October 5, 2022, 0 Comments
The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Copywriter (2023)
In an age of fast video, slick graphics and constant content, it’s easy to forget the power of words. But in the right hands, expertly crafted written content, called “copy” in the industry, can be one of the most effective tools in your marketing arsenal. In the hands of a skilled copywriter, the text takes on a life of its own. Read on to discover more in our guide to copywriting.
Copywriting is the art and science of creating persuasive content that sells. It’s an essential skill for any marketer and can be used across all channels, from email and social media to website copy and beyond.
This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about copywriting, from the basics of writing persuasive content to more advanced strategies for creating killer headlines and calls to action. By the end, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge and skills you need to produce compelling copy that gets results.
So, let’s get started.
1. What is copywriting?
Copywriting is writing designed to convince an audience to take an action the writer wants them to take, such as downloading a guide or signing up for a mailing list. Any writer hoping to be successful in freelance writing will need to master this skill.
Copywriting is all about understanding your audience and then crafting content that will appeal to them on an emotional level. The goal is to get the reader to take action, whether that’s clicking a website link, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
1.1 Copywriting vs Content Marketing vs Copyediting
Copywriting is often confused with content marketing or copyediting, but significant differences exist between the three. While all three are examples of content writing, content marketing (digital marketing) is about creating informative or educational content to help grow brand awareness with the long-term goal of eventual sales. Copywriting is about creating content that hits hard with potential customers; in other words, making the reader want to buy right here and now. Copyediting is the process of correcting errors and ensuring accuracy, whereas copywriting is about crafting persuasive content from scratch.
There is no doubt that Copywriting is goal-orientated, and the ultimate goal is always to get the reader to take action, referred to as a call-to-action (CTA). This CTA might be to get readers to send an email, sign up for a list, visit a website, download a white paper or make a purchase.
1.2. The history of copywriting
There are examples of copywriting dating back to the 13th century, but John Emory Powers was the first known full-time copywriter. Powers began his career as an insurance agent before working for Wilcox and Gibbs sewing machines. Powers pioneered the technique of using emotionally charged language to sell products, along with full-page ads, free trials, and instalment payment plans. His process was very successful, and he wrote copy for some of the biggest brands of the day.
Powers was called the father of modern creative advertising for his controversial but highly successful ads.
Today, many people looking to get into copywriting are sold on the idea of a lucrative freelance business that you can pick up today and get going. But as we’ll discuss later, there’s much more to it.
1.3 Qualifications vs experience
If you’re a fan of writers’ magazines, you’ll have seen many adverts offering a copywriting course with the promise of a fabulous copywriting career. They offer to guide you through many steps over several months, and you’ll come out the other side with all the necessary understanding of what it takes to get on in the business.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a formal copywriting degree, but many marketing and advertising degrees will give you a solid foundation on which to build your skills. Other alternatives are degrees in journalism, creative writing, and media.
Online copywriting courses can help you understand the theoretical approach, providing you with techniques for the reasoning behind how copywriting is done, including how the content can create an emotive response in the reader. And of course, completion of the system may look good on your CV, but as these are generally not accredited, they won’t hold the same weight as a degree from a recognised institution.
In terms of experience, this is where internships and apprenticeships can be helpful. Spending time in an agency or working under an experienced copywriter will give you an insight into the day-to-day work, the challenges that come with it, and the best way to approach them. It will also give you a taste of the working environment and whether it’s the right fit for you.
The best way to learn copywriting is simply by doing it. Whether that is by joining a firm at the bottom level and working your way up towards copywriting, or starting small, perhaps by working on freelance projects or writing for friends and family. As your experience grows, you can begin to take on more significant and challenging projects.
2. What are the different types of copywriting
The art of persuasive writing has blossomed in the past few decades, as roles have become increasingly niched down, with copywriters specialising in narrow roles. This might include creating powerful social media posts, landing pages, sales letters, or simple blog posts. Whatever area copywriters specialise in, their ambition is to convince their target audience to perform the CTA.
Here are the top copywriting fields you can specialise in:
2.1. Website Copywriting
When it comes to website copywriting, the goal is to turn visitors into leads and customers. To do this, you need to understand how to write persuasive web copy optimised for search engines and humans.
Your website is often the first point of contact between you and your potential customers, so it’s important to make a good impression. Your website copy should be well-written and informative without being overly salesy. It should answer the visitor’s questions and give them a reason to stay on your site and learn more about what you offer. Most importantly, whether this is for your own website or a potential client’s site, the power of every single word should exist to convince the reader to take action.
2.2. SEO Copywriting
Search engine optimisation (SEO) copywriting is writing web content that is informative and keyword-rich so that your site has a better chance of ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs). Fitting in with the theme of copywriting being persuasive writing, Search Engine Optimisation copywriting is all about convincing Google and its competitors that your website provides helpful content to potential clients while also ensuring prospective customers can easily find your site when they search for relevant keywords.
Many successful copywriters exist in the SEO space. They exist to write copy that will get either their employer or their own copywriting business noticed. The writing process remains the same as other types of copywriting, but it requires significant research to ensure that your content nails it with Google.
2.3. Email Copywriting
Email copywriting is the art of crafting persuasive emails that encourage recipients to take action. Email copywriting aims to get subscribers to do something, whether clicking through to your website, subscribing to your blog, or making a purchase. Often, the emails form part of a campaign called a funnel that guides readers toward their first of, hopefully, many purchases.
Your email should have a clear purpose and be well-crafted to cut through the noise and stand out in recipients’ inboxes. It should also be optimised for mobile devices as more and more people are reading emails on their phones.
2.4. Ad Copywriting
Ad copywriting is about creating persuasive, attention-grabbing ads that encourage people to take action. Ad copywriters need to capture attention and interest quickly while getting their message across clearly.
Ads come in all shapes and sizes, from short, snappy social media ads to longer-form video ads and everything in between. Most importantly, they are well-written and accurately reflect the advertised products or services.
2.5. Sales Letter Copywriting
A sales letter is a direct mail designed to persuade the reader to buy a product or service. It’s important to note that a sales letter is not the same as a brochure or an advertisement. A brochure is designed to inform the reader about a product or service, while an advertisement generates interest in a product or service.
A sales letter, on the other hand, is specifically written to persuade the reader to buy a product or service. The purpose of a sales letter is to make an offer that the reader can’t refuse.
Sales copy needs to be well-written and persuasive to be effective. They should also be clear and concise so that the reader knows what they’re being offered and how it can benefit them.
2.6. Social Media Copywriting
Social media copywriters will often be tasked with targeting specific sections of the audience to get them to either visit a website, sign up for a service, or make a purchase. And this is done through the use of means of posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Social media copywriting is about creating shareable and engaging content while being informative and keyword-rich. The goal is to get people to take action, whether that’s clicking through to your website, subscribing to your blog, or making a purchase. And no industry, no matter how far removed they are from the eyes of day-to-day social media users, should avoid creating written copy that engages with the audience.
2.7. Landing Page Copywriting
A landing page is a stand-alone web page designed to increase conversions by persuading visitors to take action. The goal of a landing page is to get visitors to take a specific action, such as subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a white paper, or making a purchase. The unique selling position is a key component of the landing page copy.
Landing pages need to be well-designed and well-written. They should also be clear and concise so that visitors know what they need to do. Additionally, they must optimise landing pages to rank high in search results.
3. The Different Styles of Writing Used by successful copywriters
Copywriters often have to adapt their style to the needs of their target audience. Different industries and businesses will require different writing styles, so it’s important to be able to switch up your style as needed. Here are some of the most common styles of writing used by copywriters:
3.1. Persuasive Writing
Persuasive writing is all about convincing the reader to take action. This style of writing is often used in sales letters and ads. Persuasive writing needs to be clear, concise, and convincing.
3.2. Informative Writing
Informative writing is designed to educate the reader about a specific topic. This style of writing is often used in brochures and website content. Informative writing needs to explain, guide, and support readers in understanding the topic.
3.3. Instructional Writing
Instructional writing is designed to teach the reader how to do something. This style of writing is often used in manuals and online tutorials. Effective instructional writing needs to be clear, concise, and easy to follow.
Storytelling is a style of writing that uses narratives to engage the reader. This style of writing is often used in articles and blog posts to walk a reader through a journey or process.
3.5. SEO Writing
SEO writing is a style of writing that is designed to rank high in search engine results. This style of writing is often used in website content and blog posts. SEO writing needs to be keyword-rich, informative, and well-written to be effective.
4. How to write great copy
Freelance copywriters are often at the mercy of their clients. The client usually has a specific idea of what they want, and the copywriter has to try to bring that vision to life. This can demand strict adherence to awkward keywords or unusual linguistic requests. However, there are some general tips that all great copywriters follow:
4.1 Keep it Simple
The best copy is often the simplest. It’s easy to get caught up in sounding smart or using big words, but ultimately, that will make your writing harder to understand. So, keep it simple and focus on clarity.
4.2 Write for Your Target Audience
Who are you writing for? What are their needs and wants? What’s the best way to reach them? Keep your target audience in mind with every word you write.
4.3 Focus on the Benefits
What’s in it for the reader? What are they going to get out of your product or service? Make sure you’re highlighting the benefits of what you’re offering, not just the features.
4.4 Write a Compelling Headline
Your headline is often the first thing people will read, so it needs to be good. Make sure your headline is clear and interesting and makes use of powerful keywords.
4.5 Use Powerful Words but simple language
Words have power. Use words that evoke emotion and make a strong impact. Words like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “guaranteed” can go a long way in making your copy more persuasive. But don’t try to sound like you’re writing for a college thesis. Use language that is easy to understand and free of jargon. The simpler your language, the easier it will be for people to read and comprehend your message.
4.6 Keep it Short
People have short attention spans, so make sure your copy is concise and to the point. Get rid of anything that’s unnecessary or doesn’t add to your overall message.
4.7 Use Subheadings
Subheads are a great way to break up your copy and make it easier to read. They also allow you to highlight important points and keywords.
4.8 Use Bullet Points
Bullet points are another great way to make your copy more readable. They help to break up large blocks of text and make it easier for people to scan.
4.9 Use Images
Images are a great way to add interest and visual appeal to your copy. They can also help break up large text blocks and make your message more memorable.
4.10 Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA)
A strong call-to-action is essential to the success of any piece of copy. The CTA is what you want the reader to do, and it should be clear, concise and actionable.
Here are some tips for crafting an effective CTA:
Make it specific: A vague CTA will not be effective. For example,” ‘click here” is not as effective as “click here to download our free white paper”.
Make it urgent: A sense of urgency can be a powerful motivator, so try to include words like “now” or “instant” in your CTA.
Use strong verbs – Strong verbs like “discover”, “download”, “unlock”, and “learn” are more likely to spur the reader into action.
Include a benefit: Your CTA should include a benefit for the reader. For example, “download our free white paper to learn the secrets of copywriting”.
4.11 Edit, Edit, Edit
Once you’ve written your copy, it’s important to go back and edit it. Remove any typos or grammatical errors. Make sure your sentences are clear and concise. And most importantly, make sure your message is on target.
4.12 Enough is enough
Stop when you’ve successfully achieved the goal. Artificially high word quotas will only lead to filler content and less effective copy.
The best way to improve your copywriting is to practice. The more you write, the better you’ll become at it. And don’t be afraid to get help from a professional if you need it. A good copywriter can make a world of difference.
5. Copywriting tips and tricks
Aspiring copywriters often wonder how the pros do it. How do they always come up with fresh, creative and effective ideas?
The answer, of course, is that they’ve learnt some essential copywriting tips and tricks along the way. Of course, calling them tricks is downplaying their importance; they are just the methodology the best in the business have adopted to hone their craft.
And, once you’ve learnt them too, there’s no reason your copywriting can’t be up there with the best of them. After all, if you want to produce truly effective and persuasive content, you must know how to get the best out of your words.
Here are some essential copywriting tips and tricks that all the pros use.
5.1. Research the product
Before promoting a product’s virtues, you must understand it inside out. This research phase is vital, as it gives you the material you need to produce an effective copy.
You should start by reading the product’s brochures and website, then move on to user manuals, customer surveys, how-to guides, etc. Once you understand the product well, it’s time to go to the internet and do further research.
Type the product’s name into Google and see what comes up. Visit online forums and see what people say about it – both good and bad. This process will help you better understand how people interact with the product and what they think.
Now that you’ve done all this, ask yourself these vital questions:
- How can you describe the product?
- What are the unique features and benefits of the product?
- What benefits does the product provide to the customer?
- What pain point does it solve for the customer?
5.2. Know your audience
One of the most important copywriting rules is to know for whom you are writing. Knowing your target audience might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Most professional copywriters will create a buyer persona before they start writing. This is a fictitious representation of their ideal customer, and it helps them to keep the target reader in mind as they write.
To create a buyer persona, ask yourself who your ideal reader is. What are their demographics? What are their interests? What motivates them?
You need to understand your target audience before you can even begin to think about what to write. So ask yourself, who are you writing for? What are their demographics? What is their age, gender, income, education level, etc.?
It’s also important to understand your audience’s needs and wants. What problem are they trying to solve? What are they looking for? What are their pain points?
The better you understand your audience, the easier it will be to produce copy that resonates with them and drives results.
5.3. Write a killer headline
Your headline is the most important part of your copy. It makes people want to read more or move on to something else.
So it’s vital that you spend time getting it right. A good headline should be interesting, attention-grabbing and relevant to your audience. It should also be clear and concise – no more than a few words long.
And finally, it should be reflective of the content that follows. Don’t make false promises – if your headline says one thing, but your copy says another, you’ll lose the trust of your audience.
5.4. Write persuasive copy
Once you’ve grabbed people’s attention with a killer headline, it’s time to start writing persuasive copy. And there are a few key things you can do to ensure your copy is as persuasive as possible.
Start with a value-add proposition. This statement outlines what your product or service can do for the customer. It should be clear, concise and to the point.
Then, use persuasive language throughout your copy. Words like “you”, “free”, “instant”, “new”, and “now” are all incredibly persuasive. And, of course, you should always use persuasive words and phrases in your headlines too.
Finally, make sure you back up your claims with evidence. Social proof in the form of customer testimonials, reviews and case studies are all incredibly effective at persuasion, so make sure you use them to your advantage.
6. How to improve your copywriting skills
Here are a few tips to help you improve your copywriting skills:
Read, read, read. The more you read, the better you will become at writing. So make sure you set aside time daily to read books, articles, blogs, etc. Any freelance copywriter needs to have well-rounded writing skills honed on various topics.
Practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at anything is to practice as often as possible. So set aside time each day to write, even if it’s just for a few minutes. The more you write, the better you will become.
Study the masters. To be a great copywriter, you need to research past and present masters in the trade. Read books by David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz and Gary Bencivenga. Study their ads, their headlines, and their sales letters. Analyse what makes them so effective and try incorporating those techniques into your work.
Focus: What message are you trying to convey?
Simplify: Keep your copy clear, concise and to the point.
Structure: Organise your thoughts in a logical way.
Style: Write in a style that is appropriate for your audience.
Substance: Make sure your copy is well researched and backed up by facts.
Ask for feedback. Getting feedback on your work is important to see what’s working and what’s not. Show your copy to friends, family, colleagues, etc. and see what they think. You can also hire a professional copywriter to look at your work and provide feedback.
7. Useful tools for copywriters
Copywriting is a critical skill for any business, and there are many tools you can use to help improve your skills. In this section, we’ll look at some of the most useful tools for beginner copywriters.
Price: Free or $12 per month
Good copywriting begins with accuracy. Grammarly offers both a free and paid online tool that can help you with this. Simply type in your text, and Grammarly will check it for any mistakes. It will then suggest corrections for you to make. The free version of Grammarly is a great starting point, helping you spot and correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. The free version does all this and more, picking up on passive writing, awkwardly phrased sentences, comma splicing, accidental (or deliberate) plagiarism, and much more.
Once finished, Grammarly provides a downloadable report on the length and quality of the writing, highlighting remaining errors, and an overall score on readability and precision.
If you pick up no other paid tool, get Grammarly before you start delivering your articles to your clients, you won’t regret it!
Price: Free online or $19.99 for MAC/PC download
The Hemingway Editor is another great tool for copywriters. It helps you to simplify your writing and make it more readable. Simply paste your text, and the Hemingway Editor will highlight any areas that need improvement. It will also give you a readability score, which is important to remember when writing for the web. The Hemingway Editor is a great tool to help you simplify your copy and make it more readable.
Of course, sometimes you’ll disagree with the suggestions both Grammarly, and Hemingway make, and that’s just fine. Part of exploring and discovering your style is knowing when to break the rules. With these tools, there is no excuse for accidentally making uninformed mistakes.
7.3 Google Docs
If you’re looking for a feature-rich writing editor that doesn’t cost anything, look no further than Google Docs. As well as being free, Google Docs has many features that copywriters will find useful. These include collaborating with others in real time, adding comments and suggestions, tracking changes, and seeing who else is viewing or editing the document.
Documents can be saved in all the mainstream file formats, including .odt, .docx, .rtf, and .pdf.
7.4 Microsoft Word
Price: Free online, or $5.99 per month for the full suite
Google Docs may be making inroads, but Microsoft Word remains the undisputed king of word processors. Microsoft now offers a cloud-based version of its entire office suite free of charge.
The download version of Microsoft Office costs £5.99 per month, and Word has all the features you would expect from a word processor and more. It’s easy to use and has excellent compatibility with all the other Microsoft Office applications. One of our favourite features is the text-to-speech feature, allowing you to listen back to your document and catch the errors that may slip past when you’re proofreading the document. We also enjoy the one-click application of styles to help our documents impress visually.
Grammarly offers an integrated app for the paid version of windows.
Price: From $29 for 60,000 words per month
Jasper is a recent entrant to the market, but it’s already making waves with its AI-powered copywriting assistant. The tool takes prompts, keywords, and tone of voice and knocks out impressive copy in a matter of moments.
While you can use the tool to produce a full blog in under 60 seconds, it’s important to understand that AI writers are designed to use speech in the way they have seen it used online, and the facts and figures it offers need to be fact-checked. Still, Jasper reduces hours of work to a fraction of that, and it has multiple templates dedicated to content marketing, copywriting, and informational blog posts. Take a trial using the link here to get 10,000 words free to let you practice with the software.
8. The future of copywriting
Copywriting is always evolving. As new technology emerges, copywriters need to adapt their skills to keep up with the times.
The rise of digital marketing has driven some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in recent years. With more and more businesses moving online, copywriters need to be proficient in SEO, social media, and email marketing.
Voice search is also starting to have an impact on copywriting. As more people use voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, businesses need to optimise their content for these new technologies.
Copywriters also need to be aware of the latest trends to stay ahead of the curve. For example, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are starting to change how we interact with brands. And as more businesses adopt these technologies, copywriters will need to find new ways to engage with consumers.
The bottom line is that copywriting is an ever-evolving field. And those who want to be successful in this field need to be adaptable and always willing to learn new skills.
How do beginners get copywriting?
To become a freelance copywriter, you don’t need any formal qualifications. However, it is important to have a strong portfolio of work to show potential clients.
If you’re just starting out, you can create your own portfolio by writing sample articles, ads, and sales letters. You can also look for opportunities to guest blog or write for free in exchange for exposure. Once you have some experience, you can start to look for paid work.
You can check out platforms such as Fiverr, People Per Hour, and Upwork, all of which have a low barrier to entry. You’ll start out earning peanuts, but it can grow into a lucrative side hustle or even a full-time income.
Can I teach myself copywriting?
You can learn to write copy by studying advertising masters like David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz and Gary Bencivenga. A wealth of online material will give you examples of copywriting skills in action, from print ads to blog articles and books. But the best way of learning copywriting is through writing experience. Practice writing persuasive headlines, ad copy, and email subject lines. Show your friends and family. Begin small, build up your confidence, and start hunting for those copywriting gigs, and you’ll soon be a successful copywriter.
How do I start writing copy?
Writing copy is all about persuasion. You need to understand what your audience desires and then write in a way that will convince them to take action. Before you start writing, it’s important to do your research. This means understanding the product or service you’re promoting and your target audience. Once you have this information, you can start writing headlines and copy that speaks to their needs.
What are the 6 core copywriting skills?
The 6 core copywriting skills are the abilities to:
2. Capture attention
3. Communicate clearly
4. Understand your audience
5. Craft a compelling message
6. Tell a story
Communication skills are at the heart of what a copywriter does, so practising your skills and working to develop them makes sense. Can you figure out what a target audience wants from a product? How can you boil down the key features into a few persuasive sentences? Are you good at coming up with catchy headlines?
These are all important skills for a copywriter. In addition, a successful copywriter needs to work well under pressure, meet deadlines, and take direction from clients. As you develop your career, you’ll also need to learn how to market yourself and build a strong portfolio of work.
What qualifications do I need to be a copywriter?
None. There are university and vocational qualifications in advertising and marketing, but they’re not necessary to become a copywriter. However, if you want to work in a traditional advertising agency, some employers may prefer candidates with a relevant degree.
In most cases, your portfolio of work is more important than your qualifications. When you’re starting, it’s helpful to have samples of your work to show potential clients. For practice, you can create a portfolio by writing articles, ads, and sales letters. Once you have some experience, you can start to look for paid work.
How do I become a freelance copywriter?
A copywriter’s job requires you to demonstrate excellent writing skills, proper grammar, and the ability to promote the product’s unique selling proposition. If you can do all that, you can become a freelance copywriter.
Start by writing sample articles, ads, and sales letters. You can also look for opportunities to guest blog or write for free in exchange for exposure. Once you have some experience, you can start to look for paid work. Check out platforms such as Fiverr, People Per Hour, and Upwork, or contact businesses directly to offer your services.
Can I be a copywriter with no experience?
If you can craft a persuasive headline and copy that speaks to your audience’s needs, you can be a successful copywriter with no experience. However, it is important to have a strong portfolio of work to show potential clients.
You can create your copywriting portfolio by writing sample articles, ads, and blog content if you’re just starting out. Try to develop the same sort of conversational tone that the best copywriters establish in their written word.
How much do copywriters make?
The average salaried copywriter in the UK makes £30,000, while in the USA, it’s $65,000. However, freelancers can earn significantly more, with many making over £100/$100 per hour. Unsure how to get started making money as a writer? Check out our article, Make Money Online from Freelance Writing.
In most cases, copywriters are paid by the project or on a retainer basis. This means you will receive a set fee for each project or an ongoing monthly fee for services rendered. Many copywriters also receive royalties based on the performance of their work.
How do you succeed in copywriting?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to succeed in copywriting depends on your skills and strengths. To become a professional copywriter, you need to provide excellent customer service to your clients and exquisite copy that hits the mark every time.
What is the most effective skill in copywriting?
Communication skills are at the heart of what a copywriter does, so it makes sense to practice your skills and work to develop them. Can you figure out what a target audience wants from a product? How can you boil down the key features into a few persuasive sentences? Are you good at coming up with catchy headlines?
These are all important skills for a copywriter. In addition, a successful copywriter needs to be able to work well under pressure, meet deadlines, and take direction from clients. As you develop your career, you’ll also need to learn how to market yourself and build a strong portfolio of work.