Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Learn How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer, Part Three—Copywriting for Fun and Profit

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 ISimple 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 was a benefit and I was 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? Next week's post will be devoted entirely to how to find clients and what to charge.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. Very helpful, Edie. I don't have any experience with copywriting thus far but this post has piqued my interest! Praying for you while you're away.

    1. I didn't think I'd like copywriting, but I really do. I'm only gone on Friday, I'm here the rest of the time. Blessings, E

  2. Thanks for the great info, Edie. As you know, I haven't tried this...yet. But the more I write, the more I realize there are many more ways to use the written word, so who knows what might be in my future? :-)

    1. That's too true, we never know what's ahead. I'm praying for your Christian Communicators Conference that starts tomorrow. I know everyone will get so much out of it! Blessings, E

  3. Great advice, Edie! Thanks for sharing. Do you have recommendations for how to get started breaking into the copywriting field? Praying for you while you're in Ethiopia!

    1. Okay, now I understand. I'm not in Ethiopia right now. I used part of an old post when I wrote this and forgot to delete that sentence. So sorry for the confusion! Please forgive me!

      As far as how to find clients and break into copywriting, that's next Tuesday's post. I spend the who time explaining how to find clients and what to charge. There just wasn't room in this post. Blessings, E

  4. Another fabulous post, Edie! Very helpful information.

    1. Michelle, thanks for stopping by! Blessings, E

  5. I've done copywriting for a hotel chain before. You're right; it's a different type of writing. Love the point about the benefits.

    Question: What's the best way to find copywriting clients? That's the part I still struggle with.

    1. Lindsay, I'll be devoting next Tuesday's post entirely to how to find clients and what to charge. Blessings, E

  6. I'd love to do some copywriting -- it appeals to my tight, technical side! I'm with Lindsay - where do you find the business, and is it hard to get started?

    (Hope you're having a great time in Ethiopia!)

    1. Sorry for the confusion, I'm not in Ethiopia right now. That's what happens when you use part of an old post to write a new one. I apologize to you all!

      Next week I'll give you all the info you need to find the clients and what to charge. It's actually surprisingly easy to get started. Thanks for stopping by! Blessings, E

  7. Great article. I know where you live and where you are (grin). But regardless...you've done a great job of once again, "showing the yellow brick road."

    1. Thanks Girl! I appreciate the encouragement! Blessings, E

  8. Interesting! Thanks for sharing! Something down the line,..Blessings!

  9. Edie, thanks for always presenting material in such a way that it's easily understood. I'm looking forward to seeing how to get clients! And by the way, I didn't even catch the part about your mission trip! But after reading all the comments about it, I had to smile. Maybe that's a sign you need to take another trip! :-) Love you!

    1. Jamie, I'm glad it's helping! Thanks for stopping by, Blessings, E

  10. Hi Edie,

    Thanks for posting this. I decided a few months ago to jump into this with both feet. I'm going to the AWAI Bootcamp in Florida in October. The price is steep (makes me appreciate how much BRMCWC does for such a small registration fee) but the big draw for me is the Job Fair.

    1. Beth, I've considered attending that. Please let me know what it's like and what you get out of it. Blessings, E