Earlier this year a client paid me $500 for a 414 word article. That got me thinking, how much per word have I earned on other financial copywriting projects?
I entered the world of financial blogging about five years ago. And in the last three, I started working for one of the world’s largest newsletter publishers. This has helped me improve my writing skills. And what I’ve learned is already starting to pay off…
One of my other side writing projects has handed me close to $13,000. It’s only a total of six pages and 1,400 words… which works out to about $9 per word. But here’s the best part, it keeps on paying me as long as the copy still works. And it requires little-to-no upkeep.
Most people reading this will think that’s a big payout… but I know I’ve only scratched the surface of effective copywriting. To see how I’ve gotten to this point, I’ll detail some notes and resources below.
The Road to Financial Writing and Blogging
With any big goal, people tend to get caught up thinking too much about the endgame. The outcome is important – no arguments there – but focusing on the path is more productive. For wannabe financial copywriters, start with the first step… write.
Start by writing some copy and putting it out into the world. For example, blogging is a powerful way to improve your writing and reach people. It also helps to build a portfolio of content that you own. You can always return to your articles to improve or reuse them.
When starting out, also prepare for the sound of crickets when you publish. I’d be lucky to get 10 views on any one article. It was discouraging but the key is to be persistent. Keep writing and looking for ways to improve your articles. If you learn how to add value to readers, they’ll stick around for more content.
Reverse Engineer and Emulate to Succeed
There’s no need to recreate the wheel. Whatever topic you decide to research and write about, someone has already covered it. So your goal should be to improve upon what’s already available.
With a writing topic or promotion in mind, start with a Google search. Check out the top results and try to reverse engineer the copy to find out what’s working. If there’s a comments section, it can also be a gold mine. Take any useful feedback and blend it into your copy.
This approach aligns with finding ways to add value to readers. And a good rule of thumb is to always include something unique, interesting and useful in every article. This is big picture strategy but let’s dig deeper into what makes successful copy…
Financial Copywriter Formulas and Techniques
There are formulas to succeed in every industry and the publishing world isn’t exempt. You can take repeatable steps to learn and improve your performance. For financial copywriting, here are some time-tested formulas and techniques to start with…
Data-Driven Approach to Copywriting
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. – Peter Drucker
Many people reject this quote and I agree with them. You don’t need to measure all things to improve… but the main takeaway: when you can accurately measure, you have a leg up on the competition.
Every industry is collecting and analyzing more data. As a result, we’re finding trends that our brains can’t naturally process. We’re approaching a limit of complete understanding. This is a powerful mindset for any industry… but let’s bring it back to financial copywriting and advertising. Here’s one of my favorite quotes…
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half. – John Wanamaker
This quote is over 100 years old. And a lot has changed since then. Marketers can now track the effectiveness of their ad spend to the cent. It’s vital to collect and look at this data to see what’s working. This helps to better focus our efforts.
Statistics isn’t sexy, but learning – and applying – best practices will improve your results. You can isolate efforts with A/B tests. And to improve insight, shoot for significant, non-biased sample sizes.
Stick to One Big Idea
For copywriting it’s key to pinpoint one big idea that speaks to your audience… then hammer it home. Don’t deviate from the big idea.
When writers introduce new ideas, they distract from the main message. And this almost always lowers conversion when it comes to the call-to-action. So stay on point.
Simplify the Readability of Your Message
Countless studies have shown that easy-to-read content does better. I’ve seen it firsthand. But this runs counter to what you learn in school. Unfortunately, academic writing isn’t optimal 99% of the time… that’s unless you’re trying to lose your audience with big words – like politicians when it comes to tough topics.
One editor I’ve worked with has refused to simplify his writing. He’s one of the smartest guys in the room but doesn’t want to “dumb down” his copy. As a result, he’s only seen a fraction of the success when compared to other more willing editors.
This is a logic trap. But the data shows that a simple message is more effective… and it isn’t easy to do. Are you a true expert on the topic if you can’t break it down to the basics?
The Flesch–Kincaid (FK) score is a great tool to check readability stats. It’s built into Microsoft Word and I always try to write at the 8th grade level or below. For example, this post comes in at the 6th grade level. And here’s another free and simple editing tool… Hemmingway App.
Two Bonus Writing Tips to Engage Readers
- Almost always use active over passive verbs. When you use a passive verb, the reader uses more brain power to connect the dots. This isn’t good for keeping them around… and I practice what I preach, I only use one passive verb in this article. Can you find it and tell me why I kept it? The first person to comment correctly wins :).
- Utilize minuscule locutions. That’s a distracting mouthful which means… use small words. Another example, never say “police-person in a vehicle.” Use “cop in a car.” That takes it from nine to four syllables. Great writers keep a thesaurus close at hand and use common terms.
Build Credibility and Trust
Why should I read your story? Or you read mine? Why read a Forbes article? Time is valuable… so it’s vital to build credibility and trust from the get-go.
Forbes has the upper hand since it’s built a powerful brand… but you can leverage top brands. With some effort, you can publish content on top sites. You can then use… [Your Name] featured on [Big Brand Site], [Big Brand Site], and [Big Brand Site]. This pushes the reader to associate you with credible brands.
This strategy is common so it’s lost some luster. Use it sparingly and instead, focus more time on showing in-depth expertise on your writing topic.
At the start of this article, I showed you two clear examples of my financial copywriting success. You knew right away that I’m not some Joe Schmo. I’ve proven and time-tested some copywriting techniques. And to be honest, I could have done better by providing three examples.
Once is a fluke. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern.
Show, don’t (only) tell. It’s ok to tell readers your idea but it’s more impactful when you back it up with at least three compelling examples.
Listicles, Odd Numbers, and Rule of Three
Our minds seek the path of least resistance.
Our brains use less energy to learn a topic when it’s broken down into a list. This is a powerful mental model that you can use to pull in more readers. And don’t treat all numbered lists the same.
Odd numbers can further improve click-through rates. This concept – like many I’ve discussed above – is cross disciplinary. Many of the world’s most famous paintings have an odd number of focal points.
Our minds tend to group even things and numbers. We subconsciously give them less attention. That’s why odd numbers and the Rule of Three can improve intrigue.
The notes above are a sampling of powerful copywriting techniques. If I receive feedback I’ll write more on copywriting :). Next topic… why you should avoid using puns?
I’m continuing to hone my craft and would love your feedback. Any questions? Writing tips to share? Or good books to read?
P.S. Creating engaging copy with a strong call to action is vital. That’s how you can succeed as a financial copywriter. If you want to see a powerful example, check out this short article: Smile Psychology. It taps into your subconscious mind.