As an employer of freelance web copywriters, I know for a fact that there is no shortage of writing talent out there but I’ve also learned that being a professional web copywriter takes more than talent. Especially if you want to do it well.
Think about it, does a love of dancing make you fit to be a professional dancer? Everyone can sing and most of us sound OK in the shower, but that doesn’t make us singers (just check out The X Factor!). I could always write but I’ve had to work hard to build that skill into a web copywriting business. These are just five of the core skills I’ve had to cultivate….
5 things you need to be able to cut it
1. The ability to manage multiple personalities
It often feels like as a web copywriter I’m juggling multiple personalities on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I need to take the point of view of the customer, the company owner, the sales director and the search engine bots all at the same time. Copy has to please all of these people and more if you want to stay in business.
One way around it: Don’t wear all hats at once, review your web copy from each point of view alternately and always put it aside for a while before you edit.
2. Web expertise
OK so we’ve covered who the copy needs to reach but what about how it fits into the rest of the site? Does it help make it easier to use? Help it pass that tricky usability testing? Does it fit with the design that the designer has painfully executed down to the last pixel?
One way around it: Get to know what works online by reading, talking to people and by analysing every website you see from a visitor’s perspective.
3. Magic words
I’m not talking about kick-ass verbs or a nice turn of phrase. What about psychological motivators? Tried and tested copywriting techniques? Up to the minute copy techniques for that matter? All essential to writing web copy that actually works – that achieves its stated objective.
One way around it: Practise as much as possible, don’t be afraid to discard what isn’t working even if an expert says it should.
4. Keyword know-how
A web copywriter always has to be an SEO copywriter too; which means being able to weave in keywords in all the right places without anyone realising they’re there.
One way around it: Read my previous article about SEO Copywriting – available on this very website…
5. Masochistic self control
Be aware that you’re probably going to have delete the best stuff you ever write (definitely the too-clever-for- its-own-good stuff anyway) in favour of clarity, character count and client wishes. That can sting.
One way around it: Get somebody objective to do your final edit, that’s how we work at Inkspiller.
Words that mean business
So if you’ve read this far you’ll have realised that (although personally I love every bit of it) being a web copywriter isn’t about writing for pleasure – it’s business and a science as much as an art. Writing talent is just one of the skills you’re going to need to be successful at this.
The interesting thing is that the more creative a writer you are, the harder you might find it to write tightly to order. The way around that one? Always make sure you write just for fun too to keep that writerly itch well and truly scratched.