26 tips for becoming a better copywriter.
In its most basic form, ‘copy’ is a collection of words constructed into a meaningful sentence. Most of us compose these every day, but what separates mere mortals from great copywriters is the ability to engage and convert readers into paying customers.
In this post, we have got 26 tips to help you become a better copywriter. If you’re an old pro, just starting out or simply want to improve your writing in general, there’s a tip for everyone.
1. Just write
One of the biggest problems for copywriters is the dreaded writer’s block. This can be easily staved off by a technique often known as ‘free writing’. How do you do it? Sit down at your computer and just write – anything that comes into your head. When you read back, you’ll find nuggets of copywriting gold you can expand upon.
2. Include a strong call to action (CTA)
People need to be tempted to do something. Everything you write, whether it be a single paragraph on a web page or an entire blog post, should end with a CTA. Make sure your CTAs deliver something your prospects want.
3. Adopt a personal style
None of us like business-speak or endless acronyms – there’s no greater turn-off. When writing, pretend you’re doing so for one person and write in a personal style which is conversational. You’ll relax the reader and they’ll warm to you.
4. Remember the power of 3
If something is important, say it 3 times – once at the beginning, then in the middle and, finally, at the end (that will often be your CTA).
5. Build trust
Copywriting is all about building trust with an audience and persuading them to part with their hard earned money for whatever it is you’re selling. Communicate trust in your writing by reiterating your years in business, seals of approval or customer testimonials.
6. Back yourself up
If you make claims in your copywriting, prove them. By leaning on real facts and figures, you’ll boost your credibility and win over the skeptics.
7. Don’t lean on adjectives or adverbs
This is a very old tip, but a good one. Using an adjective or adverb to make a word more useful than it may otherwise be isn’t good practice. Always hunt down the right, single word to convey your message and avoid cluttered sentences.
8. Use the right tools
Finding the right word processor can raise your game considerably as a copywriter. A trend towards distraction-free writing has spawned some fantastic apps which strip everything back to the point of offering nothing more than a digital typewriter. Less clutter on the screen means more productivity for you.
9. Take charge with active voice
Here’s an example of passive voice: “Over 10,000 people have been helped by our new product”. And here’s active voice: “Our new product has helped over 10,000 people.” Which one is the strongest?
10. Rid your copy of wishy-washy words
Often known as ‘weasels’, words such as ‘perhaps’, ‘may’, ‘hope’ and ‘could’ are weak when used in marketing copy. Get rid of them and replace them with stronger promises such as ‘can’ and ‘do’.
The art of becoming a great copywriter is to become an equally great researcher. Your words will be far more engaging and elicit greater trust from your audience if you have solid research from which to work. Become a tenacious researcher before you start writing. Of course, research is also a very important skill when it comes to SEO.
12. Inject your personality
We’re all different – that’s what makes the world a fabulous place. Inject your own personality into your writing and don’t be afraid of being yourself. You are you, and your customers will warm to your unique voice. The more you do this, the more you’ll naturally develop your unique selling proposition.
13. Give your headline the time it deserves
The 80/20 rule is often applied to copywriting; spend 80% of your time on the headline and you’ll gain the audience you desire. To do this, write your copy first, read it, edit and then pull the headline from it. You’ll hit on a powerful, ultra-specific attention-grabber.
14. Make your copy visually appealing
Can words really be ‘painted’ like a beautiful image? Absolutely! Use short sentences and paragraphs and include bullet points and lists where appropriate. If your copy is easily-scannable and pleasant to the eye, people will engage.
15. Tell a story
We all love a story. Simply describing your product or service isn’t enough; develop a story around it with a beginning, middle and end. Better still, create a cliffhanger which can lead onto additional content.
16. Write simply and directly
It can be tempting to fit your copy with complex sentences and words you’ve discovered in the thesaurus, but there can be no greater turn-off for your audience. Write simply and directly to keep people interested. This isn’t a matter of dumbing down – it is simply a method by which you make your copy clear, concise and of greatest benefit to the reader.
17. Build a swipe file
Another old tip, this. Most copywriters will keep a ‘swipe file’, which is a collection of newspaper clippings, emails and any other pieces of copy which have caught their eye or which have performed well. Your swipe file will become a great source of inspiration when writer’s block hits.
18. Steer clear of distractions
Writing is a solitary endeavour and requires solid concentration. Turn the TV off, close your email client and set yourself a defined working period. Try the Pomodoro technique, write for 25 minutes and don’t stop then rest/relax for 5 minutes, and repeat.
19. Break ‘proper English’ rules
Don’t be afraid to occasionally break the rules of proper syntax and grammar. We all know that by breaking the rules occasionally (within reason), life can get rather more exciting. The exact same thing goes for your copy. Forget what your English teacher said. And it’s ok to start a sentence with the word ‘and’.
20. Don’t be a smart ass
Word play is sometimes useful, but don’t use it as a technique to try and impress the reader – you’ll only irritate them. Being clear and concise is far more endearing.
21. Focus on the benefits
When writing about a product or service, it can be all to easy to get lost down a one-way street of feature descriptions. You need to tell your readers what it does, of course, but focus on the benefits. What’s in it for them?
22. Ask questions
A common technique of persuasion used by face-to-face sales people is to put the onus on the potential customer; ask them if what they’re viewing is of benefit. If they say ‘yes’ once, they’re likely to do so again. In your copy, include questions in the form of statements (e.g. “We all know that replacing your vacuum cleaner bag every week is a real pain”). If your audience is nodding in agreement whilst reading, you’ve hooked them.
23. Lean on deepest desires
The best copy appeals to a specific emotion. Before writing, ask yourself two questions: what are your prospect’s deepest desires and how can you satisfy them? Theme your copy around the answer.
24. Use images
Copy doesn’t have to be all about words. In fact, images should be incorporated into every piece of content you write. Even one, strong header image can bring to life a piece of copy which might have otherwise been ignored by passing visitors.
25. Include a customer quote
We’ve established that you need to sound credible in your writing, and there’s no better way to achieve this than to lean on a quote from a customer. Back up a fact about your product or service with some supportive words from a previous customer.
26. If it’s not working – stop
If you’ve toiled through a particular piece of copy and have found the process of constructing it arduous, the reader will probably experience the same emotion while reading it. Sometimes, you have to conceded that a piece just isn’t working. If that’s the case, stop, delete and start again.
If you look closely, there’s a theme running throughout every tip above, and it is the best possible advice for any aspiring copywriter: keep it simple. Talk to your audience as though they’re an old friend and write in a conversational style. It works!
Most importantly of all, enjoy the process of writing – it is one of the most wonderful abilities we have at our disposal.