Copywriting is the practice of writing non-fiction material for marketing purposes, with the style and content crafted to target a particular audience. It spans the continuum of technical through to creative writing in terms of style. Content is as diverse as marketing itself, from information you read on product packaging, through to academic style ‘white paper’ reports – and everything in between.
Aims of Copywriting
The key aims of a marketer’s copywriting are to convey messages that influence the reader’s thinking and behavior regarding a brand or product. Subtle or overt messages will engage the reader’s interest and encourage them to find out more about the product or company and take action, whether it is buying the product itself, subscribing to a newsletter, requesting a demo/call back etc.
While messages may be generic, aiming to reach wide audiences, information can also be highly targeted, speaking to the desires and aspirations of specific groups. Thus, messages can be tweaked or edited to appeal to audiences based on demographics, i.e. age, locality, gender, or other specific variables identified by marketers as significant.
Aims of copy may be to:
- Introduce a company, a brand, service or products
- Foster familiarity with a brand and its offering
- To encourage ‘warming’ towards a brand or its products
- To facilitate sales
- To encourage customers to share their contact details. (In particular, phone numbers and emails to drip feed further targeted marketing campaigns)
- To engage an audience on social media
- To crowdsource ideas and solutions for innovations via social media
Applications of Copywriting
The variety of copywriting applications is as wide as the marketer’s imagination and as deep as their budget permits. The following is a non-exhaustive list of more popular copy formats:
- Blogs, articles or listicles
- Company profile or personnel professional bio’s
- Website or brochure sales pages that promote specific services or products
- Email campaigns
- E-books, reports and white papers
- Sponsored advertisement copy (advertorials)
- Social media posts
- Bid writing
- Guidance booklets and training materials for staff
The key to successful deployment of marketing assets in any of the above formats is a combination of ‘brand voice’ and ‘key words’ across a sales funnel and clear, focused messaging. For manufacturers of technical goods, this means that your copywriter must be able to use jargon in a way that informs without obfuscation; the use of plain English to explain terminology is paramount for engaging and educating new customers.
Whichever channels you can use given the financial and human resources available, campaign results need to be regularly measured against your ideal outcome to ensure you are deploying resources efficiently and effectively.
Copywriting Skills and Expertise
Many copywriters are self-taught. Some of the best known literary authors have sought to subsidise their literary career in the early days with writing for business. Salman Rushdie’s ‘Naughty But Nice’ slogan is a classic example of a concise and memorable catchphrase that served ad agency Ogilvy and Mather well. Other famous one-time copywriters include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Sayers and Joseph Heller.
There is no formal pathway into the field and no barriers to entry but some copywriters have professional accreditations to their name. Free training courses and paid industry accreditations are available to take online.
The following is a selection of training courses available for those looking to boost their skills in complimentary fields. For example you can be more attractive to employers if you are proficient in the areas where your copy is used, like email marketing, social media, and paid ads.
- Bing (Microsoft) Ads Accredited Professional Certification entails a free course and test on search engine marketing. According to Payscale, accreditation can lead to a 5.9% earnings raise.
- Google Adwords Certification is free training. As a basic expectation of employers, this training offers around a 2% earnings enhancement.
- Hubspot Inbound: free training on attracting customer. Helps copywriters hone skills in writing targeted emails, market segmentation, email design, lifecycle marketing, optimization, lead nurturing, analytics and more for free.
- A Journalism Certificate like this one from the London School of Journalism will demonstrate your professional writing ability and, while not free, can make you more competitive in the market.
There are a plethora of self-appointed experts who have established their courses as the ‘go-to’ professional development programme, so it is important to do your research on the training provider. Educational institutions offering training in business related writing will have more credibility than some of the professional copywriters seeking to add an income stream to their day-to-day writing.
Additional expertise can be gained by some of the free training providers, such as Udemy, Khan Academy and others. Look out for the following specific areas of copywriting which will directly impact your writing expertise, or give you wider foundational knowledge when writing for business purposes.
- Social media
- Proofreading and copy editing
- Digital media marketing
- SEO (Search engine optimization)
- Business project management
How To Start In Copywriting
Chances are if you are reading this, then you have already been writing regularly for some reason and want to start earning from your writing expertise. The key is to get yourself registered one of the freelancer platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour. Do your research on each as some offer valuable tools to help you develop professionally. Also, you will need to consider the fees you will need to pay on each job for the privilege of the platform connecting you to buyers.
Getting professional experience is essential before you can build your profile online and portfolio for employers. Depending upon your personal circumstances, you may have to adapt your fee structure to successfully bid for contracts. Starting out, when still unsure of your skill and impact on a client’s business, you may wish to limit your services offered, i.e, stick to blogging at first, before expanding your offerings as you develop your skills writing for different purposes. As you pick up good reviews, you will be able to raise your rates.
Once you have proven your capability, you can then investigate various directories and social media platforms. For professionals, the obvious outlet to reach clients is LinkedIn. Here, your bio can demonstrate your competency in how you articulate your offering, and a Premium account allows you to send messages to potential clients.
Copywriting Career Progression
Copywriters can move on to work as editors, sub editors, content managers, SEO/SEM professionals, email marketing professionals, marketing executives/managers, content marketers, journalists, and content managers. In-house at a company or agency, they can progress to senior copywriter roles or to head of copy. The core skill of knowing to write in a compelling way and understanding the needs of consumers is a valuable foundation, giving copywriters the opportunity to move into a range of different creative and marketing roles.
Earnings From Copywriting
Many writers love what they do, but may find that as a freelancer, for instance, it requires a lot of time to promote their services and attract new clients on top of delivering projects. If you can make a living comfortably, you are doing well. However, unless you are a paid employee, you will have to cover earnings gaps during your own holiday periods or times of sickness. A lot of freelance copywriters struggle, or are relatively low paid, sadly. Skilled writers who are prepared to put in long hours can earn an avergae wage. In-house copywriters can fare better, with the average salary in the US being $47,838. Copywriting roles at banks and financial institutions, and in the healthcare sector that require specific knowledge can pay significantly more. And that is the key – to establish expertise in a niche area that few other writers know about. Lots of people can write, but few can write with genuine authority on a complex subject. If you can do that, you can charge a premium for your services.
Some writers expand into training, such as Craig Garber, ‘King of Copy’, who has made a career of this. He produces his own copywriting training newsletter, with concrete examples of projects or bad practice he comes across. He offers ‘masterminding’ classes to trainees, online training resources and is a published author. Authorship provides a residual income and if your book is well-marketed and popular, can support you longer term, whatever happens.
There are other writers who have discovered the power of ‘leveraged earnings’ through training programmes. Some of them will be invaluable for your development, but your greatest asset is your own commitment to continual learning and love of what you do. In the end, passion sells products. Your ability to trigger a reader’s emotions, supported by great writing, are the cornerstones of a copywriting career.