There are many reasons I play golf.
I love the competitiveness, the individuality and the (short-lived) feeling of optimism at the start of a game.
But playing golf has made me realise that copywriters – and freelancers, in particular – face a problem.
So you make sure people’s ideas aren’t stolen?
Golf is also a very sociable sport, regularly providing the opportunity to play with people you’ve never met before.
As any club golfer will testify, you’re very quickly taking the mickey out of each other and telling poor-taste jokes like you’ve been mates for years. But to ease you through the initial awkwardness, everyone seems to delve into the same bank of ice-breaking questions: ‘How long have you been a member here?’, ‘how often do you play?’, and, inevitably, ‘what you do for a living?’
For plumbers, engineers and sales reps, this is a fairly straightforward exchange, but for a copywriter, it’s anything but. I’ve received all manner of confused responses, including the classic: ‘So, you make sure people’s ideas aren’t stolen?’
I’m normally able to clear up the misconception by pointing out copywriting has a ‘w’ in the middle, and providing a few examples of work I’ve completed.
However, this re-occurring experience highlights how little is understood about copywriting among the general public and, from a selfish perspective, potential clients.
After all, these are people who work for – and possibly run – businesses. If they’ve not heard of copywriting, they certainly won’t be aware of the potential benefits we can bring to their businesses.
With this is mind, I thought it would be useful to spell out, in layman’s terms, what copywriting is and the benefits it can bring.
Copywriting is writing with a purpose
… or, to put it another way, it’s the use of language to persuade people to take action.
That action could be to buy a product, recycle more, vote a certain way, donate to charity or subscribe to a service.
Copywriting is everywhere – websites, social media channels, advertisements, leaflets, prospectuses, direct marketing emails and letters, brochures, case studies, press releases and presentations.
Everyone’s written copy at one time or another – when you write a Facebook post asking for donations for a charitable activity, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
There’s another misconception that copywriting needs to be witty, or packed with flowery metaphors and technical references. In fact, copy that’s overly long and tries to be too clever usually misses the point entirely.
A prime example is Ronseal’s renowned, but simple, tagline – ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’. Effective copywriting is about connecting with people and achieving a purpose.
Some businesses – but far from all, as my experiences suggest – employ someone to produce their copy, either as permanent members as staff or as freelancer copywriters, like myself.
Those that do, view copywriting as a tool worth investing in because of the benefits it can bring to their business. While everyone can write, copywriting – like any profession – is a skill that takes time, effort and experience to hone.
Copywriters understand the purpose of their writing and how to achieve it. They find the right words for a particular audience and medium, whether this is a website or small press ad.
So, now you know what copywriters do, have a think about how much copy your business or organisation uses and if it could be improved. And, if so, why not give a copywriter a call?