One of the most in-demand skills on the Internet is website copywriting. A lot of people are under the impression that if anybody knows how to write, they can write content for websites. In fact, a lot of people think that writing text for the landing pages of the typical sales page or service website is pretty easy.
This is easier said than done. The fact that most people think it’s easy is actually quite a compliment to the amazing skill needed to write website copy.
Let’s get one thing clear. Writing copy or website text is very different from cranking out a blog post or composing an online article. Let’s get that out of the way. They involve totally different skill sets.
What is Website Copy Anyway?
The term “website copy” is very misleading. The word “copy” is there. Usually, when people see that word, they think that whoever wrote the text just copied it from somebody else. That’s wrong.
Highly effective copy is original. This is just a term of art that’s been passed on in the advertising industry for a long time. Back several decades ago, in the infancy of advertising, people who wrote advertising materials would frequently copy from each other. It took only a few lawsuits to get rid of that practice. Unfortunately, the word “copy” persists to this very day.
To some extent, there is a bit of truth to the claim that people who write advertising simply copy each other’s work. They’re just not obvious about it. They use templates but, at the end of the day¸ the final product has to be original; otherwise, you’re going to have a law suit on your hands.
What is So Special about Website Copy?
Well-written website copy has only one job. Its job is to build credibility. Whoever reads that material must walk away with the impression that the website that they were reading is legit.
If they can’t make sense of what they read or they’re confused, the website copywriter failed. On the other hand, if the reader found the website legitimate and credible, then it’s only a matter of time until they buy whatever it is that website is pushing.
If It Doesn’t Sell, It Doesn’t Work
The secret to website copy really is all about selling. People can talk about your product all day every day. People might recognize your product from all four corners of the globe. That’s all well and good but if they don’t buy your product, then you’ve just wasted your time. I just want to make that clear. That is the bottom line of any kind of sales and marketing campaign.
Effective copywriting is all about building credibility and authority to the point that at some time in the future, people exposed to the brand being promoted by the copy will buy. They can buy in different ways.
Maybe they could sign up to a mailing list and later on receive an email that convinces them to buy. Perhaps they can sign up for a mailing list and then they would get an email, and they would click on a link and whoever sent the mail gets paid. Possibly, they like the content so much that they share it with their friends and family members, and one of those people buys.
No matter how you slice and dice it, there has to be some sort of sale down the line; otherwise, the copywriter has failed.
Effective Copywriting is All about Persuasion
There are so many websites on the Internet. In fact, there is north of two billion websites, and the number is growing. If you were to tally up the number of webpages, it would blow your mind. Every single piece of content on the Internet is a distraction. After all, you want people to pay attention to your message and take action on your message.
Effective copywriting is all about persuasion. This is easier said than done. A lot of people are under the impression that as long as they know their way with words that they are automatically persuasive. Absolutely wrong.
To persuade people to buy anything from you, you actually have to walk them through a process. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking at. Maybe you are looking at an ad for a perfume or a fragrance. Perhaps you’re checking out some articles regarding a new fashion trend and are scoping out the pictures that came with the article. Possibly, you clicked on some pictures on Pinterest, and you were taken to an article.
All of these involve selling. They take different ways to get you to make a decision, but they are all about trying to get you to open your wallet and spend some money. Effective sales copywriting follows a distinct process despite the different ways of getting people to spend their hard-earned cash.
The Art of Selling Online and Effective Copywriting
To get people to go from reading your materials to actually buying stuff because of it, you have to go through a process with them. This process involves their psychology as well as their emotional state.
Let me be clear. If somebody thinks that there is no sense of urgency in whatever it is you’re trying to get them to do, they probably will find a reason to hold off on buying from you until forever. In their minds, there will always be “tomorrow.” Guess what? Tomorrow never comes. They will find a way to dodge your call to action. Effective sales copywriting, whether offline or online, follow a predictable pattern.
Step #1: Get them to feel like they know you
How do you know if somebody knows enough about the problem you have? Chances are you’re looking for some sort of indication that the merchant of the product that you’re thinking of buying or the service provider offering solutions to your problem know what they’re doing. That’s the bottom line.
You’re looking for some kind of clue to let you know that they know what they’re doing. You want to be tipped off. You want to be reassured that you’re going to be in safe hands. Whatever product you buy or whatever service you get is not going to harm you but will actually take care of the problem you have.
How do most people get this impression?
Assurance through Information
The most common way advertisers and marketers on the Internet get people to feel like they know what they’re doing is through information. When you put up a blog and all you talk about is cosmetic surgery, chances are if you run a cosmetic surgery office, your website visitors would think that you know what you’re doing. After all, that’s all you talk about.
Each and every new piece of content you put up on the Internet further cements whatever authority, legitimacy, and credibility you have built up in the eyes of your website visitors. You’re basically saying in so many ways and in so many words “I know enough about my field. You can trust me.”
They look at what you posted. They look at the procedures that you describe and, sooner or later, they get the impression that since this is all you talk about and you seem to know what you’re talking about with so many details, you probably know what you’re talking about. The moment that light bulb goes off in their minds regarding your credibility and competence, you would have pushed them to the next stage of the sales process.
Step #2: Get them to like your solution
I don’t mean to burst your bubble but no matter how hot you think you are or how awesome you think your products may be, there will always be somebody better. That’s the bottom line. That’s the reality.
You may have convinced people who visit your website that you know what you’re talking about because you publish specialized information. But until you get them to like your specific solution, you’re just wasting your time.
Going back to the case of the plastic surgery office I described, you can fill your website with all sorts of amazing information about the ins and outs of cosmetic surgery. That’s going to earn you quite a bit of respect, but the problem is until you make it clear to the reader that you not only know what you’re doing but they should prefer you instead of all the other providers in their local area who know what they’re doing, you’re wasting your time. You have to get them to like your specific solution. There are no two ways about this.
Step #3: Get them to trust you
Once you have gotten the reader to trust you with their specific problems because they like your solution, the next step is to get them to trust you. How do you do this? Expert website copywriters whip out a lot of testimonials or case studies involving people who have used your services or who have bought your products. Whether you’re a merchant or a service provider, you have to provide some sort of social proof that your specific solution can be trusted.
It’s All about Monkey See, Monkey Do
Modern human beings would like to believe that they are all sophisticated, highly educated, or quite technical in their know-how. We have this very high opinion of ourselves but, at the end of the day, it’s all about monkey see, monkey do.
If you don’t believe me, how many times have you come across a crowd of people who are looking at the sky or looking at the side? What is your number one instinct? Come on, you can be honest. Of course, you would look at the same direction as they are.
That’s the power of social proof. If you see enough people recommending something or doing something, there’s just a part of you that wants to do the same thing.
Website copy is no different. When you want people to trust whatever it is you’re trying to promote or you’re trying to do, you have to clue them in and motivate them to trust you by publishing the testimonials or, better yet, the case studies of companies and people who have trusted you with their business. The more charts, before-and-after pictures, testimonials, video mini documentaries that you put up on your website, the more effective your pitch becomes when it comes to earning trust.
Step #4: Call them to action
One of the worst things that can happen online is when a copywriter goes through all the hassle of getting the random visitor to feel like the operators of the website know what they’re doing. After this, the visitor develops a clear preference for whatever solution the website offers. Finally, after they join the mailing list and they are exposed to a long list of highly credible information from the company, they feel that they can trust the company. So far, so good, right?
Sadly, at this point, a lot of businesses drop the ball. They really do. How did they screw up? They didn’t call the customer to action. I’ve seen this happen so many times and it really is heartbreaking.
Let me be clear. It’s really hard to get people to sign up for your mailing list. It’s also very difficult for companies to get list members to open there emails.
In the scenario that I just painted, the company did everything right. People are on their list. People are opening their emails. People are checking out their emails. People are clicking through but, at some point, everything stops. How come? No call to action.
Effective Copywriting is All about Calling People to Action
What makes this really frustrating is that you can’t just say “Click here.” People come across that phrase all the time, and they have effectively become blind to it. Don’t even waste your time typing that out. People are not going to click.
You have to tie it in with some sort of benefit. I’m not talking about the features of the product. I’m not talking about some jargon or technology or model name that you may think is so hot. I’m talking about the actual benefit flesh-and-blood human beings would get when they buy whatever it is you’re promoting.
For example, if you are selling perfume online. People don’t buy perfume or fragrances just because they want to smell good. That’s a given. You can assume that. After all, these substances smell very differently from other substances. That’s not what they are aimed for.
Instead, they want to buy a fragrance because they want to share in some sort of ideal lifestyle or fantasy experience. You sell the dream. You sell the exclusivity. You sell, ultimately, the fantasy.
Let me be clear. There’s really no good reason why people should buy Chanel No. 5 fragrance for women. There are many other nice-smelling fragrances out there. Why should they spend their hard-earned money paying a premium for a bottle of perfume that says “Chanel No. 5?”
But when you look at the YouTube videos of Chanel No. 5 ads throughout the decades, you can see why. The advertisers are not saying “Buy this perfume because it smells good.” No. When you look at the images, when you pay attention to the music, and you zoom in on the emotional intensity of the ads, you get the full picture.
They want you to buy into a lifestyle. It’s not just about smelling good. It’s not just about walking out of the store with a nice-looking bag. It’s about a mindset.
Effective Calls to Action
Evoke a mindset that taps into benefits. People buy all sorts of products for a wide range of reasons. Ultimately, the reason why somebody would want to pay a lot of money for something that they could buy for cheap somewhere else is psychological.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if somebody just wanted to get a car to take him from point A to point B, he can get a Kia. He can even get a Cherry from China. These cars are very cheap. They do the job. They’re very practical. They get you from point A to point B.
However, when somebody spends a whole lot more money on a BMW, it’s not because they just want to get from point A to point B. They’re not just looking for transportation. They’re looking for a lifestyle. They’re looking to send a message not just to other people but to themselves.
That’s what people are paying tens of thousands of extra dollars for. They’re not looking for a car in the same way as people who buy Chanel No. 5 are not looking to just smell good. That’s a given. They’re looking for something else.
When you write an effective call to action, you have to zero in on what this something else is. Does the buyer get a competitive advantage? Does the buyer get to “reclaim their life” because they saved so much time and money? Does the buyer get “freedom” because the product does so many things and saves so much time and effort? Zero in on the flesh-and-blood value of the product and then tie it in to the purchasing process. That’s how you write a highly effective call to action.
Becoming a Good Enough Copywriter Takes a Lot of Practice
As you can tell from my expanded explanation of online copywriting above, copywriting is no joke. Just because you can put words together and somehow make it all grammatically correct, it doesn’t mean that you miraculously became a copywriter. It doesn’t work that way.
Copywriting is all about persuasion. At the end of the day, there has to be some sort of conversion, and that conversion has to translate to dollars and cents being deposited in the bank account of your customer. That’s how it works.
What is the Difference between a Copywriter and an Article Writer?
Since there are so many articles on the Internet and a lot of them are quite persuasive, it’s tempting to think that all this other stuff falls under the category of website copy. Wrong.
Website copy that a copywriter writes resides in a limited number of places. These places are landing pages, sales pages, or homepages of online stores or service providers.
What do all these pages have in common? When people go to these pages, they want to be convinced that whatever it is they’re looking at is legit enough for them to trust. That’s the job of a copywriter.
An article writer, on the other hand, can talk about all sorts of things. They can talk about trends. They can talk about news. They may not necessarily be written to convince the reader to buy something right now. However, there is still some persuasion going on because a well-written article is all about building trust for the long term.
As I mentioned earlier, I said that you want people to look at your online content and walk away with the impression that you know what you’re talking about. Writing high-quality articles can do that, but they themselves don’t have enough information for people to make a snap judgment. That’s just not going to happen. Instead, a well-written article just puts you one step closer to the fairly long journey of persuasion.
hat is the Difference between a Blog Post and Website Copy?
While blog posts can be convincing, for the most part, blog posts are updated, usually temporary pieces of information that you post on the Internet. When something else happens, you post an update. Sometimes, your newer blog posts basically cancel out the information of previous blog posts. It all, of course, depends on your niche and what you’re talking about or topic category.
However, the whole point of posting a blog post is to tie it into some sort of date. Blogs are supposed to chronicle information that changes over time or appears over time.
An article, on the other hand, is something more static. Whatever information it has tends to last a longer period of time. In fact, if you write “evergreen” content articles, those articles are pretty much good for many years to come. Generally speaking, blog posts are not intended to persuade. That’s their main difference with website copywriting.
How to Become an Online Copywriter
If you want to become an online copywriter, you have to read a lot of website homepages, sales pages, and other persuasive pieces of online writing. There’s no way around this. You have to expose yourself to this type of material and try to figure out the patterns.
If you are smart, you will notice that effective website copywriting actually falls into a pattern. There seems to be a template that they’re drawing from. They’re not exactly copying from each other letter for letter, but they do use a predictable structure.
As you study this structure and become familiar and comfortable with it, you will be able to experiment with your own style. Before you know it, you can mix and match and improvise to produce website copy that works for your specific audiences at a specific time.
None of this happens overnight. What makes this all difficult is that it requires a lot of trial and error. Nobody is just going to come to you and give you this magical piece of website copy that will work for all people at all times and in all circumstances. Get that idea out of your head. That website copy doesn’t exist. That’s like looking for a unicorn.
How Much Money Does a Website Copywriter Make?
Website copywriters are not article writers nor are they blog post writers. You can bet that they make way more money than article writers. Thanks to the global nature of outsourcing, the price paid by online marketers for high-quality articles continue to drop. Sure, there are a lot of article writers out there and renowned authors who will brag that they earn $1000 per article.
However, you can probably count those people with your fingers and toes. For the rest of us mere mortals, the sad truth is you shouldn’t expect more than a few pennies per word. In fact, the more “generic” your area of specialization is, the more competition you will face.
You’d be surprised as to how tolerant many online publishers are of bad English and bad grammar when it comes to saving a few bucks on their costs. That’s the dirty little secret of online publishing. In fact, a large chunk of all the materials that you probably read today are written in places like India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya, you name it.
There’s nothing wrong with those materials because we live in a global competitive marketplace. It’s all about finding the right people who will produce the very best work for the least amount of money.
Guess who loses out? People from first-world countries who cannot afford to charge 3 cents a word. That’s just not going to happen when their apartment rent is $3000 or more per month.
The same goes for blog post writing. Back in the day, bloggers can charge as much as 5 to even 10 cents a word. Those days are long gone. Now, there are content companies that actually offer to produce blog content for as little as half a penny per word. Given how much competition there is on platforms like Fiverr, the price continues to drop.
Thankfully, in this chaotic world of ever-decreasing rates, copywriters stand out. It’s easy to see why. Highly effective and persuasive copywriters are hard to find. People who know their way around the English language and can create a psychological sense of urgency with their words are few and far between. That’s why in this time, they can still write their own paychecks.
If you become a good copywriter, don’t be surprised if you can get away with charging $100 for two hundred words of copy. In fact, that’s on the cheap end.
Where to Get Online Copywriter Work
As I have mentioned above, there’s not much competition among copywriters who really know their stuff.
The problem is a lot of mediocre or even plainly bad writers try to pass themselves off as copywriters. This is really pathetic because the ultimate victim is, of course, the client. They go to places like Fiverr or Freelancer.com and search for the cheapest copywriter they can find. They don’t have to search much because there are a lot of people out there who write really bad marketing copy who call themselves “copywriters.”
So, they zero in on the cheapest copywriter who would write a lot of content for dirt cheap and guess what happens? That’s right. They get disappointed. They read stuff that’s barely readable. They’re unsure if it’s even in English so they ask for a revision. Their revision comes and it’s no better than the original. This drama unfolds over several revision requests until the customer cancels the project.
Like I said, when it comes to actual value, if you are a good copywriter, you don’t have to worry about competition. The problem is when you try to get copywriting work off platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer.com, you’re going to compete with bad writers out there who take on the title “copywriter.”
This is the harsh reality. The result is you don’t get the jobs because you charged too much money. Everybody knows that the cheap providers really produce garbage.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of clients who are always looking for the bargain. They get burned, and they end up burning everybody else because people like you who actually know how to write awesome copy don’t make any money. Everybody loses.
Even the bad writers who try to pass themselves off as competent copywriters because once they burn somebody, those customers will not come back. In fact, the word will get out that particular provider is actually incompetent.
The Better Solution to Finding Work as a Copywriter
I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you but if you really want to make money as a copywriter, you have to hustle. You have to go to LinkedIn and get in touch with website development agencies.
These agencies put together landing pages, creative materials as well as websites for corporate and small business clients. You need to get on their radar. You need to demonstrate to them that you know what you’re doing.
If you’re able to do this and, believe me, there are going to be a lot of rejections involved because these people don’t have the time to entertain your talent. However, if you’re able to overcome all the hassles, you only need to become the “go-to” copywriter of a few agencies for you not to have to worry about your next paycheck. You can pretty much write your own paycheck because you have found clients who will pay you what you’re worth. Sounds awesome, right?
However, this will only happen if you put in the time. It’s definitely not going to fall into your lap. You’re going to have to go to LinkedIn, do a search for all the web development agencies and creative agencies out there, and pound the digital pavement. You have to send email after email to try to get an opportunity to demonstrate your skills.
As grueling as this process may be, it is definitely worth it because, at the end of the day, once you get agencies to look at you as a tried, proven, and dependable source of website copy, you will have customers for life.
The great thing about working with agencies is that they have a nice work flow. They get work from all over the world so if you are in good with several agencies, you don’t have to worry about work drying up.
The bottom line with copywriting work
You can get paid $1 per word or more if you become an expert copywriter. For this to happen, you need to put in the time and develop a winning track record. Make no mistake, online copywriting is one of the best ways you can use to make money. It takes less time but pays more per minute worked. The key downside is that it takes a lot of time to master.
To make money online using 24 other free methods, check out this blog post I wrote.