May 26, 2017

Is a copywriter a wordsmith or a salesman?

First off, let’s clarify what a copywriter actually is. It’s an individual who writes promotional material. Could be a website, brochure, flyer or press advert – though it’s not limited to just these types of collateral. Or put another way, it’s someone who writes words that sell a product, service or idea.

As much as a slick graphic or image can look enticing, it’s ultimately the words that convinces the reader to make the purchase, or equally, walk away from it. Copywriting can be powerful, very powerful. Regardless of what you might think, it’s a pretty sure bet that you have been convinced by some clever copy at some point.

As a copywriter myself, I’m very often called a ‘Wordsmith’. I once worked for a digital marketing agency where one of the bosses consistently referred to me in this way. Used to drive me nuts. But there are plenty of copywriters who are more than happy to adopt this label. And over the years I’ve realised why that actually is – because as far as I’m concerned, copywriting is about salesmanship.

Here’s why those copywriters like the Wordsmith tag. Ready? Because they’ve never experienced actually selling anything in their lives. They normally would have studied journalism or English Literature – often earning a BA(Hons). They were told that they had a ‘gift for writing stories’. They often didn’t begin their first job until their early twenties – right from leaving university. The thought of selling something actually fills them with dread.

Then, they start as an intern in a marketing or ad agency and begin their career as a copywriter.
In other words, they simply have no tangible experience. In fact, you try Gsalesmanoogling the words ‘salesman’ and ‘copywriter’ together. You’ll find very few copywriters blogging about themselves in this way. On the other hand, I have a very different background. Copywriting is selling, pure and simple. I was selling advertising space at 16 years of age – cold calling. And for twenty years there-after, sold everything from film and jewellery to digital marketing services and handbags.

My advice, when seeking a copywriter for your project, look at a copywriter’s portfolio, then see whose the most persuasive and written from the most unique angle. Nine times out of ten it’ll be the salesman that floats your boat.

So, in short, to answer the question: a copywriter can be both; just be aware that it’s the salesman who’ll invariably knows how to close a deal.

About the author:
Jim Morrissey is a website & marketing copywriter and business development consultant based in Twickenham, London. When he’s not making his clients money, Jim is either playing the guitar or writing a film script.

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About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.