When I did my teaching course back in the annals of time, when dinosaurs walked the earth, evaluation was a big word. As students, we had to evaluate each lesson, what had gone well, what had gone badly, what we could do to improve. This was for every single lesson we carried out as students during our teaching practice. This particular course in teaching (early years 3-7) was tough, it was condensing 4 years of an education degree into one year. I found it hard, that and the fact I had a young child to take care of myself. I battled on however and eventually passed with flying colours.
I came across evaluation as a tool for improvement on other courses I did throughout my career before I left to freelance. These courses included various vocational management courses and another for training adults. I was a sucker for punishment for sure, but I learnt a lot.
But what has this to do with copywriting? Well because I've had to spend so much time evaluating I think it's stuck. I find myself doing it mentally whenever I've come across a problem, a difficult client (which is a rarity) perhaps, a decision I've made that I'm unsure of, or any work related issue I've resolved but feel unhappy with how I've handled. I find it helps after I've thrashed it out with other copywriters first. By networking online I'm in the lucky position of being able to talk it through with other copywriters who will give me a variety of different opinions and thoughts on what they think.
At some point I'll reach a point where I have a pretty good idea of what I could have done better, what had gone wrong, how I could improve next time. This won't always be of much use to everyone, especially those with more experience, and especially not for those who've never had to do it, it may be a habit hard to grab hold of. However I do believe it has value.
If you're still in the newbie/intermediate stage of your copywriting career, evaluating certain aspects of your decision making, strategy planning, pricing, and preparation of proposals to potential clients, can give you a clearer picture of areas for improvement, identify any weak areas and see where you may have gone wrong. Obviously it helps if you have others willing to bounce ideas off, or discuss recent decisions or things you're unsure of, because you never learn anything by working in isolation. Only through discussing your problems with others more experienced than yourself are you able to see things in a more objective way, because other people's perspectives give you food for thought. It's not about passing judgement, it's about giving you valuable feedback from which you can learn.
I'm not suggesting you write long form essays every time you've discussed a recent problem, but even just asking yourself these questions mentally can help.
Self-reflection and Evaluation
1. What went well? Why?
2. What problems did I experience? Why?
3. What could I have done differently?
4. Was I well prepared? Did I carry out effective research?
5. Did the methods I use here to solve this issue work, if not, what should I change for next time?
6. What did I learn from this experience that will help me in the future?
It's often easy to forget what you've learnt after the event, and if you don't write down your ideas, thoughts and reflections, you may wind up making the same mistakes again. Even just a few reflective minutes of writing can help you notice things you may otherwise have missed.
Self-evaluation and reflection should take place after the discussion/feedback is over, from where you can then answer the questions above and consider your answers carefully.
Training yourself to be critical and self-reflective helps you to learn from past experience, and like me, you'll find that after a while it becomes second nature and you won't have to write it down at all.
By getting into the teachers headspace you can learn the value of evaluation, preparation, research and reflection, all tools that will serve you well during your copywriting career.
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