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Five Reasons You Shouldn't Be Writing Copy

"It's only writing. I can do that."

Unfortunately, I hear it all the time. Sure, it's not as emotionally intense as brain surgery or as physically challenging as replacing a transmission, but copywriting isn't "only" anything.  Anyone can put words to page, but copy -- any marketing communications, for that matter -- is meant to sell, to convince, to compel. And maybe that's why you shouldn't be doing it yourself. So here are five things to consider the next time you're thinking about taking it on. 

5. You don't have the time. A skilled copywriter doesn't only write well, he or she writes efficiently. Where a first draft of your postcard copy might take you excruciating hours, the pro you hired could do it in minutes. Speaking of drafts, you're a lot more likely to see drafts in the double digits if you're trying to do it yourself. And the time you take can end up costing you more than if you just hired a pro in the first place. 

4. It's an art. Anyone can pick up a brush. But how many are truly artists? The same goes for the keyboard. Like a poet or lyricist, copywriters possess, as Liam Neeson so famously put it, "a particular set of skills." Marketing. Creativity. Strategy. Sales. Wit. Brevity. Emotion. Empathy. A bit of Dickens, Draper, and Dave Chappelle, all mixed together like the perfect smoothie. That's a wordsmith. That's a copywriter. 

3. It's hard. It's easy to look at Nike's "Just Do It," or Burger King's "Have it Your Way," and think: "Pfft, anyone can do that." Sure. It's just a couple of words, right? But even the shortest tagline for the most middle-of-the-road brand can take a team of pros dozens of hours. And that's just for 3-4 words. Now imagine how long it would take to...write a 12-page brochure with an average of two subheads per page, a headline on the cover, a call-to-action, and thousands of words, all of which tie back to the core of your brand. Yeah. That. 

2. You're not objective enough. Even if you have the skills, you're probably too close to your product to write about it yourself. There's a huge gap between what you want to tell people about your product, and what they want to hear. And when you're in the weeds on the product side, it's hard to see. Often, I come in as a fresh set of eyes, a new voice, a filter through which you send your inside-talk, technical mumbo jumbo so your customer can actually get it. And it pays off. 

1. You're not a copywriter. You may have won a short story contest in college. You might have been the editor of your high school newspaper. You could have even written the 400-page manual for your award-winning software. That's all writing, but as you can surmise from the other four points, none of it is copywriting. Besides, you already have a job function. Should you really be writing radio spots and sell sheets yourself? Probably not. 

Dang. Now I'm craving a smoothie. 

(photo: imgarcade.com)

© 2014 Kwame DeRoché