The journey I’ve taken to become a B2B technology copywriter is unusual: baker, Army reservist, Parliamentary researcher, political campaign strategist and a few other seemingly unrelated roles. But it’s this breadth of experience that I’ve gained over a relatively short period of time (I’m 27 if you’re interested) which has given me the skills to convert complex technical information into easily digestible content.
To be honest, when I was in university, copywriting wasn’t something I ever thought I would be working in, let alone something which I’m good at. Likewise, before I joined Radix, I imagined an office of career copywriters, all with English degrees. Some did study English of course, but there’s a real variety of experience in the team – journalism, PR, public sector, sales – so I’ve reflected on what my career to date has brought to my first few months with Radix and put together some points of advice for aspiring copywriters.
#1 – Experience writing for a variety of audiences
I spent a few years working for a Member of Parliament and a national political party on a variety of jobs from Parliamentary research to campaigns and strategy. Aside from the manic, relentlessly exhausting and thankless nature of the job, I gained invaluable writing skills that continue to influence my copy today.
When first working on political campaigns, my remit was to turn broadsheet standard information into something that could be easily digested by a tabloid audience. This taught me how to take complex information and turn it into something that’s easy to understand.
Even roles that you wouldn’t expect to require a capacity for writing, will leave an impression on your work. At university, I worked for John Lewis email customer service, and even that challenged my ability to convert complex information into a simple response.
I haven’t yet come across a job in enterprise copywriting that doesn’t require the ability to digest and understand complex technical information in a limited amount of time – and then write coherently on the subject for a particular audience.
Without an understanding of how the people you write for think and process information, good quality copy is almost impossible to achieve.
#2 – Understand the people you are writing for
Understand the voice of the customer. Why? Because this will help you to grasp the challenges your audience is facing, what their requirements are and what they actually care about. It’ll enable you to empathise with their situation and tell them something they didn’t know.
Working in e-commerce, I quickly learned that customers will always tell you what’s wrong with your offering. Despite this, very few retailers take heed of their customers, causing many to go to competitors that do.
The same logic applies to tech copywriting. If you aren’t addressing the issues and ideas that are important to your reader, they will go elsewhere. This is why it’s so important that every piece you write addresses your audience’s real needs – and to achieve that, you first need to listen.
#3 – Logic, problem solving and thinking clearly
Being able to digest a brief or a pack of research and extract the most important ‘headlines’ is a vital skill for a copywriter. When they write, a copywriter will constantly be asking themselves: “does this make sense?”, “so what?” and “is this telling the audience something they didn’t already know?”.
In my adventurous late-teens to early-twenties, I served as a Territorial Army soldier – stay with me here, it has relevance. As I was aspiring to be an officer at the time, clear thinking and problem solving under pressure were skills drilled into me.
For instance, I could have been given a brief full of information – some of it vital, but most of it useless, designed to confuse and misdirect. The key was to extract the vital information and formulate a concise, written plan.
Copywriters receive a variety of briefs. Some will be too short and lacking detail, some will be far too long and some will be on the money. The key to writing good copy is to extract the main ‘headlines’, work out the story and based on what you have deduced, write convincingly for your audience.
#4 – Working to deadlines and dealing with pressure
In my experience there are two kinds of pressure, necessary and unnecessary. The latter I have encountered on countless occasions in retail and hospitality. Necessary pressure however can be a good thing; it is the adrenaline that keeps you focused when writing copy.
Parkinson’s Law says work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This rings true for many writers, but it also highlights the necessity for deadlines in copywriting – and why our clients here at Radix find our account managers so valuable.
It was working in the heat and pressure of a busy bakery that taught me to handle stressful situations in a calm manner and to think clearly; something which has stuck with me when writing to deadlines.
#5 – Receiving and understanding feedback
I can remember a former colleague once looking at something I had written in disbelief after it had come back to me with comments and amends on it. He just couldn’t comprehend investing a significant amount of time into writing something for it to then be scrutinised and edited.
But here at Radix, getting feedback from a senior writer is simply part of our work and how we achieve consistently well-written and balanced copy. It’s an integral part of our copywriting process.
An experienced writer will be able to differentiate when and where to ‘push-back’ on client feedback, and when to accept that the customer is right. The client is paying for your expertise and interpretation on a job but will also rightly expect you to deliver based on their briefing and requirements.
#6 – Never stop suggesting new ideas
Along your journey to becoming a copywriter, you are likely to have experienced a fair range of industries and projects. This amounts to a significant inventory of ideas that can bring a new perspective to the company you work for. Whether this is improving existing processes or thinking up new ideas to try out, this is all valuable experience that needs to be shared.
And my final bit of advice?
If you’re interested in becoming a copywriter, experience writing for as many different audiences and industries as you possibly can and gather a range of feedback on your work – this will improve your writing and gives you a broad knowledge to build on.
Not everyone is cut out to be a writer. It attracts a particular type of person with the right experience, a high level of tenacity, oodles of passion and an attention to detail that you wouldn’t be required to have in many other jobs.
Most people who find themselves copywriting for a company like Radix got there through sheer hard-work, experience and determination. This is evident in my colleagues’ attitudes and how they approach every job that we receive. Nearly three months in, I’m enjoying adding my experience into the mix and relishing what the future holds.