“What does a copywriter DO?” I get this question pretty much every time I tell someone about my job. Let's get some answers!
To answer the question: What does a copywriter do? We've got to get clear on a few things.
First of all, copywriting has nothing to do with copyrights. If you have a copyright, you have the exclusive legal rights to something. A song, a book, a poem, a painting.
Copywriting, on the other hand, is all about writing copy. Copy is essentially the words on the page, whether it's a sales page, website, email, or social media caption. And the person who writes that “copy” is a copywriter.
The short answer to “What does a copywriter do?” is “We write copy!” But since that's basically like defining a word by using the word itself (which is cleverly called a ‘backronym,' but that's beside the point)… I thought I'd give you some better examples.
Copywriters Work Everywhere
Ad agencies, marketing companies, car dealerships, financial institutions – there are lots of places that employ copywriters. You can make a pretty decent living as a corporate copywriter (anywhere from $34k-$78k per year in Nashville, according to Glassdoor.)
That said, my focus in this blog is really the independent, self-employed copywriter. The online copywriter. The “I-don't-want-anyone-telling-me-what-to-do” copywriter. Copywriters like me who have a knack with words and realized they could turn that into a high-value, profitable business. Almost all copywriters are “accidental” copywriters. So if you're thinking this sounds like a cool career but you never really heard of it or planned on becoming a copywriter… you're in good company.
Online copywriters tend to have a niche: health and wellness, coaching, spirituality, real estate, etc. They write specifically for other online business owners (or brick-and-mortars) who work in that niche. This isn't required, but as someone, somewhere once said – “The riches are in the niches.” (Although I pronounce it “knee-sh” not “nitch” so that saying doesn't quite have the same ring.)
All copy is essentially promotional. That means that copywriters spend their days selling. Except instead of cold calling or obnoxiously knocking on people's doors in the middle of dinner, we do our selling with words.
You'll find that different copywriters have different specialties when it comes to how they sell.
Conversion copywriters focus on metrics: how many visitors to this page converted into a paying client?
SEO copywriters focus on organic search results and making sales through higher traffic and better SEO. (SEO stands for search engine optimization. My biz friend Dolly has a helpful blog that explains SEO and how to improve yours!)
Creative copywriters focus on building connection and the “know-like-trust” factor through personality-driven copy that's got a strong brand voice.
UX Copywriters should probably get a mention here. UX, or user experience, is a technical, highly specialized type of copywriting that focuses on moving visitors through a process and writes what we call “micro-copy.” It's a fascinating niche, but also falls outside of the typical copywriters mentioned above.
There are probably other kinds of copywriters, and everyone sees their unique skills in a slightly different light, but those are the three major categories I see around this space.
Copywriters Write ALL the Things
Websites. Emails. Sales pages. Landing pages. Lead magnets. Social media captions. LinkedIn content. Blogs. Course scripts and slides. Video transcripts. Newsletters.
Copywriters write all of the above… and more.
Basically, if there are written words involved in something a business owner is doing, there's a copywriter who specializes in it.
When you're first starting out, I actually recommend that you take on lots of different jobs. When I was new to the field, I wrote everything from websites to resumés and social media captions to weekly email newsletters. You can't find out what you're best at writing – and what you enjoy writing – without trying it out!
Once you've figured out what's your jam, it's a good idea to specialize. I mostly write website copy and emails. Those are the two things I teach people about and talk about the most on my social media, and that's what I'm “known for.” But I also write lots of sales pages and the occasional blog. You aren't necessarily limited to your speciality… it's just easier if people know that you're the go-to person for a specific kind of writing. (I also resisted narrowing my focus for over a year and did just fine… so don't feel bad if you're hesitant about specializing!)
What does a copywriter do? We write!
If putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) doesn't light you up, copywriting is probably not the best choice. Building a copywriting business isn't quick or easy, but it's incredibly rewarding. (I shared all about my first full-year in this blog post. I share projects, expenses, profits, failures, and all the juicy details!)
We spend our hours tweaking the wording on a header until it shares just the right information, in just the right tone, and connects with just the right people.
We get overly excited when we figure out a way to be clear and clever. Then we really lose our minds when our client sells out their course from a sales page we wrote.
Now you know the answer to the age-old question: What does a copywriter do? Hooray!
And if you're looking for an example of what a copywriter can help you with, why don't you check out these (free!) 107 Ideas for Your Next Email.