Riddle: I didn't study psychology but I know how to get into people's brains. I am not a business person but I know how to sell. I am not a magician but I can make people do what I want. Who am I?
A copywriter. A mix of Karl Jung, Bill Gates, and Harry Potter. A rare species.
Every business in every industry needs a good copywriter. Copywriters can turn a run-of-the-mill business into a wealth-generating machine…That sounds like magic. But don't worry, you don't need to have magic skills to be a copywriter. All you need is a lot of hard work and the following seven powers.
Of course, writing is the number one skill copywriters need to master. It doesn’t sound hard, does it? Everyone can write...technically. But not everyone can write stuff that people will actually read, let alone respond to.
Good copywriters are people who can articulate thoughts and ideas in a clear, interesting, fresh, and authentic way.
Writing is a hard skill to master. It requires concentration, diligence, and ongoing practice. And what about talent? Do you need to have a natural writing talent to become a successful copywriter?
In my opinion, talent and a craving to become a writer get shipped together. In other words, if you truly want to be a professional writer, you must have the talent. But then, there is this argument that Stephen King made about successful writers:
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. – Stephen King
If you want to succeed in copywriting, you need to write. A lot.
Copywriting is a democratic job. It accepts people of all walks of life, levels of education, and professional backgrounds. It seems like to become a copywriter, you don't need to be an expert in anything. But let me ask you a question: Will you listen to somebody who doesn't understand what they are talking about?
I don't mean to say that a copywriter needs to have a degree in the field they're working in. Yet if a copywriter isn't an expert, it’s harder to write credible and persuasive copy — but not impossible.
You can always borrow others’ expertise. Research is your ability to gather information and ideas about your topic to write copy that jacks up your trustworthiness.
Research builds up knowledge and deepens your understanding of your product and the audience you're selling it to. But it isn't limited to a few Google searches. Great copywriters always interview other people: experts, users, clients. They aren't afraid to ask questions and reach out to others, even if they are strangers.
When you do research, you need to dig deep into the details, not just skim the surface. Skimming the surface leads to producing "fluff" content, and "fluff" content weakens the force of copy.
Your detective work shouldn't only finish with “what” or “when.” You need to know “how” and “why.”
One of the most important ingredients of effective copy is novelty. Our minds gravitate toward novelty. It captures our attention. To generate original ideas, you need to work on your ability to see things from a different angle. What does it mean in practice?
For example, let's say you need to write copy for a landing page of a software development company where you want to persuade people that this company builds high-quality software.
Our brains naturally tend to seek out ‘short cuts’. That's why the first sentence that will come to your mind might sound something like this: We build reliable software.
You don't have to think to write it. It comes up automatically. But let's try to look at high-quality software from a different angle. How can we express the idea of quality? We can compare high-quality software to a bridge! Civil engineers build bridges just like software engineers build software. Bridges must be reliable, otherwise, they won't be operational. We can use this analogy to convey the idea of high-quality software:
Good software is like a strong bridge. If you want it to be safe and withstand the weight of people, you can't afford to make errors. Unreliable software can wreak havoc on your business. You need great software engineers to build reliable systems.
Creative thinking requires you to step outside your comfort zone and strain the brain. Flexing your creative muscle is a lot like fitness. If you want results, you need to exercise regularly.
Copy needs to be simple and clear. Otherwise, it won't get people's attention. Copywriters need analytical thinking skills to able to simplify the complexity.
To turn complex into simple, you need to feel comfortable with data. Your job requires you to wrangle data on a daily basis so you could gain insights to create the right message. You need to be able to gather relevant information, break it down into smaller pieces, compare and contrast data from different sources, search for cause and effect, and identify patterns.
Great copywriters are curious and don’t just take someone’s word for it; they discover the truth for themselves. And when they've found the truth, they can make sound judgments, free from bias and based on clear evidence.
Copywriters with great analytical and critical thinking skills ask meaningful questions, tolerate other people's points of view, and build logical arguments. They can explain why they are making certain decisions in their own copy.
Engaging copy creates vivid images in the reader’s mind. Great copywriters show. They don't tell. To paint pictures with words, you need to visualize your reader, the things you describe, and how your writing looks on the page.
Visual thinking helps you make your words come alive. When you think visually, you can come up with clever metaphors, sensory words, and descriptive details. You can also enhance your copy with images and graphics. There’s a reason they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Visual content is just as important as words. It's more attention-grabbing, easier to remember, more engaging and it helps you get your point across.
To practice your visual thinking skills, try to tell your story without words. How would you explain the idea for your sales page if you couldn’t use words? Sketching can enhance your writing and reinforce the ideas you're sharing.
At its core, copywriting is communication. Effective copy – just like effective communication – builds trust, creates relationships, and makes people take action. To communicate effectively, listen more and talk less.
Before putting pen to paper, you should have a crystal clear understanding of the audience you're writing to. You need to know how they think, what they want, and why they want it. And there is no other way to understand people's brains than to sit and listen. When you listen, you become more empathic; that is, you get to understand the world from another person’s perspective – your customer’s perspective. With this understanding, you can tailor your message to your audience and persuade people to take action.
Copywriting IS marketing. Still, many copywriters know nothing about this discipline. They see themselves as writers. And the writer's job is to put words on the page.
If you think that putting words on the page is all your job is about, you will most likely end up on Fiverr, offering commodity for every penny it’s worth. Successful copywriters are marketers. They understand business. And they know how to use words to make an impact.
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Every week I share useful insights and tips on content marketing and copywriting with writers, B2B marketers, and business owners. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and never miss what's coming next!
If you want to learn more about what copywriters write, who they write for, and how they differ from other types of writers, check out my blog post: What Does a Copywriter Do?
For those of you looking to become content writers, I have a separate blog post: 7 Vital Skills a Content Writer Needs.
Make sure you also check out my book From Reads To Leads to learn more about how to create copy that turns readers into leads.
I hope this article was useful! Thanks for reading and subscribing to my YouTube channel.
A list of skillsets that content writers need when applying for a job and growing their careers.
What's the difference between copywriters and a whole bunch of other creative specialists that have something to do with writing and marketing? Time to figure it out!