I got a call recently confirming a fact I discovered some time ago, something I knew about around the time I set off as a freelance copywriter.
The call I received was from one of the creative talent agencies. Yes, I was being headhunted, even though I have no idea how they have my details in their database.
Anyway, to have a talent agency contact someone who’s not been actively looking for a job for the last 4 years or so means either one of two things:
- They have absolutely no idea who they are calling, which from a talent agency specializing in advertising talents is in my book an epic fail
- The ad industry is really, really desperate for copywriters and have instructed their recruiters to go all out in search of candidates
To confirm the situation, I prodded the person on the other end of the call. “How’s the market for copywriters these days?” I asked. She replied, and I quote “agencies are looking left, right and centre for copywriters”.
The reply made me feel I had prophetic powers. I knew it, I knew it all along!
Yes, the lack of copywriters in Malaysia, especially good ones, has been one of the contributing factors in my relative success a freelancer for the last 3 years or so.
It is a trend that I noticed even when I was employed, gentle winds of change that has now culminated in an imperfect storm. Imperfect for agencies, perfect for me… I’m actually in demand.
So let’s celebrate, yes? No.
I believe the Malaysian ad industry truly had this situation coming. In fact, a lot of people in the higher-ups knew about the scarcity of good writers, but just didn’t do anything about it.
Here’s some advise ala gratis to all agencies out there. Hey, I’m a 16-year veteran who has written for everything from TVCs to T&Cs, so listen up:
- Don’t treat our work as fillers to art. We are not just caption writers spoiling nice images with those ugly words. Yes, nice images attract attention, but solid and sometimes lengthy copy retains interest and helps convert.
- We may make it look easy, but it isn’t. While the demands of advertising have evolved, we copywriters still work with the basics; our thoughts and a keyboard. There are no apps, software or tools for us. Give us time, and respect.
- Don’t let us fly solo all the time. While there could be an art director and two designers in a team, copywriters are often left to fend for themselves. Dedicate more hands for copy development, two copy heads are better than one… right?
I feel copywriting has always been second fiddle to art direction, at least in the Malaysian context. Much emphasis is given to art; with art directors and designers enjoying better career prospects compared to copywriters.
Then there’s no wonder why the influx of copywriters have stagnated over recent years. Not many people can handle the merciless, under-appreciated and often underpaid nature of the profession.
But no disrespect to the art-based players in the industry. I’ve worked with many exceptional ones and truly believe they are creative wizards given the constraints, deadlines and demands of a fast-evolving ad scene.
I just wish – now that the year is drawing to a close – the decisions makers pay more attention to the development of great copywriting talents.
A rather cerebral New Year wish, but for the good of the game, I hope it becomes a reality.
Cheers to all the copywriters out there – employed or otherwise – you do it because it is your calling.
Happy New Year!
Luckily the world didn’t come to an end. For me, that would have been a shame.
Simply because 2012 was my first full year as a self-employed freelance copywriter. So it would have been a real arse-luck going out so soon after tasting sweet liberation.
I started the year full of uncertainties; work was far and few in between and I still hadn’t got used to the absence of a monthly paycheck. But I guess perseverance and patience have their rewards.
I quickly found myself making new alliances and managed to fill up my otherwise mundane schedule. My freelancing gig also took me to South Korea for a month, as part of the Malaysian team for the World Expo 2012.
And the year is ending rather nicely, with enough work to take me over to the New Year. So was it a good year? Absolutely. Am I hoping for a better upcoming year? Most definitely!
Before I start sounding like I’m making an awards acceptance speech. Allow me to turn your attention to the real reason for this post.
We all need that little spark, that little moment of inspiration before we decide to take on a new venture. My bits of spark came from two videos that I watched online in 2011, and I would like to share them with you.
The first is from possibly the most celebrated tech genius of our generation, the late Steve Jobs. If you are thinking of doing something you never thought you’d ever do, this vid is for you:
The next video from Daniel Pink is a must watch, especially if you are in a creative industry and constantly have the feeling of not wanting to wake up in the morning and get to work:
I felt the urge to share these videos because I believe you – or anyone for that matter – can break free from the norm. You just need to believe in one thing; yourself.
Have a great new year guys… all the best!
This month marks my 14th year as a copywriter. And I still get asked this question – “what do you actually do?”.
My answer usually goes something like this:
“Well I write stuff, marketing stuff. Like print ads, websites, brochures, proposals, scripts and so on”.
Yes, that is what I do, well, almost. Over the last few years, I’ve realised something. The stuff I write is only the end result of a process that is intricate and complicated.
The act of writing is only a means to an end. The written word is my deliverable, yet the insights, analysis, research, ideas, concepts, creative inputs and opinions are my products.
To put it simply; a lot have to go on – in my head and in my actions – before I write the first line of copy. My job cannot be quantified by time, or even by how much I write. There are many combinations of variables that influence that final piece of copy I deliver.
For the most part, the pre-copy-work comes naturally to me. Due to the fact that I’ve been doing this for yonks, and because I have a good understanding of copywriting fundamentals.
But to a client, all of the above are irrelevant, as long as I help them. Help them do what, you ask?
That would be to compel action, generate leads and ultimately help them make more money.
And that, is exactly what I do.