The short answer is NO! Copywriting is an excellent side hustle that can boost your income.
If you are considering copywriting, you are probably thinking about how much you can earn. You see, the average copywriter earns $57,000 annually.
However, just like in every profession, you can carry out copywriting in an unethical way. If you go to a medical doctor and he prescribes an illegal drug, what he did was unethical. But does that make medicine an illegal profession?
Copywriting is a high-income skill you can use to build a successful career. However, there are certain unethical practices that are illegal and unethical, even though the craft itself is legal and ethical.
Disclaimer: I have no formal expertise in the law field, the content of this blog post is an expression of my personal views. If you want to gain more insight into the legal aspect of this topic, you should consult a legal practitioner.
Is Copywriting Illegal or Unethical?
This question has troubled certain curious individuals. But the answer is quite simple.
Copywriting as a craft or occupation is not illegal nor is its practice unethical but it could be unethical based on some factors.
These factors include:
Plagiarising is illegal
Plagiarism is the worst crime a creative can commit. As a copywriter, you do not have the right to copy other people’s work and claim them as yours.
This is not only unethical, but in some spaces, it is illegal and could attract serious penalties.
When you copy another creative’s work as a copywriter, the ethical thing to do is to reference your source so your readers don’t attribute it to you. You can use plagiarism checkers like Copyscape to avoid plagiarism.
Buying (bot) Traffic could be illegal
People are usually drawn to content with many views. Why? When they see a site that has so much traffic, they believe the site has good content and visit it.
Some copywriters engage in buying fake traffic through agencies that sell likes, shares, and an online reach in the form of packages. Some of these are done by bots and fake accounts. This is not only unethical, but it also goes against standard website terms.
Keyword Cramming could be illegal
Another way copywriting could be unethical is through keyword cramming also known as keyword stuffing. This means copywriters load an abnormally high amount of keywords or tags which will lead to stilted writing.
But due to these keywords, the search engine will pick up on the used keywords with poor content.
The problem with this unethical practice is that it doesn’t work! The Google algorithm is smarter and will not rank your blog post when you cram keywords. Your readers can easily tell your content is poor and leave your site.
Click Baits could be unethical
A very common copywriting technique is the use of click baits. This could range from posting a glimpse of the content that makes people excited for more.
Click baits could mean manipulating headlines so people are emotionally drawn. Some copywriters write misleading headlines. They post a catchy headline but when readers click the page, there is little information related to their headline there.
As a good copywriter with an image to protect, ensure your headlines are catchy and good but also deliver the quality they promise.
Spamming Links is illegal
To generate traffic, some copywriters create link spam. Link spam is when you post the same link too many times usually to irrelevant places for the sake of traffic.
Link spam can lead to a profile ban on most social media sites.
And sometimes it could lead to the copywriter being blacklisted internationally. Good copywriters rely on their creativity and good marketing strategy to pave out their success and image.
Can You Get in Trouble for Copywriting?
Yes, you can! If you write a copy the way you were expected to write it, without any form of plagiarism which is considered an unforgivable sin, you are not likely to get into any form of trouble.
Let’s take a closer look at some other actions that are likely to get you into trouble via copywriting.
Writing Misleading Statements
It is not news that people tend to believe what they read on the internet. They welcome true and untrue statements without much argument.
Writing misleading statements can cause people to make the wrong decisions and make major mistakes that can affect them negatively.
A misleading statement can contain certain material or text misrepresentation of vital facts or if you express certain thoughts that leave out certain details that help the reader to get the full picture.
This action can lead to a lot of trouble for the copywriter if the reader follows the content of the copy and does not get the desired result.
If the content of the copy is exaggerated or creates unrealistic or unjustified expectations, people can easily fall for it. They will eventually discover that the content of your copy was misleading.
For example, while advertising a new product to a large audience if you mention that the product can produce a particular result that is not entirely true, you can get in trouble.
You can get sued for your claims especially if the organization that owns the product did not authorize your action.
Absence of Disclaimers in Your Content
As long as you are not an expert in a particular field, the information you offer concerning a product or an issue may not be reliable. You must be conscious that the copy you write to promote a particular product or service can be traced back to you if any issue arises.
To avoid getting into trouble for claiming an authority figure or posing as an expert, include disclaimers in your content.
A disclaimer is simply a statement or document that absorbs you or any legal responsibility for your claims. Always use a disclaimer when you make claims about topics where you lack authority.
Using Dishonest Testimonials
Testimonials are a vital aspect of copywriting. People are more convinced about the authenticity of a particular product when there are real testimonials to support the claims.
Using testimonials will not get you into trouble. What will get you into real trouble is using testimonials that are dishonest or largely exaggerating the events of the testimonials.
Some copywriters use testimonials that do not correspond with the actual product they are selling. For example, using the reviews of a Laptop to sell a Flat Screen Television set. As funny as this may sound, it is largely unethical and can get you into real trouble.
The right thing you should do is to use the right testimonials.
Can You Get Sued for Copywriting?
Questions like this get most copywriters thinking or worried if they had cut corners while writing a copy. Yes, you can get sued for copywriting.
Copywriting is not illegal or unethical, but certain practices while writing a copy may be considered illegal or unethical. As long as you can avoid unethical practices while copywriting, you should not have any issues with a lawsuit.
But if you find yourself in a compromising position you may be sued, and if declared guilty you may go to jail or pay a specific fine.
What are the Rules for Copywriting?
There is no rigid set of rules in copywriting. However, to succeed as a copywriter, there are certain best practices you need to follow.
In this section, we will focus on six major copywriting best practices that will set you on the right track:
Know Your Prospect
Before you start writing, take a minute to think carefully about who your prospect is and what they enjoy doing.
Carry out in-depth research on your prospects. You need to gather information such as your target audience demographics: age, gender, educational level, professional background, and regular income.
Your research must not stop at the surface or general level. Dig deeper and discover vital information such as hobbies, habits, interests, what they permit and things they dislike, individual personality, and life goals.
With this information, you can better relate to your prospect’s pains and know to present the solution in the right way.
Test the Product or Service
Can you really effectively promote a product you don’t have detailed knowledge about? The answer is no.
Without knowing the product or service, your copy will not produce the desired result. You will struggle to write a high-converting ad. As a copywriter, it is unprofessional to write copy without knowing the product.
The simple solution is for you to acquire adequate knowledge and every available detail about the brand, services, visions, missions, and targeted audiences. It is vital because it serves as a guide while writing your copy.
Ensure Your Copy is Honest and not Overly Exaggerated
One major principle you must follow when writing a copy is that truth must be the top standard in your advertising. It may sound funny but it’s easier to sell truth than lies. Remember every lie will be discovered eventually.
Ensure every word, sentence, statement, or claim is true. Fact-check your copy to avoid any form of misleading statement, exaggerations, or dishonest claims.
For a moment put yourself in the prospect’s shoes. Imagine if you bought a product because what you say in the advert was compelling but you eventually discovered it was all a lie.
It will be unfair for you to subject someone else to such an experience. It’s important to remain truthful and honest about the product you are advertising with your copy.
For example, don’t say your product can make your prospect lose weight in two weeks when it can’t. Aim to build trust with your prospect. If their experiences match the claims in your copy, they are more likely to return and become loyal customers.
Take Advantage of Emotional Appeal
Appealing to your prospect’s emotions is a vital ingredient of a successful copy. Never forget that humans are emotional beings. They carry out most of their actions based on emotions.
If you will pattern your copy to appeal to their emotions, then you have a higher chance of making sales faster.
Most people purchase products or services for emotional reasons rather than logical reasons. Your goal is to create an emotional connection with your copy. You can use the storytelling technique which places the prospect as a major part of the story.
With this technique, the story becomes stuck in their mind causing them to act accordingly.
Know your Unique Selling Proposition
Your Unique Selling Proposition is what makes your product or service stand out from your competitors.
As a copywriter, you need to research the market and come up with attractive USPs for your target audience.
Compel Prospects to Take Action Now (CTA Button)
As long as your copy gives the prospect time to think about their actions, it’s not foolproof. Your job is to create urgency in the mind of your prospect to ensure they carry out the necessary action timely.
A simple CTA helps you guide your prospect to take the desired action. The call to action can be: Add to Cart, Place Order, and Pay Now.
How to Get Started with Copywriting
Copywriting can be a good side hustle.
Generally, a freelance copywriter can make over $50,000 to $140,000 per year. When it comes to agency copywriting, the average salary could range from $46,037 for junior copywriters and $88,210 for senior copywriters.
If you are new to copywriting, the best place to start from is to learn the skill from free resources like YouTube. Many top copywriters offer free YouTube tutorials.
Once you understand the basics of copywriting, you can now try out paid options to boost your copywriting skills.
Choose Your Unique Service
When it comes to copywriting, you cannot afford to be a jack of all trades. Choose a niche that you are well grounded in or where you have prior experience.
Don’t try to be everywhere, focus your attention on the niche you are well grounded in and be a master in that field.
Decide and Structure Your Prices
Except if you are running a charity organization, decide how much you will charge your clients.
Deciding on your prices is not a difficult task. The first place to consider is the rates of other copywriters with comparable experience levels who are offering similar services. Once you have discovered their rates, you can use them as a guide.
Also, you have to consider factors such as your utilities, health insurance, rent, and other business costs so you don’t run at a loss.
Arrange Your Portfolios
If you want to portray yourself as a professional, you can’t ignore an organized portfolio filled with high-quality work.
Your portfolios should largely contain your services, samples of your writing, and a detailed biography. Clients should get a sneak peek of what you can offer from reading your portfolio.
Build Strong and Reliable Networks
If you want to function as an island, you cannot survive as a copywriter. You need people to know about your skill. Apart from your family and friends being aware of what you do, you need a strong online presence.
Strategically setting up your social media profiles can help you get exposure to the right network. Be open to networking with other copywriters in your space.
It is LEGAL. What are You Waiting for?
The best way to learn any skill is to practice. While copywriting books, courses, and free YouTube videos can help you learn the skill, you will only become a good copywriter with practice.
If you are looking to get started quickly with copywriting, Jim Edward’s “Copywriting Secrets” is the book for you.
What are you waiting for? Take out time to practice. There is no perfect guide to starting copywriting, the more you write and edit your copy, the better it becomes.