Copywriting Is Where Creative Writers Go To Die

Before you take the freelance path, weigh the pros and cons

Very few writers actively choose to be copywriters. Copywriting is something that you fall into because you’re trying to make money from home, or you went on a job board and thought, “Sure, I could write a landing page for that website. Why not?” Then boom, you’re a copywriter.

While copywriting has been around as long as print ads have, the profession has seen a significant recent boom as companies are placing a bigger and bigger emphasis on their online presence. Marketers and business owners understand the importance of having clean and engaging copy for consumers to read that encourages them to take action. Not only that, but brands want to look like experts in their niche and rank on Google. So, big and small businesses alike are filling blog pages with posts and diving deep into content creation.

Copywriting is the career you can point to when someone tells you there’s no future in writing. It also sucks the life right out of you.

But the money!

The fact is, there is money in copywriting. Plenty. It’s also much easier to make money from than blogging or publishing. But at what cost to creative writers?

I began copywriting almost four years ago. I wanted to make a little side money while in school. I soon saw it as a way that I could work from home and write all day. What could be better than that? Pretty quickly, I started accepting more and more clients and actively looking for opportunities to write for businesses.

When you become a full-time copywriter, you pretty much have two options: you become your own business (a freelancer), or you seek employment from another business. As a freelancer, you have to spend time finding clients, improving your skills, and building your portfolio. As an employee, you have to deal with, well, being an employee.

All of this takes time away from your creative practice. And the burnout is real. If you’re sitting at a computer all day for work, what are the odds that you’ll want to do the same after work to write for yourself?

Copywriting turned me into a cliche

Movies and TV shows have a popular trope when it comes to portraying writers. You guessed it — The writer wants to put their all into their passion project, but they can’t because of capitalism. They need money to survive, so they work a job where they have no control over what they write about or how they have to write.

A year after I began copywriting, I felt like I was in one of those movies.

Yes, there are plenty of tips and tricks out there for balancing your workload: block out moments in the day for personal writing, find a niche you care about, or treat it like the job that it is and get it over with so you can do other things. I get it. Still, I can’t say with absolute certainty that it’s worth it either way.

If you enjoy copywriting, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, know that just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. There are plenty of legitimate ways to make money writing, and you don’t have to force yourself to write product descriptions if you don’t want to.

The pointlessness of it all

The goal of copywriting is to make money. Both for yourself and for the business or person you write for. I’ve worked with companies who could care less about how original or even factual the copy was, as long as it got them sales. For me, it’s hard to feel like the work I’m doing is meaningful.

Last year, while the world was on fire (literally), I had to get up every morning and convince people that they want to purchase lawn care items. Or that they need to know the different types of roofing materials. It can be tedious, soul-sucking work. As a creative writer, I knew that copywriting would be an entirely different muscle than my creative project. But the reality is, even if you care about the subject, copywriting can be so boring that it physically hurts.

Looking at my creative projects differently

People are bombarded every day with words and images about everything under the sun. There is so much content online and in print. I’ve personally cranked out more than 300 articles in my career so far. Even though it pays, it feels like a contribution to an endless pool of words that say a lot and mean very little.

The informational ebook industry is another mundane part of the copywriting industry. Entrepreneurs know that there’s a market for short, usually unenthusiastic ebooks on niche topics. Working within this structure — with a swift and deadline-oriented means of production — makes everything else feel slow.

I am more easily frustrated these days when I don’t make the progress I think I should be making on my creative project. Because if I can write 1000 words of copy in 30 minutes, why is it taking me two hours to write 500 words of fiction? I know the difference, but I find myself continuously thinking in terms of monetary production. I find myself questioning the value of my artistic work if it isn’t making me money.

Copywriting has not been all bad. I’ve learned a lot of information (anyone want to know the best roofing materials?), and I’ve met many interesting people. I’ve also been able to provide for myself and work on a flexible schedule.

If you want to go into copywriting as a creative writer, go in with a plan. Once you get into the business writing mindset, it’ll be hard to switch it off.

Poet, writer, lover of sweet potatoes. Here are my questions for the world. More at jaenichelle.com and jaeghosts.com

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