Beginning a new copywriting project can feel daunting. I always get excited by the opportunity of trying new approaches or ideas, but end up overwhelmed by the number of possibilities.
Having a copywriting checklist to follow can take a lot of pressure off your shoulders during the writing process.
- What is a Copywriting Checklist?
- Why is a Checklist Important for Copywriters?
- Copywriting Checklist – Our 10 Step Guide
What is a Copywriting Checklist?
A copywriting checklist helps you remember all of the important things you should include in your copy and provides a step-by-step guide while writing. It functions similarly to a research checklist.
I like to imagine a copywriting checklist as a roadmap. You may know where you’re headed on a road trip, but without a map, you’ll have a lot of trouble getting there. In the case of your writing, high-quality copy is your end destination and the copywriting checklist outlines the road to it.
Why is a Checklist Important for Copywriters?
But why should you use a copywriting checklist? You may be among the writers who enjoy the freedom of beginning without a plan and seeing where they end up.
However, the risks of that approach often outweigh the benefits. Especially when your livelihood is tied to producing consistently good copy with visible results. You’re just as often to find yourself stuck at a dead end as you are finishing a project on time.
A checklist ensures your copywriting projects stay on track. Sure, it may feel less inspiring to follow the map, but you can make as many stops or detours as you want. A good checklist allows you to be creative and follow your own style, but keeps you from getting lost along the way.
Copywriting Checklist – Our 10 Step Guide
While this checklist is far from comprehensive or the only correct guide to follow, it will provide a productive baseline for anything you’re working on.
1. Clarify Your Objectives
Every copywriter knows their objectives going into a project. Produce good copy, make conversions, get results, etc. However, knowing how to achieve those objectives can be less straightforward.
Your first step should be to clarify and specify your goals as much as possible. Broad, sweeping objectives are difficult to follow and don’t help you make decisions while writing. If you chisel your objectives down into fine points you’ll have a clearer path forward for your copy.
2. Know Your Target Audience
Next, you’ll want to learn all you can about your target audience. This could involve:
- Visiting sites they frequent
- Searching SEO terms they commonly use
- Answering common questions they have
- Read other articles and posts written for them
Trying to gear your writing towards a vast group of people won’t lead to great copy, though. Invent an avatar, or ideal reader, and write as if they were the only person reading your copy.
Get as detailed as possible! Your research should have already provided you with a general idea of your avatar, but don’t be afraid to fill in any gaps. Give them a history, personality, and daily life to create a clearer picture in your mind.
3. Plan Your Structure
Who said you don’t need two roadmaps? Your checklist is a great guide for the entire creative process, but you should still devise an outline of your copy’s structure.
You probably have a go-to structure you prefer using, but always look for ways to improve it or adapt it to better fit the content of your project. Use your research to come up with the best composition and framework for your copy. Focus your big headings around what would interest your avatar and help sell to them.
Keep in mind that your copy won’t only be seen by your ideal reader. Often, people will simply skim your post or article for the best bits before moving on. Use clear sub-headings, bulleted lists, and bold words to convey the gist of your point to any skimmers.
4. Define Your Style/Tone of Voice
Everyone has their own writing style and there’s no need to completely change yours for each project. However, there are ways you can alter yours to better suit your target audience and objectives.
As a general rule, you should write in active voice, present tense, and the first or second person. This combination keeps your writing from becoming stale or uninteresting. There are times when bending this rule benefits your copy, but those are rare instances.
Your copy should also feel like a conversation between you and your avatar. Incorporate lingo and phrasing they would find relatable. Tread the line between informal and authoritative on your topic.
If you want to find out more, we have a post about developing a writing aesthetic.
5. Products vs. Benefits
Remember that benefits sell better to a reader than products. You can list all of the fancy features of a product, but you’ll only really grab people’s attention if you explain how those features will improve their lives.
Come up with a list of the benefits your client’s product or service can provide to customers and highlight them in your copy. Keep your avatar in mind and focus on the benefits they would appreciate most.
6. Hone Your Key Messages
It’s alright to have a foggy idea of the key points while writing. I find it’s only when I’m nearly finished with a project’s first draft that I finally manage to nail down the focal points of my messaging. Once you’ve realized the key messages you want to get across, go back and refine them.
This usually involves repositioning or adjusting your SEO keywords as well. Go back through your copy and make sure your keywords are tied to your main points.
7. Provide Evidence
Make all the claims you want about a product or service while writing, but remember you will have to back them up. Most readers will be naturally skeptical of you and any promises you make. Now’s a good time to look for any weak claims and provide evidence to support them.
You could do this in several different ways:
- Provide testimonials
- Highlight positive reviews or endorsements
- Show off certifications and awards
- Link to credible external posts and articles
- Link to internal site pages which expand on your points
8. Select Your Hook
I know, this step seems like it should be higher up on the copywriting checklist. Your hook is typically placed at the beginning of your copy to catch people’s interest. However, you’ll have an easier time coming up with the perfect hook to reel in readers if you’ve already written the rest of your post or article.
You can use a hook teasing some key points or subheadings in your article. You could also use the most interesting or mind-blowing part of your copy. Keep in mind your avatar and look for what you think would interest them most.
This is also a great point to revise your headline. Your headline is just as important in grabbing your reader’s attention and works best when it ties into your hook.
9. Call to Action (CTA)
Here it is. The call to action. It’s what your copy has been building toward and what will provide clear results for your client.
Your CTA should be clear, focused and provide no room for misunderstanding. If your goal is to get customers to purchase something, include a link to the site or page they can purchase it from. If you want them to join a newsletter or mailing list, tell them directly and give them clear instructions on how they can sign up immediately.
Spend some time considering not just the call to action itself, but everything surrounding it. By the time a reader reaches your CTA, they should already have plenty of reasons to want to follow it.
10. Edit and Revise
Finally, having finished your first draft after following every step in the copywriting checklist, the last thing to do is edit and revise. It is everyone’s least favorite step, but also the most important one.
Some of the most important steps in editing and revising your work are:
- Proofreading. It’s okay to use grammar checks, but don’t forget to check for errors yourself.
- Cut where you can. Keep your paragraphs to three sentences or less and cut out any unnecessary adjectives or adverbs.
- Restructure. If the formatting feels clunky, reorganize your sections to improve the copy’s flow.
- Strengthen your wording. Swap any lackluster words for ones with more impact.
- Double-check links. Always make sure you’ve linked to other pages correctly and appropriately.
- Insert graphics and images. Spice up your copy with some visuals to grab people’s attention.
A copywriting checklist can feel restrictive, but it is a useful tool in planning and organizing your writing projects. It won’t make copywriting a breeze, but it will keep you from hitting roadblocks over and over while writing. You can use our copywriting checklist as is, but don’t be afraid to expand or adapt it to fit your niche and style.