Have you ever ran full speed into something with your eyes closed? The outcome of that decision hurts, doesn’t it? You feel dazed, disoriented and confused. Well, that’s how I felt when I made the decision to become a Copywriter intern at a digital advertising agency.
Two months ago, I was told by my superiors and peers that I should look into interning as a Copywriter because I had a good command of English and could really write just about anything. I was told that I would be able to make it big in the industry, and adapting to the job scope would be nothing but a breeze for me. Considering all these opinions and suggestions, I decided to give it a shot. But boy, was I in store for one hell of a ride.
You must be thinking, “Eh don’t drama la, it can’t be that bad right? What happened to all the things that you were taught in college? Hasn’t college prepared you well enough for the industry?”
The answer to that question is quite simple. No, my college hasn’t prepared me to become a Copywriter. Here are some of the things I had to learn from the get-go:
1. The type of writing is completely different.
Let’s start off with the simplest of things, shall we? What do Copywriters do? They just write, right? You just think of words, piece them together, and make a sentence right? Wrong bodoh, it’s not that easy. Ever experienced having to take on four different personas within the same day and sometimes at the same time? You begin your day being a persuasive insurance agent, next thing you know you’re a General Manager of a 5-star hotel, then a friendly telecommunications salesman, and finally an avid motorcycle enthusiast.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Well that was something I had to learn real quick. Having to switch between these personas on command is really no easy task and it’s something I’m truly struggling with. College has taught me about the importance of a brand’s tone and manner, but what the fuck man… I was totally not ready for this.
Next up I’ve learned that copywriting is completely different from ordinary writing. Having good command of the English language can only get you so far. You really need to have a knack for breaking down sentences and conveying the intended message with the least amount of words possible. I’m telling you, this skill is certainly not easy to master. If I could get RM1 every time I heard my supervisor and Associate Creative Director tell me, “Hey John, too much fluff”, I would be ballin’.
In college, whenever you write, the goal is to write as much as possible and be as descriptive as you can. All the big words start to come out and the Microsoft Word count just gets higher and higher. But I’ve learned that when you write copy, all of that is redundant. It’s truly all about keeping the copy short but at the same time informative and descriptive. Sounds easy enough? Hah. Fuck you.
2. Prepare to be mentally and emotionally drained.
Here’s the thing, the writing is actually the easiest part to deal with. Let’s get into the countless revisions and heartbreaking rejections. Throughout my two short months of experiencing what it’s like being a Copywriter I’ve had many encounters with these sayings:
“I don’t think it’s there yet.”
“Could you change this word?”
“Is it possible to turn this four-word sentence into a three-word one?”
You pour your heart and soul into writing a line of copy, crack your brain to concoct the perfect sentence and choose the best words to represent the brand’s tone and manner all to go directly back to the drawing board with a simple, hmmm I think it can be better. Oh mi lord kill me now.
Another thing I often hear would be, “Hey could you help revise this copy? It’ll only take a minute.” I swear to God that’s a lie. It’s never that easy. Having to change one single word within an already well-structured sentence is the definition of hell. It’s really difficult to come up with an entirely different word and have it mean the exact same thing. College hasn’t prepared me to do magic like that… *crawls up into a ball and cries.
“But maybe it’s just you. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this line of work.” I say that to myself that all the time. But that’s just not the case. My supervisors who have been in the industry for a long time come into contact with these kinds of predicaments as well. Granted probably a lot less than me but it’s not something you can avoid altogether. So you best prepare yourself for a whole lot of heartbreak and researching for synonyms.
Why don’t you just grow up and don’t take everything so personally, you ask? Well, that’s easier said than done. Imagine this, you put your heart and soul into creating this amazing painting. In your head, it’s nothing less than perfect and it portrays everything you want it to, then someone comes along calls it ugly, destroys it, and asks you to start over. If you don’t lose your shit and feel like flipping a table, you’re just not human. College certainly hasn’t prepared me to deal with all of this.
3. Learn to keep up or get wrecked.
Last but certainly not least, college has not prepared me for the insanely fast pace. Having to write a ton of copy within a short amount of time is terrifying. If you can’t keep up, you’ll definitely be swallowed whole. This aspect of the job doesn’t help the case of having to constantly switch between different tone and manners when completing tasks. It just makes the job a whole lot harder.
Time management has never been so crucial. Being on point with managing your time is the key to making sure you get all your work done. In college, we were given ample time to complete our assignments; heck, at times, we were given three whole months to finish a single assignment.
I thought (emphasis on the word thought) that this was the norm as campaigns were normally planned months before the actual release date and that enough time would be given to complete tasks. Boy oh boy was I wrong. Everything is literally on high gear all the time. Everything is pushed to be finished as soon as possible and the deadlines are all crazy short.
When I first stepped into the world of copywriting for a digital agency I was blown away by the speed of everything and had to sprint from the get-go to stay up to date. A single trip and fall would result in many late tasks and that’s just a big no-no.
Bro, you’re just writing, why do you need so much time? Type a few words only what, it’s not like you’re designing anything. Eh dei. Fuck you. Why don’t you try coming up with a one-liner that fully explains the entire campaign or how about writing copy for an entire presentation deck while making sure your slides have a beginning, climax, and resolution? Assume it’s easy one more time and we’re gonna have a problem.
All in all, college has prepared me for many things. I’ve learned tons of useful stuff such as identifying consumer behaviour and designing visuals in all the Adobe programs. But the one thing I haven’t learned jack shit about would be what it takes to become a Copywriter in the digital advertising industry. Having to learn and take in countless tricks of the trade from the very beginning while not knowing what to expect was really scary.
But with that being said, I’m glad I got to learn all these lessons during my internship at C27. It really helped me grow as a writer and as a person. I look forward to improving and putting into practice everything I’ve learned. I wasn’t ready to become a Copywriter when I stepped into C27 but I’m definitely sure that I’ll be more equipped and better prepared once my internship ends.
Hats off to my supervisor, my Associate Creative Director, and all the copywriters in the industry. Y’all are truly something special and a cut above the rest. I just hope to be able to reach that same level one day.
That being said, to everyone who thinks copywriting is a simple, anyone-can-do-type-of-job, I hope you fall off a cliff. ?
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of C27, our CEO, the management, the fish in our fish tank, and/or all the awesome people within the agency. The content and opinions shared are the personal views of the author so please don’t sue us.
…or the author.
C27’s very first Copywriter intern, and the guy who currently owns 22 pairs of Vans.