Copywriting Basics: Writing to Sell

Copywriting, what is it?

A copywriter writes documents (copy) intended to sell a product or service. Copywriting can take many forms. Copywriters create advertisements. They write brochures. The develop product announcements. The sometimes put out press releases. They may create speeches. Sales letters are a big money earner. Web sites are another major market.

Who do copywriters work for?

Copywriters often work for advertising agencies. they may work for marketing firms as well. Many copywriters work directly for the company that sells the product. There are catalog companies. There are storefront web sites. Many companies are involved in direct consumer sales. Many copywriters freelance.

Is copywriting the same as business writing?

Copywriting is not business writing. On some projects they may overlap. Overall the jobs are very different. The rules of copywriting often fly in the face of the rules for business writing. Perfect grammar may not make for good copy. Word usage is critical. Brevity is vital. Word choices make sales. That doesn’t mean you need a huge vocabulary. Most ads can be read by anyone with a fifth-grade education. Writers do need a firm grasp advertising writing rules. They need to know the differences between words that seem 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.

CopywritingHow much can I make copywriting?

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 $200 an hour.

What are the challenges in copywriting?

Copywriters have several goals. They first get the customer’s attention. If the copy never gets the the customer’s attention, anything else that follows is useless. There are many ways of getting a customer’s attention. The general rules are:

  • Keep it short.
  • Be specific.
  • Use language that attracts interest.
  • Focus on the benefits.

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.

What does it take to be successful at copywriting?

To be a successful copywriter,  be both a writer and a salesperson. If the idea of sales and marketing appeal to you. If you consider writing one of your talents. 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.

How do I get started in copywriting?

After you are more familiar with copywriting, look for your first employment opportunity. Look for a junior position at an advertising or marketing firm. You also might find small jobs for the people you know. Offer to produce free or inexpensive brochures/fliers/ads for your people you know. 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.

More Information

How to Avoid Copywriting Rewrites

How to Choose a Major and Minor for a Career in Writing

Copywriting FAQ

Copywriting Presentation (PowerPoint)

Copywriting Tips




6 thoughts on “Copywriting Basics: Writing to Sell

  1. Excellant Article

    Good copy is all about creating active, vivid prose that flows with natural rhythm.

    The basic tools for creating rhythm in writing are:
    Grammar – sentence structure and punctuation.
    Active/ passive prose
    Clarity v clutter/ confusion
    Word choice

    Don’t write anything…
    … unless you know the following:
    Exactly why you’re writing it.
    What you want to get across.
    Who is going to read it.

    Then, with this firmly set in your mind, write a first draft and don’t edit it until you’ve finished that section and any others that are closely related.

  2. I like the point you made about the highest paid copywriters kind of look at the fine details of their copy instead of looking at it as a whole.

    I actually have a little technique I use when writing my copy so it FORCES me to do just that :)

    You have to realize that although 1 technique may only boost response 1,2,3%…if you fix enough of those little things – you have a huge winner on your hands.

    Jeremy Reeves

    Jeremy Reevess last blog post..Can Strange Headlines Catch The Attention Of Your Readers?

  3. Hi J.C.,

    Your comment on the confusion between copywriting and business writing is spot on! I routinely have to explain this to my clients who have never understood the power of direct response and emotion based selling

    Chris Elliott

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