Deciding you want to write for a living is a bit like going back to school. You’ll need to be serious about your ambitions, cultivate your creativity and put in the time and effort required if you’re to make a success of it. But that’s also what can make it a hugely rewarding experience. If it’s your dream to be a freelance writer, here are some top tips to follow when you’re wondering how to learn content writing skills…
1. Learn from others
If you want to be a success, begin by emulating the success of others. Make an effort to take real notice over everything you encounter online whether it’s a page you end up on after clicking a link, a headline that caught your eye, or an ‘about us’ page that made you feel that little bit closer to a company.
It’s a good idea to keep a ‘swipe file’, which in copywriting terms used to be a physical folder of sales letters, ads, flyers and more. In the age of online content, it can be a OneNote document, printout or simply a collection of bookmarks. Keep two versions – the good and the bad. This will help you understand what ‘good’ content is and also what kind of mistakes to steer clear of. Reading widely can also help you develop your own voice if you haven’t yet had enough experience to be able to.
It goes without saying that the best way to learn a new skill is to practise. Keep a notebook on you and jot down ideas for blog posts while you’re stuck on a train (or platform), outline articles, or even come up with advertising slogans. Even if it’s for no one but you. All this is crucial experience which you can even use to fill out your own online portfolio in the early days.
In terms of professional writing, hone your skills by keeping your own blog and website (writing your own landing pages is so much harder than writing other peoples’ and will be a good test of your ability), approach community groups or local businesses for work, or simply help out a friend with some content for their own site.
3. Take a course
There are copywriting courses a-plenty nowadays, and they often don’t even entail going to a physical premises. Online copywriting courses allow you to learn from home and submit your copy online for assessment. Depending on the course you choose you’ll get learning materials, constructive feedback on your work, and be able to ask a question and get the answer direct from a pro.
Other copywriters are surprisingly helpful, and they’ll be invaluable if you’re wondering how to break into writing or simply set your rates. Respond to blog posts they’ve written or seek them out on social media – life’s great leveller. Follow professional players such as The Drum and Campaign and pros in the field such as Jeff Goins, Andy Maslen, Carol Tice and Amy Harrison. Don’t forget to follow others who are starting out too, that way you can build a multi-layered support network.
5. Arm yourself with the right books
Yes, we are talking about good old-fashioned books, the ones with the real pages and all. When you’re in a slump staring at your screen with no inspiration, and you can’t Google an answer without getting distracted by a million other things you want to watch or buy, taking yourself off into another room with a copywriting book is a great solution. Andy Maslen’s “The Copywriting Sourcebook” is a good starting point, as is “How to Write a Good Advertisement” by Victor Schwaband and “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” by Joseph Sugarman.
6. Brush up on your grammar
Following on from that last point, let’s not forget the power of a good grammar book, dictionary and thesaurus. Making an effort to brush up on your punctuation, sentence flow and spelling will reap dividends, and you’ll find the Grammarly add-on a great help, or even taking a proofreading or editing course can add another string to your bow. You’ll write better from the off, winning readers and clients. Take a look at our grammar checklist for writing great content.
7. Utilise the web
The web is a great place to grab a free eBook on copywriting, like those available when you sign up to Copyblogger. There’s a whole host of advice out there, from copywriting exercises to how to secure freelance writing work and everything you need to know about SEO.
8. Know the rules
We don’t just mean the rules for writing good copy, though there are some, but the legal rules you need to follow set down by the Advertising Standards Authority. For example, there are specific kinds of products that can’t be marketed to children, and certain kinds of content that can be deemed offensive. A copywriting course will likely run through the legal aspects of the job, but it pays to follow the ASA on Twitter too to keep abreast of the latest advertisers that fall foul.
9. Pay attention
Inspiration can be found in the most unlikeliest of places. Like any writer – poet, author or freelancer – if you make an effort to focus on how people really talk, act and the smallest details of everyday life, then you’ll always be honing your senses and naturalising your voice. Writing in a simple, down to earth and relatable way is a surefire way to get your reader onside. Nobody invests emotionally in content that they feel is forced or unrealistic.
Get started content writing now!
There’s no denying that learning content writing takes time and effort. If you’re not a natural born writer and want to use great content to promote your business, you’d be best hiring a content writer or using a content agency like Copify.
But if you’re looking to make this your new career, you can find more advice on our blog, whether you’re still looking for tips on how to be a content writer, or how to learn content writing skills for free. Or why not sign up to be a writer with Copify and start earning money from paid content writing jobs?