So, you want to be a copywriter.
Our paths into copywriting were laden with unexpected plot twists. Sure, some of us knew at school that we wanted to be writers. Others had to get into the wrong career to realise that copywriting was the right one.
Are you on the edge of your seat? Okay, here’s our advice on how to become a copywriter, and the lessons we learnt along the way.
How to know if copywriting is for you
If you can write. If you’re willing to put in the work. And if you want to become a copywriter, then copywriting is for you.
Maybe you write a diary, or a blog. Maybe you write brilliant product descriptions in your spare time. Whatever the medium, if you’re writing for fun then writing for money will be so up your street it’ll be knocking on your door.
Key learning: it’ll take hard work. If copywriting is for you, it won’t feel like hard work.
When did we know we wanted to become copywriters?
In some careers, getting started needs laser-focus from the age of three. The good news is, copywriting doesn’t. In fact, becoming a copywriter down the line will probably mean you’ve got loads more life experience and will have honed different styles and tones. That will serve you well.
Our Helen considered herself the next Kay Burley for a time, studying journalism until the creativity and variety of copywriting reeled her in. Chris’ path was spookily similar: “Through work placements and the odd bit of freelancing I realised journalism probably wasn’t for me and copywriting was one of the most interesting ways to use my writing skills.” With the way 2020 is going, we’re sure they’re pleased with their choice.
Key learning: just because you’re not a copywriter yet doesn’t mean you can’t become one.
How did you hone your copywriting skills?
Despite what the internet says, there’s no such thing as a week-long intensive copywriting course. Copywriting isn’t driving – it takes much longer to master. But take the time, put in the work and your noticeable development will be well worth it.
As young men fresh from the lecture theatre, Chris and Alan both blagged their way into writing for music magazines. Alan recalls listening to demos, reviewing bands and going to shows. His biggest takeaway? “the improving power of the editorial red pen.”
Key learning: learn to take feedback gracefully. Assuming it’s come from someone who knows what they’re talking about, every edit will make you a better writer.
What was your first writing job?
Copywriting jobs are about as varied as fingerprints. You could literally be asked to write about anything.
Helen’s career compass wasn’t originally set on copywriting: “When I was 16, I scored some work experience as a ‘Blast Reporter’ with the BBC.” Much to her horror (and our delight), this archived page is still around as evidence. But fast-forward a few years, and she’d changed course. Her first paid writing job was with a small Edinburgh creative agency.
Sian’s writing career came into being at an Oil and Gas communications agency in Aberdeen. It’s worth noting how she got it: “The portfolio that got me the junior copywriter job was full of birthday cards I’d made for friends and my responses to the marketing briefs they set on The Apprentice. It was enough to show I could think in the right way.”
Key learning: Don’t wait for a paid writing gig to land in your lap. If you can build a portfolio that shows your writing is versatile, you’re in.
If you remember one thing
Words are the answer. May you write them, may you read them, may you experiment with them. There’s no highway to copywriting success. But if our team’s stories tell us anything, it’s that persistence, practice and patience are what it takes to arrive in copywriting.
To play us out, a piece of advice from each member of our top team:
Advice for aspiring copywriters
Sian: “Learn to love the process - if you don’t enjoy writing something, your audience probably won’t enjoy reading it. And don’t take feedback too personally.”
Alan: “If you have to, up sticks for the right role. Never join an agency with just one other writer. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s a hard game to get into – be creative and build relationships with people in good agencies."
Helen: “Build a portfolio – even if it’s just a compilation of personal blog articles at first. Getting lots of practice really makes a difference, and it’s great to have a collection of pieces to show potential employers.”
Chris: “Don’t think you’ll walk right into writing big ad campaigns for major brands. Recognise that you have a lot to learn and you need to start off doing less exciting jobs to develop your craft.”
Already making money from your words and have a persuasive portfolio to show for it? We’re writers who find writers for in-house teams, and we have roles for experienced content people like you.