According to some online copywriting courses, anyone can become a copywriter and earn six-figures or more. While this might technically be true, there is a lot they aren’t telling you.
For people who enjoy creative writing, copywriting may be easier than other professions. The fundamentals of copywriting are not difficult to grasp. However, it is doubtful anyone will earn six-figures their first year after merely taking a copywriting course.
Like any skill set, it takes time to learn copywriting and yet more time to mature into a highly paid professional. And, as with any profession, not everyone makes it to the top.
Is Copywriting Easy?
If you love writing you might find copywriting easier than other professions, but it’s still requires sustained effort. Plus, success with copywriting takes more than the ability to write.
It requires a business mind attuned to marketing. In addition to writing well, a copywriter must understand the dynamics of the sales process.
In fact, the copywriters who earn the highest income usually serve as marketing consultants to their clients in addition to writing copy.
If you don’t love the process of writing, rewriting and polishing sentences and phrases, I suspect you will find copywriting a challenging profession.
The Dark Side of Copywriting.
Every profession has a dark side, the “not-fun” things you must tolerate or work through to succeed.
Copywriting is no different.
It’s true copywriting can be very lucrative, but clients won’t throw money at you just because you claim you can write copy.
You must first deliver the goods, and this means embracing the dark side of the profession.
In the beginning, a copywriter is not paid well, or not paid at all. A starting salary position typically pays less than $40,000 a year in the US.
A beginning freelancer may work for nothing, or next to nothing, to gain experience and build a portfolio.
Beyond the entry-level, it can often be feast and famine for the freelancer. They make money on a project, but when it’s complete, they’re broke again and must find another client.
Sometimes a copywriter will face impossible deadlines, but they still must deliver.
And, having multiple clients can often feel like having several bosses who think you work only for them.
Dealing with a client’s insecurities and office politics can be maddening.
Although it might be detrimental to the success of a marketing campaign, sometimes a client might insist on a change in the copy merely because she can.
Eventually, many of these negatives can be managed and some may disappear as a copywriting business matures.
The more skillful a copywriter is, and the more they have a reputation for making money for their clients, the more leverage they will have to pick only the clients they like to work for.
Revenue will increase over time as well. It’s always easier to deal with a problematic client if they are paying you well.
Essential Characteristics of a Successful Copywriter.
Anyone who can write can learn the mechanics of copywriting and, with enough persistence, write compelling copy.
However, professional copywriters who earn six-figures a year or more, have a few essential character traits in common.
These key characteristics of successful copywriters are seldom mentioned in copywriting books and courses.
Yet, these characteristics are the difference between the average copywriter who struggles to earn a living and the pros at the top of the profession.
The pros have empathy, creative intelligence, an insatiable drive to better understand their product and the prospect, and a thorough understanding of the sales process.
Empathy and the Copywriter.
Empathy is typically learned in childhood. It isn’t a skill. It’s an emotional awareness, an insight into what someone else is experiencing.
Empathy is the innate ability to put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customer and to understand their needs and desires on an emotional level.
When a copywriter understands her prospective customer so intimately, she knows what they want or desire.
This insight is a huge advantage, because sales is fundamentally about showing someone how your product will help them.
It’s the difference between a hack copywriter who uses formulas to cobble a sales page together and hopes for the best, and a professional who delivers precisely what the customer needs.
Creative Intelligence and the Copywriter.
A copywriter doesn’t have to be a creative genius, but it does help to have what Dr. Robert Sternberg describes as Creative Intelligence.
To my knowledge, a person cannot be tested to determine if they possess creative intelligence, but most people know if they are or not.
A love of creative writing, particularly long fiction, would suggest a high degree of creative intelligence.
Many of the mental gymnastics needed to write a novel are the same for copywriting.
The most obvious characteristic of a copywriter with high creative intelligence is she’s a free thinker with her own ideas.
And, she’s self-motivated, eagerly investing considerable energy into her work.
A copywriter who possesses high creative intelligence can process several ideas at the same time.
She can see patterns in large volumes of information and possesses an intuitive curiosity to thoroughly examine problems from every angle.
When a copywriter has high creative intelligence, she typically loses herself in the creative process, oblivious to the outside world as she focuses intensely on the task at hand.
Research and the Copywriter.
Compelling ad copy begins with research.
Like an archer taking aim at the bull’s eye, a copywriter must clearly see his target. Anything less will only lead to disappointing results.
Before a copywriter begins writing, he must first have a thorough understanding of the product, the prospect and the desired outcome.
A professional copywriter knows that the better he understands these things, the more powerful his copy will be, ultimately leading to higher revenue for his clients and himself.
Research is the key. A successful copywriter is first a researcher digging for information.
It’s not enough for a copywriter to only be familiar with the product or service their copy will promote, they must go farther
They must become an authority on the product.
A copywriter who doesn’t know everything about the product, cannot persuade a prospect to buy it.
Gaining this degree of knowledge often means reading everything printed about the product, talking to the people who designed it and reading online reviews.
Sales and the Copywriter.
Dan Kennedy, one of our copywriting greats, reminds us that “Copywriting is salesmanship in print.”
Inexperienced copywriters might interpret this as a license to use blunt force tactics to bully a prospect into buying. That would be counter-productive and only lead to frustration.
Selling is not a military assault. It’s more like a seductive invitation.
Once the copy is written, a copywriter has no control over how a person will experience it. If it’s too salesy, the prospect will stop reading and the sale will be lost.
Just as a novelist creates an engaging world that entertains the reader, a skilled copywriter creates a world that draws a prospect through the sales process.
With empathy, creative intelligence and understanding, a copywriter uses words to emotionally engage the prospect and show how he will benefit from the product.
Is Copywriting Easy?
This article began with the question, “Is copywriting easy?”
It can be for some people. Copywriting is time-consuming and it takes a lot of work. But, if you enjoy words, it might be for you.
Implied in the question, “Is copywriting easy?” is a hidden, indirect question.
When someone asks if copywriting is easy, are they really asking is copywriting an easy way to make a lot of money fast?
It can be, but not for someone with no copywriting knowledge or experience.
Fast and Easy.
Once someone has experience with core copywriting methods and has proven they can create a successful marketing campaign, there are ways to quickly turn a profit.
Once you have the skills, it’s possible to launch online marketing campaigns through Google, Bing and Facebook ads that quickly earn a substantial profit.
How to Learn Copywriting.
The first copywriting lesson is to think like a businessperson. A savvy businessperson minimizes risk and maximizes profit.
As you search for copywriting training, minimizing risk means saving your money until you know the basics.
Until you understand the basics of copywriting and the process of creating compelling ad copy, you can’t know if you will stick with it.
At this stage, it would be a mistake to spend a lot of money on copywriting training only to learn you don’t like it.
Avoid purchasing an expensive copywriting course until you are confident you can tolerate the negatives of the profession.
Many of the copywriting training packages are hyped as a quick and easy way to make a lot of money. This hype is no different than the no-money-down real estate courses pitched on late-night TV.
For about $20, you can find an excellent copywriting book on Amazon. I recommend Steve Slaunwhite’s “The Everything Guide to Writing Copy.” It’s a goldmine of information.
Get the paperback edition. You’ll want to make notes and you’ll also want it open on your desk as you write copy.