What is Copywriting?
My previous Tuesday Topic post was a lengthy overview of copywriting, from defining it and clearing up misconceptions to getting clients. I’m now doing a series of posts that drill deeper into each of that post’s sections.
Future posts will go into more details on other aspects of the ABCs of Copywriting post, such as how to write it, how to sell yourself to prospective clients (and how to find those prospects), and other related topics.
But we’ll begin with answering the question of “What is Copywriting?”
Copywriting is marketing.
It’s the art and science of writing words that, when read or heard, will entice the reader or listener to do something. That “something” usually is to buy a product, but can also be to sign up for an email list, download a free e-book, etc. Just about any action you can think of could be your goal, not just purchasing something.
In copywriting, we use words to lead the reader through a chain-of-thought that results in them feeling an urgent need for the product, whether that’s a fancy watch, a web page to read, or a free e-book.
It’s an art
Our writing should create an emotional response in the reader. If we’re selling safety, it should make them feel safe or realize they have a risk they didn’t know about.
If we’re selling a luxury item, it might focus on making them imagine how sexy they’ll be to the opposite sex or how smug they’ll be when their friends drool over the item.
Whatever we’re selling, there is always at least one ideal emotion that will lead people to want the item. There may well be multiple emotions we could try to evoke. It all depends on the target audience.
It’s also a science
We also want to create a chain-of-thought that provides a logical justification for them to satisfy their emotional desire for the product. Studies show that people first feel the desire, and then use logic to justify their decision to buy.
This justification can be anything, however. For some pieces, it will be simply that the item is a status symbol that helps them connect to others who want to belong to the same group.
For other pieces, the logic will be the product’s advanced technology, allowing them to do something important in a way that’s faster, easier, and more effective.
Either way, once you’ve created the emotional desire to own the item (or click the link, etc.), your copy must provide one or more logical excuses they can use to justify the decision.
Think about an ad for a luxury car
- It might talk about how well it handles on windy roads and show a driver flying along a mountain road.
- It might talk about fuel efficiency and show a wealthy family driving somewhere far away. The driver looks in the rearview mirror at some other hapless family, out of gas by the side of the road.
- It might talk about the quality of the interior trim and imported leather for the seats while showing a successful businessman asking for directions from a group of women who smile and touch the car longingly.
In all those examples, the voiceover provides the logic, but the images provide the emotional urge to own the car. Freedom. Safety. Sex appeal.
How do you make them take action?
A written ad, such as an email or full-page magazine ad, might start out by telling a seemingly unrelated story. This story, however, will touch on the emotions the reader needs to feel if they are to desire the product. Then, toward the end, it connects the dots so the reader transfers all those current feelings to the product actually being sold. Then it closes with a list of logical reasons why the product is both reasonable and necessary, and a call to action.
First, the desire is created. Then the logic is provided. Only at the end does it directly ask them to click the link, add the item to their online cart, or download the free information. There may be other links in different places in the ad, especially for online copy or in emails, just in case they make the buy decision earlier, but the “hard sell” (the Call to Action) comes at the end.
Can I make money copywriting?
Copywriting is some of the highest-paying freelance writing available, if you’re good at it and can develop a reputation and portfolio. Just as good salespeople can make as much as their company’s senior executives in some cases, good saleswriters (copywriters) can earn well for their services.
If your client makes more money by hiring you, they’ll keep hiring you. Would you pay $10 to make $100? Of course you would, all day long. It’s no different with clients.
Copywriting is the art and science of getting people to take action after reading or hearing what you’ve written, usually getting them to buy something. It may be a lot different than other content creation gigs you’re used to, but if you can master copywriting, you’ll be able to charge well for your services. Your ability to write in a way that makes people want a product, and gives them the excuses they need to do so, will put you in high demand.