What is Copywriting? How Can I Do It?

If you’re reading the words on this page, then you can write words. Does that mean you can ‘do copywriting’ too? Or are there magic copywriting secrets that only copywriters like me know about? What does copywriting do that plain old writing doesn’t?

‘Writing’ means putting words on a page. There’ll always be a purpose of some kind: remembering things using a diary, telling friends about things using Facebook, showing someone you care using a birthday card. Every kind of writing is done for a reason.

Why is copywriting done?

Copywriting’s purpose is to get people to do things. It may do other things too: like giving information or offering advice. But they are not its ultimate goal. When I write a piece of copy, the first thing I ask myself is:

What should this piece of writing achieve?

Common answers are things like:

  • To persuade people to buy something.
  • To persuade people to find out more about something.
  • To persuade people to get involved in something.

If it doesn’t do some persuading – also known as selling – then it’s not copywriting.

If I’m not selling stuff, I don’t need to know about copywriting?

You might not be selling stuff, but I can bet that you’re selling something else: a service, an idea, a person, a concept…

A baker needs to sell bread to bread-eaters.
A homeless charity needs to sell the need for people to have homes to potential donors.
An unemployed person needs to sell their skills to employers

All these needs can be met with good copywriting. That is, by writing that has persuasion as its goal.

But it’s not enough just to start off writing knowing that you need to persuade people of something (though if you do, you’ll be doing better than many). You also need to know:

  • Who you’re trying to persuade
  • Why they should be persuaded
  • What persuasion will look like.

How do I write a piece of copy, then?

Let’s take the baker example I gave above.

The baker needs to sell bread to bread eaters. They could do that by writing a flyer to put through their potential customers’ doors.

How they write that flyer should depend on the answers to the questions I defined above.

Who is the baker trying to persuade?

People who eat the kind of bread the baker sells. Are they a local baker, selling all kinds of bread to anyone who lives near to their shop? Are they a specialist baker selling luxury bread to people with cash to burn?

Why should they be persuaded?

The local baker should write about how they offer value, choice and convenience to local people. The artisan baker should write about why their bread is unusually good, and deserving of its luxury price tag.

What will persuasion look like?

For both bakers, it will look like increased bread sales.

So it’s that simple? Copywriting is writing that persuades people to do something.

It is that simple. It can also be far more complicated. Copywriters like me often need to meet multiple needs from their clients. They work hard to find out what an audience wants. And like everyone else, they have to juggle things like budgets and collaborate with others to get work done.

If, like me, you find words easy to handle, you’ll probably find you enjoy writing copy. But you don’t need to have been top in English class at school to write copy that works.

You do need is to know who your audience is, what you want them to do, and why they should do it.

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