If you’re skilled with words and looking to earn money from your writing, you might be considering becoming a copywriter but aren’t sure what it would entail.
Unlike journalism, copywriting involves creating any piece of text that is used to promote a product or service. It is typically found in advertising but can have less obvious forms such as informative guides.
Where does copywriting appear?
Copy appears anywhere there’s an audience:
• Online (web content, pop-ups, banners, social media, emails)
• In print (in papers & magazines, leaflets & brochures)
• In physical advertising spaces (billboards, poster sites, public transport)
• Everywhere else! (radio, TV)
It can be created by copywriters working in a variety of places:
• Marketing departments within companies and organisations
• Marketing agencies
The different types of copywriting
Not all copywriters write all kinds of copy. In fact, many new copywriters start broad before finding what kind of content they excel at and building a whole career around it. Here are just some of the kinds of copywriting that exist:
Perhaps the most obvious kind of copywriting, sales copy makes up the bulk of information on the web. It includes:
• Text on adverts
• Advertorials online or in magazines
• Product descriptions and category descriptions
Copywriters producing sales content need to be able to showcase a range of skills. These include an ability to tap into an audience’s subconscious, understanding what will appeal to them, and to write creatively and persuasively. However, it also requires the ability to synthesise a lot of information into a handy and easy-to-digest package. Sales writers need to research the nitty gritty details of a subject but only draw out the most important benefits and features. It’s also important sales writers have excellent grammar since errors can make a company seem unreliable.
Better Than Success has some excellent advice for success in this field: “you need to master the art of writing sales copy without sounding salesy. The best way to do this is to just tell the truth about your product. What problems does your product or services solve and how does it add value to your target audience?”
Every business that wants to do well online needs to incorporate search engine optimisation (SEO). This is the strategic use of keywords or search terms that will help them get found through Google (or other search engines’) results pages. Therefore, SEO is only found in online content such as:
• Web content
• Product descriptions
Strategic thinking is critical. Can you get into the mind of a company’s typical customer and think like they do? Do you know what search terms a certain audience will use to find the product they are looking for?
When you’re writing a piece of SEO content, you still need to be able to employ creativity and insight, which means you’ll need to have strong research skills. However, your focus is also on ensuring the right terms are in there, which is a balancing act. No one wants to read a piece of content which is blatantly stuffed with keywords. And neither does Google.
Web content is the meat of the internet, but great content is that which inspires, informs, engages, and ultimately converts. You’ll find it in:
• Blog posts
• Social media
To write great content, you’ll need to be able to tell a story through products or around your key service/offering. This brings together elements of sales writing, technical writing, creative writing and SEO.
To be clear, writing for blogs, online magazines and even social media isn’t about the product, it’s about building relationships with your potential and established audience. Therefore, it’s generally recommended that the best way is to give readers something insightful, useful and interesting. This encourages readers to return and facilitates sharing because they know they’re not constantly being bombarded with promotional content.
Insightful content could be ‘how-tos’ and tutorials, engaging articles and tips, research/news-led content, infographics and videos. Generally, the more digestible and easy to understand the better, and sentences should be non-complex and register low on the Flesch Kincaid scale.
Of course, great content, along with other content marketing techniques, will mean that consumers do return – so the result is a win-win: the consumer is given interesting and engaging content and the business is rewarded with a stronger and more loyal audience.
There is another less sales-oriented aspect to copywriting, and that is technical. While the intention is still to produce content that promotes company findings or the best use of a product, it is very distinct from sales copy. It is found in:
• White papers
• In-depth industry guides
Technical writing may often necessitate in-depth knowledge of a subject, or at least a willingness to put in a lot of research. It could cover various specialist topic areas such as science and environment, health, marketing, finance, politics and government.
In the words of Radix Communications: “The technical writer is a rare and valuable species: a hybrid of techie and writer, they not only know which bit plugs into what (and why you really don’t want to plug that bit in there), but they can explain it clearly and simply to the end-user.”
Excellent grammar is a must, as is an ability to relay facts and reference these appropriately, stick to the main points/argument of the piece, as well as ensure your content is comprehensive yet widely understood. Many companies and organisations commission white papers to make findings or research widely accessible, or industry guides to help consumers of specialist products.
Creative content is what we’re most familiar with in terms of advertising. It’s largely used in:
• Jingles and commercials
Hand in hand with advertising copy, adverts you hear on the radio or see on TV are often creative. You might not actually do all that much writing, but you’ll understand buyer psychology and be able to think fast and come up with slogans and turns of phrase that have the capacity to become cultural references.
Public relations covers anything that represents a business or organisation to the public and can fall under marketing or communications departments. Content produced for PR includes:
• Press releases
The emphasis in PR content is to portray a company in the best light possible. This might be through writing and issuing a press release to raise awareness of a new product or service in the hopes it will be picked up by the press, or to attempt damage control after negative publicity. As events can change quickly in the life of business, PR writers need to have a cool head and be able to write in a neutral, journalistic tone of voice. Getting across the details is crucial while finely balancing this with maintaining and promoting a positive image for the company.
This isn’t a definitive guide to the types of copywriting. In fact, content strategist Fiona McEachran defines types of copywriting in much more simple terms: lead generation copy; order generation copy; and engagement copy. What’s more, as technology evolves and new markets emerge, so too will new forms of copywriting.
But, lurking behind every piece of copy? A purpose. Understanding that and going about communicating it in the most effective, customer-friendly way possible is the key to writing great copy.
Learn how to write different types of copywriting
If you’re just starting out as a copywriter but dream of making it a successful career path, you need to build up your strengths in writing for a range of types of content and avenues. While landing your first copywriting job can be difficult, you can volunteer your services to local organisations or businesses to build up your portfolio, or you can get paid to write different types of copywriting at Copify.