Candid Confessions of a Copywriter
(NOTE: This article was written by an anonymous copywriter at Content Nation)
It’s tough being a copywriter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like being a firefighter. Nobody will send you into a burning building to save a cat that would just as happily scratch out your eyeballs as be rescued from becoming a shish-catbab. But there are, despite a desire not to admit them, challenges.
Prominent amongst them is that not everyone will appreciate your devilishly witty puns. In writer terms, this is akin to being stabbed in the eye with a spoon made of lemons. It hurts.
Let’s not also discount that writing can be a lonely profession. The silver lining is that the pain of solitude suffered in your working life can be pushed down and internalised, just waiting to be tapped in your golden years when you finally decide to write your memoir.
The problem is, we can’t all wait that long. Some of us need to talk about it now. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t some fast-and-friendly burst of copywriting tips. This is something… more personal. So to honour those of us who tread this wordy path, and express solidarity on our journey, it’s time to explore the candid confessions of a copywriter.
English is awful
Seriously though, who came up with this rubbish? English is a fetid swamp of broken grammar rules and fermenting punctuation.
Let’s explore one simple example. A common rhyme used in teaching English is the nauseatingly deceitful ‘I before E except after C’. The truth is, I comes before E after C 75% of the time. As if that’s not bad enough, English has a history of pillaging nations for their land language, adopting it into common parlance, then demanding that language conform to its own peculiar pronunciation and spelling. Anyone for salmon fillet?
Why stop there though? After the English colonised their way towards an international language, the Americans decided to complete their ex-colonial rebellion by rushing off to change a bunch of the rules. Which ones should we utili(z)se? Are we focused or focussed? What color would you say my despair is? Blue. My despair is a deep, dark, blue.
Clients can be awful(y) demanding
Sometimes people want outstanding copywriting services, and sometimes they want a bonafide 24/7 copywriting superhero. It’s awesome when you deliver something exceptional, and as a professional, that’s exactly what you strive to deliver. But try telling that to a client when you get to the 27th draft of a one-line billboard advert.
To be honest, I get it. As important as it is for you to deliver something outstanding, it’s even more important for your client. And when it really boils down to it, if you’re proud of what you do, no third party is ever going to be as demanding as the standards you hold yourself to. That’s hard to appreciate when you’re sobbing into your keyboard though.
The same sentence can mean seven things (yes 7!)
It’s not just with the mystifying rules of grammar and spelling that English seeks to trip the unwary, it’s even something as simple as how we recognise or speak a sentence. Take this seemingly simple utterance – “I never said she tickled my feet.”
That all makes sense, right? Except, depending on which word of the sentence is imagined to be stressed by the reader or speaker, the meaning of the sentence can change. This one simple example sentence can have up to seven meanings. WHYYYYYYY.
The competition is insane
I’m not referring to some manic copywriter who sits outside my house smoking cigars while sharpening his favourite axe. I’m talking about the internet.
In today’s world, a large part of what a copywriter does is online content writing, creating informative infographics and engaging blog posts for the eager digital masses. But have you seen the competition? Users of Word Press alone create roughly a billion blog posts annually, and nearly 500 million tweets are sent each day.
Somehow you have to make something stand out in that environment. A challenge is great, but sweet Christmas, that challenge is just epic. Also, that guy with the axe is still outside my house.
Ideas are tricky beasts
Some days I swear I’ve got a direct line from the creativity gods and the ideas are falling from the heavens like gentle, rainbow snowflakes. Some days I just stare at the word ‘blog ideas’ for twenty minutes until I finally come up with the burst of inspiration that is ‘something about cats’. I don’t even like cats. Why do I keep talking about cats? This is how the madness starts.
Nobody will ever know your name
Do you want to do great things, or be recognised for doing great things? Because if it’s the latter, copywriting may not be the job for you.
Sure, the odd exceptional artist will be recognised for their wordy talent in some fiercely competed but ultimately niche industry event. But most of your life will be spent writing words of joy and wonder that never bear your name.
Clients don’t always believe you
“Can’t you just write it like this?” No. No I can’t. I’ve got years of business writing skills experience, and everything in my exceptional understanding of this topic area and target audience leads me to believe that this is, without a doubt, the correct way of doing this. Oh, you still don’t agree? Sure, I’ll change it.
You will ideate some self-loathing
Do you need to ideate some inspiring USPs moving forward? Of course you do! Now having bastardised the English language into a nonsensical avalanche of jargon, you can head to the bathroom and look yourself in the mirror as you brush your teeth, thinking about your dream of becoming an astronaut.
You laugh at jokes nobody understands
“Why can you only ran in a campsite? Because it’s past tents.”
Epic. Just epic. Nobody will laugh.
But it’s worth it
Confessions shouldn’t be all about what we find painful. Copywriting is a challenging and often diverse occupation. One day spent researching the intricacies of the next emerging super-technology will be punctuated by three hours tweaking a single line of a script to deliver the maximum impact of your awesome new product video. That’s what makes it so great.
Just remember though, it’s good to talk. Sometimes it’s even better to write. But whichever one you choose, best you do so with both eyes open. English doesn’t get any easier if you refuse to look at it.