So, as a professional copywriter who trades on the value of my experience, track record and sheer wordsmithing talent, can you guess how I’m going to answer this one?
That’s right. The answer is “no”.
To most of you reading this that answer will seem obvious and will require no further explanation – you can skip forward to the bit with the link to our copywriting courses and then book on to one of them, or mail me with a brief for a massive web copywriting project. You can see the value of an employing someone who knows what they’re doing to produce your web content.
Yet for some reason there are thousands of people out there who think that, unlike other highly valued professions, you can just become a copywriter overnight or you can go out and hire anyone who can string a few words together. How hard can it be? Pretty much everyone can write, right?
Just because you can write, doesn’t mean you can write.
In the same way that, just because I can talk doesn’t mean I’m a great public speaker, just because I can cook doesn’t make me a chef. And just because I can dance doesn’t make me Michael Flatley – although, Lord help me, after a few pints of Guinness and some twiddly Irish tunes I might delude myself that I am.
You don’t just need words, you need the right words
Just as trying to be Michael Flatley very nearly resulted in serious injury to myself and my companions, so employing a copywriter with little or no experience is at best a total waste of money and at worst could seriously damage your business.
There are lots of people out there who try the Michael Flatley approach to copywriting (sorry to extend the analogy but I like the image). They wouldn’t let an intern do a presentation to the managing director of their biggest client on the justification that the intern can talk, yet they persist in letting any old Tom, Dick or Harriet do their web copy, their blogs or their articles.
Sometimes they even let people whose native language is not English write their web copy. Not that I have anything against the people whose native language is not English. It’s just that, in my experience, even if they get spelling and grammar right, writers whose first language is not English rarely grasp idiomatic use of that language, its nuances, traditions, humour, context, points of reference or flow.
Just because you can write well, doesn’t mean you can write to sell
Even if you can write lucid, engaging English it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great copywriter. Here are some of the things copywriters do over and above writing some words that make sense together:
- Understand your business very quickly
- Understand who your customer is and what kinds of things they will respond to
- Create strategies to communicate your business to your customers
- Form cogent arguments for pretty much any viewpoint (we currently write for three telecoms companies who all offer a different service. We have argued the case against the other two for each client.)
- Do things that have worked in the past for other businesses
- Write much quicker than you can
- Do research that makes your business look smarter
- Come up with great ideas to inspire, entertain and inform your customers
Most importantly they can:
- Sell your products and services
Fortunately, while there is no substitute for experience, if you can already write well you can learn some of the tricks of the trade by finding a reputable copywriting course. Or just employ a professional to do the copywriting for you.