As the internet has exploded, so has the demand for content. In response, the copywriting field has blossomed from a small niche with a collection of talented writers to a massive industry with thousands of people vying for jobs.
Somewhere along the way, it seems like we’ve lost the picture of who a copywriter is and what skills are needed in order to carve out a successful career. But if you want to thrive in this crowded industry, you need to know what will be asked of you.
The 7 Skills You Need
There are a variety of niches within the copywriting industry and each requires a slightly different skillset. But when you zoom out and look at the profession as a whole, here are some of the foundational skills that everyone should possess.
- Basic SEO Knowledge
SEO and copywriting may not be one and the same, but they’re so closely intertwined that every copywriter must have at least a basic understanding of SEO and how it works. In particular, you need to learn the ins and outs of building SEO links. After all, this is the heart of almost every content creation strategy on the web. If you don’t know how it works – at least at an intermediate level – you won’t appear knowledgeable or trustworthy to prospective clients. Even the best command of the English language will have trouble equalizing this shortcoming.
- Superb Research Skills
While there are still a few technical content writers out there who specialize in a single industry or topic, most copywriters take a more generalized approach that allows them to cast a wider net for clients. The only downside is that this leaves less room for personal expertise and knowledge.
In order to write on a variety of topics, you need superb research skills that allow you to quickly find, consume, and apply information in a manner that’s conducive to high-quality, authoritative content.
- Knack for Storytelling
You might assume that storytelling is for fiction writers, but behind every good copywriter is the ability to paint a picture for the audience and connect with their emotions. This is a skill that takes years of experience to cultivate and perfect, but it’s certainly one worth practicing over and over again.
- Basic Graphic Design Skills
According to content marketer Shakir Akorede, “…articles with images get 94% more total views than text-only posts. And there’s more. Infographics deliver up to 120-180% more engagement, thereby increasing viewers retention, engagement and, ultimately, sales.”
Businesses know this and would prefer to hire a copywriter who also possesses some basic graphic design skills. You don’t need to be an expert, but an intermediate skillset will allow you to reach and engage more clients (and command a higher price).
For the most part, copywriting is done on a freelance basis. This means it’s you, your home office, and your computer. If you want to be productive, you have to cultivate an enormous amount of discipline.
Discipline is what keeps you focused and allows you to not only meet deadlines, but to stay ahead of them. It’s also what gives you a professional image that encourages repeat business. Without it, you’ll struggle to build a steady stream of income.
As a copywriter, you’ll be asked to write the same type of content over and over again – particularly if you develop long-term relationships with the same clients. In order to continually attack projects with the same momentum, you need an endless supply of creativity. Learning to cultivate creativity will prevent you from falling in a rut.
One of the most jarring realizations to new copywriters is the fact that they’re rarely able to claim their own work. Most copywriting happens under the guise of ghostwriting and requires the writer to relinquish personal claim to the work. This job demands humility, lest you end up bitter, frustrated, and angry.
Do You Have What it Takes?
Just because you’re lacking in one or more of these areas, doesn’t mean you can’t be a copywriter. However, by growing your skillset and improving glaring weaknesses, you can enhance the amount of value you deliver to clients and, as a result, increase your earning potential.