What is a Copywriter?
“What do you do?”
“I’m a copywriter.”
“Oh great! Um… “
What’s a copywriter? I can tell that people want to ask, but they’re embarrassed I guess.
Others may have a vague idea… Something to do with spelling and grammar? A few think they know, but don’t.
This post is for everyone who’s ever wondered.
And if my fellow copywriters are reading this post, it’s for you too. Because let’s be honest, we all shed a silent tear when faced with that look of polite bewilderment.
First, let’s get a few misconceptions out of the way.
Here’s what copywriters are NOT
- We can’t help you with copyright law.
- We don’t edit someone else’s copy, we write it from scratch. Copy editing is an entirely different skill.
- We’re not proofreaders. Sure, we can spot errors at one thousand paces, but I refer you to the point made above.
I always think the word copywriter is misleading. It should be split in two. Copy writer.
So what DOES a copy writer do all day?
Our main output is words. However, you may be surprised to hear that we don’t spend most of our time writing.
Based on a typical copywriting project, and listed by the amount of time taken, here’s what I do all day:
- Keyword research (when SEO is required)
- Interviewing (and listening)
- Staring into space… thinking
- Reading stuff out loud and muttering
Hang on, what’s that you say? Interviewing?
Yep. The truth is, no copywriter on earth can do the job without being briefed. And that needs great interview skills and even greater active listening skills.
Here’s the kind of stuff that I ask before getting anywhere near my keyboard. They’ll vary from client to client, but just to give you an idea (take a deep breath)…
What do you do? How does it work? Who are your ideal customers? Are they familiar with the language of your industry? What problems do they have, and how do you solve them? What worries them? What do you help them achieve? What’s in it for them? Why should they choose you rather than your competitors? What makes you different? What prejudices do people have about your industry? What would stop them making a buying decision? If it’s fear of something, how do you allay those fears? How should people feel once they’ve read the content? What should they do next?
I can’t just make all that up.
Well, I could. But the chances of my uninformed copy meeting your requirements would be virtually zero.
What do copywriters write about?
Virtually anything, because copywriters are versatile creatures and most of us are fast thinkers. This is where research comes in.
Yes, we’ll learn the technical language of virtually any industry. But actually, unless your customer is already an expert (and they’re probably not, otherwise why would they need you?) much of the teccy stuff won’t be used.
We’ll sprinkle the copy with just enough technicalities to build trust, and `cushion’ them with benefit-led plain English.
We research how it’s done and then put ourselves in the shoes of a reader who really doesn’t care. We clearly demonstrates why they should take action.
Tone of voice
Copywriters are great mimics. This is my natural writing voice, but most copywriters are a bit… tarty. We can be anyone you want.
Every business has a voice. The trick is to adopt a tone that speaks as the business and to their customer. I’m a bridge between the two.
My own tone of voice really doesn’t come into it. Talking of which…
Copywriting is conversation
Have you noticed something about this blog post? It’s conversational, easy to read. It flows from one sentence to the next as though I’m talking to you.
To be honest, anyone who calls themselves a copywriter should have this ability. Using the written word to `speak’ comes naturally to me. It’s why I’m a professional copywriter, and the single biggest reason why people need me.
Over to you…
The dictionary definition of copywriter is this:
A writer of advertising or publicity copy.
Personally, I think that sucks. If I had to answer the question `What is a copywriter?’ in one sentence, it would be this:
A writer who makes a human connection with the reader and gives them good reasons to take action.
It’s still not perfect though. How would you answer that question in one sentence? I’d love to hear your ideas.