How to become a direct response copywriter

by Wendy Woodhead

How to become a direct response copywriter

Direct response copywriting can be a rewarding career, allowing you to help companies reach their targets with the power of your words…

If you’ve ever thought of pursuing a career in writing, marketing or advertising, then you may want to consider direct response copywriting. This form of content writing involves creating high-converting sales copy that elicits immediate action from the reader. It can be a fun and fulfilling line of copywriting, especially when you see the impact your words have on sales and sign-up figures. Find out more about what’s involved, the expected salary and how to become a direct response copywriter.

Table of Contents

What is a direct response copywriter?

A direct response copywriter is someone who creates the words to persuade customers to take action. In some cases, this action may be signing up for an email list. In other cases, the action may be to buy a product or service. But whatever the action is, it’s your job as a direct response copywriter to convince people that taking that action will fulfil their needs, satisfy their wants and, overall, have a positive impact on their lives.

Direct response copywriting is often done online these days (think emails and web pages). But traditionally, it was done through letters and ads found in magazines and newspapers. There’s still a place for these kinds of outbound marketing activities, particularly as part of a wider offline marketing strategy.

You can find plenty of examples of effective direct response campaigns in your inbox. The next time you get an email from one of your favourite companies asking you to buy something new they’ve just launched (or even just reminding you that they exist), consider yourself the target of a well-written piece of copy.

Read More: What’s the difference between inbound and outbound marketing?

What does a direct response copywriter do?

Direct response copywriters write a number of pieces of copy, including:

  • Sales letters
  • Emails
  • Direct social media advertising
  • Landing pages
  • Brochures and leaflets
  • Whitepapers
  • And other marketing materials that persuade potential customers to take action.

Copy is the words — and sometimes videos, graphics and images — that persuade people to buy a product or service.

Direct response copywriters usually have to write to specific brand guidelines such as tone of voice and formatting requirements. Since the content is all about delivering customers to complete on the call to action, they may also be given specific targets for the copy they create. This could include increasing email open rates,  product purchases, email signups and more. Sometimes the same piece of content will be reworked to target specific audience segments to carry out different actions.

Direct response copywriters employ a range of skills to help them create highly converting content, including:

  • Persuasive copywriting
  • Buyer psychology
  • Strategic placement of images, text, links and buttons
  • Creative, out-of-the-box thinking

Read More: The ultimate guide to persuasive online copywriting


The difference between copy and content

Copy persuades readers to take immediate action, while content provides information that may or may not lead to an action in the future. Content is often used as a way of building trust with prospects so they’re more likely to buy from you later on. Examples of content are blog posts and guides which are aimed at providing insight and advice more so than eliciting a sale or conversion.


The difference between direct response copy and ad copy

Ad copy is shorter than traditional types of direct response copy because it appears in print ads, TV commercials, radio spots, billboards, etc., where space is limited and brevity matters. This means although it might be part of a wider brand awareness or direct response campaign, it’s not always direct response copy in itself. There are some exceptions, often when text on ads is direct and aims to elicit your response there and then, particularly common on digital adverts.

How to become a direct response copywriter

Follow these steps to learn how to become a direct response copywriter and kick-start your career in copywriting:

1. Understand the essentials of good copy

The first thing you need to do is learn as much as possible about the field and best practice elements of copywriting.

You can start by reading books and blogs written by other influential copywriters like AIDA Formula, Copyhackers, Digital Marketer and Copyblogger. You may also wish to join Facebook groups and forums like the American Writers & Artists Inc., where you can ask questions and get answers from experienced copywriters.

As a skilled copywriter, you should know how to create a sense of urgency in your writing and keep your aim front and centre. To be creative in the process of writing, you should make sure that you’re bringing something new to the topic, even if it’s a well-worn one.

Read More: Content creation checklists

2. Next, learn the craft

The essentials are different from the craft. It’s one thing to know what goes into good copy, creating the foundations if you will. But it’s another to be able to develop your finesse in handling sales language and tactics. This takes practice and nuance but is incredibly rewarding.

To improve your writing skills, aim to write every day. Write copy for practice or write copy for your own business if you have one. Experiment with different word choices to see how they impact the persuasiveness and rhythm of your copy.

Finally, look at existing pieces of copy and analyse why they work and why they don’t. Could you improve them to make a bigger impact? You may think about following some big (and small) brands on social media so you can see how they create persuasive content.


3. Develop your writing voice

There are a lot of budding copywriters out there who struggle with this one. It’s one thing to come up with a good idea, but it’s another to know how to express that idea in your own words. You should always strive to develop your own unique voice or that of your business (or the business you’re representing).

The easiest way to do this is by reading other people’s writing, listening to them speak and then trying out new ideas in your own writing. By doing this, you will get a great introduction to the whole spectrum of voices out there. This should help you to find what works best for you and eventually develop your own voice.

A key consideration is that if you’re creating content for your own or another business, understand who the audience is and how they speak. Incorporating their language into your brand voice will help you exert a level of influence.

4. Find clients and start getting paid

You’re all but ready to go! But when you start, finding clients and getting paid will be the two biggest obstacles.

Keep in mind that many companies don’t know a direct response copywriter is a role in itself. They think hiring a copywriter means hiring someone to write general copy wherever it’s needed; however, direct copywriting really comes into its own when creating landing pages and opt-in pages, or targeted email campaigns. As such, it’s a role that can bring with it high stakes as you’re charged with improving the ROI and bottom line for businesses.

Know the potential and benefits that direct response copywriting can bring to businesses and make sure you use this in your own sales literature, when soliciting your services to companies and promoting yourself online.

Explain what it is you do and how you can turn their content around. Pitch yourself and share examples of what your work would look like and, crucially, how you intend to measure your results.

Read More: What’s the difference between a landing page vs opt in page?

How much can you expect to make as a direct response copywriter?

The expected direct response copywriter salary varies quite considerably across industries and pay grades. However, it could start from around $39,000 to $77,000 per year, with the average salary $53,830.

The difference between a junior and senior copywriter isn’t just experience; it’s also skill level. You can have been working in the industry for years and still not be considered a senior copywriter because your portfolio isn’t impressive enough. At the same time, someone with only a few years of experience could earn a six-figure income if they’ve built up an excellent reputation and portfolio.

It all comes down to how good you are at what you do; the better you get (and the more satisfied clients), the easier it will be to make money as a direct response copywriter.

✏️Read our 7 steps to building a copywriting portfolio the right way and take your copywriting career to the next level.

Header image: Daniel Thomas

Embedded images: Chris SpieglAustin DistelChris Liverani

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Wendy Woodhead

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.