Anytime you read a list of characteristics of an effective copywriter, it would include many of the ‘usual suspects’: excellent writing skills, a superior understanding of the English language, a high level of creativity.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of point in writing about what is obvious and self-evident – as any successful professional copywriter would, without exception, possess all of these skills.
However, having skills is one thing – getting the opportunity to display those skills is quite another. The smart copywriter understands that there are certain essential habits that you MUST have – in addition to requisite skills – in order to be successful.
These habits need to be developed and maintained in order to not only be in a position to demonstrate your talents on a consistent basis for the immediate future, but to also allow your career to flourish in the long term.
To be a highly effective copywriter, you need to be:
Let’s face it, copywriting is a job where you can get a strong sense of being isolated – spending hour after hour sitting at your desk alone in your thoughts. Most people crave regular human contact – that’s why solitary confinement in prison is considered the highest level of punishment.
Feelings of loneliness can seriously affect your mental and physical well-being. So, it’s important to consciously know, understand and monitor your feelings and behaviour – and to take appropriate steps if you can see your ability to focus being affected or your motivation declining.
For you to be successful as a copywriter, you need to be in a constant state of curiosity – always wanting to know more. Learning more about the client, the product or service they’re selling, the marketplace they’re selling in, the competition. You’re always looking to add to your knowledge bank, to gain greater insight, to widen your perspective.
This knowledge will give you a huge advantage when communicating to the client’s intended audience. You know how they think, how they speak, how they search on the internet. You’ll be in a much better position to persuade them to believe what you’re telling them.
Every copywriter faces rejection at one time or another. Learning to accept criticism without being discouraged is essential. A potential client can say ‘No’ to your submission that you’ve spent hours preparing, and choose someone else. A current client can say ‘No’, even when you believe you’ve followed their instructions to the letter.
You need to have the confidence to bounce back from disappointing outcomes and always be ready to come up with a new idea – one that the client can’t say ‘No’ to.
It would be difficult to think of a job that offers a greater variety of possibilities than copywriting. In many careers, you need to focus on understanding one industry. In copywriting, you could write about literally thousands of different industries.
This requires flexibility, the ability to change quickly and still be effective – just like a chameleon. For chameleons, the ability to change skin colour is an important part of their communication. For copywriters, the ability to change writing styles to suit a specific client and their brand is an important job requirement.
Copywriters often have a similar problem – a feeling that a piece of writing, no matter how long you’ve worked on it, isn’t as good as it could or should be. It’s almost like you were born with a ‘perfectionist gene’, a gene that all artists seem to have. Leonardo da Vinci was famous for saying, ‘Art is never finished, only abandoned.’
For copywriters, the pursuit of perfection is futile because it’s simply unrealistic to keep working on a piece of writing until you’re 100% satisfied with it. The more pragmatic view is to aim for and reach a ‘good enough’ level of excellence, given the time and budget constraints you’re constantly operating under.
If you’d like to read more about the art of copywriting, look out for more blogs in this series. Or if you’d like to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected].