The Most Irritating Mistake Business Owners Make When Writing Their Own Copy

Most Irritating Mistake

‘I don’t think the quirky, casual style is going to work for us.’

That’s something my first ever copywriting client said to me. Annoyingly, my client was actually a middlewoman, and I wasn’t working directly with the person the copy was for, so there wasn’t much I could do.

My client didn’t want to risk coming across as unprofessional to her client, so she edited the personality right out of what I’d written, and gave her client some washed out, diluted, boring tripe.

Trouble was, my client’s focus was on SEO, and my focus was on writing something people might like to read — something that might actually persuade people to hire this removal guy.

All the SEO in the world won’t get you a sale if people land on your website and are confronted with some boring shit that inspires no confidence — no, not confidence. Emotion. If your website doesn’t make people feel anything, they’re sure as shit not going to buy from you.

So What’s the Problem Here?

The problem is, most people don’t know the difference between serious and professional. They are not the same. You can be professional without being serious. Just take a look around my website.

I speak casually, I swear, I make jokes. Not things you’d expect to see on a business website, right? But that’s what this is. (Super exciting sidenote: Untamed Writing officially incorporated last week. I got a certificate and everything. And check this out: SC457534. That’s my er, business… number… thing. Protip: hire an accountant who knows about stuff like this.)

The problem with ‘serious’ is that it’s boring. B O R I N G. Ugh. And boring doesn’t sell.

I’m not saying you need to start swearing or cracking a joke every five seconds, but how hard is it to say ‘Hey Karen’ in the emails you send out instead of ‘Dear Ms Marston’? I don’t need to tell you which one is more likely to get my attention.

Still not convinced? Let me share with you some fucking fabulous examples that have got professional, but not serious, down to an art.

The Dollar Shave Club

Wildly successful, yet the first thing you see when you land on the website is a video titled ‘Our Blades are F***ing Great’.

Now don’t you want to rush out and buy razor blades IMMEDIATELY? Okay, maybe you don’t (although you’re reading this, so you probably do, because you’re clearly awesome). But others will. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? As Ash Ambirge of the Middle Finger Project puts it, it’s about murdering indifference.

Speaking of Ash…

The Middle Finger Project

Ash runs a a hugely successful copywriting business. I love everything she is about. In fact, she’s who inspired me to become a copywriter.

The name itself will turn you off or on instantly, and when you land on the site you’ll see Ash’s snarling face and a declaration about ‘Doing business and life differently (and having way more fun than the neighbours.)’

Here are just a few of the one-liners that make The Middle Finger Project what it is:

  • SUBSCRIBE. It’s free. Unlike the wine you drank last night.
  • Email Jessica. We promise she doesn’t bite have rabies.
  • Your Mother Said You Should Read These, Too: [links to other blog posts]

Taken out of context you might think, What the hell? No way this chick runs a successful business. That’s because you think professional and serious are mutually inclusive. They are not.


FreeAgent is my accounting software. It’s awesome. Here’s a line from the most recent email they sent me:

Taking time out to eat cake makes us more productive at FreeAgent* but it’s often hard to find time to step away from your work. We’ve been checking out the importance of taking breaks and how you can get some proper head space.

*Scientifically proven by the FreeAgent Lab.

Again, not something you’d expect to hear from a bunch of accountants, but that’s just how FreeAgent rolls. And it’s why I’m a loyal customer. Accountants are supposed to wear suits and use corporate speak and uhh… what else do accountants do? Smoke cigars? Holiday in the Alps? (Well, can’t fault ’em for that.) Anyway, point is: FreeAgent defies convention and, as such, appeals to a whole new market that stuffy, traditional accountants couldn’t ever hope to win over.

How to Remain Professional and Not Be a Boring Asshole

Have fun.
Show people you’re human.
Make jokes.
Give a shit.
Protect your integrity.
Tell stories.
Have an opinion.
Say no to customers who aren’t a good fit.
Be brutally honest.

Brutal honesty is a rare thing, because everyone is so concerned about showing their ‘professional’ side and acting like they’ve got their shit together.

But let’s face it. Nobody has their shit together. Not really. And if you’re the one who admits that? You will stand out. Some people will respect you, others might think you’re crazy, but one thing’s for sure — nobody’s going to be indifferent.

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