If you’re about to start working with a web designer, you’re probably excited by all the possibilities – a whole new look, stunning new photographs, a chance to stand out. But does your heart sink at the thought of all those words you’ll need to write?
You’re not alone. I’ve seen how often words are left until last, looked upon as the poor relation, and generally ignored until there’s no choice but to face up to the blank page.
If you get desperate, you might start to think you could cobble something together from things you wrote years ago. That’s unlikely to inspire you, or anyone else.
Or you could hire a copywriter. A copywriter is a great solution – a professional writer who’ll come on board bringing objectivity, a willing ear, and a way with words. They’ll tell your story in a way that resonates with your potential clients, and they’ll use clear, human language which will help everyone understand the value of what you do.
I’m a writer who works with architects, and I’d do almost anything to stop you copy-and-pasting from old documents you’ve found on your computer. It never works.
But, actually, however much I want your website to be the best it can be, I’d much rather not do all the writing for you.
Because I’ve learnt that coming up with the words for a new website is a great opportunity for something even more powerful. It’s a chance to get to the bottom of what you do and why you do it.
Whether you’re a one-woman band hiding behind the pronoun ‘we’, a small practice trying to sound like a bigger one, or a large organisation which has forgotten how to sound human, it’s a chance to re-inspire yourself and re-inspire your staff.
In other words, it’s a chance to bring back the inspiration you had at your kitchen table all those years ago – and then spread it around so that everyone benefits.
I think of it as taking a step back and then taking a much bigger step forward.
I had one client who wanted to put together a more professional-looking website. Ten years ago she’d been working from her kitchen table at night while still working for a large practice by day. Soon she had the cash flow and the confidence to leave her employer and set up on her own. It was still just her, but she’d moved everything off her kitchen table and into a small studio space. Her reputation was growing, and she now wanted a whole new set of words to see her through this next phase.
But we soon hit a stumbling block, because the process brought up more questions than she could answer. For her, running a business had been a question of keeping the money coming in and keeping her clients happy. She’d never had a business plan, let alone a clear sense of purpose.
Together, we took a step back before moving forwards.
Now, at last, she understood that the things she was scared to admit were the things her clients loved about working with her. They knew they’d always be dealing with her, and they knew she’d always take full responsibility. They knew that her full involvement at every stage of the process meant nothing would fall through the cracks.
For her, it was a giant leap forwards, in confidence as well as clarity. She embraced whatever set her apart from other practices, and that became the driving force for bigger and better projects.
Another of my clients had a different kind of problem: the three partners were clear on their mission and clear on their direction, but the clarity stopped there. The team was out of the loop and uninspired. And, probably because of this, staff turnover was high.
Forging ahead with the words of the website might have been the path of least resistance, but the three partners would still be doing all the heavy lifting. And there would still be a disconnect between the way the website portrayed the practice and how it operated.
It was the perfect opportunity to give everyone a voice – within the studio and on the website – and get everyone involved in shaping the story of the practice. It broadened the conversation, energised the studio, and gave everyone a sense of ownership. Now each and every team member was doing their bit to spread the word about the practice, and that meant 50 advocates rather than just three.
Creating a new website could be a watershed moment for you too. It’s not just an opportunity to put on a new face for clients; it’s a chance to rediscover the driving force behind your practice. But it might take more than hiring a copywriter, and you certainly won’t get there by cobbling together text from something you wrote all those years ago.