You might be born a musician, artist, or poet, but no one is born a copywriter. While having a way with words is helpful, it’s not the end of the story. You become a great copywriter by developing a certain skill set.
This is good news. It means anyone can become a successful copywriter with a certain amount of dedication. It’s all about mastering specific copywriting skills and then honing your craft.
But why bother learning particular copywriting skills? There’s so much content out there. Does it make any difference whether your writing is good or bad?
Content marketing is huge—and is only going to get bigger. 70% of marketers are already actively investing in content marketing and copywriters play an essential role in any content marketing strategy. Which is why copywriters are in such high demand. In fact, copywriting received the sixth highest volume of searches in 2020 out of all the freelance skills.
So, what are the copywriting skills that you really need to succeed? How can you improve your copywriting skills? What makes excellent copywriting?
17 Essential Copywriting Skills
This is one of the most obvious copywriting skills. Copywriters need to be able to write. That said, they don’t need to be able to write like Shakespeare.
In fact, simple and straightforward language is preferable to dramatic and flowery prose. After all, you’re trying to communicate and connect with readers—not win the Booker Prize.
Focus on being informative, concise, compelling, and persuasive. Use powerful words, create a flow between sentences, and cite from credible sources. You want to be skilled enough with the English language to make even the most boring topic interesting and exciting.
Of course, you also need to be able to write without spelling mistakes or grammatical and punctuation errors. In fact, 59% of people in the UK say they would be put off a company if its marketing materials contained grammatical or spelling mistakes. Use software like Grammarly to ensure your writing is perfect.
Creating Solid Plans
A good structure is pivotal when it comes to high impact copy. To stay on track, you need to know where you’re going with your content, whether that’s an article, brochure, or press release.
As tempting as it is to launch straight in, take some time to work out your key points, create logical connections between them, and decide on a conclusion. If you know what your take-home message is from the outset, you’ll be able to steer a clear path throughout your writing.
When planning, keep in mind your audience and what they’re looking for. This should be a prime consideration as you write so you don’t veer off on a tangent.
Crafting Catchy Headlines
A headline is the first thing the reader is going to see, so you need to make it a good one. You want to write something catchy that gets people’s attention but doesn’t sound like clickbait. A headline should reflect what the content is about and be able to fulfil any promises. It should also stand out from other similar articles.
Different headlines will work better on different platforms. For example, Hubspot has found that headlines that are 8-12 words long work best on Twitter while headlines that are 12-14 words long do better on Facebook.
Practice and play around to find what performs best. Check out this free Headline Analyzer tool to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Perfecting Your Introductions
The next most important part of any content is the opening text. Learning how to write powerful intros is a vital copywriting skill. There are many different ways to begin a piece of content, from questions and quotes to statistics, facts, and anecdotes.
Whatever you choose, keep it brief and use short sentences. Address the reader directly at least once. And explain what you’re going to cover and why that’s valuable to the reader. Sometimes it can be easier to write your introduction once you’ve finished the rest of the content, so you know exactly what the main message is.
Experiment around with different styles of introductions and draw insights from analytics showing traffic and time spent on page, discovering the most effective way to engage readers.
Making Complex Topics Accessible
This is one of the more challenging copywriting skills—especially when you’re writing about an unfamiliar topic. You need to be able to decide what’s important and what’s not, communicating the essential information without losing anything valuable.
Whatever you write, use straightforward language—no matter how scientific and technical the niche. This doesn’t mean dumbing it down. It means being concise and clear. Think about your reader. What will they understand and what will go over their heads?
Make use of bullet points. Keep sentences short. Use metaphors and analogies. Tell anecdotes. Ask questions. Create a bit of controversy. Humour is also a great tool when it comes to making complex topics engaging.
Capturing a Voice
Consider voice like a brand or company’s personality or character. It can vary from fun and lively to practical and dependable or knowledgable and serious. Imagine the brand as a person. How would they talk? How would they express themselves?
To capture the brand voice and vision, copywriters use a certain style of language to convey a particular mood, conveying the company philosophy with their content. They also need to be able to switch between different tones of voice quickly and easily depending on the brief.
Having a Keen Attention to Detail
As a copywriter, you’ll need to proofread your own work. While there’s software out there to highlight mistakes, even the most advanced algorithms can misunderstand writing and get confused by complex syntax.
Editing is one of the most important copywriting skills and it’s not just about noticing errors. It’s about cutting down on repetition, keeping sentences clear and without too many clauses, re-formatting text to ensure it’s easy to read, and creating consistency.
Use the same variants of particular words throughout. Keep an eye on capital letters. Make sure you haven’t mixed up tenses. Back up claims with credible sources. And pay attention to the spelling of names of people, places, and companies.
Building a Large Vocabulary
In copywriting, lots of words are overused. Take cutting-edge, world-class, ultimate, and epic, for example. Avoid clichés if you’re going to create copy that stands out. Expand your vocabulary to include unusual words and avoid dull and hackneyed phrases.
Reading is also essential as a copywriter. See how other writers craft their sentences and what words they use. Exposing yourself to great writing will broaden your vocabulary and get you thinking creatively.
Honing Research Skills
While many copywriters specialize in a certain niche, there are times when you’ll find yourself writing about unfamiliar topics and you’ll need to get to grips with complex subjects quickly. This requires a willingness to learn and to find a fresh angle.
It also means strong research skills. Being internet-savvy is vital as you scour the web looking for relevant information, getting up to speed, and efficiently sorting essential facts from dispensable details.
You’ll also need to be able to determine which sources are trustworthy, as well as keeping track of where you get your information from, crediting sources when necessary to avoid plagiarism.
Using Your Imagination
It’s rare to find yourself writing on a topic that is totally fresh and hasn’t been covered before. Part of your job as a copywriter is to say something that’s already been said—but to say it better. This takes imagination. You need to find a new perspective. Or draw parallels that other people have missed. Or adopt a style or format that’s a bit different.
Imaginative copywriting is also about telling a story. Humans love stories. They resonate with us on an emotional level, grab our attention, and stick in our memory.
To approach copywriting as a storyteller, consider a before-and-after structure or a problem-and-solution story. You can also tell origin stories or success stories. Think about who your reader is and what they want. Can you dramatize this?
Successful copywriting is all about connecting with the reader. To do this, you have to be able to understand them. You need to be able to see their point of view and put yourself in their shoes.
Think about what the reader wants or needs. What problem are they experiencing? How can you help them solve it? What objections might they raise that you can address? What tone of voice will appeal to them? What facts or anecdotes will engage them?
If you can empathise with your audience, you’ll be better equipped to write copy that resonates and feels personal.
As a copywriter, you also need to be able to listen—not just to the reader but to your client. You need to hear exactly what they are asking of you.
This means asking the right questions to establish exactly what the brief is, ensuring that you create copy that has the right tone and angle.
Sometimes, clients might not be sure what it is they want—or might not be able to completely articulate it. Your task is to listen to their thoughts and ideas and get a sense of what their vision is.
Developing SEO Knowledge
Copywriters don’t need to be SEO experts, but it does help if you can understand at least the basics. Google scans content to find relevant pages for particular searches. It does this by searching for keywords, amongst other things.
The trick is to incorporate these keywords without keyword stuffing—or using so many keywords that your text no longer makes sense and sounds like it’s been written by a robot.
You also want to have a good number of internal and external links to help the page rank higher, plenty of relevant headings, and a great headline.
Getting to Grips with the Marketing Funnel
As a copywriter, you have to have some understanding of marketing and the customer journey. The marketing funnel refers to how the consumer’s relationship with a company changes as they move from a visitor first encountering a brand to a customer making a purchase.
All marketing efforts are focused on moving the customer along this funnel and the customer’s needs and expectations change at each stage. Your copy should reflect that.
For example, if you’re writing a piece of cornerstone content, this comes near the top of the funnel. You’ve attracted a customer and now you’re educating them, building awareness and piquing interest.
But if you’re writing product descriptions, you’re further down the funnel and your copy should be more persuasive than informative, convincing customers to make a purchase.
Taking on Board Feedback
No matter how talented you are as a copywriter, there are always going to be ways you can improve, so you need to be receptive to criticism.
An SEO specialist will have ideas of how you can make your copy more SEO-friendly. A designer can tell you how to make your copy more visually appealing. And your audience will also have feedback for you—in the form of comments, shares, and likes.
Feedback can also take the form of data from tools like Google Analytics. Take the time to understand what these numbers and metrics say about engagement. Then you can experiment with different headlines, for example, to see if you get more shares on your blog posts. Or what about if you made your articles shorter? Would this reduce the bounce rate?
Analytics give you a measurable way to determine how successful your copy is.
An Awareness of the Bigger Picture
A skilled copywriter has an idea of what’s going on in the world. They stay informed about current affairs and what’s trending. They react to these changes to keep their copy fresh and up to date.
Reading the news and staying on top of big issues as well as pop culture trends will make sure your writing feels dynamic and relevant. It will also help you to make topical jokes or clever comparisons.
Use Google Trends to discover search behaviour online or Facebook and Twitter to see what topics are trending depending on where you are and who you follow. You can see what your audience is interested in and craft copy accordingly.
This is an all-round essential adult-life skill but with copywriting, it’s particularly relevant, especially if you’re a freelancer.
Dealing with deadlines and staying on top of the demands of different clients can become overwhelming if you don’t have a good system in place.
- Clients will expect and appreciate prompt replies to emails, so create a window each morning for staying on top of your inbox.
- Maintain monthly to-do lists as well as daily to-do lists.
- Schedule in all your work, ensuring you create space for revisions and edits as well as time to deal with invoices and accounts.
- You should also make regular time to work on growing your business and reaching out to new clients.
- Take advantage of organisation and productivity apps such as Notion—a virtual workspace where you can write, plan, collaborate, take notes, and manage projects. Or there’s Evernote, a note-taking tool where you can add pictures, audio, and videos, as well as scan documents and business cards.
Like any other skill, organisation can be practised. Stick at it until you’ve perfected a routine and system that works for you.
Copywriting Skills: Give Your Copywriting the Boost it Needs
Maybe you’re a veteran copywriter. It’s your vocation, calling, and passion. Or maybe you’re just dabbling with copywriting as you dip your toes into the world of content marketing. Either way, these 17 skills can make all the difference between average and incredible copywriting.
How to learn these copywriting skills? It’s a question of dedication and practice. Identify those skills where you could do better and make it a priority to improve with monthly check-ins to see how you’re progressing.
If we only had to pick one of these copywriting skills for you to master this year? It would have to be ‘taking on board feedback.’ Because there is always room for improvement.
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