Copywriting is a skill. And like any skill, requires practice.
Some people have a natural talent and pick it up quickly… some have to work at it endlessly to get to the same point (me).
In all cases, if you’re serious about the craft and you want to give your clients the best possible chance of success, the process is long and repetitive.
So, if you like to write, you’re in luck.
If you don’t… well… you probably want to think about your decision of becoming a copywriter.
Granted, you can learn the basic principles pretty quickly, but being able to execute them in an elegant and persuasive way takes a lot of practice. And that’s a good thing.
Difficult means high value
We’ve all heard the age-old cliche, “if it were easy, everyone would do it”. And I’m sorry to genuinely mean it, but that statement is true here too.
If copywriting were easy, it’d no longer hold its value. It’s the difficulty that filters the wheat from the chaff. Y’know, those who are serious and those who are not. (Allowing top copywriters to charge what they do)
No matter how serious you want to take copywriting, understanding how to improve your craft will help you sell more for your clients. And, in turn, help you feel confident enough to charge them what you’re worth. Let’s have a look at how we can do that.
Ways of becoming a better copywriter
From copywriters I’ve met, copywriters I’ve studied and my own copywriting experience, here are some areas I feel will help you become a better copywriter.
How seriously do you want to take it?
It seems a little obvious. But before you go any further, ask yourself how seriously you want to take the craft. If you’re hoping for a quick buck or to make £10k a month after a few weeks of practice, you need to bring yourself back into the real world. That doesn’t happen often (if ever), despite the promises from all copywriting gurus selling online courses.
It’s competitive out there. And there are many very talented writers. So to take your fair share of the work, you must stay committed and stick with it when things (inevitably) get tough.
Learn the craft
The principles of communication are unchanged. We’re still, at our core, the same people we were thousands of years ago. As Bill Bernbach famously said: “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about ‘changing man'”.
Gurus make money convincing us we’ve changed and that their course “talks to the people of today”. Rubbish. We’re not at the crux of humanity. The instinctive drivers of behaviour are unchanged. And will remain unchanged for many, many more years.
Every copywriting student should learn and embody these communication principles. Initially, they’ll seem odd, but over time they’ll become more natural. You’ll tap into them without even realising.
Practise. Practise. Practise. And when you’re done, practise some more. Ultimately, you have to communicate a message in an engaging way. The only real way to do that is to write. A lot.
To keep your skills sharp, it can help to dip your toes into different writing styles (e.g. website copywriting, blog posts, posters, social ads, emails, poetry). Sure, you don’t have to offer them as services, but you should use them as part of your private practice.
Another vital part of the practice is feedback. And sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow – but you need to. Because if you want to get better, you need to familiarise yourself with constructive criticism.
(If you’re fully freelance and have no one to critique your writing, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Fix Accelerator. You get access to great educational resources and highly-experienced copywriting minds who’ll critique your work. The value Nick and Glen provide – for the small subscription fee – is unparalleled, in my opinion. Not affiliated, but I am a subscriber.)
Fill your brain
I’m a passionate believer that you need to fill your mind with great ideas – often from other creatives. Not to copy but to inspire.
If you fill your brain with lots of brilliant ideas, you give your brain more to work with when it needs to solve a problem. All those examples are like little data points that your unconscious will connect and bring to your conscious awareness when needed.
One of the most effective ways to save ideas and concepts in your brain (in my opinion) is to reverse engineer great work. Take apart other copy and figure out what’s happening and why. You’ll deepen the neural pathways and embed those ideas for easy future access.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Probably something useful to keep in mind for life, not just copywriting.
Remember, you can learn how to become a copywriter, but “born writers” will always pick things up faster than non-born writers. If you’re completely new, accept that you’ll probably suck when you start. Embrace that. And keep chipping away.
You should also change your “inner metric” – how you measure the success of your writing. Now, I know, ultimately, your copy has to sell. That’s its job. And with live projects, that’s how you should measure your success. But for your practice writing, don’t measure its worth by its likes, shares, or other vanity metrics.
Simply ask yourself, does what you’re writing feel right to you? Does it express what you wanted? Do you find it interesting? If the answer is yes, then that’s all that matters.
Express thoughts, feelings and yourself. Regularly.
David Abbott said we should put a part of ourselves into our work. Steve Hayden said the same. Many other copywriters agree with them.
Naturally, as a copywriter, you have to express thoughts and feelings on behalf of other people/businesses. But you need to do so in a way that gives a part of you with it. How you actually do that will vary from writer to writer.
Channelling “you” in your writing is often an unnatural feeling. So keep in mind that the more you write (and create), the easier it becomes. With each creation, you pull back the layers of yourself and find it easier to articulate those internal thoughts and feelings. No book or course can teach you that (because it takes practice).
Copywriting is a 24/7 job. Every human interaction you see or experience is an opportunity to study (cliche, I know). You should obsess over what stimulates a reaction and evokes emotions in other people. Note it down. And use it when you need it.
Often that starts with yourself. Something that moves you will likely move someone else. Let that be your compass to get going, and keep pushing yourself to study the day-to-day interactions between people (and, ideally, your target audience).
Note: Keep a notebook with you at all times. Ideas tend to come up when you’re not thinking about them.
A (Short) Summary
Copywriting is hard. And it should be… especially if you’re doing it well. And as soon as it starts to get easy, you have to find new ways to make it hard again to keep your skills sharp.
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