Something I’ve come to realise during my time as a freelance copywriter, is that no one actually knows what I do for a living.
I think it’s a problem a lot of copywriters have. We don’t always register that even though copy is what we think about all day, every day, no one else even gives it a second thought (or a first, if we’re being honest).
Sometimes it can feel a bit like we’re the Chandler in our group of friends. If we start talking about work we get blank stares and vague nods until someone says, ‘so wait, what exactly is it you do?’ We may as well be a transponster.
So, I decided to write this post so that the next time someone asks me what it is I actually do all day, I can send them here and save my breath.
Definition of a Copywriter
In its most basic terms, a copywriter is someone who writes words that prompt people to take a certain action. That action could be to buy something, to sign up for something, or simply to read something.
Copywriters use words to persuade people to take these actions. They evoke an emotion in the reader that makes them go ‘yes, I absolutely want to buy your product/sign up for your newsletter/read your blog.’
Copywriters tell stories to engage people and make them want to read more. The story of a business, a product, or even just someone’s day, can be used (when written in the right way) to create a connection between a reader and a brand and makes the reader want to buy.
So, What Exactly Does a Copywriter Write?
This can depend on the copywriter themselves. Some specialise in certain topics, others on certain types of copy. But here’s a list of the basic stuff a copywriter can write:
These are normally informal and conversational pieces that educate a reader about a certain topic related to the business. This blog, for example, educates readers about writing different types of copy. A hotel’s blog could let readers know of any local amenities in the area the hotel is in.
Blog posts are generally between 200 and 1000 words long, but this can vary depending on what the client wants.
These are more formal than a blog post, and much longer at up to 2500 words. They’re sort of used as bait to entice a reader to hand over their email address, but they also educate the reader in detail about a certain topic.
Case studies are a way of subtly selling a product or service by showing how well it’s worked for a previous customer. It’s the job of a copywriter to bring out the story in a case study so as to engage a reader and bring about an emotional reaction.
We all get heaps of emails in our inboxes every day. A fair chunk of them have probably been written by a copywriter. They’re meant to intrigue the reader and make them take an action, like visiting a sales page or reading a new blog post.
Storytelling is important for emails as well, as evoking emotions in a reader is a great way to get them to do something.
The actual pages of a website, like your Homepage, About page or Services page, can all be written by a copywriter. This is the stuff your customers see when they visit your website and are what makes them stay on that site rather than clicking to something else.
A good copywriter knows how to write web copy that sells your business and its story, not just the products themselves. Building a relationship between your brand and your customer is more important than selling them one thing and never seeing them again.
Social Media Posts
Some copywriters also write social media posts for a brand. Summarising a piece of content into 280 characters or less while still being engaging can be just as difficult as writing the content itself.
So, Copywriters Basically Just Write All Day?
Well no, actually. As weird as it sounds, writing isn’t all a copywriter does. A lot of other work goes into creating a great piece of content or copy.
Research is probably one of the things that takes the most time in a copywriter’s life. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of copywriters say that it takes up half their time, while the actual writing is only a sixth. We can’t start to write anything if we don’t know the facts about what we’re writing.
There are a few different things we have to do some research on before we even think about writing.
- The topic/industry we’re writing about.
- Any interviews that need to be conducted.
- Keywords associated with the topic for SEO purposes.
- Customer research so we know what tone/voice resonates best, as well as what words and phrases your customers are more likely to use.
- Some clients also want us to source images to match the content.
Once the writing itself is done, even more time is taken up with proofreading and editing. As copywriters we pride ourselves on our spelling and grammar, so there’s no chance we’re going to let a mistake slip through. It's not professional.
As well as grammar, we have to make sure that the content flows as one whole piece. Just like when you did essays for school, you can’t just have random paragraphs that make no sense in the grand scheme of the content. Everything has to make sense together.
We Keep Track of Data
Copywriters like to know how our work is doing out in the wild. So we’ll often keep in touch with a client to find out how well the content is performing. This also helps us when we’re pitching to other clients, as we can show how well our previous content has done.
We also have our own data to keep track of, like our own blog post views or advertising efforts.
We Do Admin
This is especially true for the freelancers among us. Ultimately, we’re running a business so there’s a lot of background stuff that has to be done:
- Pitching to clients
In a way, a copywriter is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. But essentially, we are writers who use words to persuade.
I hope this has cleared up what it is a copywriter actually does and that if you do go to hire one you’ll know exactly what to expect.