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Would you like to learn or master your writing skills? We've prepared 6 simple yet useful tips to help you grow as a copywriter.
How long do you need to practice a skill in order to master it?
In journalist Malcom Gladwell’s best-selling book Outliers, he suggested the magic number was 10,000 hours. Author Josh Kaufman estimated it takes about 20 hours. And Tim Ferris, also an author, theorized it actually takes about 2 years— regardless of the hours spent.
While all of these theories are dramatically different, they do have one thing in common: they all agree that mastering any skill takes practice. And quite a bit of it!
Unfortunately for busy marketers, learning the art of copywriting is no exception.
Put simply: copywriting is the act of writing for the purpose of persuasion or to incite a specific action.
Most copywriting is created for marketing channels like websites, advertisements, newsletters, social media, etc. It’s a continual learning process that always allows room for improvement.
In order to master it you need to do two things:
- Learn how to write good copy
- Keep practising writing good copy until you can write great copy
In this blog, we’ll explore different ways that you can do both: learn and practice!
How to learn copywriting (and do it well)
When you want to learn something new, what is the first step you take?
Let’s use basketball as an example. If you wanted to learn basketball, you’d first need to know:
- The rules of the game
- How to avoid fouls
- What the goals were you were trying to achieve (aka how you could win)
Learning copywriting is the same. There are rules and best practices, things to avoid and goals to achieve. You have to tick these boxes before you start playing (or writing!).
Here’s how to begin.
Tip #1: Before you write, listen
Great copywriters put themselves in the shoes of those they’re writing for.
The key to doing this successfully is to learn how to really listen to your audience:
- What do your customers and clients really want to hear from you?
- How can you get to know their biggest pain points so you can address them directly?
- How can you speak in a language that most makes sense to them?
There’s a couple of ways to begin listening and learning from your audience so you can begin thinking like them, too:
- Talk to current customers and ask them what made them want to buy from you.
- Survey your audience and ask them what their biggest issues were before finding your product/service.
- Read forums and search social media channels to learn what people are asking about products/services similar to yours.
- Research what pain points your competitors are addressing and answer them in more depth (or in a uniquely engaging way) for your own audience
Then, when you’re ready to get into copywriting mode, shift into the headspace of your target customer.
Remember this golden rule: don’t tell them what you want to tell them, tell them what they want to know.
Tip #2: Learn from the greats
It’s kind of funny: one of the best ways to learn copywriting is to, well, copy others writing!
Do some research and read copy from other companies you admire. Are there some who use a particular voice, tone or style that appeals to you? Great! Learn from that and try to emulate their copywriters.
You can also nab templates from other copywriters who have been generous enough to share their content. Many shared templates are tried and true, so you’ll already be at an advantage having a formula that works.
You’ll find that the copywriting world is very charitable. Other writers are more than willing to let you borrow, steal, or share their ideas. Just make sure that you use them to create something unique (and of course cite your sources if required).
Remember, the learning process is an investment in time, effort and can incur costs. Compelling copy can draw 7.8 times more site traffic and produce brand recall which brings higher engagement rates. So, you’ll see your effort pay off in dividends.
Tip #3: Understand your purpose
One of the biggest mistakes new copywriters make is that they put so much effort into perfecting their writing, that they forget its purpose.
Learning to be a great copywriter involves being extremely clear and artistically persuasive. Sometimes, that involves letting go of trying to have the most elegant prose in order to prioritize your call to action.
Your call to action is your goal and your measure of success in any copywriting project. If your copy is a literary masterpiece but it’s not getting your customers to subscribe, click-through, or buy, then it’s not doing its job. So keep your eyes on the prize.
A little tip to remember: different copy lengths work better for different types of copy. For example, you’ll want to use longer copy for sales pages than you do for social media posts.
How to practice copywriting (and become a pro)
If you’ve listened and learned from your customers, studied some amazing copywriters that you want to emulate and have a concrete goal in mind for what you want your copywriting to achieve, then you’re ready for the next step:
Practice, practice, practice.
Let’s revisit our basketball comparison. Learning the game of basketball is not enough to make you the next Michael Jordan. After you’ve got the rules down and understand what it is you need to do, you have to practice doing it. A lot.
Again, copywriting is no different.
Tip #4: Evaluate your writing
If you’re going to begin a copywriting project, first take some time to set some goals. What is it that you want your copywriting to achieve? Keep this in mind. If your copywriting achieves its goal (say for example, you get a 20% increase in newsletter signups) it’s safe to say you’re doing pretty well. Keep doing what you’re doing until you reach 40%, and then 50%!
If you don’t get close to the results you’re looking for initially, don’t fret! Go back to the drawing board and make tweaks or try something new. After all, that’s what practice is all about.
If you’re really unsure why your copywriting is not achieving its goals, seek some help from a professional.
Asking another pro copywriter to review your work and give you feedback can be a big-time saver. It can give you a perspective that you might not have considered.
Tip #5: Learn to be yourself
Any professional copywriter will tell you the best writing comes from an authentic voice. Learning to write in your own style will not only feel more natural, but it will also make your copywriting better.
Why, you ask? Because people buy from brands they trust, and trust is a product of authenticity.
The internet is flooded with content from voices who stick with the status quo. Don’t be afraid to take risks with your copywriting in order to make it more ‘you’. The payoff could be an influx of customers who believe what you’re promising, simply because they can feel you believe it too.
We know it can be hard to let go of your reservations and feel comfortable writing this way. That’s where practice comes in! The more you write in your authentic voice, the easier it will become.
Try this exercise: Meet with a friend over coffee (or on a socially-distant phone call). Describe your next copywriting project to them. Take note of the language you use. When you go to start writing, try to use that exact same language. You may need to clean it up a bit, but you’ll have a good start with a genuine copywriting style.
Tip #6: Keep it up! And while you are practising, seek some help
Copywriting (like most forms of marketing) is a long-term game. In order to be successful, you need to write consistently. If you are ready to jump in but you still have a lot to learn, think about tapping-in a pro to help while you get your bearings.
Having an experienced copywriter (or team of copywriters) working on your projects will not only give you time to learn, it will give you valuable insights and great examples when you go to start your own projects.
Even once you’ve become a copywriting master, you might find the demand for content outweighing your time. So, having a support system you can trust, already in place, can be a lifesaver. 64% of B2B marketers outsource their copy needs, so don’t be afraid to ask for help too.
Feeling ready? Great. We’ll leave you with our favorite Michael Jordan quote, which we found pretty apt when it comes to the art of learning copywriting:
Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.