5 Quick Questions for Wannabe Copywriters

A recent enquiry from a lady keen to become a copywriter, but without any previous examples of her efforts to show, prompted me to bash down these 5 questions for wannabe copywriters, and send them to her to have a go at.

I found I could tell quite a lot from her responses. If you’re a beginner, you might like to give them 5 minutes.

1) Write a classified newspaper advertisement of not more than 30 words, which you might place in a national newspaper business section seeking any job that would help you begin a career as a copywriter.

2) Write the text (max 80 words plus headline) which the Commercial Development Agency of the town or city in which you live should use on the homepage of their website to give overseas visitors the feeling that the location is a vibrant commercial centre.

3) Give 4 qualities that might make one model of cooker extraction hood better than another.

4) What do you think might be the most important factor in selling the same premium fragrance:

i) in an expensive department store;

ii) in an airport;

iii) online?

5) List 4 factors to consider when naming a pet dog

If you want to post you answers as Comments, feel free!

21 Responses to “5 Quick Questions for Wannabe Copywriters”

  1. Sarah Emms

    Here’s my attempt at your 5 questions
    1)PACK A PUNCH. How can you create an impact and get the most out of your customer communications? Hire me. I am a professional copywriter with years of “client-side” experience. Contact …
    Brighton has long held a well-deserved reputation as a fashionable, bohemian city with a lively arts and entertainment scene. But did you know that it is also home to some of the most exciting business ventures in the South of England? Local graphic designer Sue Smith says “We have a vibrant business community here in Brighton which makes it a pleasure to work and play in”. And it’s only an hour from London.
    3) Low-maintenance;easy to fit;lifetime guarantee; award-winning designer
    4) i)Personal service/packaging
    ii)Speed of service
    5) Size of dog;dog’s character;gender;dog’s coat (ie fluffy/spotty etc)

  2. Annika Hope

    Greetings Laurence,
    happened on your blogg by chance and am intrigued. Interested to know if you think I have copywriting potential – as have been looking for an outlet/use for my creative writing degree since graduating 2 years ago!
    1. Innovative, young copywriter with a passion for creativity and a dynamic way with words, seeks interesting and diverse company for happy syntactic collaborations.
    2. Coin – Explore the REAL Southern Spain
    Nestled in the seat of the Sierra de las Nieves mountains, just a short, scenic drive from the millionaires playground of Puerto Banus, lies the real jewel of the Costa del Sol.
    Coin, with its quaint, white-washed houses set against the vibrant cobalt sky, is a true travellers paradise waiting to be explored. From the majestic churches to the pretty cobbled courtyards complete with picture-postcard gentleman whiling the afternoons, Coin is a true undiscovered treasure.
    3. Innovative design, energy efficient, cutting-edge low-noise technology, as unveiled at the Ideal Home Exhibition.
    4. a) location of counter, how the product is presented – the decadence factor.
    b) easily accessible, quick to buy with tax free prices
    c) Cheap, reliable for delivery
    5. The breed, temperament, personality and appearance.
    Am intrigued to see what you think.
    Have a good day.

  3. Laurence Blume

    Annika, well done for giving it a shot. Let’s see what it looks like:
    1) I’d give this 4/10. It’s a good try, but you have immediately fallen back on the cliche of the ‘lonely hearts’ format of classified ad. It’s the word ‘seeks’ that stamps it. That claim of a “way with words” also rings a bit hollow with me for someone claiming to be innovative, creative and dynamic. Think about the difference between “with a passion for creativity” and “a dynamic way with words”. The former seems to me to express something you have a personal yearning to fulfil (and I don’t care): the latter at least promises me something I can sell to my clients. Not a bad try… but I think your classified ad might fail to land you that job.
    2) 2/10 Annika! Total failure to read (or understand) the brief carefully. This is a fine piece of travel copy, but has nothing whatsoever to interest the Commercial Development Agency, whose concern would be with selling the business potential of the area.
    3) 9/10. Much better! Your first 3 are all hard-edged advantages that could be talked up in any medium. The final one is less ‘tangible’, but could also definitely be used to some advantage.
    4) 8/10. OK. Now we’re rolling. I think you have good answers to all 3 parts. Particularly pleased to see you get iii) right, in the context of i).
    5) 7/10. Fair enough list, if a bit uninspired. All of your choices are valid, but I wonder whether they might not lead to a rather predictable name for your pet.
    Overall…I’d call that 30/50. I think you are stronger, on this showing, on marketing thinking than perhaps you are on writing. That’s not a terrible plight, however. Just something to work on. Well done for playing first!

  4. Laurence Blume

    Sarah, let’s take a look:
    1) Good start. 7/10. You have a good selling benefit (“create an impact and get the most out of your customer communications”), though I think you could have expressed it better. But you’ve understood that it’s about what you can do for the reader’s clients/customers that matters. You’ve got solid substantiation (“with years of “client-side” experience”), so I know that you at least know what you’re about, and you have a direct, bold call to action: “Hire me.” I like that coming mid-structure, too. Most disappointing thing is your headline, I think. It’s not making any awful mistakes…but I think it could just be more to the point. Still. Great start.
    2) Impressive. 7/10. Headline is again a tired play on words… and I have to stretch a fair way to interpret “rocks” fairly as ‘is a vibrant commercial centre’. Not impossible, but not a perfect fit either. The rest of it is very decent. Only gripe for me would be the choice of the graphic designer for the testimonial. I already expect that Brighton is awash with graphic designers. I’d be more impressed to find the testimonial coming from someone in a locally based ‘heavy duty’ industry or, failing that, perhaps a partner in an accounting or legal firm. Well remembered about the connectivity, too!
    3) 5/10. Well yes. All are benefits. But none is especially compelling. The first two are fairly subjective; the third is nice to have but isn’t gong to persuade me if a competitor is made of tempered glass with rhodium fittings; the designer…. well depends what he’s done with this! Award winning design is a better sell than award winning designer!
    4) 7/10. Good. No problem with the last two. I do think the first one should include position/prominence of display, however.
    5) 8/10. Nice to see size and gender in there. I think gender, especially, is crucial. Not sure, again, that you’re going to get an exceptional or amusing name… but I think you’ll get one that means strangers will definitely know which dog you’re calling!
    I make that 34/50, Sarah. Nice work all round, and strong on both of the actual writing questions. Well done.

  5. Andrew Van Vleck

    Call me on ______________ for more information on how I could help you smash your previous best!
    Over the last decade, Manchester has been rebuilding, shedding its old skin to become the new epicentre for British business in the North…but the renaissance hasn’t finished yet.
    This time next year, your business could be housed in one of the new high-quality offices in the city’s vibrant Northern Quarter benefiting from Manchester’s excellent transport and distribution links, thriving business network and thousands of new city centre dwellers.
    3) a) Quiet operation; b) LED lighting offering better illumination with longer life than bulbs; c) Restaurant-standard ventilation in a hood size suitable for the home kitchen; d) Longer warranty than any model in its class.
    4) i) The display and personal service – the quality and the brand’s pedigree must be emphasised so the customer feels that they are looking at a premium product.
    ii) The display must be designed and placed to catch the eye of travellers passing through the shop (they will not be specifically at the airport to buy it).
    iii) Offer to send a sample completely free – emphasise that there is no risk involved.
    5) Gender, colour, size – but most of all, look into its face as it looks happily up at you, tail wagging. What’s the first name that comes into your head, the one that sums up its character, its quirks (like the crooked ear, the patch)?

  6. professional copywriter

    As a budding copywriter, I obviously hold you in high regard. What are your answers?? it obviously worked for you so maybe it might be worth sharing the magic combination………..or is that too easy??

  7. Simon Saint

    Hi Laurence,
    I’m thinking of giving freelance copywriting a go and would really appreciate your feedback on my attempt at your questions!
    1) PROFESSIONALISM MATTERS TO YOUR BUSINESS. Make sure all your communications make the right impression with my highly effective copywriting. Call ….
    2) STILL THE HEART OF GLOBAL COMMERCE. London is the centre of the global finance industry, with its bustling city centre forming the foundation of a vibrant and diverse major city. Returning even stronger after the recent economic crisis, London has proved it is the world’s major business centre.
    With all the facilities, opportunites and prestige which London provides, businesses from all sectors continue to flourish in this ancient city. Chosen by some of the world’s largest companies as their European headquarters, London continues to provide the best location to join an ever growing commercial centre.
    3) a) Silent operation.
    b) easy maintenance.
    c) modern design.
    d) high quality construction.
    i) in an expensive department store; Location/prominence
    ii) in an airport; Sense of luxury/exclusivity
    iii) online? Excellent sensory description of the fragrance.
    5) a) temperament b) owner personality c) breed c) gender

  8. Chris

    Hi Laurence
    I thought it might be a good idea to have a go at your “5 Quick Questions for Wannabe Copywriters” if you’ve got the time I’d really appreciate your feedback.
    Increase sales the easy way by calling the experts now, on….
    2) (I wanted to write these answers without reading everyone else’s and it appears I’ve fallen into the same “travel” copy trap as Annika)
    Explore the place where old meets new. Explore Peterborough.
    One of the countries fastest growing cities. From the 12th century cathedral and bronze age warriors to modern fine dinning and vibrant shopping. Peterborough offers something for everyone.
    Awash with its own heritage, Peterborough with its fantastic road, rail and nearby air links also serves as the perfect base from which to explore the rest of the English country side and beyond.
    3) i. Easy clean stain resistance ii. power efficient silent suction iii. bespoke handcrafted fittings ix. limited edition
    4) i) in an expensive department store; – in this sort of store it is unlikely that the price is going to be the key factor as a five minute walk to boots or fragrance direct will save quite a pretty penny. So the importances lies in keeping the customer listening to the “knowledgeable” sales advisor who along with the store itself compliments the premium nature of the product. Customers leave feeling that they have brought more than the fragrance they have paid for a quality service etc (as well as a nice bag).
    ii) in an airport; in this situation customer are already primed to make a purchase as they believe they are going to get a bargain, packaging that catches the eye whilst implying the premium exclusivity of the product would be very important.
    iii) online? Generally I would say price is the single most important factor online as its so easy to price compare, but obviously this isn’t the only factor. In order to avoid this supermarket effect a premium fragrance could perhaps restrict supply to only websites who fit with its brand identity which presumably would paint themselves as exclusive and highend.
    5) List 4 factors to consider when naming a pet dog
    i. The sex
    ii. Other household pet names
    iii. If it suits the breed, i.e fluffy will be rubbish for a bulldog and killer would be rubbish for a lapadoodle
    iii. What it will sound like when shouted in the park.
    Thanks again for the advice, think I will go and get a copy of the Orwell piece printed out…
    Chris Brown

  9. David Willock

    I thought I would rise to the challenge to. Foodback would be appreciated if you have the time.
    1. Penguin Copywriting Services….Whenever copywriting matters.
    2. Durham – Today, Tomorrow, Always
    Durham has a long and colourful history, but the one thing that will strike visitors to the city today is the vision for the future.
    Situated close to the A1M, with rail links and the new Durham Tees Valley airport, Durham offers countless opportunities for investors and businesses. Retail and business parks on the outskirts of the city of Durham offer a wealth of facilities and situations that are required to establish and grow your business.
    3. a) Easy to clean
    b) Efficient
    c) Low maintenance
    d) Stylish
    4. i) celebrity endorsment
    ii) image
    iii) speed of delivery
    5. a)Breed
    d)How the name sounds when called out loud!

  10. David Willock

    Just to save you some time, I have already spotted the errors, a bit after the fact I know. Maybe not a good start but easily corrected.

  11. Laurence Blume

    Then well done! I’m sorry I hadn’t reviewed your answers: hugely heavy workload has prevented me taking time to do this. However, you’ll have learned more by spotting your own errors. I promise I will review presently.

  12. Julian Abel

    Hi Laurence,
    Thanks again for your help. Thought I’d take a stab at this.
    For Copy That Breathes- visit julianabel.com
    Whether you’re a creative agency, start-up or SME, I can create high-impact copy that continues to breathe life into your business.
    In the heart of South West London, sits the beautifully scenic Putney Bridge. Whether you take a bike ride along the Thames Path, take in the amazing view from the bridge itself, or relax the afternoon away in the historic Dukes Head, The Bridge has so much to offer.
    Fancy a bit of shopping? Well Putney High Street and Lower Richmond Road provide an array of shops and restaurants to suit all tastes. And for the shopaholics out there, central London is only 20 minutes away with a wide range of transport links.
    But don’t take our word for it, come see for yourself…
    This one has been covered in the other comments.
    i) Celebrity endorsement
    ii) Visibility
    iii) strength of copy in advertisement and SEO.
    Size, Soundability, Temperment, Originality

  13. Dave Rogers

    1) COPYWRITING is like making an ORIGAMI butterfly. Only the precise steps of an experienced creative can create an original solution.
    Together, we can build a Butterfly.
    Dave Rogers. Copywriter. ‘www.myportfoliohere.com’
    2) If to encourage businesses to grow/relocate/invest in Aylesbury.
    Aylesbury: “I’m not a commuter anymore.”
    Dragons Den and Entrepreneur Peter Jones chose Aylesbury for his Business Enterprise Incubator (2009).
    A 4000 home development, refurbished bus station and new train station (2010) serving Milton Keynes and London sees skilled graduates return to live here.
    The 2 modern shopping centres, retail parks and an Olympic swimming pool (2008) will complement the new Waterside shopping development and 15 million pound theatre opening in September.
    Aylesbury’s infrastructural revolution is complete. I’m not moving away from all of this.
    2) If to encourage commercial development by increasing tourism
    Aylesbury: ‘London for England’s villagers’
    The Prime Minister of England’s country residence resides just outside Aylesbury, an authentic English Market Town.
    Premium outlets, vibrant nightlife and a wealth of independent English restaurants warm the cobbled Market Square.
    Regular events from ‘Wear it Pink’ to ‘Parklife’ are an easy walk from transport links and English Bed & Breakfasts. You will find the new 15 million pound theatre a treat too!
    London can be intimidating. Aylesbury is charismatic and welcoming. See you in the Market Square!
    • Lifetime filter…so you don’t have to clean it.
    • A Range of colours…so it complements your kitchen.
    • Quiet Technology…so you don’t notice its there.
    • We install it in just 1 hour…when you want us to.
    i) in an expensive department store;
    Enthusiasm for the product from a seller that the buyer can relate to or aspires to be.
    ii) in an airport;
    Proving to a customer they need to buy this now.
    Perhaps offer exclusive or limited edition product versions to encourage immediate purchase.
    iii) online?
    Proving that it smells nice.
    Perhaps list credible people the audience can identify with as users. Or create an emotional link between the perfume and a scenario the consumer can relate to. E.g. “It smells like a first kiss…”
    Is there an interesting story behind it?
    Does it suit his personality?
    Is it original?
    Will we still be pleased with it in a years time?

  14. Dave Rogers

    Thanks for your help again Laurence, these resources are proving most useful! As always any constructive criticism would be appreciated, and it doesn’t just have to come from Laurence.

  15. Stephanie H

    Hi there, I love the idea of becoming a copywriter but am unsure I full understand all that it entails so any feedback on my first crack at it would be greatly appreciated!
    If you want customer focus, clarity, value and simplicity call the talented copywriters at SKYROCKET. We express what you’re trying to say crisply, concisely and with passion.
    Bristol’s commercial heart is constantly expanding, pumping even more life into this already bustling location.
    Constantly attracting new inward investment and with an already strong business community
    Bristol is a Mecca to both small and larger corporations and already includes industry leaders such as IBM, BT and Aviva.
    Bristol not only offers an excellent location for business but also the talented individuals required via it’s four Universities and a dynamic and highly skilled work force.
    From where we’re standing business in Bristol has never been better.
    Quality of construction
    Ease of use
    Noise levels
    Extraction of grease
    High level of customer service, display/packaging, placement in store, samples
    Ease of purchase, tax free prices,
    Low cost, website easy to use, large variety of brands
    Appearance, character, gender, the sound of the name

  16. Laurence Blume

    StephanieH… if that’s really your first ever attempt, I’d say you should be greatly encouraged. Pretty solid all round, with the possible exception of #1… but I think that the problem there is that you’ve slightly misconstrued the question. Your answer is sound if one imagines the question the way I believe you have done. On one pedantic point…. Bristol and ITS four universities…not Bristol and IT’S four universities… but I suspect you know that really! Well done.

  17. StephanieH

    Hi Laurence, it really was my first attempt. Kinda thought I could do better! Yes, I have to watch out for silly little mistakes! Darn on the 1st question, but thankyou, that’s really encouraging! Now I just have to figure out what to do next. Any advice? Should I take a course?

  18. Nigel

    I’m a bit late on this, but I like the idea. I might use this in response to the five to ten queries I get from wannabes every month. My usual response is: ‘Thanks for contacting me, but I no longer respond to this type of request. If you were one of the 5% who would have thanked me for my advice, my apologies’.

  19. Stephanie H

    Ok Laurence, will give you call this week if you are available at all and many thanks for your time and support.

  20. Bill

    I am looking into Copywriting as a career, and I’m afraid that your challenge is too good to resist. My take is probably pants, but I’m going to have a shot anyway. Everybody has to learn!!
    1. Eagerly seeking Copywriting experience. I am motivated, creative and love to play with words. If you can help me with an internship or training, please email me – blah@blah.com
    2. Huddersfield – a mill town in 2011.
    Huddersfield is a lot of things – Steeped in history, multi-cultural, warm and friendly. From the earliest beginnings Huddersfield has strived to retain its old mill charm whilst modernising and maximising comfort for vistors and residents. Excellent shopping, modern transportation links and a thriving business community. We are in the centre of the country – You could say we are the heart of Britain.:)
    3. Space-age heat resistant material
    Durable and easy to clean surface
    Lifetime guarantee
    Easy to remove
    Comes with free cooker!
    4. i) Product placement
    Hot models (Male/Female) to apply
    a spritz
    Samples (free)
    ii) Easy access for quick buying
    Sell duty free
    iii) Ease of buying
    Secure/trusted site (genuine goods)
    5. Male or Female?
    Instil fear or encourage cuddling?
    Old or young – Ethel won’t work so well
    on a puppy.
    Naming for you or someone else?
    Any comments would be very helpful.