If you’ve got a passion for writing audience-specific, attention-grabbing content under pressure, then discovering the art of copywriting should be both enjoyable and achievable.
If you have a natural talent for engaging people through the written word, then it’s possible to go from beginner to pro within the field, and find your niche along the way. However, great copywriting skills take time and practice to develop, firstly to gain a good grounding in the discipline, but also so that you can figure out the types of copy you want to be writing.
So – can you learn copywriting?
It’s not as simple as a yes or no answer. And here’s why…
The more traditional methods of advertising copywriting, for example, slogans, banners, or any other copy that is included in advertising campaigns, whether in print, on TV or online, are highly creative and as such hard to learn without natural flair.
However, learning copywriting for other types of marketing collateral, like emails, brochures, and websites, is a little less reliant on originality and creativity. Instead, it relies on someone that knows what they’re talking about and isn’t afraid to use language to help frame their products or services in the best possible light.
Of course, all of this comes down to honed skills that are regularly practised.
It doesn’t take a degree or formal training to learn copywriting, but instead some fundamental principles that will become your mantra when starting to write killer copy. Whether you want to write the next Budweiser advert or develop on point marketing brochures, many of the tips and tricks to succeed are the same.
Learn to write copy through reading up
There are many copywriting books on the market that can help you to learn the basics, through to the more advanced ways of copywriting. As with learning any subject, the more books you read, and tips you absorb, the more effective your writing will become.
This does take time, but this will pay off if you schedule a little tuition in each day. Treat learning copywriting like revision or when you used to mark up your English literature homework. Annotation is key so that you can easily mark useful tips to go back to, as you develop your career.
Engage in some training develop your copywriting skills
There are hundreds, if not thousands of copywriting courses that you can take to help improve your copywriting capabilities. The range of courses means that you can study when and where it suits. If you’ve already got a day job, and only have the evenings to study, enrol on a distance learning online course that can work around you.
If you are able to spare a couple of hours a week to get to a course at a local college or university, this may be better in the long run, as face to face constructive feedback and Q&A is invaluable. Learning from a senior copywriter in the industry will allow you to gain more insight into what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. They can also provide you with personal examples and anecdotes for guidance, as well as sharing stories of successes and lessons learned.
A good copywriting course should teach you the skills to write for different mediums, and discuss the challenges and benefits of writing for each type. It should also teach you how to change the style of your writing for different topics and readers. The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is a reputable organisation, offering a one-day introductory course, covering the fundamentals of copywriting.
If you are already working in advertising or marketing, and there is a colleague you can call upon to mentor you, this really is a more hands-on way to learn the craft. Shadow your mentor and explore the types of copy they produce. You could even ask to join a brainstorming session, or ask to observe how they go about answering a brief.
Master one of the most important elements; the headline
Not only is the headline the first thing people see when they read copy, it is your one and maybe only chance to attract the attention of the reader. If you want your email, for example, to stand out against the noise of other emails, then the headline is what counts.
Learning to write headlines is one of the most important elements of copywriting. Developing skills to create concise, yet compelling, one-liners is paramount to getting your reader to take action. You can learn skills such as writing the headline first so that it focuses the rest of your content, and using the formula practised by journalists that write attention-grabbing headlines for the front of magazines, to inject some life and call to action into your copy. Copyblogger has a great free ebook on the subject of how to write magnetic headlines.
Develop and maintain a portfolio
As you progress your career in copywriting, keeping a portfolio is key to showing prospective employers what you can do for them, as well as acting as a record of your own continuous improvement. Having a folder of work to look back on will remind you of how far you’ve come, and is also good for positive mental attitude. If you can physically see the improvement over time of your copywriting, this will support you through moments of self-doubt or mental roadblocks.
All writers are critical of their own work; it’s human nature. To prevent you from getting bogged down in negativity over writer’s block or over-editing, take a look at your portfolio from time to time to remind yourself that you are a decent writer and that you can still take on a challenge! For further guidance, check out how to create a killer copywriting portfolio.
Learn how to use social media for selling
In the digital age, where most marketing is now displayed through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, learning about how these sites can be used in the optimum way to get good copy out there is proving to be more and more integral. As well as learning to copy write, read up on how advertising works over these platforms.
As with your portfolio, keep your own social media in ideal working order to demonstrate to potential employers that you are savvy and know how to use social media to increase traffic to your website.
For regular copywriting hints, insights, and handy takeaways, follow Neville Medhora’s blog.