Elance Blog

Does Your Copy Counteract Your Marketing Message?

Whether you're a client writing copy for your website or a contractor submitting a proposal for a great new Elance job, you need to ensure that you understand who you are writing for—and make sure your copy reflects that. Freelance copywriter Bob Younce discusses how to ask the right questions so that you're hitting your target audience each and every time.

Creating good copy isn’t only about mastery of the language, or about understanding how to use active voice. It’s not even about knowing how to demonstrate benefits of your product or service to the reader. Good copy is also informed by your product or service as well, and it is built to be consistent with and complementary to whatever it is you’re selling.

Accordingly, if you’re going to create copy that sells, you need to understand what you’re selling. You need to know more than just why people should want to buy your product or hire you for a job; you need to connect on an almost emotional level with what you are offering. You need further to understand the target market, and be able to talk to them on their own terms.

A Bad Example
Let’s take a look at how copy, even well-written copy, can counteract your message. Suppose you’re a client, composing copy for a sales page. The product in question is a foreign language course. The course is comprehensive, designed to be used in an intensive manner over several weeks. Your target audience is businesspeople who are going to be relocating to foreign countries for weeks, months, or years at a time. Your headline might be “Learn to speak basic Chinese in just minutes a day!” Now, that’s not a bad headline for some other products. It gives the reader something they want – to learn basic Chinese. It also gives them a benefit – it doesn’t take a long time to do so.

But here’s the problem: the people who will benefit most from your product don’t need to only learn to speak basic Chinese. They need a higher degree of fluency, and they probably need to have some ability to write the language as well. A businessperson looking for a foreign language course is likely to pass right over yours simply because the headline – while effective for some other products – doesn’t meet her needs.

Fitting Style and Voice to the Situation
There are other choices you’re going to make when composing copy that will either add or detract from what you’re selling. For example, you might be selling a revolutionary new kitchen utensil. This product dramatically shortens the amount of time required to thaw frozen meat in a microwave.

That product requires a voice attuned to the situation. You’re not going to use language that’s too formal, and you’re not going to use slang. If you’re selling a child’s toy, you’re probably going to use short, powerful phrases, peppered with language like “cool,” “have a blast,” or “good times.” That language doesn’t at all belong in copy for the meat-thawing utensil. Even though the product might be pretty cool, you’re not going to highlight that for the reader. As a contractor, you’ve got a bit of a challenge. You need to make sure you understand what kind of audience the client has for his or her product or service. For example, if a client wants you to write a business proposal for their startup that’s to be used to generate funding, you’re going to use a much more professional voice and style than if the client wants you to write articles on home improvement.

Asking the Right Questions


  • To get to the place where you understand the right style and voice to use in your copy, you need to gather some information. You need to know some things about your product or service, and about your target market. Before you start writing your copy, ask these questions, making careful note of the answers:If you have a business, in what environment will your product be used? Is it a professional product, something that’s used in the home, or even a personal product?
  • Who will most likely buy this product or service? Think about three specific metrics in this regard: age, education level, and social status.
  • How is this product or service consumed? Is it something that’s used casually or intensely? Is it a long-term investment, or something that’s quickly consumed?
  • Is jargon appropriate? Is the target market made up of people who likely are already fluent in technical or niche terminology? Are they experts, neophytes, or somewhere in between?
  • How will the product or service be sold? What final form will this copy take? Is it spoken, delivered via email, or posted on a website?
  • If you‘re an Elance contractor, how are you selling your services? Your ultimate goal may be to win more jobs, but how are you differentiating yourself from other candidates?
  • If you’re an Elance client, think about how you write your job post. What kind of worker will you attract, based on the language you use? Quality job postings draw in quality contractors.

All of these questions should inform the style and voice of your copy. (These aren’t the only questions you need to ask about your product or service, of course. The actual content of your copy – your benefit points and other details – are an entirely different part of the process).

Line By Line
Effective copy is written line by line. Each phrase you choose to use will either contribute to or detract from your product or service. Learning how to compose copy in the write style and voice can dramatically increase sales and help take your client or contractor business to the next level.

About the Author:
Bob Younce is the owner of Composing Business, a freelance copywriting firm currently ranked in the Top 50 writing providers on Elance. Composing Business is dedicated to helping other small businesses get ahead with high-quality, compelling copy. Contact Bob on Elance or visit his website at www.composingbusiness.com.