5 Things Copywriters Are and Aren’t

If you ever need to hire a copywriter, you should know a few things about us before you do. Things such as …

1.

Copywriters ARE sponges. Meaning we’re absorbent, not freeloaders—well, not all of us. When we sit down to discuss a project, there’s no such thing as too much information. Share everything that bears even a remote chance of being useful. Allow us to drink it all in and figure out how it all fits together as we write.

Copywriters ARE NOT Vulcans. We can’t do that nifty Mind Meld thing, which means we need you to talk to us. In detail. Be explicit about your needs, expectations, timelines and deliverables. This responsibility isn’t all yours, however. Your copywriter should be equally communicative. If he/she isn’t, it might be a sign you need a different copywriter.

2.

Copywriters ARE sounding boards. When you talk over a project with a copywriter, don’t censor yourself. Share all of your ideas, no matter how unsure you are of their value or relevance. Some ideas will pan out and some won’t. But be sure to voice them all. Quite often, it’s a seemingly half-baked idea that makes a written piece really come to life.

Copywriters ARE NOT miracle workers. Remember the old computer programmer’s adage, “Garbage in, garbage out?” Well, it applies to copywriting as well. Not all of your ideas need to be gold but the information you provide should be solid and your directions clear. When this is the case, you have every right to expect a sound final product. But if you provide poor information, ideas that lack clarity or originality, and little or no direction, then you shouldn’t be surprised if the end result suffers.

3.

Copywriters ARE strategists. While we’re happy to simply write copy, we’re equally happy to bring strategic insights and our own creative vision to the table—as long as they’re welcome. If you’re interested in hearing our thoughts on content, approach, audiences, communications channels, outcomes and other issues, just ask.

Copywriters ARE NOT novelists. Short and pithy is the rule of thumb when it comes to business writing. That could mean 100 words or 10,000. Depends on the topic and the project. But even white papers are getting leaner these days. Blame it on busy schedules and short attention spans.

4.

Copywriters ARE flexible. Especially when it comes to the first draft. Yeah, we all want to hit it out of the park on the first pass (nothing beats hearing, “It’s perfect!”) but we don’t actually expect to get every single word right the first time through. In fact, clients often use the first draft to “test” their ideas, to see how well they hold together once we put them to paper. Bottom line, we expect you to ask for edits. It’s part of the process.

Copywriters ARE NOT complaisant. Yes, we’re flexible but most of us balk at endless wordsmithing and repeated changes in direction. I know what some of you are thinking: “Why can’t I change anything I want, as radically as I want, as often as I want if I’m the one writing the checks?” Well, you can. I’m just saying that good copywriters will oblige this behavior only to a degree because we work very hard to get things right from the outset. Besides, if your copywriter hasn’t hit the mark in two or three attempts, chances are you should look for someone else.

5.

Copywriters ARE quick studies. We have to be! After all, we might be writing about arbitrage pricing theory one day and telephonic health coaching the next. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need an expert in your field to write the copy you want. You’re the expert. You simply need someone who can channel your expertise and convey it compellingly. That’s us.

Copywriters ARE NOT sales people. Yes, business copy is always about selling in one way or another—even if that simply means selling an idea. Good copywriters have a gift for engaging audiences and persuading them to take action. That’s sales, right? Right. But you can’t expect the copywriter you’ve just hired to know your customers’ needs and pain points the way your sales team does. So do yourself a favor and make sure your copywriter has access to at least one member of your sales force.

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2 Responses to 5 Things Copywriters Are and Aren’t

  1. Tracy Keith says:

    Great list, although I think we’d ALL save a lot of time if we could master the Mind Meld. Here’s what I’d add from the other side:

    In my opinion, good copywriters are worth their weight in gold, so if you are smart enough–or lucky enough–to find the right one, pay what it takes to keep him or her. Compelling copy is a key element in a successful marketing campaign, and frankly it’s not easy to write if your product is mundane or your offer lacks originality. (Reality check…) That’s when the truly creative writers excel.

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