Yes, I do. I’m a copywriter.

I’ve been asked many times as a freelancer if I have experience writing for specific sectors, or for specific channels of communication. ‘How much agri-bulk work have you done?’ ‘How many case studies have you written about community engagement in the renewable energy sector?’ ‘Do you do SEO copy for boutique hoteliers?’… and so on.

It’s perfectly understandable, and some writers have specialisms and particular strengths. But it’s a bit like asking a mechanic if they service red Japanese cars, or asking a hairdresser how many ladies over 45 with double crowns they did highlights for in 2014. It puts you on the spot, because you feel like you should have an answer off the top of your head.

Yet it’s irrelevant…

An experienced and capable copywriter can put his or her hand to pretty much any requirement. It’s not about specific sectors or channels, or in-depth market understanding. A copywriter’s value is in their versatility, how they will grasp the essentials quickly, understand the audience, and apply their skills to communicating with them most persuasively.

The subject matter is kind of secondary. The brief is what matters most.

A tight brief is key. And your copywriter can help you with it – just like a mechanic will ask you why you’ve brought your car in with a worried look on your face. They’ll get to the bottom of what you need, by asking questions, clarifying and challenging where appropriate, and ensuring they have everything they need to get you the results you’re after. And the best thing you can do is tell them as much as you can, and trust their expertise.

‘Can we see relevant samples of your work?’

Yes, if you insist, but they may not be relevant. When you last went to your mechanic, did you ask for details of the last red Japanese car they worked on?

At best, samples give an indication of the quality of a writer’s work. They prove he or she can write, but using them to judge their suitability for your project can be misleading. Why? Because all briefs are different, regardless of sector. It’s like asking a mechanic to prove they can fix your car, by showing you a similar car that had something entirely different wrong with it.

Have a bigger conversation

For insights into a copywriter’s versatility and capability, maybe ask them about the range of work they’ve done, recent work they’re really proud of, how they might approach your project, and so on. You’ll get a much better feel for their suitability this way.

I’ve written successfully for clients in financial and professional services, education, automotive, telecoms and technology, entertainment and leisure, retail, the creative industries and the public sector. I’ve written for pasty makers, water companies, charities and defence giants. Until I worked for some of them, I knew little or nothing about them or what they do – and that’s the key. They approached me for my expertise, not for my knowledge or experience of them.

I have my strengths and weaknesses, and like any professional I acknowledge them. But if it’s writing in an engaging and persuasive way, with a firm grasp of your audience and an instinct for how best to win them over…

…yes, I do that.

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