How to write copy that sells design: a cool 3-step method

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Writing copy that attracts awesome clients is much like fishing – as much as I hate that analogy.

I hate that analogy because fishing offers something really enticing to the fish…

And then, well, we all know how that ends for the fish…

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But writing copy offers something awesome – and then you deliver something awesome.

So it’s kind of like if you go fishing, but instead of capturing the fish, you take it and its whole family to an even better pond?

I don’t know.

But anyway – the whole part about putting the right bait on the line really applies.

This article is about how to find out what that is, then communicate it so clients give you a ring.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Step 1: What do your clients say…?

When prospects call you in need of your services, what do they say?

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  • What aesthetic do they request?
  • What challenge are they facing that a new website, logo, brochure will solve?
  • What do they want the design to achieve?
  • Why do they want to hire YOU? What specifically about you and your work called out to them?

Writing copy is like a big game of “fill in the blanks.”

You fill in those blanks by listening to your customers’ needs and wants.

So step 1 is to simply listen. Think back on the answers to the above questions – and write them down.

IMPORTANT: Write them down in the exact words your customers use – not your interpretation of them!

We want to use their EXACT lingo in the copy so it feels like it’s coming right out of their brain and onto the page and they feel right at home, fast.


If you don’t know the answers to the above questions? Schedule calls with a few of your best clients and ask.

And from now on, start asking new prospects those questions in your first convo.

Step 2: Fill in the blanks – as boring as possible.

When people think of copy, they think of “zing” and “wham” and “pow” and sizzle and spice and all that.

We’ll get to that.

But first? Start boring. Dry.

And most importantly: Start by being clear.

Write everything as clearly as you possibly can so that anyone and their mother could understand it.

It’s like wireframing – you start with this black and white skeleton of a design, then add the color and “pop” later.

You want to do that with copy, too.

In fact, here’s a cool “wireframe” you can use for just about every page on your site:

  • Main Headline (Name of service + key benefit market wants)
  • Main Sub-head (Go further and tie it into next most important key benefit market wants)
  • Call to action (Give them a chance to reach out)
  • Big testimonial snippet (A giant pull-quote from a client who praises you for achieving the biggest goal your market has)
  • Features (Formatted as: sub-head, body copy, supporting image. Each “feature” highlights something your market wants, and how you deliver.)
  • Another big testimonial snippet
  • Call to action again

Here’s a super rough wireframe sketch of how some of that might translate:

So where do you “fill in the blanks?”

Well, let’s say we’re dealing with your “websites” page here that sells your website service.

And let’s say 90% of people who call you say they want a “clean, minimalist” design.

Guess what’s going in my headline?

“Clean, minimalist web design.”

In fact, that could be my final headline right there.

See how we’re instantly connecting to what your market wants, without them even having to tell you? It’s like you’re “reading their minds” or something.

Also, notice how that’s written in a super clear way. No wiz, no bang, no boom no pow.

Just the facts.

That makes this headline a great starting point: it’s clear, and it speaks to what the market is asking for.

Now, you just go through and do this for everything else they want – every challenge they have, every objection, every goal, every feature they request.

You lay those all out in the format above, and you’ve got yourself some solid copy to sell your services.

Step 3: Add some flair.

Now that we’ve got our copy that’s very clear – albeit boring – it’s time to spruce it up.

Here comes the personalty.

Here’s where we add life to our wireframe.

Let’s go back to our headline from before: “Clean, minimalist web design.”

How can we add flair?

Well, let’s start by answering some questions:

  • What’s your business’s personality?
  • What tone of conversation do you use with clients? (Personal, formal, etc.?)
  • What makes you, you?

I’m going to fill in the blank for an imaginary business and show you how those answers determine how we add flair.

  • What’s your business’s personality? Punk rock.
  • What tone of conversation do you use with clients? (Personal, formal, etc.?) Very friendly & casual – we chat like old friends.
  • What makes you, you? Funkiness, 4-letter words, punk.

Here’s how that might translate:

“Clean, minimalist web design… that f**king rocks.”

See how we took the key benefit the market wants – and injected this agency’s personality on top of it?

Let’s look at another example:

  • What’s your business’s personality? Peace & harmony.
  • What tone of conversation do you use with clients? (Personal, formal, etc.?) Friendly, caring. Sincere.
  • What makes you, you? Connection to spirit and self. Empathy.

Here’s how that might translate:

“Clean, minimalist web design. Full of harmony and life.”

See how we’re taking the exact thing that the client wants, then combining it with your uniqueness?

Now you just do that throughout the rest of your copy, and you’re gravy.

But remember: Never sacrifice clarity for personality. Clarity comes first. Personality comes second.

When in doubt – be clear. We clear?

Your turn: Did this article help? Would you like more like it? Do you have questions, comments, etc.? Leave a comment and let me know!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and help.

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About David Tendrich

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.


More about David’s business: David is co-founder of Reliable PSD – what happened when a group of designers got fed up with PSD to Code companies… and created their own. Check them out, and see why freelancers & agencies are head over heels for this amazing new service.

Leave a Comment



  1. It might also be an advantage if you knew how to spell “whiz” and “flair.’

  2. I don’t HAVE people calling me and requesting things. Arrrrrrrrrgh

    • Hey Posh,

      So get pro-active! Read forums with your target market talking about their marketing / website woes… read Amazon book reviews on marketing books they’d read and you’ll discover insights into their problems and goals…

      Or even reach out to people in your market and offer them something free in exchange for their time to interview them.


  3. Hi David and thank you so much! I’m not exactly sure why as a designer branding myself seems like such a difficult task. Thank God, I don’t have that difficulty with clients =0

  4. NB when spellcheck isn’t enough…’flair’ as in style, not ‘flare’ as in SOS

  5. Thank you for an insightful and actionable article! I’m hanging on to this one to go through as I work on my own website redesign next month.


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