A copywriter is a professional who creates written marketing materials, which can include text for advertisements, websites, brochures, social media, email marketing campaigns, and more. Copywriting has a distinct objective: get the audience to take action. Usually the goal is to put the reader on a path to becoming a paying client or customer.
Copywriting is a specialized field of commercial writing.
Copywriters might work for large corporations that have their own marketing departments. They also work for marketing firms. And many copywriters are independent consultants, sometimes referred to as freelancers. These are the copywriters most often hired by small businesses and independent professionals.
Copywriting for Small Businesses
Hiring a full-time copywriter is often beyond the needs (and budget) of a small business, so they usually hire marketing firms or freelancers to craft their marketing materials, including written text. Some businesses will hire copywriters whenever they need a project completed; others maintain an ongoing working relationship with a copywriter.
Each small business has its own needs. Most require professionally written text for their websites when they initially launch their business or whenever they produce a new product or update their core marketing materials. Some might need copy for their catalogues or as part of a print or televised advertisement.
Many will also launch marketing campaigns that need fresh content produced on an ongoing basis; these include email marketing and social-media campaigns, blogs, and newsletters.
Of course, basic writing skills are essential for a copywriter. The more advanced a copywriter’s skills are, the better the copywriting will be — and the more expensive. But copywriting goes beyond grammar, spelling, punctuation and crafting sentences and paragraphs.
Copy written for marketing purposes should be clear and concise. It should say a lot in a few words. This kind of writing is harder than it looks. For example, it’s faster and easier to express an idea in 250 words of text than it is to communicate the same idea in just seventy-five words. People are busy, and marketing messages need to be swift and lucid.
Copywriting also requires skills of persuasion and the ability to impact an audience emotionally, intellectually, or both. After all, the goal is to get the reader to take some action: visit a website, sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase. Therefore, copywriting must be compelling.
And copywriters need to represent a business’s brand while speaking to the target audience in language they understand. For example, the content written for a children’s game will have a different tone and use different language than content written for a housecleaning service.
The Work of Copywriting
Research is often an integral step for copywriters. A copywriter must be knowledgeable about the industry they’re writing about. And a copywriter must be familiar with the brand they are representing in order to capture the correct tone and image. Copywriters must also gain an understanding of prospective and existing customers. That means building a profile of a target demographic.
If you hire a copywriter, be prepared to provide them with details about your industry, your brand, and your customers. If you started with a business plan, that can be an excellent resource for a copywriter.
Copywriters must understand the business’s goals as they pertain to any given project. Some projects seek to increase website traffic; others strive to sell more products. The content must be written with the goal in mind. When you work with a copywriter, you’ll need to explain the project, but you should also make sure you clearly describe the goal of the project.
Once a copywriter has all the information they need for the project, the writing begins. Every writer, from copywriters to poets, has a different writing process. But most will do some brainstorming and outlining and then write a draft. From there, the draft will undergo several revisions until it’s ready for polishing (final proofreading). Your copywriter might ask you to review their work at any stage during this process. This is a valuable opportunity to share your input and make sure the project is heading in the right direction.
Most copywriting projects require several reviews and revisions. Be prepared to review your copywriter’s work and make notes about things that need to be changed or fixed. No matter how knowledgeable and skilled a copywriter is, they cannot get completely inside your head. Work cooperatively with your copywriter to get the best results from the final copy.
Hiring a Copywriter
Before you hire a copywriter, review a few samples of their work. A good place to get a sense of a copywriter’s skills and style is by perusing the text on their website, especially if they have a blog. You might also find a portfolio, or you can ask to see some samples. This will give you a sense of what the copywriter can do for your business and how the final content will look, read, and feel. Of course, you’ll also want to ask about rates and get a turnaround time for your project.
Melissa Donovan is a website consultant and copywriter. She is also the founder and editor of Writing Forward and the author of over seven books.