The move from journalism to copywriting and what it’s meant for me
There’s an inevitability when it comes to journalism: either you specialise in your field or you go into the marketing sector. I took the latter route because I love to write. And the adjustment has been interesting, to say the least.
Over the past few years, I’ve been a staff writer, and contributor, and an editor at different publications. I started off by writing video game and movie reviews and eventually covered business and startups. This is where I became bored and was constantly nudged to stick with the world of daily business writing.
For me, there was no growth, no way forward, and I was stuck in a rut. It was here that I decided to try my hand at copywriting.
The journalism side of things
Writing a journalistic news piece is about gathering all of the facts and laying them out in an easy-to-read manner. You also have to be completely impartial in every article, regardless of the subject or your personal opinion. Each piece should also be written with no more than 25 words in the opening paragraph and include the who, what, how, where, and why of the story, if possible.
Features are a little fluffier in nature and, usually, delve into why a topic is interesting or profile a specific person. While writing opinions allows you to write anything, as long as it's clearly labelled as an opinion. Of course, this doesn't give you the right to publish anything.
When writing journalistic pieces, I would pull stories from events, press releases, as well as my own investigations and research. I wasn’t used to client briefs, time tracking, or SEO keywords. In fact, the rules in writing copy feel slightly more rigid than reporting on a new merger or the latest social media faux pas.
The copywriting side of things
In copywriting, you need to not only satisfy your boss or manager but the client as well. This includes living up to their standards and conveying a specific voice, using the required URLs and SEO keywords, as well as generating interesting and insightful content.
What is difficult, however, is the mindset switch. Have you ever gone from drinking Coke to Pepsi? They may seem like the same thing but are vastly different. They are both unique in their taste and composition, even if they are both carbonated sugary soft drinks.
How are copywriting and journalism similar?
Feature writing and copywriting are quite similar in nature. Both require the skill to take a blank piece of paper (or an empty Google Doc) and fill it with words that not only make sense when laid out one after another, but tell the reader a story they want to share.
Of course, copy is also based on fact and not whim.
Is copywriting worthwhile?
Yes. And I'm not just saying this because I want to keep my job. As I stated earlier, going into marketing is one of the inevitable futures of those who want to write for a living (Of course, we all know you’re penning that magnum opus novel on the side). It’s definitely an interesting and exciting side of writing
One key factor I've learned is writing fast and writing well. While I did pick up those skills from having to pump out several articles a day before newsletter deadline, copywriting has helped me to hone them. It's now easier to create a first draft that's similar to a final version. It's not often that I have to completely re-write pieces before they're ready.
In all honesty, I would suggest that those who want to dip into copywriting should give it a try. You may hate it or you may love it, but either way, you should at least experience it.