Do you suffer from this dirty little copywriting secret?

Copywriters don’t like to talk about it. Heck, they don’t even want to admit it to themselves. But, they’re often stuck in their own content marketing hell, suffering in silence.

The affliction?  “Copywriter’s burnout”- and it can decimate your SEO and social media strategy.

Back in the day (say, 1998 or so,) there weren’t as many online content marketing avenues. You wrote copy for your Website. Maybe you wrote a monthly article, kicked out a press release and participated in a forum or two.

But now, companies are being told to blog five times a week. And Tweet. And write articles. And comment on other people’s blogs. And write new site copy. And repurpose existing content. The copywriter who was used to writing one or two things a day is now responsible for writing multiple pieces of copy, tracking comments, devising Tweets and updating the site. Every single day.

The list seems almost endless. And for a sole proprietor, in-house marketer or copywriter, it can be totally overwhelming.

The sad thing is, burnout sets in long before the person notices. The burnout process starts with the writer feeling “bored.” “I’m writing about the same damn things over and over, ” one writer told me. “My heart’s not in it anymore.”

Slowly, the work quality suffers. What were once brilliant turns-of-phrases transform into “formula” copy.

Then, the writer stops writing as much as she used to. Five blog posts turn into four. Then three. Then before you know it the blog is dusty from underuse…and the last post was sometime during Q3 of 2009.

Sound familiar?

Writers don’t talk about burnout for obvious reasons. But it’s there. And it exists. And it can be scary. Here’s what to do:

  1. Admit the burnout to yourself. If you’ve been writing about health and fitness for over 10 years, it’s no wonder that you’re a little bored.  It’s OK to say, “If I have to write about kettleballs one more time, I’ll go insane.” It’s OK to want to delete your Twitter account and move to an island without phones or broadband. Admitting the burnout is the first step in overcoming it.
  2. Talk to another writer about your burnout. The wonderful thing about admitting “copywriter’s burnout” is that you’ll find that you’re not the only one. Hearing another writer affirm how you’re feeling is sometimes all it takes to turn things around.
  3. Try writing something just for fun. I asked a talented writer yesterday if she ever wrote for fun anymore. There was a long pause before she admitted, “No, no I don’t.” Think about it this way: Writing is like exercise. If you’re writing the same thing over and over (or exercising the same muscle group,) you’ll stop seeing benefits – and sometimes, set yourself up for injury. But if you can crosstrain and write different things that you want to write, you exercise new muscles…and often, remind yourself why you loved writing in the first place!
  4. Take a break. Copywriters with in-house gigs are often responsible for pages and pages of copy every single day.  That can be…challenging…under the best of circumstances. If you have the freedom to do so, take a vacation away from writing and do something else. Even just a week can provide you the rest you need to keep on keeping on.
  5. Get help. As writers and marketers, getting outside writing help can feel defeating. After all, you figure “I know how to do this. Why should I pay someone when I can do it for free.” Well guess what? If you’re not writing because you’re burned out – or what you’re writing is utter drivel – all you’re doing is setting yourself up for failure. Besides, outside writers can look at your stuff with fresh eyes, take some of the pressure off of you and let you focus on other things. I’ve seen burned-out clients get three months of copywriting help – and then they were rarin’ to go after that. They just needed someone to take over some of the writing tasks so they could take a psychological break.

“Copywriter’s burnout” is insidious, frustrating and can wreck havoc on your self esteem (as well as your SEO content marketing strategy!). The good news is, ever writer I’ve known has eventually been able to pull out of it. Maybe a short break is all it took. Or perhaps getting outside help did the trick. The important thing to know is that it happens, it’s common, and it has an end point. And once you’ve come through on the other side, you’re writing is even better than before. Really.

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10 replies
  1. Amy C. Teeple
    Amy C. Teeple says:

    It IS a dirty little secret, but I am so glad that you shared this secret with everyone. As a writer it can get so frustrating when you realize you feel like you can no longer stand a topic that you had once been so passionate about.

    The fitness reference was a little scary for me – I had gotten on a crazy fitness kick and volunteered for almost every weight loss article that was in the content calendar for one of the company’s websites. I started out so passionate, but by the end of the cycle, I needed to opt out of the next round. Thankfully, I stepped away long enough that I enjoy the topic again.

    Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      LOL – I promise that I wasn’t writing about you when I mentioned “fitness.” Really!

      What prompted me to write the post was three writers just this week talking about how it “didn’t feel like they had any time off during the holidays.” It wasn’t a case of time off as much as they were just bored, bored, bored. All of them were in-house writers, which makes it worse – I mean, who wants to go to their boss and say, “I’m bored with writing about the company. Please let me do something else for awhile!”

      Together, we brainstormed an action plan. One writer asked for (and got) an assistant. The other two plan to pitch bringing in a consultant to evaluate their sites and recommend some new avenues. Hopefully, having some help will give them the freedom (and ease) they need to help make writing fun again!

      Thanks for your post!

      Reply
  2. toej
    toej says:

    Heather.. Its not at a secret.. its true.. when they ask me to write.. I used to write the same thing in a different style :D. You’ve come up with a nice topic. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Heather
      Heather says:

      Hello!

      I had no idea that my post would hit such a copywriting nerve – but it did. Seems like a lot of writers are feeling burnout…and they aren’t quite sure how to handle it.

      Thanks so much for your post! I appreciate it! :)

      Reply
  3. Sarah Clachar
    Sarah Clachar says:

    Heather, thank you for airing this dirty laundry. I feel much better knowing I’m not alone in this “dirty” secret. I certainly have to poke myself to get myself moving beyond formulaic copy way too often.

    One of the things that has helped me is developing a couple of my own websites off the topic of copywriting/marketing (on family fitness; and health and your home biz). And while they are about health (my copywriting niche) I have more freedom to just say what I feel and care about than when I write for clients.

    And yes, sometimes I also bring in some interest by writing about my chickens and pigs in my marketing posts.

    The best remedy – unfortunately available mostly to home-based writers – Take a short break, go outside and do some mindless labor like tapping maple trees (today’s chore) and then come back with a renewed sense of purpose.

    Reply
  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    Sarah, thanks so much for your thoughts.

    No, you’re not alone. I’m not sure if everyone goes through this – but certainly, everyone I know has. Heck, I have. :)

    Your idea of doing something different is wonderful. You’re still writing – but you’re writing in a different way. You don’t have the same kind of pressure as if you were writing for your main company blog – or for a client’s site. You can play and experiment and enjoy without any pressure…

    And short breaks are wonderful. I exercise during mine. I feel better (and it’s good for my body, too!) :)

    Reply
  5. Sam
    Sam says:

    I just found this blog by Googling “copywriter burnout” because I’m feeling it and wanted to know I’m not alone. Thank you for writing this!

    Reply

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