If you’ve ever heard someone describe themselves as being a ‘copywriter’, you have probably established for yourself that their job must involve some kind of writing. But just exactly what does a copywriter do? Can anyone who puts pen to paper determine themselves as a copy writer? Do they just write legal ‘copy’ that is then copyrighted?
What is a copywriter?
Essentially, a copywriter will typically produce content that is considered to be either advertorial or promotional. That’s not to say they don’t write on any other subject, but often they will be responsible for producing the ‘copy’ (or content) that is used on websites, e-mails, advertisements, brochures, billboards, press releases, company memos, leaflets, and promo video scripts.
This is only a loose description though, and there are many types of copywriting out there. Typically, copywriters are becoming increasingly responsible for producing a lot of digital content including blogs and social media copy. As the influence of the written word continues to show itself, the copywriter role is becoming ever-more important in business. Articulate Marketing adds to this, remarking: “Not all copywriters are advertising copywriters. This in itself causes some confusion as the latter is the more famous (especially after the phenomenon that was Mad Men)… Medical copywriters have their own special niche… To be a copywriter is beyond definition, but it’s fair to say that one thing binds us together: we all work with words on a daily basis.”
As the American Writers & Artists Inc note, “Copy is everywhere — it’s part of a $2.3 trillion industry worldwide… Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to purchase, opt-in, or engage with a product, service, or company. That’s why a copywriter is often referred to as ‘a salesman in print’.”
What does a copywriter do?
No matter who you are working for or what type of work you are doing, there are some key responsibilities that a copywriter will take on. These are not exclusive, nor applicable to all, but typically you can expect to be responsible for:
- Writing (obviously!)
- Rewriting/repurposing content
- Transcribing or conducting interviews
- Turning interviews into articles
- Creating a social media schedule or blog schedule
- Sourcing images
- Planning and implementing a marketing campaign
- Establishing a brand ‘voice’
Direct Creative go into this in more detail on their website, with a useful overview of all the types of writing you could be doing.
As Articulate Marketing note, “What’s important to understand is that while words are the main output of a copywriter, writing isn’t necessarily what we spend most of our time doing. We have to do a lot of research and thinking, tweaking and formatting, and a bunch of other seemingly peripheral tasks.”
They continue, “In fact, we often say here at Articulate that for a writing project you should spend half your time researching, a third editing and only a sixth actually writing the thing. Despite what some people think, copywriting is a lot more than just ‘wordsmithing’.”
Copywriting vs copyright
It’s important to note that the copywriter role does not have anything to do with copyright, although these two areas are commonly muddled up by those who don’t realize the difference. Copyright is where a company or individual has got the legal rights to either publish, sell, distribute or reproduce a piece of work – either visual, musical, artistic or written.
Copyright is about protecting a piece of material from illegal use. The right to any copy will be determined either by the person who has produced it, or whoever holds the legal right to a piece of work. Often, copy that is produced by a copywriter for a business will be owned by the person who paid for it, rather than the writer, which means that it should always be unique (both to avoid infringing the intellectual property of other writers and as SEO best practice). However, this should not be mistaken for copyright as the copywriter does not create ‘copyright’ content as part of their job.
Becoming a copywriter
One of the greatest bonuses to being a copywriter is that you don’t actually need any formal qualifications in order to be able to do this role. Some people will have a variety of degrees in a range of subjects, and others will have left school with no qualifications.
Copywriting is open to all age groups from 18 to 80. Whether you’re still studying, employed by a business, self-employed or retired – there are no restrictions on who can become a copywriter. The only thing you absolutely need is a computer, access to the Internet and a love of words – or a natural ability to produce articulate, well-formed copy.
Often people hiring copywriters will look for examples of previous work, so having a portfolio can be particularly helpful. It’s always good to be able to show a range of work so people can see the full range of your abilities. Typically, when it comes to must-have copywriting skills, clients will want to see that you are versatile, a quick learner, a great writer, and consistent with meeting deadlines and quality of work.
Where does a copywriter work?
You may find yourself writing copy for a single business, who could hire you full-time to produce all of their marketing and advertorial materials. The type of client you end up working for could range dramatically from their requirements with copy to the industry they’re operating within. Typically they will be looking to push a product or service and will be expecting you to help them sell it.
Along with full-time options, you may find yourself able to work on a part-time or freelance basis. Some businesses will want to have you in the office so they can work alongside you, while others won’t mind if you are working remotely. This often suits parents with young children who have taken time off work but still want to be able to earn an income flexibly.
Alternatively, you may be interested in writing copy for an agency or a copywriting website such as Copify. The benefits of this are that you don’t need to have the stresses or hassle of finding the work yourself and building relationships. This work is all done for you, and you are instead presented with a list of articles that need completing.
You can select jobs as and when your schedule allows without any full-time commitments and can see how much you will earn at the time of writing. The money you make is guaranteed income, and you don’t have any of the hassle of having to send out invoices, chase money and wait for it to be sent over. Instead, you’ll get your earnings – often within a month – straight into your bank account. It couldn’t be easier and is a great way to dip your toe into the copywriting water.
A fantastic career choice
As the American Writers & Artists Inc. notes, “The rumours are true. A career as a freelance copywriter is a pretty cushy ‘job.’ You can work at home, take naps in the middle of the day, vacation a lot, and get paid really well… For example, one copywriter I know works decent hours, not only on copywriting, but also on the growth and development of her freelance business. She makes over $120,000 a year.”
Ultimately, with copywriting you can make it fit in around your life, or make it the sole focus of your life. It is flexible, dynamic and no two days are the same. It can be as profitable as you like, with a work flow that suits whatever you’re seeking to achieve. It’s an enviable career path to take!
Image credit: Giuseppe Milo, ‘Issues’