It isn’t easy breaking into a career as a copywriter. It can be daunting, confusing, frustrating and the professional pitfalls are numerous. You need all the help you can get. And this article attempts to help guide you on your way with business copywriting tips.
I have collated 54 of the absolutely best business copywriting tips and advice for new and aspiring copywriters that I could find. Enjoy the list, and refer to it regularly.
54 business copywriting tips
1. Don’t edit while you are writing, just focus on writing your material and edit later. Some copywriters will argue that it is best to edit as you go, this is simply a personal preference however for many new copywriters the internal editor is a hindrance that often prevents the free flow of ideas.
2. Write for your audience. Have a clear idea of your audience before you ever write a single word. Don’t be afraid to be divisive if it means that you are successfully identifying your audience.
3. Before agreeing to start on a copywriting project know your terms. Agree on your fee in writing in advance. 50% upfront and 50% on completion is standard. Understand the payment terms which should include date of payments, method of payment. Word limits should not be left unaddressed at the outset in order to avoid any miscommunication and re-work at a later date.
4. Learn how to conduct research. When you begin a copywriting project it pays to know about your client’s services and products. Make notes of your client’s unique selling points. Define what sets your client apart from their competitors. Who is the intended audience for your project? What can you learn about the audience that will make your writing more effective?
5. Build your writing portfolio. Artists and designers build a portfolio of work and so should you. Include a variety of writing projects that showcase your writing skills. If you are just starting out write articles and editorials on topics that interest you. What matters is that you are building a stock of samples that can be shown to potential clients.
6. Spend more time researching your topic than you do writing about it. Aim for 50% of your time conducting research, 25% writing and 25% editing. While this ratio isn’t meant to be adhered to at all times, it provides a solid framework for a division of your time.
7. Avoid clichés. Nothing says boring like a tired old cliché.
8. Write every day. Don’t let your writing muscles go weak. Your writing will improve as you write, it’s that simple. The more you write the better you get.
9. Step away from the keyboard on a regular basis and get out there and network. Attend your local business workshops and meet-ups. Let people see your face. People like to do business with folks they have met in person. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the world will come to you. Get out there and make things happen.
10. Always, always carry a notebook and pen with you wherever you go. Ideas can come to you at the oddest of times and you never know when inspiration may strike.
11. Get referrals from your clients. If your recent clients love your work, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. Recommendations go a long way in ensuring continual business and is one of my favourite business copywriting tips.
12. Write with confidence. Don’t mince words and try to write in some mythical ‘professional’ voice. There’s no such thing! Write in a real person’s voice. Sure, you have to adapt your style to different audiences, however no-one wants to read something that lacks feeling and says nothing. That’s like eating cardboard.
13. Don’t rely on your spell-checker for everything, they quite often miss errors in grammar and sentence structure.
14. Use social media to promote yourself and network with potential clients.
15. Your first idea is rarely if ever the best one. It feels good to have a quick and reasonable idea when given a writing brief. However first ideas can be misleading. Take your first idea and sit with it for a few hours if you are able to. Write it down and mull it over. Chances are that the second and third generation of ideas will be better as a result of this cooling off period. Try it.
16. Read whatever you can get your hands on. Trade magazines and industry letters are just two examples where you can discover audience specific writing styles. Look in your local library for industry periodicals and take notice of the language and styles used across several industries. Search online for business copywriting tips, industry papers and reports and learn how to craft copy that is specific to a particular audience.
17. Keep a file of bad copywriting examples and a file of excellent copywriting samples. You can learn from both. Update your file with examples whenever you find them. Have a clear idea in your mind of what makes good copy and what makes bad and learn how to describe each one.
18. Say it out loud. Speak out loud what you intend to write. This can help prompt your brain to get into creative mode. Speaking first what you intend to write later makes the writing process easier. Try it.
19. Find a mentor. Find someone whose writing you admire, pick it apart and study why their writing works. You don’t need to model your writing after anyone else’s however you will learn from studying the styles and structures used by top copywriters.
20. Be persistent. Copywriting is a tough business and it usually takes a few years before you establish yourself as a trusted writer. Commit to improving your writing, marketing your services and broadening your network.
21. Don’t be shy about money. This is such an important one among this list of business copywriting tips. Get used to talking about money with your potential clients. Be upfront and clear about your fees from the outset. It’s perfectly OK for some clients not to afford you and you are better off learning that this is the case before spending half a day looking for the sale.
22. Invest in a website. Spend time and energy on developing your online presence. Pay attention to your about page and make sure you utilise a profile photo. Include writing samples on your website as well as current contact info and testimonials if you have them.
23. Learn about the various types of specialty copywriting that are in demand today. SEO, content creation, blog posts, social media, email campaign writing are just a few. Consider positioning yourself within one of these specialty niches.
24. Keep it simple. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overwriting. When an idea can be expressed in five words do you really need fifty? Quite often your role as a copywriter will involve taking complex ideas and simplifying them. This is an invaluable skill and one that will serve you well in the future. Start now.
25. At some point in your writing you will get stuck. All writers struggle with ideas that refuse to be unraveled with words. Don’t worry about it. Move on to the next idea and come back to the tricky one later.
26. Be nervous. Feeling a little nervous about a job is a good thing. However rather than stress out, think how great it feels to care so much about what you do for your clients. Not many people can ever say that.
27. Copywriting legend David Ogilvy once stated that 5 times as many people read a headline as those that read the body copy. What does this tell you? Make sure that your headlines have a great impact if you ever want a reader to dig deeper.
28. Never underestimate the power of a good story in your copywriting. Study story writing even if you never plan to have your stories published. Join a local creative writing group where you can receive feedback about your story writing skills and ideas.
29. Don’t get too hung up on grammar. We are in the communications business, not an English class. Sure, you need to spend time ensuring there are no howlers lurking in your copy, however I reckon it’s far more important that your message is clear and resonates with your audience.
30. Set goals. Develop a clear idea of where you are and where you want to be in six months, a year, and two years. List your financial goals, personal goals and professional goals and create a timeline for achieving them.
31. Don’t quit your day job. Consider having a financial cushion of four to five months of living expenses in savings before you make the leap to full time copywriting.
32. Try specialising in a particular industry or topic. Write about what you are passionate and knowledgeable about. Think about topics that are outside the range of many of your fellow copywriters. Work towards building your exposure as a specialist copywriter.
33. Never lower or discount your fees. Charge what you charge and walk away from clients that can’t afford you. This might sound counterintuitive especially for the beginning writer however discounting your fees to land a job is a bad idea. The client that asks for a lower fee will ask for an even lower one when you discount it since you have devalued your work once already. This is crucial in the list of business copywriting tips.
34. If you know how long a project will take to complete and you do not anticipate any major changes, think about charging a flat fee rather than an hourly charge.
35. Avoid weasel words like “best”. Instead use facts and figures to support your statements. If your product has been voted as the most preferred by 60% of the population say, “This product has been voted as the most preferred by 60% of the population”, rather than “best”.
36. Avoid marketplaces. Stay away from the freelancing sites – Upwork, Freelancer, etc. They may sound like a great way to land a gig, however they will suck all the life out of you and leave you depressed and dejected. You are worth more than 500 words for $1.
37. Do not agree to unreasonable deadlines. Give yourself time to complete a project. Agreeing to rush jobs is a recipe for producing garbage copy.
38. Don’t sit at the keyboard for hours on end, take regular breaks from writing. Not only is this good for your body it’s good for your mind. Try this exercise: write for ten minutes and then stop, stand up, walk away from the keyboard for five minutes and then come back and write for another ten minutes.
39. Set a minimum price for your copywriting projects. Add up all the tasks involved in completing a standard project, from phone calls, research, emails, revisions, paperwork, billing etc and determine what your minimum price will be for a standard project. Set this price in stone and never price your work below it. Do so and you lose money.
40. As a copywriter your reputation means the difference between obtaining high level clients and remaining at the bottom of the copywriting ladder. Remember this when it comes to maintaining a professional relationship with your clients.
41. Decide on what you are going to say before you start writing. Have a plan for your content rather than just taking the write as you go approach. Draft an outline or wireframe of your work. Determine the main points of your writing, decide on an overall feel for the work before you start.
42. If there’s a chance that your words may be misunderstood either re-write them to be more concise or think about using an analogy to reinforce your ideas. Use comparisons that are easy for readers to understand.
43. Don’t miss your deadlines. Ever.
44. Get your house in order. Create all of the forms and contracts that you will need to do business. These may include payment agreements, non-disclosure forms, schedules, tax receipts and all the various paperwork that any business requires to operate.
45. Take a close look at advertising copy over the past 50 years. Notice how the language and context has changed? Our culture is often reflected in the language used to persuade readers and buyers. Have a close look at the advertising copy used today. Understand the language and the messages used in advertising copy and how they reflect the society we live in.
46. Never bad mouth your clients, especially to other clients. This is the fastest and easiest method of ensuring that you never receive return work.
47. Get to know designers, printers, search engine specialists, marketing professionals. Eventually you will be working with these people on projects so it’s a good idea to understand how they work and what they do.
48. Sure it’s great to be the master of your own destiny however if your clients can’t reach you what good are you to them? The business world works anywhere from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You need to be available during these hours and doing work at the same time as everyone else.
49. Get organised with a daily to-do list. Start your day by deciding on the five most critical tasks to complete. Stay motivated by rewarding yourself in some small way for each task that you complete.
50. Use simpler words. People want simple, concise, easy-to-grasp answers to their problems. They don’t care about your fancy words, they just care about what’s in it for them – explained the best way they can understand it. Fo example, business copywriting tips is clear and simple language.
51. You will have stressful days and tight deadlines. You will have days when no good ideas seem to form in your mind. These things happen. Find methods that help you to mitigate these events.
52. Study and practice persuasive copywriting techniques. Focus on benefits over features. Target your reader’s emotions, tell a story.
53. In most cases as few as half of the hours spent as a freelance copywriter are actually billable. With this in mind find efficient systems for handling all of your non-billable tasks.
54. Collaborate with other writers and create mutually beneficial relationships. This article is a working example of that advice.
There you have it – 54 business copywriting tips to help you become a better writer and better freelance business person. Good luck!