Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Get Started as a Freelance Writer—Part Four, Have You considered Copywriting?

Copywriting is a great way to earn money as a freelance writer. It may sound a little intimidating, but it’s great fun.

What is copywriting?
The dictionary defines a copywriter as one who “writes copy for advertising.” The field has gone on to include many aspects of business writing, especially those where the company interfaces with the client or consumer.

At first glance, this may seem like a very small niche for writers. Quite the contrary—it’s a huge opportunity. This area of writing continues to explode, particularly in the arena of the Internet.

Primary Goal for ALL Copywriters
Get the first sentence read.
So your choice of Headline, Graphics, Font, Format etc. should lead directly to this goal.
What is the goal of the first sentence? To get the next sentence read. This step by step road is the yellow brick road for everyone who wants to succeed as a copywriter.

KISS College English Goodbye
Think about famous lines.
            It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
            To be or not to be.
What do most have in common? They’re simple and straightforward. No overblown adjectives or prose. In other words—Keep It Simple Stupid!
Effective copy is written clearly and concisely. It’s vitally important to learn the lesson that to engage the audience you have to keep it conversational. Occasionally you’ll break a few grammar rules—but that’s okay—rules were meant to be broken.

Format with the Reader in Mind
Make your copy easy to scan. Use plenty of bullet points, headings and subheadings. Make it clear what you’re offering the audience.

Headlines are More than Words—They’re a Numbers Game!
  • 50/50 – Many copywriters say you should spend as much time on crafting your headline as on writing your copy.
  • 80/20 – The numbers don’t lie. It’s been proven 8 out of 10 people will read the headline and only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.

With a compelling headline a browser becomes a reader. Without that headline the rest of your words might as well not be written. But what makes a great headline? The best contain your entire message in one memorable bite.

What are some key components to a compelling headline?
  • Provide the reader with the tools to evaluate the content.
  • Resonate with a reader’s urgency.
  • Show the reader why this offer/product/person is unique
  • And it must do all of this clearly and concisely.

Format Your Content
Formatting content revolves more around guidelines than rules. Depending on what your copy is to be used for the rules will change. But the following tips will always ring true.
  • Write to your audience. Remember who you are trying to reach and relate to them through your words, graphics, font, etc.
  • Keep focused. Every story you tell should be razor focused on the point of the copy. Now is NOT the time to ramble.
  • Be credible. Don’t make unsubstantiated claims. Use statistics, experts, even testimonials.
  • After showing your credibility restate your focus.
  • Give the reader something to do, i.e. buy the product.
  • Sum everything up, restate why your premise is fulfilled by taking this action.

Cut to the Benefits
So often we try to tell people the features of a product. But features aren’t what sell products—benefits are. Let me explain.
I was shopping for a new clothes dryer and saw one with an optional steam feature. My thought when the salesman mentioned it? So what.
Then he told me I could use it instead of ironing. That’s a benefit and I’m seriously interested!
See the difference—subtle, but vital—when you’re writing copy.
So how do you figure out the true benefit of something?
  • Make a list of all the features.
  • Beside each one ask why it’s helpful.
  • Now ask how that help is accomplished.
  • Tie that information to an emotional or felt need.

A word of warning here. High end business customers and technical customers are sometimes irritated by emotionalism. The business leader wants the bottom line and the techno geek wants to know the specs. They both will still want the benefits, but in those cases the features need to be highlighted as well.

Now it’s your turn. What experience have you had with copywriting? Take time to read and comment—it will help me out because I’m still in Ethiopia. But I’ll be back in town next week! Be sure to plug in with your network here, on The Write Conversation.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. In all my writing years, I've never written copy. And you're right--I was intimidated by it! But your post has encouraged me that maybe I could do it. Thanks for the info!

  2. It's funny. At my college, my professors keep telling me that I'd be great at Copywriting. However, I don't know how to get started. Any insights?

  3. I didn't realize when I did this that it was copywriting :) I wrote all the tedious descriptions for each piece for a furniture website. It was great experience and it paid well :) And then the webmaster decided not to sell furniture online but I still got paid so it wasn't a waste!

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