Do you know what a copywriter does?

If your response is a less-than-confident sorta? you’re not alone.

When I’m chatting with other parents at the playground or being introduced to friends of friends, mentioning that I’m a copywriter usually earns me a blank stare. A quick “I write for marketing,” usually clears up the worst of the confusion but they still can’t really picture my job.

In business circles, especially virtual ones, I can usually skip the basic explanation. But even people familiar with digital marketing have a lot of questions or misconceptions about what I do.

To fill in some of the blanks, here’s a quick introduction to copywriting: What it is, what it’s not, and why your business can’t afford to let it be an afterthought. Ready? Here we go.

What is copy?

Copy is writing that aims to convince its readers to take a specific action.

A copywriter, as you might have guessed, is the person penning those persuasive words.

All businesses, from one-woman shows to global corporations, need copy. And, once you know what it is, you’ll start seeing copy everywhere.

The words that greet visitors on your website? Copy.

The Etsy listing you made for your hand-crafted creation? Copy.

That sales page for your upcoming course launch? Yep, copy.

Copy is an essential line of communication between your business and its customers. Getting it right is absolutely critical for providing a great customer experience and building a brand that inspires loyalty.

What It Isn’t: Copyrighting

Honestly, the word itself is to blame for its vague reputation.

To start with, it’s typically spelled as one word when it should logically be two. It’s also a homonym (a word that sounds like another but means something different) for copyrighting.

This results in the fairly common assumption that my job has more to do with legally protecting a business from infringement than crafting convincing words for its marketing.

Listen, my Legally Blonde-obsessed high school self would love to be able to say I’m a bad-ass lawyer who specializes in copyright law…but Elle Woods I am definitely not.

What It Isn’t: Content Writing

Despite some overlap with content, copy is still its own thing

Another point of confusion is people assuming that copywriting and content writing are interchangeable. This is understandable since you need both in your marketing and they often overlap.

But here’s the key difference: copy is designed to get the reader to take immediate action. Content is designed to nurture or inform the reader.

Copy also tends to be shorter, while content is usually long-form.

So websites, sales pages, Facebook ads – all copy.

Blog posts, eBooks, Vlogs – mostly content.

Like I said, there is overlap so it can be hard to tell where copy ends and content begins, even for writers who specialize in one or the other.

But a short & sweet rule of thumb for figuring out which category a piece of writing fits into is this: Copy is short & persuasive. Content is longer and contributes to an overall experience.

What It Isn’t: Quick & Easy

“This shouldn’t take you very long…”

Every copywriter has felt their stomach clench as these words trip lightly off the tongue of a potential client.

The fact that copy is generally shorter than content actually means it often takes longer to write. Weird, I know.

Think about it this way – which has to work harder to move a sled, a single dog or a whole team?

Answer: the solo dog

Why? Because it shoulders the full burden of moving the load. With the team, the weight gets distributed across all of the dogs, lessening the individual responsibility of each.

Writing is the same way. When you’re working with fewer words, each one becomes responsible for getting more of the message across.

Take a tagline, for example. It’s only a handful of words but they’re doing an important job. They have to convey what your brand is all about in mere seconds. The more words you use the less pressure there is on each individual word.

Another reason clients may underestimate the time copywriting requires is that they don’t realize what all the process involves. Every writer has their own method but most copywriting involves these 3 crucial steps:

Research – gathering all the information needed to write the copy.

Drafting – laying out the structure of the copy and the specific points to make in each section.

Refinement – trimming down the copy to its most succinct, snappy version.

You don’t want your copywriter to skip any of these steps or you’ll end up with copy that’s inaccurate, ineffective, bland, or worse, all three.

Done properly, though? Copy can be a game-changer for your business. Which leads us to…

Why Brands Need Great Copy

Copy’s convinces readers to take action

But it can (and should) do more than that.

Copy should grab the reader’s attention. Then it should keep it!

The right copy can make someone stop mid-scroll for a better look at your social ad. Or, in the case of SEO, it can ensure you’re the first brand someone sees when they’re searching for what you offer.

Once you’ve got their attention, your copy should inform your audience, answering their most important questions. It should also save your audience time by delivering the information in a quick, easily digestible way.

Finally, your copy needs to create a connection with your audience. The most effective way to do that is with a strategic brand voice.

Your brand voice is the unique flavor in your words. It’s that certain something that makes a reader think, “ooh, I like this. This is totally for me!”

Along those same lines, a strategic brand voice works like a filter. It signals to unaligned readers that you’re not what they’re looking for. (Yes, I’m really saying that alienating people can be a good thing!) Not everyone is meant to be a good fit for your brand. The earlier they find out the better it is for both sides.

An entertaining brand voice helps you stand out from the crowd and stick in your audience’s mind. That’s why I always say it’s what keeps people coming back for more!

But grabbing readers’ attention or tickling their funny bone is just the beginning when it comes to forming lasting connections through brand voice. The real secret sauce comes from infusing your voice with the values driving your business.

Customers today prize authenticity above all. They want to know the values at the heart of a brand align with their own. When they find a brand that shares their values and has a flavor they love? Boom. Instant connection!