Thursday, March 13, 2008

Learn All About Copywriting from a Copywriter with 28 Years Experience – Absolutely Free

That’s right. No catch. No enrolment for any course. I am willing to share all that I have learnt over the years with anyone interested.
Let me introduce myself: I am Vaidy, a copywriter based in Chennai, India. I have worked in several Advertising Agencies, occupying positions that demanded increasing responsibility as I went along gathering experience – this was between 1982 and 1994. I then turned a Freelance Creative Consultant and took on retainer arrangements with very small ad agencies and creative shops that could benefit from an association with me. While I wrote copy, I also helped them with getting exposure by making effective presentations focussed on their strengths and formulating strategies to win new business. In recent years, I have handled more of content development for web sites, brochures and other corporate communications as well as script-writing for corporate videos and little of ad-agency kind of work.
While I wait to answer questions from young copywriters aspiring to succeed and make their mark, I shall stress the importance of a few factors as one strives to become better and better as a professional copywriter.
1. Build an Excellent Command of the English language
Flawless knowledge of grammar and a large vocabulary are indispensable weapons in a copywriter’s armoury. The ability to explain correct grammar and to spot erroneous sentences and constructions will greatly add to your presentation skills and also win you the respect of your customers. If you are also insatiably hungry for words, you will enlarge your vocabulary constantly, which is in itself an exhilarating exercise. A word of caution: Use words and expressions judiciously, in accordance with the context and the type of audience. The ultimate goal of communication is to succeed in getting the message across to your audience, interestingly and credibly.
Read as much fiction and non-fiction as you can. But, choose authors who write well. Apart from reading, I also teach English whenever I get the opportunity, which is a wonderful way of becoming better in the language and discovering subtleties and nuances of grammar.
2. Discover the Artist in You
A great copywriter is one who can write well and visualize well. We know that great novelists, apart from writing fine prose, can bring pictures in front of you, even smells and sounds, making your reading experience rich and enjoyable. It is the same with creating a powerful communication.
Watch movies and documentaries with a sharp eye and mind, and not just for entertainment. Study and read about paintings and music and any art form that captivates you. All this learning empowers you to becoming a copywriter who can write with imagination and vigour, and especially helps you develop tight and gripping scripts for videos and multimedia presentations.
I would also strongly recommend, if you can manage it, to spend time with art directors and photographers and learn how they approach themes and translate ideas into unforgettable images. I have had great fun interacting with these professionals while learning a lot that helps me in my writing. Early on in my career, I developed an interest in typography, which continues to be my passion. I remember how excited we felt trying to identify a typeface in a press advertisement, a billboard or a brochure and discovering gorgeous faces such as Bembo, Goudy, Optima, Cheltenham, Bodoni and many more. An acute copywriter’s eye can never miss a slip-up in word-spacing, or a wrong font, and the oft-employed justified alignment of text, which is so inelegant with gaping spaces between words.
3. Develop an Avid Interest in People, Happenings and Things
Well, that includes nearly everything that there is to know. You are in the business of fashioning and crafting a wide variety of communications. You are trying to make people get interested in things and happenings and make a move, which could be an enquiry, an expression of a desire to try something and even the decision to purchase a product or service.
That you are not the outgoing sort can’t be your excuse. You must cultivate the habit of watching and talking to people as they are considering or on the verge of trying a product, to find out the thinking process that leads them to a decision. You could easily do this with your own family, friends and acquaintances in an absolutely informal chat, right? Of course, if you regularly read surveys on consumer behaviour from newspapers, magazines and online sources, you will accumulate a vast store of knowledge that you can profitably use in your presentations and in your actual copywriting assignments.
4. Follow Keenly what Businesses Do and Say
If you are nearly all the time writing for business corporations, which I would imagine is the case, it pays to read about big businesses and find out what they are up to. Visit their web sites. You will learn trends, the way businesses are run and the principles and philosophy they adopt. This knowledge will help you enrich your copy with telling points and insights, making the communication effective and memorable. By going beyond the brief, you will deliver real value addition to your customer, increasing your chances of gaining further business and also enabling you to bill better.
5. Be True to Your word in every respect
‘Honesty is the best policy’ says the proverb. In business, it means a lot.
Insist on a good brief
Listen keenly to what your customer has to say about his product or service
Ask questions and understand the requirements of the job thoroughly
Study all information that you have gathered and do some honest research to know more
Prepare and make a good, honest presentation
Recommend measures boldly and with conviction
Consider suggestions from customer seriously
Quote your fee confidently
Consider accommodating reasonable fee-reductions
Present a clear, realistic work-plan and delivery
Initiate and insist on a clear agreement on delivery and payment terms
Deliver outstanding work on time

This has worked for me and, in the long run, don’t we all want good and honest customers who treat us well and pay us well and on time, too?
Well, that would do for a start. Shoot your questions on any aspect relevant to being and succeeding as a copywriter.


Christina said...

If you like typography and haven't done so, you need to see Helvetica - great documentary!

vaidy said...

Thanks for the information.
I might add that I have always considered every typeface as a Raaga - a type of scale in Indian Classical Music, with a defined set of notes. There are innumerable Raagas, and all lyrics are composed into songs by the use of Raagas. Each Raaga has unique characteristics, which lend the required emotional quality to the song composed in that Raaga, just the way a typeface lends colour and character to words. And it is such a thrill to identify a typeface or a Raaga, by looking at a passage or listening to a composition.

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MR said...

very useful... Thank you Vaidy

I just started copywriting for an RMG Connect company in Singapore. I am marrying my fiance and moving to New York...So I'll have to look for a job- or at least get some assignments there. With the banking crash, this is going to be realllly tough...

Any advise about how I can land a job or some assignments?

saneet said...

hello mr.Vaidy

I am a student of visual communication from srm college chennai who has just finished his degree in visual communication.
I have a strong grasp on the english languague and would like to know how to get started as a copywriter.
Please do reply