What Is Copywriting? Inside The One Skill Every Marketer Needs

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Copywriting is everywhere.

And once you know what it is and where to look for it, you won’t be able to look away. 

You’ll start noticing it in TV commercials, radio commercials, webinars, sales letters, sales pages, newspapers, magazines, billboards, product listings and so many other places.

Copywriting is all around you, and it's used in every industry.

So, whether you're an aspiring copywriter or business owner, learning what copywriting is (and how to do it better), will be highly valuable to you. 

If you stick around with us, we'll help you master the skill.

You'll be able to:

  1. Pick that copywriting apart.
  2. Say why the writing you see is good.
  3. Explain why it’s bad.
  4. Describe what they could have done differently to have had more of an impact.

And you won’t regret learning it because you’ll have come to understand that copywriting is the single most important skill you can learn as an entrepreneur.

Let me say that again.

Every. Entrepreneur. Must. Sell. Through. The. Art. Of. The. Written. Word.

Full stop. Period.

So, what I’m going to do here is give you an overview of what the heck copywriting is, why it’s important and where you can go to learn more about it.

What Is Copywriting?

Ok.

So you know I think copywriting is important.

But do you even know what it is? Because so many people don’t. Or they think they do, but they really don’t.

To give you some clarity, the official definition of copywriting is:

“The activity or occupation of writing the text of advertisements or publicity material.”

...Borrrrrrrrring.

 

 

Now that you know that definition, throw it away.

I’m serious. Take that dictionary definition, ball it up, soak it in gas, light it on fire, watch it burn and forget that it ever existed.

Because copywriting is so much more than that:

  • It’s psychology.
  • It’s emotion.
  • It’s sales.
  • It’s teaching.
  • It’s story-telling.

It’s...dare I say?

Art.

Copywriting is all of these things and more, and if you don’t believe that in your heart of hearts, your audience isn’t going to believe whatever it is that you’re telling them or selling them.

What Do Copywriters Do?

Have you ever seen Mad Men? Copywriting is basically that.

It’s people sitting in an office smoking cigarettes, drinking whiskey and managing to keep a job despite only doing an hour or two of actual work per day.

I kid, I kid.

In all seriousness, copywriters play an incredibly important role within organizations. Just take this quote from one of the best copywriters of all-time, Phil Dusenberry.

 

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.”

 

While many people may think of copywriting as just another type of writing (writing, of course, being a skill people don’t typically think of as being a high-income skill), it’s one of the most important tools salespeople have available to them.

 

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But what do copywriters actually do?

Basically, a copywriter might do any, or all, of the following:

  • Writing for ads
  • Writing for brochures
  • Writing for sales pages
  • Writing for product descriptions
  • Writing for emails
  • Writing for SEO
  • Proofreading
  • Editing
  • Sourcing images
  • Managing projects
  • Planning marketing campaigns

Honestly, most copywriters will do all of this and more.

But copywriting is NOT content writing, so I want to clear up that difference before we go any further in this journey.

Copywriting Vs. Content Writing

I want to draw a little bit of a line in the sand here because I see this question fairly often. I see people calling what they’re doing copywriting even though it’s actually content writing.

So, where does it differ? Let’s take a look.

 

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That last part of the graphic is the point that I really want to drive home:

  • Copywriting is a sales tool
  • Content is a growth tool

Let me explain what exactly that means. 

Say, for example, that you want to engage in content marketing for your business. Typically the goal of content marketing is to educate customers, provide value and ultimately increase the amount of traffic coming to a website. 

One way that many companies do that is via a blog. 

With a blog, website owners use content writing to provide value to their readers, which then shows up in Google search results.

When pages show up in Google search results, growth happens:

  • More people come to the website.
  • More people to the website means more subscribers.
  • More subscribers means more revenue.

So, that's what I mean by content as a growth tool.

Copy, on the other hand, is what people see when you want to convince someone to do something

Whether that's sign up for a an email list or purchase a product, copy is the tool that you use to make that happen. 

Example: You’d be a bit disappointed if you went to an NPR article and found 2,000 words of copy trying to sell you something, and you’d be a bit confused if you landed on a sales page and all you saw was a news article.

Strong marketing plans will use both types of writing together to satisfy readers, increase retention and drive sales.

But I want to look at an example to give you a better idea of what I mean.

Example Of Copywriting

To give you a better idea of what exactly copywriting is, I want to highlight a real example of copywriting to show you what I’m talking about.

Let’s take a look at our sales page for Daymond On Demand.

 

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Now, take a moment to think about what makes this page different from the one you’re reading right now.

First, think about the goal of the page that you’re on right now:

  • Am I selling you something? No.
  • Am I educating, providing value and (hopefully) entertaining you? If I’m doing my job right, yes.

If you look at the sales page again, you’ll notice immediately that the goal of the page is not to educate and entertain.

Instead, the goal of the page is to: 

  • Grab your attention.
  • Show you the benefits of the product that we’re offering.

We aren’t telling you how to build a business, we’re showing you how our product will make your life easier.

There’s a big difference.

If you scroll further down the page, you get an even better idea of the purpose of copy.

 

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Again, notice how we aren’t focusing on the how-to or the features of the product, we’re focusing on the benefit of the product: being able to start a business without any experience.

Finally, at the bottom we have what we discussed earlier.

 

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If you think back to what I said earlier, the goal of copy is to drive action.

Everything up to this point is driving the reader to the next step to eventually get to the part where they should take action.

But this isn’t the only type of copywriting out there.

The Four Types Of Copywriting

As someone who’s new to copywriting, I get that you might be a little bit overwhelmed by all of the information you’re taking in.

Luckily, I can simplify it for you.

If you decide to get into copywriting, you’ll basically be doing four types of copywriting:

If you can master these four types of copywriting, you’ll be highly valuable on the market. When you’re highly valuable on the market, people want to pay you more money.

It’s simple.

So, what do these actually mean?

Type #1: Email

For most people, email is just a form of communication. For marketers and copywriting, email is something completely different.

Think about it like this.

In the dark ages of direct marketing, companies had to have people on the phone cold calling customers whenever a new offer came out. Either that, or they could send a postcard in the mail.

Now, think back to the last time you got a cold call. Pretty annoying, right?

Well, all of that has been replaced by permission-based email. People subscribe to your email list, and then you can communicate with all of them at any time of the day and any time of the week, and they can read it on their own time.

The best thing about it is that it’s a tool for you to build a relationship with you subscribers.

Type #2: Written Sales Letters (WSL)

If you don’t know what a WSL is already, don’t worry.

It’s simple.

A written sales letter is something that just about everyone has received in the past in the mail. In the old world of direct marketing, companies would send out sales letters in the mail to promote their products.

Today, it’s all online.

Remember the example of copywriting that I showed you earlier?

 

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That’s an example of a written sales letter.

Typically, you’ll use a WSL to sell products that are lower in price. Think $1-$40.

If you want to be a copywriter, you need to get real familiar with these.

Type #3: Video Sales Letter (VSL)

A VSL, on the other hand, is basically just a written sales letter turned into a video.

They look like this:

 

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They’re just a headline/sub-headline at the top and then a video below selling the product. In the past, these were infomercials.

You’ll use a VSL for products in the $30-$100 price because people need to see a little bit more effort on your end to build trust.

And the script is the most important part here, so a great VSL needs a great copywriter.

Type #4: Webinars

If you want to be a copywriter, you better get real comfortable with the idea of webinars.

A webinar is just an online meeting or presentation held online.

It could be live or it could be recorded.

In the past, these would be something like a seminar where people are selling live on the stage or a salesperson who would come to your house to sell something.

Today, you can reach people anywhere at any time in the comfort of their own homes.

It’s a great way to provide educational value around your product while also pitching it. With a webinar, you’ll be selling products that are at least $300 or more because of the level of effort and time that you need to put into the presentation.

Good copywriters for webinars are in high-demand, and you can easily charge five-figures to six-figures once you’ve mastered the art.

Luckily, there's a simple five-step formula you can follow to write for any of these types of copywriting.

5-Step Copywriting Formula

 

Now, I'm not going to go deep into this formula because we'll get into it in-depth in another post, but there's a simple 5-step formula anyone can follow when they're writing copy, regardless of which type of copywriting you're doing. 

Those five steps are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Story
  3. Content
  4. Transition
  5. Pitch

If you follow these five steps, the words will write themselves. 

Let's take a look at an overview of those five steps.

Step #1: Introduction

Purpose: Convince to engage.

When anyone is engaging with copy, whether it be in a WSL or a webinar, they have one question on their mind, "What's in it for me?"

If you can't hook someone right from the beginning, you'll lose them.

Step #2: Story

Purpose: To connect.

Most people get the story element wrong because they think that they have to build up in their credibility in this part. They think they need to talk about their testimonials, their accolades, their degrees and their accomplishments.

Sure, this might impress people. But do people buy because they're impressed?

No. 

People buy from people who they can connect with on a personal level. You want people to think, "If they can do it, so can I!"

So, your focus here is more on making yourself relatable to people, not positioning yourself as the god or goddess of your field.

Step #3: Content

Purpose: Build value and credibility.

Like I said earlier, most people think they're supposed to build credibility in the story stage. 

But you actually want to build your credibility AFTER you establish trust and relatability so that you can then go on to address what makes you special.

In the content stage, you're focusing on building up your credibility and showing your audience why they should be listening to you through providing them value.

Once you establish credibility and value, you hit the transition.

Step #4: Transition

Purpose: Answer the why.

If you do the first three steps well, your audience should have a warm feeling inside about you. They should almost feel like your friend because they've gotten to know you and you've provided immense value.

Now, everyone knows there's eventually going to be a pitch.

So, why not take the tension out of the air?

In the transition stage, your job is to address the elephant in the room: that you're going to ask for. money. For most people, just saying, "This is how I make my money so I can continue providing value," is often enough for them.

After all, you would never call up a contractor to fix your bathroom and expect them to do the work for free, right?

Step #5: Pitch

Purpose: Confirm the sale

If you've done your job up until this point, people should already be ready to buy from you. Now what you need to do is confirm the sale.

To do that, you speak to the conscious mind.

You know, everyone wants to feel like they're getting a deal when they're buying something. So what you need to do is to have an. offer that makes people feel they're getting more value in return than what they're paying. 

Paying $100? They should feel like the product should've been $150.

Your customers should always feel like they're getting one over on you because you're providing them with so much value in return.

So, How Much Money Do Copywriters Earn?

Now we get to the fun stuff.

I may have had you up until this point with all that jazz about copywriting being art, but now you’re probably wondering if you can actually make money doing this type of work.

The short answer? Absolutely.

And you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. So, how much exactly does a copywriter earn?

As usual, it depends.

For a copywriter working in an office setting for a company, you can expect to earn between $35,000 - $65,000 per year according to data from Glassdoor. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of that range when working as an employee in a company.

 

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But we’re entrepreneurs here at Lurn, and entrepreneurs aren’t limited by salary ranges.

For freelance copywriters and people who turn freelancing into agencies, those numbers can be significantly higher OR lower.

You could either...

  • Work 10-20 hours per week on a beach somewhere in Asia and make $10,000 per year.
  • Bust your butt for 60-70 hours per week as an agency owner and earn much more than that $65,000 per year.

Take copywriting legend Clayton Makepeace, for example.

Back in 1970, Clayton Makepeace was a high school dropout, with a kid on the way, working a minimum wage job.

Instead of accepting a life of struggle, he decided to try his hand at copywriting.

And guess what?

His sales copy has generated over $1.5 billion in revenue for the companies he’s worked with, and he’s earned over $1 million per year in every year since 1995.

In fact, he was named the “World’s Highest-Paid Marketing Coach and Copywriter” by The American Writers and Artists Institute and best-selling marketing author Bob Bly.

 

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Want something a little bit closer to home?

We work a lot with an agency owner named Andy Brackpool of The Copy Butler. He started out copywriting when he was a teenager and eventually came across Anik and did some work for him.

After some consultation with Anik, he took his freelance writing business, turned it into a copywriting agency and is now doing multiple six-figures per year in revenue.

To say the least, there’s money in copywriting.

But it’s all up to how much you want to learn, how much you want to practice, how much you want to work and how good you are at your craft.

What Skills Does A Copywriter Need?

Luckily, copywriting isn’t rocket science.

While it certainly takes a ton of work and practice to become one of the best in the world, anyone can start learning these skills today and start picking up clients within the first couple of months.

I’ll get into this more in another post, but a good place to start in terms of acquiring skills that will get you work in the near future, put these at the top:

  • Sales Skills
  • Consumer Psychology Skills
  • Professional Writing
  • Creative Writing
  • Editing & Proofreading
  • Headline Writing
  • Marketing
  • An Understanding Of Customer Journey
  • SEO
  • Basic Web Design Best Practices

To give you some real world context, this was the job description for the first copywriter job opening that I saw in Google:

 

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Notice that it lines up quite a bit with the skills that I just mentioned.

Each of these topics has their own rabbit holes, but you can easily get by in the beginning by learning a little about a lot in terms of these topics. As you go further into your journey, you’ll start seeing which of the areas you need to focus on more to further yourself and your business.

Luckily, you’re in the right place to learn these skills.

Aside from all the great free blog content that we have here at Lurn, we also have a bunch of free and paid resources that can help you on your journey to becoming a copywriter.

To name just a few, we have:

All of these are great options to get you started. If books are more your thing, there are some great books out there to read as well:

If you stick to the resources I just mentioned, that will easily take you through the end of the year, if not longer.

However, no single resource is going to teach you everything you need to know about copywriting, so keep an open mind in terms of how you learn.

Your Next Steps

Overwhelmed?

Fear not, for we have a ton of great content here at Lurn to take you from being a complete beginner at copywriting to an advanced copywriter who knows how to pitch their services and gain clients.

No matter where you are in your journey, we’re here to help you.

Check out our copywriting courses inside of #LurnNation, and keep checking back here for more great content.