Don’t Be a Whiny Crybaby … and Other Pieces of Sage Advice for Would-Be Copywriters

Anna GoldsmithThe Writing Life2 Comments

crybabyEvery few weeks or so, I get an email like this:

Dear Hired Pens,

I just finished my graduate degree in obscure 18th century literature, but now I am thinking maybe I need to give up on my dreams and figure out how to pay my bills even if it makes me feel like a total sellout. Hey, tell me about this whole copywriting thing.

Sincerely,

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To which I reply something like:

Dear Johann,

Smart move! Dreams are for sleeping. Wake up and make some money.

Sincerely,

The Hired Pens

P.S. Quit insulting my career. I actually enjoy the challenge of coming up with unique and exciting ways to describe 17 different, yet nearly identical, lavender candles.

No, I don’t really say that, but since I do get so many requests that are usually earnest and not the least bit insulting, I thought I’d put together a form letter of sorts. Here it is:

Dear BLANK:

Thank you for your interest. I’m not going to get into Copywriting 101. But here are a few key elements we look for when evaluating potential writers.

Your writing demonstrates a clear understanding of your audience.

You understand that you write differently for a group of financial wizards than you would for, say, real wizards — and your writing reflects that. This doesn’t mean you can’t have your own, unique style. It just means you need to know how to tailor it accordingly.

If your words are flowery, you better be selling flowers.

Many writers have a deep love affair with words. We get that. But if your flowery use of language is obscuring meaning, it’s not working. The best marketing copy is clear and concise.

And speaking of flowers …

If you want to be favorably compared to a flower, may we suggest “fresh.” If you use phrases like “synergize” or “21st century global solution,” we’re going to throw up. Of course, if your client insists you do that, it’s a different story.

Finally, whether or not you succeed as a copywriter depends a lot on how you take feedback. So, um, here’s how we want you to take it: Like a man (or a woman).

Even if you’re a fabulous writer, we’ll probably still have a few things your client will want you to change. Your ability to really listen to what they need — and make changes they request without being a big, whiny crybaby — is hugely important. Having a good attitude and not taking criticism personally is nice, too.

Sincerely,

The Hired Pens

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