9 Ethical Copywriting Shifts To Make In Your Content Messaging

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Sick of the constant shame and shady marketing tactics you see online? Here are the most important ethical copywriting shifts that you should make as an introvert blogger, business owner, or online entrepreneur.

ethical copywriting shifts

In case you’re not all that familiar with what ethical copywriting is, let’s break it down a little. Also called conscious copywriting, this style of sales and marketing content aims to focus on writing that is more inclusive while also being helpful, transparent, and welcoming to the people you want to help or sell to.

In this post, you’ll learn about the most important ethical copywriting shifts you should consider adding to your messaging.

ethical copywriting shifts

Make These 9 conscious Copywriting Shifts in Your Marketing Messaging

I admit in advance that this post might ruffle the feathers of my fellow marketing nerds, bloggers, or copywriters. While it’s not all that intentional, I do get that it can be hard to shake off what we’ve all done and known for years (maybe even decades).

But I want to challenge each of you who stumbles across this post to at least consider using these ethical copywriting shifts. They can help improve your writing skills as well as change your perspective on how you position your messaging as a business owner online.

Shift 1: Step away from the shame & manipulation when you really just want to help

The state of marketing content and sales copywriting exists in this weird world of sketchy tactics like fake urgency in the form of timers that really never expire and below-the-belt, harsh messaging that only makes people feel called out, unseen, and self-conscious.

I don’t know about you, but I love feeling inspired. Lifted up. Fulfilled. I consider each of those to be my personal end goals for everything I write: from IG captions to blog posts. Any chance I have to do all of that for you, I take the chance. That’s what ethical copywriting means to me personally.

So what’s an example of shame-filled copywriting?

  • “You’ve tried all the diets, but you’re a slave to your willpower.”
  • “All of the courses you’ve bought are worthless. Nothing they tell you works for you.”
  • “You’ve tried to quit your day job before, but you’re always too scared to change your life.”

Ick, ouch, or oof, right?

Weaponizing fear against the very people you want to help only translates to and feeds into a toxic habit of manipulation. To best help people fully realize that your offer, services, and/or programs can help them solve a specific problem, shift away from the pressure and false scarcity. It’s all just totally unnecessary…

What’s the problem with agitating?

One of the most hotly debated topics in this sphere is the agitation part of the notorious “problem-agitate-solution” copywriting formula. As much as others say how harmful too much agitation can be (and I completely agree), I just don’t think we should be too quick to kick this one to the curb! Here’s why…

Say a bite of sassy spaghetti with ulterior motives drops on your favorite shirt. You come home, and you know you have a few options:

  • One, be lazy and pop it into the washer and hope the stain actually gets out.
  • Two, break out the cleaning solution/method of choice, douse the spot and let it sit for a few minutes, zhuzh it with your fingers or brush, and THEN pop it into the washer.

Hell, maybe there’s a happy medium. The point is that without that agitation, that stain is likely going to be a permanent fixture on that shirt of yours for good.

Circling this example back to copywriting/messaging, agitation can still serve a critical role in guiding your clients or customers through the buyer’s journey in ethical copywriting.

Shift 2: Drop the income claims & lifestyle selling in your sales copy & content

One of the hallmarks of ethical copywriting is transparency as well as giving your audience the space they need to have more agency in their decision-making. Whether you totally align with this or not, we all need to step away from making income claims and lifestyle selling.

At a bare freaking minimum.

Trust me, there’s more to your offer to market…and if there isn’t, then you need to go back to the drawing board. For me, the people who double down the hardest on those two things are the people who aren’t sure what their offer really is. (Hot take: Or they’re trying to sell you into a scam. Sorry, not sorry!)

Beyond that, you should just generally be cautious about these two things in your messaging. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission rolled out one of the most important marketing restrictions (mostly for those in the network marketing realm) back in 2021.

I’m not mentioning this to make you afraid to market your offer. That wouldn’t be in good taste considering this is an ethical copywriting blog post, huh? I just want you to be more intentional with your messaging!

You should always have an offer that is clear to the people you market it to: whether it’s a free resource or a four-figure coaching program. At the end of the day, if your biggest reason to buy into your offer is how much money you or your clients made from it…you really don’t have a strong offer.

Shift 3: Give people an exit plan

I get it. You want to make money. But there’s a distinct difference in HOW you sell your products, services, and/or programs that you might be missing: the good ol’ fashioned exit strategy for your readers, subscribers, or followers.

Having one gives your buyers the impression that there’s no pressure (because there really shouldn’t be). It lets you be inclusive without forcing people to make unaligned or unintentional split-second decisions that only result in buyer’s remorse later on.

My blog is catered toward introverts, so this example might not align with you. But think about the last time (probably before the start of the pandemic) you went into a department store. You first typically walk through the fragrance or cosmetics sections.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked right back out of that store when a salesperson pushes you too hard to try a sample out. ✋ Most of us will hate feeling pressured to do anything.

On the flip side, if your prospects land on your sales page and they decide it’s not for them, giving them an easy out is the quickest way to show a person you care about their time.

The best example of a clear exit strategy would be that ‘unsubscribe’ link you should already be adding to all of your marketing emails. When you create your launch around choice, consent, and transparency, you give people more agency to decide what’s best for them.

Like it or hate it, you’re NOT the only option out there they can choose. Ethical messaging makes it easy on the buyers, but it can also help improve your sales by inviting more people in without the scare/scam tactics.

Shift 4: Embrace that your clients, subscribers, and followers aren’t broken

One of the most toxic marketing assumptions even I bought into long ago is that people are broken. Listen, most of us aren’t in the position of “fixing” people. We aren’t qualified, yet people still try to pretend like they know everyone best.

The people who follow you or buy from you have problems, sure. But those problems do not (for the most part) define their very existence. I’m sure there’s one of you who will read this and comment about your specific niche being the exception — but that’s what it is.

An exception.

When you embrace ethical copywriting, you also embrace the fact that you, your business, and your offers are merely a stepping stone: a possibility for them to overcome a specific problem.

People are unique. They come from different backgrounds across all walks of life. We’re each our own person. And in most cases, it should be left up to us to make a decision based on full transparency — not fear, guilt, or shame.

Shift 5: Stop hiding your prices

I really hate telling people to definitively stop doing something, but this hill is one I’ll gladly die on. Hiding your prices is more than just a waste of everyone’s time — especially if you hide it behind a lengthy questionnaire form!

Give me the space to decide if we’re a good fit as a consumer. Let me know if you vibe with this, too!

I’m more than capable of making informed, well-realized decisions on my own (for the most part). The second I feel pressured, I just walk away. This might sound super unreasonable to some of you, but I know this isn’t just a personal preference.

Tell me your prices, so I can consider all of my options before reaching out to you. This is so important for most people. Remember that exit plan I mentioned up there? 👆 Welp, if I know I have a set budget for a project (without the possibility to budge any), showcasing your prices is the perfect exit plan for me.

Transparency is so important in ethical copywriting, so this is an important shift to consider from this bunch!

Shift 6: Know that Buyers are fluid, dynamic humans with ever-changing needs

One thing that’s really shifted the way I talk to people online is realizing that the customer journey (also known as a sales funnel) isn’t a simple pyramid or one-way ride. Some people who get hyped about one low-ticket offer may not need to pass into the next stage of the offer ladder (my personal favorite varient of ‘sales funnel’).

You as a business owner hope they’ll buy-in to your order bump/tripwire — to no avail. Then, you see that same low-ticket cost-shopper a few months later invest into your $2k coaching program.

You really can’t simplify humans into a buyer persona or ideal client avatar. Needs change as quickly as a wink. Just because someone doesn’t purchase your $147 offer doesn’t mean they are ‘cheap’ or even inconsequential.

Set a place for everyone at your sales funnel table. Don’t just appear to be accessible — BE accessible. That doesn’t mean you have to answer every DM in your IG inbox or dreaded email. For you, that might mean make valueable, approachable content that doesn’t talk down to people.

Cue that up consistently, and you’ll reach the people excited to work with you, engage with your content, or sign up for your email list.

Shift 7: Make your sales funnel more accessible

Let’s unpack the concept of an ‘ethical’ sales funnel for a sec. Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth on the topic of lead magnets so many damn times. The truth is that they play an important role in your business. Here’s how…

This very blog post that you’ve read could be considered a lead magnet. I know a lot of bloggers hide the information or answers you need behind massive paywalls or behind a way-too-complicated or confusing sales funnel.

I’ve made my peace with the fact that transparency is the best policy. At least it is for me! I don’t want people who question their decision to enroll in my offers, courses, or services. Confidence and openness are part of the success formula I’ve experienced in myself. I want to work with people ready and excited about what I give them for a price.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t do my best to make myself accessible to all the freebie chasers or those simply not ready for a big investment out there!

Should you have a lead magnet for your business?

The core idea behind ethical copywriting made me realize that freebies are just as important (if not more so) than your paid offers. Not just in that they help grow your email list, either…

I believe that everyone should have equal access to all general/basic information. When you create your strategic lead magnet, be intentional about what you include and leave out. Simplify so you don’t confuse, but be informative so you don’t lose ’em!

I’m not telling you to give out your entire coaching program away for free. Make that money, boo! I’m simply inviting you to be more open to helping others more often. I’ve had freebie-lurkers on my list buy into stuff when they felt called to do so.

Google’s getting smarter these days with its algorithm. Anything you think is exclusively yours likely already exists for free somewhere on the internet already. Yep, even originality is a dime a dozen these days…

What’s inside your programs is how you adapted those basic concepts into a strategy or system that worked for you in some way!

Shift 8: Cultivate community by nurturing genuine connections with people (not followers)

When you build a community, you surround yourself with like-minded people as well as those who engage with your content. Social media can be overwhelming, exhausting, and even uncomfortable.

A high school teacher once told me that if you have stage fright — get off the stage. As you can probaly tell, I’m a HUGE introvert. I hate being the center of attention. As I got older, I let what that teacher told me marinate in my soul. Over time, I’ve come to understand that to mean that my voice is meant to be heard — in the right space.

I spent years trying to blend in with everyone else who pursued being an “expert” in their field. It was a really exhausting goosechase that only wasted time. When I found blogging, I felt like a part of me finally found home.

Experiment. Pursue new things. Then, let go of what doesn’t feel genuine. Followers can be bought, but a community is truly yours. It’s not a space where you talk down to anyone. Rather, you share information and knowledge — for free or not.

Shift 9: give yourself some grace when you fall back to your old content habits

Ethical copywriting means writing and publishing content without shame — and that extends to you. You’re a beautiful human being deserving of all the grace you need to make an impact on your self-doubt or imposture syndrome (if you’re powering through those beasts right now).

We’re all bound to make mistakes. That much is 100% guaranteed in life. I’ve spent the better part of the last 5 years beating myself and my self-confidence up to a pulp. That’s not to say you should give up on having goals, deadlines, and planning, though!

Conscious copywriting means you take everything in strides and become hyper-intentional about your messaging, marketing content, and sales strategy. You might fall back onto your old habits. You might not even notice it happening for a while. I encourage you to practice intention setting and with self-accountability.

Final Thoughts

Ethical copywriting (or conscious copywriting) is something I’m committing to making in my business and blog. I know I’m not perfect. I’ll likely not perfect this in my own content for a while, but I think that’s okay.

I don’t want you to get too caught up in the nitty-gritty of all this. Taking each of these shifts at one time can help you improve your marketing content and messaging one small, manageable step at a time.

Embracing mistakes and acknowledging the need to grow is a huge thing a lot of online business owners leave out. If your goal is to serve before you sell (like a lot of us introverts tend to want or naturally do), these concepts can help you focus your message to differentiate you from the competition!

This post was all about the 9 ethical copywriting shifts you should make in your sales and marketing content.


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Oct 6, 2022 | Copywriting, Sales Funnels

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11 Comments

  1. Michelle Latinovich

    Thank you for this! I try so hard to balance nurturing genuine connections while trying to make money as well….and it is hard! I am pinning this for future reference that I know I will return to often!

    Reply
  2. Jenn

    YES! I wish every copywriter would adhere to these rules – high pressure and guilt/ shame does NOT produce trust in customers, and even if you make the sale, they are likely to avoid you next time or find a better alternative.

    Reply
  3. Chantal

    This post speaks to my introverted soul. I especially loved the sassy spaghetti. Love your writing style!

    Reply
  4. Fransic verso

    I don’t like when people hide their prices because what’s the point? If I own a shop and products. I won’t do that.

    Reply
  5. nia

    Really like the point about giving yourself grace when you mess up since that is bound to happen. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Akansha

    It’s true that slipping into old habits will happen at times. We are humans after all and bound to make mistakes. But so important to be kind to ourselves at that moment and gently work toward being better. With enough practice, these instances are reduced significantly.
    Thank you for this post. I love it xx

    Reply
  7. Liv

    Loved this. Totally agree with these points. Price transparency is vital!

    Reply
  8. John Mulindi

    As a content writer, I have picked some copywriting tips from this post that I will apply when writing my next post. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  9. Cathy

    There is so much here to digest! The particular point about creating a community rather than followers really connects with me. I’d much rather be spending my time with people that are genuinely interested in the conversation rather than just having a staggeringly high number to show everyone how many followers I have.

    Reply
  10. Lindsey

    Lots of good info to take in here! Bringing in an income in blogging was not my first focus, but as I look at that as a potential benefit this is super helpful.

    Reply
  11. Lani

    Stop hiding your prices- great advice! Just what I need. We should be proud of our work and demand fairly what we deserve.

    Reply

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