What Does a Copywriter Do? And What Do They Get Paid For?

Copywriters don’t write content, don't write words to fill empty space in designs, and don’t just write. Obviously, they have nothing to do with copyright law. Copywriters write copy. But it’s not the whole story...


A joke I saw on the internet.


If you tell people you're a copywriter, how do they react? Wait, let me guess.

In the best-case scenario, they might say: Oh, so you write words for “content”! And in the worst-case scenario, they might think about you have something to do with copyright laws. Or even worse, think you're a space filler.

The only people who truly understand what you do are marketers. They know that the results of their work depend on your words. 

Words are more valuable than design. Words can help entrepreneurs communicate the value of their products and services in a way that makes people want to have them. Words can transform businesses. Words can kill organizations. Words can build new things.

A copywriter is a master of words. And by words, I mean copy.


What is copy? 


Copy is a piece of text used to market products or services. It's what copywriters write on landing pages, in Facebook ads, in emails, on billboards, in sales scripts. The main purpose of copy is to convince people to take action: sign up for a newsletter, register for a webinar, make a purchase. 

Copy is different from content, another marketing tool. Content wants to convince people of a certain argument that the writer is making. Unlike copy, content isn't trying to sell right away. Its goal is to provide value, solve problems and help the audience move to the next step of their journey. 

If you want to clarify the difference between copywriting and content writing, check out my blog post: Copywriting vs Content Writing  

Since I've mentioned the topic of content writing, you might be wondering: 

Do copywriters write content? 


I’m glad you asked!

Many copywriters can write both content and copy, and get hired to produce all kinds of content: copy for sales pages, blogs, email copy, video scripts. Copywriters and content writers, however, are two different roles. 

To clarify the difference between copywriters and content writers, check out my blog post Copywriters vs Content Writers vs Technical writers vs UX writers and more.

As we've just figured, copywriters write copy. But it's not what copywriters get paid for.


What do copywriters get paid for?


Copywriters get paid to write down ideas. Creating copy is an easy part, it's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to copywriting.

Ideas are not easy. Exceptional ideas define marketing campaigns, transform brands, change the way people think. Generating exceptional ideas is what a copywriter's job is all about.

So how do copywriters come up with outstanding ideas?

A problem with ideas is that there is no formula to get one. No guaranteed path of success. Don Draper drank Scotch all day. David Ogilvy's advice was to take a long walk, or take a hot bath, or drink half a pint of claret.

But the truth is what works for one person may not work for you.

There are a few things, however, that every copywriter must do to be able to come up with great ideas. Research is one of those things.


What do copywriters do before writing copy?

Research

Copywriters need to have a deep knowledge of their subject matter, their product, and the audience they need to sell it to.

This requires copywriters to collaborate with others, interview customers and experts, endlessly browse Google, read books and do whatever it takes to open the telephone line from their unconscious and let a big idea well up within them.

There are three types of researches that copywriters must do:

  • Subject matter research
  • Product research
  • Voice of the customer research

If a copywriter did a good job with their research:

  1. They can explain their topic in a way that even a five-year-old can understand
  2. They know their product inside and out
  3. They've discovered what matters to their customers in their customers' own voice and know what objections their customers might have to their products or services.

The next thing a copywriter does is competitor analysis. 

Competitor analysis

Before a copywriter starts crafting copy, they need to look in detail at how their competition talks about their solutions. What audience do they seem to be targeting? What are their offers and the benefits of buying them? What calls-to-action are they using? A copywriter's goal here is to see what messages their competitors are using and when they’re using them, so they can consider those messages when they’re writing their page. 

Now, when a copywriter knows their topic, their product, their audience and their market, it seems like they are ready to write, right? I wish! 

They should also understand the traffic that their copy is going to attract.


Traffic analysis

What words a copywriter puts on the page depends much on what traffic this page is going to get.

There is a difference between sales pages that get created for paid traffic, organic traffic, and internal traffic. Traffic brings with it various motivations and states of awareness.

A copywriter needs to keep a marketing funnel in mind when they're writing copy for sales pages. What's a marketing funnel? You check out my blog post: How to Map Your Content to a Marketing Funnel, to get the answer to this question. I'll make sure to link to it at the end of this video.

Writing

With all that knowledge on board, a copywriter can finally start writing copy.

To write copy that sells copywriters need to make sure they say the right stuff to the right people. They need to be able to talk about complex things in a simple and understandable way, create interest where there is otherwise none, and write in a way that makes people laugh, cry, or generally just feel something.

Leo Burnett said:

"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read." – Leo Burnett

This is a great recipe for writing copy that works. But do you know how much experience goes into being able to write like that? A ton of it. 

Results analysis

A copywriter's job doesn't end with copy in a Google doc. They also need to work with graphic designers to make sure their message is properly conveyed with visuals.

And after their copy goes live, they should also see if it performs well. If it doesn't, they need to tweak the copy, or change the message to get the desired conversion rate.

As you can see, copywriting is a heck of a job!

To write copy that moves people to action copywriters need to be aware of the marketing funnel, understand the audience their copy is intended for, have a good grasp of psychology, and experience with marketing tools (beyond coffee and a keyboard).


Great copywriters are incredibly hard to find


David Ogilvy agrees with that.


"The most difficult people to find are those who have the capacity to be good copywriters. I have found that they always have well-furnished minds. They give evidence of exceptional curiosity about every subject under the sun. they have an above-average sense of humor. And they have a fanatical interest in the craft of advertising." – David Ogilvy

Nothing has changed since 1983 when the book Ogilvy on Advertising was published. I mean, writers ARE easy to find. They are everywhere. It's enough to go to Fiverr and you'll get a ton of copywriters to choose from. But it's not easy to find good copywriters. 

Neither it is easy to become one. 

If you're wondering what skills you need to become a successful copywriter, check out my blog: Copywriting Skills: What You Should Master to Succeed in Marketing. 

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