A new client called me the other day, bursting with excitement.
Head of a thriving photography business, she was in the midst of a website redesign. But she’d hit a roadblock when it came to finding the right words and her business coach had suggested she get a copywriter.
“A copywriter!” she squealed in excitement to me over the phone. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing!”
It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. My physio said the same thing to me recently. We were in a particularly awkward position (note, when I say physio, I mean a physiotherapist who specialises in the region south of the border – and I’m not talking about Victoria), and to break the ice she asked what I did for a living.
“I run a copywriting business,” I replied, as calmly as one can when one has both legs hoisted either side of a clinical table.
“Oh yes!” She hurrahed with a little too much enthusiasm, potentially trying to compensate for the fact that she had two fingers up my Santa Clarita. “A copywriter! My colleague was only saying the other day that that was exactly what we need for our business. I didn’t even know there was such a thing!”
To which I respectfully replied that until recently I didn’t know there was such a thing as a physio who specialised in vaginas. Touché.
Much like a gumologist (someone who tastes and designs gum for confectionary companies, and has the ability to distinguish 70 different tastes from a stick of gum) or an ethical hacker (someone who monitors and tests computer systems to fix the nasties caused by cyber hackers), or indeed a physio who specialises in vaginas, a copywriter is a job that some people just didn’t know existed. And, much like a physio who specialises in vaginas, a copywriter isn’t something that you could imagine you need, until you do.
So what does a copywriter do, exactly? It turns out, quite a lot.
Here are some things that a copywriter can help with:
1. Copywriting (duh).
What is this, you say?
Put simply, a copywriter is a writer who uses words to sell a product or service.
In practice, this means that a copywriter can help you with writing the words that will appear on your;
- Website pages
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Printed brochures
- White papers
- Advertorials (or native content, as it’s commonly called)
- Anything else that you use to market your brand, product or service.
So instead of spending hours and hours doing it yourself, or having things like your website copy or blog copy slip to the bottom of your ‘to-do’ list because you just can’t get your head around doing it, you can pay someone to do it. Phew, what a relief.
The skill that a copywriter isn’t just in being able to string a sentence together. The skill – learnt over years of experience and training – is in being able to understand what the customer’s needs are, how to write words in a way that will make the brand, product or service most appealing to them, and compel them to do something. To buy the product. To purchase the service. To make an enquiry. To join their community. All this, whilst understanding and balancing the brand (and client)’s own motivations and values to deliver a business outcome.
If you want your business to be found on google, you need to have the words on your website written in such a way that Google will find it. A copywriter who is trained in SEO can write your copy for you in a way that will optimise your website for search engines.
3. Content ideation and planning
Sometimes you can be stuck for ideas on what kind of content you should be writing.
Sometimes, you have too many ideas and not enough time to write them.
Either way, a plan helps. Content ideation and planning will help you come up with the right ideas, and create an actionable plan to get your content out there.
Many copywriters can do this. It makes sense to get a copywriter to write your content plan, as after the planning is complete, the copywriter can then simply write all the content. You should be able to reduce the time you’ll need to take to brief them (because they have been onboarded as part of the ideation process) and all you’ll need to do is approve and post the content.
Do you sometimes need a little external thinking to help solve a business problem? Someone to bounce ideas off, someone to create a strategy to forge a path forward?
Many copywriters have a background in brand, marketing or communications (and some have all three, like me). This means that they can be an excellent resource to offer strategic insight into the way you are communicating your brand. If you’re struggling with a brand, marketing or communications problem; have a chat to your copywriter. They might be able to help, and what’s more, if they’re helping on the bigger picture challenges of your brand, they’re going to be even more effective in helping you write good copy. So see them as an extension of your business and your team, and bring them in when you need some additional perspective.
5. Tone of voice
Deciding your brand’s tone of voice is just as important as deciding your logo. After all, how will you express yourself? How will you stand apart against your competitors? How will you make sure you appeal to your customers, time and time again? A tone of voice gives you a guide as to what kind of personality your words have, and gives tight guidelines so that your spelling, punctuation and grammar are always completely consistent.
Having a clearly defined tone of voice is just as important in the start-up phase, as it is when your business grows – and those who work in large marketing teams will know – having a clearly defined tone of voice infinitely helps save time when it comes to getting copy approved.
Do you feel you need to hone your writing skills, or that of someone in your team? Some copywriters will offer training to help businesses build the confidence to create their own great content. In my opinion, content is infinitely more authentic when it’s written by someone within the business.
Imagine the textile designer who writes a piece about the latest fabrics she’s sourced? Or giving voice to the software developer, who knows why their software performs better than anyone else’s? Or empowering the marketing assistant, who knows the customer inside and out, to write the social media posts? Teach a person to fish, and all that. I love equipping businesses with the skills to write their own content. Click on the image above to find out more.
7. Editing and proofreading.
You might love to write, or you might have someone on your team who is a great budding writer. But sometimes what you or your team writes might need a little extra polish. There might be something about it that just doesn’t quite feel right – and if it doesn’t feel right to you, it’s not going to feel right to your customers.
A copywriter can edit and/or proofread your work for you. But be careful about what you ask for, because they are two different things. Let me clarify;
An edit is where the copywriter will review your work and make adjustments to the structure, tone of voice and potentially even the content, to bring in line with what the customer wants and what your brand values are. This might mean that your document might come back to you with lots of red lines through it, and potentially even some re-writing of text.
A proofread is where the copywriter will review your work letter by letter and correct any spelling or grammatical issues. This is often the very last step of the writing process, before something is published online or sent to the designers.
Both of these things take time – in my estimation – at least 50% of the time spent ‘writing’ is actually spent editing and proofreading.
This blog post ended up a lot longer than I thought it was going to be. I guess that’s because copywriters can actually do an awful lot for your business. So if you are engaging with a copywriter, make sure you ask loads of questions to understand the different services that they can offer you.