Freelance Copywriter Secrets

As a freelance writer I did research. I research other people’s copywriting (some people say I’m looking for ideas to steal, and they’re right), I read books on marketing, copywriting, advertising, web design, professional rainmaking, and all sorts of things that only a copywriter would be interested in from.

But I especially like doing research on free food.

There is a mall near my house with a huge food court. Also known as the trap of the weak will.

A favorite marketing tactic of some restaurants is to give away free food samples. I know this because I recently passed a place that served Cajun food six or seven times and they kept giving me small food samples with toothpicks. I never said I was proud.

But after being full of free food, I sat down to see how things were going in different places. Certainly, restaurants that offered free samples had more than twice as many customers as restaurants that didn’t.

Why does this work? Well, I believe there are two reasons.

The first reason is obvious: free samples give hungry customers a taste of what’s left of their meal, and often that little taste is enough to make hesitant shoppers choose that restaurant.

But the second reason seems more interesting to me. In Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking book Influence: Science and Practice, he explains a powerful persuasion technique he calls the law of reciprocity. Reciprocity is the social obligation we feel when someone does something for us. When this happens, we tend to do something nice for that person.

Cialdini cites several studies by social scientists and historians as examples of the law of reciprocity. In one study, a college professor sent Christmas cards to a group of complete strangers. The response he got was amazing. He got a lot of cards from people he had never met without even asking who he was.

Another example Cialdini cites concerns religious worship, the Hare Krishna Society. For a few years in the 1970s and 1980s, they begged people for donations in public places, especially airports. Their results were pretty bad at first, but then they changed tactics and started giving free gifts to strangers and then asking for donations.

The free gift worked. Their donations skyrocketed until people got wise to their methods and started avoiding them, and airports put restrictions on their movements.

Cialdini also mentions research on waiters and waitresses. The study found that when customers put candy or mints on their bills, they tipped significantly more than customers without gifts.

Another example is President Lyndon Johnson, who is known for his track record of passing extensive legislation during his presidency. the reason is simple. For many years before he became the vice president of JFK, Johnson was a master at helping his congressional colleagues.

When he became president, he had many lawmakers indebted to him, and even those philosophically opposed to his agenda could get votes in favour.

Okay, you think, it’s all fun, but what does that have to do with copywriting? I’m glad you ask.

Freelance Copywriter Secrets

When looking for new ways to persuade in writing, freelance writers are always looking for an edge. Read the following facts and see if you can guess which persuasion skills they all share:

  1. The “lightning smile” seen in sitcoms for over 50 years is based on solid research. Although canned laughter fools no one, sounds mechanical and offends our intellect; research shows that people rate shows with laughter as more effective for longer, more often, and later than the same shows without regular laughter as interesting.
  2. The same study also found that laughter is most effective at bad jokes. In other words, we didn’t notice a joke was lame and laughed along with the canned laugh.
  3. Bartenders and church receptionists have learned that “salting” their tip jars and collection sheets with a few dollar bills encourages more giving.
  4. Nightclubs have managed to create a welcoming and exclusive feel by having long lines out the door, even when the clubs inside are not very busy. They found that, despite the obvious inconvenience, the lines outside actually attracted more people.
  5. Psychologists have found that children with extreme fear of dogs can “cure” them by showing them movies where they play, laugh and interact with dogs with other children their age.
  6. Finally, who can resist looking at a downtown street corner when a bunch of other people are looking up too?
  7. These are all examples of what psychologists call “social proof,” a very powerful shaper of human behavior. And in the hands of freelance writers, social proof can be a huge resource.
  8. Simply put, social proof determines how people determine what the right behavior is. For example, have you ever been to a formal party and found yourself watching what other people are doing so you know how to present yourself?

In his comprehensive book, Impact: Science and Practice, Robert Cialdinin found that social proof is especially powerful in situations where we’re not sure what to do, such as formal gatherings. In such situations, we naturally tend to observe the behavior of others and imitate their behavior.

As a copywriting tool, social proof has little equal value. For example, let’s say a freelance writer is commissioned to write the script for a short film to encourage moviegoers to clean up after the movie.

I would write the script like this: One by one, well-dressed, sympathetic people leave the theater. Everyone parks at a handy trash can and throws it away neatly.

Then came a scruffy looking character with ‘loser’ written on him. He left the theater empty-handed and headed straight for the trash. The camera then flashes back to where it is and we see a pile of rubble, empty popcorn containers, soda cups and candy wrappers.

Of course, the message is to make sure people want to be the sympathetic person who throws out the trash, not the slob who doesn’t.

Other ways social proof is valuable to freelance writers is when you mention that you have 100,000 happy customers, that more people buy your product than its “brand X” competitors, or that your audience can identify with good-looking people presenting their letters of recommendation. .

Social proof attracts all of us to imitate our behavior. I recently saw a full-page ad with little to no traditional “copy”, but instead lots of testimonials from satisfied customers, all of whom complimented the company on the quality of its work. I found that ad very powerful.

Find ways to use social proof to support your claim acceptance. You will find plenty of opportunities to use this technique and become a better freelance writer in the process.

Freelance Writers, Copywriting Tips, Freelance Business Writers


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