“So, what exactly does a copywriter do then?”
Oh man. I dread this question.
And it’s always followed by my garbled, floundering answer:
“Well, it’s writing copy. No, not like legal copyright. Not the little ‘c’ you see on… OK, like adverts, but like the words, not the pictures. Well…. like blogs and whitepap… NO! Not a blogger… like writing other people’s…OK. I’m a writer.”
Cue obligatory head tilt/confused expression/blank stare/feigning understanding.
Oh, how tough it is to be a misunderstood artist.
But the truth is, I get it. Before I embarked on my copywriting journey I was also a little clueless about what it actually entailed.
We all know the Mad Men-fuelled image of the “the writer”.
Drinking whiskey at 3am, staring at a blank screen amidst clouds of cigarette smoke. Only to suddenly – and heroically – overcome writer’s block and furiously type away til dawn.
Sorry to disappoint, folks. That’s not (always) the case.
Allow me to take you on a journey – that of the modern copywriter. What we do, why we’re important and how you can get started in this mysterious business.
Let’s jump in.
What is a copywriter?
(I repeat, it’s not copyright.)
You have a lizard brain.
Hold on, hear me out.
We all do – us humans. It’s the primal part of our brains that’s piloted by instincts – not reason and logic.
This lizard-type part of our brain is strongly triggered by emotion. And those feelings spark clever chemicals in the brain that help us to process info, making it memorable and creating connection.
Copywriters are trained to speak to the lizard brain, in a way that evokes feeling and ultimately drives action.
Simply put: Copywriters are not simply people writing words to fill a page.
We craft persuasive and engaging written content (also known as “copy”) to capture attention and drive a target audience to act. Like buying a product, signing up for a service, or simply engaging with a brand.
Sounds simple, right?
Why is copywriting important?
(Because, it’s easy. Anyone can write…right?)
Sad fact: The importance of copywriting is widely misunderstood.
Because contrary to popular belief, not anyone can be a copywriter.
Allow me to demonstrate.
Think of an ad campaign that really spoke to you.
(Maybe it’s a John Lewis Christmas sob-a-thon, for example. Or a motivational ‘Just Do it’ ad that immediately made you run out to buy some new gym-wear).
Well, those scripts weren’t just thrown together by the company mailman (although I bet he thinks he’s a copywriter, too).
They were written by experts: copywriters. Who used a whole ton of tools, techniques and tricks of the trade.
Which brings me nicely back to why we’re important:
Brands need us.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are many strong forces at play with marketing success – design, SEO, etc. And fair play to each and every one.
But without the words. The story. Emotion. Persuasion.
Tell me, where oh where would brands be?
What does a copywriter create?
(FYI, it’s not your personal blog).
Think of anywhere you’ve seen a brand promoting their product or service.
Well, chances are, a copywriter wrote them.
Copywriters will be tasked with crafting any (and not limited to) the following:
- Video scripts
- Billboard ads
- Radio ads
- Social media copy
- Email campaigns
- Marketing brochures
- Website copy
- Landing pages
- Blog posts and articles
- Product descriptions
- Slogans and company names
- EBooks and whitepapers
That’s just a snapshot.
And now with the competition hotting up out there for brands, and the emergence of new tech, there’s only more and more ways for copywriters to engage.
What exactly does a copywriter do?
(Little fact: The word ‘copy’ does not equal plagiarism).
A copywriter wears many hats – sometimes all at once.
The art of copywriting is much more than writing clever words.
In fact, there’s a lot that goes into awesome copy before a single tiny word is even put on the page.
Here’s a little look into the daily life of a copywriter, and what you might find yourself doing.
YOUR DETECTIVE HAT.
For real results, you’ll need to do your research.
That may be digging into new clients. Getting a picture of their brand, product/service, culture, past copy efforts and what their audience think about them.
And you’ll often find yourself having to research subjects. For example, say you’ve been tasked with writing about ‘How to survive a month-long trek to The Antarctic’, chances are you’ll have to school yourself on the subject!
YOUR CREATIVE HAT.
Time to let your creative juices flow. You’ll quite often be jumping from project to project, working with different tones of voice, different target audiences and different preferences per client.
But you’ll learn how to bring your creative copywriting into play, bowling your clients over with tricks, tips and techniques of the trade.
YOUR SALES HAT.
You’ll need to put yourself out there (especially when you’re starting out). And while it doesn’t come naturally to everyone, pitching to new clients can become a big part of the daily grind.
YOUR ORGANISED HAT.
As a freelance copywriter, keeping up-to-date with admin is key.
Processes and structure are vital to making sure you don’t miss a trick (i.e. deadlines, finances, meetings).
Daily admin could include:
- Sending invoices
- Updating project management tools
- Planning your calendar
- Doing tax returns
YOUR PROFESSIONAL HAT.
Clients love meetings. That’s one thing you’ll soon learn.
Whether you’re presenting work, taking a briefing call, or even interviewing for a project, you’ll find that Zoom meetings are a large part of working with clients directly.
But if you work with an agency directly, they’ll often manage the clients for you (bonus).
Is copywriting a growing business?
(Don’t fret, AI isn’t taking over)
Let me tell you a little secret: copywriting isn’t going anywhere.
We’ll be in demand for years to come. As more businesses pop up and show their presence online, there’s more demand for seasoned copywriters who can help grow their brand.
Also, AI is now on the scene, and it’s safe to say that there’s been a certain amount of scare-mongering involved.
But don’t worry, AI is not going to “take our jobs”.
AI may be clever, but it will never replace the human creativity of copywriters. In fact, it can help us out, if you learn how to harness its powers for the good.
Check out this TCC blog post all about it.
Effective techniques for copywriting
(Shhh…keep them a secret).
The freelance copywriters toolkit is packed to the brim. These (proven) skills are what sets us apart from the everyday writer and gets our clients real results.
These are just some of the techniques we use to work our magic:
Create a conversation
Fact: readers hate jargon. They’ve heard it all before. They don’t relate to it. And it can be a big turn-off.
You want to engage your reader with conversational language. Reel them in by asking a question. Speak directly to them using ‘The Power of You’ technique.
With copy that’s easy-to-understand, digestible, and compelling, reeling the audience in and gripping their attention.
The Big Chop
Remember – copywriting is different from writing a novel.
You don’t want pages full of clunky paragraphs and long sentences.
You want choppy copy that creates space.
That naturally draws the reader’s eye to the next line.
Don’t make them work for info – or they’ll likely switch off and look elsewhere.
‘Home alone, she hears a strange noise outside her front door.
Weird, she thinks, I’ve never heard that before.
She cautiously tip-toed down the stairs…and goes OUTSIDE to check it out.’
Yep you’ve guessed it, it’s the age-old horror film scene.
We’ve seen it a million times – because it’s effective.
Imagine for one moment, she hadn’t gone outside to meet her doom. She’d ignored the noise. Had a cup of tea. And went to bed.
Doesn’t have quite the same gripping effect, does it?
Humans all love a story. And if you use it in your copywriting? You can build anticipation, paint a vivid picture, evoke emotion, create excitement and connection.
Learn more about the power of storytelling here.
Metaphors, analogies and similes
Analogies make your copy tap, dance and sing. So your message resonates powerfully in the mind of your audience, gripping their attention and sticking in their memory like the catchiest pop song of the moment.
For more top copywriting techniques, check out this blog post by HubSpot
How to become a copywriter with no experience.
Have you always dreamed of working for yourself? Would you like to be creative on the daily while working from anywhere in the world?
Don’t let no experience hold you back.
Here’s some advice on how to get started.
Practice (then practice some more).
Read. Write. Learn. Get feedback from friends, family, basically anyone who will listen.
Lean on those who you trust to give you honest feedback – and ask them to get specific with it. And get specific with it.
You should fully prepare yourself for rejections, but don’t be discouraged – that’s how we learn.
You have to learn to have a tough shell in copywriting. Putting your creative creation out there can be terrifying, but there’s no room for sensitivity. You’re not going to please everyone.
Network like crazy.
Join online platforms, attend local marketing events (or ones for other writers) anywhere where you get the opportunity to meet new clients.
You can also join copywriting groups like LinkedIn, Facebook or Reddit to connect with other writers and professionals.
Invest in a copywriting course.
This is where the real journey starts.
You may be a natural writer, but copywriting is a powerful mix of art and science and is not something you can just walk into without learning.
Now, imagine a course where you could learn from copywriting experts – and be part of an online community of budding copywriters, sharing work and your journey as you go.
Why not take a peek at the The Creative Copywriter Academy? The very place where my copywriting journey began.
The Copywriter: The Writer. The Myth. The Legend.
There you have it.
A break-down of what makes a copywriter a copywriter.
And hopefully I’ve done this justice (or I may very well hang up my pen in shame).
ONE LAST REMINDER: Becoming a successful copywriter takes time and effort. Persistence, continuous learning, and a strong work ethic will be your allies going forward.
Good luck – you’ve got this.