Building a Swipe File

Every copywriter experiences writer’s block at some point. You stare at that blank page and nothing — absolutely nothing — comes to mind.

Deadlines are looming, your client wants awesome copy, but you’re fresh out of ideas. At times like this, a swipe file can prove a lifesaver.

What’s a Swipe File?

Building a Swipe FileA swipe file is, quite simply, a collection of content that works. Copywriters have used swipe files as sources of inspiration for years.

In addition to your own work, a swipe file contains other people’s copy.

That’s why it’s called a swipe file; you swipe effective copy to add to the file.

For instance, if you write about SEO for Google articles and find a particularly effective call to action from an SEO company, you’d add the copy to your swipe file.

Swiping is Not Stealing

Some people mistakenly think swiping is stealing. It’s not. Passing off other people’s content as your own is stealing. A swipe file is simply a source of inspiration. Many writers use their swipe files as a starting point, just as an artist uses a model as the starting point for a painting.

Too often, copywriters feel pressure to create something unique, but that’s not why clients hire us. Clients want effective content, and you can use your swipe file to remind yourself of what works. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; you just have to craft one that rolls well.

Building a Swipe File

Building a swipe file is easy. Just make a folder and add compelling copy as you write or find it. Add ideas, images, screenshots, entire articles, whatever inspires you.

You’ll need to keep the swipe file organized, of course, so subdivide the folder into different categories. Common categories include:

  • Bulleted lists
  • Calls to action
  • Emails
  • Headlines
  • Opening paragraphs or “hooks”
  • Persuasive content
  • Social media posts
  • Subheadings.

Apps such as Evernote help you quickly capture and organize content. Storing swipe files on Evernote or Google Docs allows you to access the swipe file from anywhere. Saw a great headline on a poster or billboard? Snap a picture of it with your cell phone and add it to the swipe file for later use.

Project-Specific Swipe Files

For large or important gigs, you may want to create a customized swipe file for that particular project. You can use the file as a marketing research tool. Explore social media sites looking at the language the client’s target audience uses to express their needs, approval or hopes concerning your client’s services, and use those words in your copy.

Take the time to check your client’s competitors as well, capturing any effective copy they use for inspiration. Used correctly, swipe files can improve your copy.

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About Michelle

Michelle is an aspiring writer and blogger at Social We Love with a passion for the Internet, specifically social media and blogging. She loves how social media connects people across the globe, and appreciates that blogging gives her the opportunity to voice her thoughts and share advice with an unlimited audience. Follow her on Twitter or Google+.

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