Now for the ninth instalment in my writing workshop series. I’ve covered the short story ending as well as the opening. I’ve guided you through dialogue and focused on the importance of taking time to do things properly. I’ve also given you a competitions refresher and some general advice on the art of the short story. The seventh instalment was about tips on writing humorous pieces and last week helped you with generating ideas. This week turns to the art of copywriting:
A Copywriting Career
I hadn’t ever thought about becoming a copywriter. I’d had a love affair with article, short story, competition and filler writing for years, but the idea of becoming a copywriter was non-existent. My back therapist thought otherwise.
“You write, don’t you?” she said, cracking my back into place one day. “I need someone to provide the copy for my leaflets. Would you be interested?”
I found myself nodding, obviously outwardly giving a professional, reassuring smile that I was the woman for the job. Inwardly, I was panicking. A leaflet? I wrote articles about collecting cricket memorabilia and stories about cute little kittens for children. I couldn’t do a leaflet.
But somehow I found myself doing just that – and I loved it. So did my back therapist. The rest they say is history and I can now add copywriter to my CV.
I have to admit that before ‘the leaflet’, I wasn’t even really sure what a copywriter did. So here’s a brief insight into the world of the copywriter. And the good news is, whilst it’s seemingly becoming harder and harder to break into article and fiction markets, skilled copywriters are always in demand. A good copywriter can also expect to be paid very well.
What is a Copywriter?
A copywriter produces ‘copy’ i.e. the writing for commercial purposes. Journalism is about informing, whereas copywriting is concerned not only with informing but also advising, influencing and persuading, with the primary aim of selling a company’s services or products.
What does a Copywriter do?
A copywriter’s role is a varied one. Here are a few examples of some of the work a copywriter undertakes:
Take a look through your local paper or Yellow Pages and you will find numerous adverts ranging from dental practices to flooring services to restaurants. Some companies may write their own adverts but others need a copywriter to make their ad stand out from all the others on the page. If you leaf through the ads you’ll see that some of them are cluttered with too much information and others seem to miss the whole point of what they’re trying to sell. If you find yourself thinking, ‘I could come up with a catchier heading than that’ or ‘They clearly haven’t thought about what the customer is looking for’, then copywriting may be just the job for you.
Sales Letters and Direct Mail
Sales letters and direct mail regularly drop through our letter boxes. Sales letters are sent to customers for many different purposes from trying to tempt a customer with a new offer, to keeping the customer informed and thus making him feel special, promoting loyalty to the company.
Direct mail or mail shots are used to stimulate sales. Take a look through your own mail. You’ll find sales letters and mail shots from insurance companies, magazine subscriptions and dazzling business opportunities. All of these will have been written by a copywriter with the aim of firstly attracting your attention, then arousing your interest, before stimulating your desire to buy the service or product and then finally, prompting you to take action straight away.
Have you ever filled in a coupon or rung the number detailed, fuelled by an urgent desire to take immediate action? If you have, then the copywriter has succeeded in his job.
Brochures and Leaflets
These give more details about a service or product than a sales letter and often accompany one. Many of them feature lavish illustrations of the product or service to catch the eye. Nonetheless, it’s the words that build on the sales letter and persuade the reader to take action. It’s no good having beautiful pictures and then large passages of long, wordy sentences that bore. If the reader has to work hard to get to the point, glossy pictures or not, he will switch off and put the brochure and letter in the bin. If you can write using familiar words, in short sentences and paragraphs, in a friendly style, you’re likely to captivate your reader. When you next receive a sales letter and brochure, see how successful you think it is in its aim. How has the writer achieved this? If he hasn’t, why not and could you improve on it?
Writing on the Internet
The Internet is expanding all the time and can offer a copywriter numerous opportunities. The websites themselves are usually put together by a web designer, but there is hug demand for online copy including, home pages, sales sites, newsletters and e-zines to name just a few.
Public Relations writing is a little different as the aim isn’t to sell anything but to promote a company’s good name. Often a company will require a press release to be written for the local paper if they’re launching a new product/service or if they’re opening in a new location.
Here, any journalistic experience will be very useful as this is the style that’s required i.e. informing rather than selling. This latter point highlights how varied the role of a copywriter can be and how it overlaps with other types of writing.
Copywriting jobs can be time-consuming. Therefore, they slot in well with other areas of writing. Sometimes a client may take a while to get back to you concerning a draft copy that you’ve submitted. In the meantime, you can be working on your articles and short stories, as well as your next copywriting project.
If you now find that you’re looking at adverts, leaflets and sales letters in a whole new light, then it’s worth considering a copywriting career.
The Copywriting Sourcebook: How to Write Better Copy, Faster – For Everything from Ads to Websites by Andy Maslen.
Brilliant Copywriting: How to Craft the Most Interesting and Effective Copy Imaginable by Roger Horberry.
Both can be bought from Amazon.