So You Want To Be A Copywriter?
Wannabe copywriters often check out my site for information relating to my services and fees. And quite right too! I still give my competitor’s websites a ‘gander’ every now and then, in case they’re doing something that I should be doing.
I receive many emails from students working towards their marketing or other media degrees, asking for a few tips about securing work in the ‘Copywriting Industry’ I didn’t realise we had an industry! If we have, it’s surely a cottage industry because most copywriters are freelancers who work on their own and usually from home.
“Well what about advertising and marketing agencies?”, They enquire. “Well what about them?”, I ask. And so it goes on and on until they realise that a copywriter who works for a structured and institutional organisation, is a totally different animal to that of the freelancer.
Institutional versus Freelance
So what are the differences between them? There are many. Let’s look at the agency writer. He or she is likely a talented person with creative skills and a good command of the English language. They will have learned, from their course work, the psychology of selling, aspects of communication and how to write in a flowing and interesting style.
Each day, at the agency office, they will work on their assignments, which have been delegated to them by their manager. Their work will be scrutinised by their manager or team leader, who, in the interests of their company, will decide whether it’s worthy of publication.
After a couple of years, doing similar ‘run of the mill’ stuff, they may be offered the opportunity of coming up with something completely original. All by themselves, with no guidance, un-tethered by their mentor. And, in the interests of the company, not to mention their job security, they will produce something as institutional as they have been doing previously. They’ll play it safe. Well wouldn’t you?
Eventually, their creative awareness and talent may break through the institutional membrane and they’ll want to move on. They’ll want to do something for themselves. They may even become a freelancer.
A freelancer is just about anyone with a passion and a flair for writing. Some have started out on their career path by working for agencies, some have graduated in English and just feel ‘qualified’ to do the job, whilst others come into the ‘industry’ from a variety of other routes.
By whichever means, once they become a freelancer, they quickly learn to survive. To survive and prosper as a freelancer you must have the ability to adapt, diversify and develop the skill of writing in any and every style humanly possible. But there’s more! You will have to meet deadlines, sometimes work for less than the lower national wage limit and learn to turn your brain inside out. Sounds painful!
What does it all amount to? What’s the bottom line?
Let’s summarise thus far.
A copywriter working for an agency will work in a nice warm office with nice friendly colleagues, writing simple institutional letters, brochures, ads and information packs. They’ll be paid somewhere between 18K to 26K, get 4 to 5 weeks annual paid holiday and get to slag off the boss at the office Christmas party.
Sounds pretty good to me. If you want to be a copywriter, I recommend you go down this path. It offers a good salary and a steady secure position.
The freelancer’s life is not so clear cut. They mostly work on their own, write all kinds of stuff about everything and wonder where their next packet of fags is going come from. They only take short breaks, get stressed and slag everyone off at any party.
They’re self-employed, so have to keep accounts. They have to buy all their own stationery, stuff their own letters and post off their mailings. They have to advertise or even worse, they have to compete to sell their services for a pittance to unknown clients through some online freelance website. The pits!
Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Then why do we do it?
The uncovered truth about freelancing
Well, obviously I can’t speak for everyone so I’ll tell you why I do it and how I do it. “Listen up”
The main reason I write for a living is because I love it. I’ve always been a creative person so writing comes as second nature. And let’s face it, it’s not very difficult to do.
I love the challenge that each assignment brings. I have ghost-written several books for clients and each has been on a completely different subject. The downside of ghost-writing is having to sign away all rights to the work, which means you can’t showcase it or put it in your portfolio. The client gets all the credit for your masterpiece.
I’ve written many articles for websites, emails and sales letters. I write poetry, humor and boring stuff like FAQ’s and product information. But I’m never bored because the work can be so varied.
Then there’s the money of course. A good freelancer should be able to make around 50K a year. Some make less but some can make over 100K a year. There really is no limit. Make a name for yourself and not only will you be earning a good living, you could possibly find yourself in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose the work you do.
Still want to be a copywriter?
Good! Now let’s dispel a few myths by answering a few questions that I get asked all the time.
The 6 Most Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you need a formal education and a degree?
No way! Although most agencies will only employ graduates, there’s no reason why a freelancer needs anything other than a good command of the English language, creativity and a flare for writing. There are many copywriting courses available, if you’re a little unsure or want to hone your skills, but make sure the course work is set by an experienced and reputable copywriter.
2. Can previous work experience help?
Yes! Sales and marketing experience is very useful if you intend to make a living as a sales copywriter. At the very least, you should understand the sales process and the customer service aspect.
3. I don’t have a portfolio. How can I get work?
Create one! Write some articles, write a small book, write some sales letters, brochures and emails. Show what you can do. Write for free. Write for charities, magazines or newspaper letter pages. Use your imagination and write about anything.
4. Where are the best places to get work?
You could try contacting marketing agencies by way of a letter of introduction, but don’t hold your breath. Magazines are always looking for fillers, so this would be a good place to start. Local small businesses might be interested in having some leaflets written for door to door delivery. Contact them by letter, listing your services and your rates.
When you have gained a little experience, go online and subscribe to some of the freelance websites. Elance, Freelance Work Exchange and Getafreelancer are quite good, but be prepared to compete with other bidders from all over the world. Some Indian freelancers will work for as little #3 an hour, so you’re up against it. Still, I think it’s worth the experience. I get some of my assignments this way.
Build a website or have someone do it for you. I’m of the opinion that all businesses should have a website if they want to stay in business.
Create a mail shot and work your way through your local Yellow Pages. Sell yourself. It’s what you will have to do anyway, so get used to it.
5. What should I charge for my services?
This is just a guide. You’ll instinctively know when you’ve become established.
A one page letter consists of around 500 words and should take no more than 2 hours to write, revise and finalise. If you want #10 an hour, that’ll be #20 for the job. Don’t bother quoting a price per word as you’ll find yourself writing a load of drivel in order to fill the pages.
Again, once you’re established you can charge what you think your work is worth. It’s not uncommon to charge #400 for a 6 page sales letter, if you’re good.
6. What do you think is the most essential skill of a successful copywriter?
If you can’t do this, you won’t be very successful.
“Write as you talk”
That’s it! You must be able to communicate with your reader right off the page. Your words must be conversational. You must be able to ‘speak’ to your reader and stir their interest, their emotions, their desires.
If you’re trying to sell them something, you must be convincing. Your letter has to be compelling and attention-grabbing. Finally, your letter has to make them take some action. This could be filling in a form, making a phone call or writing a cheque. It’s a call to action.
Still think you have what it takes?
Then go forth and return with the bountiful harvest of your creative genius!
The Hidden Secrets of a Perfect Sales Copy.
We are living in an e-age where everybody wants to sale their product or
services through Internet. In the physical world your interacting behavior and
friendly relationship can create a better avenue for selling your products. Your
face to face interaction can completely convince an individual to buy your
But in the internet world everything is different. You just get 10 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention who may turn into your customers. Your only way of
interaction with your customers is your sales copy. So it must be a copy which really generates sales. It’s not an easy task to make your visitor pull out their credit cards out of their pocket.
Are you also thinking of selling your products or services on net? Well it’s a great decision. Now what points you should consider when creating a sales copy for your product or services. Here it is:
1. Head line:
Head line is most important part of your web copy. In fact a great headline is
90% success of your sales page. When somebody comes to your site, usually
you have only 10 seconds to grab his attention. Most people will make a decision about reading your sales page in less than 10 seconds. If your headline is compelling enough to grab your visitor’s attention they will stay otherwise they will go to other website.
>> Tell about the biggest benefit of your product in headline.
>> Create some serious problem and tell your visitors that you can solve their problem.
>> Show specific results of using your product in your headline. Like if you are selling a book about dog training, tell them that in next 15 days your dog will follow all your instructions.
>> Use attention grabbing words in your headline like Free, Save, Guaranteed.
Many big copywriters say that headlines can increase response rate by up to
2. Sub Headline:
A sub head line gives you one more opportunity to grab your visitor’s attention and pursue them to read your sales page. Highlights your product’s benefits again and create a feeling of urgency in your sub headline so it encourages your visitor to read your sales page.
3. Bulleted Points:
In today’s world everybody is very busy and always in hurry. Usually your visitors first quickly skim your webpage to know what’s in it for them. Bulleted points always grab attention because it’s easy to read. So always tell your product’s benefits through bulleted points. Remember bulleted points just act like bullet and triggers a human mind.
A bit of suggestion: always convert your products features into its benefits.
It’s also a key point of a successful web copy. Your customer must feel that it’s not just a sales copy. A real person is sitting behind it. You should put your photo, your full contact details (not just email, full physical address and phone number) in your sales copy.
Testimonials are one of the best ways to build credibility but it should be real not fake. Many people think that they can fool their visitors by placing fake
testimonials but I want to make you clear that whatever you think about your
visitors, your sales page reflect that.
A strong Guarantee is also essential to build your credibility. You may also place an audio or video message to give them a sense of belonging and a kindly feeling.
It’s a human psychology to aspire to get one or more thing free with the
product. Offer them some bonuses related to the product you are offering. If you are selling dog training book, you may offer a dog food recipes ebook or a dog health checkup guide.
Try to feel them that the bonuses you are offering are worth more than the price they are paying. It’s a good idea to offer digital products as bonus because you have to invest only once to create them and delivery cost is also zero.
6. Sense of Urgency:
You must create a sense of urgency in your sales page. Make them realize that once they lose this offer they will never get it again. Give them an extra price discount, more bonuses, or any lucrative offers which make them buy. You can also offer personal email consultation if they buy within a time frame.
7. Ask for order:
Many people make a great mistake in their sales letter. They write a wonderful sales letter but never ask for order. In the sales letter make it a key point that you are here to sell your product. So ask your visitors to place an order in clear words. It is a must to call them again and again to buy your products on a single sales page.
8. P.S. Lines:
Life goes busy and no one have a spare time to even read your sales copy.
Sometimes they just see your headline and your P.S. Lines. Top copywriters
believe that 9% success of a sales letter depends on P.S. lines. Make it strong and compelling. Pinpoint your product’s benefits, bonuses and any special offer you are offering.
These are some points for a perfect sales copy. If you follow these simple points, your dream of having a long queue of customers eager to buy your products will get true.
Web Copy – How Much is Enough?
These days, there’s widespread acceptance that a website is an integral part of the marketing plan of any business. Likewise, it’s commonly accepted that web copy is a vital component of any website. But how much web copy is enough?
The pure volume of information available on the Internet is daunting – often counterproductive. There are approximately 550 billion documents on the web, and every day another 7 million are added. According to an A.T. Kearney, Network Publishing study (April 2001), workers take so long trying to find information that it costs organizations $750 billion annually!
Yet people continue to use it. Information gathering is the most common use of the Internet (American Express survey, 2000). And it seems work-related searches are amongst the most common, with 48% of people using the Internet to find work-related information, as opposed to 7% who use magazines (Lyra Research, 2001).
Interestingly, however, the average person visits no more than 19 websites in the entire month in order to avoid information overload (Nielsen NetRatings in Jan 2001).
So how do you ensure your site is one of those 19? How do you make your content helpful without making it overwhelming? That’s what this article is about…
I’ve written several articles on WHAT to write on your website in order to make it helpful. (See http://www.divinewrite.com/benefits.htm, http://www.divinewrite.com/webbenefitwriting.htm, and http://www.divinewrite.com/webwriting.htm.) But that’s only half the battle… Businesses also need to know HOW MUCH to write. Here are 5 quick rules of thumb to help you decide how much is enough.
1) Know your audience (Reader or Search Engine?)
Think about whether you’re targeting human readers (potential customers) or search engines. This must always be one of your very first questions, as the answer will determine your approach to content.
In general, human readers think less is more. Search engines, on the other hand, think more is more (well, more or less…). In many ways, it comes down to a question of quality versus quantity. Human readers are interested in quality, whereas search engines are interested quantity. Human readers want you to answer their questions and make it clear how you can benefit them. And they don’t want to wade through volumes of text. Search engines want a high word count, full of relevant keywords, and short on diagrams. (See http://www.divinewrite.com/seocopy.htm for more information on writing for search engines. See http://www.divinewrite.com/SEOCEO.htm for an introductory article on search engine optimization.)
You need to think carefully about your audience. In most cases, it’ll be a trade-off. A high search engine ranking is important (or at least beneficial) to most businesses, so a happy medium is required. The following tips will go some way toward providing this balance.
2) Make it concise
Say everything you need to say, but always ask, “Can I say it with fewer words?” The literary world may be impressed by complex writing, but visitors aren’t. Keep it simple, and keep it brief. Your home page shouldn’t be more than 1 screen long. In other words, visitors shouldn’t have to scroll. Subsequent pages can be longer, but try to keep them to a maximum of about 300-400 words each (approximately 1 scroll). A lot of people will tell you that you also need 300-400 words or more on your home page for a good search engine ranking. You don’t. If you focus on the right keywords and generate a lot of links to your site, you can achieve a high ranking without losing your readers’ interest by padding
TIP: For most businesses, a good rule of thumb is to make it conversational. Old school writers and would-be writers oppose conversational copy; don’t listen to them. Unless you’re writing for an old-school audience, feel free to write as people talk.
3) One subject per page
On this, both readers and search engines agree. Don’t try and squeeze too much information onto a single page. For example, instead of trying to detail all of your products on a single Products page, use the page to introduce and summarize your product suite, then link to a separate page per product. This way, your content will be easier to write, your readers won’t be overwhelmed, and you’ll be able to focus on fewer keywords (so the search engines will get a clearer picture of what you do).
4) Make it scannable
According to a 1998 Sun Microsystems study, reading from a monitor is 25% slower than reading from paper. As a result, 79% of users scan read when online. So make sure you accommodate scanning. Use headings and sub-headings. Highlight important words and sections. Use bulleted lists and numbered lists. Use tables. Use statistics. Use meaningful indenting. Use short sentences. Most importantly, be consistent in your usage. Oh… and follow rules 2 and 3 above.
5) Use a simple menu structure
Try to keep your high-level menu (Home, About Us, Contacts, Products, Services, etc.) to a maximum of about 10 items (5-8 is ideal). If you have too many options, your site will seem unstructured and your visitors won’t know where to start. In order for a visitor to want to come back to your site, they need to feel comfortable when they’re there. They need to know what to expect. If they can’t identify any logic in your menu structure, they will always feel lost. What’s more, this lack of structure will reflect badly on your business.
The Internet can be an incredibly cost-effective form of promotion because the cost per word to publish is so low. Don’t be fooled into thinking more is more just because it costs less. Audiences – even search engines – don’t want everything; they just want enough.