February 25th, 2022

What You Need to Know to Be a Finance Copywriter

Written by Dean Kritikos

Dean is a writer and educator born and raised in New York City. Creatively, he focuses on poetry and critical essays; as a copywriter, he’s found a niche in Technical Writing. Dean writes and edits content for a variety of technical verticals, manages communications with existing and potential clients, and oversees the development of Copycat’s technical team, producing training materials and onboarding new writers.

Of all the verticals you may stumble across as a copywriter, one of the most vexing is finance.

It’s technical, yet it needs to be widely accessible. It’s high stakes, with readers depending on you, the writer, for advice that’ll materially impact their lives. And, of course, it’s finicky—there’s a truism that stock market speculation and gambling are more similar than they are different.

So, what does it take to make it as a financial copywriter, despite these challenges?

Becoming a finance copywriter is about working smarter, not harder. Read on for three essential areas you’ll need to cover to hit gold in finance writing—your subject, audience, and client.

Requirement #1: Know the Lay of the Land in Finance

As with any vertical (lifestyle, technology, etc.), success in financial copywriting depends heavily on subject-specific knowledge. Finance is an incredibly broad subject, though, with no shortage of niches and sub-verticals within it. For example, consider this spread of inter-related subjects:

  • Banking and wealth management
  • Credit, debit, and payment cards
  • Personal finance and budgeting
  • Speculative assets and investments
  • Entrepreneurship and small business
  • Insurance and other financial products

Any so-called expert might have a wealth of knowledge in one of these subjects but not know much about the others. The best financial copywriters will have at least a basic understanding across all of them, and more. But, more importantly, they’ll know where to look for information when they aren’t sure about something. Financial expertise is a practice, not a possession.

It’s also not enough to only know finance proper. You need to understand the conventions in finance writing, as well. Namely, what do people talk about, and how, when they’re talking about finance?

How Finance Writing Differs From Various Other Verticals

Finance copy isn’t necessarily unique because it offers advice. Nor is it unique because the advice can have a major impact on readers’ lives—the same can be said of many lifestyle verticals, like health and wellness blogs. Where finance copy differs, and where it bears similarities to other technical verticals, is that you need to balance conviction and hedges.

The last thing you want to do, as a finance copywriter, is ghostwrite advice that a reader takes, then decides to sue your client over. You need to balance any advice given with disarming language like “might” or “could”—just like in legal or medical copy, where you can’t give your readers the impression that your words are akin to an attorney’s counsel or a doctor’s orders.

For example, if you’re writing a recommendation roundup, like Nerdwallet’s feature on credit cards with pre-qualification, you want to make sure to never directly state that the reader will get a given benefit. Instead, make claims about where offers may start, for eligible parties. Note how the writer here includes conditionals with nearly every claim about a given card’s benefits.

Another unique element, related to this, is audience variance in finance. Many other verticals are focused on either:

  • Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing
  • Business-to-business (B2B) marketing 

In finance, you’re often writing to both—it’s a field where the personal and professional collide.

Requirement #2: Understand What Your Readers Need

The next thing you absolutely need to know as a finance copywriter is what your readers are most interested in learning. This goes hand in hand with what client you’re writing for (see #3 below), but it also requires some general knowledge of what audiences care about, and why.

Good advice for one reader might be terrible advice, or simply not applicable, for another.

For example, consider these two blogs intended for two different audiences from The Balance’s main site, focused on personal finance, and its sister site, focused on finance for small businesses:

  • How to Make a Personal Budget in 6 Easy Steps is an introductory piece, created as part of a Budgeting 101 series. Its insights are relatively basic, catering to an audience of newcomers to personal finance. This is also echoed in the casual, friendly voice. Examples like the note about using software rather than paper accounting likely wouldn’t be very useful to a more business-savvy reader, but they can effectively funnel a newcomer further into the basics of budgeting.

  • In What Happens If You Don't Pay Business Income Tax?, the writer is clearly speaking to an audience of more knowledgeable entrepreneurs. The content is tighter and more specific, incorporating more figures and references and fewer voicey flourishes. A novice non-business reader would have little use for much of the information here. Since that’s not the target audience, there’s less of a need to cater to them and more freedom to use jargon readers can be expected to know.

Neither of these pieces is better or more effective than the other; their differences show two sides of the same coin—literally, the same parent website—in targeting finance copy audiences.

Go Topical! How to Feast on Trends and Current Events

One great way to get the creative juices flowing is looking at current events, whether directly related to finance or tangentially impactful on the field. For example, every finance blog worth its weight (in bitcoin?) has published countless updates and takes about crypto and NFTs. That’s no accident—it’s because, for better or worse, readers are hungry for news they can use.

One-off events, such as the Gamestonk fiasco of early 2021, are great fodder for short-form reporting and commentary. This Business Insider piece is essentially a summary of Elon Musk’s “Gamestonk”  tweet and the immediate aftermath of Gamestop’s unsustainable boom. 

But focusing on current events doesn’t necessarily mean producing short, sound-byte articles.

Consider this New Yorker article on the broader ascendance of Robinhood, which gave rise to the Gamestop short squeeze. It’s a robust mediation on whether what these apps are doing is a democratization of finance—or a way to prey on risk-hungry novices—punctuated by gorgeous narrative structure. Granted, the kinds of content your clients are looking for may not be as detailed or reflective (meditations aren’t a clear-cut part of the sales funnel). Still, any trend could be the seed for a riveting story, no matter how short-lived the real world phenomenon is.

Requirement #3: Integrate Client Branding 

The last essential thing to master when becoming a finance copywriter is fluency in the specific voices your target clients utilize. A successful copywriter is like a chameleon, switching colors according to its surroundings. In finance, this requires familiarizing yourself with the major players to get a sense of what they share and what transcends differences between them.

A Motley Fool explainer on a given stock price’s jump is going to read very differently from a Penny Hoarder primer on how to improve your credit score. Like above, neither is better than the other—they just serve different purposes. The former is quicker and more news-like, while the latter is much more personal. Part of this has to do with audience expectations, as noted above. But more of it has to do with brand identity—how each company positions itself.

To understand identity, you’ll need to scour a brand’s About pages and blogs, along with their social media presence. Read everything you can, asking yourself questions like:

  • What does the organization value?
  • How does it address its readers?
  • What does it assume about them or their knowledge?
  • How sales-oriented does the language sound?

The answers to these, along with wide and deep reading in finance, will help you write like a seasoned veteran for any finance client—well-established institutions and startups alike.

Or, Cultivate Your Own Unique Branding

Another approach altogether is learning the rules of engagement specifically to break them.

One of the most successful and infamous finance blogs around bucks nearly all the conventions of the more traditional companies cited throughout this article. Mr. Money Moustache takes a lifestyle approach to finance, eschewing bet-hedging for brash overstatements, politeness for (mild) profanity, and industry-wide jargon for newly coined terms like “Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome. From this, the blog has garnered something of a cult following, going back over 10 years to April 2011.

How has this style worked so well for this distinctive blogger? 

The seemingly radical approach belies the writer’s adherence to sound fundamentals and responsiveness to community demands. The blog regularly answers questions that Mr. Money Mustache receives himself, whether via email or through the vibrant comments section on the blog. And the advice he provides has been remarkably consistent from the first post until the present day: radical austerity (branded as happiness and optimism). These are elements long-term readers have clearly internalized themselves, as evidenced by the guest posts and discussion in the comment sections.

Do you have to do these things to be a successful finance writer? No. But it can’t hurt to develop your own brand identity and voice, outside of what you produce for your clients.

Copycat Copywriters: Boutique, Blue Chip Financial Copy

To recap from above, what does becoming a finance copywriter entail? You’ll need to know your industry inside and out, from general best practices to specific niches. You’ll also need to get inside the mind of finance copy readers, understanding the differences between personal and business-focused content. And, finally, you’ll need to understand the clients you’re writing for and be able to emulate their voices—or, if you’re up to it, cultivate a style all your own.

Copycat Copywriters has crafted financial writing teams for fintech, insurance, and other financial services organizations. We’re dedicated to training our writers in the ins-and-outs detailed above and assuring quality of final products through our in-house engine. Invest in gold-standard financial copy and sound SEO marketing to take your finance blog to new heights!

Sources: 

The balance. How to Make a Personal Budget in 6 Easy Steps. https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-make-a-budget-1289587

The balance SMB. What Happens If You Don't Pay Business Income Tax? https://www.thebalancesmb.com/late-payment-of-business-taxes-397688

Business Insider. GameStop explodes another 157% higher after Elon Musk's 'Gamestonk' tweet extends Reddit-driven short squeeze.  https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/gamestop-stock-price-elon-musk-gamestonk-tweet-extends-trading-rally-2021-1

Investopedia. Going All-In: Investing vs. Gambling.  https://www.investopedia.com/articles/basics/09/compare-investing-gambling.asp

The Motley Fool. Why Nvidia Stock Jumped Today. https://www.fool.com/investing/2021/10/26/why-nvidia-stock-jumped-today/

Mr. Money Mustache. Cure Yourself of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome.  https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/12/26/cure-yourself-of-tiny-details-exaggeration-syndrome/

Mr. Money Mustache. Meet Mr. Money Mustache. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/06/meet-mr-money-mustache/

Nerdwallet. Credit Cards That Offer Pre-Qual or Preapproval Without a Hard Pull. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/credit-cards/credit-cards-that-offer-preapproval-without-a-hard-pull

The New Yorker. Robinhood’s Big Gamble. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/05/17/robinhoods-big-gamble

The Penny Hoarder. This Guy Raised His Credit Score nearly 170 Points — Here’s How You Could Raise Yours. https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/about/?aff_sub2=guy-raised-credit-score-nearly-170-points-heres-raise

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