Can we still call ourselves copywriters?

For some time now I’ve asked myself if the title of copywriter suits the kind of work I do.

I wasn’t always a copywriter. I’ve worked in advertising agencies most of my working life as a studio manager, typographer, and art director. The latter for more than 20 years.

Now I have my own business as a freelance copywriter. But so much has changed in the advertising/marketing/communications industry in such a short space of time, that I’m beginning to wonder if calling myself a ‘copywriter’ justifies what I actually do.

What’s spurned this post is a couple of things I’ve read of late.

One was fellow scribe and CD Jason Hollamby’s excellent post for the upcoming Adschool copywriter course (SA only) where he beautifully describes the three kinds of copywriters. It’s a brilliant read and one I’m sure every copywriter can associate with. Take a look here and figure out if you fall into one of the three categories. And if you’re an upcoming young writer living in South Australia, I urge you to consider taking part in this course.

The other was an article about a fantastic campaign by the Direct Marketing Association in the UK addressing the relevance of copywriters today.www.dma.org.uk/greatbritishcopywriting

If you’re a copywriter, there are two things that you should take a look at.

Firstly, there is a video called ‘Madmen vs Mavens’ which canvasses the opinions of respected and experienced copywriters who have been in the industry a while, versus the younger, (relatively) new players who are starting out and experiencing an advertising industry vastly different to that of their older peers.

The other is an excellent little (online) book called ‘Why your copywriter looks sad’ which graphically displays the results of a recent census of 430 British copywriters. It also showcases the grievances of these copywriters (young and old) and how so much of the craft of copywriting has completely disappeared. And it talks about how the scope of what we as copywriters are expected to do has changed so dramatically over the course of a generation, that you may wonder if the term ‘copywriter’ is actually relevant anymore. It’s beautifully designed, a great little read and will definitely leave you thinking.

I can certainy relate with a lot of what the Brits are experiencing.

Tweets, blogs, posts, SMS and online content are dominating our reading space, while sadly, the art of creating and crafting a beautiful piece of long copy for a full page press or magazine ad has gone the way of the dinosaur.

But that’s the reality of what’s happening in our industry today.

As a freelancer, I find myself having to do way more that just create concepts, or headlines and copy for a press ad, or a script for a TV or radio spot. There is so much of the written word outside of what I was used to as an in-house advertising practitioner.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to adapt how I write which is absolutely crucial if you want to make a good living as a freelancer.

So, all this has got me thinking about whether I can, or should, refer to myself as a plain old ‘copywriter.’ Should I, in fact, be calling myself something that covers the scope of work that I do for both my direct clients and the agencies I work for? Something catchy without sounding like a complete tosser?

A quick search online reveals I’m not the only one facing this dilemma. There are some rather interesting and creative alternatives to the title of ‘copywriter’ including Copy Director, Creative Writer, Wordsmith, Word Guru, Creative Thinker, Idea Starter, Advertising Creative, Copy Creative, Written Communicator, Copiest, Copy Doctor, Word Fiend, Text Wrangler, Sentence Specialist etc etc. A colleague once referred to himself as an Idea Merchant which I thought was rather good.

I had briefly considered changing my title to the relatively simple ‘Communicator.’

However, changing how I refer to myself, poses a couple of problems. If someone is looking for a copywriter in an online search, I won’t be found. And, in calling myself something other than a ‘copywriter,’ it might lead people to think I’m not the right person for what they want.

Let’s face it, the term ‘copywriter’ when broken down, is readily understood assomeone who writes copy. That can be copy for any discipline; from tweets, blogs, posts, content, emails SMS and other social media, to press, print and broadcast media. Not to mention the plethora of other writing diciplines.

So from my perspective, I think referring to myself as a ‘copywriter’ is a safe bet at the moment. And while I’m happy to write for any kind of media, I’ll keep hanging in there in the vain hope that long copy becomes fashionable again.


About the author: Steve Williss


Steve Williss has been a Studio Artist, Studio Manager, Typographer and Art Director before taking up the call to pen the copy he has crafted so often over the years. He is currently owner and go-to guy at WriteMind — a writing, communications, and ideas business based in Adelaide, South Australia.

This article was first published by Steve Williss