What Exactly Is “Copywriting”? | Sarah Klongerbo
Sarah Klongerbo, copywriting (well, journaling) in Spain

What Exactly Is “Copywriting”?

“So, what exactly are you going to be doing?” my sister Lauren asked, accepting the homemade pomegranate mule I’d offered her. She was referring to my new business, which I’d just left my job to pursue.

“Website design and copywriting,” I proudly replied.

“Cool!” She took a sip. “But what exactly is copywriting?”

That’s when I realized: I had allowed a shard of jargon to wedge its way into my professional vocabulary.

(My sister has a minor in English education, too, so it’s not like I was talking to some sort of language dunce here.)

Yes, copywriting does have its own vernacular, and it’s important to understand if you own, run, or work for any kind of business.

Allow me to explain what copywriting is, why it’s important, and my personal response to three copywriting FAQs (like how much it should actually cost . . .).

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is — get this — writing copy. 😮

Copy, then, is what we need to define. 

Entrepreneur defines copy as “anything written by you or your company which is meant to attract customers to your business.”

So, it’s a marketing term.

You’ve probably heard the marketing term content as well. What’s the difference between copy and content?

All copy is content, but not all content is copy. 

(Yep, it’s a square / rectangle type of thing.)

Content is an umbrella term for anything created to drive profit by providing value to — and thereby establishing trust with — the person consuming it. Think:

  • Articles + blog posts
  • Videos
  • Photos, graphics, and other imagery
  • Collateral + print materials
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks + guides
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Case studies
  • Templates + checklists
  • . . . You get the idea

Businesses use content marketing to attract and convert customers through relevant, engaging, and consistent content. 

We’re talking education and inspiration here — not, say, a billboard screaming “LOSE 10 POUNDS FAST!” as you whiz right past it.

My husband, founder of Fisheye Marketing, actually explains content marketing really well in this “9 Types of Content” video

So, content is a broad term. Where, then, does copy fit in?

Copy refers to the written part of content. 

Whether it’s the words on a website, the text of a blog post, or the script for a video shoot — or, fine, the letters on a billboard — copy “weaves the brand story throughout all content” to, ultimately, encourage people to buy.

“Copywriting accomplishes a number of goals. Most importantly, it weaves the brand story throughout all content. It communicates with target personas in a way that resonates with their needs, it builds trust in B2C relationships, it engages readers, and it works to find a balance between thought leadership and promotional content.”

Olive & Company

Honestly, some marketers will squabble on the precise differences between copywriting and content marketing . . . but remember, we’re not aiming for jargon here.

We’re aiming for clarity — which is exactly what a good copywriter provides.

Why Is Copywriting Important?

Your marketing — and possibly even your business — can’t survive without good copywriting. 

Sounds dramatic, but ask any marketer, and they’ll be the first to tell you that words are the backbone of any effective marketing message. 

As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger puts it:

“Content without copywriting is a waste of good content.”

“Copywriting without content is a waste of good copy.”

– Sonia Simone, Copyblogger

Copy and content go hand in hand.

With great copywriting, your business can not only “tell your story” (as copywriters like to say), but also convince people to buy. 

By highlighting the benefits of your product or service in a way that literally speaks your prospects’ language — their jargon, if you will — a successful copywriter actually bridges gaps, lowering the barrier of entry and welcoming customers to your business with open arms.

Three Copywriting FAQs

1. How much does copywriting cost?

Ah, the question clients love to ask . . . and contractors loathe to answer! 😅

As with any custom service, there’s no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to the cost of copywriting. 

There are tons of variables that impact copywriting cost, such as:

  • Your industry
  • The type + scope of deliverable
  • The copywriter’s experience + expertise
  • The depth of research required
  • The pricing model (e.g. per word, per hour, or per project)
  • The turnaround time 
  • Current market rates
  • Your specific project needs

Because copywriting assignments vary so widely, I hesitate to suggest any kind of baseline rate, but here are a few general guidelines to go off.

Charging by the word is a somewhat outdated process reserved for specific types of deliverables, like newspaper articles. If you go this route, don’t expect to pay much less than $1 per word if you want a solid copywriter.

Charging by the hour is an option for unpredictable projects or copywriters who want to protect their time. Again, if you want a quality copywriter, you’re probably looking at paying $50 per hour or more.

Charging by the project is obviously even more variable than the other two pricing models, so I can’t give a baseline rate here.

My best advice with any copywriting project is to not let “sticker shock” blind you when reviewing proposals. There’s often way more work (and strategy) built into the price than you may even realize.

And, spoiler alert? The cheaper copywriters aren’t the best. 😬

In the end, you just have to ask yourself:

Do I believe this copywriter will produce the results I need, in the time and manner I want, for a price I can conceivably afford?

If so, the number on the invoice doesn’t really matter.

2. Can’t I just have the intern write my copy?

Unless your intern is a highly proficient writer who knows your brand extremely well — or unless you have literally zero dollars to spare — no, I’m sorry, they can’t.

Would you trust your intern with your plumbing? Electrical? Product development?

(If so, you need to hold on to them tight . . . and never let go.)

Just like any other trained professional, copywriters are specialists who have dedicated their own time and money to learning (and mastering) the tricks of the trade. They possess the knowledge and experience you need to actually convert customers or clients.

By settling for an intern or entry-level employee to write your copy — or even yourself, if you (no offense) can’t write well — you’re effectively leaving money on the table.

Case in point: I recently spoke with a CEO who had asked his assistant to draft a simple e-newsletter for his organization. 

After weeks had passed and the newsletter still wasn’t finished — let alone up to his reasonable standards — he asked a colleague, “How long should a four-page e-newsletter take to write?”

“Maybe half a day?” the colleague replied.

The CEO was astounded. His assistant had wasted dozens and dozens of hours trying to flail her way through the project . . . and he had wasted weeks’ worth of her productivity. 

And the newsletter? Still hasn’t been sent. 😩

If this CEO had simply hired a copywriter to draft his newsletter, he could have finished the project in a fraction of the time. He may have thought he was saving money by enlisting the help of a lower-paid employee, but he ended up spending more — and getting less.

The bottom line is, you get what you pay (or don’t pay) for. 

3. Okay, then, who should I hire for copywriting?

First of all, it’s “whom,” but whatever.

Actually, you need someone who does know the difference between “who” and “whom” — but who also knows when, frankly, it doesn’t matter.

Because copywriting isn’t English class. 

It’s not even business class.

It’s real-world writing, and it takes someone who not only has the experience of writing for businesses like yours, but also understands the psychology and linguistic nuances of your customers or clients.

After all, you’re trying to persuade people to buy your product or service. 

Don’t you want someone who knows what actually influences them to purchase — and who can address your target audience in a way they actually understand (and appreciate)?

I’m gonna guess yes.

So, who(m) should you hire for copywriting?

If all you want is to save a little money (not time), ask the intern.

But if you want messaging that perfectly portrays your brand and actually converts leads to customers, go with a professional copywriter.

Their expertise, efficiency, and work ethic will be worth it.

Enhance Your Copywriting!

Well, Lauren, did that answer your question(s)? 😉

I hope I effectively explained what copywriting is and why it’s important. If anything remains unclear, please reach out and ask. If you’re wondering about something, I’m sure others are, too!

As a professional copywriter with nearly eight years of experience, I know the industry well and would love to help you as best I can.

Feel free to sign up for my email list for ongoing education on copywriting and other marketing topics.

Ready to improve your copywriting now? Contact me for a free copy audit, or peek at my professional copywriting services!

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