Copywriting for beginners

I’ll be honest. I didn’t begin my writing career as a fully-formed, or even as a particularly experienced, copywriter.  I knew I could write, but I had no idea if I’d be able to cut it as someone who writes to sell. 

So all I could do was throw myself in, and learn.  I studied every example of sales copy I could find, from blurbs written on the sides of sauce bottles to full-on brochures.  I took on advice from the experts, including my favourite book on the subject, ‘Scientific Advertising’, written way back in the 1920s but still extremely relevant.   

Almost a year later, I’ve learned that the most important aspect of good copywriting is actually listening.  After all, I have to understand the message myself if I’m going to write about it, and I also need to understand the general tone and language naturally used by my client, so I can make their copy consistent with them and their business.

If you’re looking to write some compelling copy for yourself (or anyone else for that matter!) here are a few more of the lessons I’ve learned along the copywriting way.

Start with the benefits, then work back

The principles of good sales copy aren’t too dissimilar from those of writing a good novel, if you think about it.  Why?  Well, readers are only willing to understand character history and background setting after they’ve read a thrilling opening scene that's grabbed their attention. 

And so it goes with good copy.  Begin with a snappy headline that draws people in, then explain the end result of using your product or service.  Are you saving people time or money, are you helping them manage their lives more effectively?  Start with that, then you’ll find people will happily read more about you and your business - during which you’ll explain just how different you are from your competition!

Don’t worry too much about SEO

There’s so much advice on SEO – search engine optimisation – that it can make your head spin.  The more I learn about SEO, the more I believe that as long as you update your website regularly with authentic-sounding, flowing words that really reflect you and your business, you’ve got the best chance of success.

Of course, I always ask copywriting clients to let me know the most searched for industry keywords, and then I do my best to naturally incorporate them.  I just don’t think SEO is the holy grail of good copy, or good marketing.

Be shortly succinct

I have a natural tendency to write long, rambly sentences (I’m a novelist at heart!), but sales copy needs a completely different approach.  Actual copywriting experience, plus a journalism course I took recently, has taught me that broken-up paragraphs and short sentences work best when you’re writing to grab attention.  Just like this! 

It’s all about context, really.  Even if you actually like reading long blocks of text, as I generally do, your mind isn’t geared up to read them in a brochure or a leaflet.  This means most people will switch off pretty quickly if they have to concentrate for too long.

Consider using a writer who doesn’t already know your business inside out

Some of the best copy I’ve written has been for businesses I didn’t already understand.  I was nervous about doing this at first, but I soon discovered that it actually put me in the very best position.  I could easily explain the company to people who also might not have understood it.

If you’re writing your own copy, make sure you explain any jargon and don’t baffle readers with industry-insider references they might find intimidating. 

As with any copy worth its salt, there has to be a call to action at the end!  So…can I write anything for you?  I’m always happy to talk about new projects, so feel free to get in touch for a friendly chat.

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