copy… what now?
What does a copy chief do?
Strategic involvement: high. A lot of the time a chief will be setting the strategy or co-creating the strategy with key stakeholders in the campaign. Every once in awhile you might encounter a freelance chief (hello, hey there, that’s me!) whose main job is a combination of copy coaching and developing a newer copywriter’s skillset so they have the confidence to create with less oversight/feedback.
Coaching involvement: high (to a point). If copyediting is a second set of eyes and copy coaching is a little more hands-on, back-and-forth, copy chiefing is rolling up your sleeves, digging in, and getting dirty. Sometimes it even involves a little bit of rewriting – and here’s why: a chief’s job is primarily to develop junior- and intermediate-level writers and teach them the skills and thinking that will allow them to produce independently at a high level.
Time investment: high. A chief is typically involved at every stage of copy development, from the initial strategic plan to establishing the timeline and deliverables to working with the writer on hooks and concepts and outlines, to providing feedback on drafts, and approving final copy.
Monetary investment: typically… high. This is a person who has a very specialized skillset that can drastically increase sales (and therefore profitability). They don’t usually need much oversight and can run a team on behalf of a business owner, thereby exponentially increasing output from the marketing arm of the business, while reducing the business owner’s day-to-day involvement.
For the teams I’ve run, I was/am a chief. I am there to develop the writers and oversee/approve all the copy that goes out. I’m highly involved in the process from start to finish – but I don’t write the copy, I only guide the copy team as they write. It’s a hard gig, and that’s why there aren’t a TON of good copy chiefs out there (in comparison with the flood of people aspiring to be copywriters).
It’s better if your chief pushes the writers to figure it out vs. fixing it for them. The chief has to trust the team, be able to step back and let them do the work/let them find their own voice… even if their approach is different. The reason for that is simple: there are hundreds of potential solutions for every problem, and one solution the writer comes up with may work even better than the idea the chief had.
If you’re an aspiring freelancer who’s working up the courage to leave the day job… good news! I’m sharing all the things I WISH I’d known before making the leap so that hopefully your journey goes a little more smoothly than mine.