What does a copy-writer do?

08 Jun

As well as copy-editing, I also do copy-writing.  Not every copy-editor is a copy-writer, and not every copy-writer is a copy-editor, but I’ve had plenty of experience doing both.

Copy-writing involves writing content, whether it’s for an article, a blog, a website, marketing materials or a press release; for print or online. Most of the copy-writing I do involves websites and marketing materials.  I work with web designers who might have a client in any kind of industry, who wants a set of web pages but uses professionals to a) design the actual look and functionality of the pages and b) write the content for them.  Some web developers are happy doing both; some recognise that they need to contract out the writing, whether because that’s not their forté or because they don’t have time to do both.

When I’m writing for a website, I do need certain information: I can create something out of nothing, but it’s hard to fulfil the client’s requirements if I don’t know what they are – I’m a good writer, but I’m not psychic!  So I like to send the client and web designer a little questionnaire, to establish points like:
– how many pages the website has and their titles (so I know which different sections I need to write for)
– basic information about the client – if I can have some of their existing marketing materials or a previous website, that’s really useful
– an idea of the kind of style they are looking for – serious, sales-orientated, enthusiastic, calm, funny …
– an idea of how much information they are looking for for each page – how many words
I then sit down with a list of headings and all the information to hand and write – I usually do this in Word or Notepad so I can pop it through to the web designer in a useful format.

Then it’ll go to the web designer and the client to have a look at – the web designer will put it into the design they’ve already made and the client will have a look at it. There’ll usually be a bit of feedback and I might have a chat with the client direct, and then I’ll make the necessary tweaks.

For example: I worked on a website for a motivational speaker recently.  I worked from his current website and some brochures and an autobiographical feature he’d written.  Once I’d got some bits and pieces together we had a chat on the phone about the tone of the website, and I subsequently changed the focus a little bit and clarified various points – and there we were!

If I’m working on marketing materials or a press release for a client, it’ll work in a similar way – I’ll need something to base it on and then I’ll go from there, with plenty of feedback from the client as needed.

Some people worry that anything I write for them will be in “my” style, where they want it to reflect their style and personality. But a good copy-writer is able to be something of a chameleon, adapting their style to the matter, and client, at hand.  I enjoy the challenge of doing this, and it helps with my copy-editing work, too, where it’s important to retain the client’s voice rather than imposing my own.


Posted by on June 8, 2011 in Business, Skillset, What Do I Do?, Writing


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17 responses to “What does a copy-writer do?

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