So you want to be a copywriter. The question is, what kind?
What do you mean, Christa? A copywriter is a copywriter … right?
Well, not quite. When it comes to copywriting, there are two main paths: content and conversion. There’s also a third path, brand copywriting, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to limit the discussion to content and conversion since those are the two most outward-facing.
Although both content and conversion copy fall under the umbrella of copywriting, there are some pretty big differences between them. Let me give you an illustration that shows what I mean and why it’s important for businesses to have both.
This morning I’m headed outside to feed the critters on our funny farm. I stop at the closet and pull out my old barn jacket. It’s perfect for chilly fall mornings and durable enough to handle climbing fences and fending off goats. It’s definitely my go-to for day-to-day life around the farm.
Last weekend I had a photoshoot for my new website. We had some outdoor photos planned, so before I left the house to meet the photographer, I again stopped at the closet to grab a coat. This time, though, I didn’t reach for the old barn jacket. I reached for the dressy, red tweed peacoat. It’s consistent with my brand colors and makes an attractive, professional statement.
Were they both coats? Yes.
Did they both accomplish the same purpose? No.
They would not have performed as well had I swapped them and used the red tweed for chores and the barn jacket for the photoshoot. I needed both coats, but for different reasons, just like a business needs both content and conversion copy, but for different reasons.
What is Content Copy?
Content copy can be compared to the old barn jacket, and I mean that in the best possible way. Content copy is absolutely vital to a business’s day-to-day branding and online presence. Content copy includes pieces like:
Anything that is perennial and present online that helps inform and educate the public about the business can be considered content copy. Entertaining content that nurtures and educates the target audience can also be considered content copy as long as it’s not asking the audience to take action, which leads us to …
What is Conversion Copy?
Conversion copy (also referred to as sales copy or direct response copy) can be compared to the red tweed jacket. It has a very specific purpose - to get the target audience to perform an action.
Conversion copy isn’t only about sales, it’s about any action that leads to a sale too. The action might be to watch a video, opt in to an email list, sign up for a webinar or make a purchase. You’ll see conversion copy in:
Content and conversion copy are both words written about a business, but like the coats, they serve very different purposes. It’s no surprise then that content and conversion copywriting require a different set of skills.
Benefits of Being a Sales Copywriter
Although brand, content and conversion copy all have an important role to play in a business, I’m a sales conversion copywriter through and through. Besides my own blog articles (like this one), direct response copy is the only kind of copy I write.
Although I love writing of all kinds and have even been known to write short stories and song lyrics, I knew conversion copywriting was the right career fit for me for several reasons:
Challenges of Being a Sales Copywriter
Does that mean sales copywriting is easy? No way! There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to writing high-level sales copy that converts, including tons of research, sales psychology, data analysis, strategy and even mindset work. It’s also more high-pressure than content copywriting, and you have to be careful to set reasonable expectations with your clients.
I can’t tell you how many copywriters I talk to who say, “I could never be a sales copywriter. It’s too much pressure. I just don’t think I’m cut out for it.”
On the other side of the coin, I also can’t tell you how many clients I’ve written for who have said, “I hired a copywriter before, and the copy didn’t do very well. Is it my offer? Is it the copy? I’m not sure how to tell.”
Both situations are tough ones, but they’re not unsurmountable. First, how to write sales conversion copy is a skill that can be learned. With the right training and resources, a copywriter can hone their sales conversion writing skills and start getting consistent results for their clients.
Second, with the right questions in hand, business owners and entrepreneurs can identify high-level copywriters on the discovery call and avoid the pain of paying for copy that doesn’t convert.
More from Christa Nichols
I’m on a mission to help both copywriters and business owners by training a new breed of high-level sales copywriters. Written Results Academy, my online training platform for sales copywriters is launching soon. Want to be the first to know when doors open? Join the waitlist now at https://www.christanichols.com/waitlist.
Once upon a time, there was a skinny little Iowa farm girl who loved to read and write stories. Most of them lived in her head and never made it onto paper, but they became part of how she thought and the way she saw the world.
When she saw people, she saw their stories and she felt their feelings. She discovered this made her a good communicator. As she grew up, she became the person people came to for advice when they weren’t sure what to say or how to respond in different situations. This made her feel useful and appreciated, and she never saw it as her way to invest in and give to the people around her.
But she never saw it as something she could build a business around. That little farm girl, of course, was me. And I didn’t discover how to put my innate gifts and talents to work inside a business until I was 38 years old.
You might say I’m a late bloomer, but I truly believe everything I had done in my professional life had brought me to this calling at the right place and the right time for me. All the same, when I think about how many years I spent in a job that didn’t fulfill me and only tapped into a small fraction of my passions, it makes me a bit sad.
I don’t want that for you, dear reader.
There may be someone out there reading this right now who is wondering if a person really can earn a full-time income as a writer. They might be questioning whether or not they have what it takes, and if success can come to more than just a few lucky ones.
You can. You do. It does.
If a stay-at-home Iowa mom with a part-time business as a graphic designer can make a stark pivot at almost 40 years old and grow a new business that generates multiple six figures in revenue in the first year, anything is possible.
It turns out, the exact skills I had made me a natural at writing direct response sales copy - the kind of copywriting that calls people to take a specific action, like make a purchase.
Was it an easy transition for me? Nope. I had to learn a whole new set of skills, build a network, change the whole structure of my working environment, break down what I believed was possible, and take a chance on myself.
It was worth it. All the tears, frustration, fears, long (LONG) hours and uncertainty was 100% worth everything I experienced on the journey, and I’m just getting started.
If this resonates - if the idea of earning a full-time income as a sales conversion copywriter makes your heartbeat a little bit faster and your brain shift into overdrive - then you’re going to love the rest of this article.
Keep reading to learn the 9 tell-tale clues you might be a good fit for the sales copywriter life.
Clue 1: You Love to Write
This one kind of goes without saying,but you can’t be a sales copywriter if you don’t like to write. You’ll never enjoy spending hours a day on a client’s copy if you dread having to put words together. If writing is something you enjoy and look forward to doing, then you might just have a hidden sales copywriter in there somewhere!
Clue 2: You Can Put Yourself in Other People’s Shoes
When you’re a sales copywriter, you don’t write for the client.
“Ummmm, I thought that was the whole point, Christa.”
Stick with me. You’re writing on BEHALF of the client, yes, but the people you’re writing FOR is the client’s target audience. In order to be a good sales copywriter, you have to be able to see things from other people’s point of view and put it into words in a way that connects with them.
Empaths, or hypersensitive people who experience a high level of compassion, consideration and understanding towards others, make great sales copywriters. I’ve found that being a sales copywriter helps channel that quality into purpose.
Clue 3: You Don’t Mind Research
The most important thing a sales copywriter can do is know the target audience like the back of their hand. How can you write for an audience you don’t know? That means you have to be willing to dive into the data and research that will give you a good understanding of who they are and what they want. Without knowing those things, you can’t create copy that reaches out and connects with them the way it needs to in order to sell.
Clue 4: You Ask a Lot of Questions
This one goes hand-in-hand with Clue 3. In order to be a good researcher, you have to know the right questions to ask, and you can’t be afraid to ask. There is no assumption. Assuming is bad. You know what they say, when you assume … well, it’s true. Ask all the questions!
Clue 5: You Take Feedback Well
As a sales copywriter, you have to work closely with the client and the client’s team. That means a good number of people may be putting their eyes on your copy and weighing in with feedback. It really helps if you don’t take it personally and take it all in stride. In other words, you can’t get so married to your copy that you’re not willing to listen to what someone else has to say about it.
On the other hand it’s important to know when to concede and when to stand firm. As you gain more experience and get better at reading the target audience, you’ll get a feel for what’s going to work and what’s not. You’ll be able to absorb the feedback and stand up to it when you need to - and sometimes you’ll need to.
Clue 6: You Like Learning New Things
As someone who writes for a variety of different clients with unique offers, I learn a lot of things about a lot of things. I usually have 8-10 clients with open projects at any given time, and their offers might range from a course on money management to menopause products and supplements.
So yeah, I know a lot of random information on a lot of random topics, and I think it’s fun. I’m open to learning about different industries, businesses and offers.
Clue 7: You’re a Chameleon
When it comes to sales conversion copy, it’s important for the client’s or brand’s voice to shine through. After all, that’s what has attracted the target audience in the first place. So … how good are you at impersonations?
If you find it easy to slip into someone else’s way of communicating and let that come out in the way you write, you may just have a future in sales copywriting.
Clue 8: You Like Fishing
Sales copy begins with a hook every time. There has to be something present that grabs audience attention and pulls them in to keep them reading. If you’re great at commanding attention (and maybe even a little dramatic), you’ll be able to come up with all kinds of creative hooks to try. Winner winner chicken dinner!
Clue 9: You’re a Critical Thinker
I always say that a sales copywriter has to be part mind reader, part storyteller and part lawyer. You have to be able to address pain points and objections in the copy before they even come up. You also have to be able to defend your client’s position by coming at offer promotion from all angles.
Just because YOU understand the value of the offer doesn’t mean the target audience does. If you enjoy brainstorming audience reactions, past experiences and thought patterns, sales copywriting could be right up your alley.
So … How Did You Do?
Is there a hidden sales copywriter inside you? If reading this article made you feel like someone opened up your brain and looked inside to read your mind, then you might just be an amazing sales copywriter in the making!
Want to learn more about what it really takes to write sales copy that converts consistently and gets big results for clients? Click here to learn more information about Written Results Academy, the only online training platform for sales copywriters that addresses writing plus sales strategy, psychology, data and analytics, mindset and business building.
Whether you’re trying to avoid the roundabout at the corner of Cedar Avenue or the long string of stop lights on 5th, a good shortcut can save you time and energy that could be spent elsewhere.
When it comes to writing sales copy that converts, however, there are certain things you can’t shortcut - not if you want to get the best possible results for your clients.
This article is going to break down the three things a copywriter should never take a shortcut on and why, then give you some ideas on what to do instead.
Shortcut 1: Skimping on Target Market Research
The number one thing a sales copywriter absolutely cannot take a shortcut on is target market research. You may know who you’re writing FOR, but if you don’t know who you’re writing TO, you might as well put down the laptop and back away slowly.
I walked out to the mailbox the other day and found the usual stack of flyers and junk mail. There was an unmarked business-sized envelope too - obviously a form letter of some kind, as it wasn’t hand stamped or addressed. Just for fun, I ripped it open.
As I unfolded the letter inside, I had to laugh. It was a letter from one of those student loan forgiveness programs. “Your Student Loan May Be Eligible For The Federal Government’s New Student Loan Forgiveness Program” read the headline.
That’s great … except that I don’t have any student loans and never have. One eye roll and a flip of the wrist later, the letter sat at the bottom of my trash can, never to be seen again.
I’m sure that somewhere out there, some marketing company purchased a mailing list and decided that using a blanket approach with the student loan offer letter might pay off enough to make it worth the stamp.
But you’ll get much better results for your clients if you get to know their target audience like close friends and write sales copy that talks directly to them. They’ll feel heard and understood, which builds trust between them and your clients’ offers.
Every minute spent researching the target market is WORTH IT.
Shortcut 2: Ignoring Brand Voice
“I’ve written for an offer like this before, so I’ll just use what worked for the other guy.”
No. Just no.
Most copywriters have a niche. It would be impossible to master writing for every industry under the sun. Nobody has that kind of time, right?
But just because you’ve written for dentists before doesn’t mean that what worked for one dentist will work for another, even if the target market for both dentists are middle class working parents of kids ages 5-10. Why?
Because every client has their own unique personality and brand voice that plays a part in attracting the right kind of people to their offers. If you fail to bring that personality and brand voice into their sales copy, you’re not only doing them a disservice, you’re cheating their target market out of the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level.
The LAST thing any entrepreneur or business owner wants is to be seen as “just another”.
She’s “just another” female empowerment coach.
He’s “just another” digital marketing agency owner.
It’s “just another” sales funnel building platform.
See what I mean? “Just anothers” don’t create die-hard followers and raving fans. Brand personalities do. Make sure you’re taking the time to dig deep on what makes them and the way they communicate unique.
Shortcut 3: Neglecting Nurturing
Ever been hit up in the mall by the people selling things from those kiosks? I have, and it’s always such a pleasant experience.
“Hey, your hands are dry. You need this hand cream!”
“You look like you could use a good pair of sunglasses.”
“Want to try Proactiv?”
I mean talk about going straight in for the kill. Nothing makes me want to avoid eye contact and walk fast while looking busy like cold sales. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
Unfortunately, sometimes that’s what our clients try to do, isn’t it? They’ve developed an amazing offer. They may have even tested it on a beta audience, and it got results. They’re sure it’s going to be a hit, and they’re ready to blitz the market with it.
Then … nothing. Crickets.
“Why isn’t it selling?” they wonder. “I thought people would love it! Something must be wrong with my ads/sales copy/funnel. FIX IT!”
The thing is, it’s not that easy. If everything else is optimized, integrated and dialed in, yet the audience is just seeing something for the first time, the client is not going to get the best results they could because the target market isn’t ready.
They just feel sold to.
In a few cases here and there, an offer will hit a cold market that’s really ready and get some results. But a warm, nurtured audience always gets better and cheaper results. Always.
It’s so important to “take the temperature” of the target audience and give your client an honest assessment of how ready they are to buy. Only then can you make sure you’re preparing the right messaging at the right time to get the audience warmed up and ready to buy.
Doing the Background Work
So much of sales copywriting takes place before a word is even written. Target market and brand research are absolutely essential parts of what we do. Although it’s tempting to want to skimp out research by grabbing templates or just relying on what worked last time, don’t. It’s not worth it. Not only would you be selling the client short of their results, but you’d be selling yourself short on being able to write to your best ability.
More from Christa Nichols
Want my best resource for target audience research? Grab my FREE Target Market Mastery guide HERE. This fillable PDF download contains a framework you can fill out again and again for each client’s target audience so you can dial in on exactly who they are, what they want and how to communicate the offer to them clearly and compellingly.
Hi, I'm Christa, an Iowa-based messaging expert specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!