There’s far more to copywriting than just advertising a product. Copy must engage the reader; it must make the reader feel something as much as a piece of fiction. It’s through this that we keep people coming back: both to you and your client.
Copy covers everything from marketing emails to blog posts to product descriptions. All marketing text that you find is classed as copy, and it shouldn’t be approached in the same way as fiction. Just because you’re great at one that doesn’t mean you’ll excel at the other. However, copywriting is a great way for writers to make money should you be able to adapt your writing style. Here’s 9 things you need to consider when writing copy.
Make sure that you do your research before you write your piece, especially if it’s a topic you don’t know anything about. You don’t want to write something and have your client point out that you’ve got your facts wrong. That could be embarrassing…
Pieces should be written in plain English. Copy isn’t about fancy prose, it’s about getting your point across. The easier your piece is for people to understand, the better it will be received. Save your purple prose for your fiction (if you really insist on using it at all).
Don’t worry about plain English being boring. Plain English can be much more evocative than any other form of language so long as it is done correctly. Writing in plain English also allows you to reach a wider amount of people, because more people will understand what you’re trying to say.
Copy should be written in a friendly, conversational manner. Treat your customer like a friend that you’re plugging your new favourite product to. Don’t talk down to them or assume they’re going to understand jargon. Use simple language. The simpler your language, the wider your audience.
All copywriting should be engaging, easy to understand, and unique.
If you’re working as a freelance copywriter, it’s important that you research a new client before you start writing for them. Unless they say otherwise, your copy should fit the current voice, tone and identity of their brand.
If you’re working as a copywriter for a company, make sure you know them inside out. Get to know the sales department and the product designers: they’ll be the best ones to tell you everything you need to know about what you’re going to write about.
The audience of your piece is important in all writing. It dictates what you write about, how you write about it, and what you want to achieve.
Imagine you’re writing a blog post about a new children’s toy. Are you targeting the children, or the adult? Your primary audience should be the parents—they’re the ones that are going to go out and buy the product, but they’ll only buy it if they think it’s suitable for their child. You need to convince them that it’s appropriate for their child’s age, and that it’s safe for their child to use. Once you’ve done that, the secondary audience of the child will automatically be sold by its cool features and design.
If your headline doesn’t engage people, they won’t keep reading.
Titles are important in everything, but in copy, they can be the difference between hundreds of sales, a handful of sales, or even no sales. Some suggest that as much as 50% of your time should be spent writing the headline of your piece.
Your title needs to grab people from the first word. If it doesn’t, they won’t read any further. Your title should sum up what you’re writing about and pique the reader’s curiosity. I like to use the AMI Institute’s headline checker and CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser when coming up with titles. It measures their effectiveness and tells you what kind(s) of people you’re likely to attract.
Some people require a specific length when they request copy. How long your copy is will also be dictated by what you’re writing—blog posts should be 1600 words, whilst product copy should be much shorter. Make sure you’re aware of how many words your client expects before you start writing.
This one only applies if you’re writing online copy, but a lot of copy these days is.
Is what you’ve written SEO-friendly? Do you have links to relevant articles to back up your points? Have you used the keyword enough times? There’s a list of some of the things you need to look out for here. If you’re using WordPress, this plugin is one of the most popular. You can also use tools such as Moz, Keyword Tool and Google Trends.
Write What You Believe In
If you’re writing about something you don’t believe in, it will show. Audiences aren’t stupid. If you’ve been asked to write about something you disagree with or don’t like, it’s likely that this will come across in your finished piece. It’s very difficult for personal opinions to not seep into what you write. If you’re a freelancer, don’t take on a job just because it’s money—if your heart isn’t in it, the reader will be able to tell. Not only that, but it will take you longer to write the piece and work out less cost-effective.
Copywriting and fiction writing are two completely different things and require different approaches. There’s no place for fancy prose and metaphors in copywriting: language should be plain and easy-to-understand. Always keep your audience in mind when writing: this will prevent you from going off on a tangent.
Online pieces should be SEO-friendly and of an appropriate length. Titles should have as much time spent on them as the actual piece—they’re what will hook your reader and lead to sales.
Most importantly, don’t write about something you don’t believe in. There are more important things in the world than money.
What skills do you think are important when copywriting? Have I missed anything off the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can get in touch on Facebook, Google+, Twitter or in the comments below! I look forward to hearing from you.