What skills are required as a copywriter on a day-to-day basis?
I'm going to judge from your hashtags that you're interested in copywriting in Marketing. In that field, you'll need these skills:
Written communication skills: You'll need exemplary skills in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure, and the ability to persuade through written text, and to do it with brevity and clarity. This is paramount. It should be second nature to you. You should be the kind of person who reads a sentence and immediately starts correcting errors or even recasting it in your mind to make it clearer and more succinct. As Jessica suggests, get a degree that builds these skills, but beyond that, make written communication part of your everyday experience. Be the person, in fact, who uses correct grammar, spelling, punctuation--and yes, capitalization--in e-mails, texts, and even social media posts.
Storytelling: Think of this as one level up from basic written communication. Companies are recognizing more and more that the human mind operates through stories, and the best way to engage an audience with a brand, product, or offering is to do it through stories. (See, for instance, Storywallahs and TedX - Power of Stories - Ameen Haque.) Soon after you start in your role as a Marketing copywriter, you'll be given the opportunity to build a compelling story for one of your projects. Look at the approaches others have taken. Look inward to understand your own unique story. Be ready.
Research: In Marketing, your job will be to craft persuasive copy about a product or offering. There will typically be a team built around that product or offering and existing material available that explains it. You'll need to study this carefully before you set to work, but you'll also need to go beyond that: you may need to seek out product demonstrations, or engage technical or product designers for briefings or Q&A sessions, or look at what your company's competition is putting up against you. You'll need to be in research mode constantly, and you'll be happiest if you have an innately curious mind.
Presentations: For someone who wants to make a living writing, this can be a tough one, but it's nonetheless very important. You'll inevitably be called upon to present a plan for a particular campaign or set of materials you'll be developing, and in Marketing, expectations are high in terms of the clarity and confidence you demonstrate in presenting those plans. I know I struggled with this in my early days as an editor, but over time, I found that developing confidence in delivering presentations was one of the most liberating and powerful accomplishments of my career. It will serve you in many contexts, not just your career as a copywriter.
Organization: Marketing materials (brochures, data sheets, playbooks, battlecards, etc.) are developed in sets that typically support campaigns or "plays." As such, there are a lot of dependencies between writers on a project, and a lot of foundation material and subject matter that is shared and must be kept in synch. All this requires that a copywriter be extremely well organized, and, very importantly, that plans, schedules, and deadlines are tracked very closely.
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However, the growth of the internet over the last few decades has revolutionized copywriting forcing writers to learn a myriad of skills that allow them to stand out in the digital space and keep readers engaged.
Quality Writing Skills
At the heart of copywriting jobs is the ability to write well. This includes an in-depth understanding of grammar rules, punctuation and proper spelling. As you advance as a copywriter, you will need to grow your vocabulary and learn different writing styles used across the globe.
In your writing, you need to pay attention to headlines, the readability of your work, the flow of your copy, the transitions you make from one idea to the next and the complexity of your content.
Working as a copywriter in the digital era means that you need to understand different audiences and tailor your writing to their needs. For example, a young, millennial audience may forgive the use of slang while a more mature audience may expect you to stick to traditional grammar rules.
Every language has a strict set of rules you must follow; work on mastering these rules.
Quality writing is about learning your audience and working to continuously tailor your content to the reader.
A majority of copywriting jobs in the market require you to do extensive research before submitting your work.
Since most or all of your research is online, you need to sharpen your research skills to ensure you use reliable resources and reduce the amount of time you spend preparing the copy.
One way to improve your research skills is to become internet savvy, which is a skill you can learn and improve over time.
You need to know the different authorities in your specific field and also learn some basics to help you identify authoritative sources versus commentary that may not have a factual basis.
Additionally, you need a basic understanding of search engines and how you can use keywords to find the right sources quickly.
Digital Marketing Skills
Today, good copywriting goes beyond storytelling; you need to understand how the digital space works and how to use it to your advantage.
Digital skills cover a myriad of topics that you must master over time to become a better writer and get better clients. For example, over 90 percent of online readers find content through search engines; understanding search engine optimization and the role of keywords and titles in helping you improve the ranking of your articles can help you succeed.
Another important skill is an understanding of the role of different social media platforms in content creation and how you can leverage them to improve your readership.
Mastering platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is crucial to helping you reach different readers and appeal to new audiences.
The digital landscape changes on a regular basis, thus you should find a way to stay updated and keep referencing new resources to understand updates made on different search engines or on social media platforms.
Copywriting jobs today revolve around marketing; you need to understand the marketing industry and how it is changing by the day.
While working as a freelancer, most of the work you get will be geared towards supporting marketing departments.
Your role as a copywriter is to find the balance between keeping a reader engaged while also convincing them to make a purchase.
Admittedly, a different copy will target readers at different stages of the buying process. It is your role to understand the reader’s motivation and guide them along the buying journey without coming off as pushy or desperate for a sale.
Learn the marketing languages and the techniques marketing and sales teams use to engage and convince people to make a purchase.
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Since a majority of the copywriting jobs available today are on a freelance basis, you need business skills to survive the market.
You must work to develop skills to help you source for quality jobs, manage your clients and work load, send invoices, follow up on payments and manage your taxes among other business expenses.
While these may not sound as glamorous as getting your work published by a major magazine or website, they are crucial to maintaining your sanity, which in return helps you focus on producing quality work consistently.
The business skills you need for freelance copywriting will change over time; however, you should dedicate a percentage of your time to ensure things run smoothly.
Creative and Critical Thinking Skills
Your role as a copywriter is to find facts and craft them into a logical and emotive story that adds value to your audience.
In the writing process, you will come across a horde of facts and stories that have the potential to improve your copy. However, you must analyze all the information critically, choose what you need to prioritize and add your own creative twist to make it interesting for the reader.
Reading a wide variety of sources can help you improve your creative skills. While you’ll spend most of your time focusing on a specific type of content, create time to read fictional articles and books to open up your mind to new ideas and perspectives.
Find inspiration in nature or in other media and use it to make your work a little more interesting.
Good copy focuses on capturing the audiences’ attention; people need to find the story in your copy. Readers love stories and will keep coming back to you for more if you can deliver quality stories consistently.
Every time you have a crucial piece of information to share, think of big, juicy stories you can use to help you drive the point home.
The audience will love it and reward it by sharing your content within their networks, which is a strong marker for success in the online copywriting space.
Empathy for People
Strong persuasive skills will ensure you always have copywriting jobs to keep you busy.
Persuasion in your writing begins with a deep interest and understanding of how people think, act and make decisions. If you are looking to create copy that makes an impact, it needs to persuade people to take a specific action.
People make emotional decisions and you need to appeal to the right emotions to persuade them to follow through with your call-to-action. For instance, if you are selling toys to parents, don’t focus on the quality of the toys, interest them on the impact the toys will have on their children; the simple act of painting a picture of a happy child can compel parents to make a purchase immediately.
Start studying people and notice the little things that affect them and the effect they have on them; it will make you a better writer.
Why do you want to be a copywriter? Because you want to write, write short form, long form? Because you enjoy editing other peoples' work? There are very few "true" copy writing jobs, but a lot of jobs which require copy writing. particularly in journalism and marketing, which both require writing as well many other skills. If writing is your passion, consider going to college to get a degree in English, Marketing or Journalism. From there you can take your career in many directions, you could work for a newsroom as a true copywriter, you can work for a marketing department at any company to work on promotional content like advertising and email marketing, websites or brochures. One of the most important decisions you can make when planning your career is to focus on the industry you want to work in, it will help you accelerate your career by focusing the skills you'll build in your educational plan as well as your career path.
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