As a copywriter, I am constantly doing research to fully understand the industries in which my clients’ businesses and products live. Do you need me to write compelling, interesting and engaging content about your new thing-a-mabob? Well, I better learn about what it is, how it’s made, who your consumer base is, and who its competitors are.
Agencies rely too heavily on the amount of previous experience necessary for a writer to work on a project. The truth is, companies and agencies alike look too hard for content writers who already have “expertise” in a specific field. What they fail to understand is that writing IS their expertise and no, they should not have to have 5 years of full time writing experience on the topic of “ballpoint pens” to be able to talk about YOUR client’s ballpoint pen rebranding campaign. The truth is the debriefings we get from clients are usually not enough for a copywriter to do their job effectively, anyway. If I am going to write something for someone, you best believe it’s going to be thorough because I refuse to write about something I don’t fully understand! Therefore, a good writer will listen to your briefing, then the writer will do their own research, and finally they’ll ask you questions along the way to make sure they are staying on track with your vision.
One of the hardest copy jobs I have worked on to date was for a French quality assurance company. For 6 months I worked on a huge project creating hundreds of brochures to cover every single quality assurance service they offer and the products they cover. They would send me lists of items – yeah, just the items – of the types of products their clients import from overseas and that they provide quality assurance services for. I mean I would get a list that would say something like:
Televisions Textiles Crutches
Shoes Speakers Toilets (yep, that was a thing)
Children’s Toys Laptops Mufflers
Batteries Blenders Strollers
Food packaging Clothing Granite
Lists upon lists of totally random items like these that I would have to write 2 or 3 page brochures for, individually! Some were household items and some were materials that were going to be turned into items upon assembly in France. All of this was a huge learning curve for me, especially since the client just sent me lists and couple of examples they had quickly roughed up for me to use as a little guide.
My job was to write informative yet interesting information on the importance of using a quality assurance company when importing these goods from abroad. This required hundreds of hours pouring over the regulations and norms set by the European Committee for Standardization and the International Organization for Standardisation to make sure I made good points about the importance of buying products that adhere to the specific codes for these products; researching the history of the goods for some fun… or not so fun facts about bad batches of imports causing harm to consumers; and all the while keeping this content to the point and engaging. Yes, the job was boring at times … but from this contract I gained new knowledge about France’s trade deals with other countries, import and export policy, international relations, and for which products you should definitely double check the source prior to purchasing.
All this to say, copy writing and content writing is not a walk in the park. You may ask, why do I do it if it sounds so hard and tedious? That answer is simple, and maybe a bit cliché.
I love to learn.
My best advice to anyone looking for a great copywriter or content writer is:
Find someone who clearly loves to learn.
Find someone who knows how to ask the right questions and get to the point.
Find someone who is passionate about writing.
Although it’s great if someone knows about your industry, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Forget about the amount of experience someone has in a super specific field because if people are willing to learn, they can do great things. I admit that my area of “expertise” is technically luxury hotels and high-end restaurants in Europe. This is only due to the fact that the research of my published my Master’s dissertation focused on the importance of the use of the English language in the boosting of direct sales in the French tourism industry. My first salaried job after completing my Masters was for a digital advertising company in Paris that designs campaigns for – yep, you got it! – luxury hotels and Michelin starred restaurants.
The question is, should I be pigeon holed because of this? My answer is a resounding “NO”. Just because I had to pick 1 topic of interest in my Masters does not mean I should be bound to only work in advertising and communications for the tourism industry alone until the end of my career. I love writing about travel and tourism, it is certainly a passion of mine. However, like with my quality assurance client, I’m always willing to do the leg work and learn new things because that’s literally the nature of my business. I want to learn more because even if sometimes it may be tedious, knowledge is king! Every time I get a new client that is not a bourgeois café in Paris, a winery or a provincial luxury truffle exporter, I have to fight for the contract. You see, I pride myself on my ability to change my tone for the consumer – it’s why I became a copywriter in the first place.
And so, I ask you clients and ad agencies, give us writers a chance… what we have to write may very well impress you.