Convinced that being a copywriter is your true calling, but finding there’s a little more to it than you’d imagined? Don’t get disheartened. Here are 11 copywriting tips (and in particular for tips for aspiring copywriters): 11 Great Things To Learn that will stand you in good stead for ever.
1. Learn about marketing.
Copywriting is a commercially purposed business function. In the vast majority of cases the reason someone’s happy to pay you to do it is because what you do will help them, in some way, to sell their products or services. You really can’t be a good copywriter unless you learn as much as you possibly can about what marketing is and how it works. You’re not going to learn everything there is to know in a hurry. But you need to know enough to be able to contribute to your clients’ marketing efforts when you advise them, and when you’re actually writing for them.
2. Learn to write with the rhythms of natural speech.
Forget about writing within the conventions of whatever you think ‘good writing’ should be. Learn to write the way people speak. Business today – even in sectors like law and financial services – is far less formal than it used to be. People who read what you write have short attention spans and just don’t want to read stiff, formal text any more. Write well, but teach yourself to hear a voice speaking your copy as you write it. It may be a more or less formal, sophisticated or cultured voice, but the natural rhythms of speech will give you copy that’s easy to read and communicates clearly.
3. Learn to listen to a briefing.
The briefing you get from a client, whatever form you accept it in, gives you a lot of pointers as to how to go about doing the job. You need to learn to really listen to it, and to spot the subtext in what’s being said as well as the text itself. Clients often let slip little concerns or secondary objectives when they’re briefing you. Spotting them and knowing how to deal with them, or include them in the copy you write, will get you satisfied clients.
4. Learn to spot the things that are missing.
Many of the clients you’ll work with won’t be professional marketing people. They’ll be business owners. So writing a brief for a copywriter won’t be something they have experience of. Learn to go through what your client does tell you, and spot the things they’ve not told you but which could make a big difference to the copy you write. If it seems to you that they’ve not told you about some aspect of the business, or the context, and you want to know, then ask them. It may get you the piece of information that makes your copy properly convincing, or compelling or plausible.
5. Learn to focus on the story you’re trying to tell.
Every business has a pile of stories, and most businesses aren’t very good at separating them out. Learn to focus in on the specific story that needs telling. And learn to clear all the other bits of storyline out of the way. If the story you ought to be telling actually has multiple components, that’s fine, but keep your eyes on the overall take out. When someone’s read your copy, they should be able to go off thinking… “This company could do this for me”, or “If I buy that it’ll take care of such and such“.
6. Learn to read what you write through someone else’s eyes.
What you know or think about something can be a positive danger when you’re writing copy. It’s vital that you learn not to assume that your level of knowledge or understanding about something is the same as your reader’s will be. It won’t be. They may be an expert, or they may know nothing about whatever you’re writing about. But your job is to see the subject through their eyes, not through your client’s , and certainly not through your own.
7. Learn to edit.
Editing is everything. No-one writes perfect copy, once through, straight off. Maybe the most valuable thing you can learn to do is edit your draft for cleaner, tighter copy with clearer communication in fewer words.
8. Learn to get an outcome.
Lots of copywriters write copy that rambles. Don’t do it. Learn to construct an argument, get in, deliver it and get out with the result that your client needs.
9. Learn to quote.
Quoting work isn’t about pulling a number out of the air, and it isn’t about trying to work out the highest fee you can possibly ask for and still get the job. It’s about working out how much you’d be happy to do the work for, though of course that can include thinking about what the work might be worth to that particular client. Learn to work out quotes consistently and accurately, so that you factor it every facet of the work you’ll have to do. Think about the time required to do the research, write and edit a draft and support the revisions. Think about any meetings you have to go to and the phone calls you’ll do. And think about the value of any intellectual property involved. Find a way to factor all these things in so that you can price up any job and, at the end of the month, find that you’ve earned however much you set out to earn.
10. Learn to understand.
Learn to make certain you really understand the subject you’re writing about, and the market surrounding it, and where your client fits into that, and where the reader fits into it. You can’t get the copy right if you don’t really understand the ecosystem.
11. Learn to learn.
Learn to treat every project you do as a learning exercise. Every task, however brief or apparently dull, has a lesson to teach you.