This article answers the question: what does a copywriter do and provides tips on how to get started.
I worked as a freelance copywriter for several years. I also worked as an in-house copywriter for a large software company.
A copywriter is an excellent way of earning a living from writing, but it's a particular skillset, unlike writing fiction, blog posts or freelance articles.
In this article and podcast, I'll explain what copywriter is and what they work on. I also interview another copywriter who runs his own business, so you can discover how to become a copywriter.
- What a Copywriter Does
- Tries Lots of Copywriting Jobs
- Turns Features Into Benefits
- Writes Compelling Call to Actions
- Works With Other Creatives
- Edits for Clarity and Concision
- Writes and Tests Lots of Headlines
- Uses Proven Copywriting Frameworks
- Interviews Customers
- Manages Other Writers
- What a Copywriter Does: The Final Word
- [Interview] Jack Stafford of the Copywriter Collective Explains What a Copywriter Does
- Resources For Copywriters
- Attention Copywriters!
What a Copywriter Does
A copywriter writes words that sell. He or she writes product descriptions, sales pages, emails, social media posts etc. that encourage people to act in some way.
For example, a well-written production description will encourage people to buy or take out a free trial. A good sales page will convert readers into prospects. And emails and social media posts should drive clicks or engagement.
Tries Lots of Copywriting Jobs
A junior copywriter employed by an agency may take on a variety of projects across industries with different types of clients.
While building their copywriting business, they will try lots of formats e.g.
- Social media posts
- Ebooks and guides
- Sales pages
- E-commerce pages
- Offline marketing material, e.g. brochures and pop-up stands
Each format has different requirements.
An advertising copywriter, SEO copywriters, and e-commerce copywriter all face different challenges and constraints. They're also writing for radically different formats.
For example, the SEO copywriter must use certain keywords in headlines or webpages that would sound odd in a radio add.
Trying different formats is ok if you're starting out and have the guidance of a more experienced manager and paying work. However, to succeed over the long-term without help, it's better to focus on a niche or industry.
During my career as a professional copywriter, I focused on B2B software-as-a-service products. I also met other copywriters who specialised in areas like health, fitness and e-commerce.
Most of the senior copywriters I interviewed for various roles specalized at some point during their careers. A few were also former journalists.
Senior copywriters get paid more because they understand their chosen industry and format.
Turns Features Into Benefits
Software developers and product managers often get pretty excited about what their product can do. They provide lots of information about how much memory their computer has or the types of technology their service uses.
The problem is most readers, and would-be customers aren't interested in that type of information. So, a copywriter must turn features and technical jargon into benefits that the reader can understand.
For example, the iPad aid contains an A14 bionic chip. Most people don't know what that is. So a copywriter included this line.
“Powered by our most advanced chip ever”
Writes Compelling Call to Actions
The jumpy of a product or sales page is to convince readers to take the next step. That could mean taking out a trial or buying the product or service in question. So, a copywriter will come up with and test suitable call-to-actions, like:
- Buy now
- Take out a free 30-day trial
Works With Other Creatives
As a professional copywriter, you can expect work with many different types of professionals, including:
- Product marketers and managers
- SEO consultants
- Art directors
- CEOs, business owners and directors
- Experience designers
- Other content writers
- Customers and clients
Edits for Clarity and Concision
A client or product manager will sometimes write web copy themselves or insist on certain terms and language appearing on a sales page. It's the job of a copywriter to review these messaging statements and edit them accordingly so that people can understand them.
He or she will strip out clunky language, explain technical terms and write headlines that sum up the key benefits of a product or service.
Writes and Tests Lots of Headlines
Copywriters spent an inordinate amount of time writing headlines for articles, sales pages, webpage banners, ebooks, brochures and so on.
They'll run headline options past other writers that they know and also clients and marketers. They will also test how these headlines perform and if they are driving interest from readers.
Typically, a copywriter uses tools like Google Analytics or a heat-mapping software to gauge interest in a headline. Over time, they'll refine headlines on the site so that they get more clicks.
Uses Proven Copywriting Frameworks
Copywriting is unlike other forms of writing in that it's partly scientific and partly creative.
Stories and personal experiences have their place in web copy. However, a good copywriter also uses proven copywriting formula so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel each time.
The problem-agitate-solution copywriting formula is one example.
A copywriter understands what drives a potential customer. They know what a customer wants, needs, hopes and fears.
To get inside the head of a customer, a copywriter will interview potential customers and ask them questions like:
- What frustrates you most about…
- What do you like most about…
- What brands or products do you trust…
- When you think about [product], what emotions come to mind?
He or she will conduct these interviews face-to-face, over Zoom or via surveys.
Manages Other Writers
A senior copywriter will own the tone of voice for a client's website or for a product. If it's a big project, he or she will work with junior copywriters or other content writers and assign them work.
For example, a senior copywriter working may audit all of the product pages on a website. They'll prepare a list of pages that contain old product messaging. Then, they'll assign rewrites of each webpage to junior copywriters.
What a Copywriter Does: The Final Word
A copywriter's job is to explain their client's products or services in such a way that people can understand. If they can connect what a potential customer wants with what a client sells, everyone wins.
[Interview] Jack Stafford of the Copywriter Collective Explains What a Copywriter Does
Would you like to work as a copywriter or set up a copywriting business?
Jack Stafford set up his copywriting agency The Copywriter Collective back in 2002.
His copywriting agency employs copywriters and works with clients around the world. In this week's interview, he explains what a copywriter does, how to find a job as a copywriter, and how to get paid.
Resources For Copywriters
Writing effective copy takes time, practice and study. If you need help, check out our guides:
What’s the best grammar checker? Find out in this review and claim a discount.
What exactly does a copywriter do?
A copywriter spends their time figuring out the hopes, fears, dreams and frustrations of their client's customers. They then explain how the features of whatever a client sells will solve these problems for a reader. Their job is basically to write words that sell.
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