They are the wordsmiths. The ones whose words stay with us long after the ink has dried. These individuals know not just how to tell a story but weave it in such a way that you feel invited to be a part of the story. It’s an undeniable skill and talent and we’re shining our industry spotlight on the copywriter. We speak to Kim Mlangeni, a copywriter and businessowner, to tell us more about the industry and everything aspiring copywriters need to know before stepping through the doors.
My introduction to copywriting
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kim Mlangeni. I work at BlackSwan as a Mid-Weight to Senior Copywriter. I’ve been in the copywriting industry for seven-eight years. I’m a mom, a sister, a friend, a lover. I enjoy discovering new spots. I am a foodie. I love to laugh. Laughter is more than medicine to me. It’s my soul-keeper.
How did you get into copywriting?
I got into copywriting through a journalism internship I did back in 2014-2015 and I fell in love with the art of writing. My career evolved from there to where I was an online editor for a TV channel and then it grew from there.
Life as a copywriter
What does the day-to-day life of a copywriter look like?
At the moment I work for an agency so day-to-day revolves around pushing out content in terms of whatever the brief is. Let’s say, if we are working on a new campaign and some of the elements of the campaign are radio, emailers, social media, and billboards. We would then look at the ‘chase list’. This is a list that tells you when and what flights when. If a client has told us that emailers go out first, the day-to-day would be rolling out those emailers. Or, if we need to brainstorm a new campaign, we’d read the brief, huddle as a team, brainstorm and then meet to discuss ideas. We see what we can put down, we find imagery that speaks to the idea and words that speak to the idea and we build from there.
Not only am I a copywriter, but I’m also a conceptual copywriter or I’m an integrative copywriter, which puts me into different spheres. I don’t just write e-mails. I write social media posts. I brainstorm ideas. I brainstorm campaigns. I work with a production team. I roll out advertisements. I roll out billboards.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about being a copywriter?
I think the most surprising thing I learned about being a copywriter is the power of the copy that I write. Sometimes you write so much copy that for you it becomes just a “job”, but you don’t understand the impact that the emailer or radio script has on the lives of somebody who reads it or listens to it. So, I think that was the most surprising thing for me, when I met someone who had engaged with a piece of copy I had written and they said, “Wow, what you wrote really changed my life and it helped my future.” The work I do is quite amazing.
What was the biggest lesson you learned in your career as a copywriter?
The biggest lesson I learned in my career is not to take my voice for granted. Being black and female and wanting to come into a white-dominated space, a lot of times you would feel you need to close yourself off or let other people lead and you follow them. What I have to say matters. What I have to say is valid because not only am I putting this on paper, but I have heard testimonies from people that what I am doing is “life-changing”.
For aspiring copywriters
What words of advice can you give someone who wants to be a copywriter?
Don’t come into copywriting because you just want a job. You don’t just sit at a desk and write. While there is copywriting like that, but that’s not the kind I do. You have to be passionate about being one. My advice to someone who wants to be a copywriter, is based on where I am in my career. “Don’t just be a copywriter because you can write a few sentences. You must be really passionate about it.”
What skills should every aspiring copywriter have?
You need to have a way with words. You need to be a quick thinker. You need to always be on your feet. You need to keep your ears on the ground and listen to trends, listen to what’s out there, what people are engaging with because when you write, you need to write a piece that engages with people now and not “then”.
The art of writing and writers
What are the big misconceptions about copywriters?
The biggest misconception about copywriters is that we are well paid. LOL. The biggest misconception about copywriters is that we think we are ‘know-it-alls’. No. We are just people who take the extra step to research and look into more detail at the information we want to bring across and give to people.
Is writer’s block real and if so, how do you overcome it?
Writer’s block is a real thing. There’s nothing worse than experiencing writer’s block when you have a deadline. How do I overcome writer’s block? I usually step away from whatever I am working on. I focus my attention on something else. If I am working on my PC, I stop and get a paper and a pen and jot my ideas down. I try and string some sentences together and build that way. In my writer’s block, I don’t just sit with it, I try and work my way out of it.
What gets your creative writing juices flowing?
I love a good and exciting campaign. I love youth-driven products. I love anything that speaks to me or generations younger than me. I love informing and educating. I love something that I can relate to.
Becoming a copywriter
What should one look forward to when entering the job market as a copywriter?
Don’t expect people to love you at first glance. Don’t expect people to understand your style of writing at first read. Sometimes you find yourself in a space where people are so in tune or engraved in their way that they don’t see your style as something that their audience can relate to you. Sometimes it’s not what they are looking for, and they want someone who will write in a boring style. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a copywriter?
One of the biggest challenges faced being a copywriter is feeling validated and feeling like what I say matters. As I spoke about earlier, sometimes you write something, and your seniors will make you feel like they could have written it themself. But that’s my personal interpretation of what I thought I needed to do. The biggest challenge is feeling like I’m not heard, or my feelings don’t matter.
Career paths copywriters
What are the career paths available for a copywriter?
You get your mainstream copywriter. You get your conceptual copywriter. Scriptwriters, song writers. There are different types of copywriting streams you can go into. It’s now taking me to art and creative directing. There are different channels you can move towards and into.
What are some of the tips to survive and thrive as a copywriter?
Stand your ground. Don’t dim your light or shine. You will get naysayers who think you are too forward, or the writing style doesn’t interest the masses. It’s not in tune with what we want. But stick to your guns. Sharpen your craft. Every single chance you get – sharpen. Learn. Find out what is out there. Try and go the extra mile. Also, pen to paper. Jot things down. Make notes. Sometimes, try to focus on the main thing and then show how the other smaller things and ideas came about.
Interested in becoming copywriter? Below are a few courses you take to enhance and hone your copywriting skills: