Like it or not, as a freelance designer, you are selling something on your website—most often, yourself.
Copywriters are experts at making the sell, and their techniques work for designers too.
Both designers and copywriters, need to be able to explain, and sell, the impact your creativity will have on the client’s business.
The sales techniques explained in this article are ones I’ve gathered over four years of running a copywriting business helping my clients sell with words. They’re used widely by copywriters on their personal or business websites because they get results—more leads, better clients, and easier sales.
We’ll be going into:
- Identifying your clients’ problems
- Stirring up emotion
- Silencing doubts
- Helping clients feel understood
- Showing you’re great at what you do
Identify your clients’ pain points
Your clients don’t care about your work—they care about whether you can solve their problems.
Open your homepage by acknowledging your ideal client’s main pain point, whether it’s looking the same as their competitors, or needing to convert more customers. This immediately tells your client they’ve come to the right place.
Bad: I’m a designer and art director with 10 years’ experience developing impactful brand campaigns.
Good: Is your brand stuck in a rut? With 10 years’ experience as a designer and art director, I create brand campaigns that make an impact on your audience.
Don’t just state the problem and move on—make sure clients feel the pain.
Not because you’re a sadist, but because you want clients to understand the value of your work. It comes from a good place—and clearly understanding their problem shows you have empathy.
The more vividly and accurately you can describe your client’s pain, the more they’ll trust you’re the right person for the job.
A reliable technique that’s commonly used by copywriters is Problem, Agitation, Solution (PAS). Formulas like this offer a framework that’s been tried and tested, so you don’t need to stare at that blank page while you guess what to write about.
The PAS formula goes like this:
- Problem: This is where you state your client’s problem or pain point like you did in the last section. This helps your reader recognize that they’re in the right place and your services will be able to help them.
- Agitation: Now poke at the wound by pointing out the emotional pain of having the problem and how it impacts their life. If they don’t solve the problem, what will the negative results be? By agitating the problem, you make sure your client is craving a solution by the time you present your services.
- Solution: Don’t leave your client to wallow; reveal your solution that will make everything better. This is where you start explaining your services and let them know how you can help.
The PAS formula gets your reader interested by stating a problem they’re having, then it ensures they really feel the pain of the problem so they’re excited to hear about the solution. This setup goes well beyond listing your services: it sets the stage for showing you’re a great problem-solver.
Here are some examples of how you might rewrite your above-the-fold copy using the PAS formula:
Bad: I’m a UX designer who crafts digital experiences for small and medium businesses. I focus on simplicity and clarity and keep the user at the heart of everything I do.
Good: Confusing websites lose customers. Without a clear path for potential buyers, you’ll miss out on sales and be left with a graveyard of abandoned carts. As a UX designer, I craft websites your customers will love to buy from.
Bad: I’m a freelance designer who makes brands stand out with bold, eye-catching design.
Good: Bland brands get less business. If you look the same as everyone else in your industry, you’ll easily lose customers to your competitors. To stay in the right people’s minds (and hearts), you need bold eye-catching design that makes you stand out.
See how case study business Case Study Buddy uses the PAS formula to sell its services:
Starting with the problem of needing to attract and convert customers with case studies, the copy then agitates the problem by going into all the downsides of having to do case studies yourself (like the awkwardness of interviewing your own client about your work, and the risk of not asking the right questions). Now that potential clients are feeling the pain, Case Study Buddy swoops in to highlight how its services can help.
Name the benefits
Now that you’ve shown you understand the client’s pain, let them know why you’re the best solution to their problem. Go ahead and write down why people should choose to work with you, and exactly what they’ll get out of it.
Make sure the benefits you mention are from your client’s perspective—and are things they actually care about. Don’t focus on what you literally give to clients, like wireframes or color palettes; focus on how the overall value of your services will improve their life.
For example, the tangible deliverable might be a new website, but the benefits go far beyond that. Do they want branding that stands out in a crowded market? Design that boosts their ROI?
Address doubts before they come up
Even if your future client thinks your services sound great and knows you can solve their problem, they might still have doubts: whether your services are worth the price; what the process will look like; how much of their own time they’ll need to put in, or how much control they’ll have over the final product.
You have the power to address these concerns before they even become relevant. Try these techniques to make your client’s doubts a distant memory.
Write it out
You can ease concerns by facing them head-on. By mentioning your client’s doubts in your copy, you reassure them that you’ve already thought about their concern.
- Get a memorable brand that captures attention, even if you don’t know where to start.
- Get a website your customers will love to use, without having to read a million how-to blogs.
You can also address doubts by pointing out how you’ll deal with them. For example, let’s say your ideal client is a busy business owner. Even if they know they need a designer, they might worry they’ll need to spend a lot of time managing you and the project—which is time they don’t have.
To ease their concerns, you could write:
- My streamlined process for creating websites means you can relax and focus on running your business.
- I’ll take control of the project and ensure it gets done, no matter how busy you are.
Another great way to address doubts in your copy is with testimonials or case studies showing how you’ve achieved results for other clients.
These are effective because the reader doesn’t have to take your word for it—there are other people willing to vouch for you.
For example, you can ease the mind of a time-poor business owner with a testimonial saying you made everything simple and easy, or that shows you can direct projects rather than needing to be told what to do.
Copywriter Laura Belgray of Talking Shrimp uses testimonials that cover issues her audience struggles with, like procrastinating with their copy. That way, her ideal customer will know she can help them, despite those challenges.
Write for the individual
It’s tempting to write copy addressing a group. You know there’s more than one person out there who will read your words, after all—or at least you’d hope.
But it’s far more powerful to talk to the individual who’s reading your site. Not only is this style of writing more personable, it feels immediate—like you’re speaking to the person right now. When the reader feels like you’re talking to them as an individual, that tells them your services are right for them (which means more sales for you).
It helps to have an individual in mind as you write. Instead of a vague persona, like “female business owners aged 25-40,” pick an actual person to talk to. This could be a real person, like a past client who loved your work, or it could be your imaginary (but realistic) ideal client. This is helpful because there are a lot of female business owners in the 25-40 age bracket, and they’re not all going to speak the same way. Choosing an individual to talk to helps your writing sound like a real conversation.
Try this trick to ensure you’re talking to the reader: check that most of your sentences include the word “you” or “your”. For example:
Bad: “I help businesses grow”
Good: “I’ll help you grow your business.
Bad: “Bold, colorful design for small to medium businesses.”
Good: “Bold, colorful design that will make your brand pop.”
See how copywriter Jamie Jensen has a conversation with the reader on her ‘About’ page
Call to action
It can be tempting to think that after reading all about your services, your client will be ready to get in touch, no (more) questions asked. Plus, if you’re already hesitant about being too salesy, adding a “call now!” button might feel a little gross.
But remember, your website is unlikely to be the only tab open in your reader’s browser. All it takes is a rogue email alert or Facebook notification to distract them from your carefully crafted site.
So don’t make them figure out what to do—tell them. Whether you send them to your contact page, point them to your portfolio, or ask them to sign up for an email course, don’t finish any page on your website without clearly telling your reader what to do next.
Now isn’t the time to be subtle. A little link at the bottom of the page is better than nothing, but a juicy-looking button asking them to take action is better.
Copywriter Michal Eisikowitz’s website is a masterclass in calls to action. In this section of her ‘about’ page, see how she reiterates the benefits of working with her before following up with a big button asking the reader to act
So don’t shy away from selling your design skills. Take these techniques and try them out with your own copy, to connect with your clients and get your services the attention they deserve.
Want to read more about marketing for freelancers?
Briar writes copy for companies that want to leave their boring business-person pants at home but still be taken seriously, and freelancers who want copy that’s in their voice, only better. Her business is Copy Craving; her pleasure is chocolate, novels and nature. She will absolutely not "just make it read nicely" for you.