Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at this copywriting thing for a while, you may be wondering how to be a good copywriter. And by “good,” you might mean “great.” Or, as we say in Boston, “wicked pissah.”
Since “how to be a wicked pissah copywriter” doesn’t get many searches, I will stick with the phrase people search on. Below, I discuss ten strategies for being a good copywriter. Note: If you’re more of a visual or audio learner, scroll to the end for the video I recorded on this topic.
How to be a good copywriter.
1. Read in general and read specifically.
Serious writers are serious readers. If you’re getting into copywriting and you’re not a reader, well . . . you’ll want to rethink things. I’m not saying you should forgo copywriting. Instead, I suggest you challenge yourself to embrace reading or get back into it if you’ve placed it on the back burner. Read for pleasure. But also read blogs and publications that discuss copywriting and related marketing topics. Here are some to check out:
- Search Engine Land
- Social Media Today
- Marketing Profs
- The Copy Bitch (that’s me – subscribe!)
Get into the habit of spending 30 minutes reading daily about copywriting and marketing.
2. Learn how to conduct research quickly without losing accuracy.
Anyone with access to Google can conduct quick research. Accuracy is critical. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t a reputable source. I did a video on how to evaluate sources. I also wrote a blog post on the difference between primary and secondary sources. And here’s HubSpot’s guide on how to research like HubSpot’s research team.
3. Be pleasant to work with.
Sounds so simple, right? But you’d be surprised how much this matters. If you’re pleasant to work with, meet deadlines, and produce good work, you’ll never be without business for too long.
4. Under-promise, over-deliver.
You’ll be eager to do the work and wow the client when you start. Resist the temptation to say you’ll turn around the project quickly to impress the client. (Even if you can.) First, perception matters. You don’t want the client to think you have nothing else to do. Second, life happens. If you promise a tight turnaround and get sick, then what? Plus, you’ll find that most things take longer than you expected, especially when you’re starting out and learning how long projects take. So get in the habit of under-promising and over-delivering. If you end up beating your deadline, great! You’ll look like a rock star, which is what you wanted in the first place.
5. Deliver error-free, original copy. Don’t plagiarize.
I shouldn’t have to say any of this, but you want to consistently produce great work. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Know your weaknesses and edit for them. Don’t plagiarize, period. Keep in mind that unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism. (And it can happen more easily than you think, even to the best of us.) Grammarly has a good article on how to avoid plagiarism. And here’s my video on proofreading tips and tricks.
6. Keep learning.
Take courses, attend webinars, and go to conferences like Inbound if that’s your thing. The most successful people never stop learning. Plus, consider how much copywriting and marketing have changed in the last two decades. Now, with the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT, we will see even more changes. You must keep up by reading (see my first point above) and educating yourself.
7. Play Devil’s Advocate.
I’m not suggesting you become a contrarian. But clients often need reality checks with their marketing. If they’re going down a road that doesn’t make sense for them, speak up. They might not listen, but you’ll have planted the seed. And sometimes they will listen. I have a client who’s told me I’ve saved their company a lot of money over the years because of the questions I ask and my Devil’s Advocate position on many topics.
8. Learn your strengths and lean into them. Be mindful of your weaknesses.
I mentioned this earlier in the point about writing well. But your strengths and weaknesses will extend well beyond your writing capabilities. You’ll have specific strengths in running a business, maintaining records, networking, etc. The same is true for weaknesses. Lean into your strengths, but know your weaknesses so that you can mitigate them.
9. Learn how to ask for feedback and accept feedback.
Oh, man. Asking for feedback and giving feedback are essential skills for a copywriter . . . and some of the most challenging skills to develop. There’s a talent to each. And both require regular practice. Here’s a good article on how to give feedback to writers. After reading it, you’ll understand what feedback you can expect (and how to request it). You’ll also learn how to give helpful feedback.
10. Strive for work-life balance.
Most of us hear this advice all the time. And you might be thinking, “Well, if I want to be a great copywriter, I need to be working all the time, especially in the beginning.” I’m not going to lie: You might need to work a lot when you’re starting out, and not just on client work, but marketing your business, putting together a copywriting portfolio, and networking. But there’s a difference between “a lot” and “all the time.” Working all the time isn’t going to make you a good or great copywriter. It will make you overtired, grumpy, possibly resentful, and more prone to making mistakes. Take breaks. Get sleep. Eat well. Schedule time for fun things, even if that means simply watching a 30-minute show on Netflix.
Got a question for the Copy Bitch?
Contact me or visit my YouTube channel and leave a comment on one of my videos. I might make a blog post or video with the answer.