Copywriting challenges – this week’s axe to grind

Copywriting - axe to grind

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Snapshot : Copywriting plays a key role at all parts of the customer experience and brings to life the voice of your brand. But when you get into the nitty-gritty of it, there’s a whole range of copywriting challenges you need to work through. It takes a special type of person to write copy. This week’s post enters the challenging world of copywriting. 

OK, a small confession to start this week’s post. 

The original title for this post was going to be the unbearable shiteness of copywriting. But, firstly, the stupid Autocorrect changed it to whiteness. And then shiftiness. Sigh. That was a sign. 

And then, we thought about what image we might find to go with a headline that talked about shiteness. Hmmmm. That would have taken us into the world of politicians and reality TV shows. And that definitely wasn’t where we wanted to go. Another sign.

And finally, even though it would have been a great headline, it sounded a bit like we wanted to belittle copywriting as a skill. And that’s not at all what we wanted to do. In fact, quite the opposite. So that was our final sign. 

So copywriting challenges it is. And our axe to grind about them. 

Take a breath, and throw away that great headline, because … 

Copywriting means throwing away 95% of your work.

So, here’s the first of our copywriting challenges. 

In order to get great writing, you need to write drafts and edit. Again. And again. And again. 

What comes out as final published work might well end up being the third, thirteenth or even thirtieth version of what you started with. 

And along the way, you will have had lots of brilliant ideas. Amazing anecdotes. Brilliant bon mots. Inspiring idioms. And frustratingly, desperately, annoyingly, you find to have to throw almost all of that creative genius into a big bucket marked “not right for this job”. 

Urgh.

This is by far one of the toughest parts of copywriting. It takes a lot of discipline and resilience not to let that get to you. 

Like a parent giving away their child (well, not really, but hey writers get to use hyperbole), this ability to let things go, to focus on the 5% that makes it, and park the 95% that doesn’t. that makes copywriting tough. 

It takes a level of pragmatism and bloody-mindedness. Not everyone can do it. 

Which brings us on to copywriting challenge number two.

Everyone thinks they know more about writing than you.

Why is it that everyone thinks they know more about writing than than you? 

Your writing is up for constant criticism, feedback and comments. Because reading and writing are such widespread life skills, everyone has opinions. 

But let’s be clear, there’s a pretty big difference between reading and writing. 

Because when you read, you passively consume someone else’s creative work. But when you write, you are the one actively putting that creative work out there. Being active is a tougher. It’s much harder to be a creator than a critic

And yet, there are many untrained and unskilled critics out there. How many people in marketing teams and in agency leadership teams for example, actually spend time practising the skill of creating, editing and publishing great copy?

Pretty few, in our experience.  

Of course, it’s important when copywriting to look out for feedback and build it into your writing. When you write copy, it needs to have an impact on someone else, not you. But, having everything you do commented on, by people who can’t actually do it themselves?

Urgh. Again. 

This criticism is another copywriting challenge that means you need a lot of resilience and discipline. Your critics will be quick to point out when your writing is not working. But they’ll be slow to say thanks when it does work. They won’t appreciate your hard work.

Writing copy is hard work

When you have to write your own copy, that’s when you realise actually what a tough gig it is. There’s the time you have to spend researching the topic. Then, there’s the mental energy to grind out that first draft to hit the word count. And that horrible feeling, when you read back the first draft, and think, ah. That needs a lot of work. 

Copywriting is a fairly masochistic in terms of jobs and skills you could have. 

The writing process itself is pretty exhausting really. Getting that first draft out. Going back and finding all the typos, grammar errors and factual inaccuracies. 

The tedium of getting content approved and then published, whether it’s online or in traditional print channels. And then when it’s other there, dealing with the shitty responses. Or even worse, the lack of response. 

Copywriting takes a lot of time. 

And it takes a lot of energy. 

And yet …

Copywriting is undervalued

As we covered in one of our very early posts, most businesses outsource their copywriting either to a Freelancer or an agency. But just think about that for a moment. 

Businesses succeed or fail based on the strength of the connection between them and their audience. But when you outsource copywriting, the very words that create and sustain that connection, then don’t come from your business. 

Nope, some professional wordsmith waves their magic pen over your brand identity and suddenly words come out that educate and entertain your audiences. That persuade and influence them to connect with your brand and buy from you, even thought they aren’t really your words. Your advertising copy, your blog posts and your sales copy speak to consumers but typically don’t come from you.

And let’s face it, the copywriter themselves is probably getting screwed quite hard on the freelancing site. Or if they work through an agency, what the client pays and what the copywriter gets will be very different. Because someone’s got to pay for the agency leadership team and all those admin costs. Yes, including that fancy office and those after-work drinks.

In fact, copywriters are almost as chronically undervalued and overlooked as graphic designers. Most clients have little to no idea of the skill involved. They only care if it drives sales numbers. And to be fair, that brings us to our final point. 

So why do it?

So, why does copywriting matter in business? If it’s got all these challenges, why do people bother? 

Well, for us, when you create a great piece of copy, and it delivers against the objective, it makes a difference to the target audience. It makes a difference to the brand. And it more than makes up for the rest of the shiteness that sits around copywriting. 

Writing talks to your consumers when you aren’t there. It’s how they find you online. It supports your brand identity through blogs and advertising. It impacts almost every part of the customer experience

Because creating something is better than criticising something. Because creating something is better than doing nothing. 

And the more you do it, the better you get.

The more you do it, the more knowledge you spread. And knowledge actually matters. If just one person learns something from what you do, that knowledge has made an impact that could spread to other consumers. 

It could grow your business. 

From shiteness to brightness

Sometimes you just can’t throw away that 95%. We did like that unbearable shiteness of copywriting headline. So we’ve at least managed to keep it in in some form. And we’d like to think we made sure we also included some of the brightness, as well as the shiteness of copywriting. 

Because, we’re always looking to make our writing sharper. 

Sharper? 

Aha. 

Now that gives us a different thought for our headline and image. That’s definitely a better axe to grind about copywriting challenges and how to overcome them. 

Photo credit : Grinding an axe : Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

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