Every business uses words in order to influence consumers.
I’m a copywriter. I sell words for a living, but I’ve got a confession to make.
Throughout my schooling, I’ve always loved reading and writing. As time went on, I headed to university to study some more and the aim was always to write for a living.
To become a copywriter.
But guess what?
My academic years didn’t prepare me for writing business copy.
Not in the slightest, in fact.
I should be pleased that I’ve accomplished my goal, but something’s always nagged away at me. It rather feels that I learnt most of my copywriting skills ‘on the job’.
When finally tasked with writing words that must motivate and move people in some commercial sense, I found things tricky at first.
After graduating, I landed a copywriting job at Sky, the huge media giant in the UK. Naively, I didn’t realise this at the time, but there’s a world of difference between writing wordy dissertations and crafting compelling copy.
It didn’t take me long to work out that you don’t need much of a writing background in order to be a good writer, something that I won’t be telling my parents anytime soon.
Whether we’re talking about writing business copy or penning a novel, there’s no qualification that will guarantee that you’ll be able to write effectively.
So, what do you need?
I believe there are 5 core attributes that you need to possess to become a worthy wordsmith. In no particular order, here they are…
Skill 1: Being a detective
Every good content plan starts with a lot of research. Every successful writer knows a lot about the audience that they’re writing for.
The more information you have about your target audience, the better.
- Are they male or female?
- Young or old?
- Do they speak formally or informally?
Before you write anything, you should create a reader persona. After all, as the copywriting cliché goes, it’s always much easier to write for one person than it is to write for many.
Skill 2: Being true to yourself
Good writing isn’t about making people reach for a dictionary. Instead, it’s about using a natural voice that represents your personality.
As soon as a writer tries to be something they’re not, problems happen. They pick out words that jar any rhythm for the reader and disrupt the flow of a piece.
By contrast, you can tell good writing a mile off.
Think what you like about the horror genre, but Stephen King is a master at creating epic page-turners. He himself referred to writing as a “form of telepathy”.
And basically, if you’re not true to yourself, you’re not going to be able to plant the right picture in your readers’ minds.
Skill 3: Being able to fail
More often than not, good writing is about adopting a certain mindset over an arsenal of writing skills.
And for starters, that means being able to fail.
No one writes perfectly at the first time of asking.
Absolutely no one.
Every writer should strive to create a base from which to work from. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘crappy first draft’, but the sentiment rings true.
When you’re stuck for ideas and suffering from writer’s block, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just get writing. Most of the time, you’ll write your way out of your stupor.
And the worst case scenario is that you’ll be crafting the meat and bones of your work.
With any form or writing, it’s vital that you give yourself the ability and the opportunity to make mistakes, because that’s the only way that you’ll be truly creative.
Skill 4: Being able to edit your work well
Productivity can be an issue for many writers, so when you’ve finally finished a piece of work, the temptation is to walk away and think the job is done.
That’s perfectly understandable…
… but you still need to proofread your project.
After all, it’s often the small details that make the biggest difference.
What should you be looking for?
- Well, obviously any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- In addition, seek out any words or phrases that stand out.
- Read what you’ve written out loud. If your copy doesn’t sound natural, then something needs to be tweaked.
Just remember that good editing is about removing words, not adding them. The trouble is, this is easier said than done. Being ruthless with your copy is hard work, but this is where you’ll reap the rewards.
Set yourself a strict word count and remember that every sentence has one job: to get the next one read. Delete any rogue words that aren’t pulling their weight.
Skill 5: Being able to understand the human brain
Finally, good writers understand human psychology.
They know how we think, how we feel and what motivates us to act.
In business, big brands manipulate the way we engage with their content in ways that you might not even notice.
A comma here, some white space there…
… it all seems so random.
But it’s not.
As complex as they are, our brains are actually quite predictable. The more you study psychology, the better you’ll be at creating content that triggers emotions.
And, no matter what you’re writing, that’s the whole point, right?
Practicing Convincing Sales Copy:
Spend 15 minutes defining the typical persona of someone who would be interested in reading your work. Think about what motivates them. Consider how they speak in normal, day-to-day life. When you’re finished, post up your persona in the comments section.