If you need copywriting services, it helps to know what a copywriter does. Here’s your answer.

A woman found my name on the Internet one day, called me up and asked for help with copywriting.

“Sure,” I said. “Tell me a little about your business.”

“Oh, I don’t have a business,” she replied. “At least not yet. But I have this really great idea and I want to make sure no one steals it. I want to copyright it.”

Sorry, I said. I can’t help with that.

She needed a lawyer. One who specialized in copyright law. Not a copywriter, even though I’m sure that’s what she typed into her favorite search engine.

Unless you work in marketing or advertising, you probably don’t know what a copywriter does, either. Most of the time, I don’t even bother to tell people that I’m a copywriter – I just shorten it to writer. If they follow up by asking what I write, I usually say that I work in marketing or advertising.

But that answer doesn’t really explain what a copywriter does. This is a better explanation.

A copywriter does research. Much of the time, I’m not an expert on the subject matter I’m assigned to write about. So I do research to understand a client’s industry, the needs of the client’s current and prospective customers, and how the client’s competitors talk about themselves and their products.

I collect tons of information, jotting down questions that come to me during my research. That way, I’m prepared when I meet with a client.

A copywriter asks questions. Whenever I can, I ask to meet with a client before I start writing. Since I’ve already done my research, I have a list of questions I want to ask: What are their points of differentiation? Who are their current clients? What new audiences do they want to reach? What are words or terms that people use to search for their business? What is the most important thing they want a prospective customer to know about them?

Then come the questions that are more writing specific: What should the tone of the writing be – Professional? Friendly? First-person or third-person? And will that tone match the tone of the client’s other marketing efforts?

A copywriter spends time thinking. It can take a while to figure out how to present and craft a message, whether it’s a marketing campaign or a blog article. You have to go through your notes, pull out key messages and decide the best way to present them. Often that starts by writing headlines or a manifesto. Sometimes your early ideas work. But more often than not, those first ideas get stretched, tweaked or balled up on the floor to be recycled.

A copywriter adapts to a client’s audience. Some people confuse copywriting with creative writing, and that can cause trouble. Creative writing is about expressing yourself and your ideas. Copywriting offers room for self-expression – but only if you’re communicating your client’s message. Think of it as creativity within boundaries.

Copywriting is confined by the piece you’re producing. For example, a social media ad may require you to come up with the best handful of words you can muster, which means that every one must grab the attention of the intended audience. Compare that with a blog article, which can easily run more than 500 words but will likely have keyword and SEO restrictions.

As a copywriter, your intended audience should always drive the content of your message. You’ve got to use the right tone, in the right format and with the exact audience in mind. That’s the only way you’re going to be successful in helping your clients reach their goals.

A copywriter deletes. And tries again. No idea is so precious that it can’t be tossed aside or even deleted. I admit that it can be painful to give up on ideas that once seemed promising. But don’t be afraid to press delete and start over. Sometimes the best ideas come after you’ve given up on one that ultimately doesn’t work. At that point, your mind is free to come up with something new.

And if you still can’t bear to part with an almost-great idea, start a file or Word doc and tuck your idea away in case you need it later. (You likely won’t.)

If you need a copywriter, look no further than the team at Vela. We can help you find your brand voice, capture its tone and deliver messages that resonate with your audience. Contact us today to learn more.