Writing to Sell: What it Means to be a Copywriter in Modern Times
What’s a copywriter?
If you’re reading this and you’re a copywriter, you’ve gotten this question before.
To most people, the act of writing seems easy. People know how to talk, so if they write down what they want to say, they’re writing aren’t they?
So, let’s get things straight:
Copywriting is the act of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. In short, copywriting is business writing, or more simply, writing to sell.
Writing to sell isn’t limited to exchanging money, either. To be skilled in copywriting means the ability to assemble words, phrases and sentences that sell an idea that drives action.
Action is everything.
That is the power of a copywriting. The power of influence and persuasion through words.
And writing good copy requires time, skill and practice.
Although copywriting is an invaluable skill that can yield significant benefits in one’s life and career, it’s a craft that’s easy to underestimate, taking years of experience to learn effectively.
To push you down on your path as a better writer, we’ll break down the essence of Writing to Sell: What it Means to be a Copywriter in Modern Times.
How to Become a Better at Copywriting
First things, first:
Your message should be clean at all times to provide value and avoid confusion.
So, what’s a message?
A message in copywriting is simply the offer—which is often tied with a desired action.
Let’s use an example:
Oreo puts out this tagline:
Happiness with a twist.
The message here is subtle but there: eating Oreos makes you happy.
In copywriting, messaging is key. There is a butt-load of bad copy out there written by copywriters whose only desire is to feel creative. However, good copy should have a point, and again, that point is to sell an action.
So, how do you become good?
To be a good copywriter, you have to know the audience you’re writing for as if they were a close friend. Truly effective copywriting requires an intimate knowledge of the target audience you’re writing to, and the difficulty of true copywriting rests in its brevity. Good copy doesn’t always need to be short, but it must be concise and to the point.
Reader attention spans are unforgiving to bad copy, and to test your reader’s patience with fluff, or worse, incorrect assumptions of their needs, is the quickest shortcut to having them disconnect.
And when that happens, congratulations, you lose.
Rather, before ever writing a word of copy, conduct as much research as you can on your targeted demographic. Read reports on them. Pair them down even further into specific (or multiple) personas. Call people that fit within this persona. Sit down and talk with them in person if applicable.
By understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes, you can open your voice as a writer and speak directly to their minds.
Copywriting is a lifelong skill.
I’ll repeat that.
A lifelong skill.
Which means that you’re never going to be done.
You’ll get better and will be good. Maybe great. But never the greatest.
And it’s going to take a whole lot of bad copy to break through to a point where you can write half-decent copy. And even longer until you can write good copy. And, so on.
The key is to not let the process of learning—and with it—failing, discourage you.
This is a vital lesson for any aspiring writer as it will help you develop your sense for cadence and flow in a sentence. Your “hearing” will improve and you ability to interpret a sentence will trickle down into your personal writing style.
Read plenty of bad copy, too.
Reading good literature is great for establishing a benchmark, but the true lessons are laid in copy that gives you a clear contrast between good and bad. In much the same way that you can see all the critical acclaimed films of the year, and then turn around and watch all of Netflix’s original films and gain a sense of cinematic taste, so too, can you develop a sense of good and bad copywriting.
Whatever your specialty—ad copy, blog articles, direct response pieces, or emails—you’ll want to examine truly brilliant as well as glaringly poor work, side-by-side. This will deepen your sense of critical review. Adding further to this, get into the habit of re-reading your old work and comparing it to your new work. See what you can change or fix in old work after six months to a year. You may surprise yourself. Copy you originally thought was God’s gift to copywriting in the beginning, has now turned into kindling.
Writing is very similar to basic math. Most of the population can do it well enough to get by but true mastery requires an incredible amount of skill, experience and attention.
Copywriting is a rewarding pursuit and, at its core, is the essence of persuasive writing. Through words alone, a successful copywriter can implant an idea into the head of a reader. An idea to act at a later point in time.
And where creativity and influence meet; that’s power.