Put the Pen Down: a Copywriter’s 4 Biggest Beginner Mistakes


It doesn’t matter if it’s sewing, croquet, Chinese checkers or lacrosse—when it comes time to learning a new skill, mistakes are going to be made.

Random examples aside, the same applies to the art of copywriting. Believe it or not, you’re human, and when you’re producing copy, you’re going to make mistakes. 

It just so happens that when you’re new to a specific content type or even to the industry as a whole, the mistakes you make are going to occur at a higher frequency. 

The best way to overcome them? Identification. 

If you’re new to copywriting, the following are four of the most common mistakes you’re probably going to make. 

1) Atrocious Headlines

This is so basic, but so hard to do. That said, it’s a skill that needs to be learned because it’s one of a copywriters most important tools. 

In fact, said David Ogilvy, The Father of Advertising, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” 

Learn to write headlines that give people a reason to read the first sentence of the first paragraph. If you can do that on a regular basis, you’ll already be ahead of many experienced copywriters.

2) Bypassing On a Call-to-Action

What good is copy if it doesn’t bring about some sort of sales action? Now, that said, I’m not insisting that a CTA be overly aggressive or sales-driven, but it should at least be present within a piece. 

Providing more information on the value of a CTA is Paul Cheney of Marketing Experiments, saying, “It’s not about the action itself, it’s about the value they’re going to get as a result of taking that action. Getting that right in your CTA can give you dramatic lifts with very little effort.”

Sound a bit tricky? 

No need to worry. Understanding will come in time. For now, just know that it’s your job to always include some sort of CTA—no matter how big or small.

3) Saying Too Much or Too Little

Copywriters are either long-winded or too succinct. The goal is to find that ever-elusive balance. 

As far as I’m concerned, I tend to say more than I should. That said, when I try and fix things, I often take it to the opposing extreme. Though I already have a couple of years of copywriting experience under my belt, I continue to struggle with this.

While you might be an outlier, chances are high that you’ll need some experience to understand where a reader is in the buying process. 

Yes, piece type and industry play a part in this, but that’s where experience comes into play. When you’re just starting your copywriting career, you wont’ have much of it. 

Hang in there. It’ll come.

4) Unfitting Tone

Depending on the setting, this can actually pretty funny, even if your client struggles to find humor in the situation.

Think about it—you wouldn’t speak to a full-grown adult like an infant, would you? Well, when a new copywriter is faced with writing for a client whose industry he or she knows very little about, oftentimes the subtle nuances of an audience’s preferred editorial tone are overlooked.

The result? Awkward reading.

To avoid this, take an extra half-hour or so to read up on other industry-specific publications. This will prevent you from sounding naive or ignorant.

Try as you might, at one point or another, you’re going to fall flat on your face. Copywriting isn’t for the faint of heart. 

Because of this, when you make a mistake, it’s key that you dust yourself off and get back to work. Soon enough, you’ll have a firm grip on things.

Now, let’s see what you have to say about the life of a new copywriter. You seasoned copywriters, how were you able to deal with each of the aforementioned obstacles? What other challenges weren’t mentioned here that should’ve been? 

For those who are currently just getting started, what have you noticed about the experience? Take to Twitter and tweet your thoughts and feelings at @EchelonCopy. In no time at all, you’ll get a response.


Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon Copy. When not writing, editing or running, he's working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the "World's Greatest Pompadour." Additionally, for what it's worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan's PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.