Last year I applied for a copywriting job at an outdoor clothing brand. And while I didn’t get the job, the experience changed me: Now whenever I look at the tag on a jacket or a pair of shorts, I can’t help but think about the human being who spent hours behind a MacBook to birth the quirky copy on it.
One of those people is Molly Lynch — and many of you might be familiar with her work. She’s the sole copywriter at Bliss, so she’s literally the voice of the company, doing everything from naming products to writing website copy to posting on social media.
What’s it like to be the voice of a brand? What does a copywriter do all day? I spoke to Molly to find out.
Let’s start from the beginning. How exactly did you become a copywriter? Was it something you set out to do?
I went to journalism school in Chicago, thinking I’d graduate (maybe move to New York?) and work my way up the ranks at a magazine. I literally had visions of myself clutching a coffee and wearing a scarf while I was running late to something in the West Village. The millennial pipe dream, right?
But that dream started to dwindle once the 2008 recession hit during the fall of my senior year. Publications were folding and layoffs were everywhere. People with 10-15 years of experience on me were losing their jobs. It was a weird time. I remember graduating college in 2009 and, instead of feeling like my life was starting, I felt a huge sense of dread for what was to come.
How did you start your career in the middle of a recession?
My first job out of college was as a receptionist for a private investigations firm in downtown Chicago. I still don’t know how to explain it to people. I worked with retired cops and FBI agents. I took lunch orders and called people “sir.”
On the side I was freelancing for different Chicago publications to keep some level of sanity/light at the end of the tunnel. When I was (thankfully!) laid off from that job, I started working as a content editor for Forbes Travel Guide. While I got to use the skills I went to school for, it was barely paying the bills. One of my friends I’d gone to school with was working as a copywriter for Sears and mentioned that they were looking to add to their team. I was initially not into the idea, but once I learned how much they were paying — and how much more advertising writers are paid vs. journalists — I was sold.
I ended up working at that job for nearly five years. I knew nothing about appliances or power tools, nor did I care. But writing from a brand perspective was exciting to me. I was just determined to find a brand I actually liked and then I knew it wouldn’t feel so tedious.
I’d lived in Chicago for nearly 10 years, but had always loved L.A. and dreamed of one day making the move. I also knew that L.A. would be a place I could pursue other areas of writing if I wanted to. So I told my boss at the time I was thinking of making the move and she allowed me to work remotely while I got on my feet in L.A. This was a lifesaver because money was always the biggest roadblock when it came to me leaving Chicago.
What was it like moving to Los Angeles?
I knew making a cross-country move would come with challenges, but I wasn’t prepared for my job to have such a radical effect on my self-esteem. Every new person I met in L.A. always led with “So, what do you do?” When I told them I was a writer, it was 99% followed with “Oh, for what show?” When I’d explain that I’m a copywriter working for a brand, their eyes would almost always glaze over.
Once I realized to tune that judgmental noise out, I began to love L.A. I started to seek out freelance work for brands that I actually liked so my writing felt more authentic. After a year freelancing for a major cosmetics company I had built a steady portfolio of beauty writing, which led to my current job at Bliss.
So what’s it like being a copywriter at Bliss?
Being a copywriter means I get to be the voice of the brand. It’s my job to inject that personality into all aspects of the brand — whether it’s product naming, social media, packaging, the website, PR, emails, etc. Basically I make sure that any form of written communication is consistent and sounds like it comes from one place. And, of course, I love to throw in a good pun wherever I can.
What’s a normal day like for you?
My day is never typical or the same. Some days I’m in back-to-back brainstorm meetings about a new product we’re launching — usually a year or two before it actually comes out; that’s how the beauty industry works. Other days I’m churning out copy for Instagram and promotional emails. Some days I’m working with designers on making updates to our site. It’s constantly changing, which I love.
Where's the weirdest place your writing has shown up?
Well, I get to name skincare products, a strange (but fun!) job a lot of people don’t think about. I won’t lie — it’s wild to walk into a Target or a CVS and see shelves of moisturizers, serums or eye creams I’ve named.
What do you have to take into consideration when naming a product?
Naming products is 99% roadblocks. For every 50 product names I provide, maybe one or two will make it through product development and legal. Some product naming goes back and forth for several months and others land on the first try. I think you have to go into it not expecting a miracle. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason why some names take forever and others are one-and-done.
What are you most proud of?
I'd say the thing I'm most proud of is creating an ingredient glossary that lives on our site. It breaks down all of the ingredients used in products in a really fun, easy-to-understand way.
How do you find inspiration? It can be hard to be creative on the clock.
You can’t hit a home run every time. If I go into the process knowing that I will probably have to rewrite, it’s a lot less pressure on me. Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.
As far as inspiration goes, I try to make it a daily habit to go for a walk — a lot of times inspiration comes to me when I’m not sitting in front of my screen. If I have a really tight deadline and don’t have the luxury of a midday walk, I talk to other people in my workspace. Bouncing ideas off of someone else, even if they’re not a fellow writer, almost always sparks something.
What advice would you give people who want to build a career as a writer?
It’s great to love your job, but at the end of the day it doesn’t define you. I’m happy that I’m able to make a living as a copywriter for a brand I like, but that’s not all I am or aspire to be.
You’re not a sellout for taking a day job while you pursue other things that make you happy. I still have dreams of one day writing a book or a screenplay, but if I start going down a rabbit hole of thinking my time is up or I’m too old, I’ll always find a way to talk myself out of it.
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