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What does a copywriter do?

The Value of Good Copywriting

Copy is the pillar of online business and content marketing.

There’s no way around it.

Not even AI.

You need words that people want to read.

Every business does!

 

But what does a copywriter actually do?

There are many answers to this question, to say the least.

So let’s start with the problem:

“Nothing is harder to do than ask a creative person to produce work he knows you can’t produce yourself.”

Alastair Crompton, The Craft of Copywriting: How to Write Great Copy That Sells

Copywriters are in the unfortunate position of having to produce something, usually fast.

Businesses hire copywriters to do the thing they can’t seem to do themselves.

What happens in the time between when you hire a copywriter and the copy goes live is the work.

Let’s take a look under the hood to figure out what the copywriter is doing to capture the right words.

 

Is it Content Writing or Copywriting?

What’s the difference between content writing and copywriting?

Both types of writing demand a strategic approach, but you need to know which one to use when. 

At the end of the day, it really boils down to intent. 

What is the piece of writing meant to do?

Content Writing

Content writing is used to inform, educate, and delight. 

Think: Helpful.

You can share valuable advice and business expertise with your customers— leading to a simple call to action, not a sales pitch. 

Sometimes, people simply want to learn more about a specific brand, especially when they’re looking to spend money to solve a problem. 

Here’s the thing, copywriting is content but content isn’t necessarily copywriting.

Semantics matter because you have a business goal. 

Copywriting

Copywriting is meant to grab attention, persuade, and convert. 

Think: “Act now.”

The intention of copywriting is get people to take action— to create a conversion. 

A good copywriter will lead someone to water, but first, they will also figure out if the person is likely to drink.

The point is, both types of web writing are important. 

They play off of each other. 

Content writing and web copywriting serve the ultimate sales and marketing goals. They get people to stick around long enough to buy something. 

The most important thing I’ve learned?

Nothing is worse than a poorly devised, ill-timed sales pitch. 

Awareness and empathy are key when it comes to content strategy and copywriting.

 

“I Need Content”

Think about all of the content that lives on your website. 

That’s all macro content. 

Examples of macro content include:

  • Web pages
  • Blogs
  • Case studies
  • White papers
 

You can create a lot of subsequent content by reusing macro content.

This is micro content.

Examples of micro content:

  • Social media captions 
  • LinkedIn posts
  • Anecdotes for emails
  • Instagram Live topics 

 

The goal is to create content that is so well done, it can be repackaged and repurposed across your digital marketing channels. 

You don’t have to start from scratch every single time you build a campaign.

 

Built-in Branding

If you’re good, which you are, all of this content and copy leads back to brand. 

Brand is constant. 

Between the stickiness of content and the action of copywriting, the brand voice should come through.

Brand, content, and copywriting are intertwined. People are put off by content that’s dull or boring and that can diminish your brand. 

Brand copywriting is about preserving the voice to further the brand identity. 

Creative copywriter, conversion copywriter, brand copywriter.

All of these titles can apply.

The skill is what matters. 

 

The writing process isn’t all writing

It’s time to reveal what goes on behind the scenes of the writing process. 

I like to call this “The Grey Area” because it’s the space where clients and customers cannot completely enter.

Most creatives live in the Grey Area, but we often work with clients who don’t.

Call it a zone of genius, flow, productivity…whatever.

If you’ve ever wondered what a copywriter is doing between meetings… here you go.

 

Thinking/ Conceptualizing

This is where copywriters zone in.

At this stage, the copy brief is critical. 

A professional copywriter will take time to conceptualize the big picture and wrap their head around the entire concept. I know this sounds very ambiguous— because it is. 

While this work at this stage is hard to quantify, it’s where the copywriter establishes understanding of the business goals, the creative objectives, and the best copywriting strategy and tactics to help you achieve success.

This is also the time to consider customer personas or avatars, brand awareness in the market, and brand voice.

Whichever variables are at play, each one is given the weight it deserves.

As a copywriter, the conceptual heavy lifting can be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the work. 

The thinking and conceptualizing are in perpetual motion for creatives. 

It’s just part of the profession.

 

Research 

Research is a time consuming process. 

Copywriters need to do their homework to understand the business context, the project constraints, and most importantly, the customer.

Customer research may sound glamorous, but it’s really a combination of looking at data, lurking online, and asking thoughtful questions.

Some of the best copywriter research is simply listening. 

Copywriters are always paying attention to the words people say. 

We also pay attention to the words people write when the describe a brand or a business.

This includes everyone— the CEO, the team, and of course, the customers who give feedback and write reviews online.

Research is invaluable, yet a lot of businesses fail to take the time to establish a deep understanding of their customers.

At the same time, the proliferation of data can make it difficult to parse through the information. 

Strategic thinking and empathy can help demystify some of the data and SEO.

 

Interviews

Interviewing is an art. 

Copywriters typically don’t ask pointless questions. 

They show up at a customer interview with a very well thought out succession of questions that are designed to get the interviewee talking.

The interview is a piece of research, but it’s also a skill that the best copywriters learn to master. 

These interactions provide greater depth and dimension about businesses and brands, and offer a first-hand experience with voice of customer.

 

Organization/ Structure

Now that all of the information is gathered, it’s time to consider the architecture.

Sometimes it’s an entire website, sometimes it’s micro copy for UX.

I use a simple white board to outline and visualize the copy’s organization and structure. 

A visual understanding of the website content or email funnel helps to save time down the road. 

Wireframing tools can help with combining the copy and design.

 

Strategy

What type of content is on the agenda? 

If I’m writing website copy, I start with headlines. 

If I’m writing a blog or article, I start with outlines.

For case studies, I start with the solution and impact. 

The point is, each piece of content or copywriting has a formula, but nothing is set in stone. 

Every business is a world unto itself. The strategy needs to align.

 

Execution

Finally, it’s time to write and edit. 

As you can see, a great deal of preparation takes place before the writing even begins. 

Usually, the writing doesn’t take nearly as long as the prep.

Copywriting is science and art.

The goal of copywriting is conversion, but you certainly need to exercise creativity along the way.

And, this is why the robots can’t quite master copy yet. 

For now, it requires human traits.

 

Packaging

Wait, what?

You did all of that research and wrote all of the content and now it needs to be packaged? 

  • Choose photos
  • Consider the creative direction
  • Does it look right online?
  • Make design suggestions.

Analyze and adjust.

All of this happens before the feedback even starts.

 

A final word 

The point is, copywriters are anything but “wordsmiths.” 

Every copywriter has been asked to wordsmith something, usually copy written by a non-copywriter.

If you’re a copywriter who questions what the word wordsmith even means, email me.

 

B2B Copy

It can be difficult to quantify the brand strategy, business acumen and quality control that goes into writing copy that sells.

Like I mentioned earlier, you hire a web copywriter to do something you cannot do yourself. 

We copywriters tend to have difficulty detailing how the copywriting process unfolds. 

It’s because of the sheer number of variables. 

We can’t predict how humans will respond (despite AI’s best efforts to convince us that’s possible). 

We test different creatives and adjust based on what’s working and what’s not.

There’s no magic bullet that will clear out your inventory or book your calendar solid, but there is a way to consistently speak to your customers as if they’re human beings who need help solving a problem.

 

No copywriter, no business

If you’d like to learn more about how a Philly copywriter can help your business, email me

I will respond within 24 hours.

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professional writer Karen Miller

I'm Karen Miller

A website copywriter for entrepreneurs and business owners serving Philadelphia and abroad. Let’s connect.

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