There’s a lot of information out there about copywriting. The bad news, though, is that a lot of it is wrong. Lots of misinformed people are spouting a lot of useless or, worse, downright bad opinions and misinformation that are discouraging writers and keeping them from succeeding. Let’s try to fix some of that, shall we? Read on…
Today’s article isn’t based on a question but, rather, several questions—and several of the same questions. So, today and next week, we’re going to do our best to combat some of the biggest misconceptions about writing copy and building a copywriting career.
1. You need to know someone to get a job.
Boy, is this a popular one: A lot of people will tell you that in order to get a job, you need to know someone with clout to get you in the door (usually a creative director). The reason that this misconception is so popular is that people have had trouble getting in by the traditional methods—submitting a cover letter and resume and interviewing—and so they conclude that you have to “know people.”
But this conclusion is faulty because it’s based on faulty inputs. The reason most people who apply can’t get an interview isn’t because they’re not in on nepotism, it’s because they’re submitting cover letters and resumes without training in writing copy and experience writing copy.
Guess what? If I apply to become an architect, they’re not going to call me in for an interview. But it won’t be because I don’t “know people”—it’ll be because I don’t know architecture and it’s not on my resume. Copywriting is a merit-based career: Creative directors want people who can write great copy. They’re just not going to hire people who can’t. Case closed.
2. It’s all long hours.
It’s likely that this rumor was started by someone who has a buddy that works at an ad agency. Sure, there are some long hours sometimes (especially at ad agencies), but these tend to be during big campaign pushes or when a client has last-minute requests. Unfortunate, but oh well.
However, copywriting isn’t all long hours. Internal agency copywriters and many ad agency copywriters will be the first to tell you that they work perfectly reasonable hours. And freelance and contract copywriters who have built a high-level of flexibility into their careers will tell you they work, generally, only as much as they want to. Nah, it’s not all long hours.
3. You have to be really funny
It’s true, there are a lot of funny ads out there. But there are just as many (in fact, many more) pieces of copy that aren’t funny and don’t need to be. There are thousands and thousands of businesses that need copy that delivers their benefits messages to their target audiences effectively and in brand voice—but they don’t even want the message to be funny.
If you don’t think of yourself as a comic, don’t worry: You don’t need to be funny to be a great copywriter. You just need to write great copy. And by “great copy,” I mean effective copy—copy that gets people to take the action you want them to take.
4. Your bosses will be divas/jerks
Ah, another likely holdover from ad agency lore; there are legendary stories about terrible creative directors. And, sure, some creative directors are lousy people. But you’ll find lousy people in every role, in every industry.
More important, though, is the fact that you’ll find many more creative directors that are brilliant, supportive and insightful. They may (and, really, should) challenge you, but that will help you be a better copywriter. You’ll probably encounter a crummy creative director during the entire span of your career, but you’ll also encounter many more that will become lifelong mentors.
5. You spend all day writing.
I guess this misconception kind of makes sense; after all, you’re a copywriter, so you’d just spend all day sitting at your desk and writing, right? Wrong. A copywriter’s day is much more varied. (And if you’ve ever spent eight hours writing, you understand how great that is.)
Copywriters spend time concepting new projects with designers, collaborating with their design partners to tweak layouts on screen, meeting with product managers to kick off projects, and presenting projects to the stakeholder teams. And that’s just a few examples. There’s plenty of writing, of course, but copywriting is so much more than that.
And that’s your first five. But remember, there are five more to come! Keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, though, if there are any misconceptions or confusing things you’d like cleared up ASAP, let us know in the comments below!