Practice makes some copywriters better than others. Although all copywriters are persuasive, some place themselves on a different league due to deliberate practices (which you could call habits).
The art of copywriting is all about persuasion. It is about convincing another person that the action you want him to take is best for him. However, this skill is one that must be sharpened by practice, much more, by certain practices or habits.
I have listed seven practices for anyone who wants to be a better copywriter. Read on.
- Keep a swipe file: This is recommended for anyone who wants to hone his writing skill. A swipe file is simply a file/folder where you store materials for inspiration.
As a copywriter, this would mean every advertisement, web page, organisation of words, print layout, picture, email, or any content that:
- Caught your attention
- Amazed you
- Set you in a buying mode
- Made you laugh
- Made you click
You are going to be needing inspiration from time to time. Your swipe file is going to always come through. So get one. I recommend that you use tools that do not get wiped out.
Examples, Google Docs, Google Drive, or Cloud drive.
2. Write copy by hand: The classic copywriter, Gary Halbert, proposed that this practice of writing copy by hand could turn the worst copywriter to the best.
He urged his son in the famous Boron letters to continuously practice handwriting proven pieces of copy. He encouraged this practice just like renowned writers such as J.K. Rowling also recommend. This is because putting pen to paper engages your brain, more than reading, or typing away on a computer.
The mistake some copywriters make is they assume that simply carrying out the stressful task of handwriting copy will sky rocket their persuasion skill , but that is not true.
While you write by hand, you ought to study what you read.
You should study:
- Bullet points
3. Write new copy for existing products: This is a no-brainer. No one gets better by wishing that the skill was bestowed on them while they sleep.
You don’t have to wait till there’s a product/service you want to sell with your words. You could practice writing copy with any product/service you can see.
I recommend writing copy for your family members and friends who run businesses, or who have a project that requires persuasion such as requests, applications, or proposals.
I also recommend that you browse the internet for products in your niche (if you have one), or visit e-stores. The popular ones include Konga, Jumia, Amazon, Gumroad, and Jiji.
Really, if you search, you’d find.
4. Read copy: A good writer is a good reader. I’ll let these quotes do the talking.
- “Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out.” – Pam Allyn
- “Reading is probably what leads most writers to writing.” – Richard Ford
- “Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” – Annie Proulx
- “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above others: read a lot, and write a lot.” – Stephen King
- “I believe that reading widely is the best preparation for writing.” – Kathryn Lasky
- “Writing is only reading turned inside out.” – John Updike
- “If you want to be a good writer, you’ve got to read like a wolf eats.” – Gary Paulsen
You will read copy to know what structure good copy takes, and to know how to write good copy too.
5. Read everything readable: Besides proven copy, you should also read and watch every and anything: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, news, drama, comedy, horror, history, everything.
Every persuasive content typically has a big idea. And a big idea can run on the wheels of ANYTHING. You need to be generally knowledgeable.
Great ideas come from creatively recycling old, known ideas. For example, in an ad written by Joseph Sugarman, his big idea was that people could prevent experiencing a second food scarcity. He basically hinged on an event that recently shook the state. That ad caused a lot of sales.
On the 64th day in 100 Days of Copywriting, I said, “A lot is going on in the world…
…and so, if you are able to connect what people already know, (say, the rave in town about small pox) with your offer to them, you make your copy appealing to read, and compelling to buy (if you sync it well).“
You stand out in your industry when you get ideas from outside your industry. So, consume content.
6. Re write advertisements: This is a practice that sets your brain on the edge; ready to function.
Every time you see an advertisement, a sales letter, or an email, ask yourself how you can make it more persuasive. If you have a book/jotter on the go (I see no reason why you wouldn’t keep one), sketch it out immediately.
Also, instead of writing brand new copy per time, you could take a promotional content, read through it, keep it aside, and then craft your own. This also involves deliberately visiting e-stores, social media pages, and randomly looking through ads on the Internet.
As you do this, you internalize better all you have learnt about copy. You will understand better ways to write advertisements, and you will also know what to avoid.
It’s a practice that has worked for many copywriters, including myself.
7. Write in accountability: What I mean here is that you write as a responsibility. No great copywriter became great by writing when they felt like writing.
In fact, this is applicable in any field. You become better when you practice as a responsibility to yourself to be better. This is why some persons recommend setting aside some minutes or hours in the day. Some people do this early in the morning, while some prefer to do it in the evenings. You do what suits you best, but set this time frame apart for practicing copywriting.
To help you practice regularly, you can be accountable to someone you respect. This could be your mentor, a family member, or a friend. I greatly recommend a group of copywriting enthusiasts like yourself.
Community-like learning is effective because it gives you a sense of belonging, and everyone cannot be lazy at the same time. Also, you learn better in a community because there are more perspectives and stories to learn from.
I hope you make a practice of these seven habits of (not highly effective people by Stephen Covey but) persuasive masters (copywriters). If it helps you, list out these steps in a handy jotter for a reminder.
Let me know what you think in the Comments below.