This article was written by my good friend Robby Herbst, a freelance artist and search engine marketing professional in Columbus, Ohio.
A few days ago, I received a message from a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design who wanted to know if I had any advice for future copywriters.
I provided her with this list of copywriting tips that I’ve learned over the past couple of years:
#1: Always be reading, writing and learning
By absorbing anything you can lay your eyes on, you can expand both your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. It’s also an excellent way to diversify your writing style – by helping you fine-tune various tones and voices.
#2: Research is key
It’s always tempting to begin devising a clever headline or phrase the second you get a new assignment. This is good, but don’t forget about research. In fact, most of my time is spent getting to know a client by researching their website and competitors. This is especially helpful if you’re writing about an industry you know nothing about – but either way, research will make your job much easier.
#3: Never say I’ll remember it later
If you ever get an idea, never tell yourself you’ll remember it later on. Write it down. As I’ll explain in Tip #5, whenever your subconscious shoots you an idea, the last thing you’ll want to do is let it pass. These ideas are usually the best ones.
#4: Be patient before presenting your idea
If you think of a great idea, you may get really excited and want to show someone. I’ve made this mistake a couple of times and it turned into other people wanting to incorporate their ideas – essentially butchering the idea. Always work with an idea until you know it’s just right, then work on it some more, and then present.
#5: Keep your ideas visible
For example, a bulletin board by your desk. This may spark an idea if you glance at them from time to time. Sometimes, having a way to look at all your ideas at the same time may help you find a piece that you’ve been missing.
#6: Always use your subconscious
This is probably the most important part of my process – as I’m a huge believer. I’ve exhausted myself many times by trying to find the perfect tagline or phrase. If you completely walk away from a project and clear your mind from it, eventually an idea or two will pop into your head when you least expect it – in your car, while walking, or in your sleep. Some of my best ideas have come in my sleep. It really does work, as long as you don’t forget to write the idea down.
#7: Some projects aren’t as exciting as others
I learned this quickly, but I’ve also enjoyed the challenges. As a copywriter, you’ll learn a lot of information. At my agency, I’ve written for many different industries, from lingerie boutiques and bakeries to industrial fabricators and car dealerships. The great thing about this business is that there’s always something to write about.
#8: Don’t take requested rewrites too personally
Higher-ups and even clients will have you rewrite copy from time to time. You may be confused because you felt that what you presented was one of the best things you’ve ever created. Just remember, each client has a preference and each company has its own tone. One of the main causes for rewrites is a mismatch in tone or style. Always keep things consistent.
#9: Never underestimate the value of good copy
It’s amazing how much quality writing can make a difference. In a medium like the Internet, it’s shocking to come across websites that have poorly written content (and there are quite a few out there). Because everything is digital, having a nicely readable website is always a good thing to have. If a site is careless about its content, it can easily damage the reputability of the company.
#10: Don’t forget about pens and paper
Computers are great, but sometimes you’ll need to put an idea down on the run. So take it old school – write out your ideas in ink and even draw a little to put your subconscious in action.
There’s obviously much more to copywriting, but hopefully these ten tips will provide a good basis for what to expect when writing for an agency.