There are sites and sources that promise “the perfect formula for effective copy!” or “the formula for copy that converts!” And that sounds great, right? But not only are “formulas” not great, they’re both full of crap and bad for copywriting professionals. Care to hear me rant? Read on…
Today’s question comes from Amelia E. who asks, “I get a newsletter from a site that periodically tries to sell me copy “formulas”—something like “the copy formula for killer ads and emails.” That sounds kind of too good to be true. What’s your take?”
Too good to be true? You bet. Think of it this way: If there were a formula for perfect copy, there would be no need for copywriters. And there’s still a large (and largely unanswered) call for great copywriters. There is no perfect formula.
There are just too many variables and elements that go into pieces of copy that even a “killer” formula can’t take into account. Even if a formula has a place for you to plunk in the benefit, how do you target it to your audience? How do you adjust it to their particular needs and concerns? And how do you convey your company or client’s branding and voice? And how do you break out of the box to offer a message that’s unexpected, exciting and effective?
A formula for copy is like a formula for an oil painting. Can you create a plan that tells people exactly what colors to put and where? Of course you can. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would call that real and professional art. Can you give a someone a scalpel and a list of steps to perform a heart transplant? Sure. But I think you and I would both prefer to be operated on by someone who’s been trained, as experience, and just overall understands what he or she is doing and why.
Look, formulas sound great. Everybody wants “easy,” right? But some things just don’t come easy. Good, effective copy requires thought, planning, strategy, insight, and creativity—and a formula completely eliminates all of those.
Admittedly, part of the reason copy formulas bother me is that it makes it seem like copywriting is something that can be done quickly, easily and by anyone. It devalues the role of the copywriter for people who don’t already understand our value. It smacks of the idea that “anybody can write copy—copy’s easy” and you and I know that that’s no more true than “anybody can be a molecular biologist—molecular biology’s easy.” Great copy comes from a combination of a writer’s training, experience, and inspiration.
Luckily, most professionals understand that great copy can’t come from formulas. But that means that the people that are getting duped tend to be those who don’t know better; those who are just starting out in their careers or just starting out in their businesses. Basically, people who could really use our help.
So what’s the solution? Keep reaching out. Keep finding new clients. Keep educating people about your career and its value. Someone once said that (to paraphrase), if you have the solution to a problem and you don’t do everything you can to market yourself and help people who have that problem find you, you’re doing a great disservice to the world.
So get out there. Write great copy. Show the world.
Your turn! What’s your favorite part of being a copywriter? How do you feel that we bring value to the world? Let us know in the comments below!