Copywriting is my favorite part of marketing.
And I’ve tried it all.
From Facebook ads to branding and even growth hacking. I don’t enjoy any of it the way I enjoy copywriting.
In my experience, copywriting is one part art and one part science. It’s an art to deeply understand who you’re speaking to and the problems they face. You need to carefully listen and sometimes find hidden meaning in the words or expressions. The science is in the frameworks, mental models, and constant testing of copy to see what performs best.
When combined, copywriting will generate more sales than you could ever imagine.
In this article, I’m going to spell out what copywriting is and what it isn’t. I’ll also share my guides so that you can reference them time and time again.
Copywriting 101: What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is simply persuasive writing that nudges readers to take an action. It’s a form of marketing that is critical to the success of businesses. Especially online businesses in today's “attention economy”.
Almost everything you read online has been written by a copywriter, even if the person writing it isn’t necessarily a copywriter by definition.
A copywriter can be tasked with writing any of the following:
- Ad copy
- Blog posts
- Website copy
- Landing pages
- Email campaigns
- Product descriptions
- And loads more.
The interest in “copywriting” has been growing rapidly since the start of 2021. According to Sub Reddit Stats and Google Trends, it hit an all-time high in 2022. This is likely to continue growing throughout 2023 as well.
Copywriting 101: How to Become a Copywriter
I like to think of it as a three-stage process. You don’t have to do it in this specific order, but it would help if you did. Here’s how to start.
1. Learn to write copy: There’s no avoiding this. You need to learn how to write copy and then practice as often as possible.
2. Leverage the right tools & resources: Copywriters leverage tools, swipe files, and other resources to help them write copy. You’ll need to be equipped with these to get the job done.
3. Find clients: Being a copywriter is one thing. Having clients is another. You need to put your skills to use and find clients so you can actually earn money from copywriting.
Best guides on becoming a copywriter:
- Copywriting For Beginners: Everything You Need To Get Started
- 12 Copywriting Exercises That Will Turn You Into a Pro in 30 Days
- How To Find Copywriting Clients Fast (for beginners)
- How to start a copywriting business (6 key steps)
- The fastest way to become a copywriter
- Ad copywriting 101: How to write compelling sales copy
- Thinking about copywriting as a side hustle?
- The Profitable Guide To Email Copywriting
- Best copywriting blogs and websites
- Best copywriting books
Copywriting 101: Best Practices
Know your customer and know your product!
This is the single most important thing when it comes to copywriting. You must know who the customer is, the problems they face, and their desires. Without this, you won’t be able to get started. You might as well be writing in another language. The product is equally as important since you need to know all the features and which specific benefits will speak to your audience.
Make your writing a slippery slope
This is something I took from Joseph Sugarmen. The idea is to write each sentence with the intention of having the reader continue to read the next. Your words should be compelling enough that the reader wants to keep reading until they reach the end. This is why it’s called the slippery slope.
Benefits over features
Copywriting is the written version of sales in many ways. When you’re selling a pen you wouldn’t say “it has high-quality ink” you would say “the design will make you look more powerful and important to your peers”. Features are important but benefits will always trump them. Your customer wants to know how it will help them personally.
Headlines are critical
Your copywriting can be epic but if you don’t have a strong headline, hook, or subject line no one will bother to read it. There are formulas you can apply to make them more attractive but it comes back to knowing what your audience truly desires.
Less is better
Have you ever read a book that could’ve been summarised in a blog post? It’s frustrating when you finish reading it and realize how much time you wasted. Copywriting is the same. It’s best to remove words and sentences where possible. As long as your copy keeps the same meaning. In copywriting, less is always better. In fact, in any form of writing less is always better.
Related articles on copywriting best practices:
- How To Apply The AIDA Copywriting Formula For Epic Results
- The AIDCA Copywriting Method Explained
- The PAS Copywriting Formula Simply Explained
- The perfect copywriting questionnaire (including a free template)
- Useful copywriting statistics
- 10 copywriting secrets I wish I knew earlier
Copywriting 101: Copywriting Tools & Resources
Every profession has a set of tools they use to get the job done. Landscapers have lawnmowers and hedge trimmers, software developers have Github and stack overflow, and copywriters have swipe files.
A swipe file is a collection of the best copywriting examples used in real campaigns. Copywriters save them to reference at another point in time so they don’t need to start from scratch. Swipe files are only one part of a copywriter's toolbox. They also use research tools, tracking software, and even AI writing assistants. All of which makes their life and work better.
Best guides on copywriting tools and resources:
- 9 Best Copywriting Courses You’ll Find On The Internet
- Top 10 Best AI Copywriting Tools and Software
- 14 Best Copywriting Newsletters To Subscribe To
- The Best Copywriting Tools and Resources for Freelancers & Agencies
Copywriting 101: Famous Copywriters
Whenever you’re trying to learn something new it makes sense to study the legends who have mastered the skill. If you were to become a runner you might study Usain Bolt, if you wanted to be a software developer you might study how Larry Page wrote his code. When it comes to copywriting, there are a few select copywriters that have greatly impacted the way we operate today. Here are my three favorite copywriters.
Joseph Sugarmen is the Author of the Adweek Copywriting Handbook. It’s one of the copywriting books you can find on the market. This is where I learned about the “Slippery Slope Method”. Every time I write copy I make sure that the first sentence is designed to make the reader continue reading the second and so on until they hit the buy button.
Gary Halbert is the infamous copywriter who wrote the Boron Letters from Boron Penitentiary. I learned how important it is to convert features into benefits from Gary Halbert. He also gave great advice when it came to headlines.
Eugene Schwartz is probably the most famous copywriter in the world given his track record. He is famously known for a television advert that sold to one in 14 American TV owners. Schwartz made a great deal about researching and how most of your time as a copywriter should in fact be spent learning about your customer and their problems.
Bonus: Sam Parr and Shaan Puri from My First Million have taught me a lot about business, writing, and persuasion. I highly recommend their podcast and courses.
Related articles on famous copywriters: