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So What Does a Copywriter Do Anyway?

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So What Does a Copywriter Do Anyway?

Helen Say

what is a copywriter?

It’s a question I get asked a lot. The conversation usually goes something like this:-

You: So what do you do?
Me: I’m a copywriter
You: Oh, ok
Twenty minutes later…
You: I’m sorry, what does that actually mean? What is a copywriter exactly?

Copywriting is a big topic, but for a brief overview and links to other useful articles visit this Wikipedia article on copywriting

The irony is that it’s very hard to articulate what a copywriter does, especially a freelance copywriter like me. Thanks to the phenomenon that was Mad Men, our image is one of sitting around in a smoky room churning out snappy headlines and sipping vodka martinis (I wish!). The reality is somewhat different.

First of all, to dispel some misconceptions: -

•    Not all copywriters work in advertising agencies and write advertising copy
•    It has nothing to do with copyright

copywriting

What I do - as a writer

I am both a copywriter and a content writer. What's the difference? It lies in the objective:-

  • a copywriter writes to persuade

  • a content writer writes to inform

My portfolio consists of copy for entire websites (to persuade) and copy for blogs (to inform). I also copywrite emails and social media posts (which often combines both objectives). 

A Day in the Life 

When working on a writing project, this is roughly how I spend my time:-

•    Interviewing clients (in person or over the phone)
•    Reading
•    Analysing the brief
•    Researching
•    Drawing mind maps
•    Researching keywords
•    Writing
•    Proofreading, editing, tweaking
•    Analysing grammar, sentence structure, headline strength
•    Finding images
•    Checking for plagiarism
•    Spec’ing citations and references
•    Making tea and foraging in the kitchen for biscuits

Please note that the actual writing bit is only a small slice of the workload, especially if I’m tackling a subject that’s new to me. For every project I immerse myself in the subject matter completely, living and breathing it until I can recite key facts in my sleep. For really technical subjects this can be twice as challenging.

Copywriting is far more than just playing with words. I have to write to the client’s agenda, purpose and objective. My skill lies in creating a piece of work that looks like the client, sounds like the client, and fits in with everything else that the client has ever created, printed or published. I need to be able to use whatever “voice” the client needs and address the client’s specific target market. The end product needs to look effortless and natural (totally belying the actual amount of effort involved).

I’ve counted up that in the past 12 months I’ve written various items – web pages, blogs and emails - on close to 120 different subjects and industries (not counting repeat business from existing clients). That’s a lot of time on Google. And a lot of tea and biscuits.

a copywriter needs to research

Needless to say, no two days are the same for a copywriter, which is part of its appeal for me. If you're considering outsourcing or partnering with a copywriter to help tell your marketing stories, find one who is creative, adaptive and versatile, has excellent research skills, is resourceful and collaborative, educated and insightful.


I hope I’m all of those things: my clients seem to think so which is why I get so much repeat business from them. So if you need my help creating online content or writing your marketing collateral, give me a call.