If you got your first taste of the “work from home” lifestyle in 2020 and never want to go back to the office, online copywriting is probably high on your list of jobs. On the surface, it seems like it’s pretty easy. After all, anyone can write, right?
If only it were that easy! The truth is that while anyone can become a good copywriter with practice and experience, not everyone is cut out for the job. What are online copywriting jobs really like, and what do you need to do to be successful in the field? Let’s find out.
What Do Online Copywriters Do?
No matter who you work for, you’re going to need to plan out the content that you create as a copywriter. You’ll probably get some instructions from your clients at first, but eventually, they’ll expect you to shoulder more of that load. Drafting a content roadmap is how you plan your work, including how often you’ll produce copy for the company and what content needs to be made.
Even if your client gives you a full outline of topics that they want to cover, or products that need copy, or services to describe, you’ll have to plan out each piece individually and structure it for maximum efficiency. Planning skills are also important for meeting deadlines.
You could be taking on clients from anywhere in the world, which means juggling different schedules and potentially conflicting deadlines. Again, your ability to plan your work will keep you from venturing too far beyond your abilities.
Your abilities better be pretty flexible, because online copywriting encompasses a broad spectrum of formats and genres. While every writer has a few topics that they know better and will prefer to work with, you need to be able to adapt to what your clients want. Especially early on in your copywriting career, you don’t have the freedom to be picky about what jobs you get.
Besides a variety of topics, you also have to handle an array of formats. For instance, you might write product descriptions that are less than 300 words long, only to write 1,000-word FAQs about products the next day. Perhaps you’ll write blog posts and executive communiques for the same client before lunch has even rolled around.
Companies that look for online copywriters expect them to be able to do it all. If a company asks you to take on a task, and you say no, don’t be surprised if they turn to someone else who ends up taking away your business.
Your work is more than just words. Your copy is supposed to sell and convert people from curious visitors to recurring customers. How do you know if your copy is getting the job done? You need to be able to review key metrics and make adjustments.
KPIs, or key performance indicators, should be a part of your vocabulary. Can you explain why one headline is getting a better click-through rate than another? Why is one product’s conversion rate low when a similar product is soaring? If you can identify these variables, you can tweak your writing to exploit them.
While you can’t influence every aspect of a business as a copywriter, you need to have a strong grasp of the variables under your control. Knowledgeable businesses will expect nothing less and will demand results.
Online Copywriting Skills to Have
Skills like these are essential for any copywriter, but even more so for online copywriting. Print copy pays more attention to placement and graphic design, while online copy focuses more on the words themselves and how they are structured on the page. This calls for a few extra skills that other kinds of copywriters may not need to worry about.
If you haven’t heard of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, you’d better spend some time brushing up on the topic. SEO is in a constant arms race between the search engine algorithm (mainly Google) and the content creators. Creators want their content to sit at the top of the search list, and Google doesn’t want you to be able to figure out how to exploit its algorithm to make that happen.
This means that even if you consider yourself an SEO expert, you need to keep up with new developments in the field. SEO best practices from a decade ago are virtually unrecognizable from those of today.
SEO cannot be an afterthought. It’s not something you sprinkle on top of your content like a garnish. It needs to be a central component of your content. After all, if your writing doesn’t appear in search results, it’s not adding much value to the company.
Online copywriters need to be able to research and find useful information to craft informative and accurate pieces. While a printed text may be able to get away without citing every source, or simply tacking them onto a list of citations at the end, online copy works differently.
Most online copy includes in-line links to your source these days. This means that as you write, you need to justify your words by linking to other websites. In addition, you’ll also need to research your own clients so you can add backlinks throughout your work. You need to know what makes a website authoritative and what makes it sketchy: in other words, which websites will your clients thank you for linking to, and which ones should you avoid referencing?
Research even informs your content roadmap and shapes your planning. If you don’t know how to use Google Trends or tools like Answerthepeople.com to find what people are looking for online, your results will be disappointing.
You don’t need to be the next Hemingway to become a successful online copywriter. You won’t be expected to write in a literary style, and so you don’t need the same level of writing prowess as, say, a novelist. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you can get away with weak prose.
Volume is valued in online copy. Can you produce a significant quantity of good work in a short time? Part of your writing talent is your output. If you take days to put together 1,000 words, you won’t last long. And you can’t just churn out words. There has to be a clear logical progression to your work, and you have to have a keen mastery of spelling and grammar. In many cases, clients expect you to write in their voice, meaning sentence constructions and syntax have to sound completely natural.
But if you can write well without overthinking and produce consistently good copy, you can make it. If you’re confident copywriting is right for you, you then need to consider how you’re going to approach the work.
Are All Online Copywriters Freelance?
Absolutely not! Many copywriters are hired employees or work exclusively with one client on a contract basis. However, it’s becoming more and more common for copywriters to work freelance as the gig economy continues to expand.
Working as a freelance copywriter means you’ll need to handle your own marketing and billing. Clients won’t just appear out of thin air. Fortunately, word of mouth generates lots of writing jobs, so once your reputation is established, you’ll start to get those valuable phone calls.
Getting a Steady Job as an Online Copywriter
There’s another option that sits comfortably between fully independent freelancing and being a hired hand. You could work for a copywriting agency that brings the clients to you! That’s what SteadyContent does.
We handle sales and billing so that all you have to do is choose the assignment you want to write. We make copywriting easy for you to get into. If you need copy or want to join our team, head over to SteadyContent.com and see how we can help.