When I did my teaching course back in the annals of time, when dinosaurs walked the earth, evaluation was a big word. As students, we had to evaluate each lesson, what had gone well, what had gone badly, what we could do to improve.
This was for every single lesson we carried out as students during our teaching practice. This course (early years 3-7) was tough. It condensed 4 years of an education degree into a year. I found it hard and I had a young child to take care of. But I battled on and eventually passed with flying colours.
I came across evaluation as an improvement tool on other courses I did throughout my career before I left to freelance. They included vocational management courses and one for training adults. I was definitely a sucker for punishment, but I learnt a lot.
How evaluation and self-reflection can help
But what has this got to do with copywriting? Well because I’ve had to spend so much time evaluating, I think it’s stuck. I find myself doing it mentally whenever I’ve come across: a problem, a difficult client (which is a rarity), a decision I’ve made that I’m unsure of, or any work-related issue I’ve resolved but feel unhappy with how I’ve handled.
I find it helps after I’ve thrashed it out with other copywriters first. Networking online means I’m in the lucky position of being able to talk it through with knowledgeable peers who’ll give me a variety of thoughts and opinions.
I’ll get to the point where I have a pretty good idea of what I could have done better, what went wrong and how I could improve next time.
This won’t always be useful for everyone, especially those with more experience. And for those who’ve never had to do it, it may be a habit that’s hard to build. But I believe it has value.
If you’re still in the newbie or intermediate stage of your copywriting career, evaluating parts of your decision making, strategy planning, pricing, and preparation of proposals to potential clients, can give you a clearer picture of areas for improvement, identify any weak areas.
It obviously helps if you have others willing to bounce ideas off, or discuss recent decisions or things you’re unsure of, because you never learn anything by working in isolation.
Only through discussing your problems with others who are more experienced than yourself are you able to see things in a more objective way, because other people’s perspectives will give you food for thought. It’s not about them passing judgement, it’s about you getting valuable feedback that you can learn from.
I’m not suggesting you write long-form essays every time you’ve discussed a recent problem, but even just asking yourself a few searching questions can be helpful mentally.
Questions to consider
Self-evaluation and reflection should take place after you’ve had a discussion, or received feedback. After that’s happened, you can answer these questions:
1. What went well? Why?
2. What problems did I experience? Why?
3. What could I have done differently?
4. Was I well prepared? Did I carry out effective research?
5. Did the methods I use here to solve this issue work, if not, what should I change for next time?
6. What did I learn from this experience that will help me in the future?
It’s often easy to forget what you’ve learnt after the event, and if you don’t write down your ideas, thoughts and reflections, you may wind up making the same mistakes again. Even just a few minutes of reflective writing can help you notice things you may otherwise have missed.
Training yourself to be critical and self-reflective helps you to learn from past experience, and like me, you’ll find that after a while it becomes second nature and you won’t have to write it down at all.
By getting into the teacher’s headspace you can learn the value of evaluation, preparation, research and reflection, all tools that will serve you well during your copywriting career.
First published on Taith Copywriting.