You might be wondering, “What skills do I need to be a copywriter?” In other words, “What are the skills I need as a copywriter to pay the bills?”
If you want to be a copywriter and land some great jobs as a new freelancer then this guide will help you figure out if being a copywriter is something you want to be based on your skills.
What are the skills I need as a copywriter to pay the bills?
But first, let’s define copywriting simply and then we will dive into the copywriting skills you need to succeed as a new copywriter.
What is Copywriting?
I remember when I first started copywriting years ago and I was typing this exact term into Google, “What is copywriting?”
And you would not believe how difficult it was and how many sources I had to read before one made it plain to me. So I’m going to make it REALLY simple here:
Copywriting, simply put, is sales writing.
Now, to be fair there are many applications for this type of writing:
- Getting sales
- Capturing emails
- Getting the reader to take action
- Click a link
- Schedule a call
So if I was going to make it a little broader, copywriting is persuasive writing.
Clients will pay more for copywriting than any other freelance writing because the ROI is expected to be greater.
They will pay more because it’s not just writing, in fact, sometimes it’s not much writing at all.
I charge $150 as a copywriter an hour to write “cold emails” (which are very short in terms of word count) and clients pay for this because it’s a specialized skill in lead generation.
So all that to say, copywriting isn’t for every writer, but you can charge more than a regular content writer.
You have to be aware that you are going to be finding ways to move the needle for your client and the job is more about being persuasive in writing rather than crafting a beautiful or fun piece of writing.
So now that you know let’s look at some skills you will need and some you’ll want to throw out.
6 Copywriting Skills You Need to Succeed
There are many more languages you can write copy in these days but English is still the world’s dominant trade language. You do not however need to be an English word academic.
In fact, I would say if you want to be a good copywriter, throw away 10th-grade English.
With copywriting you have to be able to say things in the simplest way. Say things so that an 8th grader could read and understand it.
Let’s make a list.
- Write simple
- Make short paragraphs
- Use CAPS, underlining, italics, colors, and bolding to draw the reader’s eye to main points
- Use bullets and make lists (like this one)
- Write more than 4 sentences in a paragraph.
- Use run-on sentences
- Make the reader use a dictionary to figure out what you are saying
- Make block paragraphs that are too much work to read
You see, in order to make good copy, you have to focus on making your message easy to read and digest.
So throw out English literature and keep it simple. Keep in mind some of these rules can be broken at times, but you need to use them and break them with good reason to help you reader.
To be a copywriter you MUST be able to do good research.
Thankfully there’s Google, Amazon, and a ton of information waiting at our fingertips on the internet.
Research is pivotal in the job of a copywriter and you will spend at least 50% of your time doing the research before you write even one word.
The great “untalked-about” skill of a copywriter is empathy. You’re thinking, “Jeremy, what on earth does empathy have to do with sales writing?”
I’ll tell you. It has a lot to do with it.
Don’t get empathy and sympathy confused. With sympathy, you might feel bad for someone, but empathy has to do with being able to understand the way a person feels about their situation.
If I have the skill of empathy, even though I’m not you, I can understand why you feel the way you do.
Well, how does that help a copywriter?
4. Understanding Your Client’s Primary Customer
One of the main jobs of a copywriter is to persuade the customer to take action (buy, click, convert, etc.)
If you can’t understand the customer’s problem, how are you going to persuade them that you have the answer to their problem?
You see, all sorts of people are browsing around the internet looking for what?
They are looking for solutions to their problems.
And you might be thinking that if you just say you have the solution they’ll believe you. But they won’t. It takes more than that.
It takes empathy.
If you are able to understand your customer deep down and find a way to tell them that you know what they are going through then and only then might they believe you have the answer for them.
5. Listening Skills
In order to persuade with your copy, you have to be able to “listen” well. I’m not talking about sitting with your friend at the coffee shop listening.
I’m talking about listening to how they talk about their problems and figuring out how your client’s product becomes the answer to their situation.
How do you listen to customers?
- Send out surveys
- Mine reviews
- Read forums
- Overhear buyers at the grocery store
- Interview a customer
If you are selling a high priced item ($1000+) it is wise to interview customers that have already bought it and take notes about what their problems were and what led to them buying it.
One of the best ways to write good copy is to practice the skill of creating curiosity in the reader. This can be done very well through the art of storytelling.
There once was a man named John. John had the most beautiful feet in all the land.
So beautiful that people would come from all over the world to see his feet and take pictures with them.
He had many foot model deals and was very happy. But one unfortunate day an evil wizard saw that John’s life was better than his, so out of jealousy, he cursed John’s toes with fungus!
Now nobody wanted to see John or his toes.
They were yellow, mangled, smelled funny, and were plainly grotesque. John tried all sorts of toe fungus remedies but none would work.
He tried scraping and lotions and potions and everything under the sun, but nothing would work.
Then one afternoon as he was about to give up all hope there was a knock at his door.
It was his Aunt. She told him that she had a terrible fungus too but she was able to get rid of it in 3 months by using “Dr. McGee’s Miracle Fungus Away!”
John used it for 3 months. He followed every instruction on the bottle and in 3 months’ time he was free and began his happy “fungusless” life again!
Though this story might seem funny, notice how it was easy to read.
Once I started telling a story your curiosity may have perked up a little? You maybe started to wonder “what happens next?”
That happens often when you introduce a character and a problem they have.
Marketers and copywriters do this all the time.
And notice that even in this silly tale we included pain points and benefits.
All things the reader needs to make a decision to buy or not buy.
We even mentioned how they had “tried every remedy under the sun.” That’s using empathy knowing that many people that try to get rid of toe fungus have tried lots of products without any working.
With this example and this post, you will be able to arm yourself with some skills you will need if you want to be a copywriter.
You will need to:
- Keep your writing simple
- Do great research
- Empathize with your client and their target customer
- Learn how to use storytelling to create curiosity
There are many things to learn in being a copywriter – like how to create your first copywriting portfolio – but if you’re able to hone just these skills they will be a pivotal foundation to your success.
If you’re really looking to hone your skills consider starting a blog of your own where you can practice what you’re learning and see results first hand. That way you can then use that experience for your clients.
Plus it might look more professional to potential clients if you can show them your own website.
Hope this helps!