10 Things Every Copywriter Should Know

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Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Greek philosopher known for his doctrine that change was central to the universe. And while you might not recognize his name, maybe you know his nickname: The “Weeping Philosopher.”

He got the name because he suffered from bouts of melancholy. And because of these on-and-off feelings of sadness, poor Heraclitus wasn’t always able to finish writing out his full thoughts.

That might explain why some of writings are difficult to understand. In fact, two well-known philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, criticized his views as being too extreme.

They also believed Heraclitus’s views were illogical and hard for most people to understand.

But there’s one of Heraclitus’s beliefs that is easy for all of us to understand, “The only thing constant in life is change.”

It’s true. Everything in life changes … even the direct-response world we thrive in as copywriters. And that’s why it’s important to stay alert and in tune with the changes that directly impact the way in which you earn your money.

For instance, how embarrassing would it be if you approached a potential client and didn’t know they stopped advertising on Facebook, and moved most of their budget over to email marketing? Or what if they reduced the amount of money being spent on direct mail because they think it’s not a worthy marketing channel for them? Or what if the opposite were true and they weren’t engaged in email marketing at all?

The point to all of this is to be a well-informed copywriter. So with that in mind, here are 10 things every copywriter should know:

What You Need to Know #1: Direct mail is not dead. Every so often, rumors circulate that direct mail is dead. But that’s not true. It’s alive and well. In fact, the DMA found that for every $167 a company spends on direct mail, they get back on average over $2,000 in sales. That’s like a 1,300% Return on Investment.

And it’s big business too. It’s the second highest channel of marketing that companies allocate money toward. In fact, direct mail is valued at $44 billion.

This means you could swoop in and get a piece of the action by offering to write direct-mail letters for clients that don’t use this channel … and for those that do, it’s a chance to get your name on their roster of writers to hire.

What You Need to Know #2: E-commerce isn’t shrinking — it’s growing. It’s no secret that e-commerce has changed the way people shop. Nowadays, you can purchase a car without even walking into a showroom. Most car dealerships have created positions such as Internet Sales Manager just to handle the volume of car buying done online.

And that’s just one example of an industry that has gone digital. The truth is, e-commerce is growing at a rapid pace. From 2014, retail e-commerce sales have grown from $1.3 trillion to a projected $4.9 trillion by 2021. But even more impressive is the growth global e-commerce sales, which now accounts for almost 17.5% of all sales.

Since more people are shopping and buying online, that means an almost never-ending supply of copywriting opportunities are waiting for you.

Those opportunities could be writing content for websites, banner ads, social media posts, customer emails, landing pages, order forms … the list goes on and on. There are enough paid projects to keep you busy for months on end.

What You Need to Know #3: Clients need and want ideas — and lots of them. The foundation of a direct-mail letter, or any form of persuasive writing for that matter, is an emotionally compelling idea. The better you are at coming up with compelling ideas, the more likely clients will hire you.

Think of it this way. Every “A-list” six-figure copywriter you can name … Clayton Makepeace, Mike Palmer, Jedd Canty, Carline Anglade-Cole, Paul Hollingshead, and John Forde all share the trait of being idea generators. And that’s what contributes to their success.

If you take a proactive role in presenting ideas to your client that could have a dramatic measurable impact on their business, what you are really doing is demonstrating your value to them.

They’ll see you not just as a copywriter who has their needs, wants, and desires in mind … but as a writer who wants them to succeed and be a part of that success.

What You Need to Know #4: It’s a big world out there — clients are everywhere. Imagine getting paid $1 million for doing about five minutes of work … it’s “nice work if you can get it.” And while finding that kind of easy work might be a pipe dream, landing high-paying writing projects isn’t.

That’s because clients are everywhere. Your next client could be the small business located a few streets down from where you live. Or it could be the mid-sized business on Main Street in the heart of downtown. Or it might be that large firm with headquarters in New York and San Francisco.

Or you could find yourself working for an international company that does business here in the U.S. and several places abroad.

Because both direct mail and e-commerce are growing by leaps and bounds, there’s really no limitation to where your next paid writing project will come from.

Sure, it’s a big world out there, but the internet now has clients at your fingertips. So don’t be afraid to reach out to businesses large and small.

What You Need to Know #5: Land more paid projects — Be a client magnet. In the 1989 hit movie Field of Dreams, the main character (played by Kevin Costner) is driven to build a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield. In a dream, voices tell him, “If you build it, they will come.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way in real life … especially not if you want to see your writing income skyrocket. You have to be proactive in promoting your copywriting services.

You just can’t hang a shingle out that says, “I’m a copywriter, hire me.” Nope, you have to do all the things that help attract clients to you such as building a professional website, sending emails, using social media, and possibly even cold-calling clients.

You have to spread the word about your freelance writing business because that’s how clients will know you even exist. The more you do it, the more you increase your chances of securing paid writing assignments.

What You Need to Know #6: Know the numbers your client uses to determine marketing success or failure. You’ve gotten a paid writing assignment, congratulations.

The client sends out the sales letter you’ve written and now they’re just waiting on results. But exactly what determines the success or failure of your letter?

It comes down to numbers. And those numbers include:

ROI (Return on Investment): For every dollar they spent on your sales letter, how much money did they get in return?

Response rate: To the thousands of people they sent your letter to, how many responded?

Open rate: Of the thousands of readers they sent your sales letter to via email, how many people opened the email?

Click-through rate: Of all those people who opened the email, how many clicked through from the lift note to the sales letter?

Conversion rate: And of those people who clicked to the sales letter, how many people actually bought the product?

Most clients use these numbers to determine how successful their marketing campaigns are, including using your sales letter. But they might have a few other Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as how many emails did it take to get people to respond? How many days did they send those emails in order to trigger a response?

The best way to know what numbers matter to your client is to ask. And if you are uncertain what each number means, don’t be afraid to ask the client to walk you through each one.

What You Need to Know #7: Pick a niche, and then define what you do. Without a doubt, one of the easiest ways to be successful as a copywriter is picking a niche and then dominating it.

When you think of the names of “A-list” copywriters like some of the ones I mentioned earlier, what other trait do they have in common besides generating ideas?

Well, they operate in a specific niche. Take Clayton Makepeace and Jedd Canty, for example. They are seven-figure copywriters but their specialty is writing financial copy. Carline Anglade-Cole writes specifically for the health industry.

Steve Slaunwhite is an “A-list” copywriter specializing in writing for the B2B market (Business-to-Business) and so is Gordon Graham.

So the first thing to do is figure out what industry attracts you? And then from there, determine the thing about your freelance writing service that makes you stand out from others.

Are you an expert at writing emails for B2B clients? Maybe you’re really good at writing content for financial websites? Or maybe you enjoy diving into medical topics and writing sales promotions for the alternative health market is a right fit.

There are a lot of markets to pick from so your choices are virtually unlimited.

What You Need to Know #8: Negotiating your way to bigger paychecks. At one time or another on your journey to being an in-demand copywriter, you’re going to find yourself in the position of negotiating with clients.

It could be about the flat fees you charge, whether or not you will get paid a royalty, or deadlines. Each of these is a matter of having a conversation with your client.

Don’t be afraid to have that conversation. After all, being a freelance copywriter isn’t just an art form; it’s also a business. Sometimes you’ll be asked to sign a contract or agreement to cement the deal. And that contract will spell out all the details including what you get paid, how, and when.

As for setting fees, don’t be afraid to value the work you do. Many up-and-coming copywriters make the mistake of charging too little of a fee. And that makes it feel like you put in a lot of time and effort for not much money.

Set a fair price for your services. If clients hesitate to pay that fee, you’re probably working with the wrong client. But you could also be just one conversation away from negotiating a price that works for you and your client.

What You Need to Know #9: Copywriting comes in all forms. It used to be in the good old “direct mail days,” the only things a copywriter had to write were a sales letter, order form, and maybe a lift note.

But these days, with the evolution of the internet and digital marketing, copywriters have to be able to write more than just these three things.

That’s because most clients need you to write not just the sales letter but lift letters that get people wanting to read your sales letter. And usually it’s more than just one lift letter … it could be anywhere from three to six.

Then they might ask you to write ads they can use on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And on top of that, you might be asked to write a welcome letter that goes along with your sales letter.

All of these pieces are considered collateral writing assignments. They have a huge impact on the overall performance of your sales letter. And since they are so important, you’ll want to know how to write each one.

But also by knowing how to properly write each collateral assignment, it gives you the opportunity to specialize in writing them. You could niche your entire freelance business on writing collateral writing projects such as emails or ads.

Either way, nowadays understanding how to write collateral material is a must-know topic for any copywriter wanting to build a thriving freelance business.

What You Need to Know #10: You’re one client away from success. Let’s say you’ve studied AWAI’s foundational program on copywriting. And you’ve even passed several of our AWAI VerifiedTM programs or maybe a few of our Certification programs.

Now what?

Well, Dear Copywriter, it’s time to go from learning to doing. It’s now time to get those clients, start writing, and get paid for what you do. The thought might make you feel a bit uncomfortable, or a little scared.

It’s no different from being asked to give a speech in front of a large group. Before you speak, your stomach is in knots. You’re not sure if the audience will applaud or boo you off stage.

And the first few seconds of speaking, your voice squeaks. But then you realize, it’s not that bad after all. You relax into your presentation and no one in the audience even knows you had any of these feelings.

Once you’ve done one speech, you’re eager to do the next one.

Just remember, you’ve gotten professional training and guidance, which means you are well prepared to enter the world of copywriting.

And in the end, you’re just one client away from success.

What questions do you have about getting started as a copywriter? Share with us below so we can point you in the right direction.

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Published: March 9, 2020

3 Responses to “10 Things Every Copywriter Should Know”

  1. The 10 points I just read are incredibly valuable, both instructive and encouraging! Thank you! I am now more motivated to get crackin' looking for work as a copywriter! I am reading at my many courses I bought from AWAI. I often say, I LOVE AWAI! Richard

    Guest (Richard Lee Van Der Voort)March 9, 2020 at 11:57 am

  2. I am a little quirky and creative in my writing. Wonder what else besides e-mail projects would be a good fit.

    Guest (Timothy W)March 9, 2020 at 1:19 pm

  3. This is a good read. It puts things into perspective that being a copywriter means being in business. I should treat it as a business not as a hobby.
    After reading The 10 points, I am more encouraged to pursue a career as a copywriter.
    Thank you Sandy.

    Thomas ChavisMarch 10, 2020 at 2:44 pm


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