Here behind the orange door in WordsFresh Land, we’ve been talking about the hardest parts of our jobs. Sure, I’m often challenged to create a new message strategy or write a creative piece on a tight deadline.
But to tell the truth, the hardest part of my job is finding the best copywriters for our growing team. As a founding member of the Pleaser Society, I had no idea I could be so rigid until I started building a writing team. No other job (even that one I had at 16 slinging fish into vats of hot oil) has challenged me so much.
You see, writers are nice. And funny. They’re self-effacing, well-read and can discuss education, death, politics, gardening, existential angst or whatever else is on your mind. They all speak English really well. I wish all of them the best, but I am uncompromising about what we look for at WordsFresh.
Here’s what I think are the qualities of the best copywriters:
1. Creative sparkle. I have resisted the idea that creativity is a talent. After all, creativity is part of the human condition, and we should be able to achieve anything with hard work. But I’m beginning to think the ability to see unique connections and put those into language may be an innate talent. Some projects require flashes of creative brilliance. Some require creative problem solving. All of our projects – whether in marketing, special topics or social media – require a person who approaches work creatively. Regardless of whether it’s an inborn talent or a quality that can be nurtured, it’s a thing of beauty when you find it.
2. Bricklaying. This is what I call it when we have to check the facts in three documents in files saved from last year, write five more headline versions just as strong as the one you liked, make sure all researchers’ credentials are phrased correctly, create unique bios for 26 CPAs, and think of distinct ways to describe 17 similar products. There are creative brainstorming sessions that are loads of fun, but many days copywriting is really hard work that’s a lot like laying bricks. It’s very satisfying, but you’ve got to love bricks.
3. Brains. How do I say this delicately? We need smart people. You can spot them, not because they know everything, but because they’re insanely curious and ask lots of great questions. They read everything, including business news. They know an awful lot about marketing and they watch what happens when businesses try new things. They remember the details from your last conversation or at least write them down so they can remember. The best copywriters have amazing brainpower and know how to use it to execute a marketing strategy with astonishing precision.
4. Thinkers, not order takers. If a client had to detail every aspect of the project, provide every scrap of information and outline how it should read, she could have done it herself. Great copywriters can take as much – or as little – direction as you give and run with it. They know the real assignment is to hit the client’s goals. Far from just performing tasks, they sit at the strategy table.
5. Professional demeanor. Writers can be incredibly valuable business assets, but only if they adopt professional business practices. Our intern gave us this field report from one of her previous internships: Low-energy, unkempt writers sat wrapped in blankets and slumped over computers, chugging coffee and looking tormented. Yeah, I’ve seen them. I want copywriters who manage themselves, lead client projects, set goals, reliably hit deadlines, use the latest technology, bring fresh ideas to the table and present as well to our team as to the client company’s CEO. Call me shallow, but I want them to show up looking like the valuable players they are.
6. Heart for client care. We get out of bed every morning with the mission of helping our clients succeed. We treat clients like we’d want to be treated if we had their jobs and unique pressures. That means we have to be flexible when things change, go the extra mile and think a little harder to find a solution. Not everyone has the heart it takes to follow this Golden Rule of client care. I happen to think it’s non-negotiable.
Sure, it’s hard a job, but it’s not impossible. And every time we find a great copywriter, I realize the hardest part of my job is actually my favorite part. It means I get to work with inspired creatives. Plus, great copywriters allow us to serve great clients. If you’re either one, please know the orange door is always open.