The fact this question is so often asked is bizarre given freelance copywriters are supposed to be in the business of making things clear.
We’re obviously not doing well enough with our own job description. What copywriters do is write. What we write is called ‘copy’.
When I tell people I’m a freelance copywriter in London they look puzzled and ask, ‘is that to do with copyright?’
Freelance copywriters have nothing to do with ‘copyright’ unless they work for a copyright firm or have written a copywriting guide that they have copyrighted.
Copyright, with no ‘w’, is the intellectual property of an organisation or a person.
What exactly does a copywriter write?
Creative copywriters write the words for adverts and campaigns you see on billboards, TV, radio, online or in the press.
Website copywriters write digital marketing like blogs or web pages.
Professional copywriters write a wide range of stuff from business brochures, fashion journals and awards submissions to magazine articles and publications for board meetings.
The double-page feature in a trade journal that promotes a specific business message. That’s most likely a thought-leadership piece written by a freelance copywriter commissioned by the company promoting the message.
In the corporate world there’s endless marketing that needs to be written. The demand for words can often be too much for a communications team doing their best to get through the day-to-day tasks.
Outsourcing time-consuming writing projects to a professional and trusted freelance copywriter eases the burden on in-house teams.
It also ensures well-written, high quality content that will improve your business image and brand.
The copywriter: a brief history
In 1923, ad man Claude Hopkins wrote a book called Scientific Advertising and introduced the concept of writing ‘copy’ to sell things.
His advice is as relevant now as it was then and applies equally to marketing and website copywriters as it does creative advertising copywriters.
In a nutshell, he advises
- Understanding the subject
- Writing as you speak (as if selling something)
- Keeping it simple
- Using short sentences and words
- Avoiding cliches and superlatives
- Producing an excellent headline
- Remembering the ‘what’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM) rule.
This last bit of advice reminds us that readers are hungry only for what benefits them – what is ‘meaningful’ to them.
In my post on writing like a journalist I explain the concept of the ‘killer top line’. This same principle applies to the WIIFM rule.
If you’re a marketing copywriter, especially one who works digitally, you’ll know that in an age of information overload people scan.
Online audiences need grabbing in 2-3 seconds. Blink and they’re gone.
How does a copywriter get work?
Depending on the type of copywriting you’re doing, freelance work comes through a number of sources:
- Word of mouth
- Online marketing
- PR and marketing agencies
- Recruitment agencies
- Social networks.
Why use the word ‘copywriter’?
Why don’t we use the word ‘writer’ if that’s what we’re paid to do?
It’s because that word is usually taken to mean ‘novelist’ and that glamorous job is way out of our humble league.
The words ‘professional copywriter’ are more authentic and in an age where everyone’s a ‘writer’, it’s important to be clear.