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Words about words – and how they can help your business
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Website copywriting – a new site for Crystal Clear Financial Services

I’m so pleased to see that Mike Brown’s website, Crystal Clear Financial Services, is up and running.

Mortgage banner

Financial services companies need to run all their marketing material through compliance teams to make sure it doesn’t make any unsubstantiated claims, or have the potential to mislead readers. Mike’s site has gone through this process and is now live and ready for business!

Website copywriting for Crystal Clear

This was a great project for lots of reasons. Firstly, I really like Mike’s approach to mortgage advice. He’s determined to make it as easy for his clients as possible, finding them the best deal for their circumstances, and giving them really useful advice.

This friendly, approachable but professional attitude needed to come across in his website, which had previously looked and sounded like any other mortgage advice site on the web.


We worked on clearly understanding Mike’s focus, his attitude to clients and understanding what those clients were looking for. This helped to form a tone of voice that is completely consistent with the way Mike and his team chat to clients, whilst also putting the emphasis on the reasons why clients are looking for an adviser.

Compliant copy

I’ve worked for financial service companies before, so I know how important it is to get the language right, so that readers are clear about what services are offered and that there are no spurious claims made.


Asking about required terms and language that should be avoided is part of my discovery process with any client, and helps to get the copy as close as possible to what’s needed first time round.

The new site

Mike’s new site has been built by d2 solutions – a great web development company that integrates lots of clever solutions into your website to make your business life easier. It’s great to see it live at last, and I hope that it drives some really good business to Mike’s door. Take a look and let me know what you think!

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QDOS – copywriting for iPhone and iPad accessories site

I’m so delighted to have worked on the brand new site for Surrey-based company QDOS, which is now live here.

QDOS HomePage

The clever people at QDOS design and manufacture fun, quirky, useful accessories for smartphones and tablets – mainly Apple devices, but several others too.

I love their QBOPZ speakers – the little suckers just stick wherever you put them, and bluetooth with your phone to play your music or whatever you’re streaming through a really compact, great sound quality speaker.


And I really enjoyed writing the copy for the whole of the company’s product range – from the cool Nightlife phone cases through to the safety features of the Blue screen protector, which does good things for your eyes and for your sleep, as well as for your phone screen.

Check out this fantastic site, and let me know what you think!

Project Details:

Client: QDOS Ltd., Surrey.

Design and build: Lightflows, Guildford, Surrey

Go Live date: June 2014

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Does spelling matter?

Well, duz it? If we can get the meaning of a sentence even if the spelling isn’t ‘standard’, how much does it matter if the letters are in the right order?

This is a much wider debate and a much bigger topic than I’m giving space for here, but I’m just really interested to hear what people think. Pretty much everyone has seen the muddled up sentences that appear on Facebook, showing that the placement of just a few letters can help our brains to unscramble the rest:

“Adcroncig to a rscaereh at an eisgnlh uisrnteviy, it dseon’t meattr in waht oerdr the leettrs in a wrod are, the olny ioatnrpmt tihng is taht fisrt and lsat ltteer is at the rgiht palce. The rset can be a ttaol mses and you can stlil raed it wuothit pborlem. Tihs is bseucae we do not raed evrey lteetr by iteslf but the wrod as a whloe. Cerheio.”*

This is an extreme example, but it does show that we don’t need correct spelling to make sense of everything we read – although we would get a headache if we kept at it for too long. So, is spelling more about tradition, ‘correctness’ and a narrow vision of the way language works?

I posted this picture on my Company Facebook page before Christmas…

Holly Reefs

I spotted it near my home, and drove round the block so that I could get out and take a picture. Whilst most people commented on how uncomfortable or inadvisable it would be to smoke a holly reef or dive at a holly reef, some people were unconcerned – you know what they’re selling, and it’s made you stop and read the sign, so perhaps it’s clever marketing?

What about text speak?

Text speak


There were a lot of newspaper and online column inches about text speak a few years ago. Teens could apparently only answer exam questions in text speak; English would be dead in just a couple of years; the end of the correctly-spelled word was nigh.

In fact, adults are now more likely to use text speak than children, who have smartphones and tablets with a qwerty keyboard (I love how easy it is to type qwerty) and so just type everything out in full. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are making a comeback in GCSE exams, with a percentage of marks in some exams being targeted just at these elements, so I don’t think we can blame the kids for being lax.

What do you think?

When is it important to spell properly, and when doesn’t it matter? Does it ALWAYS matter? Which spelling mistakes get on your nerves the most? Would you refuse to buy from a business because it couldn’t spell? Do spill.

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Why Christmas is the best time to plan ahead…

christmas decorated candle

If you’re anything like me, your inbox has been awash with Christmas emails since October. Deals on this, discounts on that, dreams can come true, and so on.

Psychologically Christmas is like a huge wall in the path ahead: you’ve seen it coming from a long way away and you know you have to deal with it. But here’s the thing. Just the other side of the wall, the path keeps going, and once you’ve negotiated the wall you’ll have to keep going too.

That’s why this is the best possible time to plan ahead. 2014 is just two weeks away, and you need to be sure you’re ready to make the most of it. Starting a new business? Launching a new product? Setting new goals? You can afford to take some time off over the holidays, but you can’t afford to take all of January to get up and running when you get back to the office.

So, here are just three simple things you can do to make sure you’re ready for what lies ahead:

1. Set some goals. They don’t have to be hard to reach, but they do have to be real, achievable and measurable, so that you can mark them off when you get there. It could be as straightforward as getting a logo for your new business, as crucial as setting up a good database so you can keep in touch with clients, or as brave as getting out there and winning three key customers by Easter. Whatever they are, make them and write them down now.

2. Look for people who can help you. Only big businesses have all the people with all the skills they need. If you’re not sure how to do something, ask an expert. It’s at least twice as expensive to do it yourself. Surround yourself with great people who are good at what they do – so that you can concentrate on reaching those goals.

3. Keep the momentum going. This is going to be a great year for you – you’ve already started planning it! But to keep the momentum going, rope in someone that will make you accountable. It can be a business buddy, a networking colleague, someone in your family or a coach – but you need someone who will say “How are you doing?”, “Have you set new goals for later in the year?”, “How can I help?”. Put a date in the diary now to sit down with them for a review so that you know you have the support you need.

This end of this week and the beginning of next is the winding-down period at work. Give yourself a few hours to set up your plan and you’ll find that the closer you get, the less your wall looks like a big pile of bricks and the more it resembles all the things you love. You can enjoy them over Christmas in the knowledge that you’re ready for the next step along the path.


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Social media guidelines and the need for clear communication


Together with Hazel McLellan, Lyn French runs social media marketing consultancy, Jelliboo, which specialises in social media strategy, policy, planning and training. Lyn is particularly enthusiastic about helping businesses create strong, positive social media policies so that they – and their employees – know exactly how to manage social media on behalf of the business. You can visit the Jelliboo website to find out more or email  

Any business that has a social media policy in place, or is thinking of implementing one, should also have a set of guidelines for staff that complement the policy.  The purpose of guidelines is to have a much shorter document, very often just one page that sets out the key points of the social media policy and can be quickly accessed and understood, and this is the most important point.

To be effective, it must clearly communicate the key elements of your social media policy. By their very nature social media policies will be lengthy and wordy documents because they cover a lot of information – they are designed to protect a business and its employees in the event of any deliberate or accidental misuse or events. Guidelines, on the other hand, need to be easily read and understood and set out the parameters for using social media within the business or organisation.

We all know the expression ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ and it’s so appropriate when it comes to communicating to others something that you find easy to understand.  We can’t unlearn what we know, and when you’ve been instrumental in developing your policy and understand what it’s all about, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for someone coming to it for the first time.

So how do you ensure that your time and effort in preparing a social media policy and subsequent accompanying guidelines isn’t wasted because you’re not getting your message across?  This is one of those times when using an expert can save you time money and effort.  A good copywriter will look at your policy and instantly know how to distil the content into a reader friendly format that will be easily understood. It will be an investment that you won’t regret.

*Image courtesy of

Does your business have a social media policy? How do you communicate it to employees? Let me know…

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Fit for print?


As I was driving to a meeting this morning, I let a van into the queue. It was smartly wrapped, with logos, designs and a list of main services, which were:

  • Roofing
  • Guttering
  • Fascia’s

I’ve got better things to do than make a big fuss about apostrophes, because to me, this is less about knowing your grammar and more about getting things checked before you pass them on.

In this instance, either the business emailed the vehicle wrapper with the words it wanted to appear on the car and got this one wrong, or it dictated over the phone and the printer got it wrong.

Don’t expect your printer to check your work

The printer’s job is to print. They do it brilliantly. They have all the kit, the finish is good, they can turn stuff around quickly. But they rarely check what you send them for accuracy. That’s your job.

Many designers are the same. I know some – including the lovely Boo Design – who will look over your copy and tell you if there are mistakes, but many won’t bother – they’ll assume you’ve thought about what you’re writing and that you’ve checked it before it gets to you.

That’s what proofs are for.

They certainly won’t be held responsible for any mistakes you see after the print has been done, if they can show that they simply used the words you sent them.

Get it written or get it checked

If your business is important to you, take the time to get these things right. Even if it’s just asking someone else to read it through, you could catch things before they end up as an expensive mistake.

If you really want to make a good impression, get someone else to write it for you. It’s one job less for you to do, and gives you the confidence that your words are working hard for you in the right places.

Let me know about places where you’ve seen spelling or grammar mistakes – and whether they put you off using the business!


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I’m away from my desk – please leave a message!

Holiday beach

I’m not going to be working for the next few weeks. In fact, with any luck, the next time I see my desk, it will be August 19th!

If you’re looking for copywriting help and you can wait until then, please drop me an email at and I will answer it as soon as I get back.

If you can’t wait, try the directory listings at the Professional Copywriters’ Network – there are lots of talented writers there who may be able to help.

Have a great summer, keep piling the suncream on, put plenty of ice in the freezer and we’ll catch up in a month or so.

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Welcome to our cafe – here’s how to complain…

At the top of the House of Fraser store in Guildford is the Tea Terrace cafe. It’s glazed on several sides, giving you fantastic views across the town and the countryside on clear days. It’s got a roof garden, so you can sit outside when the weather’s good enough and it’s nicely decorated. It’s a bit pricey, maybe, but then it’s a roof cafe in the House of Fraser.

The last couple of times I’ve been there, though, it hasn’t been the decor, the food or the views that have demanded my attention. It’s the placemat. The placemat, for me, is a complete marketing, copywriting and communications failure. It makes me want to stand up and leave.

It formed the basis of the entire breakfast conversation between me and my children the first time I saw it, and when I went later in the year with my husband, he banned me from talking about it because I was getting so annoyed. It annoys me just to think about it and when I recounted it to friends a couple of weeks ago, they were laughing at the steam coming out of my ears.

So, here’s what it says on the very nicely designed but poorly thought-through placemat at the House of Fraser cafe:

Here at the Tea Terrace, we only have one mission,

And that is to serve you, with really great passion,

We promise we’ll do our best to keep you happy,

But nobody’s perfect and neither are we!


So if on the rare occasion, we let you down,

Like we serve you white bread instead of brown,

You shouldn’t just get upset and bottle it up,

Nor should you attack your waiter with a tea cup.


It’s important that you tell us what went wrong,

So that your frustration, we don’t prolong,

And now before your annoyance turns into anger,

Grab your phone and call me, for I’m the manager.


Please make sure you call me before you leave

so I can resolve any issues for you immediately.

What???? I mean, actually, WHAT??? Let me tell you what this poem does for me.

1. It makes me think there have been lots of complaints in the past.

Of course it does. Why else would a cafe make such an effort to tell you that they make mistakes and they’re happy to sort them out  – before you even order? I now think that they often screw things up and when they do, you shouldn’t talk to your waitress/waiter but go straight to the manager. I’m now slightly anxious about what might happen to me.

2. It makes me assume that something’s going to go wrong.

If the manager has so little faith in his staff, or so little control over the processes they have in place, it’s possibly more likely that something’s going to go wrong. Indeed, I quite fancied the ginger scones on the menu. Two ginger scones, with butter and jam. But I only wanted one scone.

“Hi – could I have a latte, please, and is there any chance I could have just one ginger scone?”

“Sorry, it comes as two scones.”

“Could you just take one off the plate? I only really want one.”

“No, sorry, it comes as two scones.”

“OK. I’ll just have the latte.”

Sale lost, money lost and now I’m wondering whether I should call the manager.

3. It emphasises the negatives – where are the positives?

OK, so it starts well, “mission” and “passion” and “do our best to keep you happy” (although even that’s a bit feeble). But the rest just drags you down. Not only are they not perfect, but you’re not perfect. So don’t be surprised, maybe, if you call to complain and it turns out it’s all your fault.

This is actually a nice cafe. It’s where I take my Mum when she visits. Why isn’t there a whole load of stuff about where they source their food? What about their home-made cakes, which are pretty tasty? What about the range of coffees and teas? What about the view? Where is all the good stuff. I mean, if you’re going to write a poem about your cafe, surely you put in some of the good stuff?

4. It makes you wonder about attacking a waiter with a tea cup.

Where does this come from. Has it actually happened, or are you just insinuating that the sort of people that come to your cafe are the sort of people that go around attacking waiters with the crockery? Really? A tea cup? Ahh. You’ve just put that in there because it rhymes, haven’t you? After all, there’s plenty of cutlery there. Much more effective.

5. Why do you have to phone the manager?

This is really interesting as calls to action go. Is the manager never on the premises? Is there no-one in the cafe who is actually in charge? If you ask for the manager, will the waiter say “I’m sorry madam, we can’t contact the manager, you’ll have to phone him yourself”? This cafe is regularly full of older people, some of whom may not have phones. Can they not complain at all? Is there a section of customers who can be badly served because they have no means of redress?

And will the cafe re-imburse you for the call? Because it’s a mobile number they give, you know, not a landline. So complain and pay, people; complain and pay.

6. I don’t much like the poem.

Now, this is a personal thing and I don’t have anything against the poet, who was presumably just doing his or her job. It must be hard to write a poem that’s all about complaining. However, it doesn’t make me laugh, it doesn’t really resonate with me and I’m not sure what impact it really has on the people who read it.

I get the idea that a poem is a good way of getting something across. Done well, it can be a great way to communicate with your customers, but I think this falls short.

7. I really don’t get the concept.

If I was running this cafe and I’d had lots of complaints, I’d be looking at staff recruitment, development and training, and at the processes I had in place to keep customers happy. My first thought would not to be to put the entire onus on the customer.

I’d have someone day-to-day in the cafe who could deal with complaints face-to-face and has the decision-making skills and the responsibility to sort things out quickly when they do go wrong.

I’d save my poetry skills to talk about the great things my cafe does, and put a little note at the bottom that tells customers what to do if they’re not happy – let’s face it, most customers today know how to complain. They don’t need three stanzas to tell them.

I think this initiative has missed the mark on pretty much every level. I’d be really interested to hear what other writers, marketers and customers think of it – and if you’ve ever seen anything quite like it!

The Complaints Poem

The Complaints Poem

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Copywriting in 10 minutes – the power of words

Filtering the words you use helps you to create clear messages



It’s amazing what you can achieve in 10 minutes. If Usain Bolt could maintain his world-record 100m speed for 10 minutes, he’d cover 6,230.5 metres – impressive. The NASA Space Shuttle, at an orbit speed of 17,500 mph would travel 2,916 miles in the same time. I stayed put, feet firmly planted on the ground and talked to a group of business people about copywriting.

When I talk about copywriting, I talk about the power of words. I talk about connecting businesses with their customers by using the right words in the right way. So it seemed only fair to do away with props, on-screen presentations and banners and get straight down to the talking. For anyone who’s interested in words, or for anyone who missed my presentation yesterday, here’s what I covered:

What type of business are you?

I wanted to see how the people around the room categorised their business, so I asked for a show of hands for Business-to-Business, Business-to-Consumer and Charity-to-Client. Everyone in the room put themselves into one of those categories.

That’s great, because everyone knows the general form of business they belong to. But actually, my work is about seeing those businesses not as B2B, B2C or Charity organisations, but as P2P – People-to-People.

Just making that distinction removes a lot of barriers in the way you communicate with your customers. I am a person. I could also be an audience member of the Guildford Shakespeare Company, a client of England Palmer Solicitors, a customer at Azzinga. For all three of those transactions, I’d be looking for different things, but I’m still just a person looking for a product or service.

Copywriting that knocks down barriers

Nearly everyone I’ve met on the networking circuit is great at talking about their business. They are the experts; they know what they’re doing and because it’s usually their own business, there’s a lot of passion and focus in the way they speak.

Ask the same people to write things down, though, and everything changes. People feel that they should use jargon, corporate speak, long words, complex sentences. This not only means that the words people read about you sound nothing like you do in person, it also means you’ve built a wall that hides the connection you make with a face-to-face conversation. The more waffle you use, the less interested your customer becomes and if you build the wall high enough, your customer will get up and leave, and you won’t even notice.

Copywriting Snap

I got my audience to play a little game. I put some cards on the table in front of them. Three cards had long sentences, long words and little focus. Three had short, snappy messages. I asked them to match the short message to the long one. It’s an easy task, but it really puts the power of good copywriting into perspective. Which business would you buy from? The one that puts things clearly and simply.

Do powerful words make money?

Yes. I gave four examples of clients that have seen real results from my work. Their success stems from different types of writing – clear website content; web content that’s optimised to achieve a certain aim; email marketing that encourages readers to open and take action, and hard copy marketing letters that spark interest. And thanks to the excellent Mike Brown from Crystal Clear Financial Services who said that the follow-up email I’d written for him to send out after an exhibition made a real difference in converting show interest into meetings and new business.

So, why is copywriting a skill?

It’s perfectly true that anyone can write. Most people can write pretty well. Some people don’t need any help at all. But copywriting isn’t just about bunging some words on a page. It’s about understanding you, your business, your aims and your customers. It’s about writing in a way that sounds like you, so there’s an instant connection that makes readers feel good and want to learn more.

It’s about filtering out all the crap, so that you’re left with messages that work.

Clear messages, well delivered, bring success.

If you were at this presentation and you enjoyed it, please say so here! If not, and you’d like me to tell your group about the power of words, get in touch using the email link at the top of this web page.


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My name is Gill, and I’m an exhibitionist

A great-looking stand for Creative Copywriting and Boo Design!

Phew. It’s a relief to get that out into the open. After a great day at the Guildford Means Business exhibition in the very swanky G Live building in central Guildford, I can now count myself as a fully-fledged exhibitionist.

Of course, the right word for what I did yesterday was “exhibitor”, but actually, you have to tap into your exhibitionist tendencies to sign up for something like this and then to make it successful.

I’ve been an exhibitionist many times before – but always on behalf of another company, never as myself. So there’s a certain amount of apprehension that comes along with deciding to spend seven hours on your feet engaging strangers and building new relationships. However, as the lovely and motivational Ben Kench said in the free seminar that the Best of Guildford set up for us last month, it’s all about energy and asking the right question. Starting a conversation with someone, listening to them talk about their business and their plans is a great way to meet more people, raise your profile and add value to your business.

Production line: sweets at the ready for Creative Copywriting and Boo Design’s fortune sweetie giveaway.

So that’s what I did. Sharing a stand with the talented Jack Newman from Boo Design, we handed out bags of sweets which also contained a fortune cookie card. This was a great reason for people to stop and have a chat, creating a great buzz around our stand and giving visitors and other exhibitors the chance to find out more about what we do – individually and together.

Do you know, that seven hours went past pretty quickly. There were lots of people we didn’t see and lots of lovely new people we did. I don’t mind at all stepping out in front of people, offering them a freebie and having a great chat about their business and its challenges – that’s a great day’s work!

So, if you met us yesterday, thanks for stopping by. If you walked past and we were busy, say hello here, and we’ll arrange to have that chat. And if you didn’t see us at all, check out our websites, look us up on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or post a comment here and we’ll be in touch. We love meeting new people!

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