When most people think about the term ‘copywriter’, they imagine someone in an ad agency who writes those long-form sales letters and eye-catching captions for online and print ads. And for some copywriters that’s true.
A digital copywriter might specialise in one form of copywriting, or work across several different types, but basically, what they do is write words that sell something, whether it’s a product or a service.
A digital copywriter differs from a digital content writer simply by the fact that copywriters write to sell, and content writers write to educate.
While they use many of the same skills as copywriters who write offline materials, such as printed brochures, posters, catalogues and leaflets, and while there may be some crossover in their job, digital copywriters concentrate only on online content, such as website landing page copy, blog and article writing, crafting compelling social media posts, and writing emails.
You might be a technical copywriter, a marketing copywriter, an advertising copywriter, a medical copywriter… There are so many options to choose from that, whatever your background and experience, chances are there’s a copywriting job that will suit you.
To illustrate the difference between content writing and copywriting, let’s look at the role of the technical copywriter:
Technical writers put together user guides and technical manuals for products, often writing manuals that engineers will use when maintaining or repairing an item.
Technical copywriters, on the other hand, have expertise in a particular technology, science or engineering field, but their copy is written to sell an item rather than to teach how to use it or repair it.
Their knowledge is needed to put across the highly technical benefits in a clear and appealing manner so that potential buyers understand why they should purchase.
So, what does a digital copywriter do all day?
While ‘write copy’ is correct, it’s not all a copywriter does.
Whether they are freelance or they work for a company, there are plenty of other things involved in a digital copywriting job.
a) Meeting clients
Agency writers have to meet and deal with the clients that come through the agency, while freelance writers often meet potential clients in order to persuade them to use their service.
Either way, there will be an initial meeting, either in person or via software such as Zoom, to establish what the client wants, their goals and aims for the copywriting project, who their target market is, their brand voice and how the project will move forward.
After that, especially if it’s a large project, there are likely to be further meetings to check progress, make adjustments, if necessary, and handle edits and give feedback.
b) Managing projects
Not every copywriter has the luxury of just writing all day. Some of them have to manage multiple projects, establish timelines, ensure they can meet deadlines, and allocate work to other writers or to other creatives, such as web designers or graphic designers.
A good proportion of a typical week can be allocated to planning.
While copywriters often have a wide knowledge of many different subject areas, everyone has their favourites, and sometimes projects require that research is done before any writing can be put on the page.
Writers may need to look up statistics, research a particular subject more deeply, look up who the experts are in a particular area, or even learn how to use a new software or product before they can write about it.
A digital copywriter might need to leave the comfort of their office, and meet experts to interview for an article. They might want to get quotes from people who use a product or service, or do a detailed interview with a company CEO.
No writer produces a perfect first draft, no matter how experienced they are, so editing is a vital skill. Not only that, but sometimes clients haven’t given enough of a brief or they change their minds on what they want, and edits have to be made to get the right result.
f) Sourcing images
Clients often prefer the copywriter to find and supply the perfect images for their copy. With such a huge range of stock photo sites online, you’d think that would be easy, but if the client wants something very specific, looking for just the right shot can take time, and should be factored in when billing.
g) Planning and implementing marketing campaigns
While this might not necessarily be what you’d expect to find in a digital copywriting job, some copywriters do offer a full service that includes running the whole marketing campaign.
h) Admin, accounts and the bits that aren’t creative
Sorry to break it to you, but it’s not all sipping cappuccinos while throwing out sexy slogans and being creative. Even digital copywriters get to do admin tasks, such as organising work into files, billing, chasing invoices, dealing with clients, answering emails and other fun stuff that goes with working in an office.
What do digital copywriters write?
Whatever their clients need! Blog posts, case studies, advertorials, articles, ebooks, online magazine copy, social media content, email sequences and a whole lot more.
You can read more about the different types of copywriting in our article.
Copywriters work across different industries, clients and subjects, so adaptability is a must. But what other skills might you need?
• Great writing skills (obviously!)
• Excellent grammar, spelling and punctuation skills
• The ability to adapt to different client tones of voice
• Organisational skills
• Time management
• People skills
• The ability to look at your own work from a distance and edit it
• The ability to work on more than one project at once
• Project management skills
While digital copywriting is a fun, varied and challenging job, you need to be able to keep a lot of balls in the air at once to do the job well, so one other thing to consider is that you do need to make time for yourself, and watch that you get your work/life balance right. An exhausted copywriter isn’t a creative one, and you’ll do yourself and your clients no favours by working yourself to the point of burnout.
If you think digital copywriting might be for you, it really can be a brilliant career, with the chance to manage your own time and your own projects, work with creative people and even work from home in your pyjamas, if you want to.
If you’d like to learn more, Red-Fern have a really useful article on improving as a digital copywriter and you can read our own guide on how to become a copywriter.