There is a certain amount of natural skill involved in being an excellent copywriter, but the skills for writing well can be learned, and this really is a case where practice makes perfect.
If you’re just starting out, our guide to becoming a copywriter will be helpful, and if you’d like to learn how to be a better copywriter, read on:
Here are a couple of statistics that might give you an idea why people need good copywriters:
The Demand Gen Report states that “47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.”
HubSpot, on the other hand, reported that “B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3X more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month.”
That’s a whole lot of content that needs writing, and somebody’s got to write it. And get paid for it.
Why not you?
Know your audience
One of the most basic mistakes new copywriters make is to ignore the audience they are writing for.
When a company asks you to write copy for them, they will probably give you a brief, describing what they want, in terms of word count, tone of voice, keywords to include, subject matter, aims for the piece and audience.
Take the time to read and understand the brief, and write for the audience listed on the brief, in the tone of voice you are asked to use.
There’s a massive difference in approach, language and tone between writing for retirees and writing directly to another business to sell a product. If you’re clear on who you are writing for, you can target your copy to better suit your audience and the goals for the copy.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
We’ve seen some extremely poor briefs that pretty much consist of ‘Here is a topic. Write about it.’
While you could indeed pick an angle and an approach and write something from that, what you can’t do is get out your crystal ball and see what the client really wants.
The only way to find out is to ask clear questions, and don’t be too shy to do that. You’ll benefit from far less editing and rewriting, and the client will get what they actually want the first time.
Great questions to ask your copywriting client include:
- What are the goals for this piece?
- What call to action do you want to include?
- Who is the target audience?
- Can you send me a copy of your target market personas?
- What tone of voice would you like me to use?
- Are you aiming to target particular keywords, and what are they?
All of those will get you far closer to delivering an excellent article that the client can practically use than writing blindly, without asking.
Productivity and getting the work done
Being an excellent copywriter isn’t just about the writing. You also need to be able to organise yourself and ensure you hit those all-important deadlines.
When you work from home on your own schedule, it can be hard to avoid procrastinating, and watching just one more cat video on YouTube.
Here are some practical tools that can get you moving:
Trello is wonderful for planning out your deadlines and listing tasks that you need to complete to get your copy done.
All of them are free, but they’ll enable you to plan things out more clearly and get more done.
If you’re prone to editing too much when you’re simply trying to get a first draft out, try the fabulous Write or Die tool, which allows you to set how many words you are going to write, with a timer counting down to make sure you keep adding words rather than going back and editing what you’ve got.
Back to those cat videos – if you really can’t make yourself leave Facebook alone while you’re writing, try Cold Turkey, which will block access to your social media and eliminate distractions while you get your work done.
The Pomodoro Method is well-known for allowing people to improve productivity, by working in bursts of so many minutes and then taking a break. Try the Tomato Timer and see if it works for you.
Improving your writing
Every word you write adds to your experience, and the more you write, the better you get over time. If you don’t believe that, try looking at the way you wrote ten years ago compared to now. We’ll wait until you’ve finished cringing!
One of the best ways to get better at writing is to read. And by that, we mean fiction, non-fiction, blogs on writing – the lot. As you read, you unconsciously absorb new ways of expressing yourself and different points of view, gain access to new ideas and increase your vocabulary.
• Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger is excellent for the practical side of blogging. You’ll learn the nitty-gritty of starting up as a freelance blogger, from how to write to what to charge. (Disclaimer: The language may not be to your taste, but you will learn a lot.)
• We can’t produce a list like this and not mention Copyblogger. Here’s a blog from them on different styles of writing, but seriously, read everything they produce. Sign up to the free My Copyblogger and benefit from amazing lessons that will bring your writing on in leaps and bounds.
• Jon Morrow is a very smart man and an amazing copywriter. Try his free Headline Hacks, to help you write viral blog posts.
• The Write Life also has everything from posts on improving your writing, to marketing your work and getting clients. It’s an invaluable source.
Proofread and proofread again!
Nobody writes an immaculate piece of copy on the first draft. Nobody.
If you have the time before your deadline, put your finished writing away at least overnight and then look at it with fresh eyes the morning after before you send it off. You’ll probably spot typos that you missed on your first read through.
Read your copy aloud. You’ll spot awkward sentences, unfinished thoughts and more errors than you will by reading to yourself.
Run a spell check within your writing software. You might think you’ve caught everything, but one last spell check is never a bad idea.
If you know your grammar isn’t the best, download the free app from Grammarly to check your work.
With writing, you’ll never reach perfection. That can sound incredibly daunting, but it’s not. What it means is that you’ll never stop learning, improving, and finding new and better ways to produce copy. And that’s the fascination with a writing life. You’re not competing with other writers; you’re competing with who you were as a writer yesterday.