Updated: Jul 2, 2021
People often refer to copywriting as the 'secret profession'. Why is that?
There's actually nothing secretive about it – it's just not a term that people generally know unless their industry works closely with copywriters.
So what exactly is it?
It has nothing to do with the © copyright symbol. And if you hire a copywriter who doesn't know the difference between the two, run. And don't look back.
Copywriting doesn't mean we copy others' writing, either. Most likely, that would not end well...
Copy literally means words. So copywriting is just a fancy way of saying 'writing words'. More specifically, it's writing words that sell. Most (good) websites, brochures, articles, email campaigns, flyers, blogs and product descriptions have all been written (and proofread) by a copywriter. Copywriters can also be hired to improve existing content.
A lot of copywriters have some understanding of marketing concepts, and the good ones know about SEO (search engine optimisation). In our digital world, many people sell things over the internet. But if your product or service can't be found online, the chances of selling can be minimal. There are many different aspects of SEO, but a lot of it has to do with quality, up-to-date writing. That's why people who want to sell things work closely with copywriters.
What about content writing? Slightly different, content writing is simply used to inform an audience, while copywriting is used to sell or to initiate people to act on something. However, in my opinion they are linked – because an active website that is constantly posting content about their product or service is staying at the forefront of their customers' minds – and will often lead to an action being taken.
Copywriting involves so much more than just typing words. It can involve heavy research, concept creation, interviewing people, sourcing images and analysing brands. And then there's writing drafts, making revisions, editing and proofreading.
With such a wide range of skills, it may not be a secretive profession, but it sure is an interesting one.
I personally think that copywriters must have a lot of natural curiosity to work across different industries. Other non-negotiables include: a love of language, being a nerd with words, dishing out puns, and annoyingly correcting others' grammar. I think I might know someone like that.