How To Become a Copywriter: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 22, 2022 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated July 22, 2022

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A copywriter is someone who writes with the intent of educating, persuading or influencing their audience, often with the goal of selling a product or service. Copywriters have an understanding of their audience and know how to sway decision-making with words and suggestions. If you enjoy writing, you may want to consider a career in copywriting.

In this article, we explore what a copywriter does, the main types of copywriting, common skills of copywriters and how to become a copywriter.

What are the main types of copywriting?

Copywriters write copy and provide consumers and clients with information about a particular service or product. The three main types of copywriters are:

1. Agency copywriters

Agency copywriters secure a position with an agency that serves multiple clients, and will typically be expected to work full-time. You will often complete projects that can be challenging and require creativity to help clients create brand identity.

2. Corporate copywriters

Corporate copywriters tend to have more job stability and will write for the products or services offered only by the specific corporation they work for. These positions are typically more consistent in subject matter and require less creativity.

3. Freelance copywriters

Freelance copywriting offers the largest amount of freedom in terms of subject matter, project type and time commitment. The schedule is highly flexible and freelance copywriters can commit to as many or as few jobs as possible.

What does a copywriter do?

Copywriters are focused on writing engaging content to be distributed across various mediums. Copywriting is a form of persuasive writing intended to educate, engage and entice the audience to purchase goods or services either immediately or at a future time.

A copywriter will take a client's advertising brief, or plan, and generate ideas to gain the target audience's attention. As a copywriter, you must pay close attention to detail and word choice, or diction. When writing copy, every piece is purposeful and every word has a function.

Copywriters are expected to produce error-free or near error-free content to help marketing and streamline product branding creating an effective brand identity. Copywriters typically work on several different projects at once and must be skilled at multitasking. Some additional copywriter duties may include writing content for:

  • Emails

  • Direct mail pieces

  • Media campaigns and catalogs

  • Press releases

  • Billboards

  • Advertising flyers

  • Radio advertisements

  • Television plugs and social media ads

Average salary

The potential salary of a copywriter can vary based on time commitment, availability, experience, educational background and the demands and timeline of the project requirements. A copywriter with a history of creating copy that helps raise revenue for clients can potentially earn more. The average salary for a copywriter who works full time is $51,691 per year. Some salaries range from $14,000 to $114,000 per year.

Copywriter skills

Whether you are an agency, corporate or freelance writer, these are some central qualities you will utilize in your career:

Writing skills

The act of writing copy is a recursive process. You don't need to be an accomplished writer to begin, but practicing daily will help you refine your writing skills and improve over time.

Inquisitive nature

Writing effective copy requires some background research into your topic and focus audience. Having a naturally-curious mind and wanting to learn new things can make this career a challenging and exciting choice.

Detail-oriented

You will need to be able to evaluate your work from an objective perspective. You will need to scan your work for edits, looking for correct grammar, spelling and punctuation and proofreading to guarantee a quality piece.

Communication skills

You use these skills to understand others clearly and to be understood completely. They will help you assert yourself and position yourself as an authority in writing copy. Listening attentively to your clients, interpreting their vision and writing for their intended purpose all require excellent verbal and written communication skills.

Creativity

Being able to see things from a new perspective is a unique skill.

Copywriting tips

Both experienced and novice copywriters thrive on arranging and rearranging words and images to manipulate an audience's perspective and emotion for persuasive purposes. A few copywriting tips to keep in mind are:

  • Set a word limit and write short paragraphs. Keeping information brief and chunking it into sections helps the reader absorb it methodically and improves information retention.

  • Write concise and direct sentences. Using an active voice with strong verbs will help the flow of the writing and increase reading fluency for your audience.

  • Use subheadings. Using subheadings improves readability by making the information visually appealing and easy to scan. This helps the reader find the information they seek quickly and easily.

  • Include facts. Statistical and quantifiable information give your information logical appeal.

  • Choose fonts with purpose. You want the fonts to be easy to understand and see but to also add an aesthetical appeal to your creation. It should communicate visually what the piece communicates verbally. Every decision a copywriter makes has a purpose and should be working towards an overall and cohesive goal.

  • Utilize everyday language. Using everyday language is all-inclusive and keeps the information accessible to a vast audience. The more people your copy reaches the better your client's interests are served.

Related: 5 Steps for Great Business Writing (with Tips)

Copywriter requirements

Copywriting is a skill that can be honed with practice and time. Although the requirements to be a copywriter vary widely from position to position, a few common ones are:

  • Writing, reading, editing and proofreading skills

  • Effective research skills

  • Strong ability to manage time and organize

  • Awareness of online content and various marketing strategies

  • Experience with search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Degree in writing, English literature, marketing, business management or related field

How to become a copywriter

As with any occupation, there is no singular path to achieving your desired career, however, there are a few basic tenets for success. Copywriting does not require a degree, yet an educational background in journalism, marketing, marketing research or writing can help make you more marketable. Here are some tips for becoming a copywriter:

1. Understand copywriting basics

Being an effective copywriter is more than following basic directions or writing information clearly. Copywriting entails a deep understanding of customer needs and human psychology. It requires the ability to catch the audience's attention quickly and effectively while arranging words, pictures and call-to-action elements in an appealing manner.

2. Be aware of why industries use copywriters

Part of an effective marketing plan is knowing your target audience. Understanding the reasons people hire copywriters allows you to advertise to those needs on a basic level. Companies, businesses and other organizations are required to create a large amount of original content to pique the customers' interests.

3. Identify and establish your niche

Establish yourself for a clientele that targets what you know. This will help you establish credibility as a copywriter in a specific area and will maximize results. For instance, if you enjoy traveling, you could focus on writing for travel blogs or similar publications.

4. Create a portfolio

A copywriting portfolio, also known as a "Minimum Viable Portfolio (MVP)", consists of sample work targeted toward a client's interests. An MVP is a writing sample of your carefully-constructed work, about 200-400 words in length, and provides a concrete representation of the quality of writing you offer your clients.

It is brief but should aim for accuracy and efficiency in exemplifying the qualities your potential employer is interested in and include specific word choices to convey your message.

Related: Resume Power Words

5. Learn the market and know how to brand yourself

One of the goals of a copywriter is the ability to keep, attract and gain new customers for their clients through language, image placement and persuasiveness. A copywriter needs to understand the basics of advertising to advertise and secure clients themselves.

Marketing strategies, product placement, target audience, brand identity, branding and brand identity for you as a copywriter must be embedded into your own strategy to gain clients seeking your skills.

Read more: 10 Common Leadership Styles (With Examples)

How to get clients

For beginning and experienced copywriters, getting clients is a focus. Here are four methods you can use to attract clients.

1. Cold pitches

A cold pitch is an email or series of emails to a targeted audience of potential customers convincing them to secure your services. You want to introduce yourself, explain your services and detail how you can help their company or organization.

Lastly, you can invite them to take action by contacting you or by linking to some of your work. This is where you could include your portfolio. Cold pitching is a direct method in contacting potential clients and can help to establish a relationship with your audience and potential clients.

2. Job boards

Many job boards are updated daily and are an effective way to see a large number of opportunities. This method allows you to choose which opportunities interest you and obtain some promising leads.

3. Referrals

This is a strong growth marketing tactic. Once you have gotten some experience, ask your clients if they would consider referring others to you, or even just writing a review for you and your work. This form of word-of-mouth marketing is highly effective in attracting new clients.

4. Social networking platforms

Advertising your services on social networking platforms is a quick way to gain exposure. Provide consistent information and be sure that what you offer is helpful information rather than a mere advertisement people might gloss over. You want to attract attention, show your skills and establish yourself as an expert.

Frequently asked questions

Here is a list of questions you may have while pursuing a career as a copywriter:

  • Is online copywriting the same as general writing?

  • Do I need to be an excellent writer to get started?

  • What types of writing do I need to know?

  • Which type of copywriting is the best?

Is online copywriting the same as general writing?

Online writing and general writing are two distinctive contents. The aspect that distinguishes them is primarily the purpose of the writing that drives the content and style. Copywriting is persuasive, can be informative and is promotional in nature to draw in an audience.

Do I need to be an experienced writer to get started?

You do need an understanding of proper grammar, spelling, proofreading and sentence structure (syntax) but your writing experience may be minimal to start. You should enjoy the process of writing and the challenge of attracting an audience with your words in copywriting. Through the writing process, you will work to create high-quality content to meet a specific need.

What types of writing do I need to know?

Copywriters can receive an array of different requests. You may be asked to write blogs, web content, social media posts, advertising copy, creative writing or web content. However, clients will regularly supply you with a guide, and you'll work in unison with editors who help to focus the content and format.

Which type of copywriting is the best?

The right type of copywriting will differ based on your personality, career goals and work preferences. Freelance writing offers flexibility and convenience but can be challenging in terms of consistency.

If you have not built a following on social media platforms, or if you are just starting out, it may take some time to build an audience and create a viable income source. With a passion for writing and determination, you may find yourself succeeding in freelance writing for your chosen topics.

However, if you're looking for a career in an office with advancement potential, you might benefit from a position as an agency or corporate copywriter.

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