Portent Staff // Aug 14 2008
One of the most common misconceptions about a copywriting career is that all you need is good writing skills. This is hardly the case. There are many great writers in the world who would either not enjoy copywriting, or who would not excel at it. But there are definitely certain qualities that predispose people to a successful copywriting career. Some of them might surprise you, so read on!
The Four Characteristics of a Good Copywriter
Curiosity. Without a surplus of this cat-killing quality, you will neither enjoy nor be successful at copywriting. As an Internet marketing agency copywriter, you may be called to write on everything from bridesmaid gowns to free-range chicken to cubicle furniture. If you work in-house, you will be challenged endlessly to come up with new angles on the same lines of products and services. Without a genuine lust for learning, and healthy tolerance for research, you will not be able to apprentice yourself to understanding the nuts-and bolts of everyday objects (a crux of copywriting). If you crave knowledge for knowledge sake, are tickled by trivia, and love knowing the inside story, you will flourish in a copywriting career. If you want to be the one reading something interesting, rather than writing something interesting, career shop elsewhere. PI Pearl of Wisdom: Love the show “How Stuff Works”? You’ll love copywriting.
Perceptiveness. A huge part of copywriting (and Internet marketing in general) is being able to strike a cord with a particular audience. Whereas with other writing careers like journalism, you have the luxury of interpreting the person’s face and body language as you speak, copywriting is talking to an invisible audience. So it takes a great deal of perceptiveness and understanding of basic human psychology to be a good copywriter. What motivates your target demographic-what makes them angry, frustrated, happy and hopeful-is always in the forefront of a good copywriter’s mind. PI Pearl of Wisdom: Did you love psychology in school? You’ll love copywriting.
Discernment. As a copywriter, it will be your job to take giant glaciers of information, and distill them down to bite-size Internet marketing morsels: taglines, bullets, banners, or a single, gleaming benefit. You have to figure out what information matters, and what information can be discarded. This combination of common sense, reasoning and marketing savvy add up to discernment. Good discernment is the dealbreaker that determines whether your stuff will sell or sink. PI Pearl of Wisdom: Are you the one that nails how a friend is feeling, even when they themselves are still confused? You’ll love copywriting.
Humility. The single biggest distinction between copywriting and all other forms of writing careers (with the exception of ghost-writing) is that you don’t get any credit for your work. This isn’t all bad, but it doesn’t work for everyone. In my case I traded the glory of my byline on the front page for better pay, health insurance, and standardized hours. But frequently people who know me will compliment me on my work and ask me how I can stand letting other people take credit for it. This is one of the caveats of a copywriting career, and something to consider when deciding whether to choose this career path. PI Pearl of Wisdom: If you love behind-the-scenes work like set designer or sous chef, you will love copywriting.