Writing W3C content for people with disabilities

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Sabina Heggie  -  


Computer keyboard. Key shows image of person walking with stick.

Will your content suit someone with a disability?

People with disabilities can have trouble accessing web pages. Impairments in vision, hearing, reading ability, attention span and mouse control can all affect how well people can use, understand and navigate websites.

If you’re writing content for a website that’s likely to be accessed by people with disabilities, you need to think about your content with this in mind.

Your client may ask you to abide by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) guidelines. These are guidelines developed to make web content more accessible for people with disabilities. Many government websites require this, as do health-related sites. W3C guidelines cover both content and coding, but in this article I’m just covering what you need to keep in mind as a content writer.

What do W3C guidelines mean for a content writer?

Here are some tips adapted from W3.org that will help to ensure your content conforms to the standard. Most of this is just good practice for any website. I’ve added some extra pointers (in italic) that reflect my own additional guidelines.

  • Use headings and subheadings to organise content.
  • Use simple language and formatting, as appropriate for the context.
  • Start with an H1 heading, then H2, then H3. Don’t skip over this ranking within a section of text. Don’t use more levels of headings than necessary. If you need more than H3’s, rethink the structure.
  • Write in short, clear sentences and paragraphs. (One thought per sentence).
  • Replace unnecessarily complex words and phrases with simpler ones. Avoid words with more than 5 syllables.
  • Expand acronyms on first use. For example, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Keep acronym use to a minimum.
  • Consider providing a glossary for terms readers may not know.
  • Use list formatting as appropriate.
  • Consider using images, illustrations, video, audio and symbols to help clarify meaning.
  • Use ALT tags for images.
  • Use subtitles for video content.
  • Make page titles descriptive and end with the organisation name.
  • Use link text to describe content, e.g.: Read more about WC3 copywriting tips.

Will adhering to W3C improve search engine rankings?

Some people think that adhering to W3C guidelines will improve search rankings, but Google has dispelled this myth. Hopefully this may change in the future.

Do you have experience writing W3C compliant content? If so I’d be interested in your feedback.

Medicines Australia Advertising Code. Has the digital horse bolted?

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Sabina Heggie  -  

According to Friday’s edition of Pharma in Focus, “There has been widespread frustration from industry that the prescriptive nature of Medicines Australia’s Advertising Code has made it, with the rise of digital communications, outdated, complicated and often superfluous.”

This is a question I’ve been grappling with for a while now as I produce password-protected materials for medical professionals while their patients resort to the dubious Dr Google for information about medicines and conditions.

The Code prohibits promotion of prescription medicines to patients. Always has.

But in a digital world, how can this be policed — and should it be?

Don’t patients deserve access to accurate locally-sourced information about the medicines they are taking beyond the CMI and Approved Product Information?

You only have to Google a drug brand name and you’ll find a glossy US website providing resources for patients and promoting it. Often the US sites mention different indications which may not be reimbursed in Australia.

Of course, in the absence of openly available credible local sites, Facebook groups abound, covering a myriad of conditions. In these groups, patients discuss drugs, drug side effects, alternative treatments and their experiences with doctors, surgeries and hospitals. They depend on unpaid admins whose vigilance may waver, to moderate the posts and comments.

Australian patient support organisations, often recommended by doctors, want to give patients information about medicines to facilitate early access and make informed decisions about their health. Yet they’re hamstrung by the limitations of the Code.

Pharma in Focus reports that Medicines Australia’s next update to the Code will “better reflect the digital age.”

As a medical copywriter, I believe that as things stand, trying to hide prescription drug information from patients is probably doing more harm than good. It’s time to allow pharma companies to provide trustworthy local digital content (using peer-reviewed sources) for patients who seek to educate themselves about their conditions.

3 freelance copywriting jobs to avoid

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Sabina Heggie  -  

When I was  freelancing, I was often a bit too keen to tackle a challenge.

It’s painful to say ‘no’ to work, but I learned the hard way that there are some jobs a copywriter is better off saying ‘no’ to. These 3 examples are all based on real jobs that I wish I had said ‘no’ to.

1.  “I’ve never used a copywriter before but…”

A typical ‘say-no’ job starts with a phone call or email from someone you don’t know who saw your website or LinkedIn profile, and wants to brief you on writing a really urgent little job. They’ve never hired a copywriter before but they have a vague idea that you can do the concept, writing, design as well as the printing. Say no. They most likely have no idea how much they’ll need to pay to have you write and manage the job. Because you’ll be subbing out the design work and printing, you’ll carry the risk of the client not paying you or your suppliers.

Bottom line: Don’t do work for amateurs. You don’t have the resources to educate them. Don’t even waste time doing an estimate (which will probably not be accepted). Just say no.

2. “I’ve got this brilliant idea for an app…”

An entrepreneur with his own start-up company calls. He has a really great idea for a healthcare app that’s going to make squillions. He sounds so enthusiastic that you’re keen to learn more. You spend a couple of hours meeting with him and his software company trying to work out what they need and then preparing an estimate. Because it’s a start-up, you offer a discount copywriting rate. Yes, yes, he likes everything you’ve proposed, please proceed. He explains that the software company has to send it all to India to get coded in a week’s time. You promise to have the work done on time. You work late into the night to finish the first part of the job and send the copy in, requesting feedback. Nothing happens. Next day you phone and get voicemail. Hmm. The deadline looms. If you don’t keep going with the job you’re not going to make it….
This is a disaster in the making. All you can do is try and get the message through that you can’t proceed without feedback and explain that your delivery timeline depends on it. And then go and kick yourself for being dumb enough to accept it in the first place.

 Bottom line: Don’t work for start-ups – and especially not at a discount. They may have a brilliant idea but that doesn’t mean they know how to manage a team. And it’s quite likely they don’t have the cash to pay you, or anyone else who’s working for them.

3. “This job is really simple but I need it for Monday…”

Carla from the Drugs-Are-Us ad agency calls late on Friday afternoon. You like Carla but her jobs have a habit of going pear-shaped. This time she’s dropped the ball on a training program for pharmacy assistants. She sounds desperate. She needs a copywriter who can have it written in time to present to the client on Monday. You sound cautious. ‘Don’t worry,’ she says, ‘It’s only a few hours’ work.’ A training program that’s only a few hours’ work? That would be a first. You agree to look at it, but explain that you’ll need to keep in close contact with her to answer any questions that crop up. No problem, she says. You quickly realise that there are some critical questions she’ll need to get answered by her client before you can proceed. You also realise that the job will have you burning the midnight oil if it’s going to be in shape for Monday. You’ll have to cancel a Sunday lunch and your dog will miss out on his trip to the park. At 10 to 5 you call Carla back, only to be told she’s already left for home. At this point you sensibly bail.

Bottom line: Be ruthless about turning down jobs that are disasters in the making. With some jobs no amount of copywriting brilliance is going to compensate for lack of time or an inadequate brief.


Which one of these non-drug treatments is clinically proven to work?

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Sabina Heggie  -  

A. Exercise for depression
B. Patellar taping for knee osteoarthritis
C. Graded exercise for chronic fatigue
D. Honey for children’s coughs
E. Pre-meal water for weight loss
F. Hot packs for blue bottle stings
G. Exercise for acute lower back pain
H. All of them.

If you said H, you’re correct.

Non-drug treatments for common health conditions are not often promoted because no one has a commercial incentive to do so. At the same time we, and our doctors, are frequently exposed to messages extolling the virtues of drug treatments to solve these problems.

You can’t really blame the doctors. In fact, I’ve seen market research in which patients express dissatisfaction when they come away from a medical consultation without a prescription. So you can imagine why doctors could have a tendency to write a prescription that can be filled at the chemist, when other alternatives, like a prescription for exercise for instance, may be just as – or more – effective.

I have to plead complicity in this process, as I have for many years worked for major pharmaceutical companies and their advertising agencies which promote said chemicals to both doctors and the public.

Like many people, I assumed that eventually there would be ‘a pill for every ill’ resulting in longer, happier lives for all. And for many illnesses, there are now brilliantly effective, life-prolonging drug therapies available, resulting from the research conducted by pharmaceutical companies.

But there are still many conditions for which chemical intervention is ineffective or unsatisfactory and where non-drug therapies can be both effective and economical.

Information detailing 35 of these treatments now resides on a very clean-looking section of the RACGP Royal Australian College of General Practitioners website under the banner of The HANDI Project (Handbook of Non-Drug interventions.) All of the ‘interventions’ are supported by clinical evidence and the site is regularly updated by a team of doctors and allied health professionals.

The site states that its aim is: ‘…to make prescribing a non-drug therapy almost as easy as writing a prescription for a drug.’

Although the articles on the site are written in medical language, there are PDFs attached to each page, which should be easy to follow by those of us unaccustomed to medical speak.

So check it out. You may find a non-drug treatment that works for you. Oh, and please, do consult your doctor if symptoms persist.

Do you know of any other non-drug treatments that have worked for you, or for someone you know?

How to run a successful freelance copywriting business.

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Sabina Heggie  -  

What I quickly learned was that it’s one thing to be a good copywriter, and another to run a good business.

I first started working as a freelance copywriter around the time I decided to start a family. I wanted to continue working, but still be at home with my children while they were small. With a background in healthcare and professional services copywriting, it was logical for me to look at copywriting opportunities in these areas and today, most of my clients fall into those categories. Along the way I had to learn how to run a small business; something that didn’t really come naturally.

Let me share with you some of the  practical and sensible business-type things I learned that have contributed to my success in the freelance copywriting world.

Guard your reputation.
This is a small world and you’ll come across the same people over and over again. Make sure you always leave clients with the right impression; that of a professional who is enthusiastic and easy to work with. Your reputation will follow you and a positive client recommendation is one of the best and most cost-effective ways of winning new work.
Be willing to learn.
Most medical copywriters are only too keen to learn about the intricacies of a new drug or medical device so they can write about them with confidence and add to their store of knowledge. But there’s more to it than just medical knowledge. You may need to learn about how the client’s approval system works and how to use the software they employ. There may be a content management system, a desktop publishing platform or a job tracking system that you will need to interact with.
Be flexible.
While you may be drawing on a wealth of experience in providing your client with your recommended approach, they won’t always agree to go with what you suggest. When a client rejects your brilliant and potentially award-winning idea, it can be hard to take, but take it you must. You need to be flexible enough to adapt to their requirements, maintain your enthusiasm and still turn in a first class finished product. This is often easier said than done but it’s an important part of being a professional.
Be agreeable.
When a client calls with a new job, let them know how happy and keen you are to help them out. If you’re always cheerful and enthusiastic, people will enjoy working with you. Be particularly nice to the junior staff and interns who are likely to be your clients in the future. Being agreeable and likeable are powerful skills to have. (I’ve been amazed at the way clearly incompetent people are tolerated in organisations just because everybody likes them. And competent but grumpy souls are the first to be let go.) So I figure if you’re both professional and a pleasure to work with, you’re on the right track.
Forget about weekends.
In the freelance world you work when the work is there and take a day off when it’s not. This can be problematic if your family and friends don’t understand this and expect you to be available for impromptu events over the weekend. But turning around a job over the weekend can earn you lots of brownie points when your client is in a fix. I actually enjoy working on more complex jobs over the weekend because there are fewer interruptions. Some writers charge overtime for weekend or rush jobs but I don’t. I do warn a client in advance if I have a weekend commitment that will prevent me from working. Clients are usually OK with this because they normally take weekends off themselves.
If you don’t get a written brief, write your own.
Some clients are not sure what they want and expect you to fill in the blanks for them. In the past I’ve been asked to “Come up with something I can write my marketing plan around.” I don’t mind a creative or strategic challenge, but I do like to start in the right place: with a brief. When I don’t get one, I write a “reverse brief” and get it approved first. By taking the time to write a reverse brief outlining what you think they want, you can save yourself a lot of wasted time down the track.
Work out who pays the bill.
I used to find that getting paid was not normally an issue. I would submit a 30 day invoice and within 30 days a payment arrived. Not anymore! Welcome to the world of purchase orders, job numbers, approved suppliers, accountants who work only one day a week (and are often on holiday), being relegated for payment in 56 days even if you’ve agreed to 30 days, or being told you’ve missed this month’s cheque run because your invoice didn’t get processed on time. Chasing payment can be stressful, time-consuming and distracting. Very often your client has neglected to approve and pass on the invoice to Accounts. I’ve had clients who never even open my invoice until I go to chase up the late payment. Then they ask me to reconfigure the invoice to suit their internal system and add purchase order numbers. All this takes time, and time is money, so when you have a client like this, it’s worth building invoice-chasing time into the cost of the job. If you can find out who the Accounts Payable person is, phone them and ask when payment can be expected. But do it politely. Make it sound like you do this routinely and just need an answer. The Accounts Payable person is used to being asked this.

If any of this puts you off the idea of becoming a freelance medical copywriter, don’t let it. Now that you know some of the keys to success, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Do you have advice you can share about running a freelance copywriting business? Drop me a line.

Look out for my next blog: “When to Say No to a Job”

Web: Is your company keeping up appearances?

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Sabina Heggie  -  

It’s scary how quickly a website that once looked so sparkly begins to appear tired and old-fashioned.

Nowadays more organisations upgrade their websites on a regular basis, with a new look and feel every 12 to 24 months. This is particularly true of organisations working in highly competitive spaces and those wanting to project an image of being at the leading edge of technology.

Often the launch of a new product or range coincides with the decision to commission an updated, re-skinned or brand new site. Among the new things companies are asking for at the moment for their sites are:

  • A fresh new look
  • Snappier, more strategically-focussed content
  • More video content
  • A simple content management system so that edits can be made in-house
  • Mobile and tablet compatibility
  • Improved search engine optimisation
  • Faster loading times
  • A blog embedded in the site
  • Integration with social media


The new Resmed.com.au site, upgraded August 2014.

Looking at it from the content writer’s point of view, upgrading a big website is a logistical challenge, especially for companies without a system in place for processing copy approvals on a mass scale. I’ll often spend three to six months working in-house on a big website upgrade. During that time, hundreds of pages will be upgraded or discarded and new ones created from scratch.

It’s an exciting process for me because of the steep learning curve at the beginning, the feeling of camaraderie that builds as the team works together and the satisfaction of ticking off each page on the site map as the copy is completed and approved. If that sounds like an idealised picture of how it all comes together – you’re right, it is.


The upgraded Avant Insurance site

Learning about a company’s products is the easy part. Understanding how they’re sold in different markets and to different audiences can be more of a challenge. Overlay that with working out who in the organization does what, which country/office they work in, their working hours and when they can find time to review the copy – well that’s a whole other thing. I’ve left out the weekend work, the late nights and the overseas conference calls at the crack of dawn. Then there are the fraught meetings with the web developers when the company has a last minute change of mind or the panic about the possibility of missing a deadline.


Armstrong Legal has recently upgraded the corporate crime section of its site.

It’s extra fun when the developer’s office in India gets flooded or their whole city goes on strike…yes it does happen! But the excitement of the go-live moment when the crisp and crunchy new site is revealed always makes it seem worthwhile. And, for me, after helping with the post-go-live fixes, I pack up my things, book a week at a health spa for myself and my long-suffering partner and spend my cache of content cash!


The new HiQCell website for Regeneus

Have a look at these website upgrades I’ve written content for:




Armstrong Legal

Referencing Rx copy

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Sabina Heggie  -  

How to get all those pesky little reference numbers sitting pretty using Microsoft Word

One of the most finicky and frustrating jobs you face as a medical writer is adding references to your copy document. You can do it manually, but if you have a dozen references, it’s too easy to lose track of them, specially at the end of the day when you’re hoping to catch the bus home.

Then, when the client makes changes to the copy — adding, deleting or swapping paragraphs around — all your references have to be renumbered.

Here’s an example of a job with a number of references, where using Word’s endnote and cross-reference functions saved me lots of time.

So I wrote a guide which I share with other writers and here it is: 

Sabina’s foolproof guide to referencing RX materials


Every claim you make in promotional materials for  an RX drug must be referenced. References can go in the middle of a sentence, or at the end. If they’re at the end, put them after the full point.

Putting references into ads, sales aids and brochures is easy once you know how. Using the Microsoft Word endnote and cross-reference features is by far the best way to do it as it enable updates to be made easily and accurately.

By using these features, your references are automatically renumbered each time you add, delete or move one.

It also enables you to accurately cut and paste references between documents at the click of a mouse.


  1. Click where you want to insert the reference number.
  2. In the Insert menu, click Footnote. The Footnote and Endnote box will appear.
  3. In the Footnote and Endnote box, click Endnote, (this makes the reference appear at the end of the document instead of at the bottom of each page).
  4. Click Options.
  5. In the Options box change the number format from i, ii, iii to 1,2,3.
  6. Click OK on the Options box. Click OK on the Footnote and Endnote box. (From now on all footnotes in the document will appear as endnotes with the numbering 1,2,3 etc).

Your cursor will now have automatically moved to end of the document at the point where you insert the reference details. Insert the details. To return to the place you were in the document, double click on the number at the beginning of the reference text and it will take you back there.

When you’re putting more than one reference into a piece of text, add a comma between each one.


Cross-references are used when you want to refer to the same reference in more than one spot in the document.

  1. In the Insert menu, click Cross-reference.
  2. In the Reference type box, click endnote.
  3. In the box headed ‘Insert reference to’: select Endnote number (formatted).
  4. In the box headed ‘For which endnote’ click the reference you want inserted in the document.
  5. Click Insert.
  6. Click Close.

To put in more than one cross-reference, add a comma between each one.


References renumber themselves automatically every time you add or delete one.

Cross-references don’t automatically renumber themselves until you print. If you want to see the renumbered cross-reference before you print, do the following:

  1. Select the cross-reference (or the whole file, using Command A)
  2. Hit the F9 key.


Reference text at the end of a document is normally tiny type (Endnote text). To make the proofreading job easier, I suggest you change this to the same size as the text of your document.

Commas between reference and cross-reference numbers need to be in superior characters like the reference numbers. To do this:

  1. Select the references and their comma/s.
  2. In the Format menu, (or using the Formatting Palette) select Font.
  3. Select Superscript.

(Sometimes you will need to do Step 3 twice because the first time the numbers will un-superscript themselves to match the commas).


Sometimes when you update a document you will see a warning that says “Error: Bookmark not defined.” This means you have left a cross-reference in the document that no longer has its original reference attached. You need to check what has happened to your original reference.

If you move around chunks of copy with references and cross-references attached, the references should renumber themselves automatically. The cross-references may not update themselves automatically but see above to renumber them.


This is really cool. To save re-typing the same references in more than one document, select the reference number in the text of the original document. Copy and paste the number into the new document. The reference automatically comes too and sits in the correct place at the end of the document . . . . . brilliant!


Custom menuDo yourself a favour and set up a new customised toolbar with all the commands you need at your fingertips. Use the Customise command in the Tools menu. It will save you heaps of time in the long run.

←Here’s a screenshot of the one I use.

…and if all this sounds like too much bother, don’t despair, just call Sabina on 0418 744 465 and I’ll do it for you!


Help! I need a brochure 3

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Sabina Heggie  -  

No 3 in a series  about sourcing a brochure for your business.

When you’re first thinking about a new brochure, there are a number of important decisions you need to make to ensure a smooth, successful project.

Decision 3: Who will write and design your brochure

The design and wording of your brochure are your next big consideration after size and choice of printer. Like the size and the print run, these decisions can also have a big impact on the final cost.

If your brochure is part of a bigger advertising or PR campaign, it makes sense to brief your advertising or PR agency to do the job. This way you can make sure that it has the same look and feel as the rest of the campaign.

For a one-off brochure, using a freelance designer and writer will almost certainly be more cost-effective. They don’t have the overheads of an advertising or PR firm and there’s always a benefit in dealing directly with the people who are doing the work.

Most designers can recommend writers and vice-versa, so a phone call to one or the other will probably get your brochure underway with a minimum of fuss.

It helps to have a rough idea of what you are willing to pay before you approach a writer or designer.

If you can give them a written brief, this will help enormously. The brief can be a simple or complex as you want to make it.

By writing a brief for your brochure, it not only helps to clarify your own thoughts, but it gives the writer and designer a checklist they can use to make sure they’ve included everything you want.

At a minimum I recommend including the following points in a creative brief for a brochure:
  1. Full name of product or service (include trademark information)
  2. Reason for needing a brochure
  3. Size and number of pages (if you’ve already decided)
  4. Who the brochure will be read by and how it will be delivered
  5. Single most important reason why the customer should buy your product or service, instead of a different one. (This is often the hardest part but try to keep it to one single point)
  6. Any other secondary reasons
  7. Any special offers
  8. Call to action: what you want them to do after reading the brochure
  9. Your contact details and any other mandatory information, including your ABN, website address and any tracking code.

If you are planning to use the same basic story on your website, let the team know because they may be able to save you some money by adapting the brochure copy and design to make it work effectively online.

Choosing a writer

Try and choose a brochure writer who has written something similar before, either for the same type of product, for the same audience or in the same style. This way you can be confident that he or she will grasp the fundamentals of your brief and you won’t have to do too much explaining.

Many writers display their best work on their website. Look for a writer whose website displays good writing in a style you like.

By choosing a brochure writer with skills in marketing and/or advertising you should come away from your first meeting feeling confident that they grasp the basic dynamics of your business and that they understand what you need to achieve.

The writer will give you a quote for their part of the job. The quote should explain how the price was arrived at; e.g., an hourly rate and/or a concept development fee. There may be an allowance for revisions, and there may be costs for meetings with you, for liaising with the designer and for proofreading the artwork.

Choosing a designer

Choosing a designer is different to choosing a writer. With designers, it’s not so important whether they have done something for a similar product or audience; it’s more important that you like the look of their work and that they can easily explain to you how they will tackle your job.

Look at their portfolio and get a feel for the kind of work they do best. If you  can see something that has the look and feel you want, that’s a good sign. When you meet the designer, be up-front about what it was that made you choose them. That way they’ll get a good idea of the design qualities you are looking for.

Make sure your designer has done brochure work before. Some designers who are very skilled at digital design haven’t got experience in the nuts and bolts of print.

By asking them to explain how they’ll tackle the job, you’ll get a good idea of their understanding of the medium.

Nowadays many brochures use stock photography but if your brochure will need new photography or illustration, (product shots, for instance) choose a designer who is experienced in directing photographers and/or buying illustration.

When you get the quote from the designer, it should explain how the price was arrived at; e.g. an hourly rate and/or a concept development fee. Again, there may be an allowance for revisions, and costs for meetings with you, for liaising with the writer and printer and for outputting the artwork in the format the printer requires.

If you want the designer to provide a physical mock-up of the piece to show to your colleagues, make this clear as well.

Bear in mind that the writer and designer’s quotes will normally allow for a limited number of revisions. If possible, try and give them all your revisions in one go, otherwise they may want to charge extra because they have done more sets of revisions than they allowed for.

Making everything fit into your brochure

You probably have a lot of great things to say about your product or service, but it has to fit neatly into the brochure size you have in mind.  If it doesn’t fit, the writer will trim it down to more concise points, the designer will reduce or eliminate some graphic elements or alternatively, you can decide to make the brochure larger.

Broadly speaking, the more you have to say, the more pages you need to say it. There’s no point trying to cram 1000 words into a tiny DL flyer because people won’t be bothered trying to read it. Less is more, and your writer will try and hone the story down so it is inviting and compelling to read in the chosen format.

The designer will be hoping there’s enough space left for him or her to make the brochure eye-catching.

Why you can’t have a five, seven or nine page brochure

I’ve often been asked to explain to people why they can’t have an odd number of pages in their brochure and it can be difficult to explain. I guess the simplest way to explain it is this:

A brochure has to have an even number of pages because:

  1. A piece of paper has two sides, so a leaflet without  staples will have a back and a front. We call this a ‘flyer’.
  2. You can fold a piece of paper in half, and then it has a front, two inside pages and a back. That makes it a four page leaflet. Like this.
  3. You can make two vertical folds and then it has a front, a flap, three inside pages and a back. Six pages altogether. Like this.
  4. You can make three vertical folds and then you have an eight page leaflet. It has a front, a two-page flap, four inside pages and a back.  Any more folds than that and I would normally recommend a stapled brochure.

In a brochure that’s stapled, your pages always come in multiples of four. That’s because each sheet of paper is folded in the middle to make four pages. So your stapled brochure will have eight pages or 12 pages or 16 pages or 20 pages or… you get the idea.

You can also fold a sheet of paper up in four like a handkerchief or have it open concertina-style. There are pros and cons to all these formats and I’d be happy to discuss them with you.

Recently I’ve done a number of brochures that come in the form of a 4-page folder with an inside pocket. Like this. The pocket enables you to add loose sheets. The loose sheets can be updated as required, saving you from having to reprint the brochure as frequently.

Another alternative is to spiral bind your brochure, like this, then you can then have the pages in multiples of two if you wish. Like this.

I hope this helps you get your brochure plans another step down the road. Please call me if you’d like further advice, or to have a chat about how I can help you with your brochure.

Don’t miss my other articles on brochures:

Decision 1: The size and shape of the brochure

Decision 2: Who will print my brochure?




Help! I need a brochure 1 and 2

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Sabina Heggie  -  

No 2 in a series  about sourcing a brochure for your business.

When you’re first thinking about a new brochure, there are a number of important decisions you need to make to ensure a smooth, successful project.

Decision 2: Who will print my brochure?

A four colour offset printing press

You may think it strange that the decision about who should print your brochure comes in so early on, since printing is the last stage of the project. But there’s a good reason why you need to think of printing early. That’s because printing is likely to take the biggest chunk out of your brochure budget.  Printing costs are likely to be the controlling factor on the size of your brochure and how many copies you decide to print.

A printer will be able to give you a ballpark print cost up front, but be careful about  relying on ballpark costs.  Many factors can affect the final price, nearly always in an upwards direction. The printer usually can’t give you a firm price until he or she sees the final artwork for the job and you choose the paper stock.

There are other reasons for involving the printer early on.

First, you need to understand that good printers are craftspeople. They are very proud of their product and will often give you free advice and ideas, based on their experience.

Second, printing takes time. It’s not just a case of pressing a button. Setting up a print job is a multifaceted operation. After the presses have stopped, the inks take time to dry and then it has to be bound, collated, packed and shipped. So you need to ask the printer how much time to allow for printing. Then you can work backwards to figure out how much time you have for writing, design, revisions and approval.

Why is printing so expensive?

In the age of the internet you can get a website up and looking respectable for a few thousand dollars. Then, if you’re lucky, it may get millions of visits for no extra cost.

Printing is different. You may be dismayed to find that printing a hundred copies of your brochure is only slightly cheaper than printing a thousand. This is because of the setup costs involved in preparing the artwork and printing press. The setup costs are the same whether you print ten copies or a thousand copies.

What sort of printing press will the printer use?

The printer may use a different press, depending on the number of copies you want. Digital presses are often used for small runs while offset presses are more cost-efficient at printing larger quantities.

What about the print shop on the corner?

The corner shop may be a cheap option but will normally only be able to offer a limited range of papers. It may only have a digital press, therefore, for a bigger job you may want to look further afield. Their press may not be able to print on thicker card, and the quality may disappoint if you are expecting a very a high-quality print job.

If your brochure has extra colours like gold or silver, an unusual shape, shiny or matt varnishes, a flap to hold loose pages or other special features, you need to find a printer who understands and has the capability handle your requirements.

How many print quotes should I get?

When my clients ask me about printers, I recommend they get three quotes. I usually recommend two printers I know and trust, and then I suggest a third who I’ve heard good things about. For simple little jobs, the corner shop maybe one of those who are asked to quote.

A good way to break down print quotes is to work out the cost per copy. I find it’s much easier to say to a client “It will cost you $4.27 a copy if you print five hundred and $3.50 a copy if you print a thousand.” rather than simply giving them large, scary figures.

I hope this helps you get your brochure plans another step down the road. Please call me if you’d like further advice, or to have a chat about how I can help you with your brochure.

Decision 1: The size and shape of the brochure

Decision 3: Choosing a writer and designer



No 1 in a series  about sourcing a brochure for your business.

When you’re first thinking about a new brochure, there are a number of important decisions you need to make to ensure a smooth, successful project.

Decision 1: The size and shape of your brochure

This is the first thing I would discuss with you about your brochure, because it helps me understand whether you have firm ideas about your brochure, or whether further discussion is needed.

Size-wise, are you thinking about an A4 size, something smaller or a non-standard size? Obviously, one of the limiting factors on brochure size is your budget.

Brochure size and shape may also be dictated by the purpose of the brochure and how it will be distributed. For example, a DL-sized brochure is the same size as a piece of A4 paper folded twice. So it fits into a business size envelope. DL is ideal for a brochure or flyer that will be mailed.

It’s also a good size for a standard ‘take-one’. A ‘take-one’ is a stand that sits on a desk or counter and displays your brochure to passing customers.

brochure holder

Example of a DL brochure in a holder

An over-sized brochure can have special impact. On the downside, it’s difficult to file and so may be more likely to end up in the circular filing cabinet under the desk. An odd-sized or shaped brochure can stand out from the crowd. I have brochures in my portfolio that are square, some with pop-up sections, one that is hexagonal and others with curved or wavy edges.


This unusually-shaped brochure for Nestlé Nutrition stands out from the crowd

If you need ideas about the ideal size of brochure to fit your purpose, give me a call and we can explore some options together. Alternatively have a look at the section of my website that displays my brochure work.

The next article in this series will look at the importance of choosing a printer early on in the process.


I hope this helps you get your brochure plans another step down the road. Please call me if you’d like further advice, or to have a chat about how I can help you with your brochure.

Decision 2: Who will print my brochure

Decision 3: Choosing a writer and designer

Snail mail in the age of email.

standard post
Sabina Heggie  -  

Direct mail vs. emailWhy post?

In this article I explain the benefits of posting a letter to your customers rather than emailing them. It also gives you some great tips on how to get your letter opened and acted upon.
 It’s targeted at small to medium sized businesses.

Mailing a letter to your potential customers is a great way to get your sales message in front of them.

You’re probably thinking, “But it’s so much quicker and cheaper to email them!”

Well that’s exactly why posting a sales letter can be a better idea than sending an email. By posting your customer a letter in this email age you’re  saying: “I’m so sure you’ll be interested in what I’m offering that I’m investing time and money in writing to you.”

I’ve noticed that even my internet service provider – who, of course, knows my email address – posts me sales letters advertising their special deals.

By sending a letter, you can be more confident that your message will be read and acted upon – that’s if you go about it the right way.

And the evil cynic within also figures it’s harder to unsubscribe to posted letters than to emails.

So how do you get the best bang from your buck with a sales letter?

The biggest hurdle with a sales letter is getting it opened. If it has to go past a receptionist who has been instructed to bin all sales materials you have a real problem. And even if it goes straight to the customer, they may take one look at the envelope emblazoned with your logo and do the same.

Over the years I’ve learned some simple strategies that you can use to give your letter the best chance of being, opened, read and acted upon:

1.         Be mysterious

If your envelope doesn’t reveal that it’s a sales letter, you’ve got a better chance of it at least getting opened. So unless you have a really irresistible offer, leave the envelope blank. Just put it in a plain, good quality envelope with no logos or anything so it doesn’t look like a sales letter.

The sender address can be just an address (no name) in tiny type on the back.

Your potential customer will then feel obliged to open the letter to find out what’s inside.

2.         Hand write the name and address

If your mailing list is small, hand writing the envelope is a practical and effective way to increase the opening rate of your sales letter. It helps if you can also hand write the return address on the back, but a printed return address, minus your business name, will do.

3.         Put a stamp on it

A proper stamp, as opposed to a franked stamp can further increase the opening rate of your sales letter by making it look more like a personal communication.

How to get your letter read and acted upon

Now that they’ve opened it, what can you do to maximise the chances that they’ll read and act upon it?

In a well-written sales letter every word is carefully crafted to make the message clear and succinct. At the end of the letter  clearly state why the reader needs to act now. Explain what they need to do next. Give them only one or two options for responding, not a long list.

Here’s a sample of  two direct mail campaigns I wrote for Australian Conservation Foundation.

Other tricks

Of course there are lots more tips and tricks to writing effective sales letters. There’s issues like: Should it have a PS? Should I have a special letterhead printed? Should I sign it by hand? Should I keep it to one page? Should I enclose a reply paid card, a faxback, a brochure or a business card?


That’s where I can help.

I can help you weigh up the cost-effectiveness of using snail mail or email for your next sales campaign, and I can help you with the copywriting and strategy that will get the best response, whichever one you go with.