5 copywriting misconceptions that are flat out wrong (and how to correct them)

5 copywriting misconceptions that are flat out wrong (and how to correct them)
copywriting-mistakes

5 copywriting misconceptions that are flat out wrong (and how to correct them)

I don’t expect everyone to understand my career as a copywriter as intimately as I do. I honestly enjoy the chance to explain what I do. But there is a substantial grey area between people understanding that a copywriter can help and understanding the mechanics of how a copywriter can help.

It in this grey area live misconceptions and misunderstandings. I think I’ve heard them all but these are the most common.

Misconception #1: Copywriting is easy

It’s commonly thought that writing is easy. I mean, we all write. Shopping lists, emails, love notes. And they’re easy, aren’t they?

So writing the copy for a website page, ad or brochure can’t be that different.

Wrong.

Copywriting requires a lot of preparation, research and planning before you even begin to write but it also requires a great deal of know-how. Many people don’t realise the technical aspect of copywriting.

Choosing which words will push someone’s buttons isn’t a slap-dash random selection. It really is a process of crafting and honing the language to motivate the desired action.

Sometimes the words will just flow – which is awesome – but that usually only happens when you’ve practised copywriting techniques so often that you don’t have to over-think them any more.

Correcting this copywriting misconception

If you have a client who tells that they could write the copy easily, clarify why it is they need a copywriter.

They might not appreciate the value of your role and the effort you will put in. That alone could be a red flag that you might not be a good fit for each other.

If they have a lot of confidence in their own writing skills, you might suggest they write it themselves and simply work with an editor instead. Be sure to have an amazing editor to recommend.

Misconception #2: Copywriting doesn’t take long

Following on from copywriting misconception #1, if something is easy it won’t necessarily take a long time to do.

Think how long it would take to type out a page of copy. Not long. And if you type quickly, it takes even less time. So that’s how long it should take to write, right?

Wrong.

As I explained above, the copywriting process is time consuming because it involves a lot of steps. As a copywriter, you must get a clear understanding of what is required. You have to be able to walk in the shoes of the business owner and the customers and you have to plan and write the copy that will connect the two. Then you have to edit and edit and edit until you’re left with only the words needed.

Each step takes time (when it’s done well).

Copy that’s completed quickly will often skip one or many of these steps. The result is lacklustre, bland copy that doesn’t sell anything.

Correcting this copywriting misconception

Be realistic and clear about how long the copywriting process will take, factoring in the other projects you have on and that little thing called life you sometimes have. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down as short-cutting your process will often lead to more revisions.

If clients want something done more urgently than you scoped, find out why and judge if that pressure really is urgent. There is nothing more frustrating than working all weekend to meet a client deadline only to discover they’ve suddenly shifted priorities.

In many instances, urgent isn’t actually urgent after all.

Misconception #3: Copywriters don’t need a detailed brief

When time is short, busy businesses don’t want to fill out detailed copywriting briefs. They want to trust in the expertise of their copywriter. And copywriters should be creative enough to fill in the gaps.

Wrong.

Without a detailed brief, a copywriter simply cannot write authentic copy that differentiates their client’s business.

As a copywriter, it’s important to ask about the values of the business and how teams work behind the scenes. It’s critical to make sure you know exactly who they are targeting and what causes them pain. You have to intimately understand how the products and services on offer will solve that pain.

The questions in my copywriting brief are three pages long. That’s just the questions. Once a customer has filled out their ideas, we spend an hour talking them through on the phone. The brief often ends up as five, six or more pages.

Gaps in the brief mean that you the copywriter don’t have all the information. If you don’t have all information, you can’t zero in on the details that win customers.

Correcting this copywriting misconception

Patiently explain why you need the brief completed in as much detail as possible and that you can’t proceed without it. Once it becomes a non-negotiable item, projects often proceed more smoothly.

In my experience, if a client doesn’t have time to complete the brief the project will not end well (as they also won’t have time to give you revisions or pay your invoice).

Misconception #4: Writing short copy is quicker than long copy

This is a big one because it’s logical that fewer words would take less time to write.

Wrong.

So wrong. Imagine every piece of copywriting is a block of marble and the copywriter has to chip away at that marble until that shape is revealed in all its glorious detail.

Now imagine that regardless of how big or small the copywriting project is, a copywriter begins with the same-sized block of marble.

If you have a smaller shape to reveal, you have to take more time sculpting.

Every copywriting project needs a brief, research and planning. Every copywriting project involves several drafts and a few rounds of revisions. Shorter projects usually involve more editing. A lot more editing.

Correcting this copywriting misconception

As I mentioned above, always be realistic and clear about how long your writing process takes. Point out that shorter copy is often harder to write than longer copy and stick to your guns.

Misconception #5: Editing existing copy is faster than writing it from scratch

Can you just finesse the copy I have? Can you just take my existing copy and make it more sales-focused? Can you edit what I have to make it more readable? Can you just give it some pizzazz?

Surely copywriters can just make what’s already written more awesome, and save time and money for their clients.

Wrong.

Well, it is possible. But think of it like this. When a copywriter is asked to edit copy that requires extensive editing, they are essentially trying to rearrange the piece of a puzzle to make a different picture. It can be time consuming to try and make something new with those pieces.

When a copywriter writes from scratch, they create a whole new (and hopefully more amazing) picture. And speaking from personal experience, although I spend more time briefing, researching, planning, writing and editing, not only are the results better but it’s a more efficient process.

Correcting this copywriting misconception

Review the copy you’re being asked to edit before you quote. It might be that it really does just need a few small edits but if extensive edits are needed, come up with a realistic plan on how long it will take you.

Also explain the other options available (like writing it from scratch) and how much they cost. In my experience, the full rewrite only cost a little more (which made it an appealing option).

So there you have it

Five common misconceptions about copywriting and some simple strategies on how you can blast them out of the water while remaining polite and professional.

The upshot is:

  • Be realistic about how long projects will take you
  • Be practical about how much work you can take on
  • Set clear expectations for your clients
  • Stick to your guns

This post was originally published on Copywrite Matters by Belinda Weaver.
Image: Pexels.com

Belinda Weaver shares her proven techniques for creating engaging brands through awesome copywriting. Checkout CopywriteMatters.com for copywriting courses, coaching and content and find out when her next Copywriting Master Class is open for enrolments.