"I'm a copywriter."
That response to the "what do you do?" question is usually met with a confused nod, quickly followed by "oh, so you copy out stuff for people", or "great, I've just written this new guide and I want someone to help me copyright it."
A copywriter does neither of those.
So what exactly does one do?
Well, as the name suggests, writing is obviously involved, but there's a bit more to it than that.
1. The interview
A copywriter doesn't just write; there's a lot more to the job than just that.
Before any words are written, the copywriter must meet with the client. Face to face is ideal, but that's not always possible (especially when, like me, your client base is global) so telephone, Skype or email is the next best thing.
During this initial stage, the copywriter is usually uncharacteristically quiet. At this stage, it's all about listening.
Not only will she be listening out for details about your business, produces/services, customers and aims, but she'll also be listening to how you speak. This will give valuable clues as to what the right tone of voice will be (how the writing sounds when it's read) for the project.
2. Back at the office
Unless further meetings are needed for progress updates (which can usually be done over the phone, email or Skype), the rest of the project is completed back at her office.
After the meeting, your copywriter will review the stack of notes she took.
Then she thinks.
Not only about what you discussed, but also about your audience and what they want to know and how to convey that to them in the most engaging and powerful way.
The thinking stage helps her plan strategy. After all, without a plan, you'll just get confused, limp writing.
During this stage, she'll also be able to spot any areas that need further research, so that will be the next stage of the process.
Research can be either on the internet (competitor analysis, topic research etc.) or with good old-fashioned books. It could even be taking a trip to a shopping centre or something like that (where your product is sold) to see how customers react to it.
Once that's done it's back to thinking and planning.
Now comes the bit you've been waiting for. She starts to write.
Following her plan, she'll begin to create an initial draft. That won't be the one you get to see; this one is more like a brain dump that will be constantly altered and refined to make it as powerful as possible.
This can take several days, in fact, it's best that it does because it means she can go away, leave it for a day or so and then come back to it with fresh eyes to further refine it.
3. First draft
Finally, the initial draft is ready for you to see.
Sometimes this will be emailed to you for your feedback, other times a further meeting will be held so you can go through it together.
It's really important at this stage that you look at it thoroughly and think about what it's saying. Remember, the copy has been written for your reader and therefore, will tell them what they need to know. It won't be about you and your business.
There's no room for your ego in your marketing materials (or your copywriter's for that matter). Every word has to resonate with the reader - it should be all about them.
Once you've gone through it, it's time to let your copywriter have your feedback. Suggest changes by all means, but remember you hired your copywriter because she's an expert in her field, so she knows what she's talking about.
Once your feedback has been given your copywriter goes back to the thinking, planning and writing stage again.
She'll amend the document as you have both agreed and re-submit it to your for your approval.
As you can see, there are a lot of stages to copywriting, and it's a very collaborative process. You have to be willing to give lots of information and time to the project, but you also have to be willing to listen to advice and take it.
A copywriter should never bully you, but they will offer advice. They will leave their ego at the door and write with a voice that's suited to your company and the audience the content is to address. Above all, your copywriter will bring a wealth of experience and guide you to a successful outcome.
Sally Ormond, Briar Copywriting, is a professional copywriter, with extensive experience in both B2B and B2C markets.