Every copywriting guru making millions was once a beginner.
Successful copywriters aren’t wizards. They are flesh and blood humans who understand sales and who can focus their creative intelligence to write persuasively.
Although, copywriting might at first seem intimidating. It shouldn’t be. While it’s true that some copywriters live like celebrities, the process of writing copy isn’t magic.
It’s mostly a mechanical process that follows established formulas.
Below are 14 tips to get you started as a copywriter. I conclude with a brief discussion about your options as a writer. These tips are not in order of priority, except perhaps the first one.
1. Don’t spend a lot of money to learn copywriting.
At least, not at first.
Contrary to what some self-proclaimed gurus might tell you, you don’t have to spend thousands on their training courses.
Most of what you need to know, you can learn from a $20 book. The rest is application.
Copywriting isn’t for everyone. Some people find it quite tedious and others can’t bring themselves to sit down and do the work.
Unfortunately, many copywriting courses are promoted like no-money-down real estate training packages. They promise quick and easy riches with no risk or work.
Don’t buy a copywriting course until you have proven to yourself the career is for you.
Read The Best Copywriting Guide, get the book, and master it. If you find it exciting and can’t get enough, you might be a copywriter.
On the other hand, if the book bores you to tears and you can’t find the motivation to write a single practice project, copywriting isn’t for you.
2. Have a System.
Always know where to begin on every project.
Without a system, you’ll thrash about wasting time, energy, and creativity. The entire process will be annoying, and you might convince yourself it just too hard.
With a system, you’ll always know how to start and what step to take next.
If a client woke you up, shoved a copywriting project in your hands, and said you have four hours to complete it or I’m killing your goldfish, where would you begin?
Starting a new project can be like trying to push a stalled car. There’s a lot of resistance in the beginning, but after a few grunts, things roll along nicely.
When you have a system, getting rolling is a lot easier.
Start with research. The most significant part of copywriting is research.
Thorough research of your target audience and product makes the writing process much easier.
3. Be Gentle. Be Kind.
An inexperienced copywriter might fall into the mindset that persuasive writing is a battle of wills between them and the prospect. It’s not.
Don’t let your copy read like a brute force attack.
Compelling copy seduces the audience and leads them through the material by revealing how they can get what they want with your product.
Trust and credibility is the foundation of your message.
When you strive to be gentle and kind with your writing, it mentally draws the audience closer. Psychologically, they lean into the copy to process every word, as if listening to a good conversation with a trusted friend.
3. Keep a Notebook.
Your best ideas percolate up from your subconscious.
After you have written a few projects, your inner copywriting genius wakes up and begins tossing ideas your way when you least expect it.
You might be driving, taking a shower, or dropping off to sleep when an idea pops in your head.
Write it down immediately.
Don’t reject an idea. Your inner creative genius does not take rejection well and will refuse to talk to you. You don’t want that.
As long as you accept the ideas that pop in your head, they’ll keep coming.
Not every idea will be useful. Most won’t be, but often bad ideas will lead to good ideas.
You don’t want to miss any of them because somewhere in the mix is a gem that will make your copy spectacular.
I carry a small pocket notebook to jot down the ideas that come to me, but you might use the recording function in your cell phone.
4. Know your product.
You must know the product you are writing about as intimately as if you created it. If you don’t, your writing will lack authority, and you won’t have a snowball’s chance in persuading anyone to buy it.
Get all the information you can from your client or boss. Also, talk to the product development team, the marketing department, and salespeople.
If a salesforce is promoting the product, have several salespeople pitch it to you.
Know how the product works and every feature. Convert the features to benefits. Have a clear understanding of how the product helps the customer.
How is the product you’re promoting different from the competitor’s product?
What is unique about it? What are its advantages?
5. Show the prospect what’s in it for them.
Focus on your prospect’s needs and desires.
As your prospect reads the headline of your copy and continues into the lead and body, they are asking themselves, “what’s in it for me?”
They’re thinking about what they can get out of reading your copy and buying the product. How can it make their life better?
In other words, they want to know how they will benefit.
6. Find the background material on the product.
Background material is all the stuff that has been written about the project before you got involved.
It might be technical papers, sales letters, advertisements, or articles. If there are online reviews of the product, check them out and not what people liked and didn’t like about it.
Background material is a goldmine of ideas, phrases, and headlines you can use in your copy. Build on what others have done before you and make it better.
6. Know your target audience.
The most important part of a copywriting project is the target audience. These are the people you are attempting to persuade. They are the measure of your success.
You want a clear understanding of your prospective buyer, because if you can’t move them to act with your words, your copy fails, regardless of how perfect you might think it is.
I doubt you can ever know enough about your target audience.
As much as possible, empathize with your buyer. Get in their head. Understand their needs, fears, desires, and interests as if they were your own.
The process of buying is an emotional decision. You want to find your prospect’s emotional trigger.
You want to know what thoughts your prospective customer has as they make a buying decision.
Ideally, talk directly with your prospective customer.
In some cases, your client or company might have survey information and summaries defining your target audience. Study those closely.
If possible, hang out at the forums and blogs your prospect frequents. Make a note of the slang they use, the problems they may have, and complaints about competing products.
What do they want, and how can your product help them get it?
Promotional literature or webinars that cater to your audience are other sources of information.
7. Always be writing headlines and leads.
The headline is the most critical element of your copy. Without an engaging headline, most people will quickly lose interest in your offer.
If no one reads your copy, it won’t make any sales.
Second in importance to the headline is the lead, the first paragraph of copy. It must answer the “what’s in it for me?” question in the reader’s mind.
From the moment you take on a project to the moment you finish, write headlines, and leads.
If you wait to write these two critical elements after you’ve written your copy, it will take longer and probably not be as engaging.
Writing and rewriting your headline and lead as you research creates a synergistic flow where all elements of the project are continually improving.
Aim for a dozen or more headlines and leads. The ones you don’t use immediately are used during A/B testing.
8. Use word pictures.
Copy is more powerful when the reader can see it in their mind. Convey your message with word pictures.
9. Trigger emotions.
Usually, people buy things because they want them. It’s an emotional process.
When you think about, we don’t need much; food, water, air, shelter, and a little medical attention from time to time.
However, there is no end to the things we want.
According to a Harvard study, 95% of our purchasing decisions are triggered subconsciously.
Determine what emotion you want your reader to feel and then write your copy to trigger that emotion in them.
10. Be careful with power words.
You can find lists of so-called power words on the internet, use them with caution.
Someone new to copywriting might think the more power words they use, the more powerful their copy will be. That isn’t true.
The more power words you use, the more you copy will sound salesy. You don’t want that.
After you write your copy, read over it and see where you might use a power word or two. Do the terms enhance the impact of your message or do they make it sound cartoonish?
11. Write in a conversational tone.
You don’t want your work to sound like a sales pitch.
The moment a prospect suspects they are being sold, their defenses go up.
If your copy sounds like a sales pitch, conversions will suffer dramatically.
Instead, write as if you’re speaking to your best friend over a cup of coffee. Imagine they have a problem, and you must show them how your product solves that problem for them.
The best sales copy gently engages the audience and leads them from one point to the next, like a soft-spoken and helpful conversation.
12. Sell the Result.
You may have heard that people buy a drill not because they want a drill, but because they want a hole.
Likewise, they don’t buy a super-duper mattress because they want it; they buy a super-duper mattress because they want to wake up feeling good.
The features of your product are essential in your copy, but not as important as the benefits.
Features won’t hook your reader, but benefits will. Tell your prospect how they will benefit from the product. Show them the results.
Psychologically, a person makes a purchase based on emotion. Later, they will justify the purchase using logic.
Benefits trigger the emotional impulse to buy. Features help the customer justify their purchase with logic.
Use both benefits and features in your copy, but understand it’s the result, the benefit, that moves the prospect to buy.
13. Build Your Confidence.
In my experience, what holds most beginner copywriters back isn’t lack of skill or knowledge, it’s lack of confidence.
If you’re a beginner, read The Best Copywriting Guide. In that article, I recommend a very affordable book that will teach you everything you need to know to get started as a copywriter.
That book will give you a system to use for every project.
Use that system to write several practice projects that promote either real or imagined products and services.
Keep practicing until you have the confidence to approach a prospective client.
It gets back to the hypothetical example I mentioned earlier that held your goldfish hostage. When you know you can start a project without hesitation, you’re ready to offer your services.
14. Use story as much as possible.
Humans are mentally hardwired to connect with stories. It’s a familiar pattern that naturally engages our attention.
Story structure is like the melody of a jingle that we can’t out of minds.
A simple story structure that is useful in copywriting is:
- Meet Sally
- Sally has a problem
- Our product solved Sally’s problem
- Do X so our product can solve your problem too.
Copywriting for Beginners
As in any profession, some people have more natural talent than others.
In copywriting, those who often achieve the highest incomes embody empathy, creative intelligence, fearless negotiating skills, and a relentless work ethic.
Empathy gives a copywriter the ability to put themselves in the head of the prospect. They not only see the prospect’s perspective; they feel it.
Through empathy, they deeply understand how the prospect will benefit from the product.
Creative intelligence is the ability to be creative on demand. On a macro level, it’s the capacity to find unique angles for promoting a product.
On the micro-level, it’s the knack for turning a surprising phrase that hooks the reader’s attention and makes them want to read to the end.
Fearless Negotiating Skills is often where the difference between an amateur and a professional is most apparent. Because a pro knows how much their copy earns for the client, they know how much they’re worth.
In the beginning, you may have to charge below average rates until you have a track record and are known. However, with every project, try to find out how much the client earned from your copy.
When you know what your copy is worth to the client, you’ll have the confidence to negotiate a proper fee. There may be times when you can also ask a portion of the sales revenue.
If you don’t want to negotiate with clients, become a digital marketer, and write copy for your own marketing campaigns.
As a digital marketer, you can create campaigns to sell affiliate products and earn a commission with each sale.
Writing copy for your own digital marketing campaigns can be very lucrative.
To learn more about affiliate marketing, read The Easiest Writing Career.
Relentless Work Ethic. Naturally, the more copywriting projects you complete, the more you will earn. But, the first year or two is the building phase of your business, and money can come in fits and starts.
You make money when you complete a project, but then you must find another one. While your searching for a client, you’re not making money. You may well be spending it.
Often the difference between wild success and an average income is the degree of effort.
Copywriting Isn’t for Everyone
Often someone who loves to write will investigate copywriting as a potential career. While a love of writing is helpful, not every writer would enjoy writing copy.
Unfortunately, many online writing schools, coaches, and gurus pitch that anyone can make a lot of money quickly as a copywriter.
That just isn’t realistic. These gurus are merely trying to sell their training courses. Most of these courses are expensive and fail to instill in the student the confidence they need to succeed.
Also, they accept anyone as a student, even people who are ill-suited for the profession.
Success as a copywriter requires the ability to work alone, plus the capacity to work with others.
It’s working with others that often prevents a copywriter from succeeding because many writers are introverts. They’re exhausted by personal interaction.
If you can’t see yourself attending face-to-face business meetings with your client, brainstorming with a marketing team, or taking criticism, maybe copywriting isn’t for you.
On the other hand, if selling with words intrigues you, but you don’t want to interact with people, maybe earning an income with a blog would suit you better.
After many years as a freelance writer, I believe blogging is the most direct route to turning words into revenue.