A week in the life of a copywriter

Writing Tips

The other day I had the following exchange:

  • Coffee shop creeper: I see you working hard here everyday. So, what do you do?
  • Me (without making eye contact): I’m a copywriter.
  • Coffee shop creeper: Oh. I thought maybe you were working on your dissertation.
  • …30 minutes later…
  • Coffee shop creeper: So, what does a copywriter do? I mean, what does your job actually involve?

Needless to say, I didn’t really want to have this conversation (for so many reasons). But it did get me thinking: I help clients communicate what they do and why it’s valuable all day long. I really should have a good answer to this question.

So, I decided to start very basic. I compiled a list of what I did this week. This had the added benefit of giving me a chance to analyze how I’m spending my time (lately, I’ve been on a mission to improve my time management skills) and now that I’ve decided to put my list out there, to showcase a bit of my work.

But before I get down to the nitty-gritty of my week, let’s address a few misconceptions:

  • Copywriting has nothing to do with copyrighting (I’m not qualified to give you legal advice).
  • While some copywriters might write novels and poems for fun, creative writing is not our “bread and butter.”
  • Not all copywriters write advertising copy. As much as I adore Peggy Olson, I don’t spend a lot of time writing taglines to try to sell products (or drinking in the middle of the day).

So what DOES a copywriter do?

 

To name just a few things, I:

  • Write (obviously)
  • Research
  • Interview clients to get a sense of their voice
  • Edit and proofread
  • Plan and implement communications strategies

The main difference between copywriting and other types of writing is that unlike fiction writers or (reputable) journalists, copywriters write with a specific agenda: the client’s agenda.

For any given project, my client’s goal might be to promote a product or to demonstrate expertise or to make an announcement or even to educate an audience. This means copywriters have to be versatile thinkers and quick learners who can take criticism without getting discouraged.

You will rarely see the name of a copywriter, since a lot of what we do is ghostwriting under the names of our clients. This also means that a copywriter will adjust her writing style and tone depending on who she is speaking as and who she is speaking to.

As with any industry, producing the finished product or deliverables is not necessarily what I spend most of my time doing. As my client, you see a blog post, but a lot goes on behind the scenes to create that finished product. There’s a lot of thinking, researching, starting over, looking up words I should have learned how to spell in 5th grade, editing, formatting, etc.

Now, let’s talk specific examples.

I have two major clients who bill out my copywriting services for their clients (Spring Insight and Jansen Communications). I also work with a few clients directly and I’m working on building up my client base.

Here was my week:

Monday, September 19:

  • I updated a monthly newsletter for an amazing association serving people with disabilities in the Washington, DC area.
  • I edited a blog post I wrote about the association’s rebranding process.

Tuesday, September 20:

  • I met with the Spring Insight marketing team for our weekly marketing meeting.
  • I updated an email newsletter.
  • I wrote a blog post about the Wells Fargo fiasco for another Spring Insight client.

Wednesday, September 21:

Thursday, September 22:

Friday, September 23:

  • I will be cross training with our Social Media/Marketing manager to learn how to set up social media for clients.
  • I will be working on my own email marketing and networking.

This is a pretty typical week for me. I left out the part where I went to the DMV, helped my lovely friend and yoga instructor move into a new lovely home, and drove back down the Myrtle Beach to enjoy the weekend with great friends. I love the flexibility that this job provides me.

I love the power of the written word and I love that I get to work with words on a daily basis. If you’re looking for help communicating what you love to do and why it’s valuable, contact me today. I’d love to put my skills to work for you.

Photo credit: rawpixel / 123RF Stock Photo

2 responses to “A week in the life of a copywriter

  1. The first twelve years I was in business, I lived in Asia. I’d been back in North Carolina two years when I realized that I still didn’t have any customers in North Carolina. The reason for this situation is that I had become an Internet hermit. *gasp!*

    The first step was admitting that I had a problem. The second was working on a solution. As I went out in public to various networking events, whenever someone asked me what I did, there was this pause because I was overwhelmed with so many possible answers.

    Years later, through practice and experience, I can rattle off my answers without even thinking. Ask anyone who’s seen me do it. Ask Barnsley. It is easier this way. My stock “I don’t want to have this conversation” answer is that I edit and proofread, and my brief but accurate answer is the one I use for website copy. Also, I tend not to be loyal to any one coffee shop. ;-)

  2. Thanks for sharing Michael! You’re right that like everything else, talking about what you do gets easier with practice. Great food for thought.

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