A good copywriter isn’t simply a good writer. The copywriting skills required to truly excel run far beyond eloquence and good grammar. In this article, I’ll look at the top 10 copywriting; skills, instincts and attributes I think you need to be successful.
What Are Copywriters? What Do They Do?
The definition of a copywriter is a person who writes the text of advertisements or other forms of marketing material.
A copywriter’s job is to create compelling and clear sales copy for a wide range of communications from advertising, blog posts, product descriptions, newsletters and white papers, to social media posts and much more.
The objective is to engage the reader and deliver copy that has the desired effect. The role of a copywriter requires no formal qualifications, but that’s not to say it isn’t a highly skilled job.
What Are the Top 10 Essential Skills for a Copywriter?
- The Researcher (Research Skills and Critical Thinking)
A copywriter needs to quickly develop an understanding of the business or topic they’re writing about. This often means doing a lot of research from many sources and using critical thinking to ensure the copy is both informative and accurate. This level of understanding can also help the writer to cut through the jargon, see new angles and identify new opportunities.
- The Brand Ambassador (Brand Building and Management)
Whether the client is a start-up, big corporate business or an individual, understanding their brand is essential.
Good copy comes from thinking about what they stand for, their values and ethos. This sets the tone and style of writing. For example, writing for a bank will be very different in style and content from that of a holiday company or joke shop.
Each business has a personality. It is a copywriter’s job to bring that out and use it to build rapport and trust with the audience.
- The Marketing Professional (Writing Copy that Sells)
Many copywriters have, at the very least, a basic understanding of marketing tactics and strategy.
The use of formulas such as AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) and its numerous variations, provide focus, help to structure content and are a useful tool.
Knowledge of the basic marketing practices and theory is an important skill and one that copywriters need to familiarise themselves with to truly excel at their craft.
- The Linguist (Understanding Language and its Impact)
Writing effective copy is about much more than eloquence and good grammar. Understanding language and its complexity are also important. Words have an impact. Using the ‘wrong’ word or failing to grasp the many nuances of any language can spell disaster.
This can prove especially difficult when writing in a second language, as although you may be fluent – both spoken and on the page, you may not be so familiar with the many idioms used. This can be tricky as idioms are often used in marketing-related copy as the play on words does make for a catchy headline.
The massive growth in writing for the web and global brands over the years, however, is changing how copy is crafted for these target markets and their customers.
The need to communicate clearly for ease of translation and understanding means the study of linguistics is increasingly important, and the use of idioms, cultural nuances, figurative speech and the required etiquette of languages needs to be carefully considered.
- The Journalist (Compelling Copy, Keeping to Deadlines and Headline Creation)
Like a good journalist, having the ability to write compelling, well-researched, fact-checked copy, that grabs the reader’s interest, holds it and sparks a reaction – is the holy grail of writing.
Deadlines are deadlines. Don’t let them slip. When negotiating or setting a deadline, always allow yourself sufficient time to do any required research, write the copy and build in some wriggle room in case of unexpected setbacks.
Great headlines attract attention. If you are skimming a web page, magazine or newspaper your eye is drawn to a catchy headline, especially when it’s teamed with a great image. Headlines need to capture the story or message in a succinct but impactful line.
Headlines are equally as important when writing for the web, especially as incorporating keywords into your headlines and body copy helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), making sure your copy reaches those seeking information on the chosen topic, service or product.
- The Tech Wizard (Working Knowledge Of SEO)
Any copy published online from websites to blogs and articles will require the writer to have an understanding of SEO and how to optimise the copy for search to get noticed.
Freelance content writing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) go hand in hand. However, you don’t need to be an SEO specialist, have extensive knowledge about search engines or even have great technical skills to write effective copy for the web.
Here are our top tips for writing for the web:
The Importance of Keywords When Writing for the Web
These are the words that your target audience will search for when looking for your business or buy the product/services that you’re offering. Identifying and using the right keywords in your copy will enhance your visibility to your desired target market.
Keyword phrases should ideally be written using the same terms that readers would search for when looking for any information. Think about how you would search for things and use that as a good place to start.
Make sure the primary keyword (the one you wish to rank for) is in your heading and the first 100 words of copy. Also, use primary and secondary keywords (and variations thereof) in the body copy and headlines where possible.
Developing Links to Improve Search
Use good, solid external links to credible sources where possible and add citable elements such as stats, quotes, news, graphics and audio/video to make your article/copy link-worthy.
Include internal links through to related pages on your businesses website and to blogs etc. that add value to your copy and provide further information.
How to Structure Copy for the Web
Keep to short, succinct paragraphs with strong keyword-led headings. This makes the copy easy to navigate and gives the reader the answer they are looking for quickly.
When searching the web, most people will enter a question they want an answer to or a few ‘key’ words.
Make sure your copy pre-empts those questions and provides the desired answer without the need for scrolling through vast amounts of wordy copy.
- The Archer (Always Aim for Your Target Audience)
Identify your desired target market and aim your copy directly at them. To achieve this you need to understand who you’re targeting, get to know them, what makes them tick, and how to leverage that knowledge.
When you write you must keep your audience front of mind. You need to draw them in, create interest and move them through the buying process. Consider their needs and carefully craft your copy and offering to gain their interest and persuade them to take action.
- The Creative Thinker (Harness Your Instincts and Creativity)
Don’t fall into a writing rut. Even if you’re writing your copy for the same business (in-house) or have a long-term client, you can’t afford to get complacent. You need to ensure your content is always fresh and engaging.
Take time to check out the competition and look around for fresh inspiration. Try new angles and ideas to see where they take you. It might be just the creative boost you need to take your writing skills to the next level.
Use your instincts. We writers are a thoughtful, deep-thinking, friendly and adaptable bunch as a general rule, so use this to your advantage. Use your insight and emotions to get inside the reader’s head and work out what they need to hear/get from the copy to motive them into action.
Build a good rapport with your clients and colleagues and be positive and flexible in your approach to both your writing and your working relationships. If you are easy to work with and adaptable you are far more likely to get repeat business and referrals.
- The Specialist (Finding Your Niche)
Many writers stumble across their niche almost by accident, as whatever clients you land at the start of your career can often shape your future.
For example, I worked in banking (retail and corporate) for many years, so have a depth of understanding about their products, services, target audience and culture that someone new to the industry would find difficult to achieve.
That said, I have gone on to write for a wide range of other businesses, but tend to get offered, and I’m attracted to, work within B2B and financial services due to my background.
Finding your niche can increase your income as your reputation grows and your experience will be in demand. If you fancy trying new niches, however, it can be tricky to obtain work in a new arena as clients generally want someone they know can easily pick up and run with a project.
The growth of writing for the digital age has brought with it additional skills that you can leverage to move into other fields of expertise, such as a working knowledge of SEO practices and copy for the web, websites, blogs and social media.
With traditional print media in decline, writers looking to expand their skill set need to learn how to write effective copy for a wider range of platforms and channels. Having the ability to write for different formats will open doors.
You can then use your skillset and other copywriter attributes to research and target the industry you aspire to specialise in. Show them what an asset you can be to them and they will want to hire you.
- The craftsman (Tools of The Trade)
Writing is a craft like any other, it takes a combination of talent, skill, instinct and practice to excel at it. There are, however, many valuable tools available to assist writers particularly in the field of content marketing, designed to make our job a little easier and save time.
Here’s a list of some of the tools available to help improve your copywriting skills and hone your craft:
Grammarly Pro: This is a great safety net to proof-check your writing. Grammarly has a free version that offers a basic spelling and grammar check. Upgrade to Grammarly Pro and you will have access to the advanced service, which highlights more complex grammar issues to ensure your writing is the best it can be.
Frase: If you’re writing a blog post this is a great content optimization tool that helps you identify the topics to cover, keywords, phrases etc. It also has workflows, content briefs and various other features.
MarketMuse: Similar to Frase but takes a different approach to how it analysis competitor articles.
No matter the field or industry, it always helps to know what is expected of us and where we can add value. As copywriters, understanding the dynamics of copywriting, content writing and its strategies only help us to advance our skills. We then engage our numerous other attributes to offer inspiring copy that delivers every time.
Is ‘Copywriting’ The Same As ‘Content Writing?
No, they are different although you will find the terms used interchangeably because both are a form of content creation.
Content writing deals with creating content to engage, inform, educate or instruct customers without necessarily trying to sell them anything or take a specific action.
Copywriting is writing ads and copy to engage and persuade customers to take action e.g. buy something.
How Do You Modify Your Writing for An Audience?
The best way to adapt your content to a target audience is first to identify the different sections of the audience for any subject, analyse their communication patterns, and structure your copy to satisfy these conditions.
How to Improve Copywriting Skills?
The clear trick is to make it simple and easy to read. Write as if you are writing for a single person and draw their attention to what you have to sell.
Be clear, creative as well as persuasive, but do not provide false information.
How to Highlight Your Copywriting Skills?
To highlight your copywriting skills, you need to stand out from the crowd. Always try to create a unique selling point about whatever product or service you intend to write about.
Do not dramatize the content, but keep it simple. Try to incorporate keywords to optimise your article; if possible, find a niche.
Who Uses Copywriters?
Any company that communicates internally or externally via any medium can employ a copywriter to assist them.
Now that the vast majority of companies communicate with their customers and stakeholders online and via social media platforms, the demand for copywriters has expanded offering a wide range of opportunities across B2B and B2C.