I’ve been a working copywriter since I was 30. Now I’m 63. Many copywriters who are older than me are still at it… such as Herschell Gordon Lewis, Drayton Bird and Dan Kennedy.
Copywriters wear their age well. This is partly because those who know direct marketing, know that that it’s a complicated subject that is not easily mastered. They like to see age because it implies that the copywriter has important experience. This is comforting when they’re plunking down a big wad of cash.
However, many copywriters are unaware that ageism works in reverse in copywriting. As a coach, I’ve had more than one student who refused to put their photo on their website fearing that their advanced age would send people away.
By the same token, a very young person may find it a bit harder to get going as a copywriter. It has nothing to do with the quality of their writing. After all, anyone can see what the writing looks like on the copywriter’s website.
It has to do with marketing experience. Will this copywriter give bad advice? How can we gauge their marketing knowledge?
I once had a very talented student who had not yet had a job, still lived at home, and had not been to college. Not only did he look twelve… he even sounded very young. This time it was me who said “no picture.”
Where youth wins in the copywriting world is in the agencies. Having worked in agencies myself both as a full time copywriter as well as freelance, I’ve seen how the hiring goes.
Young copywriters are excited and thankful to have “broken in.” Top brass likes the entry-level pay and the willingness to work overtime for free. I was once chastised by my creative director boss for working less overtime than anyone else in the agency!
Bottom line for freelancers: Showing an advanced age only works in your favor.
So what about gender in the world of copywriting?
My entire career I’ve enjoyed using the name “Chris.” Hundreds or perhaps thousands of times, the person at the other end assumed I was male.
It seems to me that there’s an assumption that if you’re to err, it will be better to insult a woman than a man. Never once has someone who did not know my gender use female language to reference me.
Back in the early days of the Internet I began growing my mailing list. I published my newsletters for years before it became commonplace to upload photos.
I had thousands of copywriters on my mailing list. The first time they saw my photo I was flooded with emails that said, “I always thought you were a man!”
While I continue to benefit from my androgynous name, I don’t think that it matters to clients whether you’re male or female. Where the subject of gender in copywriting becomes interesting is an observation I’ve made over the years.
And that is that in general, the men in this profession are much better at promoting themselves to “guru” status.
Maybe it comes from the business-to-consumer side of copywriting — with all of its sensationalism — but there is a much greater degree of “horn tooting” among the males. I’m sure that you can think of some well-known copywriters who fit this category.
I’ve also observed that among the men, there’s an old boys network. The last marketing workshop I went to had about eight men, one of them “famous.” There were only three women.
While I got a lot out of the workshop, I did find it difficult to be heard. I had to practically yell to get in on the conversation.
So I would say this: the bottom line on gender in copywriting is that maybe — just maybe — the men are getting more steady work than the women.
I’ve been writing a new client acquisition letter for a campaign I’m doing into a new niche. My boyfriend is a retired union negotiator. He likes to offer advice on my writing.
And true to his testosterone, he tells me: “Toot your horn harder! Say you’ll double their income! Say there’s NO ONE like you… tell them to Google you… say you guarantee results… you’ve got to hit it harder!”
So there you have it… my take on sex and age in the world of copywriting. I’d love to hear what you think!
© 2016 Chris Marlow, All Rights Reserved
P.S. — The S.S. Treasure Hunt is my membership site for copywriters. We have Millennials on up, with a fair amount of Baby Boomers, and both sexes equally. They’re a special group and you should meet them if you’d like to associate yourself with copywriters who are actually getting things done and building successful careers!