A Day in the Life of a Copywriter

People frequently ask me what it is that I do as a copywriter. They think I sit around and write jingles or squeeze stress balls. They think I “play” or make things pretty. They don’t mean to insult me but that last phrase grates on my nerves like people who run in the street adjacent to a SIDEWALK! They don’t quite understand all that goes into the job of being a creative person. In any given day, my job will look like this:

8 a.m.: read  and answer emails. Some are quick fixes and others turn into a three-month project.

8:15: pipeline meeting to discuss the 200+ jobs we have in queue. We individually go over each one, from our database. Spreadsheets in general give me the willies. Sometimes these meetings are loooong and daunting and I want to pull my hair out. But they are completely necessary or else we’d have no idea who was working on what job. They tell us the status, the deadlines, the clients. These are what keep us creative people in check.

9: meet with my interns. I have two this semester who are writing and editing students and want to learn AP style. They want to learn to be better writers. I critique their work, ask them about their weekends, try to be their mentor and friend. Ask them to write a speech with just a few guidelines. Proof their Facebook posting for the day. Ask them to retrieve analytics from Facebook postings and add to our tracking sheet. They tell me their stories about their classes, challenges they face. I listen and try to remember what it was like at their age. It wasn’t THAT long ago but sometimes it takes me a while to remember what it felt like to be 21 or 22 and thinking OHMYGOSH! My life has to really start when I graduate in six weeks! Their fear is endearing and I try to tell them that chances are, their first job is not going to be their last and it’s okay if you don’t have everything spelled out today for the rest of your life. My interns make me feel so pathetic when I think back to my college days. They are all amazing achievers. Not overacheivers but just amazing. They can juggle being president of a sorority, interning, working an afterschool job, having friends and making a 3.6. WOW!

10: have some type of banter with clients or teammates about whether or not something is a split infinitive. Argue that they are okay nowadays. Yes, they are. Define our bullet policy for the 100th time and tell someone that Clemson spells adviser with an “e” and not an “o.”

11: Go to a brainstorm/concept meeting with my team. This past year’s Annual Report spawned from one of these meetings. You can find it here: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/student-affairs/annual-reports/11-12/. It is a “game” theme and we created kind of a Candyland® feel to it as one would move throughout Clemson’s campus. This is a perfect project for a copywriter. It began with brainstorming the creative part. While the designer lays it out, the copywriter contributes significantly to the overall look and theme. I have to choose what content goes in every nook and cranny.

In this particular Annual Report, my interns and I sat down and wrote “game” cards, created a list of game-related phrases that would also tell the Student Affairs story. For the interactive version, I had to choose talent for the student videos. I had to write the scripts, coordinate the filming and even help direct the videos. I can be seen in one here as a last-minute prop: http://www.clemson.edu/administration/student-affairs/annual-reports/11-12/media/marielle.html. But she really was a student I worked with on that specific project. So we weren’t stretching the truth.

I had to analyze data from all of the various departments, who submitted their best of the best from the previous year. After hours and days of analyzing what deserved to go in the book, the entire content was decided by me! Kind of a scary task. Granted the VP would approve it in the end, but still!

Once the content was decided, it underwent rounds of proofing and editing. THEN it goes into the designer’s hands for a little while for layout. Typically we undergo several back and forth processes like this, “I have this one block of text and it doesn’t fit. Can you shorten/add to it to make it work.” And “hey I need just one more line to sound like the rest. What do you suggest?”

Once we feel it is the best it can be, we share it with others for feedback. Feedback regarding diversity among the photos, is the language inclusive enough, does it represent all of the departments within the division. Things like this that sometimes we need extra help with.

After several MORE rounds of proofing, we send it off to the printer. Then, my other job begins. As Webmaster I now create a “flip book” so that people in electronic-land can view it as well. Here we create new, dynamic content, such as the aforementioned video, to make it unique and not an electronic version of the printed one.

After clearing a hurdle like that, I will continue to answer emails in the day, usually have some type of last-minute-but-need-right-now request from someone higher up, and most frequent, meetings. People in colleges seem to enjoy meeting face to face. Most of the time I agree, that much can come out of meeting. But not all are so productive.

3: Begin speech for vice president. Research quotes for appropriate speech topic and update Web analytics worksheet with stats from most-visited websites.

4: Start winding down my day. Answer more Web requests, publish Web pages, respond to emails, plan activities and assignments for interns next day.

Twice a month my team of five goes to lunch. It’s nice to get out of the office. We have a creative director/graphic designer, an asst creative director/graphic designer, a part-time production manager, a full-time graphic designer and me, copywriter/editor/webmaster. We will do a creative exercise every now and again to keep our brains fresh. We take time to listen to one another and respect each other’s ideas. Rarely do things get heated. I’m pretty lucky to be a part of a team that is extremely talented and creative. We won the gingerbread contest and a lot of people said it was no fair, because we were the creative ones out of the 17 different departments. I say, too bad. You can be creative too. We made Peanuts characters for ourselves to hang on our doors. We have Magnadoodle boards outside our office to tell people when we are in meetings or at a different building on campus. Most people just say “out of office.” Instead of name plates, we have signs with our  office numbers on them and pictures of what we enjoy. For me, it is the outdoors and live music. Numbers people just don’t get me, and frankly, I don’t get them.

Me as a Peanuts Character. Pen in hair, pad in hand, AP-style Guru

Me as a Peanuts Character. Pen in hair, pad in hand, AP-style Guru


My office door sign

award-winning gingerbread house

award-winning gingerbread house

It takes all kinds of people to make this world run. My husband inspects parts for damage and is in quality control. To me, being stoned to death sounds more fun than that. My brother-in-law works an assembly line and loves his job. To me, I would probably suffer from insanity. But I know people who say they would never come to work if they had to argue over commas, point our gerunds or remember when a state is abbreviated for AP-style or postal.

I feel lucky that I come to work each day and am respected for what I do. Not everyone gets it and that’s okay, but at least my team appreciates the importance of having a writer. And as long as my boss’s boss’s boss, agrees, then I still have a job. However, ..she is a numbers person …

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