5 Tips for Aspiring Digital Copywriters

September 20th, 2010 No Comments

The Cline Group is always looking for up-and-coming digital copywriters, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a new post on Mashable, 5 Tips for Aspiring Digital Copywriters. Ironically, the move to digital – and the growth of SEO, blogging, and content production – has actually made good writing all the more important.

What makes a good copywriter according to Mashable? How about:

1. WRITE!

Start writing! Whether a personal blog, volunteer to write for open source software and hardware (check out Sourceforge for a list of open, volunteer, positions), or develop a website.

According to Mashable:

“Being is a matter of doing. Runners run. Fighters fight. If you want to be a copywriter, do what a copywriter does,” advises Dylan Klymenko, junior copywriter at Mullen. “Concept ideas for this space you’re interested in. Write up scripts for video content and then shoot it, edit it and put it on YouTube (who knows? Maybe you can make being a viral celebrity your back-up career).”
“Or grab a buddy who knows code — concept and create a website that could win an FWA [Favourite Website Awards] award. The point is: don’t wait. No one is going to ask you to do it, and you don’t need anyone’s approval. Just jump right into the digital fray, get messy every single day and you’ll become through doing.”

2. Get Knowledge!

You need to know the product, your audience, and the space in which you are writing for. If you are writing about a non-profit, you need to know their audience, their field. Writing for a cancer research fund requires different specialized knowledge than selling an iPhone app. A software product? Do you know their material?

According to Mashable:

As far as knowing the product goes, George Tannenbaum, executive creative director at R/GA advises digital copywriters to “cultivate their curiosity.”

“Good writers know things. They find out interesting things out about products or services. Things that may be hidden on page 32 of a long brochure. Be curious about everything. Learn all you can about the product you’re working on. Go to the supermarket and talk to people who buy the product. Read the buff books. Use the product. Learn the language of the product,” says Tannenbaum.

3. Deal with Rejection

Nobody likes rejection, but we’ve all had to deal with it at one point or another. Particularly in a growing field, there are traditional types that may not understand the difference between print and digital copy. Don’t be afraid to challenge them, but at the end of the day, they may be the ones who control the paycheck.

4. Less is More

One of the most important tips in Strunk & White (you do know Strunk & White, right? You do want to be a writer) is to “Omit Needless Words.”

Did Strunk and Write understand writing for the web? Whether a computer screen, iPad, or mobile phone, scanning is preferred.

According to Mashable:

“‘Less is always more’ is good advice for pretty much any writing, but I think it’s particularly apposite when talking about digital copy,” says Lewis Raven, associate creative director at glue Isobar, an advertising agency specialising in digital creative work.

“It’s so, so easy for readers to get distracted online. If you make your point with precision and originality your reader will appreciate it. They might even follow your instruction to ‘click here’, ‘roll over’, or ‘buy now!’ Go on too long and they will be straight off to to watch skateboarding dogs on YouTube. I know I would be.”

“Remember, if people want to, there are lots of places they can go to read really good, long copy. It might be a newspaper or a favorite blog,” continues Raven. “It almost definitely won’t be a brand website.”

Eloise Smith, creative director at Euro RSCG London takes the less-is-more-online wisdom a step further by suggesting that people read copy differently online than they do offline, so advises “writing visually” as something to take into consideration when writing for the web.

“Online users view text rather than read it,” says Smith. “They scan, skim and scroll. Normally at high speed. Online text behaves differently from print – it’s clickable, scrollable, copyable and searchable. So part of a digital copywriter’s job is to visually guide the user through text.”

5. Write Well.

Not everyone can write but facility with the written word is essential in business and marketing.

“The principles of good writing remain the same, whatever sort of copywriter you are. Cliched metaphors, misplaced apostrophes and unnecessary jargon are just as depressing online as offline. Writing in a way your audience relates to is key to any good writing. If that means writing in a familiar, conversational manner and using the word ‘awesome’ a lot, so be it. Ultimately, to be a successful digital copywriter, you need to be a good copywriter in the first place,” concludes Smith.”

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