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EPISODE 62: What IS a Copywriter, Anyways?

by Nov 30, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Why is it so difficult to explain what we do as writers?
  • How can you succinctly share the value of your work as a copywriter?
  • Talking points to use the next time someone asks, “So, what exactly do you do again?”

Have you ever had a friend or family member ask something along the lines of, “So…what exactly do you do again?” 

Well, you’re certainly not alone. The title “copywriter” is widely recognized, but commonly misunderstood. Not all copywriters come up with catchy slogans to sell products {although, that is one very cool career path option}. At North Star, our writers help business owners communicate to their audience and grow their success through the craft of writing. It’s really cool and special, and we’re very proud of what we do! 

But saying “I’m a writer” can mean SO many different things. For some, it implies being an author, for others it’s writing a vast array of content for clients. Regardless, writing is a real, respected, skilled, and valuable profession—and yes, we get paid money for our work!  

So, how can you succinctly explain the work you do in a way that communicates its importance and uniqueness, without confusing people? 

Here’s some tips from this week’s guest co-hosts and North Star Writer Mentors, Maggie and Madeline:

    • Titles are open to interpretation, so paint the big picture. You can start with your title, for example: “I’m a copywriter and content strategist” but this may not resonate with people outside the industry. However, everyone understands the concept of having clients, so follow up with where you work and who you write for!
       
      • For example, “My clients are mostly small business owners or entrepreneurs. I talk to them about their business goals and figure out what pieces of content I can write to help them achieve those goals. Then, I write those pieces.”

    • Share the substance of your work through examples. As a copywriter, you are foundational to a business or brand’s success in marketing—the message is powerful! It communicates the value of a service or product and inspires readers to take action. Here’s a few fun ways to share the value of your own work as a copywriter:
  • “Have you ever visited a business’ website to read all the information about the business and the people who own it? I write that.”

  • “Do you get emails from different stores and businesses talking about their latest offers? I write those.”

  • “Have you ever Google’d a random question and read an article that popped up? Someone had to write that, and I’ve written tons of those types of articles!”

  • “Ever put in your email to download a freebie, like an online course or a guide? I write those kinds of pieces for my clients to help them get more email subscribers or followers.”

    • Most people are at least somewhat familiar with blogs and social media, but what a lot of people don’t realize is many of the people they follow on social media don’t actually write all their posts themselves. It can be fun to lift up the curtain {with respect to your clients, of course} and share the ins and outs of ghostwriting!

 

Your work as a copywriter is valuable, skillful, and creative! Being able to articulate the importance of your work goes a long way to help rewrite stereotypes around the writing profession, increase the respect your peers, family, and friends have for your work, and help encourage aspiring professional writers. 

 

Homework: 

Join us in the Polaris Writers Lounge to commiserate about explaining {repeatedly} what we do! And also, get copywriting tips and tricks, etc. of course.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Madeline:
All right, welcome back to the Brand Your Voice Podcast. And this is once again, Madeline and Maggie, the North Star writer mentors checking in. This is the last week of Jessi and Marie's extended vacation. So we are, once again, I'm talking to you guys, it's been so fun getting to record these episodes, and we are excited to talk to you today about something that might seem kind of basic, but it's what is the copywriter anyways?

Maggie:
Yeah. And maybe it makes sense, like this is the last episode that Madeline and I will be recording. Well, at least for the time being, so maybe it makes sense to start at the beginning and let's get to basics. Do you ever struggle to describe what you do to friends and family? I know it's certainly something that I come up against a lot, especially amongst my like older relatives who maybe are not as familiar with remote work and all of the ins and outs and the expansiveness of the internet that they don't quite understand what it is. I do. Exactly.

Madeline:
Yeah, no, definitely. You know, it's funny cause I've had this job for about almost exactly a year now. And I was with my grandmother a couple of weeks ago and I had talked about my job with her a lot and she was like, so what exactly is your job? Like, what is it that you do? So, it's just funny because I'll talk about, she knows that I write. She knows I'm a writer. But, it partly is a generation thing because I think that it is with some older relatives and everything, they might not fully get that there is like this big market for, especially like digital marketing content. But even with my friends who are my age, they'll be like, so what is it that you do again?

Maggie:
Yeah.

Madeline:
So, yeah. And it's funny because when say like, oh, I'm a copywriter. Like I feel like copywriter is kind of one of those jobs that everyone pretends to know what it is, but like no one actually knows, like maybe they're like, oh, okay. I've heard of that enough to know it's a real thing, but I'm like afraid to ask what it actually means.

Maggie:
Yeah. And I think that there's, because copywriter even can encompass so many things that, even that makes it hard to pin down still like what it is exactly that you're writing all day.

Madeline:
Definitely. So, yeah. And it's a struggle because if I just say I'm a writer, I feel like that implies, that can mean so many different things. And I feel like that implies that I'm a full-time author, which, you know, maybe someday, but we're not there yet. Or, if people do know what copywriting is, like you said, it's such a vast category. And so I don't know, maybe I feel the need to defend, not defend it, but explain it a little bit more because I also just feel very passionately about North Star's, our mission specifically and our commitment to writing brand voice. And I'm like, well, yeah, I'm a copywriter, but it's not like we're just writing slogans to sell stuff, we're helping business owners talk to their audience and connect with people and using our art to help people expand their success. And it's really cool and special and it's hard to communicate that.

Maggie:
Yeah, I agree. I think that's such a good point too, I think that there's maybe depending on the crowd you're talking to, there's almost like a stigma or something. Copywriting people just think of ads then kind of slimy and capitalist and there's just this kind of negative connotation. So I think if you can kind of more accurately capture the spirit of what you do, people don't have that same read on.

Madeline:
Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Maggie:
So I think the difficulty is describing the breadth of what it is we do. And it's importance and its relevance to a lot of people in the world, most people in the world, and then to also be sort of respected, to have people understand like, oh, what a skill that is to kind of give it it's just respect and appreciation.

Madeline:
Yeah. And especially when you say I'm a writer, like I write professionally, like it's both, I want to communicate to maybe my relatives who are worried about how I make money, that I can make good money off of writing. And then also communicate to people like I was a couple of years ago where I didn't, I hadn't really realized that this was a field and that this was a way that I could make money through my writing skills. Yeah. So I don't know. And again, to the importance and the uniqueness of what I do, but also without confusing people.

Maggie:
Yeah, exactly. And, yes, like, yeah, the uniqueness of your particular role in this vast landscape of content. There's so much digital content floating all around us. And I have, like years ago, my first copywriting job, I worked with a lot of local companies in that sort of thing. And it was the kind of copywriting that I was not so enthusiastic about, car companies. I'm trying to think of some other, I wrote for like a windows store, I wrote so many blogs for that company about windows and I'm like, how did I just keep coming up with content around windows, but, I think, so there's that, which there's definitely a place for it, but, I wasn't super passionate about that. And then there's other, there's way more industries that we've covered. Like for example, I work with a lot of nonprofits at North Star and I love that. And that feels so meaningful to me in a way that the car dealership stuff didn't. So I think that to be able to kind of point to the expansiveness and the variety here too is, and then speak to what it is exactly you're doing, your role, is pretty powerful.

Madeline:
Absolutely. And even to just get more general, and I think particularly with maybe the older generations, but I mean also for people like my peers and everything, I think that, like you said, there's so much digital content out there that I think sometimes we forget that there is like, oh, somebody needs to write that. So that's a job that you can have.
So sometimes that's how I start is, with my grandma, I'll be like, okay. So, you know, when you go to a visit, when you look up a business on the internet and you to their website and on their website, there's a description of the business and what they do and like who owns it and like kind of their story and what they do. And you can read all that information on the website and she's like, okay. Yeah. And I'm like, yeah, I write that. Or, you know, you open your email and you have some emails from companies about, oh, we have this new product or this new service, I write those emails. And I think that people don't necessarily, or I think, it's not that they don't realize that somebody is writing them, but I think maybe there's like, you forget that there's an actual, real life person who has to like, oh, somebody does need to write that. And that's something that you can get paid to do. I don't know. Does that make any sense?

Maggie:
Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. I think that it's something people are so used to just taking it in that they kind of maybe forget that like, oh, that's like a skilled profession. And someone actively, whether they're in-house or a freelancer or they work at a content creation company or whatever, it does that because they've developed specific skills in that area, you know? So, yeah, I think that just those basics are really powerful. And I think, something that I think often, just point to describe the field succinctly is just, it is all of the text that comes with marketing, you know, like any kind of text that comes with marketing. And that actually includes like a ton of stuff, marketing and communications, I should say too.

Madeline:
I mean, I had a job for another writing agency for a couple months before I started getting my work with North Star. But, those were, the way I described that job was when like all of a sudden, one in the morning, some random question will fall into your head and you'll just Google it and you'll be like, oh, what are, I don't know if you're thinking about like, looking for new ways to cook chicken or something, and you cook like, oh, best chicken recipes are like best fish for grilling or whatever. And then within seconds you have all these articles on Google that are like, you're the top five best fish for grilling. I'm like, yeah, I wrote those articles. And I think we just, we live in this world where we're so used to just having whatever information we want within seconds that we forget that, oh, somebody has to actually write that information like that is somebody's job to compile that and write it so that you can get it, you know, 0.2 seconds.

Maggie:
Yeah. It's funny to think about too. And I think that unless you will have spent years, doing this kind of work, you kind of, you forget about all of that, because of course, like a hundred times a day, I feel like I'm Googling some random thing.
Another, yeah, this is making me remember that they tried to relaunch the search engine, Bing, like they kind of-

Madeline:
Oh yeah I remember this.

Maggie:
I spent a lot, I wrote a lot of blogs for Bing. Everyone thought that was the funniest thing in the world, just to kind of like, kind of turn up for their own in-house created copies so that they could put it in search engine and stuff like that. Oh yeah. I just, there's just like a million different flavors of copywriting and it's, I think that it can take years to also just get your footing in the kind of copywriting that you want to be.

Madeline:
Definitely. And the other thing is, with social media, I mean, more people are familiar with social media, but, it's kind of fun for me to kind of be able to lift up the curtain a little bit, because I think that a lot of people don't necessarily realize that many of, and not all of them, you know, obviously not everyone's in a place to hired like an outside copywriter for their social media. But I think a lot of people don't realize that, at least a good number of the people that they follow on social media who have their own businesses or who have these large followings, they're not actually the ones writing their posts. It's actually somebody else who's writing those. And I think that's kind of fun to let people in on, and I don't know, maybe that helps take away from some of the feeling like, oh, this person has all their life together on social media. It's like, well, not actually her writing that it's, you know.

Maggie:
Yeah. I mean, like to take it even further, you know, like a lot of people have not just someone who's writing their social posts, but someone who manages all their socials, all of the metrics behind the scenes, you know, like all of that, which is pretty wild to think about, like how social media driven a lot of marketing is these days.

Madeline:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I guess when I'm telling somebody about my job and, if we get past the stage where I'm just like, okay, so I'm a copywriter and content strategist, and if they look lost or if they're, they seem interested in then I'll keep going. And one thing, one way that I've found that kind of helps is to start with the clients because everyone understands having a client relationship. Right. So, let's say I work for this small company, but you know, we have all these outside clients. And so my clients are mostly small business owners or entrepreneurs. And what I do with my clients is I talk them about their business goals. And then I figure out what I can, what pieces of content I can write to help them achieve those goals. And then I write those pieces. So I think kind of framing it from a client perspective can help people understand what it is that I do as well.

Maggie:
Yeah. That is a really, really smart kind of way of doing it. Like here's a case study in what I do. I work, it does this and I will help her determine if she needs like an email sequence or social posts or an opt in all of this stuff. And then I create it. So I think that the strategy part is really relevant too, because I think the title doesn't necessarily capture that. But as a copywriter, you're kind of in often in a place of like where you're determining what kind of like content needs to be created in the first place. And you have tons of creative power as far as like the angle and stuff goes.

Madeline:
Yeah. And you know, it depends like sometimes we'll have clients who are like, okay, I know exactly what pieces of content I want. And I'm like, okay, cool. I'll write them. But you know, more often they're looking for guidance and strategy in figuring out not just what the content says, but what the content is in the first place. And you know, that's a very large and important part of our job that requires real training and skill and more than just, I mean, not that writing doesn't require skill, but you know, it's another side to it that I think people don't always understand.

Maggie:
Yeah. And people don't always understand what the options are even. Because even professionals, you know, who have like built out their website, they have stuff going on. They might not even realize all of the potential that copy, good copy, can, like open up.

Madeline:
For sure. For sure. And then, you know, if people are, who I'm talking to about my job or interested, a lot of times I will talk about our specific brand voice process as well. Just cause I feel like that's such an important part of what we do. And it's also kind of the, the key to writing really good and effective copy is like having a really, really good sense of that person's voice. So, you know, I will, I'll tell them kind of what we do and I'll say, you know, so one thing I do a lot in my job is we call it a brand voice intensive and I meet with a client again, usually like it's a small business owner, entrepreneur, and I conduct this really long interview with them. And then from that interview, I create this big, long document that's basically a roadmap for writing in their voice. And the idea behind that is that that client now has this as a business tool that they can give this document to any writer who they might hire in the future. And that writer would be able to use it to write successfully for that client and help them reach their business goals.

Maggie:
Yeah. And I think that that's another point that like really lands with most people. I think that everyone understands that, and just has to absorb sort of from the environment, even that like all these different brands have really different personalities, like, Dodge, like Dodge trucks has a different brand personalities than, a skincare company or something like that. And all of that tone and the colors and the voice, all that stuff kind of, speaks to all the things that happened in the brand voice guide. Like who's your ideal audience, you know? Like, what are your values? Like how do you aspire to connect? And I think that that's another, I think that that's a really good point that you bring up that is like, yeah. Every peoples understand that, cause you almost, can't avoid looking at advertisements in the world that we live in.

Madeline:
Yeah. And then once you know that it's funny, cause you can definitely see it more and more once you're aware of it, you're like, you know, different brands, their writing styles are different. Like their sentence structure is different. Their punctuation is different. Their mood changes are different. Like some clients use a bazillion emojis in their Instagram posts and some people use like one, if any, and like that that's something that you, that that's not a coincidence. That's deliberate. When I think that people don't always realize it, like every aspect of an Instagram post from the words to how it's laid out, like all of those choices are deliberate choices to reflect that brand.

Maggie:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That is a lot of thought that goes into every sentence, you know, like every bit of punctuation, even like you said, I think is really powerful. And I think it's interesting to be on the backend of seeing what good copy can achieve, whether that's, a client is launching a new course and they had a really high conversion rate, like the contents of the thing itself, but also to the way it was communicated to the right people and how you even got the right people on your list and that sort of thing, you know, the words you put together in a specific way can inspire someone to take an action is still really powerful.

Madeline:
It is absolutely. And you know, I think that it's easy to get kind of cynical about it and be like, oh, well, you know, just it's, I don't know, to get kind of cynical about the sales aspect of it and be like, oh, you're just getting convincing people to spend money. And I'm like, well, it's convincing somebody to take an action and whether that involves spending on you or not. And of course, you know, the really important thing is that all of the clients who I work with at North Star are, I genuinely care about them as people. And I genuinely think that they have amazing missions. So it doesn't feel like I'm just trying to sell stuff. It feels like I am supporting somebody in serving people with something that will actually benefit them. I don't know. Does that make sense?

Maggie:
Yeah, I think I totally agree too. It's supporting someone in doing, like often what is their life's work, like what their purpose is, you know? And it's like well, we all need money too. So, connecting with the right people that can use it, and having this ethical and smart exchange of money and services and that sort of thing.

Madeline:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Maggie:
Yeah. Did that, I mean, I guess we didn't land on a succinct way to answer, what is a copywriter, but I think that perhaps we've just like opened the box up a little bit more and be like, wow, there's so much to that. And hopefully, you know, like the people in your life that maybe don't quite understand what it is, give you some more tools to have that conversation with them.

Madeline:
Yes, absolutely. I think what is a copywriter is such a, it's not an easy question to answer. And it's only getting more complicated every day as we have more forms of content and more ways to communicate with each other.

Maggie:
This is so true. Yeah. And if you are a person that runs into to these struggles, if you're a copywriter, aspiring copywriter or whatever the case may be, and you would like to commiserate with some other copywriters, please join our slack group. It's called the Polaris writer's lounge. And we talk about stuff like this and much more.

Madeline:
Yes. So not only venting about our relatives who don't understand what we do, but also giving each other tips and tricks for doing what we do better.

Maggie:
Yeah, exactly. So hopefully we can continue this conversation there. But also, what a pleasure it's been to be on the podcast the last few weeks.

Madeline:
Yes, so much fun. It's been awesome. I hope we get to do it again sometime.

Maggie:
All right. That is us signing off.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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