Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Do I have what it takes to be a copywriter? Am I already one?

Recently, I made the decision to walk away from freelance writing for good. That’s not to say I’ve given up on writing/submitting articles. I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing articles! (That is hard to turn off.) But what I mean is, I am no longer going to approach markets I have not been published in before. This is not an act of snobbery, but more of frustration. I got tired of my queries and submissions being ignored. So I said to myself, why bother?

But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop submitting altogether. I’ll still submit, but to editors I have worked with in the past. Editors who had the decency to reply to my emails. (Say what you will about unanswered emails. I think it’s just plain rude to not reply to emails – IF the person emailing you is not being negative. A recent spat with hate messages reminded me it’s not worth the energy in responding.)

One other choice I made was to give up the writing gig for Demand Media Studios. It just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. In fact, the gig started to own my life, and I hated that. Some articles I wrote took days to write; others, hours. It just wasn’t worth it. (I also had certain creative differences with the CEs, but that's for a whole 'nother blog post.) So I said “goodbye” to that, as well. I am grateful for that experience and for the opportunity to be published on eHow. I learned a lot as a writer, self-editor and researcher.

Still, even with these changes, I realized something: I didn’t NOT like working from home. Truth of the matter is, I have been working from home for so insanely long, I am just so used to it. It’s what I know. I’ve always been a work-from-home mom. And I feel guilty if I’m NOT working, even from home. This picture just doesn’t look right.

So I asked myself, what now? I wasn’t prepared to go back to the writing gig. I’m not yet in a position to be a full-fledged book editor for a publishing company, which is my ultimate goal (and even as a freelance editor, clients are few and far between). Freelance writing for articles was out of the picture. What? Now?

Then I remembered something. For several years now, I have been tiptoeing around the idea of being a copywriter. The only thing that kept me from doing it? I. Hate. Advertising. Seriously, I don’t want to be the kind of person who tells people, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” I’ve got a frugal side to me that is anti-consumerism. More power to self-sustainability! *cue me shaking my fist*

But as I thought on this earlier today, I realized, being a copywriter is not so much about encouraging people to spend their money on MORE stuff. It’s more about telling people ABOUT stuff.

Book promotion is the same way. I’ve written articles for the purpose of getting the word out about my books. If I want to sell books, I gotta let people know these books even exist! How will people know there is a book about haunted houses unless they hear about it? That’s book promotion – and copywriting – right there.

I’ve written blurbs for other author’s books – again, similar to copywriting, because I’m endorsing a product.

And what about book reviews? I carefully word each book review so that the author has some quotes to use for promotion AND the review tells readers good things about these books. Just like with copywriting.

Of course, I know this is not enough for me to just jump into copywriting with the claim that I know all about what a good copywriter is. But I’ve realized that, should I make this choice, should I take this leap, it would seem I have had a good amount of practice writing the way a copywriter would write. Benefits, features, headlines – I am so there. Been there and done that already.

And in a way, it makes the choice easier. At least if I do this, then I will have had some practice. Some kind of idea of what kind of writing it takes to succeed.

All I need to do now is read everything I can get my hands on about copywriting. Read the books, check out the web sites and read the newsletters. Get a better feel for it.

Because I am not prepared to walk away from writing from home altogether. Before I throw in the towel on earning income from my writing, I want to at least give copywriting a shot. Stop asking “what if?” and just DO it. The time for indecision on whether or not I will give this a shot is over with. It’s time to decide – and I’m leaning towards saying “yes.”

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2 Comments:

  • At 3:31 PM , Anonymous Peter Bowerman said...

    Hey Dawn,

    I'm sure you DO have what it takes to be a copywriter (something I've been doing for 18 years now).

    The biggest thing arguing for you is that we all know you're a good writer, and that's half the battle.

    I'd much rather have to teach someone who already writes well, how to market themselves, than the other way around.

    And that's the OTHER half of the equation - letting the world know you're out there. And I'm here to say, it's not an easy business. As writing fields go, it's far more lucrative than most, but for that reason, the jobs aren't "low-hanging fruit" that are advertised on job sites. You have to dig them up. But, that's why the field pays, on a low end $50+ and on up to $125 or more.

    And the good news is, copywriting isn't about advertising. Some of it is, but there are a ton of projects that aren't heavily promotional - things like brochures, newsletters, case studies, web content, and more. I don't like ultra-hype-y writing either - not as a consumer and not as a copywriter either. So, I don't do it.

    But know that so many businesses have an ongoing demand for good, clean, clear communication, and not everyone can deliver it. And if you CAN get past your dislike (and it sounds like you have based on all the stuff you have done that could be called "marketing writing"), you can set yourself apart from those who know how to write, but not necessarily how to write persuasively...

    Hope that helps!

    PB
    "The Well-Fed Writer"

     
  • At 8:41 AM , Blogger Dawn Colclasure said...

    Thanks, Peter, for your words of wisdom on this blog post. After so many years invested in this, you definitely know your stuff. And I appreciate your advice. I'm glad that at least the ability to write well can mean something for my chances to take a crack at this. So for now I will research it (and keep reading your helpful newsletter!) and see what next steps to take. Thanks!

     

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