Ever. Because it’s not a word.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Good writing ain’t about being correct, buddy. It’s about evoking emotions, making people feel something – because them’s the folks who’ll part with their cash for you. (Fine, you can use ‘irregardless’. No! Don’t! Oh god, I’m so torn.)

Make Your Website Reflect Your Business

Watch and learn
It’s not called copywriting for nothing. Take a look at the sites of businesses you’ve bought from in the past, and get copying. Literally. Get out a notepad and pen, and copy down what they wrote that persuaded you to part with your cash. This is one of the best ways to learn how to write persuasively. [NOTE: This is not really why it’s called copywriting. But you knew that.]

„Tell the world about your business
Head back to your newly minted WordPress site and create a page called About’. Try writing some copy for it. Check out this post from Karen for more help on writing your About page.

Write, then write some more
Start a blog. If you only do one thing, make it this. Starting a blog will help you figure out the direction of your business, help you find your writing voice, help you get better at writing, and all that other good stuff we talked about earlier.

Use writing as a tool to help you figure out your direction, and get used to putting yourself out into the world regularly.

So, wasn’t that fabulous? It should be, because I wrote it. Ha! Anyway, if that whetted your appetite an you want to know more about starting your own online business, you can download the whole book here.

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