So… for my very first blog on my brand new site, it made sense to me that I might expand a little upon how I came into this copywriting gig and to say a little about how I think it works.
It started just over 9 years ago when I finished university. I had undertaken a film degree and came out with a 2:1 (right on the border for a 1st… still bitter about it) and an overwhelming sense that filmmaking wasn’t for me… Oops!
I wasn’t the worst filmmaker ever, but I knew I didn’t have a knack for it. I was a pretty good theorist, a passable soundman if pressed into it, and I had some talent with scripts – though probably more on the editing side than in the writing. But when asked to shoot or direct something, my efforts were either a bit bland, or I just tried too hard. At college, these deficiencies had been masked by a willingness to experiment and engage with technology, but at university, surrounded by talented filmmakers, it wasn’t enough.
I had toyed with the idea of a creative writing degree, but opted for what I perceived to be the degree that gave me the greatest chance of successful employment afterwards. Now I wished that I had done the writing degree, or something more useful, like computing. Instead, I was coming out of university with not the slightest idea of what I wanted to do.
That was when a friend of mine, who was a director at a small web firm, approached me with an offer of a job… as a copywriter.
“Great,” I said. “What’s that?”
They had a massive job on that required originating a whole heap of content on travelling and destinations.
“Okay…? What’s that?”
He wanted to pay me to write stuff.
“…Yay! I love you, etc.”
I could not have been happier. Talk about landing on your feet. I wasn’t getting paid a fortune, or anything, but it was a steady job doing something that I enjoyed and knew I was good at. I had always been a writer, as far back as I can remember. There’s a story I like to tell people about when I was at school and we were tasked with writing a story for English. While the rest of the class all turned in about five pages, I turned in thirty! In my twenties I had written and – in a limited way – self-published a novel. Writing was kind of my thing.
A year later, however, the job I had been hired for now finished, and with only the occasional piece of copy work coming into the office, I left my one and only employed job as a copywriter. But I never stopped doing it.
It suited the company I had worked for. They didn’t have enough copy work to employ a full-time copywriter, but the business of building websites does, by its nature, require copy. Better it came through them and was written by someone they knew.
And well, it’s just grown from there. Although, about four years ago, I started to work as a ghostwriter, as well. I love ghostwriting, and don’t care that it’s not my name on the final piece - often the first question I get asked. Copywriting had helped me shed any issues in that regard. And the best thing is that copywriting and fiction writing really do complement each other quite well.
All the best marketing copy looks to engage an audience, almost without exception. The ideas of structure and garnering emotional investment that are essential to good fiction, apply directly (although, of course, more concisely) to writing copy. Sometimes it’s hard to sell a customer on that concept. Business owners invariably like to sell their copy how they see it. Which can be a little boring.
My job, however, is to deliver it for an audience, to turn people’s passion for what they do into something relatable for potential customers. The first thing that makes me the right person for the job is that I am not my client. As a writer, I know that editing my own work is hard. Describing your own business is even more fraught with problems.
Seriously, I’ve written my own site content so far, but I’m thinking about getting someone else in. Not because I’m a rubbish copywriter, but because copy is best written from a (reasonably) neutral perspective. And understanding where another copywriter might do better than me is a strength, not a weakness. This is not a business for ego.
I’m also a good copywriter because I love language, particularly written language. It nourishes me, fills me up, gives me a buzz. And, finally, I’m a good copywriter because I’ve completed a film degree. I realise that now. All that work on plot and structure. Editing and analysing scripts. Organising shoots. Not to mention the huge amount of theoretical work. It helps with the ghostwriting, of course, but copywriting is all about presentation, it’s all about writing for your audience. Just like film.