Copywriters! Don’t believe the hype

Do you think you might be a cruddy copywriter? If you’re secretly thinking, ‘yep’, it’s likely to be because of 2 things:

  1. you’re a cruddy copywriter.
  2. there’s a copywriter who’s all over Facebook celebrating their pants off and painting the town red in true entrepreneurial zeal. They’re shouting from the rooftops that they do everything amazingly and have book deals, a massive fan-base and bank balance to prove it. And, deep down, you think you’ll never be like that.

When you work in marketing and, you know, break all the stereotypes by being a decent, honest person, it can be easy to forget one rule. Even though it’s as old as – well, marketing.

Don’t believe everything that Super Successful Copywriters say.

Actually, don’t believe everything anyone in marketing says.

Including you, when you’re telling yourself you’re crap. Even the best copywriters find themselves beset with a bad dose of ‘everything-I-write-is-crapola’.

So take heart and listen up.

No copywriter is an island

Copywriters are happy to take credit for a thousand gazbillion dollar launch or sales campaigns because, well, their words made people click the clicky button, right?

They’re surrounded by fanfare and businesses telling the world they used Janie Perfect (Not a real name. If your name is Janie Perfect…sorry. And cool name by the way) copywriter for that winning thing, right?

Only, no. Copywriting is an island. As a working copywriter, and a good one, I know the right words can sell a product and accelerate a good business.

But words aren’t everything. The copy part of a success equation doesn’t add up to more than a good chunky smidge.

Because your conversion rates (adding up to dollars in the bank, yo) depend on a slew of other things:

  • is the product any good? You can’t polish a…terrible product, after all.
  • do people know the brand? Are they well known already for the thing? Are they front of mind all the time?
  • how warm are the audience leads? Some people will buy anything their favourite brand or business person brings out. If the audience is a hot tamale and already in love with the brand, you can pretty much sell them something with a, “Hoy! Lookit this!”
  • how much money was spent on promotions and getting the thing under the nose of the right people?
  • how much money was spent on expenses? Gazillion dollar launches of things with an 80% expense rate (including paying all those high-flying marketing people) leaves cents at the end of the day.
  • the gosh-darned price. I mean obviously. There’s a huge, huge difference between $57 and $5557 and I’d much rather sell 1000 x $5557 things at a 3% conversion rate than brag about a 20% conversion rate and have less money in the bank at the end.

Marketing claims vs reality

Next time you see that copywriter singing and dancing about how freakin’ awesome they are, get a grip on yourself. Here some examples from real life. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent – and the guilty.

Real-life example 1

The shtick

I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed and a woman I’ve actually met is advertising her marketing services. She’s saying she created a 6-figure business in a hot minute (or 6 weeks, or some timeframe suspiciously short for that claim to be a fact).

The fact

When I last spoke to her 8 months ago, she was complaining about the fact the business didn’t make enough money for her to pull a wage of even $50 a week after 2 years of hard slog.

So yes, 6-figure business looks good on Facebook ads, but it doesn’t mean anything about the success of that business and its capacity to support baked beans for dinner.

Claims vs reality assessment

Copy: intimidating
Real-life: pretty average

I don’t know about you, but I want at least $50 in my pocket at the end of every hard yakka copywriting week.

Real-life example 2

The schtick

Blogger-turned-copywriter starts copywriting business. Because – hey, it’s writing, right? [Insert meaningful silence and knowing looks here.]

Massive loyal following she’s been building for 10+ years. All of them use her and recommend her. Because of this, her copywriting business doesn’t even ENTER the startup phase because she’s got a pre-built, personal brand cohort of word-lover-lovers who will adore literally everything she does.

The reality:

When she starts advertising and claiming her trillion email subscribers ensure her every blog post (about copywriting, now) goes viral, it’s true. Or I should say, it’s true…BUT:

  • do those folk know anything about good copy, as opposed to good writing? Cos if you read my blogs you already know there’s content writing, and then there’s copywriting. Yep, that’s two different skills.
  • do the stats add up? Has she even had a chance to collect any data about conversion for her clients?
    are all her clients going to bring with them the same amount of hot-for-her-words fans to lap up and share their stuff as she has? (Ahhh, probs not.)

Claims vs reality assessment

Copy: intimidating
Real-life: not transferrable outcomes

Fame will get you through the door, but delivering consistent positive outcomes will get you a spot in the good lounge and invites to very thankful brands’ Christmas parties forevermore.

1, 2, 3, and sing those praises

Now, everyone who knows me knows I am always the first one to celebrate at the drop of a hat.

I fully support anyone’s right to celebrate anything they damn well please at any time with any kind of fanfare and (biodegradable) steamers.

So, if you’ve done a cool thing for a client and it’s worked really well, rent out a billboard my friend and get a NIDA graduate to stand naked in front of it singing your praises. Acapella.

Fact: us working copywriters need to make a big fuss of our accomplishments

Why? Because copywriting is hard, man, and you’re often the one left off the footer (curse those website designer footer hogs).

You’re often kept a secret (because business people are weirdly shameful about not knowing how to do something we all spend our lives studying, perfecting, and redefining, and if there’s one thing businesses don’t want their customers to know they’re outsourcing, it’s the words we write for them).

So, we need to holler from the rooftops when it all comes together and works. However…

Don’t let someone else’s copy celebrations get in the way of you starting from where you are and getting on with it.

When you see that copywriter’s stuff, breathe

Because you know what? It doesn’t even mean you won’t have similar success (genuine success not crazy marketing claims).

Give yourself a break.

You can only start from where you are, and comparing yourself to other copywriters can be paralysing. Remember, you’re usually not seeing the full, behind-the-scenes picture of all those other Instagram shareable successes. They don’t normally post about their ‘Everything-I-write-is-crapola’ days.

Next time you’re on Facebook, read through your favourite marketing group celebration day, and decide you’re going to go stack shelves at your local supermarket, just wait a bit. Think about the whole picture, not just the last genius stroke of paint at the end.

Empower yourself

Remember, get some perspective, and don’t believe everything anyone in marketing says.

And last of all, persist. You’re probably not a cruddy copywriter, but if you’re new to the scene, or established with nagging doubts, or in the habit of consuming everyone else’s stuff without giving props to your own. Stop that.


21st February 2020

Rosalyn Newell

A woman after my own heart, calling out the instagurus like that! Yep, that’s what they’re called, and I coined the term – like insta-mash except you just add hot air.

I think the worst is when they don’t just use this to try to sell to clients, but to sell to *other copywriters*. The same people they’re intimidating. It’s funny when they do those courses, and you get people who did the courses doing their own courses, to attract the next lot of course-makers. It’s like an MLM, really. Or an ouroboros. Or a human centipede.

I agree with the rest, too. Doesn’t help to compare ourselves to others – least of all a mirage.

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