When I first told a friend that I was a copywriter, she half-jokingly asked me if I was the one who drew the little circles around the tiny “R”s after company names.
Now, obviously, she was confusing copywriting with copyrighting—two homonyms with very different meanings—but there was some truth behind her question. Most people have no idea what copywriters do.
In the broadest definition, copywriters write advertising and marketing pieces. The words they write (their “copy”) sell things to people; whether that be literal selling of products, convincing people to take an action, or persuading them to think of a product, company, or person in a certain light.
When I use words like “selling” and “persuading,” a red light goes on for a lot of people and they assume that copywriters are “evil advertisers,” tricking people into buying things that they don’t need. That actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
A copywriter’s job, in essence, is to connect people who have a problem, a need, with the solution to that problem. That’s really the only way that anything is ever sold. A copywriter uses words that a particular audience will relate to and will understand to convey a solution (be it a product or a service) to a problem.
Sure, some problems are certainly more critical than others. The copywriter who writes the subway ad for a battered women’s shelter that helps a woman find a place to stay is doing a different kind of service to the world than the copywriter who writes a subway ad for a minivan that has the kind of seating and safety features that someone has been looking for—but that copywriter is still providing a service to the person seeking those features in a minivan.
My point is that copywriting is really about using writing to connect people with the solutions they need.
Copywriting, just like any other career, requires training; there are specific skills and techniques that someone must learn in order to become a successful copywriter. One of the most common mistakes I see people make is assuming that because they know how to write, they’ll be able to find jobs as copywriters. That’s just not how it works.
Creative Directors and clients want to hire copywriters who how to write copy—who know all the tools and techniques of writing effective messages. Which makes sense, right? I mean, I’m good at driving, but that doesn’t mean I can get work as a big rig trucker. I don’t know how to do that, so no one’s going to hire me to do it. I would need to get training.
And, in my opinion, it’s well worth getting that training because, not only is copywriting a great paying career, but it’s also fulfilling and fun. Copywriters get to do interesting, challenging, creative work and work with talented, dynamic people. A copywriter can work on-staff or as a contractor or a freelancer, and he/she can work for ad agencies, in-house agencies or individual clients.
No career is perfect, of course, but it’s thrilling to actually see your words in print or online; to know that thousands, if not millions, of people are reading words that you wrote. And I also suspect that it’s one of the few jobs in which you’re regularly really proud of what you do. Several times a day, a copywriter looks at the copy on his her or screen and thinks, “Hey! This is really good!”
So, I’m sure that there are plenty of people in the copyrighting business who enjoy what they do (even if they don’t get to draw the little circles—what a pity). But people who love writing, who want to collaborate to create great work, and who want to make a good living for their efforts, would do well to see if copywriting might be a good path for them.
Thoughts? Questions? Let us know in the comments below.