What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the act of writing anything that directly or indirectly helps market or sell a product or service.
I’ve been calling myself a “part-time copywriter” for a few years now. In that time I’ve seen a lot of videos, and posts, that talk about copywriting in ways that don’t really align with what I understand copywriting to be. If I’m being honest, a lot of the stuff I come across depicts copywriting in a pretty unflattering light.
It seems like there’s been this surge of copywriting related content depicting it as this get rich quick type of skill that people can do to basically print money online (lol). In response, there’s also been content popping up from people who feel copywriting has become predatory, or something that fake gurus use as their secret weapon to sling overpriced courses to their unsuspecting students. I honestly don’t think either group does a good job accurately representing what copywriting actually is.
The goal of this post is to help anyone who’s unsure of what copywriting is dispel myths, and gain a better understanding of how the term can be applied to a wide range of different marketing and sales related activities.
I think a good place to start is to walk through some of the types of content I produce for my clients as a copywriter, and to understand how different copywriters might have different areas of expertise. Copywriters might offer very different types of services from person to person. Usually their ability to help a business with a particular type of copy is based on their past work experience, industry specializations, and forms of content writing they have learned through practice. In a lot of cases copywriters might only have expertise producing specific types of content.
I think it’s important for copywriters to focus on offering services that provide actual value to their clients. In my opinion this means either having past experience doing what you’re selling, or spending the time learning and practicing to the point where you are able to offer value to your clients.
What do Copywriters do?
My main area of expertise is writing sales and marketing emails. Clients will hire me to write emails that help encourage their prospects to take action. Usually the emails I write are intended to help book more meetings, encourage people to visit a website, increase free trial sign ups, build brand awareness, engage with current clients, or sell a product.
In my situation, email writing makes up the bulk of my business and it was the first type of copywriting service I offered. The reason I started with email writing was because I had experience doing it in my career as a sales professional. Having worked for a number of different companies selling or running marketing campaigns this was a good starting point for me.
Other than email writing I also help clients create website content, write kickstarter pitches, write static website sales copy (product/pricing pages), create real estate sales/marketing copy, write product descriptions, write fiverr gig descriptions, and other related service that provide value to my clients.
You’ll notice that most of the copywriting services I offer are either related to, or stem from my experience in sales. Things like writing kickstarter pitches, or product descriptions are things I don’t have direct work experience in, but I decided to learn and build proficiency in on my own time. Marketing emails, real estate copy, fiverr gig descriptions, and LinkedIn marketing campaigns are services I can offer based on skills I’ve learned through my career in various sales roles.
You’ll also notice that I didn’t list writing blog posts up there. Yet here I am writing this post. Like I mentioned earlier a lot of copywriters will offer services that they can provide value with. In my case, I haven’t written anywhere near as many blog posts as I have marketing emails. It’s something I’ve done for clients on rare occasions in the past, and something I’ve done for myself, but definitely not one of my specializations.
Usually I find that copywriters lean one of two ways. On one hand you have copywriters, like myself, that might be better suited to help on the sales and business development side of things. On the other you might have copywriters that specialize in services that result in more passive or long term marketing outcomes for their clients. Copywriters that fall into this second category might focus on writing long form blog posts to help build a site’s authority, creating general website content for clients, writing company slogans, creating copy for billboards, those types of things.
The point is, different copywriters offer different services based on different skills that they specialize in. Hopefully this passage helped dispel any misunderstandings that may have been formed from the “catch all” use of the word copywriting online.
How do Copywriters Know What to Write?
There’s no magic book of copywriting or course you can take that will suddenly turn you into a copywriting master. Seriously, it’s not something that you can master in a weekend. And definitely not a candidate for get rich quick scheme of the year. If you’ve watched any of my YouTube videos you’ll hear me preach the fact that once you learn the “basics” the path to mastery involves consistent practice over time.
When it comes to figuring out what words are needed to accomplish a client’s end goal, copywriters need to focus on three things. Having a decent handle on writing, an understanding of sales and marketing, and most importantly an understanding of the company or product you’re writing for. You could argue that the best copywriters have also developed a unique voice, and I agree, but that’s something that comes with time.
To understand clients you need to communicate with them. When taking on new projects a good best practice is to either run a discovery session with the client, or have the client fill out a requirements gathering questionnaire. This is essential as copywriters need to understand the client they are being hired to help, the value proposition, and any other relevant information about their product in order to write effective copy. No shortcuts here, if time isn’t spent ensuring everyone’s on the same page, the final product is probably going to be pretty weak.
Copywriters aren’t magicians, a lot of people seem to think we are. The reality is that we simply use our marketing know how and content writing skills to give our clients a better chance of converting prospects through email... Even a fantastic copywriter won’t always be able to help sell a product or service that doesn’t offer any value!
Copywriting Vs. Content Writing
I’ve run into a lot of people who get hung up on the difference between content writing and copywriting. In my opinion you could argue that almost all content could be considered copy.
“Every employee at ABC corp is in sales!” Have you ever heard that phrase?
What about, “every employee here is in customer service!”
I’ve heard this type of saying preached at a number of different companies that I’ve worked for. The underlying idea is that any employee that interacts with clients, or does things that affects a client has an impact on the company sales and customer experience metrics. It’s an all hands on deck mentality and it makes sense, it helps ensure that every employee is driving towards the same goal—to drive more sales, and properly service their clients!
Isn’t the same true of content? If copywriting is the act of writing something that helps market or sell a brands product or service, wouldn’t every piece of content that brand publishes contribute to that goal? If you read a blog post that wasn’t intended to be a piece of “sales copy” but it causes you to form a positive impression of that company couldn’t you say that the content might influence you to make a purchasing decision down the road?
What I’m saying is that online, the lines between content and copy are blurred. We live in a digital world where everything brand related is connected, tracked, and measured. Whether things have a direct or indirect impact on sales, my point of view is that it all helps drive toward the same goal. To strengthen a particular brand, provide value, and ultimately help that organization achieve it’s mission.
So don’t get hung up on the difference between content writer and copywriter. It’s up to the writer to run proper discovery with their client so that they can provide an informed opinion on whether or not they are the right fit for the job.
Was this helpful? Or are you more confused than you were before reading this? I hope it was helpful.
Summing things up, copywriting is just an act of writing performed to accomplish a particular goal for a client (usually sales and marketing related). To address all of the misconceptions out there about copywriting being some get rich quick, be your own boss, type of career path—take things with a grain of salt, and do your research. Like many things, copywriting can be a great source of income, if you put in the work and develop a level of expertise that enables you to provide value to clients. For anyone who thinks copywriting, by nature, is some evil tool used to swindle people out of their hard earned cash. I mean, same answer, take things with a grain of salt and do your research. I would be naive to think that everyone on this planet operates by the same moral or ethical compasses. There’s always going to be someone out there trying to sell you something, it’s the way of the world. My advice, do your research, and make decisions based on what you think will have a positive impact on your life!
Thanks for sticking with me this long! Take care!
Who am I?