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The reality behind the rhetoric: 7 candid copywriter confessions

I, Summer, have been a copywriter for five years now. It’s one of the first major milestones I’ve reached in my career. In that time, I’ve written for just about every industry in many content forms. But if there’s one thing I haven’t done, it’s reflect. So, I’ve spent some time thinking about my career and wanted to share some truths and dispel some misconceptions about what it’s like to be a copywriter.

1. Many Haven’t Heard of Copywriting Before

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what I do for work, I’d have enough money to fund my next vacation and then some. It’s common and understandable for people to hear “copywriting” and think about the other “copyrighting.” Let’s set the record straight. Copywriters are strategic creatives that develop persuasive, engaging content tailored to a target audience. From webpages and social media posts to taglines, slogans and video scripts, it’s copywriters behind the words across marketing channels and mediums.

2. Copywriting Isn’t as Easy as It Looks

Between the shift toward video and the growing popularity of generative AI, I think there’s been some love lost for the original written word. Some think copywriting is simply tossing words onto a page, filling in the space not occupied by images or graphics. People often forget the power that words hold and the role they play in convincing someone to go from a reluctant browser to a loyal customer.

Copywriters put a lot of thought into their work, carefully blending phrasing, sentence structure and word choice into something that speaks to and connects with their audience. At the end of the day, we’re writing to impress you, the client, along with the readers that you hope to make your customers. It can be a lot of pressure, and we have to remind ourselves not to take criticism personally.

3. Our Job Is Always Evolving

To be a copywriter, you need to have a particular superpower. You must have the ability to quickly understand any given topic and write about it with enough subject matter expertise that you get readers to engage with the content or the business you’re writing for. On top of that, we have to conduct research and write various forms of content within time and budget constraints. It’s no small task for a human writer.

Of course, that’s where generative AI content writing tools come in. They’ve become further proof of our talent for adapting. These tools have taken away a little bit of our magic since they can conjure up decently-written words in a matter of seconds. However, what many don’t see is that generative AI is quite generic, frequently inaccurate and generally never persuasive in the way good copy needs to be. It’s our job to use those tools to enhance our abilities, bringing out the best of our skills and generative AI’s benefits.

4. Copy Editors Need More Credit

Think of the dynamic between construction and cleanup crews. Construction workers put in the work laying the foundation and building the structure from the ground up. It’s up to the cleaning team to tidy up before a building can be worked or lived in. Copywriters may spend their time researching and writing content, but even all that work isn’t complete without the fine attention to detail copy editors employ to keep grammar, syntax, tone and other essential copy elements in check.

Copy editors make sense of what copywriters create, even when they lose sight of it themselves. Think about it. When you are too close to the words you’ve written, it can be hard to cut back, add more or make changes. Copy editors come in with new perspectives and an objective mind, carefully cleaning and polishing up a piece into something fresh-pressed just right for the audience at hand.

5. Writer’s Block Is Very Real

Every copywriter has experienced it before: the dreaded blinking cursor lingering on a blank page. Writer’s block can hit at just about any point in the creative process. For me, it’s usually toward the beginning. Sometimes it feels impossible to come up with “good” ideas, so a brainstorm ends up more like a brain freeze (I often struggle with being willing to put out “bad ideas” to help bring out the good ones.) In other cases, words and phrases don’t seem to come together as they should and it can take a while to sort out thoughts well enough to put something meaningful down on the page.

6. Plagiarism Has Consequences

Plagiarism doesn’t just exist for high school and college essays. It’s a big deal and can have very real repercussions for businesses and creatives. Aside from the ethical and legal issues, plagiarism can negatively affect website rankings. Search engines like Google are looking for original content. Websites with unoriginal content will be penalized in rankings, so copywriters have to be very careful with their words. In many cases, we’re writing about topics that have been covered thousands of times by other creators, meaning we have to make sure we put an original spin on the content.

7. We Know You’re Skimming Our Work

As copywriters, we know that readers probably aren’t going to read each and every word that we write. And that’s ok! We try to write and organize the content we create in a way that allows you to skim through a blog post or web page while still understanding the gist.

Parkway Digital Copywriter Summer Phillipson
Summer Phillipson / Copywriter
Summer balances a knack for telling a story (thanks to a stint in journalism) with copy that tells readers exactly what they need to know. Her experience, which includes everything from industrial ad copy to small business websites, is evident in every project she takes on for Parkway’s clients.