Have you ever looked at a piece of web copy and thought to yourself ‘I can do that’? Or conversely, perhaps you are envious of some great copywriting and can’t imagine yourself creating such a masterpiece. The reality is that just about anyone can become a writer; the main qualities are an ability to learn and perseverance. I didn’t realise I could even write until a creative writing class in university when I was 25 years of age! There are a few ‘rules’ in the field of copywriting and I am going to explain 5 of the most important below.
1 – Become An Avid Reader
What has reading got to do with writing? Everything! The vast majority of people who love to write also enjoy reading as it helps them to open their minds and embrace new techniques. You know you’ve become something of an expert when you start spotting mistakes and begin to wonder how certain books ever made it into print at all! It is important to read magazines, books and online articles, particularly if you specialise in a certain niche. By knowing the latest trends, you will be able to make your copy sound authoritative and this in turn will impress your clients and attract more visitors and prospective customers.
2 – Develop OCD
I don’t mean that you should go around checking to make sure all switches and lights are off before going to bed (though I do this), I am talking about becoming more vigilant and diligent when it comes to checking your own copy. We are extremely biased when it comes to our own writing and often miss basic errors we would spot in someone else’s work in a heartbeat.
Errors in the spelling and grammar department mark you out as unprofessional so manually check your copy and don’t just rely on the computer’s ability to find and correct errors. Additionally, you should also ensure your copy fulfils all aspects of the brief you have been given by your client.
3 – Listen!
First of all, you must listen to your client and ensure you understand every single requirement. A meeting with a client could provide you with the vast majority of content straight away, especially if you really delve into the reasons why he/she built the product or planned the service being provided.
You should also listen carefully to your target audience and discover what they are telling you. Believe it or not, you can use social media to find out what people really want and tweak the copy to ensure it speaks directly to them. Finally, be sure to listen to your rivals to learn from their successes and failures. Keep your ears open and the exact copy you require will pretty much write itself, all you have to do is apply the finishing touches.
4 – Have a Plan
It doesn’t matter if you have to write a small paragraph or a lengthy sales letter, you need to plan things in advance in order to create coherent copy. By spending some time on a plan of action before putting pen to paper, you can save a huge amount of editing and rewriting later on.
There are different planning methods in the field of copywriting such as AIDA which I have covered in a previous article. Ultimately, you need to start by attracting the attention of readers and making them realise that they have a problem that can be solved by what you have to offer. You never talk about the cost until all the benefits have been conveyed.
5 – No Word Count
I absolutely HATE it when people claim there is a certain word count that must be attained in web copy because it is utter nonsense. I have read varying degrees of gibberish in relation to word count and much of it assumes that 300-400 words is some ‘magic figure’. This is borne out of a belief that the Internet generation are complete idiots with the attention span of a goldfish. It’s a great pity then that multiple studies have shown that longer copy provides better results.
Personally, I like to write until I feel as if all the benefits of the product/service have been outlined and a call to action has been added. In other words, there is no upper or lower limit on what you should write; if you think the copy is finished, don’t try to add fluff or delete information that could be vital.
Becoming a skilled copywriter is not as difficult as you may think and it is certainly not the equivalent of painting the Sistine Chapel while being a bit insane! If you are willing to learn from your mistakes and have a genuine desire to become a copywriter, there is a litany of information to help you get started and settled such as the content on this website!