The Lowdown on Copywriting

Who For? Brands looking to hire copywriters; aspiring copywriters.
How Long?
4 Minutes

What’s a copywriter?

I get a lot of mixed responses when I say that I’m a copywriter. Most people don’t know what it is. Others are fairly sure that I’m responsible for keeping copyright laws in check…snoooorrre. I’ve even been asked if it means that I’m “like a typist from the old days”. For all of these, it’s a no. Just…no.

So when I hear the inevitable question: “And what do you do?” I’ve found that it’s easier to simply respond: “I’m like Peggy in Mad Men, circa Season 7”. Most people get that.

But copywriting has moved on from booze-filled meetings of schmoozing clients. And it doesn’t just centre on direct advertising anymore, either. It includes digital marketing, branding, social media – all the words and images that attract us to a particular organisation.

This post explains what copywriting is, how the process works and why businesses can benefit a great deal from our kind.

Who’s it for?

Copywriting involves creating content for…well, anyone who wants it. Let’s say a start-up company, with no content or even brand to speak of. That company might need a word wizard to work some magic. So they hire a full-term copywriter to be their go-to for all content – sections of their website, any promotional material and internal/external communications like vision or mission statements.

Of course, these are often handled by the marketing department or an internal communications team if the organisation has one. Still, having a full-time writer on board, who acts as the first idea generator and the final pair of eyes for anything going out the door, can be invaluable for many businesses.

Other brands, especially the more established ones, often outsource their content to agencies.

For instance…

An NGO might work with an advertising agency to create print, digital and experiential content around a specific event or campaign.

A popular soft drink brand might have a dedicated team within a creative agency to handle all of their social media.

A popular soft drink brand might have a dedicated team within a creative agency to handle all of their social media.

A skincare brand might call on a multimedia agency to launch a series of radio, TV, YouTube and digital display ads.

These scenarios often involve the client on one side and client services on the agency side. They act as intermediaries between the client and the creative team, which includes designers, developers and yes, there we are – copywriters. Client services pass us on a brief that they’ve worked on with the client and we present our resulting ideas to the client. A few (sometimes several) iterations later, these pieces form the advertising material and other content with which you engage every day.

Still with me? Great.

Copywriters also work on a freelance basis. Since many agencies don’t have the resources to hire a full-time internal writer, they rely on the services of freelancers for specific projects that could run from a few days to several months. Or the client might approach the copywriter directly; whether it’s to supply text for an ‘About Us’ page on their website or even to proofread and edit their dissertation. A freelancer’s job list is pretty varied.

I used to be a full-time agency copywriter. Then I decided that I’d like the freedom of working as a freelancer, in terms of the jobs I could choose and the fact that it would allow me to work directly with clients, helping them to realise their vision without the need for a middleman.

Since going freelance, I’ve worked on short-term campaigns for agencies, one-off content pieces for individual clients and a longer-term, part-time gig for a start-up agency. Depending on which they prefer, I write from home or base myself in their office for an agreed period of time.

How it works…

It’s hard to explain exactly, as the process differs depending on the job at hand. But here’s one example for clarity:

Say you’ve just opened up a beauty salon. It’s something you feel really passionately about and you’ve spent years doing training courses, applying for a loan and finding a place to rent. Now your business is ready to go but you need to create some content that’ll attract customers, like a website and brochures. You’d also love to be one of those businesses with a great social media presence, one that runs a weekly blog that people actually read and engage with. But grammar isn’t your greatest friend and anyway, you haven’t got the time to spend your afternoons coming up with content ideas.

So what do you do? Well, you turn to a copywriter for help! You’ll most likely have come across samples of their writing already or if it’s a bigger job, you could call them in for an interview and ask to see their portfolio. This gives the writer a chance to find out your requirements and to provide a quote for the job. The writer’s fees may be based on an hourly, daily or per-project rate. If you’re happy to go ahead, you can deliver a more detailed brief in person, via email or through the magic medium of Skype.

If the job involves editing existing material, the writer may use Track Changes or another editing tool to mark up what they’ve changed. If writing from scratch, they’ll send you on what they’ve done and apply any edits you specify until you’re happy with the result.

Psst…for some quick ‘n’ easy editing tips, check out this great post from HubSpot – they know what they’re talking about!

Business benefits

It’s true that anyone can write. So why hire someone to put words in your mouth?

Get better results

Even though you know how to hold a paint brush, that doesn’t mean you’ll be embarking on a solo house-painting mission when it’s due a makeover. You’ll want someone who’s an expert in that field, who will do a beautiful job. The exact same goes for content creation. Copywriting is a very distinct craft, which the writer hones over time. And if you need your message to stand out amidst all the noise, it’s handy to have an expert on your side. With higher-quality content, you’ll start to notice a real difference in how people see you.

Save time

You can get on with doing what you love, whether it’s sourcing and selling Peruvian quilts or helping people to live healthier lives with your new fitness app. Whatever you do, let a copywriter tell the world about it.

Cut costs

Freelance copywriters can work from home or in your office whenever you require them. You get content on demand without having to take on another permanent staff member – and you’re reducing inefficiencies by only bringing them in when there’s work to be done.

Hopefully having read this post, you’ll be a bit clearer as to what copywriting is all about…or you’ll at least recognise that it is a valid job! If you want to get in touch for a quote or to simply find out more about the world of copywriting, feel free to get in touch.

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