If you’re new to writing you may not have considered copywriter as a way to break into the industry. Copywriting is as challenging as it is interesting and most writers overlook it in favour of more traditional publishing roads.
But wait, what’s a copywriter?
If you think about copywriting as writing for business then you’ll have it just about right. A copywriter is the person who comes up with slogans, billboards, traditional media ads and just about any other kind of sales copy (words) you can think of.
And what about all the words that go on websites? And those business blogs everyone has these days? Yup, a copywriter is behind it.
Because uncredited copy is everywhere, it’s easy to miss it as writing. For people just getting started in writing, they may not even consider this type of writing as an option because it seems so mysterious.
Sure, it’s not as recognizable as, say, a published author credit or a byline in a newspaper or magazine but it certainly pays the bills.
The difference between copywriting and other types of writing
When most people think about writing they think of fiction and non-fiction. But of course there is so much more below the surface. Fiction breaks down into endless genres while non-fiction branches into journalism, prescriptive, self-help, biography, memoir and more.
Copywriting falls into the non-fiction camp and champions the art of persuasion. AKA rhetoric. In general, a copywriter’s job is to persuade someone to take an action be it purchasing a product, signing up for an email list or clicking on a link.
You’ll find copywriters within marketing departments or working for advertising agencies or public relations firms. And most freelance writers you meet are copywriters who are tired to explaining to people what copywriters do so they default to the generic “writer.”
How copywriting works
If you watched Mad Men then you have some idea of how copywriting fits into the larger world of sales and marketing.
In general, they’ll start with a brief from a client or brand explaining what problem their product or service is trying to solve and who will benefit from it. They may have meetings with art directors or graphic designers to brainstorm concepts. And they may meet with the company to learn more.
Once there’s a firm concept in place, the copywriter will then create the different deliverables. Let’s say this project is an advertising campaign for a toy company who wants to launch the next big Christmas gift hit. The copywriter would look at all the different aspects of the campaign (say for example, television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, social media posts, email blasts, etc.) and create the written components.
Become a freelance copywriter
To get started as a copywriter there isn’t any sort of standardized degree or certification. You just start.
Of course, this is easier said than done.
In order to get work you need to showcase your skills. If you have a portfolio, great. If not, then get writing. Start a blog or devote yourself to some other form of content marketing to get your name out there.
If you don’t have skills, consider working at an agency. There are a couple benefits here, you’ll gain experience and learn how the industry works. There are a lot of agencies and they all need writers. Browse LinkedIn and look for terms like “media,” “communications,” “marketing,” etc. From there figure out which ones are hiring and start applying.
Sure, copywriting may not be as glamorous as publishing in a literary journal but if you can find the right clients it can afford you a decent living. It might be tricky to explain to other what you do, but it won’t matter if you fall in love with the art of copy.
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