April 7, 2017
Copywriting is a pretty cool job. First of all, you get paid to write. Second, you don’t need any fancy programs or tools to do your work. Want to spend the day in a park, or by a pool? You can do that and do your job at the same time. Third, you get to be completely anonymous and write in a myriad of voices on the daily. It’s basically the closest you’ll get to being a professional troll, while still sounding completely respectable at dinner parties. But like any job, it comes with challenges. So, what should you do when the going gets tough?
The challenge: writer’s block.
Every writer knows how crappy it is to have writer’s block. But nobody is going to accept that as a valid excuse for missed deadlines. Instead, you have to face it head on. So just pretend you don’t have it. Really. Fool your coworkers and fool yourself. Write down whatever comes to mind. It might suck. It might read like gibberish. It might feel awkward. It might just lead to your next book piece. You’ll know once you get there, but until then, don’t delete anything. Just keep writing. Don’t even read what you’ve written down until you think “hey, that’s pretty darn good.” Then edit.
The challenge: a noisy workspace.
Some people work just fine surrounded by booming speakers and shouting coworkers. But writers aren’t always so lucky. For us, it’s kind of like trying to recite pi in the middle of an auction.
As if this weren’t hard enough, there’s that whole curiosity thing. As writers, we can’t help it. It’s what makes us good writers. Curiosity is as natural to us as the Oxford comma once was (RIP). So what should you do when you’re nearing a deadline and the entire office jumps into a juicy conversation next to your desk? Grab your headphones, put on some writing-friendly tunes and avoid eye contact like you’re walking past a row of exes in a particularly embarrassing grocery aisle. Stay focused. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get sucked in—or worse, find bits of that overheard conversation in your writing. Good luck explaining that to your boss.
The challenge: clients and coworkers.
Everyone writes. Every day, your clients and coworkers craft texts, tweets, emails, blogposts and grocery lists. Because of this, any one of them can edit your work. Or give you writing advice. Or propose new copy altogether. They don’t need to download a special program, they don’t need to take classes and they don’t need to do research to do so. Because everyone is a writer.
The problem is that not everyone is an experienced copywriter. So when those people make copy contributions, they can be frustratingly wrong. That’s why being a copywriter isn’t just writing for a living. It’s also defending your work for a living. If you’re unhappy with a copy edit, give concrete reasons why you disagree. Does the copy contradict the voice and tone guidelines? Is it off-brand, or too close to a competitor’s voice? Can it be simplified? Does it stray from strategy? If you disagree with a copy contribution, have a good reason to push back. (And no, “it just sounds weird” isn’t good enough.)
The challenge: yourself.
When it comes to copywriting (or any other job for that matter), practice is key. It’s obvious. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. But you can only grow so much on your own. At some point, you might notice that you’re falling on the same copy crutches. Or that you’re feeling unsure about your work. And when that happens, you need to know where to go.
Copywriting is a very mentor-driven industry. Or at least that’s what a mentor told me once. Having a copy mentor is invaluable. A good mentor is there to bounce ideas off of, give productive feedback and share stories full of copy wisdom. It could be your boss. Or someone you work alongside. Maybe it’s an old friend. If you can help it, have a mentor.
But continuing your growth doesn’t stop at having a mentor. It’s also smart to find some great copywriting books and websites to help you keep up. No matter where you go, read copy. Read it on websites. Read it on billboards. Read it on the back of your shampoo bottle (for your safety, after you rinse). Notice what you love and what you really freaking hate. And when you do hate something, ask yourself how you’d make it better. Not always so easy, is it?
Copywriting is challenging. But you know what? Most great jobs are. Even professional taste-testers have to eat a bad slice of ‘za every once in a while. So keep writing and show those challenges whose boss (hint: it’s you).