As a copywriter, I’m pretty used to the blank expression I get when trying to explain my job to someone outside of my industry.
“A copy-what? Is that to do with trademarking things?”
“A copywriter? You mean like Don Draper? That’s awesome! I wish I got to sit around all day drinking and smoking while thinking up slogans!”
As any copywriter in the real world knows, neither of the above assumptions are true. Well, the second one might be – if you work in advertising copywriting. But most of the copywriters in ad agencies I know tell me it’s nothing like the way Mad Men portrays. Except maybe the drinking part.
Advertising copywriting is actually just one type of copywriting. You might be a technical writer, who writes the nitty gritty info inside a manual. Or perhaps you’re a medical copywriter, with the task of ensuring all the content you produce is clinically accurate. Smoking and drinking on that job would definitely not be appropriate.
But if you’re reading this as a business owner, or an aspiring business owner, you’re more likely to be interested in commercial copywriting. And if you’re not, then you really should be. It’s essential you understand not only what copywriting is, but how beneficial it is to selling your product or service.
But before we explore how a copywriter actually spends their days, we must start at the beginning:
What is copywriting?
At its core, copywriting is the art of strategically communicating words (either written or spoken) that influence people to take some sort of action. Simple, right?
Well, it actually should be. See, unlike other forms of writing – such as journalism or fiction – copywriting should make an impact with as few words as possible. When it comes to copywriting, less really is more.
Another way of explaining copywriting is that it’s the science of arranging words to make things sell. Because let’s face it, whether you’re trying to make someone open an email, subscribe to your mailing list or follow your social media pages, ultimately you want them to invest both time and money in your product or service.
Different types of copywriting
Copywriting comes in many shapes and sizes, even though at its core its intention is the same. Whether you’re writing savvy subject lines or detailed long form blog posts, copywriting should be well-written and engaging.
One of the most important forms of copywriting (and my personal favourite) is writing website content. This is where you really set the tone of voice for your brand, and it’s important to get your story across in a clear and engaging way.
I always like to begin with writing an ‘About Us’, as it’s where you have room to express your brand’s story, as well as your business goals and aspirations. Make sure you utilise your ‘About Us’ to its highest advantage. This is often where a user will begin their journey, and the last thing you want is for them to be bored and contribute to your bounce rate.
If your product or service is the beating heart of your business, then your marketing copy is the lungs. Marketing copy can be anything from writing a subject line and EDM to an Instagram caption or tweet. It could also be writing a press release or affiliate copy… pretty much anything that spreads the word about your business through – you guessed it – words.
Subject lines and social media posts are particularly important and difficult to get right. This is because you have a really small space to make a really big impact. For this reason, I personally find writing with small character counts the most challenging and rewarding kind of copywriting. There’s something about being really clever within a 140 character limit that gets a copywriter’s blood moving (I know, it’s sickening, isn’t it?).
Perhaps one of the most important forms of copywriting in the digital world, Search Engine Optimisation copywriting is crucial when it comes to getting your business ranking. By using keywords and creating quality and engaging copy, you’ll see your website rise higher in the pages of search engines over time.
And the best part? SEO copywriting is organic, which means you don’t need to spend a dime (except for the generous fee you’re paying your copywriter, of course!). Paid ranking opportunities are definitely worth looking into, but if you get your SEO copywriting right – you shouldn’t have to go down this route. Save your money for other marketing techniques!
Yes, copywriting needs to be commercial. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be creative too. In fact, the best examples of copywriting are born out of creative ideas. Think of your favourite slogan, or radio jingle. It all stems from one person’s concept, or a brainstorming session with a group of creative minds.
A creative copywriter will usually be paired with an Art Director, who will use their visual talents to align with a copywriter’s wordsmith ways. When a talented copywriter and designer come together, this is when magic really happens. But it doesn’t always work, which is why a business will do its best not to let go of a decent creative duo!
It’s not all creative ideas and “think-outside-the-box” brainstorming when it comes to copywriting. Technical writers, for instance, may not have started out as writers at all, but are instead highly knowledgeable in a specific field and later trained to write technical documentation. Personality is strictly prohibited in technical writing, as the aim is to communicate the specifics of a product or service.
That said, technical writing is not to be confused with technical copywriting. It’s the task of a technical copywriter to simplify a technical subject so it comes across easier to understand to a user. Make sense? If not, I might need to sharpen up on my own technical copywriting skills!
What does a copywriter do?
Now you know the different types of copywriting there is, it makes it easier to break down how exactly a copywriter might spend their day. A copywriter’s duties can include any (or all) of the below:
- Writing for web
- Writing marketing collateral
- Pitching to clients
- Following briefs
- Developing a tone of voice
- Creating a style guide
- Writing copy for social media
- Writing press releases
- And much, much more!
As you can see, copywriting comes in many fabulous forms – but one thing remains the same. It has to be well-crafted, engaging, and able to provoke the user to act. Whether you want your customer to learn more, sign up or buy now – it’s all about finding the right words and assembling them in the most powerful way.
But aside from all that, let’s face it – copywriting is also about guzzling down copious amounts of coffee and binging on Netflix shows. Between deadlines, of course.