There are a lot of opinions about what makes a good copywriter
A week or so ago, someone in a copywriting-focused social media group I’m part of asked what they needed to do to become a copywriter. They knew that they enjoyed writing and thought they had a flair for it. Plus, they hated their current job. So they figured it was about time they started monetising their writing talent.
Not surprisingly, nearly every group member who replied had a different answer:
- One person said it was all about storytelling – so as long as this person could tell a good story, they’d be fine.
- Someone else told them to do a particular copywriter certification course.
- Yet a third person said that being a great writer wasn’t actually that important – you just had to know the right words to make people buy.
My 0.02c? I think the answer depends on the person who’s asking. For example, freelance copywriting takes a different, much broader skillset compared to working as an in-house copywriter. And of course, if (like most Crystal Clarity readers) you just want to write for your own, non-copywriting business, that’s a different kettle of fish again.
In fact, if that’s the case for you, I can tell you a few things that aren’t necessary.
Here are 3 things you DON’T need to write great copy for your business
Busting Myth 1: You don’t have to have a history as a straight-A English student
Look, I don’t want to dismiss the value of a good education (I know it’s trendy to hate on the school system, but I’m one of those folks who actually LIKED school!) That said, having placed at the top of your high school English class is NOT a requirement for writing awesome copy.
In fact, straight “A”s in English can even be a liability – at least, if you try to write copy the way you used to write essays.
Yes, you need to be able to write clearly. You need to write sentences that people understand; and you need to be able to correct anything in your initial drafts that will confuse or mislead your readers. But if you only ever write in complete, English-teacher-approved, 100%-grammatically-correct sentences, with no contractions or idioms, your copy ends up stilted and hard to read.
Not ideal for effective copywriting.
Busting Myth 2: You don’t have to get certified as a copywriter
Again, I’m not saying copywriting courses are a bad thing – especially if you want to actually be a copywriter. Even then, though, I don’t think they’re 100% necessary. I know of more than one copywriter who gets by on their own natural talent, experience, and reading blog posts from big names in the industry.
If, you just want to write good copy for your own business, though, you don’t need a copywriting certification. Unless it’s something you genuinely want to do, anyway – in which case, don’t let me put you off!
Busting Myth 3: You can’t just learn a set of all-purpose “power words” that will magically make people take action
Another social media conversation revolved around what everyone thought were the most powerful “magic words” in copywriting. Members offered up all the usual suspects: “free!”, “now!”, “today!”, “new!”, “special!”, and “sale!” (you could HEAR the exclamation marks in their responses)… and then I added my perspective into the mix.
To me, it doesn’t make sense to talk about a set of one-size-fits-all “power words” that you expect to work for every audience, in every situation. For starters, some readers will experience one or more of those words as hype-y and pushy. And even if your audience doesn’t reflexively twitch when they read it, none of the terms is a magic fix for badly written copy.
(That didn’t go down so well in the conversation, incidentally. Such is life)
So what DO you need to write awesome copy then?
Ask ten different copywriters this question and you’ll probably hear twelve different answers. For what it’s worth, I think it comes down to four components:
- First and foremost, you need to know your readers: you need to have a crystal clear understanding of who they are, what they struggle with, what they care about, and what they want. Without that understanding, it doesn’t matter how brilliantly you write – your perfectly polished prose just won’t resonate with them.
- Secondly, you need to be clear on how your offerings help those readers: this is something that a lot of my clients struggle with. They know they make a difference in people’s lives, but pinpointing exactly what that difference is can be a challenge. Good copywriting, however, is all about helping people realise how you can help them – so if you’re not clear on that yourself, you can’t convey it to a reader.
- Thirdly, you need to know exactly what you want your readers to do: for every piece of copy you write, there needs to be ONE clear action your reader can take. The more options you give them, they less likely they are to do anything at all. So you need to know what one thing you most want them do (Buy something? Sign up to something else? Join your group?) before you start to write, and focus on that.
- Lastly, you need to be able to communicate all those things clearly in your copy: This is where the “writing clearly” I mentioned earlier comes in. You need to understand how people read in the medium you’re writing in (remember: people read differently on screen to the way they do in print). You need to write in the same language they speak, with the same idioms, jargon and metaphors. And you need to structure and format your writing to make reading as easy as possible for them.
Remember: copywriting help is always available (and it’s free)!
If you read the last section and cringed just a little, it’s OK. The fact is that not everyone shines at copywriting (and thank gods for that, or I’d be out of a job!) Some folks’ zones of genius simply lie in other areas.
I’m now completely booked out for one-to-one copywriting work until late October. But fear not: you can still get feedback, tips and suggestions from me (and other awesome copywriters, brand experts and marketing strategists) completely FREE over in the Crystal Clear Copywriting Tribe community.
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