If you’re reading an article about how to become a copywriter, it means you’re heading in the right direction. This column may or may not help. The important thing is you’re reaching out and taking action to improve your skills.
If writing were a natural act, people wouldn’t need copywriters to do it for them. The English language is vast and complicated, and no matter how long you’ve been pouring yourself onto the page, you keep learning things:
- It’s “a blessing in disguise” and not “a blessing in the skies.”
- “You nip it in the bud” and don’t “nip it in the butt.”
- It’s “deep-seated” and not “deep-seeded.”
- You “couldn’t care less” and not “could care less.”
By reading this, you’ve accepted that you don’t know everything about writing, which is the perfect mindset to excel as a writer. Hold onto that humility, and it will serve you well, especially when dealing with clients who either know more than you or think they do.
No matter who your clients are, you want to make them happy. Most writers don’t sit down at their keyboards with the aim of disappointing their clients. However, every writer for hire has attempted their best and received criticism and requests for rewrites in response.
Let’s repeat that: Every writer—from entry-level to seasoned pro—has been criticized by clients and asked to rewrite something despite their best efforts.
It’s a basic part of doing business, and it doesn’t have to be your fault:
- Maybe the outline was flawed.
- Maybe the clients changed their minds.
- Maybe the client didn’t really know what they wanted until they read your first submission.
But if you’ve followed along this far, it means you’re serious about learning how to become a better copywriter.
It also means you realize what the character in Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” figured out in the middle of what can only be described as a perfect song: “Now I think, hell, it could be my fault.”
Let’s follow that up with a line from Billy Joel’s “You’re Only Human”: “We’re supposed to make mistakes.”
Okay, that’s enough with the 20th-century references. You get the point. However, a paying client might look at those two song choices and pick them apart:
- Why such old musical references?
- Why only men?
- Why only two songs when the comedic rule of threes requires one more?
- Why did you use a four-letter word that could offend our readers?
- Why would anybody call “Margaritaville” a perfect song?
If you were happy with what you wrote, an order to rewrite that section might feel like a punch in your creative gut. So how do you deal? Here are three—the perfect number, some would say—suggestions:
- nothing’s personal
- get better
- blow off steam
The problem with writing is it often feels personal. You’re chugging along and then get stuck on a section, so you experiment and struggle to make it work. Eventually, you figure it out. It feels good to phrase things the way they ought to be phrased. Woo-hoo!
When a client comes along and highlights that part for change, it’s bound to be disappointing.
But it’s not personal.
If you’re serious about learning how to become a better copywriter, you’ll always remember that nothing is personal. In 99 percent of cases, clients are thinking about their concerns, not yours. Even if you don’t know them, it’s best to assume their concerns are valid. They probably have bosses down the hall who are extremely tough to please.
In short, your work is their work. If you were in their situation, you’d be picky too.
Nobody wants to stomp all over your feelings. It might feel like they do, but that’s an illusion. When a comment or a request for a rewrite frustrates you, remember: Nothing’s personal.
If it helps, write the phrase on a sticky note and put it where you can see it because, really, nothing’s personal. It’s just people doing business together and trying to make their own deadlines.
Some clients are perfectly capable of doing the writing themselves, but paying you allows them to invest their time and talents in other ways. There’s every chance your client knows exactly what they’re talking about when they make a suggestion.
One important step toward learning how to become a better copywriter is to accept the basic fact that your words aren’t sacred. If you put the work aside for a week and returned to it, you might say, “What the heck was I thinking?”
In light of that possibility and your desire to improve, listen to the criticism and try to find the truth in it.
Editing and polishing are tasks that you might prefer to do alone. However, a good editor, which many clients are, can advance your development as a writer.
When you think about it, how is that not a gift?
Even if a client is wrong, they’re right because they sign the checks. But you can still learn how to become a better copywriter by listening to what they want and then reworking the piece in a way that satisfies both you and the client. Consider rewrites an opportunity to once again bring your craft and creativity to bear.
Which sentence says it best?
- Client feedback causes more work.
- Client feedback allows more practice.
Both are true statements, but one is clearly better for your writerly self.
Blow off Steam
So, if nothing’s personal, and you’re lucky for the opportunity to improve, why do you feel like throwing something when you get a request for a rewrite? (Not that you feel like throwing something. Other people feel that way, and this is for them.)
It’s probably because we—all of us writers—care about what we do. There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing wrong with expressing frustration in the moment, especially if the client never finds out.
But no one needs to hold onto that frustration. “Let It Go,” as Elsa (or Idina Menzel) advises in Frozen. Or consider taking a moment to “Shake It Off” the way Taylor Swift suggests because, you know, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.”
After taking a moment to appreciate two 21st-century song references from female artists, consider some other tips for de-stressing:
- call a friend
- take a walk
- squeeze a stress ball
- listen to music (How did this get in here?)
You’ve heard this stuff before and know what works for you. The difficulty is actually putting it into practice when it’s most needed. If you’re serious about learning how to become a better copywriter, develop a healthy respect for your own downtime.
Clients are just people, and people have good days and bad days. Sometimes, they’re right; other times, they’re wrong. Usually, they’re simply trying to get a job done the best way they know how.
Anybody can relate to that:
- We’ve all frustrated people without meaning to.
- We’ve all seen where others can improve and offered suggestions.
- We’ve all noticed when someone else clearly needed a break.
Let’s give clients the benefit of the doubt. There’s a saying in the business world: “Serve your customers; serve your business.” When consistently applied, it tends to clarify things nicely.
By the way, in that phrase, your customers and your business are “one and the same” and not “one in the same.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a better copywriter, consider joining us at Copywriter Exchange. We have a digital library full of ideas to help you navigate your career.
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