In our line of work, we have two main challenges.
The first problem occurs when we attempt to explain to people what we actually do. Sometimes I’m really vague and say “I’m a copywriter”. Sometimes I’m more specific and go with: “Primarily, I’m an adtech ghostwriter, but I also write for SMEs”. Hmm, sounds a bit spooky... she writes ads, about technology…? Not quite.
A few minutes later (once we’ve established the difference between copyright and copywrite), I usually get the same response. “So what is it you do again….?”. And so I explain that we write articles for a range of clients, from global technology companies to local high-street businesses.
The second problem is explaining to clients that actually putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) is only one part of the overall copywriting project. Articulate’s recent blogpost ‘What does a copywriter do?’ sums up these problems perfectly, explaining what exactly we do, and how the process unfolds from start to finish.
So what does a copywriter do?
The term ‘ghostwriter’ might sound creepy, but in reality it just means paying someone to produce content that you will publish in your name. And that’s perfectly fine, unless you’re paying someone to write your college assignment (we’ll come back to that in our next blogpost!). Similarly, a photographer might “sell” the rights to the photographs that he or she has been commissioned to take at a wedding, for example. But now we’re getting onto the subject of copyright again, so perhaps we should use the term ‘content writer’ instead.
In essence, content writers take the burden of creating content away from marketing departments (or business owners) who might not have the time, expertise, or fresh perspective needed to turn their great ideas into thought-provoking, coherent copy.
There are various different types of content writer – some will write across a broad range of sectors, and some will have specialist areas they cover. At Lexical Llama, we do both. A ‘marketing technology content writer’, for example, doesn’t necessarily compile marketing content. Instead, they might write informative articles for the benefit of the marketing technology industry that happen to relate in some way to the client’s products or services. The purpose of this ‘thought leadership’ content is ultimately to market the company’s offering organically, and for companies who don’t have the budget to run costly ad campaigns, publishing original and engaging content can be just as effective.
So how do you get from idea to article?
Firstly, content writers don’t just magically pluck ideas and knowledge about a company from thin air, so there needs to be a brief of some description. This can take the form of an initial consultation (over the phone or in person), to establish what is required, as well as further conversations or email exchanges as necessary to iron out the details and really get to know the your style of writing and tone of voice. This initial period can take a while if you’ve never used a particular content writer before, and so naturally part of the project cost will be attributed to ‘bedding-in time’. Therefore, once you’ve found a good content writer, it’s worth sticking with them. Otherwise you’ll be paying each new content writer for their bedding-in time while they get to know the requirements.
Secondly, once the writer is familiar with the brief, they may need to do some research of their own to give context to the copy and make it relevant to the target audience. For an article, for example, there needs to be something to ‘hook in’ the reader. The hook could be an impressive statistic, or maybe an unusual fact about the topic being covered.
Thirdly, the writing can commence. This could take ten minutes or ten hours depending on the nature of the project, but also the quality of the brief provided and/or research undertaken.
Finally, just as you would proof an email or newsletter before sending it to your customers, a content writer will review their own work very carefully before submitting. In terms of editing, any content writer worth their salt will check for flow (ensuring paragraphs run in the right order); consistency (ensuring specialist terms are spelled the same throughout); and clarity (ensuring there are no potential ambiguities). Once these edits have been made, content will then be proofread to check for any typographical errors. And no, we don’t just rely on the spellchecker for this! Some content writers may even include an additional round of edits in their price once you’ve reviewed the “finished” piece, so it’s worth checking this before you agree the project. At Lexical Llama, we include basic edits as standard unless otherwise agreed, as there is nothing more frustrating than paying someone to write an article that you can’t use due to minor factual or stylistic errors.
So next time you employ a content writer, do bear in mind the steps involved in getting the copy to the stage it is when you receive it – and don’t be afraid to ask your writer to include a full breakdown in their invoice so you can see how their time has been spent.
Steps 1, 2 and 4 – or ‘Research & Review’ time as we call it at Lexical Llama – are just as important as the time spent putting words on paper. In fact, this is what really transforms your great ideas into great content.
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