By Andrew Teoh
Recently, I’ve been asked to share about my experience as a copywriter during my days in corporate life and how I ended up as a freelancer. I wasn’t too keen on the proposal, not because that I’m stingy in sharing my life and fear others might gain benefit from it; but rather I seriously have no idea what to write about. I dare say that I’m quite good at writing at a certain level but when it comes to a much more personal sharing piece I’m just stuck.
But if you’re able to read this it means that I’m trying to share some of my experience hoping that it’ll give inspiration and encouragement to those that are into the writing and content creating work.
So here’s a personal touch article called ‘My trials and tribulation as a copywriter, a personal point of view.’
Being a copywriter is not really an easy job in my country. For those who don’t know where I’m from, I’m born and raised in a country in South East Asia, called Malaysia. Malaysia is just located directly up north of Singapore.
Malaysia has always been and still, a developing country, hence the need of technical skill professions such as engineers are highly demanded here. Hence, those who thrive in the study field of science and mathematics they are the ones who will get a decent income and a good career future. Whereas, people that fall into the other side of the scale (that’s me) which is good in arts and creativity will lack the opportunity to get decent careers.
So, why it is tough being a copywriter in Malaysia? Here are some of the few reason that I personally experienced throughout my journey as a copywriter.
The market is not mature YET
Some might argue Malaysia is a first world country, but yet at the same time, many will argue to differ. I would say that we are developing towards a first world standard of living but our mindset is still not mature enough to cope with the first world trend and market.
Till today, many of the companies in Malaysia still think that copywriting is a waste of source and money.
“Why pay someone just to write something?”
“I can just ask anyone in my company to do such easy task!”
This is pretty much the mindset that caused many of us copywriters struggle in finding a job to support our passion for content writing in this country. There’s not much company that really hires copywriters in general, most of the company considers copywriting a sub-task that should be parked under the responsibility of advertisers or marketing executives.
I myself started my career in copywriting by taking up a position as an executive in marketing. My responsibility that time requires me to get sales, (I’ve no idea why marketing in Malaysia always requires the staff to do sales, obviously they are both different things), conduct market analysis, create print ads and write content. On top of that some of the time I was involved even in the creation of visual ads.
I wasn’t really happy about the how companies are run typically in this country, especially when you’re tasked to do so much as an individual it tends to wear you out and you’re unable to create a good piece of content at the end of the day. But this doesn’t concern them, as long as the info that they want is there it doesn’t matter if the overall tone of the content is slightly weak or not relevant. This kind of ignorance towards appreciating a good piece of writing irritated me for years.
Many don’t know what is copywriting
I bet many of you that read this will have that expression of,”What!? You’re joking right?”
“What!? You’re joking right?”
Erm well, NO! I’m not kidding you guys. If you followed my blog you would’ve read my previous post about what is copywriting; one of the reasons the post was written is due to the constant question of people in my midst asking me about what the heck is copywriting exactly? Many of them commonly mistaken ‘copywriting’ as ‘copyrighting'(well there’s only copyrights but not copyrighting, not sure how they conclude it’s the same though)
With such limited knowledge about copywriting, it takes extra effort to even try to get a potential client locally to pitch my services to them. Even right now 70% of my clientele still comes from the overseas country like Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, India & United States. To excel in a copywriting job in Malaysia you need to work 2 to 3 times harder than a regular copywriter in the States probably due to the limited awareness and needs for copywriters here.
I can write the same thing!
This is a common thing happening in the creative industry in Malaysia. Many people still don’t get why do you need a professional copywriter to write up a content when any experienced worker with a good command of English can do so.
Well, I’m not claiming that only copywriters and content writers are qualified enough to do the work; however, we are all well-trained individuals that studied hard and worked hard to polish our skill in this particular field. Hence, I dare say that we are the ones that will be most suitable to pick up such task to work about.
Copywriters are not just any typical writers, we are trained to learn the proper way to analyze, research and to write technically about a product, brand, company, organization or any other related stuff that is in the field of advertising and marketing. There’s a reason why copywriting is considered a professional career, we are professionals so please let us do our job instead.
Of course anyone can be a copywriter, but definitely, it’s not a one-night transformation. It takes years of learning and practice to refine your skills before you can be a professional copywriter. For those who are aspired to do so, DON’T GIVE UP to circumstances. They are just a temporary storm, it’ll pass through soon enough.
It’s just writing, why do I need to pay so much?
Some clients that I encountered locally tend to ask such questions whenever I tender in my quotation.
“Why are you charging a such an expensive rate?”
“Too expensive bro!”
Usually, I charge my work by content basis, in which the price will be the total to the content requested. Of course, occasionally I’ll apply some extra rate when it comes to content that needs special research, such as medical content, legal content and etc.
All I wanted to say is nothing comes free, the amount of time we spend to gain experience and skills amounts to the rates that we copywriters charge. With such a competitive market it’s always tempting for many of us to drop the rate of copywriting rate just to get business. But I personally believe that the fees that we earn are equivalent to our experience + our quality of work + time used to research and to perfect the content.
‘Nothing is too expensive, its whether you value the worth of it or not.’
There are definitely ups and downs in a career not just in copywriting, but whats more important is that you identify what is troubling you and what can you do to change or improve the situation. Indeed I struggled for quite some time but at the same time, I am grateful for all these experience to as well. Becuase of all these experience I’m much more knowledgeable and better equipped to handle the copywriting market here in Malaysia.
There you go, these are some of the trials and difficulties that I constantly faced even until today as a copywriter. The experience might differ with different cultures and background. And once again all the things above is written through my personal point of view; my personal experience all these years as a copywriter and how I view this career prospect in my country.
My intention of sharing this is just to express the thoughts that nothing comes easy in life, you might experience those moments where you see someone at the spotlight thinking that how easy it is because of their circumstances. THAT’S NOT TRUE, not even the slightest bit. The reason why great people are up there is due to their hard work and perseverance that lead them there. So if you are struggling in walking the path that you’re passionate, ALWAYS keep in mind that it’s just a season, it’ll pass by soon enough.