Copywriting can be a great way of flexing your fingers, utilising your creative juices, and earning some extra income (or even using it as your main job if you are writing on a consistent basis!). You may find you end up writing on a whole host of topics for a range of clients globally, and the more experience you get, the more you improve your copywriting skills.
As Anik Singal writes for Lurn, “The written word draws people in. It opens up their imagination. It brings out emotion. It makes it possible for the consumer to relate to the salesperson. And that’s what it’s all about —relating.”
Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But what skills do you need to be a copywriter and get started making money from writing? We run through the top seven:
7 key copywriting skills
Arm yourself with these skills and you'll succeed in your career as a copywriter:
1. Excellent writing skills
No matter who you write for – whether you work through a copywriting agency, in-house, or independently – one of the key skills you must have as a copywriter is to write to an excellent standard. That doesn’t just include knowing your UK spelling from your US or being gramatically correct; it also means being able to steer clear of cliches and use the best words in the right order for the subject you’re writing on and the audience you’re addressing.
Remember, you are being employed specifically for your capabilities of combining words together in the most fluent, nuanced, articulate and inspiring way. If you aren’t able to do this, it will simply lead to disappointed customers, a lot of wasted time spent on edits and re-writes, and a less than profitable use of your free hours. It’ll also make it probably feel like an arduous and unpleasant task to fulfil.
Excellent writing doesn’t always mean long words and complicated sentences. As Copyblogger notes, “Good salesman are not verbose. They do not use fancy words. They speak like an aged rural sheriff. Calm, confident, and kind. They are patient, good listeners, and fantastic storytellers. Each word is pronounced properly. Each story is trimmed of excess. It’s a spell-binding time spent with a good salesman. In fact, you don’t even know you are being sold… be clear, concise, and compelling.”
2. Ability to write to deadlines
As with all copywriting projects, you will need to be able to write towards a deadline. Typically, these could be a matter of hours with shorter pieces or a day to two days for longer articles. It all depends on how quickly your client needs you to turn the copy around and whether or whether it is part of an ongoing project like blog writing.
As a skilled writer, you should naturally find it easier to write quickly and efficiently. However, this also comes with practice too. The more you get used to writing blogs and articles for businesses, the easier you’ll find it is to get started and produce stellar pieces under the pressure of time restrictions. It’s always best to allow yourself plenty of time when starting out and limit distractions, so you don’t find yourself under intense pressure while writing; this can often affect the quality of your work, which isn’t ideal.
3. Great research skills
Occasionally, you’ll get to write on topics that you know thoroughly and enjoy covering. However, in order to get the most out of copywriting, you aren’t always going to be able to write about subjects that you have an in-depth understanding of.
Quite often you will need to conduct research to write a quality blog, web page or article to the level of detail that is expected. This research may involve reading complex documents, gaining an understanding of the overall climate, and sourcing out news articles. It can also involve finding the most reliable destinations for factual information, and evidence of particular claims – all while writing to a fixed deadline.
4. Understanding your audience
Copy isn’t written in isolation; no matter who you are writing for, there is always going to be a reader on the other end who will digest your words and either be informed, entertained or persuaded to your way of thinking. As Copyblogger writes, “When you sit down to write, picture yourself selling to one person. You need to woo her and her alone.”
Testing The Muse adds to this, “Write honestly about your product or service, and you’ll get more interest in return. People can sense how genuine you are – both in person, and through your writing… Personalise your sales copy to one person: your ideal customer.”
It is crucial that you understand who your audience is and the type of language they’re looking for, the phrases and acronyms they’ll understand, and the tone or sense of humour that they will relate to. This can make your writing become far more engaging and useful – and will improve the reception of your article, which should hopefully, in turn, see you getting more work from the client.
5. SEO knowledge
Copywriting is partly about creating beautifully written prose. However, when it is published online, there are many other factors at play that can determine the success of a piece of writing. This predominantly involves search engine optimisation.
With everything published online, Google will read the words included to find the most relevant pages for searches being conducted. If you use specific keywords in your writing, these can help your blog or article get pulled up as a top result by Google.
This improves its visibility and can have a dramatic impact on audience numbers. For businesses looking to sell their products or raise awareness of their brand, this can be crucial. Knowing how to produce SEO-optimised copy without it feeling like an awkward piece of writing is an excellent skill.
6. Creative thinking
It’s important for whatever you write to feel as though it is completely brand new, even if it is based on a topic that has been covered a thousand times before. Part of being able to do this is through writing in a creative and engaging way. It is also about being versatile in your choice of words and using your imagination to construct a completely different perspective on what may be a well-hashed subject matter.
This copywriting ability can help you produce masterful articles that remain interesting, no matter how ‘old’ they are. You may also find yourself writing on subjects that simply aren’t what you’d normally consider ‘exciting’ but which do broaden your range of copywriting skills. This doesn’t mean they should read like the back of a cereal box though, and it is crucial for a copywriter to employ all their skills to bring these to life in a way that people actually want to read. After all, that is your job!
7. An eye for headlines
If you think back to when you read an article yourself, what is the first thing that draws you in? It’s the headline. This short nugget of information is hugely important in getting your audience’s attention and should be written in a way that is creative, captivating and contains everything needed to get a quick, succinct overview of the piece.
As Lingua Greca notes, “If your headline isn’t powerful, you’re dead in the water. Keep learning this art, examine the most successful headline types, practice, and analyze what kind of titles work best with your particular readership.”
There’s a lot of skill to writing a good headline, and there are many blogs online that can help guide you in what you should be looking for when doing this. It can be the make or break between what you’ve written actually getting read – and what’s the point of writing it if it never gets seen? Being skilled in headlines can be a killer copywriting skill to possess.
Want to brush up your copywriting skills? Copify can help you take the first step on your freelance writing journey, and you’ll get paid to write for a range of clients worldwide.
Main image credit: Jodie Cook