What is a copywriter?

March 27, 2020


This article was originally published in October 2017. Refreshed: March 2020.

A copywriter is a professional writer who works in the marketing industry. Very simply, it’s a copywriter’s job to write words for promotional media. This includes:

  • Adverts – print and digital
  • Radio and TV ads
  • Direct marketing letters
  • Email marketing
  • Websites and web pages.

A copywriter uses writing techniques that persuade (emotive language, rule of three, repetition, etc) so the reader is encouraged to take action or become more aware of a brand.

Looking for a copywriter rather than copyrighter

The above is a very top-level overview of what a copywriter is and what businesses hire us to do. If the service you’re searching for fits the above description, then you’re in the right place. But I’m updating this article because Google Search Console and Google Analytics tell me you’re finding me because of this post. And you’re finding me because you’ve searched for ‘copyrighter’ rather than ‘copywriter’.

While I’m over the moon you’ve discovered a unique way to unearth me on Google, you could be missing out on finding the right copywriter for you. All because you’re not using the correct spelling of copywriter.

Lots of people don’t know what a copywriter is

On the odd occasion when I have to go to one of those get-togethers where talking to strangers is something you’re forced to do, and it’s a social obligation for people to ask, “So what do you do?” because you’re unsure what else to talk about… Well, I tell them, “I’m a copywriter,” and their next line is usually, “Wow, that’s really interesting. And useful. Because lots of people need legal advice on copyright.”

My next move is to take a deep breath and explain its ‘writer’ as in ‘w-r-i-t-e-r’. Not the legal stuff. And we both laugh awkwardly, because we both know they’re still no wiser.

I can’t get frustrated. There are members of my own family and close friends who still don’t understand what I do. Which surprises me. Honestly, I didn’t realise I was part of such an underground career movement. But yay! Go me for choosing a job that’s apparently unknown, obscure and makes you an awkward person to talk to at parties.



Explaining what a copywriter is and the work they do

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that a copywriter doesn’t know about copyright law.

As mentioned earlier, a copywriter writes words that promotes a brand or helps sell a product, course or idea.

You’ll find words written by copywriters on:

  • Billboards
  • Facebook ads
  • Direct mail and email marketing (You know, those letters you get from companies? Those.)
  • Radio ads
  • Magazine ads
  • Press releases
  • Company tag likes (like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ and KFC’s ‘Finger Lickin’ Good)
  • All the words on a website

There are more, but you probably get the idea.

Writing words — which is called ‘copy’ — is a full-time job. A copywriter may work in an advertising agency, digital marketing agency, within the marketing team of a larger business, or freelance.

As a business owner, you might hire a copywriter because you’re struggling to deliver a message to your ideal target audience that causes them to take action. That action might be to buy, download, sign up, like or share, or simply to become aware of your brand/product.

Convincing an audience to take action means understanding them. A lot of a copywriter’s time is spent researching a target audience and planning the campaign or article. Actually, getting the words on the page is a smaller part of the job.

Copywriters are also creative. It’s our job to help sell an idea by coming up with the best way to present it. Sometimes achieving the results we’re after means collaborating with other creative professionals, such as designers, illustrators, web developers and SEO strategists.



What is copyright?

While copywriting is very creative, copyright is complex and founded in law.

As a writer not a lawyer, my knowledge of this is really limited. I really don’t know the full ins and outs of copyright law, but basically ‘copyright’ is laying claim to something (usually creative work such as music, writing, art, inventions, etc) and if anyone copies it or prints it without your permission, you can sue them.

That’s the real simple version. And about as deep as my understanding is willing to go.

Interesting story

I was once told that you could copyright something by writing down the idea, putting it in a stamped envelope and posting it to yourself. When it arrived in the post, you had to leave it sealed. I think it had something with the date being stamped on it when posted and that being evidence of when you ‘copyrighted’ your idea?

I have no idea how true this is. I was 13 when told this information and ‘Googling’ it to fact-check wasn’t really a thing back then.

Tangent over.

There is some crossover between my job as a copywriter and copyright. Creating promotional material for other people means giving someone the right to use the ideas I’ve come up with. As a copywriter, I have to agree to hand over the copyright of the work done so the clients own it, can use it and don’t have to worry about me suing them. Different copywriters may hand over copyright in different ways but for me, a client only has permission to use the work once full payment has been received.

Knowing the difference between copywriter and copyrighting isn’t hard

Hopefully, this clears up what a copywriter is and what you can hire someone like me to do. If you’re still a little unclear, take a look around my site. The portfolio page is a good place to start.


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