Copywriting

Table 26 Needs Compelling Copy: Why A Former Server May Be The Copywriter You Are Looking For

By Cynthia Maldonado on January 8, 2024

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A female server wearing a red-checkered shirt helps a female customer choose something from the menu.

Let’s talk USPs for a moment.

What is a USP?

It stands for a unique selling proposition. It is that elusive spark that sets your product or service apart from the competition. In an overly saturated marketplace, where countless options are available at the consumer’s or client’s fingertips, a captivating USP can help a business stand apart. It answers the questions: “What makes you special?” and “Why should a client choose you?”

Every business has one, and it plays a large role in the direction of the marketing and copy for the business.

When it came time for the creation of my own personal website (a constant work in progress – more on that next month), it was suggested that I first establish a clear and concise USP. One course recommended looking at my educational background and previous work experience to figure out how either of these things provides me with an extra edge as a copywriter.

I spent a full day looking at both and brainstorming. My university degree is in Psychology, and I have always been profoundly interested in the human psyche. This is a huge asset.  A large part of copywriting is being able to identify a target audience and speak directly to that audience. Figuring out what the intended clients want and need, as well as the tone they will best respond to, is crucial. The first step of anything I have written is delving into the minds of this target audience. At first, basing my USP around this experience seemed like a no-brainer.

Then, I took some time to consider my employment history. Most of my work experience has been in the hospitality industry. From bartender to server to management roles, I’ve done it all. I realized that my years in the industry gave me several skills that are surprisingly useful in the world of freelance copywriting.

To name a few, here is a list of five of them:

Customer Service Focused

When you work in Front of House, everything is about the guest experience.  While some glaring exceptions exist, the general approach taken is that the customer is always right. As a server or bartender, my entire job was to ensure an enjoyable guest experience. In the freelance world, my main priority is ensuring my client is happy. Having that point of view deeply ingrained in me makes it easy to put my own ego aside when necessary and always focus on client satisfaction.

Reading the Room

In hospitality, I referred to this as reading the table. No two guests are alike, and it is necessary to be able to quickly gauge a table you will be serving. Some guests prefer efficient and silent service, while others are looking for a more personalized approach. Then there is knowing how to speak to the guest. It is no exaggeration to say that even my tone of voice would change between tables. These chameleon traits come in handy when writing copy. No two businesses are alike. I need to be able to write in any given tone and to any given target audience.  Easy-peasy!  

Adaptability

To say you must be able to adapt when working in a restaurant is an understatement.  

Run out of the special? Make it work. Severely understaffed? Make it work. No clean glasses or cutlery? Make it work. Two servers and the chef just walked out? Make it work.

I could go on forever with my horror stories, but you get the idea. Hospitality is a fast-paced, often tumultuous, environment. Sink or swim. I learned to always keep swimming.

As a freelance copywriter, I need to be able to think on my toes when pitching creative ideas, adapt to different clients and their specific needs, and know when to pivot. Some clients are going to change their minds about the direction of their copy after the first draft. No biggie, I just keep swimming.

Storytelling

Ever been asked to describe a dish at a fine-dining restaurant? You better be able to describe it using mouth-watering language that paints a vivid picture.

I don’t think people realize how much storytelling is involved in the hospitality industry. A lot of imagery and descriptive language help create the guest experience.

Need me to write product or service descriptions designed to boost your sales? An About Me page that tells your story in an intriguing way?  No problemo!

Knowing When Less is More

It’s a busy Friday night dinner service, and your guest sends a dish back to the kitchen. You must face the back of the house – who have a full board of orders and have run out of almost everything- and explain what happened.

You better be able to communicate exactly what happened, why, and what the guest wants in 10 seconds or less.

Concise language, friends. The chefs do not have time for a long-winded explanation, and they will let you know.  Believe me when I say speaking clearly and concisely will save your sanity.

With content writing, like this blog, I can get creative and occasionally go on my beloved tangents.  Flowery language is acceptable. When writing sales copy- less is more. I need to be able to catch the reader’s attention immediately. Despite what my ramblings on PR & Lattes may suggest, I can get straight to the point.  

Thank you chefs!

I first got into the hospitality industry in university for extra spending money. I stayed in the industry because it allowed me to travel the world on a whim, work anywhere, and make quick cash when needed. I didn’t realize it would provide me with so many skills that are easily transferable to my day-to-day life. I definitely didn’t realize it would set me up for success in my career as a copywriter. You just never know.

Now that you do, though, I hope you just might consider hiring a former hospitality worker the next time you need compelling copy for your business.

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