Copywriting is the new hot topic in marketing, with new copywriters showing off their successes online, offering courses on the trade, and writing hundreds of articles on doing the job well.
With so much buzz around the term, freelance writers are more curious than ever about getting into the copywriting trade, which by online accounts is quite lucrative.
As someone who has been a professional copywriter for over ten years, though, and with training from top copywriters like Dan Kennedy, I can tell you a couple of things about copywriting, and the first is: it’s not as easy as you’d think.
Copywriting is all about psychology, and getting into the minds of the reader to convince them to take action. Think about how difficult it is to convince yourself to take fun actions – like getting off the couch and fixing a bowl of ice cream.
If it’s that difficult for you to convince yourself to do something you want, imagine how difficult it is to convince someone else to do something that they don’t yet know they want.
Copywriting isn’t a job that everybody can do, and a lot of training is needed to do it well. If you’re thinking about taking your freelance career in the direction of copywriting, check out my intro to copywriting questions here.
What is Copywriting?
No one knows.
Kidding. It’s just that there are a lot of different opinions about what constitutes copywriting versus what should be called content writing or something else entirely.
In my expertise, copywriting is writing words that spur the reader to action.
We could be asking them to sign up for a newsletter or to check out a blog article on a website.
We could also be asking the reader to fork over a million dollars for a product that will change their life. So what we write has to be good.
What is Good Copywriting?
Good copywriting is engaging and authoritative. It tells a story, connecting concepts and people, and leads the reader along a path that ends in an action.
In order to convince the reader to actually take that action, good copywriting provides value to the customer, showing through benefits and testimonials that the investment in the product is a great decision.
Good copywriting is clear. The reader doesn’t have to guess what the offer is or what they should do when they’re done reading. The article or sales page will lay out expectations clearly so that the reader hardly has to do any thinking at all.
What is Bad Copywriting, Then?
Bad copywriting focuses on the business itself or on the product’s features – stuff that only the developer would care about. It goes on and on endlessly about how reliable the business is, how hard the business owner works, and the fact that the product is exactly 7.52cm long.
It loses the reader’s attention because they don’t care about any of this.
Bad copywriting forgets that there is, in fact, a human reading the copy who has feelings and biases and needs to be completely separate from the ad.
How Do You Learn to Write Good Copy?
From the masters.
I’ve learned copywriting from my time at Glazer-Kennedy, where I wrote sales pages and direct response copy that got major results.
I personally think that being agency-trained is the way to go – learning from the experts who have done the work, seen the results, and are there in person to help you learn how to do the same.
Not everyone agrees, though, and many copywriters learn from books. If you’re going to go that route, here are the top five books you have to read. (Trust me.)
- Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, by Joseph Sugarman
- The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Robert Bly
- Breakthrough Copywriting, by David Garfinkel
- This book will teach you how to write better, by Neville Medhora
Once you read these books, you’re going to have to write. A lot.
Reading theory is just the beginning of a copywriter’s DIY education, and the majority of actually learning how to write copy is simply to do it.
You can practice by writing sales pages for products you see online, create copy for local businesses or charities, or hand-copy great ads written by the pros.
Whatever you do, don’t stop writing until you start to understand what great copywriting looks like, and how it feels to write it.
What Should You Write?
Tying directly into the question “what is copywriting?” is the follow up: No, really, what kind of writing constitutes copy?
Most would say that these are all examples of copywriting:
- Sales Pages
- Sales Letters
- Email campaigns
- Print Advertisements
- TV and Radio Ads
Copywriting is so broad, which is great because that means you have so many options for your career to both begin and expand.
These are all the basic questions we hear from beginner copywriters who are just getting their feet wet. What copywriting questions can I answer for you? I’m all ears! Comment below and let's talk about it.