Copy writing is widely considered to be one of the loftiest forms of writing, right behind the noble fictional author. However, while novelists are usually entirely independent, copywriters can work as either a freelancer or an employee. As far as writing jobs go, being a copywriter is highly desirable.
Your words can make or break a business. If you’re interested in the profession, or you’re looking to find a qualified copywriter for your company, we’ve got everything you need to know. So let’s start with the basics.
What Is Copy Writing?
Copy writing is any kind of writing designed to sell. The term “copy” refers to the text itself. The use of this term stems from the idea that the text used for advertising would be “copied” at high volumes, which was the norm back when print advertising ruled the day.
Today, of course, most copywriters will publish their work on web pages. Nevertheless, many businesses still rely on print advertising, among other forms. Regardless of where your copy ends up, if you’re writing for the purpose of selling, you’re a copywriter!
Copy is commonly placed on product pages or service descriptions. Your goal is to grab the reader’s attention, inform them while also piquing their interest in the product or service, and then motivate them to take action. That action would ideally be buying your product or hiring your company for its services. Interestingly, this practice is hardly new.
A Brief History of the Profession
We have archaeological findings that show evidence of copy dating all the way back to the days of the Babylonians! Written advertising is nearly as old as writing itself. Of course, it used to be much harder to do as each copy had to be produced by hand. Once the printing press arrived, the game changed.
The 1800s and 1900s saw the profession grow into a proper form of employment. Advertising as a career grew during this time and was heavily influenced by poets like Ezra Pound, whose minimalist style encouraged companies to write less and say more. Compare an old Coke ad from the 30s or 40s to one from the 60s: the former is chock full of text while the latter is simple and elegant.
The propagation of the internet has revolutionized the way we read copy, and therefore how we write it. A 20th-century copywriter would find today’s scene virtually unrecognizable. Even though many of the skills needed are the same, how we apply them has changed dramatically in recent years.
Modern Challenges for Copywriters
A copywriter in 2021 has to overcome a plethora of challenges. Readers are nothing like what they used to be, and copy is increasingly constricted by SEO best practices and format rules. In the past, all you had to worry about was the size of the paper your work was printed on. Today, you have many more issues to address if you want your copy to shine.
Whether you’re an aspiring copywriter or looking to hire one, you need to take these obstacles into consideration if you want to produce copy that truly sells:
These days, more people read on mobile than on their desktop PCs. This presents a unique challenge for copywriters. The old newspaper margins were fixed; columns were set by the periodical and printed to spec. But now, you have no idea how wide a user’s screen is or how much text you can fit into a given space.
This means you have to shoot for the mean. Consider the average size of a mobile device and how much text it can comfortably display. This shift to smaller screens has led to shorter paragraphs and sentences. Your elementary school English teacher would weep if she knew.
A professional copywriter tests their work in several formats before publishing it. Web designers now have to work hand in hand with copywriters to ensure that the copy displays well across all platforms.
There’s something of a “chicken or the egg” debate here. Are reader expectations being conditioned by what copywriters do? Or are the copywriters responding to readers’ preferences? The truth is somewhere in between.
Although we often hear that people’s attention spans are shorter, this isn’t entirely true. People can still pay attention, but only if their interest is aroused by your work. What has changed is how long we’re willing to give something a try. People are more likely to ditch material they don’t like within a minute, whereas we used to be more forgiving.
So you have to get to the point quickly and keep your copy engaging. Do you ask your readers questions? Dropping shocking facts can be effective, as well. Controversial titles earn clicks which can translate into sales. Readers expect quality copy every time, and it’s your job to deliver.
An ad 50 years ago could run for almost a decade. Today, however, copy goes stale faster than bread left out on the counter. In part, this is due to the wealth of information available to us. Statistics quickly become outdated, new news stories and world events alter the context of a piece of copy, and trends have to be chased.
As a result, copywriters frequently have to reinvent the wheel. The same product may have its copy rewritten annually just to keep it fresh and relevant.
One of the biggest problems in the copy writing world today is how to make your copy stand out. The internet has democratized advertising to the point where anyone can create a website and publish their copy for the cost of a pricey lunch. That means that your work has to compete with hundreds of similar texts, all vying for the same eyeballs.
This creates a conundrum. On one hand, you want your copy to be flawless, motivating, and thoroughly engaging. On the other hand, if a writer produces the best copy on the planet, and no one reads it, your copy ultimately makes no impact. Striking a balance between these two objectives is crucial for copywriters.
SEO is touted as the solution to this problem, but SEO presents its own challenges for the writing process.
How SEO Impacts Copy
Many copywriters detest SEO because they feel it taints the purity of their work. However, it’s possible to have good SEO and good copy on the same page. Perhaps a better way to think of SEO is to think of it as a raw material used in construction.
An architect has to respect the laws of physics and the properties of the materials she uses to design a building. SEO strategies are the laws of copy writing physics.
Architects likewise have to take local factors into consideration. A seismic zone calls for earthquake-resistant construction. Cultural customs may dictate the building’s layout. Similarly, SEO goes beyond headings and keywords. You have to understand what people are looking for now and what they’re willing to read.
Copy Vs Content
A common misconception is that writing content and writing copy are the same thing. While some aspects may overlap, these two branches of writing are quite different from one another. Content writers tend to cover an enormous range of topics, hitting each one once or twice. Meanwhile, a copywriter, as we mentioned, will likely write copy about the same product or company several times over.
Content writers also tend to write longer pieces. Copy, in contrast, is usually more concise. When your goal is to sell something, you can’t ramble on forever. So, while copy focuses on outbound marketing, content is more of an inbound approach.
How to Become a Successful Copywriter
With the number of people working at home on the rise, there has been a surge of inquiries about freelance writing. However, it’s not a job that just anyone can do. Writing is as much a craft and an art form as painting or sculpting.
You’ll need a strong command of the English language, with error-free copy. A broad vocabulary will help you find the right word for any occasion. Familiarity with SEO strategies is also a must in this day and age. Do you have what it takes?
If you do, you should apply for a position at SteadyContent. We’re always looking for qualified writers to join our team and support businesses on their quest for quality content. If you’re a company looking for copy, look no further. We’ve already gathered dozens of skilled writers ready for your orders.