What Separates A Creative Copywriter From Your Average So-Called Wordsmith

First things first, I have a teeny-tiny confession to make:

I'm not the world's best copywriter. And Apple doesn't make the world's best computers. 

Now, with that off mighty admission of guilt off my chest, we can cut to the chase on why you're presumably reading this informative yet mildly entertaining blog post. 

It's because hiring a copywriter to craft your precious brand copy feels a little like Frodo handing the ring over to Samwise. Who can you trust? Which outsider is worthy enough to be the custodian of your precious brand tone of voice? And your biggest challenge to crack – what separates the good copywriters from the even gooder...? 

What Kind Of Copywriter Do You Need?

A good one. But beyond that, it boils down to what you do, and what you need a copywriter's words to do for you. For instance, some freelance copywriters are more adept at helping service-based businesses or entrepreneurs with their messaging or offer – whereas others are more proficient in writing for products, like descriptions or campaigns.

And there are even some nonconformists, like myself, who've worked across many creative advertising departments and associated industries, to offer a more radical, disruptive and unorthodox copywriting style that pushes more on the boundaries of rampant creativity – and aren't afraid of having fun with words. And by all accounts, we're a rare (possibly dying) breed, which makes us even more valuable. 

What is a Creative Copywriter?

And what do creative copywriters do? Are they any different from ordinary not-so-creative copywriters? Why, yes. (Thanks for noticing.)

Think of creative copywriters as the non-traditional storytellers of the advertising world. They're not the ones ghostwriting long-winded deadly-obvious thought leadership posts on LinkedIn. (As necessary as those "copywriters" are...) Instead, creative copywriters are the cultural provocateurs and maverick wordsmiths who crank out copy and content that helps brands connect with their audiences – whether that's marketing products or services, building brand awareness, or driving traffic to a website. 

At the same time, they create an effective, compelling marketing message that hits you smack bang in the guts – emotionally hard-hitting or even side-splittingly funny. And most of all, they make that key message memorable. Because it's not just what you say – but how you say it that makes all the difference. 

Blending copious amounts of originality, curiosity, craft, strategy, and psychology to inform their work – creative copywriters somehow balance all those critical elements into a singular, simple concept that's so easy to understand that it captures attention and inspires action. Sounds fun and easy enough, right? Wrong. 

With great power, comes even greater room for error. And a creative copywriter can mean the difference between a killer campaign and one that fails – or worse yet, never sees the light of day. 

And behind every classic ad or iconic campaign, you'll find a gifted (and highly stressed) writer wrangling and rearranging the words just so – even if it's just two or three of them. 

Nike's "Just do it," the California Milk Board's "Got Milk?", and Apple's "Think Different" are all noteworthy examples of sharp copywriting. And bless them, the brazen copywriters who boldly broke the rules of good grammar to say: "got" and leave the "-ly" off the "differently" adverb – because those choices helped build empires and shape culture forever. 

Whether it's clever brand messaging, advertising campaigns, or any form of promotional marketing material – you can bet the hawkeyes of a savvy, creative copywriter have helped hammer those words into submission. 

The Single Most-Important Trait of a Creative Copywriter

They give a shit. Because whether it's a business card or billboard, the importance is the same – they value the indeterminate value of words. So when given an opportunity, they aren't satisfied unless the words are perfect. 

Of course, "giving a shit" isn't billable, and for many writers, it falls out of the scope of their work, but the good creative copywriters care anyhow – no matter the budget. You can narrow your exhaustive search by looking for that invaluable mark of difference – right off the bat. 

And sure, it helps when your copywriter knows where the f*****n apostrophes go, and can proofread and edit on the fly – but it's beyond simply writing well. Any high school English teacher can type, but how many can ship anything mildly entertaining, persuasive, or even memorable. So f*** the rules. 

As any half-decent copywriter will tell you, it's beyond knowing the craft; it's crafting everything you know – to assemble the right story for the right audience with the right words. And all as we balance creativity with strategy to make the writing achieve its purpose – no matter the medium. 

What (Else) Makes For A 5-Star Creative Copywriter?


1. Character

Their own character. (Not the ones they write.) As it doesn't matter how good their clients are or the wild claims of their well-written landing page –  if their ego is sky-high, or their day-to-day comms reprehensible, they aren't the copywriter for you. 

Ask plenty of questions before hiring a copywriter. You'll start to get a feel for who you're getting into bed with. Truth, we copywriters like answering questions just as much as we like to ask them, as it gives the truest sense of what the working relationship will be like. (In case you're asking, my favourite cocktail is a Negroni – stirred not shaken.)

2. Voice

Now, it's easy to confuse voice with style. Shakespeare had a distinctive style. So did Hemingway. And as you read passages they've written, you know the author as clearly as if they'd signed the page. But when it comes to fuflfilling your copywriting needs, understanding voice is essential for projects where you want your brand, not the writer, to shine through.

Voice comes through in writing through storytelling, sense of humour, wordplay, metaphor, structure, or even restraint. For example, too much creative wordplay on an informative web page will test any reader's patience. Audiences quickly think, "enough of the poetry – get to the point."

A copywriter with an effective grasp on voice, as opposed to style, keeps things clear, concise and most of all, compelling. And best of all, you'd never be able to guess who wrote the copy; it all sings pitch-perfectly like the brand. 


3. Style

Here's where things get challenging. You've got to pay close attention to the written style because your brand's voice depends on it. Because it should be consistent and identifiable across every brand touchpoint. And good copywriters should fast be able to adapt to the style you've currently got, or even elevate it to produce copy that's even smoother and stronger. 

So, what does your content look and sound like? Is it more choppy copy, or longer drawn-out sentences? Do you have specific words or ways of saying things? This all comes down to being clear on your written style. 

At the same time, you never want your content to sound like two university professors debating the cliffnotes, or at the other extreme, two rappers in a battle-off. Know your audience, know your medium, and ensure the style matches accordingly. Even if you're looking to keep things a little more corporate – too much industry jargon makes people feel stupid, and too many business-y buzzwords are just plain boring. Find something in between, and something more original. Because conversational is the new professional. 

Remember, it's worth opting for a writing style that first-time readers can easily comprehend. A simpler, more straightforward style gives people better access to the ideas carried by the words. And access is what allows your audience to understand that idea — and to best convince themselves it's worthwhile.

Copywriting that nails style is like a shiny, clean window - you see through the words, without even noticing them. The copy gently invites you to look and take notice of everything inside, without too much noise or distraction. You could say the best copywriters are incredibly stealthy and valuable window cleaners, presenting the perfect style of writing that gives their words maximum exposure. (Yes, I carry Windex.)


4. Curiosity

We touched on this earlier, but you want to hire a copywriter who asks plenty of questions. They should feel a little like a keen teenage detective, or a method actor getting into character. (Just call me, Daniel Day-Lewis.)

Without this degree of questioning, how can we ever fully understand your project's goals? Well, unless we've already worked with your brand and immersed ourselves in all the ins and outs – and for the record, that takes time. Just know, your distinctive brand voice or authentic copy doesn't simply emerge overnight, no matter how obvious it seems to you. Let us inquisitive minds in, and soon enough, the results will show. 

Well-versed copywriters also know that much of the most valuable discoveries bubble up during casual conversations with you – aka. the person who knows your company best. And it's our constant mission to capture those absolute nuggets of word-gold and put them to work for your long-lasting benefit. You'll thank us later. 

Yeah Yeah Yeah, So What, Who Cares

But I digress. This is all my unabashed opinion on hiring a first-rate copywriter. I'd hope, as a freelance creative copywriter for hire, that I'd come under fire with any such scrutiny, should I be so lucky to write words for your brand. So please, always do your due diligence, and find the copywriter who'll work best for your brand. Simple as that. 

If that's me, and you think I could help you out with some witty, well-formed words, excellent – please, get in touch. (I'll have questions.) If not, I genuinely hope this blog has helped identify and solidify what to be on the lookout for next time you need the services of a copywriter. Over and out. 

A creative copywriter saying a big hello to you.