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Too many copywriters in the typing pool?

Crowded PoolI subscribe to Copyblogger. I’m a fan of Brian Clark’s and I usually like the posts on the site…but lately, well, I’m seeing a theme and it’s making me a little queasy.

The fact that some people write blog posts ‘to sell’ makes sense. If you study the last month (at least) of postage on Copyblogger, ‘what the people want’ would be clear: they want to know how to be good copywriters, how to make their copy sell, how to get a lot of copywriting work. Here are a few recent post titles:

From these titles, a few conclusions can be drawn:

1. A lot of people are trying to be copywriters, but are failing.

2. The copywriter market is saturated.

Of course everyone doesn’t succeed, so #1 has to hold some truth. Add to that this scramble for ‘how to make it work’ information.

But, I’m very interested in #2.

When I started my business several years ago, I was one of a very small number of copywriters in my local area. I think there were three or four others. Note: you couldn’t turn around without bumping into a web designer.

Now go on Twitter, or even to Google, and search for a copywriter – there are a bazillion. Oddly, while the pool of prospective work has grown dramatically because of the Internet and social media, the chances of standing out in the crowd and getting hired have decreased. (The Reversal Theory strikes again, eh Dad?)

So, why are these ‘how to succeed’ posts making me queasy? I think it’s the desperation. And the lack of interest in the writing. The vision in my head is of millions of freaked out people trying to make it up the side of a cliff in order to make a buck.

And now I’m laughing at myself because the next logical step here is to make a list of things you can do to stand out…but then this would be one of those posts too. So, I’ll resist…unless any of you ask me for my version of that list. Because whether or not you’re trying to sell something or not, your blog should aim to give your audience what it needs and wants to hear, what they respond to and what they crave.

Although…there is one thing that’s been gnawing at my brain, a possible solution to lift ourselves out of the crowded copywriter pool. I’m still stirring the pot on this one, but when the soup’s done – you’ll be the first to know.

Image credit: mhaithaca

Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Brian Clark says:

    We did 3.5 years on the writing, one week on the business of writing. Come on now. ;)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Hi Brian! You also read the part about how I’m a subscriber and a fan of yours, right? Okay – just making sure. But the fact that you did ‘3.5 years on the writing, one week on the business of writing’ is, perhaps, what jostled my brain. I was so used to the writing posts…

    And, I’m saying up above that I get why it’s happening – people want to know how to make money from writing, especially now. So, I’m certainly not faulting you for it. (cough, cough – my ebook is called, ‘How to be a Successful Copywriter’ after all).

    I’m just fascinated by how many of us there are…and what it means and what it doesn’t mean. And how to not let it kill us.

    …and I’m thrilled you stopped by. Thanks.

  • Brian Clark says:

    It really was a one week thing. Honestly, we weren’t even sure how much of the Copyblogger audience is made up of freelancers.

    And yes, I saw your nice introduction to the post, thank you. And I’m here to reassure you that we haven’t gone off in some new radical direction. :-)

  • Julie Roads says:

    LOL – well, you struck a nerve! I really do appreciate the reassurance…and I’m glad I could give you some feedback from a freelancer who loves the writing part of our job…but wholeheartedly understands that the business side must be addressed. Thanks again…

  • I think it seems that way with everything I try to do. I think hmm… why not try this… and suddenly the world is saturated with others doing that as well. It seems like every sentence I type has already been typpen. Every thought has already been thunken. And if the sentences haven’t been typpen and the thoughts remain heretofore unthunken, I will be sure to come across some genius trying to sell me on how I can both typpen and thunken better than anyone else if only I were to typpen and thunken exactly how they and the rest of them do.

  • Tyler Hurst says:

    Of greater concern are the latest posts of lists that have absolutely nothing to do with copywriting and Brian Clark’s tactic of deleting posts that disagree with the article (and also deleting his post that slammed the commenter).

    Perhaps the blog has run its course. It had a good run, right?

  • Brian Clark says:

    Tyler, I deleted your comment because you were condescending to the other people who commented on the post.

    I noticed that you attacked Jeremiah Owyang and his “drone” followers on Twitter last night, too.

    You know what’s run it’s course? People like you who’s only attention strategy is to attack those with bigger audiences. Very creative, Tyler.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Well said, Brian.

    My post was in NO way criticizing you or Copyblogger or meant to invite that criticism – I was just noticing a trend. I know you were only doing it for a week – but the issue is larger than your blog (as noted by my Internet and Twitter references) – it was just that your blog piqued my curiosity and got me thinking…which is a very good thing and what I love about the blogosphere.

  • This is better than Gozilla vs. Mothra! They always hug in the end, right?

  • Dick Carlson says:

    To return to the actual point of your post (apologies for fans of cat-fighting and Japanese monster films) there IS a disconcerting focus lately on the Internets around “writing that sells things”.

    Very, very few people have the skills to actually write a paragraph that will make me buy a car seat for the children I don’t have. Or to buy those wonderful Manolo
    Blahniks for my size 11 guy feet.

    Good copywriting actually helps me identify something I want to buy because it is of value to me. Or at least “perceived” value. (I’ve got a Topsy Turvy Tomato planter that isn’t performing, but that’s another story.)

    If we focus on the idea of “selling things” we fall victim to the trap of assuming that if we work hard enough, we can convince people to part with their money for complete crap. Like e-books on copywriting, sold to someone with no ability to write a coherent sentence.

    Or selling me a book on how short, fat older guys can make it in the NBA. Even the best copywriting in the world will never get me there. And if you convince me of that, you’re just selling crap, not providing me a service that I need.

    That’s a discussion that would be helpful to have on CopyBlogger.


    P.S. I find it pretty ironic that your blog software thinks that “copywriting” should be spelled “copy writing”.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Dick – that is ironic. I’ve been ignoring that little red line for a long time under copywriting – but I just added the spelling to my dictionary.

    As for your other thoughts – that would be an interesting post. To me it’s about feeling good about your work, clients and the content you produce. There will always be people that write whatever they’re asked to just to make money. Or for that matter do whatever they’re asked to just to make money.

    It’s a matter of ethics, I’d say.

    But you’ve got something backwards. For instance, I wrote my copywriting book because I wanted to share what I’ve learned and help other writers build a great business. I wrote it because it was a book that I wished I had had when I was starting out.

    You wrote, ‘Like e-books on copywriting, sold to someone with no ability to write a coherent sentence.’ That implies that someone is out there being a snake oil salesman. Is it the writer’s or content provider’s responsibility to make sure only the good writers or the tall, athletic people buy their books?

    NO, of course not.

  • One of the problems is that clients can’t tell good copywriters from bad. Anyone who has a laptop can claim to be a writer, no one is going to license us. I know therapists, IT geeks, graphic designers and disk jockeys who didn’t make enough money in their field so they decided to become writers.

    My local newspaper has glaring grammar, syntax and punctuation errors, but the writers work for next to nothing, so they get the job. Same is true of those competitive writing-job sites.

    We raised up among us a Wal-Mart nation, and while we know everything about price, we know nothing about value. And as long as “cheap” is King, we will all be peasants.

  • Dick Carlson says:

    Oh, heavens — I wasn’t referring to YOUR e-book! Only the ones from the BAD copywriting e-book places.

    (I have to admit that I haven’t downloaded or read your book, because a) I don’t want to be a copywriter, and b)I know some really good ones and realize that I’ll play pro ball before I write in their league.)

    I’m talking about the e-book business where every trade and profession, from real estate to copywriting to neurosurgery is reduced to a set of ten tips and a few war stories.

    My own profession, Instructional Design, is often assumed to be a skill possessed by anyone who has EXPERIENCED education at some point in their lives. This drives me a little batshit. (Your spell-checker can’t find “batshit”, either.)

    I equate that to someone who’s BEEN on a plane thinking they can FLY a plane. But they happily give me instructions on what content to include, how to develop the learning, and what types of assessment are most appropriate for the learners.

    Quinn has it right. We has met the enemy, and he is us.

  • Julie Roads says:

    What is wrong with my spell-checker! This is outrageous.

    Thank you for clarifying. I didn’t really think you were referring to me (because I love my ebook and the feedback just warms my heart because I know that it’s really helped some people)…but it was still such an interesting issue. I’m brainstorming a post about it as we speak…stay tuned, my friend.

  • There aren’t enough accolades in the literary universe that could make me charitable enough to stand for this nonsense. I’ve got standards after all.

    Those very same standards have rendered me overqualified for the simplest of positions. I offer Mediocrity at a premium. Unfortunately, my buyers are lapping up Excellence for pennies and pooping out redundancy. I suppose I should remind my friends that only the Excellent will buy Excellence at a premium. Unfortunately, they’ve already got it in droves.

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