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10 things no one tells you about being a copywriter

Having a blog is fun but it also means that you are broke and alone most of the time. So, the good Samaritan that I am, posted on a media forum that I would like to help out people who were confused about careers and getting into copywriting. And man was I flooded! People asked me a lot of things but here’s a few things that they don’t tell you about copywriting. Some of the things in here will surprise you, some not.

1) Copywriting is not about writing

Well it is. But it isn’t just about writing. Yes, you do need the ability to string together a sentence but that’s not where it stops. You need to be able to ideate. You need to think if that one more way to sell orange juice. And you need to do it on a deadline.

2) It’s not for freshers. Unless.

The cold, honest truth? The short stories and plays written in college will barely get you a foot in the door. It does give you an edge over a student who’s never held pencil to paper but that edge is teeny weeny. If you’re a fresher, they are looking at your ability to understand a brief, translate it into something interesting and think (to use a very, very tired cliché) out of the box.

3) Do you copy?

A lot of people asked me if they should get into copy at all. Well, if you like ideating and writing, yes by all means. But that’s not the only way to be creative in the ad agency context. If you are good at designing, get into graphics or art. Of course, people from art school do find more favour here but it’s not like you can’t do it if you don’t learn quickly. By the way, everyone from the servicing to the planning people sit in on creative sessions.

4) Glamour? What glamour?

If you think you have great, creative ideas that the world must know about, don’t become a copywriter. From the outside, it looks like everyday a copywriter goes into work, writes some lines and thinks of creative things. Truth? We go to work. Check emails. Read rude email by client, get bummed, rewrite the same ‘ beat the summer with cool offers’ line for the 50th time. Then, a client servicing person will come tell you he needs copy by end of day today. You crib and start working on it. Midway through a brain storming session, the servicing person will tell you the brief changed. Sometimes, you will spend hours researching hair loss to write interesting copy. That’s the real world. Many, many years later, you might be on a shoot where there will b glamour. Till then, it can be a real drag.

5) Portfolio of call- only step one.

No matter where you go, they will ask you for your portfolio. Writing copy and putting in an image can be done by anybody. How you make this stand out is the real challenge. And don’t be afraid of sounding crazy. A good copy/art person can spot a fabulous thought and mentor you into developing it further.

6) Idea Injury Network

Ideas are dear. Held close to the heart and only let out when the time is correct. Then, you can watch your idea being mauled and pulled apart and then sometimes completely discarded. That idea you thought was the next big thing? Yup, no one’s sold on it. Least of all the client. The worst is when a servicing person is unable to explain the idea properly leading to days of hard work being trashed. Yeah that sucks. And is annoying because you have to start working on it, all over again.

#Protip: Ideas are the weirdest things. They can strike you at any time. Keep a book handy to write it down when you wake up with clutter breaking ideas at 3am.

7) Study muffin

A question a lot of you asked me was if you should study and if yes where? Frankly, I don’t know. Having a formal education will help you get some inroads into the business. You get plenty of hands on knowledge on account planning, servicing, media buying, research etc but rarely do you get to know the inner working of the creative department. You have to be in an agency, interning or working to really know this.

8) Famous why?

Allow me to put this into perspective. As a journalist, you get a byline. As a copywriter, you don’t get anything unless you win an award. And award-winning work takes a long time to come around. So have patience and don’t give up. Also pray you have clients you can do award work with. That’s when fame will come your way. Till then, it’s shitty headlines. Also, sometimes you’ll wonder if anyone is reading anything you are writing. Unfortunately, other than your parents and boyfriend/girlfriend and few agency people, no one is.

9) Read-ily available – you’ll have to do this.

Information on what agencies around the world are doing, what peers are doing and what brands are doing is available on the internet. Ideally, you will spend a lot of time checking these things out. You will spend a lot of time reading about the product, its benefits, its features and then what their brand campaign around the world is, what the Indian campaign is etc. By the time you get into a brainstorming session, you will be expected to know all this and a little more.

10) It will be wonder-full

No matter how many years you spend in the industry, you will still unsure about how good you are and how to get better. You will often wonder why you are here and if it’s all worth it. You’ll want to give it all up to do something else with better hours. Then, sometimes, you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.

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