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10 Essential Skills for Copywriters

Michael has a degree in international business and currently works for a global e-commerce company.

Learn how to improve your copywritng so that you can do more business.

Learn how to improve your copywritng so that you can do more business.

How to Be Successful in Copywriting

So you are at a stage where you have identified the particular sector you would like to work in as a copywriter, be it in a regular sales/marketing field or in a technical field.

However, before you venture into seeking and accepting offers for copywriting jobs, you need to take time and carefully study the industry you have chosen to work in.

What are the requirements involved in this specific line of business? For example, are you sufficiently adept or conversant with computing to create professional technical write-ups required in the information technology field?

If not, then some level of technical training is required first, in order to fill in the gap in knowledge and skills. The same applies to public relations and marketing where those are required in sales.

The good news is that this learning process does not have to be a taxing or expensive affair at all, since there are numerous offline and online resources with which you can refine your skills in the field of effective professional copywriting.

It is also necessary to still keep up with the latest trends and changes in marketing and technology as well as opportunities to broaden your network and source more clients and opportunities.

The copywriting field is one in which the copywriter needs to continuously hone their skills and update themselves with the latest. It amounts to continuous improvement on one hand and continuous learning on the other.

10 Ways to Improve Your Copywriting

  1. Know the basics
  2. Build your portfolio
  3. Become inspirational
  4. Differentiate yourself
  5. Tap into practical needs
  6. Develop analytical judgment
  7. Maintain time discipline
  8. Engage with empathy
  9. Build with patience
  10. Leverage continuous improvement

1. Know the Basics

As you may already be aware, in the freelance world, your portfolio is more useful than your resume. Your educational background, academic achievements and employment record focus on what has been attained in the past. It may not be true of your competence today.

Your portfolio on the other hand, is a demonstration of how you have applied your knowledge and skills to achieve practical objectives and meet desired ends.

Therefore, it does not make a difference whether one has stellar master degrees in communication. If the copy they produce is cheap, erroneous or of low quality, they will still get rejected and their career will go nowhere.

Once you have the intellectual and emotional preparation in place, you are ready to build your network of clients. The following are some useful guidelines:

  1. After gathering a database of contacts, set aside some time to communicate with each one on the list.
  2. Don't shrink back from engaging through cold calls or even sending out an enquiring email to a potential client
  3. Keep it simple, direct and straightforward. You do not need to drive a hard bargain at all.
  4. Introduce yourself and your freelance business briefly, and explain how you can use your skills and competence to meet their public relations requirements.
  5. Remember to respect their time and keep your introduction brief and straight to the point. Plus, avoid exaggerating your abilities.
  6. Get into the habit of chasing down as many freelance opportunities as you possibly can.
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2. Build Your Portfolio

A copywriter needs to be capable of generating content that is action-driving. Action-driven text is what produces profound results.

To achieve this, he or she needs to understand how a potential customer audience in might think and act. This will enable the copywriter to formulate their message accordingly, in a fashion that is guaranteed to deliver an impact and bring about desired results.

A background in writing (be it articles, books, other literary material or even sales letters) helps create the foundation necessary to become competent in the copywriting business.

A background in sales or marketing and customer service is also helpful since it makes the copywriter in touch with the sales process and how the customers respond to that process and how they interact with it.

Even if you do not have a portfolio, you could begin by creating some small articles, booklets, brochures, leaflets, emails or sales letters for free. You can do this for charity organizations, magazines, newspapers or other publications.

The objective here is to have something with which you can show how you have converted your knowledge into practical efforts that have made a difference.

You could also contact small local businesses that are in the process of distributing promotional material or creating awareness of their online presence. Present them with your rates and services.

Online freelance platforms like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com are also a good place to sign up for assignments in order to build your portfolio.

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3. Become Inspirational

A copywriter needs to be able to communicate effectively, to convey a message in a way that impacts potential clients and elicits a response.

It is possible to be a great writer yet not be effective when reaching out to the target audience. If the article fails to inspire and stir the reader into action, then it falls short of meeting the objective.

Copywriting material that creates excitement is more likely to sell than a message that simply imparts information. Businesses are not just interested in sales, they want to build a list and generate traffic.

So businesses want some information about their clients. Copy should motivate people to submit their personal details. This incentive could be in the form of providing free offers, for example e-books or special discounts.

A copywriter should be well-versed in the topic they are engaged in. The topic should be interesting both to the copywriter and to the target audience. Create the outline of the copy on the foundation of this common interest.

Creativity is the ability to put forth fresh ideas, concepts, words, phrases, images and fuse them together innovatively for sales letters, press releases, brochures or homepages.

If you only learn the rules and formalities of copywriting and do not go beyond this phase acquire innovative ways of driving your message across to a target audience in a creative way, your impact in this space will be limited.

Your communication will create an impression in their minds that you are still in the foundational stages of learning and have not mastered what is required to serve their needs or resolve their problems.

However, you also do not want to be too creative, such that your communication becomes unreal and you miss the key elements that comprise a convincing delivery and elicits a response. It takes instinct and much practice to strike the balance between being creative and realistic in your copywriting.

Ask the question: Why should they trust anything I communicate? What makes me stand out?

4. Differentiate Yourself

The copywriter should also be grammatically flawless in his presentation. Their grammar and sentence construction should be clear and precise. That way, the author looks professional and reliable to the target audience.

When customers are about to make a purchasing decision, they have several choices; often one is that they could buy the same item from a variety of other vendors out there.

So the question is, what is so different about your product that would make them want to buy it instead?

If the product is digital, for example an e-book, customers cannot be sure the content is exactly what they want, or that it meets their expectations. They obviously cannot access the contents without paying for it first.

So why would they buy it? Moreover, with all the countless scams and raw deals out there today, why should they trust anything you communicate as a copywriter? Aside from your products, what makes you different?

This is where talent and experience come into play. Professional copywriting that is refined and skilled will settle all these questions and provide credible answers that build trust and lead to purchases.

Dan Kennedy became an expert in Sales and Marketing by continuously developing his skills. For more details on how you can make a difference, check out his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers. Boost Your Sales.

5. Tap Into Practical Needs

Life experience and academic education do not in themselves qualify one to become a good copywriter. Room for improvement still exists every day even for those who have been at it for many years.

So the successful copywriter needs to have solid writing and communication skills plus a good grasp of the art of persuasion and consumer psychology. A few lines in an advert most likely involve much more than meets the eye.

For example, consider this situation: Website statistics are showing a lot of traffic coming through, yet conversions are either minimal or nonexistent. Good copywriting can turn this sales equation around and create a profitable connection between traffic and real conversions.

For this to happen, the copywriter must understand the foundational needs that move people to make a purchase. Then, they should know how to channel their copywriting in order to tap into those needs.

What needs are these?

They could vary. For example, a customer may need to expand their circle of influence, or a customer may need security or assurance. What matters is that you identify the customer needs your particular website hopes to address.

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6. Develop Analytical Judgement

Besides intelligence, creativity, and writing ability, a copywriter needs other skills: He or she needs to know how to perform keyword research, how to analyze data and statistical trends.

Their analytical skills should be able to place them at the forefront of monitoring and interpreting website engagement, conversions and other statistics relevant to sales operations.

A marketing department most likely already employs workers to handle and manage this side of the business. But since the copywriter is involved in the process of generating this data, they need to have the skills required to work with the statistics.

Having these skills may mean the difference between being hired for a job and losing the opportunity to a more worthy candidate. A knowledge of keyword research will enable them to come up with the right terms that are popular in searches.

A copywriter also has to know the modern tools used in marketing and promotion: advertising and promotional strategies, processes used to generate traffic and optimize sales pages, and how to improve the ranking of a site on search engines.

The copywriter needs to be meticulous in their proofreading. They need to double-check and confirm that all the facts and details, including numbers and names, are 100% correct.

What may appear to be an insignificant error can prove to be a barrier eventually, not necessarily because of the direct repercussions it has on the promotional effort, but because it communicates carelessness and lack of respect.

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7. Maintain Time Discipline

In order to succeed as a copywriter, deadlines for submitting projects must not only be met, the work submitted to meet those deadlines must be quality and excellent.

If you need a lot of time and must work through several drafts before finally coming up with a top-quality job, then this line of work may not be suited for you.

Bear in mind that there is a ceiling when it comes to clients' patience and they will not be willing to pay to wait around indefinitely for revisions to be completed.

There may be times when emergencies arise and the task must be set aside, or sudden unforeseen circumstances, which may prevent one from completing the work in good time.

However, the copywriter must bear in mind that dealing with clients is not the same as dealing with family, relatives, or friends. There is a limit to what clients can condone. It is therefore necessary to develop strong time management skills.

8. Engage With Empathy

It is essential for you as a copywriter to be able to place yourself in the shoes of the client. Pay attention and listen to their true needs and goals without speculating based on your own experience and expectations. If there is something you do not agree with, or sense could be done better, sit with them and talk through the differences in perception in order to bring about a cohesive agreement.

Before accepting a project, take time to carefully examine it and see if there is anything they expect which is at odds with how you personally think the work should be done. There should be proper communication that explains details and clears away any doubts.

When clients see that you are not simply taking everything at face value, but are going the extra mile to provide insights and even challenge the process to make it as effective as possible, they will develop respect for your opinions, even when those opinions differ with theirs. This has the effect of solidifying your reputation as a copywriter.

The converse of this occurs where the copywriter has a one-sided approach to the relationship and only seeks to please the client irrespective of the situation at hand. This is especially the case when the copywriter is new and is only just starting out on his or her journey in the industry.

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9. Build With Patience

As with any other business, copywriting is not without its set of challenges and setbacks.

When things do not work out as per our expectations, it can really be tempting to pull in the plug and walk away or try something else that looks more promising or rewarding.

This is one thing that draws the line between a self-employed person who is willing to take on the risk of being an entrepreneur, and someone who does not have what it takes to walk that road. For the latter, the best advice is to find a day job as someone else's employee and settle to earn a fixed monthly salary.

A freelance copywriter needs to develop a thick skin and have the patience and perseverance to weather the storms.

It is essential to create solid and viable policies right from the start. These are the ground rules and boundaries. Challenge every assumption and set up responses that you will use to cover any foreseeable scenarios.

This will help you prepare to deal in advance with situations where clients become unreasonable in what they demand.

If they make themselves the centre of all your time, have a superiority complex, or often insist that the work has to be redone, you will need to have the conflict management skills to negotiate matters effectively.

It is also helpful to have a trustworthy confidant with whom you can share this journey as well as your experiences, especially one more skilled than yourself. This is someone who can act as a mentor, provide a listening ear and guide you through the process of dealing with clients.

10. Leverage Continuous Improvement

Even the perfect sales and marketing system, for the greatest product on the market with the biggest discount, will not reach its potential if the copy is not exceptional.

There is no simple formula for developing good copywriting skills. It will require continuous training and practice to build competence.

The good news is that you do not have to engage in some expensive course or degree program in order to improve your expertise in copywriting. Plenty of free solid guides and tutorials can help you develop your skills.

Additionally, you could also review the type of material that is submitted by successful sales companies and professional copywriters, to get the feel of what is entailed in good copywriting.

For a good foundation in understanding copywriting, go to your local library. Try to find books there specifically on copywriting training. Alternatively, you could turn to the internet and check for online tools, resources, and tutorials on how to be a better copywriter and how to improve your skills in the trade.

One of these free sites is Sherus.com which has a collection of articles on how to develop your copywriting. Alternatively, you could try out the courses on other sites where you can learn at your own convenience and at your own pace.

Make sure that you are training and developing yourself every single day. It is like the bodybuilder who shows up at the gym daily to build his muscles. The more you keep working at it, the better your skills improve and the more consistent you will become in your expertise. It takes education, persistence, and experience to succeed.

If you are a good writer, you will find a way to write good copy. The thing to bear in mind is that when it comes to copywriting, you are still a writer, but with a different style and to a different audience.

To quote a useful book The Copywriter's Handbook, A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells: "A copywriter is a salesperson behind a typewriter."

You are not writing to entertain. You are writing to establish a connection. You want the audience to connect with you enough that they will be persuaded or convinced to go for the purchase.

© 2019 Michael Duncan

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