So, you’ve taken the programs and studied how to become a web writer. You know the Four U’s© of headlines and the Four P’s© of direct-response copy structure. You understand the Power of One and the Big Idea. You have your checklist on the wall, reminding you of all the important components of web writing.
But, there’s even more you can do to set your copy apart. My guess is, you never envisioned yourself wearing these particular hats. But learn to wear them well, and you’ll find yourself moving up the ranks of successful copywriters.
1. The hat of a thief
I can hear you now … What? Are you telling me to steal? No I’m not. Copying someone else’s work is unacceptable. But I am telling you to develop a Swipe File. You may already know what this is, but in case you don’t, a Swipe File is a collection of both good and bad copy written by others in the industry.
Make a habit of collecting the junk mail and ads you get in your mailbox, email inbox, and elsewhere. Read each example and analyze it, keeping the principles of good copy in mind as you do. Does a piece compel you to take action? Did it reach your emotions in some way? Do you see certain pieces missing?
Use this activity as a discovery process. You’ll find that by reading other writers’ work, you’ll get new ideas and vision for your own.
Building a Swipe File can help you keep writer’s block at bay. It can help you identify areas where you need to improve. And it can give you an idea of what’s working well in your industry right now — a powerful insight into your target audience.
Another reason for having a Swipe File? It helps you learn how a strong letter is designed. Look and see how other writers structure their work. Sit down and rewrite the entire piece, preferably in longhand. This will help you ingrain the rhythm and structure of strong copy.
A good place to go for material for this exercise is the Hall of Fame letters that AWAI compiled. This is also the purpose of the first exercise in AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Hand copy the work of the pros and learn their secrets.
Other material to copy longhand and add to your Swipe File can be found in many places. You can review everything around you and see how the different pieces are composed. Look at ads in all forms of media, print, or online. Sign up for newsletters, blogs, and other Internet offers. Read books, magazines, and newspapers.
The idea is not to plagiarize, but learn from other writers and develop your own style, using them as models. And, to use them to spark inspiration for your own projects.
That’s how you become a great writer, instead of just a good one.
2. The hat of an elementary teacher
When dealing with many clients, you’ll find some that don’t have a good understanding of what web writing or copywriting is all about. They may think they know and try to correct you, but you must learn to diplomatically inform them that you know what you’re doing. You’ll have to teach them the elements of writing for the audience. Things like:
- Writing in a conversational tone
- Using short sentences
- Writing in a clear and concise way
- Speaking to the reader and her deepest core needs
- Using emotions to get prospects engaged
- Differentiating between features and benefits
- Emphasizing the benefits
- Closing strong with a clear call-to-action
- Offering a guarantee
And, an even more important reason for you to don an elementary teacher’s hat is to improve your writing.
Top copywriter, Bob Bly, recommends reading children’s books to quickly become familiar with a new topic. Go one step further and apply this tip to your writing, not just to your research.
In many industries, you’ll be called on to write about complex topics. If you can do that in such a simple manner that even a child can understand the message — and without sounding like you’re condescending to your readers — you’ll find your results going up, up, up.
3. The hat of a psychologist
When you’re writing copy, it’s imperative that you be able to get inside the heads of your target audience. You need to understand their beliefs, their motivations, and their values, so you can write to them in a way that gets a response. Understanding what drives a person goes to the heart of psychology.
As a writer, you must identify the pain points of the people you’re targeting, amplify that pain, and then offer a solution to get rid of it. It’s effective for you to use words filled with emotions that will resonate with the reader and create the desire, yearning, and hope that the pain will be resolved by your product or service.
Most important, you want your reader to take action … whether it’s to click through to the next page, buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, or respond to a survey.
Your ability to understand and anticipate what will make your specific reader take action will be key to your copy’s success.
By adding these three additional hats to your repertoire, you will strengthen your copy and enjoy even more success as a writer. Be a thief and learn from the experts through a Swipe File; be an elementary teacher and write in simple language that will be easily understood by your audience; and be a psychologist and solve a painful problem for your readers.
What other hats do you find yourself wearing as a writer?