A professional marketing writer is a copy expert but also capable of understanding the big picture of how marketing supports business growth. If you can become this, if you can develop the wide array of skills needed, you will be endlessly valuable to a company or to clients.
At Hire a Writer, I’m passionate about equipping my team with all the skills they need to be as competitive as possible in an ever-expanding market. The world of writing is evolving. It isn’t just enough to be good with words. You need to be a multidisciplinary master or maven, capable of contributing in big ways to a company’s goals.
These are all of the 12 skill sets that you need to be the best.
(Note - the graphics you see here come from the Hire a Writer Roadmap to Mastery program. We have training for all of these key disciplines and each staff writer on my team picks an area of emphasis each quarter to focus on.)
Obviously, you must be masterful at the distinct craft of writing. This means going well beyond the basic mechanics of grammar and style and formatting. You need to be able to write winsomely and convincingly. You need to be able to use various voices and styles. You need to be able to write in a way that compels action. Your writing practice should be the absolute foremost priority, because being an excellent master writer is foundational to the communication skills that will support every other discipline listed here.
2. Personal Growth
I always say that entrepreneurs, freelancers, and business owners don’t fail because they lacked good ideas. They fail for personal reasons. Maybe it was a lack of discipline, poor leadership skills, bad communication skills, you name it. It’s almost never a business-related reason. This is why I think anyone who wants to have a position of leadership or influence has to take time to grow personally, understanding themselves and others. The ability to be patient, adaptable, and even loving are make or break it qualities in the world of business. Yes, for real.
Knowing the whole scope of what’s involved in marketing is imperative to being a qualified marketing writer. This means you need to know how marketing strategy works + all of the different types of content and creative work that support a strategy. Knowing the end-to-end value of copy (ROI/ROAS) and how to evaluate and report on success is key to being truly valuable and rising in the ranks.
People will disagree with me on this one, but I think understanding the psychology of sales and how sales work is imperative to being a good marketer and especially a good marketing writer. Most people silo out marketing and sales and I think that does a disservice to both. If you can understand how and why people buy, you’ll be far more effective in crafting copy that compels action.
5. Client Relationships
If you’re in an agency setting or a freelancer, client relationships are key. If you are on staff full time, you will still need to work with people. Your ability to communicate, set boundaries, manage expectations, and read people or manage feedback is absolutely essential if you are going to be a valued team member. Take the time to refine these skills. They are absolutely learnable and they will change not only your professiona life but improve your personal life as well.
You aren’t going to make it far as a professional marketing writer if you aren’t a capable researcher. This is a must-have skill. You must know the basics of qualitative and quantitative research, how to gather data, how to verify/validate sources, how to organic research, and how to use data-oriented technologies. Part of taking yourself from “just a copywriter” to a marketing leader is the ability to read and interpret data and understand the impact your work is having.
All leaders will be tasked with training others. This is a big way that most freelancers scale from an individual practice to passive income or broader scopes of work. Bonus - training other people is often how you really cement concepts in your own mind. But I’d suggest that most writer training out there is really low quality. It lacks the robust, research-backed instructional design components that ensure retention. If you want to be great, take the time to learn how to build courses, workshops, exercises, and assessments that actually take time-tested pedagogical principles into account.
Moving upstream as a writer means you’ll likely oversee other writers. To do this well, you need to know how to edit the work of other writers. You may assume that because you are a writer (and you probably self-edit) that you already know how to do this. But I actually haven’t found this to be a lateral skill for the most part. Editing approaches vary and you can become faster and more accurate at editing for different writers with training and practice.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must-know for any professional marketing writer. If you want to be a leader in this or any marketing field, you need to get beyond the basics of SEO and understand on-page, off-page, technical, and SEO strategy. Even if you end up not being the one to specialize in SEO, this knowledge is key to managing SEO vendors and agencies.
10. Creative Growth
Writing is, first and foremost, a creative discipline. While you develop the actual skill of writing, refining your creative acumen is a separate effort (IMO). Your ability to think more abstractly is one that can be developed over time. This is something that will continue to widen the gap between you and tech-based tools, making you a rich repository of outstanding ideas. Venturing into a variety of creative written forms and enriching your skill of self expression are worthy pursuits that will make you a better leader and creative professional.
Senior leaders know: we must justify the investments, we must understand the big picture, and we have to have a 30,000 foot view of our systems and work. An in-depth understanding, coupled with a practical ability to actually find and interpret information, is hyper-relevant to your life as a professional marketing writer. If you want to be the best, you really can’t default into, “I’m not a numbers person, I’m a words person.” You need to become a numbers person, or at least get familiar and comfortable with them.
Public relations and press work may be considered a branch of marketing, or maybe a subcategory. I think that understanding how PR works is important for any marketing writer. Some end up specializing here because they enjoy journalism and the hunt for placement. Regardless of whether this is a field that interests you, you must know how it works and how to move the levers that get results.
Check out my 3 part press outreach training on my YouTube - part 1 here.
How Long Does This Take?
Well, a lifetime probably. But I’d say you need at least a decade to get the basics down of all of these disciplines. You will almost always have a proclivity for one or a couple of these and that may be where you focus. Knowing them all in some form or fashion is what will make you absolutely employable and indispensable to a company.
A lot to ask and demand of yourself? Sure. But if you want to be highly impactful and as effective as possible, you’ll make the time to learn as much as possible.
As my grandpa used to say: you’re probably going to exist in 10 years anyway. What do you want to have accomplished? How do you want to have grown?
You can start now by tackling one of these at a time. Watch YouTube videos. Read books. Take courses or Masterclasses. There is so much to learn. Enjoy it.