A copywriter writes documents (copy) intended to sell, entice, influence, persuade, or educate consumers about a product or service. This writing can take many forms. These include, but are not limited to, advertisements, brochures, product announcements, press releases, speeches, data sheets, product packaging, sales letters, scripts, presentations, mailings, web sites, flyers, and even menus.
Copywriters often work for advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations firms. Many copywriters work directly for the company that sells the product they write for, especially in the case of catalog companies and other companies involved in direct consumer sales. There are also many copywriters who freelance, offering their service to various firms on a short-term basis.
Copywriting should not be confused with business writing, though on some projects they may overlap. The rules of copywriting often fly in the face of the rules for standard business writing. Perfect grammar does not always make for good copy, but word usage is critically important. Word choices such as when to use “but” instead of “and”, can mean the difference between inviting copy and forbidding copy. This does not mean, however, that a writer must have a giant vocabulary. In fact, unless the particular audience requires it, most ads are written to be understood by anyone with at least fifth-grade reading skills. A writer should have a firm understanding of the rules that govern advertising writing, and the differences between words that in other cases might be interchangeable. Consider the difference between these two sentences.
The new Tivoli Storage Manager provides the system-wide backup your corporation needs, but it won’t break your IT budget.
The new Tivoli Storage Manager provides the system-wide backup your corporation needs, and it fits your IT budget.
The first sentence conveys two positive aspects of the product, separated by a word with negative connotations, while the second used a more positive link. That sort of detail may not ruin an advertising campaign. It may only be the difference between a hundred sales and a hundred and one sales. Given the option, however, any company would want that extra sale. By the way, you get extra credit if you noted that the word break might not be the best word to use in a product description.
Because of their ability to get the details right, the best copywriters are highly valued. Writers who know all of the tiny differences between one word and another, and can use them to sell a product, are worth the high prices they charge. Those prices can lead to jobs that pay in the six figures, especially for freelancers. Established freelancers currently charge as much as $150 an hour.
Copywriters must have several goals in mind. They must first get the customer’s attention. If the copy never reaches the intended audience, and if it can’t stop them long enough to get them to pay attention, then anything else that follows is useless. There are many ways of getting a customer’s attention, but the general rules are to keep it short, be as specific as possible, use language that attracts interest and most importantly, keep the advertising focused on the benefits to the customer.
Copywriters should also be able to make a product distinguishable from the competition. Whether there are three or thirty other similar products or services on the market, a copywriter should be able to identify what makes this product special: craftsmanship, cost, reliability, customer satisfaction and support, speed, style, or anything else that makes the product or service distinct.
These are just some of the things a copywriter must consider. Another major issue is credibility. You must be able to back up any claims made in your advertising, and any direct comparisons with other product must be based on proven facts. False advertising is illegal.
To be a successful copywriter, you should be both a good writer and a good salesperson. If the idea of sales and marketing appeal to you and you consider writing one of your talents, then this can be an excellent and lucrative career choice. To get started in a copywriting career, you should first develop and test your skills. You should begin by reading more on the subject. There are several guidebooks listed at the end of this article. You should also pay attention to the advertising around you. Look through a magazine and critique the advertisements. A good way to develop your early skills, and to create a portfolio to show prospective employers and clients, is to take existing advertisements and improve on them. Don’t limit yourself to magazine ads, however. Look at all of the different types of copy listed in the first paragraph of this article. You may want to practice all of the different styles, or you can focus on the types of copy that are most interesting to you. Copywriters often have specialties.
After you are more familiar with copywriting, you should look for your first employment opportunity. This might be a junior position at an advertising or marketing firm, or it might be small jobs for the people you know. You can offer to produce free or inexpensive brochures/fliers/ads for your dentist, doctor, and hairstylist or for any friends with advertising needs. Little jobs like these will give you experience working with new copy, and they will also get you used to working with clients, even if the first clients don’t pay. The key is to improve your skills, and to build a portfolio of your work. From there you can branch out to bigger clients and better paying jobs.