What the Heck Is Copywriting, Anyway?

There’s kind of a funny problem with copywriters.

Our job is to make communications as clear as possible, but it’s not clear to everyone what we actually do.

“I’m a copywriter.”

“So, you… create copyrights?”

Hmm, no, I’m not a copyright lawyer. Let’s try again.

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, have you written anything I’ve read? I’ve always wanted to write a novel.”

“I write website copy for small businesses.”

“…Well, I’m sure you could write a novel if you wanted to.”

Besides, business owners outside industries like publishing and marketing rarely even use the term “copy.”  No wonder people get confused.

Resting spaniel head

Okay, so what the heck IS copy?

Writing! The word part!

“Copy” is used across different industries in different ways—a book publisher, a newspaper reporter, an advertising executive might be talking about slightly different aspects of the written word when they use the term.

However.

For small business owners, these distinctions aren’t so important. Think of it as the messaging that will help you move product or fill your dance card.

The words in your Facebook ads.

The words on your website.

Your tagline.

All the written words you put out into the world to persuade people to exchange their hard-earned money for your goods and/or services.

Great.

Copywriters have the magic combination of experience and know-how to make those words on the actual (virtual) page.

 

Content & Copy

I use the phrase “Content and Copy” because it’s both broad and narrow enough to talk about what I do: I write and edit for small businesses for the internet. Right now, I’m focused on website rewrites and revamps. Hey, you should hire me to do that!

Your blog posts? That’s usually considered content. You might hire a copywriter to write that, or get a content marketer on board. Or do it yourself. But then you actually have to do it. (If you have a blog, that is. It’s not required.)

Content & copy go hand in hand. They don’t need to be written by the same person, but they should be informed by the same marketing plan.

What’s content marketing, then?

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”—Content Marketing Institute

In plain speak:

That’s a plan to create content (blog posts, social media, email newsletters, etc.) that drives customers to you, and keeps them engaged. All in a strategic way that ends with you diving into a pool of money, Uncle Scrooge-style.

Copy might be somewhat static—you can keep your website “About” page the same for years with no detriment to your sales—but fresh content like your blog posts and social media should also be a part of your marketing plan.


What the heck do copywriters do once you hire them, anyway?

We don’t just write.

Well, okay, if you want to split hairs, we write. We make words appear on the page. That’s what’s hard for most people, and it’s what we wake up wanting to do.

But we can’t pull it all out of thin air, friends! Usually, copywriting involves information-gathering, a little journalism, a good dash of marketing, and a large glug of interviewing, messaging, and massaging. After you sign a contract with your writer, they’ll want to download your brain once or twice. It’s likely that they’ll want to talk to other stakeholders as well, like your customers, constituents, or team members.

Two brown dogs and quote "Teamwork makes the dream work"

On a personal note, I’m always happy to talk to you about referrals if I don’t do what you need. I have a little cabal of writers, marketers, proofreaders, and designers at the ready for any kind of project.

Break it break it down

Writing marketing copy for the web means:

  • Keeping up with online marketing and content marketing strategies
  • Nurturing a productive relationship with the client with stellar communication
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Writing and editing copy that helps the business reach its goals
  • Delivering clean (proofread) copy

It sometimes means:

  • Testing headlines
  • A/B testing for newsletters and other sales copy
  • Writing longform sales pages
  • SEO writing
  • Placing copy on the website itself

It does not mean:

  • Coming up with all the ideas
  • Steamrolling business owners into a direction they’re not comfortable with
  • Playing fast and loose with deadlines because of “creativity”

For a better idea of the full range of what copywriters do, grab my free checklist: 18 Must-Haves for Website Copy That Converts.

More Questions?

Now, to answer a couple of questions I got from my Facebook page:

“What is copywriting, and how does it apply to being an entrepreneur and in biz?”

See above.

If it’s good, you will sell more. If it’s bad, you’ll lose customers. That sounds scary, but it’s something you can control.

There’s anecdotal evidence of a change of copy increasing sales 19.5x. Not percent. Almost 20 TIMES. That’s an extreme case, but 19.5% actually sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

“What is an expected range of costs I would expect to pay for copywriting? Say for a website?”

Depending on who you’re working with, a writer might charge by the hour, the word, or by the project. By FAR, the most common way to charge is by project. It’s the best deal for the writer and for you as the business owner—with no surprises when the bill comes.

As a general rule, most writers charge $150 and up per page. That’s one web page, in the 300-800 word range.

Some charge thousands of dollars for sales pages. If they’ve gotten to that point, it’s because they have a history of being worth it. Or they’re just cocky, so do your due diligence, please.

If someone is quoting you $20 an hour, run! (I don’t know anyone who can freelance on $20 an hour, which is probably like getting paid $5 an hour by an employer, but that’s a different blog post.)


Do you have any other questions about copy or content writing? Toss ’em in the comments, or drop a line!

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