How to become a copywriter. By a copywriter.
The movie was about to start. I was there with my girlfriend and the obligatory popcorn, when I realised that I knew the person sitting in front of me. He was a university friend of mine. We got chatting and I told him I was unsure as to which career I should follow.
He suggested I become a copywriter.
“Copywriter?”, I asked. “What’s that?” For someone who had just completed varsity, you’d think I’d be better informed. But I didn’t know what one was until he told me.
Not on these exact words of course.
A copywriter is a professional writer who comes up with ideas, and writes, for advertising and marketing.
Their main job is to craft the written word designed to persuade and influence people to take a particular action, like buying a bar of soap, signing up for a magazine subscription, or attending a trade event about precious metals. The task may even be researching, ideating, and writing about German sausages, in all their stuffed glory.
This writer has done all the above.
Copywriters sleep, or write, around. They can be found in advertising agencies, marketing departments, public relations firms, and even at home, writing and working freelance for direct clients.
First off, you need the ability to create compelling, persuasive, and engaging arguments that appeal to the target audience, and have them take action.
Needless to say, you need to have naturally good, and well-honed, writing skills. And you need to be well-informed. A copywriter should know all the marketing principles, understand consumer behaviour, and have the flair to take branding strategies and give them the originality they need to create stand-out and effective campaigns.
And the ability to break all the rues above when needed. Or know them well enough to break them.
How to become a copywriter? Persistence. Persistence. Persistence.
I was fortunate. I took a copywriting test, mailed it to advertising agencies around town. And got a job. It was a star-crossed career choice.
For most aspiring writers though, it takes commitment and a lot of hard work to become a copywriter. At the end of the day though, it’s a rewarding, exciting, and yes, well paid career choice.
So let’s look in this article about how you can become a copywriter.
First off, know the basics of copywriting, which we’ve covered above. See? You already know them.
Find out more about copywriting.
Let’s dig deeper though. Let’s learn from the giants who have strode the path before us. Go to the library, or since that’s too old-fashioned, order some literature from Amazon. These giants may include “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White, “Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This” by Luke Sullivan, “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” by Joseph Sugarman, and oddly enough, “On Writing” by Stephen King.
Develop your writing skills
It goes without saying, to be a successful copywriter, you need to have excellent writing skills. You need to write clearly, concisely, and persuasively. You can develop your writing skills by practicing every day, reading widely, and taking writing courses.
Choose a niche. Or don’t.
There are many different niches within copywriting, like advertising, marketing, direct mail, and content marketing. Don’t worry about that though when you start. The main thing is to land your first gig. Specialising in a niche can come later. If you’re really passionate about a certain subject, sure, focus. I don’t know how many clients you’ll get though who’ll want advertising campaigns devoted solely to, let’s say, fly fishing. But hey, who knows.
Build a portfolio.
People want the proof that’s in the eating. So your most important task in how to become a copywriter is to build a portfolio of work you’ve done that demonstrate your skill. But how do you get one if you don’t have your first client? Choose speculative clients and create and write ads that are good enough to persuade people to hire you. And, as we said earlier, that’s the job, so if you can’t sell yourself, put your pen down.
Find clients. Or an ad agency.
Once you have a portfolio, you can start looking for clients. You can find them by networking with other copywriters, reaching out to businesses and organisations that could use your services, and applying for copywriting jobs on job boards and freelance websites. And phone head-hunters. A good advertising agency is always looking to discover fresh talent. It may not be well paid in the beginning, but it will help you build your portfolio.
Keep learning and growing.
It goes without saying that copywriting is a constantly evolving field. So it’s important to continue expanding your mind. Rule of thumb: Know a little about everything. Rather than a lot about one thing. You can do this by attending conferences and workshops, taking online courses, and staying up to date with trends and best practices. Read! Write!
Let’s sum up on how to become a copywriter. It requires a mix of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow. So get the ball rolling. Not tomorrow. Today! And get your successful career started.
Want to find out more? Look at my collection of ads from around the world. Or get in touch, and I’ll give you some pointers.