Whether you call the role a copy writer or copywriter, you’re essentially referring to the same thing in the end. It’s generally meant to be one word – like firefighter – and essentially it’s the title of anyone who turns ideas and words into campaigns, marketing material and compelling copy.
Through words, you are able to sell an idea, brand or ideology to people, delivering valuable content while also developing a personality for your brand and introducing them to whatever concept or idea you want them to learn more about.
Sometimes copy is written with the intention of boosting SEO (also known as ‘search engine optimisation’) and enables you to ensure Google is also reading your words in the best possible way.
For some, becoming a copywriter is a natural progression. Maybe you’ve taken a job in marketing or PR and it’s one of the requirements of your role. Perhaps you’ve fallen into it from another job role, or maybe you studied language as part of your degree or college training and it’s led you to write for a living.
For some, writing is undertaken alongside other work. Even some of the biggest names in fiction had to pay the bills; Stephen King started off as a janitor, Harper Lee was an airlines reservation attendant, Douglas Adams was a bodyguard, Sophie Kinsella was a financial journalist, Nicholas Sparks sold dental products and Agatha Christie was an apothecaries’ assistant.
One copywriter’s journey
My own background involved becoming a copywriter through studying, first for an English degree, followed by an English Masters. Writing was always in my blood, even from a young age. However, I never fully knew what I wanted to do with it.
Like many who have a passion for writing, as a young child I’d idealised becoming the next J.K. Rowling – but it seemed such a long and arduous journey writing hefty novels with only a limited chance of success. Plus, as I got older, I had less inclination to sit and write lengthy prose. That took me into the mindset of journalism, constantly pitching different articles that I wanted to write for print and online. As I started to do this, I honed my craft and learnt more about what people wanted to read and how it ought to be written. I got better as a writer, but still – it wasn’t particularly rewarding financially. You can’t pay your bills with a by-line. No one is going to get their electric covered thanks to ‘exposure’.
Another problem is that, nowadays, every man and his dog sees themselves as a writer thanks to social platforms giving us all a voice online. The challenge is, not everyone can write, and therefore while it may seem easy (after all, most us know how to put letters together correctly), doing it well is truly a trade of its own and a profession that only those who are trained and experienced can fully master.
The multiple lessons of copywriting
It was from this that I tripped into copywriting and, from starting just over a year ago, I’ve not stopped – with just under 700 articles under my belt. I’ve learnt a huge amount in this time, from the hundreds of different topics I have covered as a writer. I’ve learnt so much information I never knew I could be interested in, and covered such a vast expanse of subject matter. Every day truly has been different as a result.
I’ve also developed my ability to type and think quickly. To know how to craft the perfect article or sentence within a matter of minutes, sometimes almost subconsciously, so in tune is my brain with the job role. It’s cliche to say, but certainly true when people claim ‘practice makes perfect’. It really does – the more you type and the more you write, the more natural and second nature it becomes.
As a copywriter, you also develop the ability to understand how businesses operate, what they are seeking to achieve, and how the work you’re doing fits into the larger marketing picture. I thought I understood SEO before I became a copywriter, but this all developed substantially after beginning. Likewise, I didn’t realise just how important blogging is for a business, and how many were willing to work with a copywriter or ghost writer to ensure their business was saying what needed to be said in the best possible way. Suddenly I realised people truly valued these skills.
Even the best writers have learnt key lessons. As Neil Gaiman once said, “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.”
And, as Tara Moss commented, “Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it – and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.”
A rewarding career
Sure, it’s a lot of hard work and isn’t easy to constantly challenge yourself with new topics or new businesses that already have a developed house style. Writing can be very subjective and there are going to be times when you don’t get it right first time around. You are doing a job for an individual or business working to a copywriting brief, so it isn’t just about what you like the sound of (as can be the case with other types of writing). It needs to serve a clear purpose, have a strong and cohesive tone of voice, and align with their brand and house style. If it’s a fun and hip brand, they won’t want anything too corporate. You need to be able to juggle different types of writing with various audiences and interests.
However, it will all be worth it. You will eventually become a much better editor, and therefore far more skilled and adept writer, as a result – and this can only stand you in good stead as time goes on.
For those looking to develop their copywriting skills, there are three ways of doing so – one is practice, the second is research (i.e. reading lots of blogs, articles, etc, on the topic of copywriting and those written by copywriters), and the third is taking a copywriting training course to learn more about what is required and develop your skills. People like to see a portfolio of work so whatever you do, make sure you keep writing – and have a record of everything you’ve done.
Finally, good luck – enjoy the ride! You never know where it’s going to take you…
In the meantime, why not find out more about whether you’re copy writing or copywriting?