I’ve been a writer and copywriter since forever and a day. While these crafts are intertwined (in that they both use words), they’re also very different. Writing is the art and science of delivering information while bringing readers on a journey. Copywriting is the art and science of delivering words that incite readers to take an action. For example, articles and books are written by writers. Website copy and ads are written by copywriters. Another frequent misunderstanding is the difference between a “copywriter” and a “copyrighter”. The truth is that I have no idea what a copyrighter does.
Give me a second while I look that up …
Ah. So according to the internet there’s no such thing as a copyrightER, which explains the confusion. Also, I had to press backspace fourteen times because my fingers were on autopilot and I kept writing copywriter when I wanted to write copywri … copywrite … copyRIGHTer.
The correct word is “copyright” and most of us know what that means but just in case, a copyright protects your creation, whether it be literary, artistic, or musical.
Side note: If you’re a baker, you can’t copyright a cookie, which tells me that copyright laws discriminate.
Back to our story.
If you enjoy working with words, the question you may be asking yourself is, “should I be a writer or a copywriter?”
Let’s begin by demonstrating the difference.
You know that longish intro you just read? That would be the job of a writer. Alternately, if you want to write copy – aka be a copywriter – part of your job is to get to the point right away.
Writer: Connect with your readers. Bring their emotions to the surface. Keep them engaged. Entertain them. Whether you’re writing a blog post, a feature article, or a book, as a writer your job is to give your readers a piece of your soul.
Copywriter: Get in. Get your point across. Get out. A copywriter’s job is to touch on a pain point so that your readers (known as your “market”) do what you want them to do (the objective behind your website, brochure, ad, etc.) … Buy this car. Click on this link. Give us your email address. These all lead to the end of a pipeline that says GIVE US YOUR MONEY. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Business is business and companies NEED copywriters because they too have to engage with their target audience.
I was in my early 20s (so nine gazillion years ago) when I stumbled upon the world of copywriting. At the time, I was an aspiring writer and had never heard of copywriting. I didn’t realize that writing the words on cereal boxes, catalogue descriptions, and highway banners (and everything else that wanted the attention of my consumer persona) was an actual “profession”.
Hmmmm … copywriting. I was intrigued. Coming up with strategic concepts and clever headlines appealed to me. And so, I began studying “copy”. I would read magazines just for the ads, noticing what companies advertised and where, while paying close attention to the words they used. At the same time, the writer side of me studied the same magazines by reading the articles and noticing the format (word count, voice, style, etc.).
Make no mistake. Whether you’re writing an article or content for a landing page, writing is challenging. And in today’s world of constant distractions, it’s even harder.
Let’s use that last paragraph to demonstrate. While short, it still took thought and time. It was rewritten about ten times. It was longer. Then I shortened it. Then I added more details. Then I picked up my phone to see what was happening on Twitter. Then I came back and took out those details.
This brings us to another point. Whether you’re a writer or a copywriter, there’s only one solution to productivity: DEADLINES.
Deadlines are a writer’s best friend (even though we hate them). They’re like parents to a teenager. They keep us in line, make sure we’re working on what we’re supposed to be working on, while reminding us that eating 37 snacks a day will have consequences. Yet, a lot of writers I know treat deadlines like the enemy. Which brings me to the other “D” word mentioned earlier (and the true enemy of writers): DISTRACTIONS.
Distractions are to writers what sticky fly paper is to flies. From the sudden urge to water your plants, to channeling your inner technician when someone jams the photocopying machine, distractions are many, powerful, and subtle. That’s why the best thing you can do for yourself (and your writing) is to close yourself in a room. Somewhere where people are not allowed to talk. Libraries are great for this. (I’m imagining that jail cells are also a great place for writing but I’m not sure there’s WIFI in prison.)
So far, we’ve talked about the difference between being a writer and a copywriter, and deadlines and distractions. You’re probably wondering why the word “unicorn” is in the title of this post. (If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Oh yeah! The best part is coming up!”)
The unicorn is the magic; the secret ingredient that brings everything together. You see, we’re all made up of three equal parts. (This is where I call BS on sugar and spice and everything nice.)
There’s the YOU as you understand yourself that sits between your other two parts that include the Hamster and the Unicorn. The Hamster criticizes EVERYTHING you do, say, and think. The Unicorn applauds everything you do, say, and think. The difference between the Hamster and the Unicorn is that while the Hamster challenges you on everything (including your purpose in life), the Unicorn encourages you.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
You get an idea.
The Unicorn suddenly goes into OMG YOU’RE A GENIUS mode and eleventy-million visions of your idea and its potential flash before you.
Then the Hamster (disguised as everyone’s voice you’ve ever known, including your mother, teacher, and THE ENTIRE POPULATION) tells you that it’s a terrible idea and that you will FAIL.
All that to say that if you want to be a writer and/or copywriter and/or both, you absolutely CAN. Especially today. Yes, the distractions are many. From the lure of social media, to texting, and email. Yet these same distractions also provide an opportunity; they’ve made the world smaller by bringing it closer. As a freelance writer and copywriter, I’ve never actually met most of my clients. At least not in person, thanks to Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet.
Here’s the trick: When you get an idea, ride your Unicorn more often than you listen to the Hamster.
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