Life as a Copywriter: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

In today’s post, I thought I’d discuss what it is that I do.

If you haven’t yet checked out my ‘About’ page, you might have missed that by day I work as a creative copywriter.

After a few years of freelancing in between mountains of research, essays, and a busy social schedule at university, I discovered a real passion for writing about all kinds of topics.

I began writing about a variety of subjects, from swimwear fashion to weight loss supplements to surfing locations, and found that it was something that just came easily to me (perhaps I’m just good at blabbering!), and most importantly, it was something I really enjoyed.

Alongside freelancing, I’d equally developed an interest in journalism through having my work published in the university newspaper, having attended Arts & Culture events in Birmingham and later reviewing them.

But the thing that really appealed to me about copywriting was the ongoing mission to produce original, exciting concepts, persuading readers, and ultimately, selling through words.

After finishing my course, I immediately joined a digital agency as its in-house copywriter. This is a very varied role, which sees me producing all kinds of content in response to client briefs, be it magazine ads, web copy, articles, or strap lines. I’m also responsible for boosting the search engine positioning of websites through writing the right words within content.

So, is it all it’s cracked up to be? Well, here’s a (fairly) concise breakdown!

The Good

  • The variety of content. This is definitely one of the most appealing aspects of my role. For example, this week I have worked on choosing the right words for the canopy of a bakery which we are currently rebranding; reviewing and optimising blog articles on luxury African safaris for a high-end travel company; writing the meta titles and descriptions for a luxury serviced apartment business in order to really highlight their USPs; and just today, I’ve been reviewing the copy for a manufacturer of fluoroplastics. Maybe all this doesn’t appeal to you – it’s not for everyone! But as somebody who tends to get bored reasonably easily, it’s just up my street.
  • Getting paid for something I enjoy. Sometimes I find it quite incredible that I am earning a wage for writing an article about, say, my predictions on web design trends for this year, thinking up ideas for tweets, or for just toying with words that best represent the nature of a client’s handmade antique furniture. Other times, I simply get to read through the yummy recipes of a client trialling a new diet plan, or spend time simply reviewing content by reading it. Although the role can have its hardships, much of it is pretty enjoyable in my eyes!
  • Learning so much about so many different things. This comes with the variety of content. Since beginning my job last year, I have become a minor expert on so many topics, including the best places to trek in South America, selling your property, web design trends, preventing fraudulent behaviour, effective recycling practises, the best things to put into a Christmas hamper, and so much more. The list really does go on. But I love it! As a girl very reluctant to admit that my university days are over, it’s great that I’m able to carry on learning about so much different… stuff.
  • The amazing feeling of seeing your work put into place. Maybe this is just because I’m fairly new to the industry. But nothing quite compares to seeing your carefully selected words and phrases plastered all over a magazine, website, or even under a logo or on a coffee cup from which someone will be sipping their morning supply of caffeine. It’s also slightly crazy to think that they’re words that will be seen by lots of different people. Ok, so I haven’t exactly been the mastermind behind the L’Oreal slogan or anything like that, but it’s a start, right? A girl can dream! But anyway, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of this feeling! The same completely applies to having a client who’s really happy with your work.
  • Being set free. One of the best aspects of my job is meeting clients. Alongside meeting some really nice people, meeting clients normally means a project is coming my way. Normally, this is a pretty juicy project, be it creating a mass of content for a website or a particularly snappy strap line for a brand. Then, the even better part of this is being given the freedom to go and, essentially, think. Think about possible ideas, research, and just think. And think some more. Then come back to the drawing board with some ideas which will be refined to later create a masterpiece (or so I hope!). And often, these ideas come to me at the strangest of times – be it lying in bed watching TV, in the shower, or sipping wine at a bar. That’s where my iPhone becomes my best friend – always there for me to record my latest “breakthroughs”.
  • Seeing improvements. This is both in myself and in my work. When I first started, getting given the brief of inventing a new and exciting strap line for a new company would literally make me want to run away and cry. Now, it’s something that EXCITES me. I really enjoy being able to supply my own ideas into a business. Equally, the improvements that my work can make to a business is incredible. Be that viewing the improved rankings on Google that I’ve contributed to, or having amended some dodgy spellings and awkward wording that has led to greater sales, making a difference is a really great feeling. To whoever may doubt me – you really can’t underestimate the importance of good copywriting!
  • The casual atmosphere of a creative agency. Another great point of my job is on a slightly different note, but nonetheless, still just as important. I really enjoy the casual-cool environment that I call my ‘office’, akin to many other creative agencies, I’m sure. Everyone is relatively dressed down; Apple Macs flood the rooms; we meet every month or so to stuff our faces with Dominos’ pizza; go out for drinks; have plenty of office banter; have sweepstakes over the latest sporting event; and even pride ourselves on the sheer quantity of Cadbury’s Freddos that it’s possible for us all to consume. Now this may not sound so exciting to you. But given the stuffy, high-pressured environments some of my friends work in, I think I did pretty alright!

The Bad
  • Work being picked at. This is one of the complications of my role. Because it’s creative and often conceptual, this can essentially divide opinion! Choosing the right words is a very subjective process, so sometimes it can be quite difficult when I’ve spent time slaving over a project only to have it ripped to shreds by a creative director. This is definitely something I’m learning to get used to, however, and I’ve realised that quite often you have to try and second guess other peoples’ thoughts, and get to know what people like and don’t like on a project.
  • Having to switch projects. Because, as I’ve described, my work varies a lot and there is a whole host of topics I write about, this can occasionally be a bit of a pain. Imagine just sinking your teeth into a really juicy project and coming up with all manner of fabulous ideas, only to be alerted that you have to complete a number of articles for a different client. It can be quite frustrating!
  • Difficult to produce ideas under pressure. This is probably the most difficult aspect of my job. Sometimes, I’ll be called into the conference room to meet a client at last minute, who needs some content produced fairly quickly. I’m then forced to disregard all my other ongoing projects and focus on this one brief. Say, for example, this is creating a new strapline, I’m then faced with having to produce the best five or six words that that client has seen in ages, but within, sometimes, an hour or two. This means very little time to research, and often having to jot any old ideas down to change them later on. It’s certainly a challenge, but I think I’m getting better!
  • Working on boring content.  For certain industries or clients, it can be hard to come up with original, interesting ideas. This is often to do with the subject matter. A case in point is engineering; it’s not necessarily my favourite industry. And I don’t know or understand a great deal about it. But sometimes I’ll be handed jobs from engineering clients and I have to really grasp the content by the balls. Although it’s not my favourite thing in the world, I’m getting used to it!
  • Writer’s block. Yes, it happens to the best of us! Some days I simply cannot get my head around a certain task. No matter how long I stare at the screen for, the ideas are simply. Not. Flowing. But, I’ve figured, there are only two ways to handle this – either break through it if I have an upcoming deadline, increase the caffeine intake, and take a quick break. Or, if not, simply move on to something else and confront the problem later on. Oh, and the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame acts as a perfect distraction occasionally, too.

The Ugly
  • Picky clients. Sometimes, you get one of “those days”, so to speak. One of “those days” when a client doesn’t respond to your work in the way you’d kind of hoped for. I’ve had a few of these. One was a discrepancy between how much work I’d actually been set to do. Basically, due to some misunderstandings (and slight panic from my part!), this situation arose, but lucky for me, the client was impressed with my work and soon paid up. Another was when I’d been asked to write copy in an ‘edgier’ style, with snappier sentences and more personality. The response, much to my forlorn, was not impressed – in fact, I received a piece of sample text. Sample text which apparently epitomised how the client would like their new copy to be. Sample text which mimicked the client’s original copy. Sample text which contained long sentences, a formal tone, and a lack of fluidity. But hey ho, that’s life. I simply adjusted all the copy to the style of the example, and the client was happy. We’re all allowed to not know what we want sometimes!
  • Constant revision. A good deal of my job is trying to achieve perfection. Which is pretty good when you’re a self-confessed perfectionist like myself. I do obsess over individual words, commas, lines, and full stops. And a part of this is going back over and over and over and over your work. Oh, and then your work is passed to somebody else. Who corrects or amends little bits. And then, hey, you guessed it! You have to go back over and over and over your work again. It can be a little tedious but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day! Perfection can, and occasionally does, take time to achieve.
Really, I can’t complain too much! I have a really great role at a great company which I adore. I just wanted to give you all a thorough insight into my role as a copywriter, with all the good bits and an equal measure of the not-so-good bits. 

Are you a copywriter yourself? Does my role sound similar to yours? I’d love to hear your stories.

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