This week I had to visit the doctor about a minor health complaint. As she was going through her standard questionnaire, she asked me if I worked.
“Yes, I work from home. I’m a copywriter.”
She was impressed: “A writer! So you’re very creative?”
“Sort of. I write mainly for businesses – content for web pages, brochures, blogs. That kind of thing.”
I swear I saw a flicker of disappointment across her face when she realised I wasn’t a budding novelist or poet (or was it relief?) But I wasn’t disappointed. In a short space of time, she had got the gist of what a copywriter does – they’re clever people, doctors!
Usually the conversation goes something like this.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a copywriter.”
“Oh wow. Copyright. Did you train as a lawyer?”
“Um no. A copywriter is someone who produces content for business”.
“I write stuff.”
“Oooh. A writer! What are you writing now? A novel?”
“No. I’m writing a sales letter about kitchen installations.”
There it is again: that disappointed face!
But being a copywriter is far from disappointing. And it’s definitely not boring. Some requests can be a bit too interesting. Here’s an example:
“Can you write my on-line dating profile? And reply to potential dates? Then establish a relationship and keep the banter going until we meet up?”
In case you’re wondering, the answer to that is, “No!” But everyone has their own boundaries. As a freelance copywriter, you get to choose who you’re comfortable working with and what you’re okay with writing about – it’s your call.
Occasionally, it can be frustrating. My least favourite enquiry went something like this: “I need a copywriter, but I don’t have any money to spend.” Next! (I’ve learnt the hard way not to under-value my time).
Now you know what a copywriter does, you might be thinking, “So how does that work then?”
In an ideal world, it goes something like this:
- A business owner or marketing manager calls me (or emails me).
- They tell me what they want (this is called a brief). It may be a brochure, a sales letter, content for their web pages or even a blog. They will give me an indication of word count, tell me about their intended audience and what they want to achieve.
- Price and terms are agreed (including deadline).
- I do lots of research about their industry (more about this another time) and their target audience.
- I write the first draft and send it to them.
- They may ask for a few changes – I take their feedback on board and write a revised version. I also proofread it for errors (or use a freelance proofreader if it’s a very long document).
- Once I receive confirmation they are happy with their final draft, I invoice them.
I make it sound so simple!
In my experience, there are two types of client. Those who need a copywriter and know why. And those who need a copywriter but don’t know why!
The first bunch are often from larger organisations. They have a marketing department, a marketing manager, designers and a finance department. They know what they want and when they want it.
The second lot are often small businesses, entrepreneurs or start-ups. Often one-man-bands; they are the MD, the marketing department, finance manager and designer!
Sometimes they’re not sure what a copywriter does or they are focused on the design element of their website (in which case, they may need a designer as well as a copywriter). Sometimes they’ve written their own materials and just want some guidance on how to improve it or take things forward. Or they just don’t know where to start.
I LOVE writing for small businesses and start-ups. There’s something special about being part of someone’s dream; you can’t beat it.
But I’m happy to work for both, it all adds up to a rich experience. I love to learn from my clients, and I like to think they can learn from me too. It’s a two-way process, which benefits everyone.
What about you?
I’d love to hear from you if you are a copywriter and feel that nobody understands what you do. Or maybe you work for another misunderstood profession and want to get it off your chest!
Have a great week!
Alison is a Freelance Copywriter in Milton Keynes offering a range of services, including blogging for small businesses. For further information visit www.mkwordstudio.co.uk