13 copywriting skills your writer needs to have

25 Apr 2022
Henna Amin

Anyone can string words together to form a sentence – but to authentically and effectively convey a message and create a connection with a reader? That’s something completely different. If you’re curious about what makes a copywriter so great at their job or are looking to develop your own copywriting skills, learn about the essential skills every writer needs to have right here.

Copywriting: an underrated art

When you think about creative roles, a writer might not be the first person to come to mind – but copywriting really is an art. The content your customers see, and connect with, wouldn’t be possible without copywriters – the same way it wouldn’t be possible without a carefully curated brand. Writers are a hugely underrated part of marketing teams, and the art of copywriting itself is heavily underestimated. 

While it’s true that marketers boast a range of varied skills, it doesn’t automatically mean that they’re able to produce unique, impactful copy. Copywriting is a very specific skill, and requires way more than just a solid grasp of the written word. It draws on skills from both sides of marketing – technical know how and artistic flair. 

Pretty much anyone could open their laptop, start a document and churn out a 1000 word article. But will it be readable? Engaging? Grammatically correct? Factually sound? Unique? Optimised?

A really good copywriter can answer yes to all of those questions and more, without hesitation. And that’s what defines exceptional copywriting skills. It’s being able to cover a pretty wide criteria for every piece of content they create – seamlessly and efficiently. 

Essential copywriting skills 

So, what copywriting skills should you be looking for in a really good writer? Whether you’re a writer yourself looking for ways to improve and build on your current skill set, or a hiring manager wanting to fill a copywriter-shaped hole in your company, there are quite a few copywriting skills to be aware of. We’ve whittled them down to 13 essentials that come together to create an unbeatable content skill set. 

  1. Writing skills 
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Creativity
  4. Communication skills
  5. Research abilities
  6. Empathy
  7. SEO awareness
  8. User experience
  9. Versatility 
  10. Editing skills
  11. Content marketing knowledge
  12. Ability to streamline information
  13.  Curiosity 

So, let’s dive in! 

Writing skills

Of course, first and foremost a copywriter needs to have good writing skills. Each piece they create should be grammatically correct and contain no spelling mistakes – that goes without saying. But this isn’t all that constitutes good writing skills. A writer needs to be able to craft articles, blogs or guides that are coherent, concise and engaging. Remember that 1000 word article we mentioned earlier? If it’s full of waffle, it’s not an example of good writing. 

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A gifted copywriter can wield language like a paintbrush to create a unique piece of art each time they come to their keyboard. They do this by using a range of different linguistic elements, including:

  • varied sentence structures
  • different punctuation
  • specific vocabulary suited to the topic
  • engaging headings 
  • metaphors and expressions to illustrate their points.

When you can weave these elements into a piece, it won’t just read correctly, but seamlessly. Each time a reader opens a book, blog page or email, they’re taken on a journey, and really good writing makes sure that there are no bumps in the road. 

Attention to detail

This one is heavily linked to the previous point we’ve just covered, but it’s such an important factor that it definitely deserves mentioning on its own. When you think about attention to detail, it’s likely your mind goes to things like spelling and grammar. But that’s  just the tip of the iceberg. 

Paying attention to specific details about a piece of content means that a copywriter can tailor their writing to the client’s distinct tone of voice and make the reader’s experience as smooth as possible. And it’s one of the copywriting skills that not all writers are guaranteed to have. 

Having an eye for the small details encompasses a lot of different scenarios, and here are just a few, so you know what we mean when we talk about the small things:

  • not switching tenses in sentences or paragraphs
  • avoiding the repetition of words or phrases
  • using consistent formatting, for example with dates or punctuation
  • writing in the correct locale 
  • choosing words or vocabulary that reflect the piece’s tone of voice.

Creativity

As we mentioned at the start of this blog – copywriting is an art form. So for a copywriter to do their job well, they have to be creative – there’s no two ways about it. Creativity is the edge that takes a standardised, boring piece of content and turns it into something that’ll win those clicks, purchases or sign ups. Because after all, that’s the core purpose of copywriting: to convert a reader to a customer. And there’s no more effective way to do that than with some innovative ideas. 

The writing process for a content writer starts way before the crafting. Most of the time, copywriters are given a detailed copy brief – complete with research, keywords, tone of voice guidelines and an outline of the piece. For a content writer, they’ll do this – before crafting even begins. This is where creativity plays such an important role – it allows content writers to brainstorm topics, figure out new ways of writing about the subject and ultimately create a more engaging and effective piece. There’s a lot of content out there, and when we say a lot – we mean that on average, 116 new blogs are published on the internet every second. If brands want to contribute pieces that have a chance of cutting through the endless sea of content, then they need to be original and inspired.

A skilled copywriter will also be able to use their creativity to take even the most boring of briefs and really bring it to life with new ideas, angles or structures. This includes when it comes to creating headlines to pull readers in. In fact, 80% of readers read headlines opposed to the 20% who actually read the content – making each word of that title a vitally important choice. And a little creativity in this area will help your headlines stand out from the sea of other content that comes up in a reader’s Google search – creating that all-important spark of a connection with them. 

Even for technical writers who focus more on white papers or guides, creativity is still a big part of their role. Although they don’t need to think of original themes or inventive metaphors in their work, they do need to find new and unique ways to deliver information. This requires some ‘out of the box’ thinking that can only be done with a bit of creative flair brought to each brief. 

Communication skills

No matter your job role, you’ll need to have a range of ‘soft skills’ to help you do your job better. One of them that ties in very closely with copywriting skills is the ability to effectively and clearly communicate. Content is often collaborative, so copywriters need to work with others. Whether it’s with project managers or editors, being able to articulate thoughts, ideas and opinions as a copywriter is crucial. 

As the nature of creating content is so subjective, it’s likely that the person reviewing work – editor or client – will have a different opinion or perspective to the person who wrote it. That’s why it’s so important for copywriters to be able to communicate well – from taking on feedback or explaining their creative choices. There will inevitably be some back and forth between editors or clients and copywriters, and good communication skills help to avoid any friction in these exchanges. The most important thing to focus on is getting the email, product description or e-book to the highest quality possible. 

Also, from a writing perspective, expressing thoughts and ideas authentically lends itself to a copywriter’s work too. Being an effective communicator means you’ll be able to translate that into your content – enabling you to get points across clearly and engage your reader. 

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Research abilities

One of the most crucial skills a content writer possesses is knowing how to effectively and efficiently research. While many of us writers specialise in particular areas and have our favourite subjects, we need to get our facts right – no matter what we’re writing about. So that means being able to seek out the relevant and correct information to use in the content we’re writing. 

Research can take a long time to carry out, especially when someone is searching for very specific information or data to back up their writing. If a content writer isn’t well versed in research techniques, a lot of time can be wasted if research isn’t carried out properly. And as a part of what makes a great content writer is efficiency – knowing how to research well is important. 

This one is especially important when it comes to writing for more technical clients or about fact-based subjects. From health and pharmaceuticals to insurance, highly specialised areas demand accurate information. If the right information isn’t found and used in the piece, it can compromise its quality – and the client’s reputation. 

Empathy

You might think this is a bit of a rogue choice, but a copywriter who doesn’t write with empathy will find it impossible to do their job – anyone in the marketing field would for that matter. One of the main purposes of marketing is to connect with people in order to secure sales, so it makes sense that marketers need to understand their customers. The best way to do that is to put themselves in their customers’ shoes to gain insights into what their wants, needs and pain points are. 

Now, this information will shape a company’s marketing activities and give them the best chance of creating those all-important connections with customers.

To write with empathy means that at each stage of the copywriting process, a writer considers the following questions:

  • What does the reader want or need to get out of this content?
  • How do I want the reader to feel?
  • What would solve their problems or answer their questions?
  • How can the content I’m writing best do that?

Getting into the mind of a reader enables a gifted copywriter to shape their content around the wants and needs of the customer. It could be as small as a tagline for an ad or as detailed as a ‘How To’ guide for a product – but bringing a deep understanding of the target of the content means it’ll perform at its best, every time. Whether the content being created aims to win a click, sale or follow, it’s always better with a human touch.  

And that’s why it’s worth mentioning that empathetic copywriting is more effective at creating meaningful relationships with customers. Because it conveys the human side to a brand, your audience is way more likely to identify with (and buy from) your company if they feel that you care about them. Of course, customers know that a business’s main priority is to make money and secure sales. But purchasing decisions are becoming increasingly based on customers’ personal stake in the companies they buy from, and empathetic content is nothing short of essential for modern marketers.  

SEO awareness

We couldn’t pen a piece about copywriting skills and not mention one of the most important ones of all! SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a truly powerful digital marketing tool that businesses have at their disposal for reaching new customers online. And because keywords are a big part of front-end SEO practices, a good copywriter needs to know how to use SEO in their writing. 

And it’s not enough to just pepper in keywords throughout a blog or web page – keywords need to be seamlessly integrated with copy and used in the right places to maximise a website’s ranking chances. Google is smart, and it knows when keywords have been thrown in for good measure or even been overused. 

By having (or being) a copywriter who’s well versed in all things SEO, a lot of time can be saved in the content creation process by weaving in SEO practices as content is created – as opposed to optimising it afterwards. Plus, this is actually better for SEO results and gives the best chance of ranking higher for keywords.

User experience

Most commonly associated with design, user experience is a practice that has the capacity to really maximise the effectiveness of copy – no matter the medium. It’s best described as any action that improves or eases someone’s experience when using or browsing a website, and refers to a range of different areas, including:

  • accessibility
  • usability 
  • responsiveness and speed
  • visual design.

You might be wondering how this ties into a copywriter’s skills – it all sounds very much like someone else’s job, right? But copywriters are just as much a part of the user’s journey when browsing a web page as the designers are. Like design elements, colours and page layouts, the copy on a web page is a key part of creating a positive, seamless experience. When a copywriter considers the experience a reader will have, whilst consuming the content they create, they’ll be able to guide them more effectively to the relevant action or conclusion. 

Something that user experience and copywriting have in common is that the user (or reader for copywriters) sits at the centre. They are the single most important player for determining the success of a project. And having knowledge of how to create a seamless user experience will always level up a copywriter’s work. 

Examples of considering user experience when writing copy:

  • breaking up large walls of text with headings, bulleted lists or images
  • including a call to action to ‘click the link in bio’ when writing microcopy for Instagram
  • providing a bulleted summary at the beginning of a long-form blog
  • developing an extended metaphor to explain a concept throughout a piece of writing.

Each of these improve the user’s experience when reading your copy by doing one (or more) of the following:

  • making the user’s life easier
  • delighting the user
  • capturing and keeping their attention
  • providing answers to their questions quickly and simply.

Versatility

One of the most valuable skills a copywriter can have is versatility. Whether it’s snappy tweets or engaging emails, a highly-skilled copywriter will be competent across different platforms, mediums and styles of writing. They’ll be comfortable pivoting from a long form blog to lively ad copy all in the same day, and will thrive on the variety. Although we’ve made it sound pretty simple there, it’s quite a skill to be able to do that and not lose that laser-like focus on your work. But it’s something that comes naturally to a gifted copywriter.

When we talk about versatility – it’s not just about what copywriters can create – it’s also about how they do it. The same way they can jump between different mediums, they can write in a range of different tones of voice to suit both the subject and client. And it’s here that you see how copywriters really are wordsmiths. A copywriter can just as easily (and flawlessly) write in a playful, witty tone as a reserved yet helpful voice for a different project.

Editing skills

While there are whole job roles reserved for editors – whose sole responsibility is to make sure that each piece of content published is impeccably accurate, flows well and abides by the client’s tone of voice – copywriters need to know how to edit too. It’s a natural part of the writing process, allowing copywriters to continuously improve their work as they’re writing. And, the last thing an editor wants is to receive a messy, unrefined first draft.

They say your first idea is often not the best, and this thinking applies hugely to copywriting. When a writer first puts their fingers to their keyboard, they’ll likely make spelling mistakes, and struggle to structure their sentences perfectly. But having an eye for detail and taking the time to go back over their work will help them catch any slip ups, but also develop their ideas and writing more deeply. 

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Content marketing knowledge

This one probably goes without saying, but being able to draw on a wealth of knowledge about content marketing makes copywriters much better at their jobs. Understanding the role that the content they create plays in a wider marketing strategy means they’ll be able to write more impactful, effective content – that achieves its goals. This doesn’t mean they have to be experts on data analysis or graphic designers, but having an awareness of the wider marketing machine will only provide more insights and knowledge to use in their work. 

Ability to streamline information

If there’s one thing that illustrates the magic that is copywriting, it’s when writers take a complex topic or highly-technical concept and make it understandable and accessible for everyday readers. Using their mastery of language, skilled copywriters take complicated content and simplify it – without taking away from the accuracy of the information. 

For businesses that work in scientific, medical or highly-technical fields but still need to connect with their customers, copywriters are their best friend and an indispensable asset to their companies. 

Curiosity

Last, but by no means least, is the importance of curiosity. A copywriter who doesn’t have an itch to learn or expose themselves to new perspectives is one who’ll create the same copy over and over. In other words, their writing will be boring. 

But finding someone with that thirst for knowledge, excitement for new things and viewpoints, they’ll be able to imagine amazing possibilities for content, and ultimately level up any brand they write for. 

No matter how talented or experienced a copywriter you become, there’s always more to learn. Taking into account shifting attitudes, approaches and new innovations will keep their content fresh and interesting, which is absolutely essential if you want your content to perform well. 

So, we’ve covered a lot there! To recap, the essential copywriting skills are:

  1. Writing skills 
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Creativity
  4. Communication skills
  5. Research abilities
  6. Empathy
  7. SEO awareness
  8. User experience
  9. Versatility 
  10. Editing skills
  11. Content marketing knowledge
  12. Ability to streamline information
  13.  Curiosity 

Get expert copywriting from the professionals

If you’re looking for writers who possess all 13 of those copywriting skills, are experts in your field and are a pleasure to work with – team writefully’s waiting for you. We’re a bunch of content dreamers who would love nothing more than to help bring your brand to life with the beauty of the written word. 

In fact, you can build a bespoke content bundle or get in touch for a chat about your content needs right here