If imitation is a form a flattery then there are plenty of people I’ve flattered since I started blogging more than five years ago. Like most people, I created my first website and launched a blog with no real training or experience. I was already a professional writer so I figured I’d learn the rest on the job. And part of the learning process for me is studying what works well for others. That’s where my swipe files comes in handy.
A swipe file is a tool I learned about in my early career in public relations and marketing communications. I collected articles, headlines, direct mail postcards, advertisements, proposals and other materials for inspiration. It was kinda like Pinterest for writers. Only when I first started using a swipe file it was a paper accordion style folder with actual printed samples torn from newspapers and magazines.
I’d save anything I found interesting or compelling – even if it had nothing to do with my industry or current projects. Then, when it came time to work on a new piece, I’d flip through my swipe files for ideas. I’d find formulas for great headlines, templates for sales letters and even some clever photo captions that would trigger an idea.
I eventually went digital with my swipe file and now I use it to kick start my creativity on all sorts of new projects. Even if you’re not a writer, chances are you do a fair amount of writing for your business or ministry. So why not make your job a little bit easier and start a swipe file of your own? Collect anything you find interesting or effective so you can refer to it later. Start with a simple file folder on your desktop or try using Evernote to store your swipe file items. Evernote lets you bookmark webpages, add images or screenshots and tag your notes for easy sorting and retrieval. You can even share your swipe file with someone on Evernote.
Not sure what to collect? Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Seven Things to Add to Your Swipe File
1. Sales pages. Have you ever made a spontaneous online purchase? You may have stumbled across a compelling sales page and found yourself hitting the “buy now” button without even thinking about it. When that happens, take a screenshot of the sales page and file it for future reference. There is probably some language in there that will come in handy!
2. Facebook ads. If you’re on Facebook you’ve probably clicked on an ad in your newsfeed at some point. There are definitely tricks and tips to Facebook advertising, so capture screen shots of your favorite ads and study them to see what works well for others. When it comes time to do your own Facebook advertising, you’ll have a head start.
3. Bios. I always get a kick out of short, clever bios I read online. Not the ones that are stuffed full of credentials and accomplishments. But the ones that reveal addictions to Sharpie markers or a lifelong struggle to successfully grow a tomato plant. I’ve been swiping memorable bios for years and vowing to make my own humdrum narrative a little more intriguing. One. Of. These. Days. [Read more…]