If you’re thinking of using a copywriter (or becoming one), it’s important to realise that there is more than one type of copywriting and more than one type of copywriter.
Different writing projects require different skills, and writers evolve different skillsets, whether deliberately or simply as the natural result of their working experience. creative web design agency london So the terms ‘copywriting’ and ‘copywriter’, although simple-sounding, actually encompass a range of specialisations and capabilities. This post lists some of the most common types of copywriting and copywriters.
Note that some of these copywriting disciplines have parallel job titles/descriptions, and others don’t. For example, while ‘SEO copywriter’ is now a recognised job title, I’ve never heard anyone describe themselves as a ‘long-copy copywriter’. Also, be aware that some of these labels are flexible – while there are different strands within copywriting, the distinctions between them aren’t always so clear-cut as my headings imply, and people may use these terms in different ways.
The freelance copywriter
The freelance copywriter writes in any medium directly for clients, usually operating as a sole trader or one-person company.
Businesses and organisations need a broad range of things written: websites, brochures, case studies, product descriptions, user manuals, press releases, presentations, internal documents and more. While many will simply use internal resource to get the writing done, many turn to a freelance copywriter to help them out.
Freelance copywriting is usually managed on an ad hoc, job-by-job basis, although some clients do strike retainer arrangements or set up longer contracts with freelances. Typically, the freelancer provides a price or proposal, does the work, revises the copy in response to feedback, and submits their invoice on approval.
Freelance copywriting typically requires ‘broad but shallow’ copywriting skills. For example, in the course of writing a corporate website, the copywriter might find themselves writing long copy for information pages, snappy selling copy for high-profile pages and journalistic copy for news pages. At the same time, they might throw in a company tagline and perhaps name a product range or two – in some cases, without even being asked, since the client may not have realised that they even need these things.
As a result of working for many different clients, the freelance copywriter also tends to develop broad but shallow knowledge of different business sectors, allowing them to get a handle on new clients’ requirements very quickly. This is one area where older freelancers can consistently outdo their younger counterparts – experience cannot be faked, nor bought.
Conversely, some freelances specialise in writing for a particular industry or sector – pharmaceuticals, charity and so on. This may be because they previously held a salaried position in that sector. It may be a deliberate choice, or it may just emerge as a result of the jobs and referrals that come along.