If you're here, it's probably because you want to convert your visitors into customers, right?
And that's exactly what I'm going to work on in this guide.
Let me tell you what's copywriting (feel free to skip this part if you already know), then I'll reveal how to write an effective copy. Finally I'll explain to you how to become a freelance copywriter.
Bonus: at the end I'll show you how to objectively evaluate your copywriting skills.
What is Copywriting and why it's important
Copywriting is the Art of writing effective Ads.
This is my personal definition, but every copywriter has his own definition of copywriting.
What's an effective Ads you could argue with me?
That's just an Ads that generates more sales than it costs you running it... so you make money.
As simple as 1 + 1 = 2.
And that's exactly why you should invest time in developing your copywriting skills.
The most underestimated skill
People struggle to understand why copywriting is propably the most important skill to master nowadays.
John Emory Powers (1837–1919) was the world's first full-time copywriter.
So you might retort me it's not the latest job that came out of the ground.
Right, but you must understand that attention is the new gold of our century.
How much time do we spend on YouTube, Netflix, you name it, compared to 10 or 20 years ago?
All the experts agree on this point: there is a war between tech players to win our attention.
Why? Because with attention comes opportunities to sell you stuff.
In the past century, the only opportunity to sell was when people would come into your physical store. Now it's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can thank our good ol' Steve Jobs for that.
Ok you must be convinced that Attention is the crux of the matter now.
Why would becoming a good copywriter help me win this battle?
That's pretty simple : copywriting is precisely the art of grabbing the attention of the reader and keeping it no matter what until we have time to create the perfect buying conditions.
In other words: copywriting allows you to double your revenue with half your audience.
Copywriting is everywhere
Copywriting can have many forms. Everywhere you can think of an ad, then there is copywriting. But it goes beyond what we commonly associate as ads:
- Email Marketing: When you receive a sequence email from someone, you'll notice he often tries to push you to buy something. That's copywriting.
- Landing Pages: When you arrive on a single-page website that promises to send you a wonderful PDF-guide to make more money than Jeff Bezos. That's copywriting.
- Youtube Videos: Sometimes, you find yourself watching a video to solve one of your problems, but you end up buying the solution of the guy. That's copywriting.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
Every time you're trying to influence someone so it takes the action you want: That's copywriting.
If you want to get a more concrete idea on what is copywriting concretely, go checkout my article on copywriting examples.
Now you probably get the importance of mastering copywriting, even if you're not a digital marketer. If you want to know how to write an effective copy, read on.
How to write a good copy?
That's why you came here in the first instance.
That's what cannot be summed up in a blog post and requires years of practice.
But I'm going to try anyway.
⚠️Promise me to include at least one of these elements in your next copy. Too many people just read tons of articles without taking any action. Please don't insult me by doing the same.
Identify who you are talking to
If I start by this, trust me, it is because it is the most important thing.
Who are you talking to?
By simply raising this question, you will tremendously improve your writing skills.
Because we cannot address the same way to everyone.
Some beginners naively think they could write a copy that converts anyone to compulsive buyers.
That couldn't be more false.
The idea is beautiful, I concede.
But it has been proven wrong by many tests I could run during the past years.
And I'm far from the only one to come down to this conclusion: we need to identify who we are talking to if we want to write an effective copy.
Let's take this guide you are currently reading as an example.
Could I write a copywriting guide that addresses both beginners and advanced copywriters?
Of course not.
That's why this guide is intended for beginners first.
That's why I make pedagogic extra effort to explain why copywriting is important and what it is before actually telling you how to write an effective copy.
If we come back to sales fundamentals: we always need to wonder "what's our target needs?" in order to make him an offer he cannot . But I'll explain why later on.
So if we need to know our target needs, we need to know who is our target beforehand. That's just pure logic.
Here comes the buyer personas concept.
That's a very basic concept, yet ultra-powerful.
You need to define archetypes of your customers in the most detailed possible way.
An image is worth 1000 words, so checkout what it actually looks like:
This may look like a silly corporate exercise, but trust me, it is the step 0 to writing a powerful copy.
Don't believe me?
Many big companies like Airbnb or Ralph Lauren invest a lot in reproducing their customer's living environment to create products that truly fit their customers.
Some companies even offer services to help you define your buyer personas.
The more you understand your customer, the more you can create value for him.
As I promise, this guide was designed to be actionable, so here is the exercise:
👩🎓Find at least 3 buyer personas & complete their description.
The 5 levels of awareness
You have your personas, so now you must wonder what their level of awareness is.
This concept was introduced by one of the most brilliant copywriters: Eugene Schwartz.
Basically, your reader could be in either of the 5 following states:
He doesn't know the problem you're solving exists. And if he does know, he doesn't know why it is important and why he should solve it.
- Problem Aware
He has understood there is a problem. But he's not yet sure if it is really important to fix it. He doesn't know any solution to his problem.
- Solution Aware
He knows his problem. He knows the kind of solutions that exist. But he doesn't know your product yet.
- Product Aware
He has identified your product has a solution to his problem. But still, some blockers prevent him from buying.
- Most Aware
At this point, the customer wants your product. It's not taking action because it's either too expensive, or because he needs some reason to do (ex: urgency, scarcity).
👩🎓For each persona, determine in which level of awareness he is. Consequently, which trigger should you use to persuade him to buy your product?
Pick the right macro structure (or formula)
If you know a minimum about storytelling, you should know that the structure is the key to each scenario.
Although copywriting is different from storytelling, it shares this same specificity: the global structure of your writing is what could make or kill it.
So yeah: structure matters, but which structure to pick for your copy?
I won't detail here all the structures that exist:
You could go on and on, but there is no point in collecting them.
Instead, pick one and understand why it works.
Let's do an example here: the Hook, Story, Offer.
First the hook.
What am I constantly saying: you need to grab and keep the reader's attention and never release it. Under no circumstances.
We live in a world full of distractions. Any notification on his smartphone can make you lose the sale.
So here is the purpose of the hook: make sure your reader will read your copy until the end.
Then the story.
That's the body of your copy.
That's where all the magic happens.
You have to stuff as many elements of persuasion as you can.
Usually this block requires a structure in itself, especially for long copies.
But I don't have time here to deep dive into the details.
Finally you make the offer.
That's where you ask your reader take an action: put his mail, fill an order, subscribe to your channel, etc.
You often need to add elements of urgency and scarcity to make the reader to take action. Otherwise he won't do anything, even though he is convinced your offer is right for him.
Never forget: humans are procrastinators by nature.
This was a very superficial presentation of the HSO structure intentionally.
If you wanna go further, checkout this article talking about copywriting structures.
👩🎓Pick one copy of your favorite copywriter and try to understand the underlying structure. Then try to write you own copy, on a totally different subject based on this structure.
You now must have understood the importance of the structure for a copy.
I will introduce a bit of terminology at this point.
The hidden power of micro patterns
The macro structure (ex : Hook, Story, Offer) tells how your copy should logically flow by giving you a sequence of copy sections (Hook is one section of the HSO macro structure).
But how do you write a specific section that constitutes this structure?
That is where the concept of micro pattern comes in.
There exists an infinity of possible micro patterns for a giving section.
But you'll notice that only a handful of them are really in use when analysing successful copies.
Among those you'll find:
- The Imagine Pattern
- The Matrix Dilemma Pattern
- The Not For You Pattern
- The Benefits List Pattern
- And much more...
Let's be more concrete with an example of the Matrix Dilemma Pattern.
As you may know, in the movie Matrix, Morpheus is offering Neo two pills:
- The blue pill: forget everything and come back to your normal life.
- The red pill: leave the Matrix and discover the truth.
(For those who want to see the scene)
This may seem silly, but this kind of dilemma is super powerful to force people to take action (and that works too in the movie).
By offering only 2 choices to your reader, you reduce his field of action and force him to consider your proposal. If he refuses your proposal, he will go back to his bad boring life without the transformation you promised him with your solution.
To illustrate this pattern, I picked the first sales page I found on the Internet and not surprisingly, here is an instance of the Matrix Dilemma Pattern:
👩🎓Analyze 5 sales pages and try to find the common patterns that are used in the different sections. Then re-use at least one pattern in your own copy. Pick one copy of your favorite copywriter and try to understand the underlying structure. Then try to write your own copy, on a totally different subject based on this structure.
See this article if you want to go further with copywriting micro patterns.
We're done with patterns and structure.
Next, we'll see the 2 most fundamental elements when it comes to writing copy.
You've probably heard about the importance of tackling your reader's objections?
See what I'm doing.
I'm already raising the objection: "What would I read? I already know I need to tackle the reader's objections."
Ok so why am I doing this?
Because a copy is not a monolog.
It is a dialog between you and your reader.
You don't actually talk to your reader so you need to anticipate all its questions.
If you don't do so, he might not read your copy entirely and especially not buy.
But that's not enough.
You also must answer his questions at the exact moment he asks them.
Not an easy task I concede.
But you must understand: the amount of money you'll make at the end of the day is directly proportional to your ability to answer your reader's questions.
Let's see together a few common objections:
- What's in it for me?
This is the primary question: why should your reader give you his attention? After all there is a ton of great content out there. You should always keep this objection in mind when writing or editing your copy.
This objection is the reason why we often recommend selling the benefits, not the features.
Indeed, the reader doesn't care that your car has the most powerful engine, but he cares that he can impress his neighbor with it.
- Why should I trust you?
Ok this one is also pretty classic, especially on the Internet where scams are frequent.
This is the reason behind putting all these logos and why we recommend you to present yourself in the copy the reader knows why you are legitimate on the topic.
Social proof also helps answering this question (testimonials of people liking your product for example).
- I'm interested, but I'll buy later... or never.
This is the reason why we recommend putting a lot of urgency in your closing section.
If you don't give a reason to your reader to buy now, he will find any excuse not to.
So now you understand why you see those ugly timers when you buy online...
Those objections are pretty common, but often your product has specifics and so it raises specific questions in your prospect's mind.
If you're selling a table for example, one objection could be:
- I love this table! But since I don't know its dimensions, I'm not sure it will fit in my kitchen.
What a shame!! You probably answered all the common objections in copywriting but forgot to take the specifics of your product into consideration... and you probably lost the sale.
Dimensions is a very important information to give for certain products, so be sure to not forget it.
More generally, you must anticipate all those questions in order to make a sale. So make the extra effort of empathy with your client, it's worth it.
👩🎓Try to find 3 specific objections the reader could have concerning the product you are selling.
Now comes the ONE element that makes your copy really work.
Pull psychological triggers
This is as simple as that.
That's the big reason why copywriting actually works.
The topic is really too broad to be sum up in a simple paragraph, but let me present you the most important triggers you should spice your copy with:
Those are the elements that prove you are legitimate to solve the problem.
For example: if I try to sell you a magic pill to lose weight, would you trust me? Would I be legitimate?
What if I tell you I am a doctor and I won a Nobel Prize on the weight loss topic.
Not the same Authority, right? Which version would generate more sales in your opinion?
Go checkout the Milgram experiment to understand how the Authority principle was used by Hitler to persecute Judes during the Holocaust.
This was proven to be a significant factor when it comes to influence others.
Concretely, you have several strategies to develop your sympathy. One of them consists by leveraging the Halo Effect by associating yourself with positively connoted things or persons.
The Halo Effect is what can explain why beautiful people tend to succeed more than ugly people all things being equal. By association, we pre-suppose that beautiful people are kind, talented, competent which is the legacy of our reptilian brain.
Another solution to develop your sympathy is by telling your story to your audience.
It is used heavily by people that sell online courses.
They tell us that before, they were living in a small suburban apartment, eating noodles and playing video games. Then after some specific event, they realized something and after years of effort they came to the point they own a yacht.
If this structure sounds familiar it is because it takes its roots into the storytelling theory.
I don't have time to develop, but basically most stories follow the structure described by Joseph Campbell in its book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
You just need to remember that telling your own story in your copy helps people identify with you and develop sympathy.
- Social Proof
This one is really straightforward.
It is common knowledge that we are heavily influenced by the behavior of masses.
Dozens of experiments tend to show that we're more inclined to like what the majority likes.
If you want to use this trigger, a common strategy is to display a few positive testimonials from your happy customers.
But there are of course more advanced strategies to leverage this principle.
I really like this principle.
Because, people that master it are not the copywriters... but the screen writers!
If you want to understand why this trigger is so powerful, ask yourself: why on earth did I finish this whole TV show in one night instead of going to bed?
You can call it: suspense, cliff hanger, mystery... but it is actually playing with curiosity.
Do this experiment with a friend:
You: Hey John, I didn't tell you about my new project?
John: No, was it about?
You: Oh ok, actually now I think about it, I'm not sure I can talk about it...
John: Come on man, you can't leave me like this now!
You probably already found yourself in such a situation where your friend tells you about a secret but finally doesn't reveal it to you.... and you feel this irresistible desire to know what it is!
That is exactly what you should do in your copy: constantly teasing your reader with things you'll disclose later in the copy, so he must read on to know what it is.
This is also heavily used by youtubers that need to keep us watch until this end because the Youtube algorithm is using the watch time as a primary factor.
Put your left hand in cold water and your right in hot water. Then plunge both of them in a bowl of lukewarm water.
Your left hand feels hot and your right hand feels cold, whereas the temperature is the same.
This is due to the principle of contrast: your perception is relative.
Now let's do another thought experiment.
Let's say you have a budget of $200,000 to buy a house.
If I first show you a house of $300,000 and then a second at $400,000, you may like them but you'll find them too expensive.
Then if I show you a nice house at $220,000, you might find it is quite affordable although it is above your budget.
If you grasp this concept, you'll be able to justify above-the-market prices by using techniques like value stacking.
This one is pretty obvious.
We value what's rare.
Take the diamond industry.
In 1870, huge diamond mines were discovered in South Africa, increasing the supply tremendously. The financiers feared the diamonds would be relegated to the rank of semi-precious stones. So they decided to create a cartel: De Beers which controlled 90% of the production until the 80's.
With the control of the production they could perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds during all those years.
This story illustrates perfectly the power of scarcity that can make or break an entire industry.
Practically, you can display you have only a few items remaining in stock to pull the trigger of scarcity.
But of course there are many other ways to leverage this principle that I don't have time to detail here.
Do I need to detail this principle?
Of the many forms it takes in Ads, the most common is to do a limited in time discount.
Write a small Ads for a product and make sure to use at least 3 elements that we've seen here. Bonus: use the write trigger depending on the level of awareness of your persona.
That's it, you should now be able to write a decent copy that converts your readers into buyers.
But as we just scratched the surface, you may have noticed you have much more work to do in order to master this subtle art which is copywriting.
I won't leave you down like an old sock.
I will guide you to the next step if you wanna invest yourself in copywriting.
How to become a pro copywriter?
With the above section you should already be able to write an average copy.
Slap your back.
If you've done the few exercises I mentioned you should already have more mastery than improvised copywriters who just read blog posts.
In this penultimate section I'll guide you so you may be part of the top 1% best copywriters in a few years.
In a few years?
Let's debunk together the myth of the overnight copywriter.
Practice makes not too bad
Like all fields that require a certain level of subtlety, the copywriting is demanding.
It takes hours of practice before gaining the right of calling you a master (you can't imagine the number of mistakes that can kill your copy)
It is true for music, it is true for sport, it is also true for copywriting.
So yeah if you're serious about copywriting, you should write everyday.
But not only should you write your own copy, you should also analyze the copies of other copywriters.
One of the common things all copywriters do is have a swipe file where they put all the ads, emails, or sales pages they find interesting.
Then you can reuse later either the macro structure or just a few micro patterns that were original.
How do you find the work of other copywriters, would you retort me?
Among the things I use:
- Clickbank and other affiliate marketplace
- Clickfunnels, Shopify or whatever tech copywriters use footprints
- Legal mentions footprints to find other sites from the same owner
- Put my email in all landing pages I can find for email marketing
- Adspy and Fb Ads library
- Swiped.co to find old ads
So yeah to grow as a copywriter you need to do those 2 things: write a lot and analyze what other copywriters are doing to understand why it works or not.
So once you're practicing a lot, now you can start to add theory.
Practice first, theory second.
Best resources to learn copywriting
I'm not very fond of this kind of section, but you know what?
This is what you guys were hoping for, so here it is!
I will give you something of incredible value.
A sorted list of books to read to go from 0 to "I know a bit about copywriting":
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz
- The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
At this point you should have read way more copywriting books that you need too.
Honestly, reading the 3 first books of this list would already be well enough.
Most importantly: make sure to read those books at least 10 times to fully understand the hidden subtleties that make all the money.
You might have noticed 2 things on the list I've given above: there are no contemporary copywriters and only books.
Why am I recommending only old copywriters?
The reason is pretty simple: since copywriting foundations rely on human psychology that didn't change for thousands of years, what was true about copywriting decades ago is always true today.
That's also pretty motivating: if you learn copywriting, you're pretty sure to find work for the rest of your life.
Why am I not recommending online courses or youtube channels?
Theory lives in books. I don't want to argue on that.
However, I encourage you to find mentors that will guide you through the process of becoming a great copywriter.
Moreover, it is important that you join a community of copywriters.
Indeed, collective emulation is often overlooked when it comes to online learning.
Personally, I think it is very important to be surrounded by 2-3 ultra-motivated guys that you can grow with as you learn.
Ok so now you think you're a capable copywriter.
How to find copywriting jobs?
But I'll go straight to the point: you need to copywrite yourself.
What do I mean by that?
You should think of all objections a potential client could have when you offer to copywrite for him.
"Are you a good copywriter? Do you have existing work to show me?"
Here we come: you need to prove your skill since you have yet no reputation.
Since you are a beginner you probably have no track record. Plus most of your clients will make you sign a confidentiality agreement.
What I would do if I had to start over with no reputation: work for free for my 3 first clients in exchange of being able to disclose that I copywrited for them.
This would allow me to constitute a portfolio that I could then use to convince other clients to be paid for my copywriting.
A second option would be to copywrite for yourself and then send traffic at your own cost so you can measure how much it converts. Therefore you would have actual data to show to your future clients.
Once you have a decent portfolio, now you can go around the internet and canvass clients:
- Contact small digital business owners on LinkedIn to offer them to boost their conversion rate.
- Contact YouTubers that have poor selling methods and offer them to improve their selling speech and overall strategy.
- Contact Instagram influencers and offer them to craft a complete business around their audience.
- And it goes on and on...
But what I would recommend is to let the clients come to you instead of chasing them.
Ok so you landed your first client, now comes the question:
What's the salary of a beginner copywriter?
The median copywriter salary is 50k a year.
But hey, what would you expect from a salary?
Personally I charge a sales page at $10k + royalties.
As a beginner I think $500 + royalties of 1-5% is fair since you have no experience whatsoever.
Don't worry, if you're a good copywriter you'll quickly notice that most of your money comes from your royalties.
Only bad copywriters get just paid in fixed salary.
I hope you enjoyed this guide as much as I did writing it.
If you have read until here, then you must be quite motivated.
My last advice: write your first copy. Then your second. Then... you're on your way!
I see so many people just enjoying reading such content without acting upon it.
I know it's free. But that does not mean it has no value.
If you want to check what's your actual level in copywriting, you can take my quizz.