Understanding exactly what copywriting is and the skills needed to be a great copywriter are crucial if you want the best results for your project.
Whether you’re looking to hire a copywriter or write material yourself, you need to understand the basics.
I’m talking copywriting definition, skills, and seeing real life examples.
And that’s precisely what I’m covering today.
Let’s jump right into it.
According to Google, the definition of copywriting is:
The activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.
I like to definite it as the process of writing business material that generates results, whether that’s website traffic, leads, sales, or another KPI.
Remember that copywriting isn’t journalism or crafting editorials.
Your goal when writing copy isn’t to entertain or tell readers about the news, but rather to sell.
It should entice the reader to take action that furthers them along the sales funnel.
This is also why copywriters need to be very well rounded in terms of marketing skills.
For example, I have 8+ years of experience doing SEO, lead gen, conversion rate optimization, and other practices.
I apply all of these skills to content and copy I produce, which ultimately helps it do something.
If your copy isn’t doing something, then you’re doing it wrong.
Watch my video defining copywriting to learn more:
Copywriting vs content writing
Writing content for blogs gets commonly mixed up with copywriting.
Heck, I use these two words interchangeably sometimes, too.
Let’s get picky, though.
Copywriting can be defined as sales material that promotes a product. These include:
Here’s a Facebook ad from GoDaddy for illustration:
Content writing, on the other hand, is producing articles for blogs and publications such as this QuickSprout article:
They both require different sets of skills and expertise with some being similar.
This brings me to my next point.
Copywriting skills (And what does a copywriter do?)
What skills do you need to be a copywriter? Quite a few, actually.
A good copywriter is well rounded and sharp.
He/she can perform deep research quickly, put themselves in the customer’s shoes, and more.
Let me elaborate.
Being able to research any industry or topic
There have been countless projects clients presented me in which I had very little working knowledge.
They included specific industries and deep topics within them.
But that’s one of hats you wear as a copywriter…
To become an expert on any subject.
When I begin a new project with a client, one of the first steps I take is to gather:
I collect this material and study it to learn about the industry, its customers, trends, and extract as much data as possible.
Every writer needs to do the same.
Additionally, primary research such as leveraging questionnaires and interviews allows you to get proprietary data for every copywriting project.
I think emotional intelligence and empathy are some of the most underrated business skills.
They aren’t measurable and can’t necessarily be taught, but damn are they important.
Being able to empathize with customers allows you to understand why they’re seeking a product, the emotions they’re feeling, and similar circumstances.
Seeing as the purchasing process is heavily emotional, sales copy needs to include emotional statements, questions, and stories.
Having a lot of empathy for others will translate well into writing copy.
Gary Vaynerchuk talks about why it’s so important in this quick two minute video:
Editing and proofreading
It’d be nice to finish one round of copy and be done, right?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
Edits, revisions, and proofreading are a mandatory part of the copywriting process.
This is exactly why you need to spend time editing every piece of copy you write once the first draft is done.
I once learned from a book called The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly that you should write copy as fast as possible.
This is to ensure that you use the emotional and creative side of your brain.
The longer you stop to think about what you’re writing, the more logical it becomes.
Your material shouldn’t look like a caveman wrote it, but it needs to be emotionally driven.
I also love this practice because you get a lot of work done fast, which feels great and motivates you to keep going on the project.
This brings you to the editing stage, where you going to clean up any mistakes you made in terms of accuracy, grammar, etc.
Start learning to be a non-perfectionist when you write and edit later.
Organization is key
Being organized is crucial as an entrepreneur of any sort, including being a copywriter.
As a writer, you’re going to collect heaps of resources as I mentioned earlier.
You will be playing with a lot of information, templates, and guidelines, so it’s critical you remain organized.
If you feel messy physically, you’re going to feel messy mentally. I’ve always sworn by keeping a neat office and cleaning up my online tools.
You should have folders for everything like client projects, content guidelines, and swipe files.
No writer should ever have to scramble to find references or spend unneeded amounts of time doing filing like a secretary.
My entire time management and productivity game are based on his teachings and strategies.
They work. And really damn good at that.
You need to understand SEO
If you’re writing blog posts, web pages, or similar online content, you NEED to understand SEO.
It makes me cringe when copywriters don’t understand the fundamentals of on-page SEO and try to offer content writing services.
You don’t need to be an SEO wizard or spend $1,000 on a course to learn the basics, either.
I’d recommend learning about keyword research and on-page ranking signals.
Create a blueprint and rules you can follow for every piece of content you write for clients.
When they see their rankings and traffic shoot up because of you, they will want to work with you for life!
Here are articles I wrote to learn more about SEO:
- The Definite Guide to SEO Writing
- On Page SEO Checklist That Will Skyrocket Your Rankings to The First Page
- 7 SEO Tools That Will Increase Organic Traffic, Backlinks, and Rankings
I firmly believe in forming an organic relationship with all of the clients I work with.
But it’s a two way street.
I have to be a good energy, too.
I’ll never work with a stubborn or negative client in my life.
Been there, done that. No thanks!
Not only does it make the project more difficult and less fun, but it doesn’t align with my values or who I am.
I like to think I’m a naturally positive and charismatic person, and it really shines when offering services.
Some of my main goals are to make the client’s life as easy as possible, be easy to work with, flexibility, and being fun.
Sales, sales, sales!
If you’re going to pitch clients and make the big bucks as a copywriter, you better know your sales skills.
I’m talking pitching, negotiation, following up, handling objections, etc.
This also translates into the copy you produce because you will understand how to sell and grab attention with words.
Why is copywriting important?
Words are powerful. Very powerful, in fact.
Every single word and phrase makes us feel and think something different.
The purchasing process is heavily emotional, primal, and driven by desires we often don’t even know we have.
That’s why copywriting is important. It’s way too easy to think you can slap on any words onto an ad and think the money will start rolling.
Not even close.
Copywriting is a science and uses the psychology of language and marketing to sell products.
Without it, your ads and content will blend into every other website like a water drop into an ocean.
Hiring an experienced copywriter might be one of the best investments you make for your business.
Think about it.
If you pay a copywriter $10,000 for a sales letter and it generates hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s fair to say that’s a good ROI, right?
They understand the psychology of persuasion, selling, and are capable of translating it into words.
The end result is an advertisement, promotion, or piece of content that yields incredible performance while stomping mediocrity.
With the foundations of copywriting out of the way, let’s look at some real world examples of great sales copy in action.
David Ogilvy and Hathaway
One of the most legendary advertisement’s ever written is the one David Ogilvy produced for Hathaway’s dress shirts.
It featured the iconic man with an eye badge that caught everybody’s attention off guard. It was both creative and sales-forward.
More importantly, the copy is perfect.
Notice how David speaks about how a Hathaway shirt won’t clash with a tie, be too overwhelming, and looks crisp at all times.
He also mentions Hathaway’s new blend of material that you can’t get anywhere else which stays fresh for up to 24 hours.
David Ogilvy and Rolls Royce
Ogilvy is my favorite copywriter of all time, so I’m a little biased for including him multiple times. However, let the copy do the talking.
This is another iconic ad he wrote for Rolls Royce with the famous headline “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
That line summed up the luxury and comfort a Rolls Royce car delivers. It also stood out from the other vehicles being sold in 1959 which were notoriously noisy.
It serves as a great example of how a headline will get customers reading the rest of the copy and further towards the sale.
Albert Lasker’s Sunkist campaign
Believe it or not, there was a point in time when Sunkist was producing too many oranges and they couldn’t sell them.
Unfortunately, they had to begin cutting down orange trees to reduce their production until a copywriter by the name of Albert Lasker saved the day.
He began working with Sunkist and came up with the idea of orange juice, which wasn’t a common drink back then.
The two produced and patented an orange juice extractor that was sold for ten cents each. It was advertised under the “Drink an Orange” campaign, and American’s went wild for this new beverage.
This campaign helped Sunkist sell more oranges and no longer have to scale back operations.
This was a postcard promoting the Mailstation2, a machine that helps weight, print, and send physical mail.
It begins with the headline “Weigh it. Print it. Mail it. All-in-one. The do-it-all digital mailroom.”
This does two things: states the main features and the value proposition of the machine being an all-in-one product.
The customer doesn’t need several tools to achieve the same thing when the Mailstation2 does it all.
A coupon code and a 60-day free trial with free shipping are provided to increase conversions.
Below the purple 60-day free trial banner, the offer “expires” to create urgency and is followed by a call to action.
It’s simple. The postcard uses all of the fundamental copywriting strategies that have worked for decades.
Learn more about these in my free and paid courses.
Final thoughts on what is copywriting
Copywriting is the art, science, and psychology of writing advertisements and business material that generates results.
Those results can be website traffic, sales, leads, or other metrics depending on the campaign.
Writing sales copy is not the same as writing website content, although there are many similarities in the skills and processes involved.
Despite this, they are two completely different crafts you will need to master individually.
A good copywriter is an incredible researcher, empathetic, and organized.
They produce content like sales letters, web pages, landing pages, and more.
Use the information you learned today to start your career as a copywriter or improve the hiring process if you run a business. Here’s an infographic that sums up the main lessons:
Alternatively you can hire me if you need a copywriter for your next project.