Every time people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I am a copywriter.
Most of the time, people react in three different ways.
They first reply, “okay, you do some advertising stuff, don’t you?” That’s more or less accurate.
Then, there are people thinking that I am working in the copyright industry. Nope, I am not a lawyer, and even less in the copyright world.
At last, the most common reaction is: “what’s that?”. People look at me as if I were talking about insects or endangered species. So I try to make things simple and say, “I am writing contents or texts”.
Suddenly, their eyes light up and the expression of their face changes, and they say, “Ok, you’re a writer !”.
No, I’m not a writer.
In addition to writing copies or contents for his clients, a copywriter is different from a writer at various levels.
Would you like to know why?
Here we go …
Great writing skills are not required
No, a copywriter is not a writer.
It might sound a little bit odd. After all, the word “writing” is in the word “copywriting”. But that’s wrong.
What is a writer ?
When you are a writer, you write a novel or a short story. Your target are readers. And they want rhythm, imagery, style and great literature. They expect to get writing with beauty.
So, what’s a copywriter?
A copywriter writes and edits contents for websites, ads, blog posts, or sales letters. His target are clients. They just need information. They don’t give a damn about the artistry. Whether he’s a master of words or not, it is not what they look for. They want to know if the copywriter can solve their problems or meet their needs.
In other words, clients are more seduced by the answer the copywriter gives than by the beauty of his words.
However, this isn’t to say that copywriting can’t be well-written. Simplifying isn’t dumbing down. Writing a copy isn’t limited to the “subject-verb-object” format.
Don’t get me wrong : there’s still room for some creativity.
Focus on the message
A copywriter only focuses on the message. He never writes for writing. When he works on an ad or a sales letter, he must convey a message that satisfies a need or solves a problem.
For this, he must avoid clever words. The message really matters. He must keep it simple. Why ? Just because a copy must be easy to read.
Remember: the longer the sentences and the more complicated the language, the harder your copywriting is to understand. If your reader doesn’t see where you’re driving at, there must be something wrong with your copy.
A copywriter mustn’t forget the following rule : between words and ideas, ideas come first. A good copy is to deliver a message through words. Words are not an end in itself.
Forget about your ego
Let’s face it : people or readers don’t care about you. They are just interested in themselves.
So, if you have to write a copy for a prolife organization and have liberal ideas, please don’t start to write about the rights for women to abort. Promote their ideas. Abandon your own views and put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
Basically, a copywriter must connect with the feelings and ideas of his readers. If he doesn’t try to see the world through their eyes, then he will never be able to feel what they feel. A copywriter must empathize with his readers. Otherwise, he will never be able to write a copy.
Yep, that’s a vicious circle.
A copywriter is flexible, curious and open-minded
A writer with a great reputation and a proven experience might be interested in just one topic.
He can spend his whole career writing on the same topic or the same characters. It’s really easy to quote top writers in just one word. Do you need an example? Terry Pratchett, Fantasy. J. Grisham, Thriller. J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter…. And the list is not exhaustive.
For a copywriter, that’s a different story. He must be interested in everything. Even projects or sectors he has no interest in.
Besides, he must be curious and try to understand the needs of his clients. For this, he has to do a lot of research and reading. However, that’s not enough. Asking questions and taking notes are important as well. People are the best source of information when it comes to writing a promotional piece of work.
He must also be flexible. Copywriting is always about deadline(s). For this, he has to collect much information and understand it quickly. Not a writer.
But, flexibility lies at another level: a copywriter never works for the same company, as he moves from one sector to another. He might be a political activist in the morning and a general practitioner in the afternoon.
A copywriter is also a technician
At last, clients want to have “rocking content” for any kind of support (web site, newsletter, blog).
What does that mean ?
Well, the copywriter is nowadays expected to deliver valuable content for people, that ranks well in search. This is what we call SEO Copywriting. Many businesses look for people with the right combination of skills.
You might get a top-notch web site from a geek company, but if the content is clueless and irrelevant, then you throw money out the windows.
However, if you happen to hire a copywriter, you contract someone with a wide range of skills, ranging from searching, reading information to writing valuable and SEO friendly content.
So, if you need someone to write your copies or web contents, then you know who to contact…
Certainly, not a writer.