John Espirian — ProCopywriters Member Spotlight Revisited

John Espirian


How has your business changed since your first Member Spotlight interview?

I’ve focused less on creating long user guides and much more on writing B2B web content, blogs and case studies.

What’s been your biggest success since your first Member Spotlight interview?

I found my brand identity thanks to an onstage appearance with Mark Schaefer at CMA Live 17. That was the birth of my “relentlessly helpful” tagline that’s now part of all my content.

Why did you decide to focus on the kind of work you’re doing now?

The work is more varied, less boring and each project doesn’t take as long.

What are you enjoying most about your industry or niche?

Even in B2B technical copywriting, there are opportunities to humanise your brand and add some creativity to your messaging. When clients are happy to be bold and do something different, their projects usually end up being most fulfilling.

What are you working on just now?

I’m working on a website rewrite for a company that makes X-ray cameras for research facilities. Always something different!

Describe your desk and what’s on it, or the view from your window

It’s surprisingly clean and organised. I even have a little mini whiteboard in front of me, so I don’t lose track of ongoing client tasks (not everything needs to be digital!).

Tell us about your side projects

My quite big side projects for the year are to get myself a new logo, rebrand my website and have a pro photo shoot.

How has your writing process evolved?

The writing gets easier when you have a better brief, so I try to spend more time interviewing and getting to the heart of what clients really want to achieve.

That research and the associated thinking time means that the writing becomes less challenging to compose. I’ve also learned that you can’t edit nothing.

It’s much easier to write something terrible and then knock it into shape than to expect perfection in every word you lay down in your first draft.

Wherever possible, I try to make my writing sound as human and conversational as the brief will allow. I used to play more of a straight bat, but that’s not the way to create something memorable.

What do you wish copywriters were more honest about?

Pricing and the time it takes to create content. You can’t bleat on about how transparent you are and then say “it depends” in answer to every question.

What advice do you often hear given to newbies, but you don’t agree with? Why?

I don’t like it when anyone is told to work for free or at a paltry rate just for exposure.

If you’re going to do that, you should act as though you’re your own client and write a piece whose sole purpose is to beef up your portfolio, which will help sell your services to those who are willing to pay.

Also, some people think it’s OK to be cold-calling 200 prospective clients per day. Perhaps spend that time building a presence on one platform and start talking to people there rather than interrupting them by phone/email.

Any lessons you’re still learning?

You’ll get better work if you can find a hook that others repeat back to you. Being better than everyone is hard; being different is also hard but not as hard. Find the ways to get people to talk about you.

Consider also that the value that copywriters are able to deliver is often more than we might think. Charging based on value rather than time and having the confidence to ask for more is what will lead to less stress and better customers.

What’s something about your work that makes your inner copywriting nerd happy, but you’re not able to chat about enough?

I like to add comments in Track Changes that let me explain why some bit of phrasing, punctuation or grammar is the way it is. If you can liven up those comments, customers find the review process much less of a hassle.

What do you think?

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