The perils of the copywriting comfort zone

Most copywriters have a style that they’re proficient in, that can be turned on at will when required on a copy job. While this is highly beneficial in most cases – as it means that quality copy can be written quickly and efficiently – it can sometimes result in copy that looks good on the face of it but is unproductive and performs badly in practice. This ‘comfort zone’ mentality, if allowed to take hold job after job, can turn a good copywriter into a repetitive drone with a steadily decreasing success rate.

Besides the commercial performance issue, automatically falling into a default copy style takes the fun out of writing, and changes it from the creative process that it should be into a boring, repetitive exercise without any artistic integrity. It’s a pale and unconvincing imitation of what writing should be about – and it shows.

Old school copywriters who learnt the ropes in the early days of Direct Marketing – and in some cases created the markets themselves – often like to talk about the ‘rules’ and certain copy elements that should be employed in every single case. While this was probably fine for the snake oil sale print ads that they wrote in the 1950’s it’s not so applicable in the digital age in which people are bombarded with information several thousand times a day, every day.

Mindlessly following a set of rules written by some quill-wielding dinosaur is essentially the same as slipping into a comfort zone, as it can be done without real thought about the specifics of the job in hand, and results in exactly the same thing – dull, identikit copy.

In today’s communication environments there are very few, if any ‘rules’ that can be applied in all cases, and the reality is that each and every copy job should be approached with a clear idea of what it’s expected to achieve and how you’ll meet that need.

It’s important to have a broad range of copy styles in your writing arsenal if you’re going to fulfill varied briefs over time with any degree of success. Varying your copy tone away from your comfort zone is difficult and takes practice. It requires rounds and rounds of amends, jettisoning habits, and ultimately the willingness to confront a fear of the unknown.

Having the guts to step out of the comfort zone when required helps you become a vibrant, flexible copywriter with the ability to craft diverse copy that works wherever it’s needed, rather than being a one-trick pony with a list of rules who is better suited to an irrelevant and long-gone era.

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