I’ve built long term relationships with clients who have money to spend on my services. I understand their marketing challenges because I’ve walked in their shoes. I also specialize in a specific industry niche: there aren’t a lot of copywriters out there who can do what I do for my primary industry.
None of these reasons would matter, however, if I wasn’t a great copywriter.
But I wasn’t always this great. When I first started writing for pay, I was simply good. Over time, practice and self-study improved my skills. Working in a corporate marketing department taught me about things like the sales cycle and the importance of using pain points in my copy. Even now, I’m still learning, and applying what I learn to further improve the quality of my content.
You may be wondering, how can I improve my writing so clients will happily pay me more money?
The short answer is: plenty. To get you started, here are five ways to begin moving from good writer to great copywriter.
1. Study grammar, spelling and punctuation until you make yourself crazy. (For me, crazy is the point where, instead of sleeping at night, I compose sentences in my mind over and over and over . . .) Copywriting breaks many of the “proper” writing rules. But you need to know those rules before you can break them in an intentional way.
2. Read lots and lots of good marketing content. Devour print ads, catchy product packaging and Web site landing pages that make you want to buy or sign up NOW. Pay attention to why these things catch your eye and compel you to take action. Read PR Newswire press releases while pretending you’re a journalist looking for the next hot story. Which press releases make you want to learn more?
3. Start a swipe file. A swipe file is simply a collection of great writing and marketing that you might want to use one day as a project reference or template. I bookmark all kinds of pages in my electronic swipe file: landing pages, press releases, case studies, product datasheets, articles with good headline or tagline examples. I also keep a folder of things I’ve printed or ripped out of magazines. When I have a project that’s got me a bit stumped, I turn to my electronic and print swipe files for ideas and inspiration. (One note of caution: don’t mistake inspiration with plagiarism. Copying other people’s work and calling it your own is never okay.)
4. Read everything you write out loud. I call this verbal proofing. Reading things out loud is such a great way to catch run-on sentences, poor punctuation and word groups that bog down your content. After your first verbal proofing, make revisions and do it again. Rinse and repeat until your copy sings.
5. Take a writing class. Many colleges offer online and night classes for adult learners trying to improve their skills. Consider signing up for a creative writing or communications class. An alternative to this would be to join a writing group that meets at least once a month. (If there’s not a group in your area, consider starting one!) Getting regular feedback on your work from other writers can be an excellent way to hone your skills.
6. Write more and write often. Like any skill, practice makes perfect. Us any means necessary to write on a regular basis. Use a journal, start a blog, offer your services to a non-profit organization for a low fee.
Copywriter Confession: Although I’ve utilized all five of these writing improvement tactics, #3 and #4 have really stood the test of time for me.
Have a good idea for helping other writers improve the quality of their content? Consider sharing it as a comment below!
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