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Copywriting 101: From C to G

copywriting-101

If you are thinking of stepping into or are even knees deep into the world of digital marketing, chances are high that you have already heard this term “copywriting” being tossed around pretty often.

Copywriting is vividly considered as the backbone of digital marketing. It is one of the most important tools of digital marketing that comes in handy in multiple aspects of digital marketing, from increasing conversion rate and boosting sales to stocking up the subscriber’s list a good copy can easily double, triple, even quadruple your chances of success.

Copywriting means to persuade readers to buy into your product which can be anything from a service to a physical commodity, with the power of written words.

Despite being in existence since literally forever, copywriting is still seen as a “questionable” career choice by many, many people. Most of us still have this belief “Who in his right mind is going to give me money to write something as simple as a bunch of words and sentences!”

There is a lot more than this to copywriting, but before we get technical about copywriting, let’s take a look at its proper definition, history, and evolution.

What is Copywriting?

Wikipedia describes copywriting as an act of writing a text for the purpose of marketing and advertising.

But I feel copywriting is much more than that. If you’d ask me, I would describe copywriting as the foundation of marketing. The “ART & SCIENCE” of writing words that persuade people to take some action. 

You might be wondering how copywriting can be both the art and science of writing words, let me back my definition of copywriting up with a little explanation.

You require science in copywriting to figure out the suitable and correct consumer or customer triggers you can use to make your copy more powerful. 

Whereas, you need to be a little artistic and creative while using those triggers so your copy looks catchy and presentable. 

Another simpler way describing copywriting could be that it is seen as a PROMISE OF A POSITIVE CHANGE in the current state of the buyer.

A Convincing Promise To Change The Current State Of The Reader.

Let me explain the graphic mentioned above with an example, 

Imagine your phone has started giving you a lot of trouble lately. Imagine it has started to process slowly and doesn’t charge properly etcetera, and when you went to the repair shop, the shopkeeper said it is not repairable.

Now you’ll be frustrated and will start considering to buy a new phone.

You’re confused about what to do next and you suddenly across a pamphlet of a newly opened mobile phone store in town, the pamphlet is very detailed and easy to read. It gives you all the information you were looking for regarding models, specifications, and other stuff. 

It even tells you about the ongoing discount offer.

After that, you just go to that store, ask a few questions, happily buy the phone, and leave the store satisfied.

You see how a pamphlet (copy) promised you a positive change (your new phone) to solve an existing problem and made you jump from frustration to satisfaction.

This is what is good copy is capable of.   

Now that the definition of copywriting is clear, let’s take a look at the history and evolution of copywriting.

History

Advertising and copywriting are said to be going hand in hand since the 13th century.

The first-ever print ad is believed to have come in existence in 1477, promoting the sale of a prayer book.

Copywriting has a rich history which dates back to when newspapers used to be distributed in the streets. Back then, the job of a copywriter focused on creating ads on a large poster made of paper and feather dipped ink.

During that time, there were no processes and techniques to make duplicates therefore each page needed to be crafted carefully, leaving no margin for errors, eventually with the advancement in technology big posters evolved into small printed pamphlets and brochures.

This evolution was the result of a complicated and time-consuming printing process. Therefore, to make sure there was no compromise with speed, the size of print posters was significantly reduced.

Around 1664, newspapers were born. This allowed copies to evolve from smaller pamphlets and brochures to dedicated half or full-page ads.

The First print ad was published in 1704

First Ever Print Advertisement 1704.

Going Digital

In 1994, AT&T (American Telecom Company) ran what’s considered as the first-ever banner ad on the internet on a website called HotWired.com

First Ever Online Ad by AT&T

The ad got 44% clicks and single-handedly transformed the world of advertising.

First-ever Freelancer

The freelance copywriting is a million-dollar industry expanding with each passing day. All credit for this wave of freelance copywriters goes to John Emory Powers.

John Emory Powers First Copywriting Freelancer

He was the first-ever freelance copywriter and is considered as the father of modern advertising.

John Emory Powers’s Ad Copy

Conventional Writing v/s Copywriting 

Now that we know a little about the history and evolution of copywriting, let’s take a look at how copywriting is a lot different from conventional writing.

Many people while stepping foot into copywriting, fear making grammatical errors and are hesitant thinking copywriting requires intensive control over the English language. While copywriting does require playing with words, one must always remember that copywriting is more about marketing and less about writing.

You are not required to be sticking to formal English grammar, as copywriting is more about building a relationship with the readers and persuading them into taking an action, which is why it is important to write as you speak. That is, in a simple, a little informal English language.

Many famous copywriters have emphasized on the fact that using the “right words” matters more than grammar.

Some grammatical rules that can be broken in Copywriting are:

1.    Use of prepositions like “with”, “about”, “to”, to end sentences.

2.    Using sentence fragments.

3.    Using one-sentence paragraphs (which I personally do a lot!).

4.     Beginning sentences with “but”, “because” or “and”.

Starting in Copywriting

After clearing this major doubt about copywriting, let’s see how and where you can start as a copywriter.

As Neville Medhora of copywritingcourse.com explains in his Medium Post how in just a few steps you can embark your journey on being a copywriter.

 ·       1: See and know what copywriting is at its core. You need to read more and more about copywriting and gain information from every possible source.

·        2: Understand the need for copywriters. Ask someone who has some experience in the industry and understand what copywriters do and why are they important.

·        3: Try and learn to get clients as a freelance copywriter. Build a simple portfolio for yourself and try landing your first client/job/internship opportunity so you can gain some experience of how it is like to be a copywriter.

·        4: Make a simple yet compelling copywriting portfolio for you. This connects back to the step 3. A portfolio is the most important thing you need in order to land a “gig” in copywriting. Your portfolio must contain all the information of what you can do, what you can not do, and maybe your work samples.

Those are some simple steps you can follow on your journey towards being a copywriter.

You can find several copywriting courses both free and paid, across the internet that you can enroll yourself into, to learn copywriting.

Courses On Google
Courses On Udemy.

One exercise you can do to enhance your skill is to write daily. The more you write the better you’ll get. As they say, “You need to dump out the bad words before the good words start pouring in.”

Now that you’ve practiced enough, it’s safe to say that you are now a copywriter.

Let’s take a look at how you can make a career out of copywriting and start earning.

Career in Copywriting

Once you are ready to step in as a professional copywriter, you have three career choices in front of you,

1.    Seek a job and be exclusive to a single company.

2.    Work as a freelancer and take as many projects as you want.

3.    Start an agency, hire a team and take up bigger projects.

Before you decide to jump onto the third option (Agency), it is advisable that you build a name and credibility for yourself in the market. And for that, you’ll have to start as an intern or an employee or a freelancer.

Let’s take a look at how you can get a job in copywriting

You can start by building a decent resume/portfolio for yourself, as your portfolio is responsible for the first impression you are going to have wherever you apply, especially if you are a fresher with less to no experience in the field.

You can check for job listings on multiple websites and apply wherever you think you’re suited.

Don’t shy away from starting low because just like every other profession, copywriting too requires a lot of polishing and once you have gained the required experience you can easily get promoted or better opportunities and start earning high.

Here are some of the listings from one of the leading websites in India,

Copywriting Listings On Monster.com

The average salary for a copywriter can range from 15k to 30k in the beginning and can go up to 60k to 70k as the level of expertise increases.

Let’s move to “freelancing” now

Freelancing means you work beyond the boundaries of a job. You can work flexible hours while traveling or in the comfort of your home.

You can take as many projects as you want and can work with as many brands as you want, with a work price of your choice.

Looks incredible, doesn’t it?

Well, it sure looks amazing but to achieve this amount of freedom you need to have a very credible name in the market.

Just like while applying for a job, before you start as a freelancer try to create an amazing portfolio that gives people an idea about what you can do and what you cannot do.

Once you are done with your portfolio, you are open to apply at multiple online freelancing marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork.

Freelancers On Fiverr
Freelancers On Upwork

You might have to work for free or significantly low wages at the start, but as your work experience and credibility grow you can charge as much as $25-$30 per hour or more.

Examples of copywriting  

Let’s take a look at some copies that became famous for their creativity and high conversion rate.

1784 Classifieds
First Coca-Cola Ad in 1886
Digital Copy For a Ski Resort

Things to note

Before you start your journey as a copywriter, here is a little “cheat-sheet” that might help you with your work every now and then.

Different Frameworks to use

PAS or “Problem Agitation Solution” is the oldest and most basic framework to write a copy.

It works in three simple steps.

  1. Identifying customer’s Problem.
  2. Amplifying the problem by Agitating.
  3. Tell them about the Solution that you can provide.

Agitate as much as possible by finding problems that are branching from their original problem.

AIDA or “Attention Interest Desire Action” is another common yet effective framework that works amazingly for all different types of copies.

AIDA works in following steps.

  1. Write an opening that wins reader’s Attention and promotes them to read further.
  2. Give a description and explanation that gains user Interest.
  3. Give an argument or proof that sparks Desire for whatever you are trying to sell by showing its value and advantages.
  4. An ending that makes sure the reader performs the Action you want him to perform.

Other elements that can be included in this framework are Persuasion, Inducement and Conviction.

IHC or “Image Headline Copy” is a framework suitable for short copies and pamphlets.

It is a simple framework dividing the copy in three parts,

  1. An Image related to the copy.
  2. A catchy Headline.
  3. Content of the copy.

Despite being a simple framework, IHC has done wonders for multiple copywriters.

Always Remember

  1. In order to write a successful copy, you need to understand the psychology of your audience and then use it to communicate via your copy.
  2. Always try to write simple.
  3. Do not use fancy, difficult words. Remember, your objective is to sell and not looking smart.
  4. Always put a “CALL TO ACTION” that your audience can act upon.

Exercises you can do to get better

  1. Mental Ad rewriting; every time you come across an Ad, think of ways of making it better by rewriting it in your mind.
  2. Keep a “Cheat File”; you can store all the cool, funny, unique, and effective Ads you come across, in this file. And you can use this file to draw inspiration whenever you are out of ideas.
  3. State the benefits, not the features; whenever you’re writing a copy, instead of highlighting the features of your product, emphasize how your product can improve the lives of your readers.
  4. Read your copy out loud; once you are done writing, read your copy out loud to see if it has come out the way you need it to.

Things to avoid 

I think I’ve talked enough about what to do and how to do it, so let’s talk about the things you should avoid while writing a copy.

  1. Don’t blow your own horn while writing the copy; make your reader the central focus of your copy.
  2. Keep it simple. Don’t use heavy, hard to understand language.
  3. Avoid writing long paragraphs and sentences, try working with short paragraphs and sentences.
  4. Not asking people for a follow-up on your copy can reduce your chances of success, always ask people to take an action suitable with the copy.

Who to follow

Before I end this article, I would like to give you some personal recommendations on blogs and channels to follow and books to read during this journey of becoming a fulltime copywriter.

Youtube Channels

  1. Kopywriting Kourse.
  2. Brian Dean.
  3. Secret Wealth Project.
  4. Neil Patel.

Blogs

  1. Copywritingcourse.com
  2. Neilpatel.com
  3. Copyblogger.com

Books

  1. Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy.
  2. Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins.
  3. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman.
  4. How to Write a Better Copy by Steve Harrison.

This brings us to the end of this article, please leave your comments below and share this article with all the aspiring copywriters you know. And if you have any book or blog recommendations that you think I missed, please tell me about them in the comments below.

P.S: My friend Aakash has come up with an effective way to write headlines that sell. He has emphasized on the importance of a good headline and laid out a step by step plan on how you too can come up with a headline that sells.

Make sure to take a look at it here!

1 thought on “Copywriting 101: From C to G”

  1. Hey, Awesome! Thank you for sharing an in depth write up on copy writing. I have an article on my blog about Content Writing and Content Marketing. In fact some bloggers confuse about the difference between content writing and copy writing. Your article clears that. They need to see your article. Thank you for sharing.

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