When you search for help and advice online as a copywriter, you’ll usually find jargon-heavy articles about SEO and ranking and whatnot (which you should still definitely read). However, regardless of the fancy analytics and technical stuff, the main component of your writing will always be storytelling – how you present your purpose to your audience.
This article will look at the basic tools every writer needs in their arsenal, and we’re not talking keyword tools and grammar checkers (although obviously you should use those, too).
We’re looking at the fundamentals to improve your writing before you even begin.
If you can bear to look at more words outside of work, expanding your reading knowledge will help with your writing skills. You’ll get a feel for the good writing… and for the bad. This is also a good excuse to keep up to date with current trends, and maybe pick up an idea or two on the way.
You could try deliberately reading terrible articles. Study them – where did they go wrong? How could they have improved it? Can you write it better?
This may present you with opportunities to beat your competition in the search pages.
Don’t feel like you should only read blog posts to influence your blog post writing.
Try reading other forms too. There’s a story in everything, and this may help you to find a new angle your competitors haven’t thought of, whilst giving you a break from blogs.
A keen eye for research
On the subject of reading lots, writers need to be good researchers. Not only will this better inform your writing, which will grant you the trust of the reader, but it can actually be pretty good fun (and makes you a damn strong teammate for pub quiz night).
You may find good sites along the way that would be beneficial for your site to link to. Just try not to get lost too deep in all of those tangents you’ll inevitably trail off into…
Also, be wary of going overboard on the research. As good as it is to be enthusiastic and well-read on your writing subject, it can be tempting to try and discuss everything you discovered in one go, and this can be overwhelming for the reader.
Perhaps, if you’re determined to include all the information, you could create a series of posts instead of just one?
The right work environment
Creativity is a fickle friend. If you’re not in the right mood to write… well, you’re just not. Sometimes forcing yourself through the slump works, especially if you can get the words flowing (and I mean any words by that point), but it’s not exactly an ideal way to work.
Copywriters are required to be creative to a deadline, meaning they often have to do the above. So how can we make forced writing less of a creativity killer?
One answer is getting enough breaks. A University of Illinois study found that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders your performance during that task. Taking breaks allows you to wake up out of automation and return to the task with fresh attention.
So stand up, walk around, go to the toilet, look out the window, make a cup of tea, talk to people. Get out of your chair! BBC worklife has some good productivity techniques and will make you feel less guilty about watching all those cat videos.
You can also decorate your desk with things that make you happy; things that inspire you and keep you motivated and more positive about coming to work. Now I’m not saying the answer to better writing is buying a cactus… but buy a cactus.
Pen and paper
Even though most, if not all of your copywriting jobs require a computer, never underestimate the power of pen and paper. Not only can a nearby notepad be handy, but it can also help the flow of ideas come more naturally.
Physical writing creates less of an urge to edit as you go along. You can’t delete lines as absolutely from existence in a notebook as you can on-screen, allowing you to return and rework after some thinking. Many well-known writers find writing on paper more pleasing than the glare of a blank word document.
It can also be frustrating having to flit through tabs to switch between notes and work. Having a notepad lessens the stress, and you can doodle too!
Having a written agenda, journal, or to-do list is not only useful, but can make you feel proactive and positive about work, whilst providing aesthetic brightness to your desk.
The ability to take criticism
This has been many a copywriters’ downfalls, and especially in a profession where your work is technically someone else’s, you’d better learn to suck it up and deal with it.
Sometimes a client will destroy your work and you think, “they are so wrong”, and sometimes you’re right. But consider that that might not always be the case.
It’s their business after all, so perhaps they know best. And even if you’re utterly convinced they’re wrong, just think – maybe others would also see the situation from their point of view. Maybe fewer people than you expect would read your article the way you intended.
In which case, no matter how awesome your writing is, it might be better to change it anyway. Try getting a second opinion if you’re not sure. And that leads nicely into the most important copywriter must-haves…
People to bounce ideas off
I cannot stress enough the importance of talking through a project with others. Not only might they suggest something good for you to use, but they might also trigger new ideas in your own brain with what they say. Or they might notice something you hadn’t, like flaws in your ideas, or a part that doesn’t quite read the way you intended that could be misconstrued.
This essential for copywriters goes hand-in-hand with taking criticism. You need to make sure you find the right people – which means avoid the ego-boosters that helpfully say, “yeah it’s good”, or, “I like it”.
You shouldn’t be looking for approval but for constructive feedback. Talk to someone else who writes for a living, but also get opinions from someone who doesn’t.
Talking through your ideas with people can save you from trouble, help you think of new solutions to problems, and ultimately strengthen those ideas.
It’s even better if you see your own enthusiasm for an idea shine with others too. That’s when you know you’re onto something good. So why wouldn’t you?
What are your copywriter must-haves? Do you agree with the above? Let us know in the comments below!
Kumo are a digital agency based in Nottingham, who specialise in search and content marketing. Recognised as one of the top 30 performing Digital Agencies in the UK by Google’s Elevator programme, our team of marketing experts can help improve the online presence of your business through both organic and paid search. Get in touch with them via their contact form to see how we can help your business grow.