A lifetime ago, I sat in a career counselor’s office, explaining why I couldn’t imagine a job I would succeed at. I had no skills, I explained. I knew nothing about anything.
The counselor asked me to prove it. “List your skills,” he urged me.
I shrugged. “Very well,” I replied. I was intelligent. I was analytical. I was reasonably organized. I knew how to be patient and how to listen. But so was everybody else. I only had general skills; I didn’t know anything specific.
The counselor shook his head. Those skills, he said, that I had so derisively labeled as general skills—those were the most important skills I could ever learn. Anything else—marketing, design, data entry—were simply extra skills that I could learn.
But all the skills in the world wouldn’t get me anywhere if I didn’t have the basics.
I’m reminded of that story as I write this post. Copywriting draws on a lot of skills. Marketing. Research. SEO. Call to actions. They’re all important, but none of them are the most important skill in copywriting.
The most important skill in copywriting is being a good writer.
If you’re a good writer, you can learn the right skills and grow into a great copywriter.
But all the SEO knowledge and marketing know-how won’t get you anywhere if you don’t know how to write.
Of course, what makes a good writer doesn’t have a universal definition. Depending on what you’re writing, it’s going to mean different things.
For copywriting, it means: a) communicating clearly b) to the reader c) in an engaging manner.
That means writing clearly, using simple words and readable paragraphs. No one should ever have to guess what you mean. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, you cannot succeed as a writer if no one understands the words that you are saying.
It means you need to speak to the reader and not at them. You’re not dictating an edict; you’re having a conversation. Write in second-person. Focus on what they want and not on what you want. Make it about them.
And it means being engaging. None of that dry, boring, technical jargon. Make it fun. There are a lot of tips you can use to catch their attention, but at the very least, write in a way that it flows to read it. Kiss (keep it simple, stupid) is a great start for that. When in doubt, cut out all the flak and just talk simply. It’s usually more engaging that way.
And when you do that, you’ll have something to work with. You can learn how to use emotive language to draw reactions. You can learn how to tell a story to captivate attention. You can learn how to use call to actions to achieve that final sale.
But it all starts there.
With knowing how to write.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.