Copywriting Is For Rhinos

copywriting for rhinosIf you’re thinking about becoming a copywriter, there’s one thing you must get – a very thick skin.

Over the years mine has thickened to rival any Rhino – that doesn’t conjure a particularly attractive image, but it is a necessity when you write for a living.

I’ve been in business as a freelance copywriter since 2007. I’m pretty good at what I do, in fact I would go so far as to say I’m an expert in my field – that’s why companies from all over the world come to me when they need help with their marketing copy.

The process is fairly simple:

  1. The client makes contact
  2. I ask for a full brief on which to base a quote
  3. They say ‘yes please’
  4. I write the copy
  5. They review it
  6. Everyone’s happy

OK, in an ideal world it would work that way. But frequently there’s a few extra steps added between 5 and 6.

You will soon discover that, no matter how experienced you are, clients will criticise your copy. I will admit that when I first started out this was, at times, hard to take. After all, I’d spent hours pouring over concepts to come up with the finished article.

Some won’t like the approach you’ve taken, others will tell you how they would write it – even though you’re the professional they’ve hired to do the work.

But the one thing you have to remember is that the criticism isn’t directed at you personally.

Copywriting is a very collaborative process. Sometimes you’ll hit it right first time and there’ll be no amendments to be done. Other times there may be a few tweaks needed and the key is to talk to your client, discuss their ideas and together produce a revised version.

Just like art, writing is very subjective – what you know is right may not be so obvious to your client.

So what do you do when they change your copy?

First, take a deep breath. Then review what they’ve said, make any change requests that are valid and then take the time to explain why you wrote the copy in the way you did. Show them the elements within the copy and how they work together. Be confident and stand up for what you believe to be right (without causing an unpleasant scene) and if you know what they are asking you to do is wrong, tell them – nicely.

They’ll have far more respect for you if you take the time to explain a concept than if you say “OK, if that’s how you want it written” knowing full well it won’t achieve the results they’re looking for.

At the end of the day, believe in yourself and your abilities but leave your ego at the door. Plus it also helps to keep sound bites to hand from clients who were happy with your work so in moments of self doubt you can remind yourself how good you are.

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#1 Debra Stang on 06.18.11 at 12:42 am

You’re absolutely right about the need to grow a thick skin. It used to be that when I got a rejection slip or a request to change an article, it would ruin my whole day if not my new week. Now I just make the changes requested–assuming they make sense, of course–and move on to the next project. Life is way too short.

#2 Scott Martin on 06.18.11 at 1:45 am

Good post. I find it’s useful to provide an outline. This can include a ‘live’ headline and opening paragraph. Also, clients who become demeaning during the review process or take too long and don’t communicate get a straight red card.

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