What is Copywriting? (Copywriting 101 For Beginners)

vintage typewriter


Have you ever written a social media post trying to get more likes? Crafted an email subject line hoping to boost open rates? Even I, a savvy business owner, once created a website tagline that was essentially a sad grab for more web traffic.

We’ve all done a bit of copywriting without even realizing it! But there’s so much more to it than just writing words and hoping for the best. Effective copywriting is crucial for any business looking to increase brand awareness, website traffic, lead generation or sales.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll kick off with an overview of copywriting, from social posts to email subject lines to website copy and more. I’ll explain the difference between copywriting and content writing, two terms that often get conflated. And yes, I may lightly tease you about your new “copywriter” status, but hey, lean into it! Embrace your inner sales copy guru.

Now let’s dive in and I’ll turn you into a bonafide copy maestro in no time. *cracks knuckles*

What Copywriting Isn’t

Copywriting is often confused with other types of writing, so let’s clear up some common misconceptions.

It’s Not Copyrighting

I appreciate that if you’re just listening to the audio version of this article, what I’m about to say will sound utterly baffling:

Copywriting is not copywriting.

See, there’s copy writing – which refers to sales and marketing content designed to persuade and convince. Then there’s copyright – the legal protection of intellectual property.

In other words, copywriting has nothing to do with “all that law stuff.” It’s about using words to increase brand awareness and trigger action.

It’s More Than Just Content

Copywriting also gets mixed up with content writing fairly often.

  • Content writing aims to build relationships and engagement over time through blogs, videos, whitepapers etc.
  • Copywriting is outcome-driven – it’s written with a specific call-to-action in mind that prompts immediate action.

Now I don’t want you worrying too much about labeling something “copy” vs “content.” At the end of the day, use whatever format makes the most strategic sense.

But it’s helpful to understand that while copywriting and content writing have some overlap, they serve very different purposes. Sort of how socks and mittens are essentially the same – except when it’s cold outside and you really need one or the other.

The Art of Copywriting

The best copywriters are not necessarily the best writers – they’re the best marketers.

You see, copywriting essentially involves taking your marketing strategy and sales messaging and putting it into written form. It’s about translating those ideas into words that resonate with your target audience and compel them to take action.

I like to think of copywriters as mini sales people for your business. They’re tireless workers that:

  • Never take breaks
  • Don’t make mistakes
  • Can be trained once and then let loose to do their job perfectly

You get to spend as much time as needed to get your copy just right. And once it’s written, that piece of copy keeps working hard for your business – it continues reaching out to more and more potential customers.

This is where the real power of great copywriting comes in:

  • Traditional sales is usually 1:1, person-to-person
  • Copy allows you to reach hundreds, thousands or even millions of prospects through platforms like social media, email, etc.

So while interpersonal sales skills certainly have their place, copy acts as a megaphone for your business that just keeps amplifying your message out further and further.

No wonder copy has such a strong work ethic – with that kind of reach, the sky’s the limit!

Crafting Copy That Connects

Every platform has its own distinct style, tone and personality. As a copywriter, it’s crucial you understand and adapt to these differences.

For example:

  • A cold email is very direct, almost abrupt – you have mere seconds to grab attention before deletion.
  • An email to subscribers conversely nurtures existing relationships, so it’s more conversational.
  • An organic social media post tends to be casual, inviting engagement and discussion.
  • A paid ad by contrast makes bold, benefit-driven assertions to compel action.

You’re no doubt familiar with these platforms already. So when writing copy, keep your audience and their expectations front of mind. Meet them where they are – don’t make them work to understand your message.

Now, that’s not to say effective copy is derivative or boring. Stand out by being unexpected, novel or creative – give your audience something they haven’t seen before.

Just don’t be so unique that competitors can easily copy your style. As the saying goes:

Good copywriters borrow, great copywriters steal.

So steal ideas from outside your industry, reshape them into something new and make them your own. With some imagination and effort, you can stay one step ahead.

Because at the end of the day, effective copy comes down to putting your audience first – speaking their language, understanding their needs and wants. Do that sincerely and you’re well on your way to success.

Speaking Your Audience’s Language

When crafting copy, resist the urge to simply list product features. Customers don’t care about what your offer is – they care about what it does for them.

In other words, focus on the benefits and outcomes.

Take this example:

Our cloud storage offers unlimited capacity so you’ll never run out of space for photos, videos and files.

That highlights a key feature. But why should the customer care? Consider this alternative:

Never delete precious memories again. Our unlimited cloud storage ensures you always have room for every photo, video and file that matters.

The second version speaks directly to the customer’s needs. It paints a picture of how the product improves their life.

So before writing, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Discover their hopes, frustrations and goals. Then frame your copy around how you help them achieve those aims.

Next, give clear direction with a single, strong call to action. Don’t confuse people with too many choices. As the old saying goes:

When everything’s important, nothing is.

So be selective. Guide your reader down the path you want them to take. For example:

Start protecting your memories today. Click below to begin your free 30-day unlimited cloud storage trial.

This clearly states the desired action and benefit.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ethically employ psychological triggers that spur action. Things like reciprocity, social proof, scarcity and more.

As long as you’re transparent about your intentions, that’s all part of good marketing. Just don’t be manipulative or misleading. Help people make informed decisions aligned with their best interests.

Do that sincerely and the sales will follow.

A Final Word

So there you have it – a whirlwind tour of copywriting best practices.

We covered why focusing on benefits beats features any day. How less is more when it comes to a single, strong CTA. And why ethically employing psychological triggers can pay dividends.

Hopefully you now appreciate copywriting as the crucial marketing art it is. Not to be confused with the legal domain of copyrighting.

Which is somewhat ironic given this entire article is copy…written to convince you of copywriting’s importance!

Still, I hope you’ll embrace your newfound status as budding copywriters. What you’ve learned today is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crafting high-converting copy.

But it’s a damn good start that you can put to immediate use.

So go forth and sell stuff with the written word! Just try not to break any laws in the process…

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