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Is crap copy tanking your incredible design?

Fix it up in three easy steps.

Ugh. Client copy, am I right?

It’s a familiar story. Client is in charge of supplying copy.

Copy finally arrives in account manager’s inbox. Two months late. And it’s terrible.

So terrible that it just might ruin your entire project.

The hero messaging is long, fluffy and kind of confusing. The copy itself is a mishmash of their existing marketing collateral, mixed with a sprinkle of Chat GPT content added to fill in the gaps.

It’s an awful situation.

(And it’s the reason that I started Heydays Creative. But that’s a story for another time.)

So, what’s an account manager to do?

Over the years, I’ve been called in to fix many a copywriting blunder that’s threatening to completely tank an otherwise solid design project.

It feels like it needs a complete, from scratch rewrite in order to save the project.

But, usually, you can get it to a pretty workable place by following these three simple steps. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Focus on the hero messaging

If you have a spare half an hour up your sleeve, I recommend dedicating 25 minutes of your time to fixing the hero messaging.

On a website, these are the main headings — particularly on the Home and About pages. On a brochure or print collateral, again, these are the main headings.

Why dedicate so much time to this part of your project? If the hero messaging sucks, then you’ve got no chance of prompting readers to continue engaging.

And selfishly, as a design team, the only visible copy that will appear in your portfolio will be, you guessed it — the headings!

You can easily fix unclear or confusing hero messaging by flipping it around and talking directly to your client’s customers. Try and hit on the number one benefit that your client will receive by working with your client.

Hint: ChatGPT is an excellent resource when you’re short on time and need some solid hero messaging — pronto! I asked it to spit out five headlines using the starter messaging, We install solar panels for homeowners and small businesses.

Here’s what I got:

 

 

Are these headlines amazing? No.

Is there a chance that their closest competitor is also using ChatGPT and might land on the exact same messaging? Definitely.

But it’s a hundred times better than where we started! If you don’t like them, keep prompting ChatGPT. Remember you have 25 minutes! Keep going! Once you’re happy(ish), let’s move on to…

2. Cut out half the copy

Here’s the thing. Most terrible copy comes down to one fatal flaw: it’s way too long.

It’s really hard to integrate enormous blocks of text into clever design. Thankfully, our friend ChatGPT can come to the rescue once again, and help us cut the copy in half.

Your prompt? Ask it to:

  1. Remove anything repetitive (trust me — there will be a lot of repetition. We humans can’t help but repeat ourselves!)
  2. Make it shorter where possible.

And done! In my experience, this will have halved the amount of copy that your client’s supplied.

If the copy is still too long, it might be time to get to work yourself. Cut anything fluffy or vague — think, weak, meaningless marketing jargon (‘We’re passionate about…’ or ‘We’re the leaders in…’). Your customers don’t care about these statements and they’re taking up valuable real estate!

Finally, if you’re still struggling, look for things that could be represented visually rather than in copy. Do they need to talk about their team, or will a team photo do the job? Do you need to spell out their values and what each of them means to the company, or will icons do the job?

Hopefully, this will have eliminated half of the (terrible) copy and left you with only workable, somewhat useable text to apply to your design.

Now it’s time for a final polish.

3. Break the text up with as much white space as possible.

For some reason, we humans love to write in big, blocky paragraphs.

But we love to read things with lots of white space.

As a designer, you already know how important white space is. It breaks up the noise. It gives our eyes somewhere to rest. It draws attention to the important things.

Well, in copywriting, white space is equally important.

You can allow your copy to ‘breathe’ by making sure each paragraph is only one to two sentences long. Three at most.

To add white space, simply start reading, and whenever you feel there is a natural pause — even if it’s ever so slight—take the opportunity to start a new paragraph. That’s it. Honestly!

You can also break up the text by adding:

  • headers (fantastic for breaking up multiple blocks of text!)
  • bulleted or numbered lists
  • icons
  • images.
How to eliminate crap copy from your design projects — for good!

At the end of the day, these steps only provide a surface-level fix. They don’t really improve your client’s messaging. They won’t really turn the client’s terrible copy into a business asset that compels their customers to buy, buy, buy.

And, to be honest, fixing up crap copy takes time. While I firmly believe that you will be able to run through Steps 1–3 in less than an hour, that’s still one whole hour of unaccounted-for time that has now eaten into your already slim project margin.

As a fellow agency owner, I know that margins are everything when it comes to growing your business! You simply can’t allow disorganised or overeager clients to derail your projects.

So. Here’s how to make sure this never happens again.

It’s a simple fix: start pitching projects with copywriting built in. Make it a non-negotiable that someone else has to write and supply the copy. Take the power out of your clients’ ill-equipped hands.

At Heydays, we offer white label copywriting solutions so that your agency can do just that. Simply take our quote, add your markup and set up an introduction. We’ll take it from there!

And if you’re worried that we’ll derail the project—trust me, I get it!—never fear. We offer a 100% money-back guarantee with every project. If the copy doesn’t get submitted on time, on brief and under budget to the absolute delight of your client (and your design team!) then we’ll refund you and help you find another copywriter who can get the job done.

You can’t lose. Well, you can—if you keep letting your clients write their own copy.

So what are you waiting for? Hit us up: hello@heydays.com.au

We can’t wait to hear from you.