New Writer? Don’t Make This Headline Mistake

David Olgivy shook up the world of advertising in the 40’s and 50’s. Even today, he’s the most prominent figure featured in the unofficial copywriting bible.

Sharing a social media quote graphic is like a baptism into the copywriting world.

Here’s probably one of his most famous quotes:

 “Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

To succeed as a writer, you need to take time to craft a solid headline. On professional sites like LinkedIn or elsewhere.

Your headline is the first thing anyone sees. Before the “About” section. Before the “contact” form.

You need to give them a reason to keep reading. You can’t assume they’ll read the rest. Especially if the headline doesn’t grab them.

“Great, but how do I do that?”

By avoiding vagueness at all costs.

I see this far too often with new writers. “Freelance Writer for Hire at X freelancing site.”

It makes me cringe. Because how are they going to be found by potential clients looking exactly for the amazingness they have to offer?

Vagueness doesn’t help you get noticed. Think about the headlines you see in advertisements. What grabs your attention and what doesn’t? Chances are, the one that doesn’t grab you is something like “living your best life.”

Why? Because it doesn’t tell you anything. What does that mean? For who? How?

People need to be able to read your headline to quickly figure out what you do to help them.

“Freelance Writer” doesn’t tell the reader anything. It’s vague as vague as your little cousin telling you they’re studying…a degree.

“But what? Are you majoring in Biology? Nursing? Criminal Justice?”

And don’t say “I write anything.”

Don’t even think about it. It subtly sends the message you don’t know what you’re doing.

Because seasoned writers specialize. They’re legal writers, curriculum writers, or bloggers. They might even work in certain niches like healthcare, travel, or B2B sales.

 And that helps land new gigs.

Think about it from your ideal client’s perspective.

 They’re not searching with a general term like “Writer.” That would return thousands, if not millions, of unhelpful results. They’re searching for something to address their specific need.

They’re looking for a pet blogger. A technical writer for startups. Or a freelance journalist who covers politics.

Get specific with your headline. Ask yourself what kind of writing you want to do. Do you ghostwrite sci-fi novels? Write parenting tips for kids with special needs?

Are there certain industries you want to work in (i.e: travel, parenting, higher education)?

People are looking for exactly what you’re offering. Your headline is how you can get found in searches and promote yourself. It’s an important part of SEO and marketing.

And if you’re new and don’t quite know what you’d like to do, that’s okay. Take some time to go on informational interviews or research the writing careers that interest you.

And don’t worry if you start out in legal writing but decide you want to be a pet blogger. Because you can change your mind. It’s allowed.

I geek out about copywriting. But I know several writers who started out in copywriting and can’t stand it.

It’s not for them, and that’s okay. They’ve found their niches in ghostwriting, Pinterest marketing, or elsewhere.

Writing a specific headline to address what type of writing you do, or industry niches will also save you a headache.

Because if you hate Pinterest marketing, you can address that head-on with your “vegan-cooking blogger” headline.

Picture your ideal client. Write your headline with them in mind.

In today’s world of online search, options are endless. If people can’t figure out how you help them within 6 seconds, they’ll move on.

And I want you to get those gigs. I want you to succeed. Promise me you won’t be vague, okay?

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