How to Deal with Copy Criticism

Working in a creative field, and especially working with words, can be frustrating. We spend countless hours writing, thinking and strategizing on what the right messaging is. Sometimes that process itself is frustrating. Other times we’ve found messaging we love only to have somebody else tell us it’s wrong or that we legally can’t use it. ‘The right copy’ is often subjective nor is it the same thing as ‘the copy that’s right for the project.’ Sometimes we have to settle for our third favorite headline. What’s important is how you carry yourself.

Nobody Likes the Angry Person

Your job title might be copywriter. You might spend most of your day sitting at a keyboard writing words, but half your job is to be likable. Copywriting and advertising are social fields. Nobody wants to work with someone who sucks the life out of a room. Positivity is really powerful. Positive people are perceived better. They’re the first ones to get promoted. They’re the ones clients request on their projects. Positive people get jobs, get referred for new jobs, and get better reviews. So yeah, you might be a pessimist (like me), but you should still be positive. In other words, the world might suck, but at least you’re trying to make it a little bit brighter.

Be a Humble Expert

Ego is another really dangerous thing to look out for. While not everyone can write like a copywriter, everybody can write, which also means everyone has an opinion on what you do. Unlike your friends in design, it’s often easier for clients and non-creative team members to gravitate towards words. We can all comment on messaging that’s not quite right, but not everyone’s equipped to discuss design flaws. Whatever you do, don’t have an ego. All feedback is just that: feedback. If you disagree, take note of the feedback, try to integrate it, and finally come back with something stronger. If a client wants a headline changed, take it as an opportunity to beat your best work. The more egotistical or argumentative you are, the more likely the work will suffer.

Finding an Outlet

As a writer and a creative you’re bound to run into frustrations: clients that drive you nuts, bosses that ‘just don’t get it,’ projects that challenge your creative integrity. Frustration is sometimes a part of a job. It’s not a bad thing either. We can learn from our mistakes, learn how to please a difficult client, and ultimately make it through wiser, stronger and better for it. Where it goes wrong is if our frustration gets the better of us.

Only once in my career have I seen someone storm out of room. Most of our frustrations come out in our speaking tone or body language. It’s important you remain professional. It’s also important that you don’t take those frustrations out on others. This only looks bad on you. Find someone you trust (like your creative partner) and talk privately after the fact. Get an ice cream and melt that place down with your fury. Alternatively, if you’re someone who has a hard time controlling their emotions in the room, try learning some mindfulness techniques. No matter the outlet for you, the last thing you want to do is lose your job over a headline.


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