What does a copywriter do? It’s a question I get asked a lot when meeting new people, and even at business networking events.
In a nutshell, a copywriter writes persuasive marketing communications for advertising, marketing campaigns and websites where the goal is to sell, rather than just inform or educate.
But there are many different types of copywriters, writing in lots of different industries and niches. There are also lots more people now wishing to become copywriters, now that the profession is becoming more widely known and the shift to remote working.
So on this page I aim to answer the most common questions about what a copywriter does, the different opportunities available for becoming a copywriter and my tips on how to stand out from the crowd and attract clients who’ll pay a fair rate for your talent with words.
- What does a copywriter do?
- What does “copywriter” mean?
- What’s the difference between copywriting and content writing?
- How is copywriting done?
- Is it hard to become a copywriter?
- Can copywriters work remotely?
- How much do copywriters earn? What’s a good copywriter’s salary?
- What skills do you need to be a copywriter?
- How to get into copywriting – What qualifications do you need to become a copywriter?
- Is being a copywriter a good career?
- How do I get a job as a freelance copywriter?
- How to get experience as a copywriter
- How do I get a job as a copywriter with a marketing agency or company?
- Tips on creating a copywriting portfolio
- Networking tips for copywriters
- Should I become a copywriter?
What does a copywriter do?
When meeting new people, they often also ask me what does “copywriter” mean and how is copywriting done? And then, after learning that I get paid to write in coffee shops, they often ask what skills do you need to be a copywriter and how to get into copywriting?
So let’s start with the first question: What does a copywriter do?
Copywriters write words with the sole goal of promoting a product or service. This could include:
- Writing a new company slogan
- A jingle for a radio commercial
- Writing an email campaign to convert website visitors into buyers
- Writing an entire funnel that takes someone from clicking on a Facebook ad to spending hundreds of dollars on supplements an hour later
So you see, there are lots of different types of copywriting, and the format can include newspapers, magazines, television, radio, the internet, social media, and advertising that gets sent in the mail.
The next time you pass a billboard, watch a commercial on TV, read an ad in a magazine or scroll through Facebook, remember that a copywriter was hired to write the words you’re reading.
But whatever the format, copywriting always has the aim of directing people towards buying a product or service.
Due to the amount of advertising people now get bombarded with, copywriters have to spend a lot of time on campaign planning before they put fingers to keyboard.
This can include:
- Researching to learn more about customers, their deepest fears, biggest hopes, what solutions they’ve tried already and what will motivate them to try a new one.
- Researching comparable products on the market to find out what features they may be missing that can enable them to promote a new product as superior.
- Brainstorming headlines, taglines, lead ideas and mechanisms that make a product sound new and interesting
- Working with a graphic design to layout the page, direct mail package or what images to use in the Facebook ads or clips to use in YouTube videos.
- Liaising with marketing managers and clients to get their ideas approved, to get feedback, and to ensure projects stay on track.
- Staying up to date on “what’s working”, and keeping track of new trends, what offers are converting and new traffic channels to try out.
- Developing brand voices or adapting copy to an established brand voice.
- Tracking the results of campaigns that are running and identifying where they could be optimised to generate better results.
- Editing and revising copy based on client feedback and campaign performance.
What does “copywriter” mean?
Copy is the text used to sell products and services in advertising and marketing. This makes “copywriters” the people who create the copy.
While still today, few people outside the industry know what a copywriter does and what does “copywriter” mean, the fact is that the copywriting profession has been around for over 100 years.
In fact, you could say copywriters have existed ever since someone wrote down words to sell something, or even the invention of the printing press. Some say that copywriting can be dated as far back as 1477, when William Caxton wrote an advertisement to sell handbooks to priests.
But since then, the copywriting profession has evolved leaps and bounds.
Today, there’s now a bigger demand for copywriters than ever. The internet has opened up all sorts of new advertising opportunities and created marketplaces that span the globe.
The downside of the massive growth in advertising is that people are bombarded with more ads than at any time in history. Which means today’s copywriters have to go deeper in their research, have a deeper understanding of the customer, and find new interesting ways to position products than ever before.
What’s the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing?
To people who aren’t familiar with what “copywriter” means or what copywriting is, it’s understandable that they may confuse copywriting with content writing. After all, it’s just writing down words on a page, right?
But copywriting and content writing have very different goals.
In copywriting, the primary goal is to sell something. So whether you’re writing a slogan, a headline or a long form sales letter, in copywriting the goal is to trigger an action from the reader by the end, whether this is clicking on a link, completing a form or buying on the spot.
Now, convincing a reader to take action is easier said than done. A copywriter will need to know how to use the power of novelty with new information, know how to activate a reader’s emotions, know how to uncover and present contrarian viewpoints, and be able to address all a reader’s objections that may prevent them from taking the action you want.
Now when it comes to content writing, the objective you’re trying to achieve isn’t so challenging. Content writing typically has no end objective beyond informing, educating, demonstrating expertise, helping to answer a question or entertaining the reader. So the copy doesn’t need to be as emotionally triggering, contrarian or hard hitting. But it should still be enjoyable and engaging to read, particularly with time on site now a factor in rating websites in the search rankings.
However, while there are differences between copywriting and content writing, the two roles do often overlap. So when hired as a copywriter you may be asked to also provide content writing services, and vice versa.
How is Copywriting Done?
Copywriting is done by freelancers, copywriters working in a marketing agency or by copywriters who work in house. Copywriting is also done in all manner of industries, from health to finance to technology to fashion. Practically any industry that wants to sell products or services needs copywriters.
Here’s a general summary of the different types of copywriters:
Freelance copywriters – Provide words for hire based on a contract or project basis. You’ll likely work with smaller companies unable to afford agencies, entrepreneurs and you can potentially partner with marketing agencies that have an overflow.
Most freelance copywriters start off as generalists, writing anything from emails to press releases to video scripts. Then over time, as freelance copywriters find niches that interest them the most, and they have the most success in, they decide to specialise. I started off primarily as a B2B copywriter, writing brochures, case studies and blog posts, then as my knowledge and skills improved I transitioned to focus on being a natural health copywriter (also known as an alternative health copywriter).
In house copywriter – Larger companies often have the budget and size to have a team of copywriters working in house as part of a marketing team. As an inhouse copywriter you’d be focused on providing collateral to support the company’s marketing activities, such as product launches, customer outreach campaigns and advertising.
Copywriters working for marketing agencies – When large companies don’t have a marketing team inhouse, they’ll often outsource to a marketing agency. You could be working on anything from emails to press releases to website copy, and working on a variety of campaigns for different companies.
Is it hard to become a copywriter?
It may seem like the barrier to becoming a copywriter is low, as all you need is a laptop and an internet connection. But becoming a busy, highly paid, in demand copywriter is hard.
There’s no official qualification that marks you out as a professional, competent copywriter. Instead, it comes from years of study, dedication and commitment to getting better.
If you have no experience, samples or track record, then it’s hard to convince clients to hire you. What’s more, the number of people eager to become copywriters is rising rapidly, and the competition for clients is fierce.
The good news is that being a copywriter also means being in control of your own destiny. There are lots of ways of improving your skills, finding ways to stand out among the rising tide, and to attract clients willing to pay you a fair shilling for your writing talents.
You’ll find many tips on how to do all those things further down this page.
Can Copywriters Work Remotely?
Yes, absolutely and not only if you’re a freelance copywriter. With the shift to remote working and plethora of video calling tools, many companies and marketing agencies are open to working with copywriters that work remotely.
How Much Do Copywriters Earn? What’s a Good Copywriter’s Salary?
There’s a huge variation in how much copywriters earn. But being paid to think creatively and write for a living is a perk in itself.
While you may start at the lower end of the pay scale, as your knowledge, skills and results improve so will your salary. When working in house or for an agency you’ll likely have to start on the bottom rung, writing blog posts and emails. But then gradually as you get more experience you’ll be working on advertisements and brand campaigns that can justify a boost in your salary.
When it comes to being a freelance copywriter, focusing on writing emails is a great way to get started. Then as your skills improve, you can transition to advertorial copywriting, writing ecom pages, sales letters and VSL copywriting that are higher paid.
To get some ballpark figures on how much copywriters can earn, check out these rates taken from the AWAI website (as you can see, they vary wildly based on experience and projected outcome):
Re-write a web copy for SEO – $100 – $400 per page
Writing a Small Website of 5-6 pages – $1,500 – $3,500
Writing a homepage – $450 to $4,500
Writing an information page – $250 to $750
Sales page – $450 to $10,000
Standalone Sales Email – $250 to $2000
Newsletter/Ezine Articles – $150 to $750
What skills do you need to be a copywriter?
So now we’ve answered the questions of what does a copywriter do and how copywriting is done, let’s answer the question “what skills do you need to be a copywriter?”
The skills you need to be a copywriter include a clear, concise writing style, research skills, the ability to think creatively and resilience. The good news is that you can develop all of these skills with practice and study.
So first off, while you don’t need to be Hemingway from do one, you do need to be able to string words and sentences together. You need to be able to write clearly and concisely, and in an engaging style that encourages people to keep reading. The good news is that you can vastly improve your writing skills with practice. Reading a lot of great copy and studying the greats also helps a ton.
But like I said, a clear, concise writing style isn’t the only skill you need to be a copywriter.
You also need strong research skills. Luckily for me, I came into copywriting with a History and English degree, so I was off to a head start when it came to research skills. But you can also learn how to improve your research skills from reading books and practising.
Other skills you need to be a copywriter are the ability to think creatively and being able to come up with fresh ideas. You also need to understand what makes people tick at an emotional level, and will motivate them to buy.
Here are some courses and books I recommend for developing all these skills:
Stefan Georgi’s RMBC Method – Learn “billion dollar” copywriter’s step-by-step process for writing high converting sales letters in as little as 3 days.
80/20 Email Copywriting – Ian Stanley’s popular course on writing high converting emails
John Carlton’s Simple Writing System
Copyhour – A daily email course on studying and writing great copy
Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz (very advanced)
How to Write a Great Advertisement by Victor Schwab
The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III – Bond Halbert
Finally, one of the most important skills you need to be a copywriter is RESILIENCE. In the highly competitive direct response field, where every click is tracked, rarely are campaigns are barn storming success on day one.
Often success comes from incremental improvements, testing new headlines and leads, and optimising your way to profitability.
It’s why I always say to clients that I’ll work with them until a campaign converts, rather than like most copywriters who ride off into the sunset when the check has cleared.
Now, the absolute best way of developing the skills you need to be a copywriter is to mentor with an A lister. Working with a copywriter at the top of their game and getting feedback on your copy is what can take you from mediocre to great. I’ve done mentorships with a bunch of top level copywriters (Kim Krause Schwalm, Chris Wright, Lukas Resheske, Kevin Rogers) and it really helped raise my copy game.
Working with an A list mentor isn’t cheap though. So here are a couple of alternatives:
Copy Accelerator – Stefan Georgi and Justin Goff’s coaching group. I did the Lite version for a year, in which you can get feedback on your copy, weekly calls with Stefan and Justin and potentially get some work from the jobs board (it’s tough though with 100+ copywriters all competing for the same jobs).
David Deutsch’s Inner Circle – David Deutsch is a legend in the direct response copywriting world. And for just $90 per month you gain access to two coaching calls a month in which he’ll provide feedback on your copy, and you get to learn from one of the masters.
How to Get into Copywriting – What Qualifications Do You Need to Be Copywriter?
There’s no official qualifications you need to get into copywriting as a freelancer. But you need to be a diligent researcher, a good writer and a creative thinker.
However, if you’re applying for full time copywriting jobs with big companies then you may need a bachelor’s degree. As there isn’t an official copywriting degree, you may need to study a degree in Marketing, Journalism, or English.
And for specialised industries, like pharmaceuticals, insurance, or engineering, your employer may be expecting you to have some experience in the field.
However, if studying for a University degree isn’t an option and you have no prior experience, you could try taking an online marketing course:
Is Being a Copywriter a Good Career?
You get to write for a living, learn about interesting topics and can earn a management level salary with some experience. So being a copywriter is an excellent career option.
Over the course of my copywriting career, I’ve written about all sorts of interesting technologies, like automated milk factories, learned lots about the human body writing ads for supplements, and I get to earn a decent salary from remote locations all over the world.
What’s more, copywriting is a challenging and rewarding career. You have to challenge yourself to find that interesting angle that’s going to pause the scroll and keep people reading. And seeing your copy convert into clicks and sales is a wonderful feeling.
You also get to develop your mindset and knowledge in all sorts of areas. And being a copywriter is a skill you’ll want to work on developing and perfecting, just like you’re an elite athlete.
Copywriting can be challenging too, though. You have to ensure you always hit your deadlines, deliver copy that’s been properly proofread, and waiting to see how your copy performs can be nerve wracking stuff.
So you need to be open to feedback (or even criticism) and be willing to edit and improve your copy until it converts. Which isn’t always easy, as copywriting is a creative process that can feel deeply personal and subjective. What makes sense and reads well to you may be gibberish to someone else. So you need to get good at taking on feedback and then applying it as instructed by your client or mentor. So you’ll need to keep your ego in check.
But before you’ve reached this page, I expect you’ve already tried lots of other jobs and professions. But always had a nagging feeling that you wanted to be writing for a living, am I right?
I worked in all sorts of office jobs before I found my way into copywriting. And my only regret is that I wished I’d known about copywriting and made the leap earlier.
So bottom line, being a copywriter is an awesome career if you already enjoy researching new topics and writing about them. So my advice would be to start brushing up your skills, get a portfolio together and then start reaching out to clients. You wont regret it!
How Do I Get a Job as a Freelance Copywriter?
If you want to know “how do I get a job as a freelance copywriter”, the good news is that there are now more resources and training courses than ever before.
The downside is that there’s also more competition than ever before. Copywriting is no longer a secret profession only those “in the know” knew about. Now there are all sorts of Facebook groups with thousands of members all vying to become highly paid freelance copywriting professionals.
So if you want to get a job as a freelance copywriter, you need to be ready to dedicate yourself to studying the craft, practising until your fingers hurt, and being ready to send hundreds of cold emails before you get a quality client who values your work.
Here are a few resources I recommend if you want to become a freelance copywriter (also recommended above):
Ian Stanley’s 80/20 email copywriting course
John Carlton’s Simple Writing Simple
How to Become a Freelance Copywriter with No Experience – My own $30 eBook
How to Get Experience as a Copywriter
Many copywriters get stuck thinking they can’t get hired until they have experience, but can’t get experience until they’re hired. This is nuts. You don’t need clients to get experience. You can practise on your own without being paid – in fact, this is something you HAVE to do before your skills are anywhere good enough for people to hire you.
If you have no previous copywriting experience, my advice would be to start off writing emails. There’s a huge need for email copywriters among e-commerce companies, coaches, and supplement companies, who often require emails to be sent out on a daily basis. This also means it’s possible to get a retainer of about $5k to write 30 emails a month.
The first step is to get good at writing emails. Here’s what I’d do:
- Focus on one particular industry or niche.
- Signup for a bunch of email newsletters in that niche
- Try to break down how the emails are written and what makes them work.
- Start writing 1-2 emails a day until you get good
- Start reaching out to the companies you subscribed to, offering to write daily emails and to submit a couple of emails they can test.
Then once you’ve got a foot in the door writing emails, your clients may progress to asking you to write advertorials, YouTube ads, and eventually full sales letters.
But once you make it, you can look forward to the job opportunities and your income rocketing fast.
How Do I Get a Job as a Copywriter with a Marketing Agency or Company?
If you want to get a job as a copywriter with a marketing agency or company, you’re going to have to develop your skills and profile the traditional route.
Marketing agencies and companies with marketing departments are going to want to see that you have some sort of “official” qualification, like a marketing degree.
You’ll also need to have impeccable grammar, punctuation, and a fully filled out resume. But here’s a tip – use your resume as a chance to show off your copywriting skills and marketing brain. Write an engaging introduction with a headline that grabs attention, and include a cover letter to show off your lucid writing style and ability to get people to respond to your words.
Tips on Creating a Copywriting Portfolio
Creating a copywriting portfolio gives you the chance to show off your best writing samples.
If you don’t have a copywriting portfolio already, then create one. You can write sample press releases, articles and web pages for products you think you could do a good job of promoting.
You could then host your portfolio on a WordPress website or in a Google Doc. In fact, many people firing freelance copywriters actually prefer a well organised Google Doc, with a table of contents, rather than a website. As a Google Doc is easy for them to navigate and find the most appropriate samples that interest them.
If you want to get a job as a copywriter with a marketing agency or company, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, and you’ve deleted any embarrassing Tweets from Twitter. In your LinkedIn profile include links to your copywriting portfolio, use lots of keywords and try to get some reviews from former colleagues or managers.
Networking Tips for Copywriters
Whether you want to be a freelance copywriter or a copywriter working in a marketing agency or company’s marketing department, you’ll want to dedicate an hour or so a week to networking.
This could include answering questions in Facebook or LinkedIn groups, publishing posts sharing unique takes and insights, and having conversations with potential business owners.
Just remember to give before you take.
Don’t just ask people if they’re looking to hire copywriters, but find ways of giving service front. This could be a critique of a potential client’s website, emails or YouTube ads. Try offering some helpful advice or ideas on how they could be improved. Because by giving first, by the law of reciprocity, potential clients are going to think more highly of you and more likely to hire you to implement what you recommend.
Attending live events is also one of the best ways of meeting new clients. A single new client can easily cover the cost of the airfare, hotel, drinks bill and even after taking them out to dinner.
Conclusion – Should I Become a Copywriter?
Hopefully on this page I’ve covered everything you need to know about answering the question “should I become a copywriter”.
If you love writing, have a curious, contrarian nature, consider yourself creative and have the tenacity to develop your copywriting chops, to handle feedback and the determination to keep reaching out to clients, being a copywriter is the best profession you could dream of.
Being a copywriter is a profession for life, and a craft you’ll want to constantly working on improving but never perfect.
Being a copywriter is also well paid, mentally stimulating, and if you’re able to grasp complicated topics and make them engaging to read then you’re safe from the robots.
I’ve been a freelance copywriter for 16 years, and I love it. And I have no intention of changing careers anytime soon.
If you do decide to become a copywriter, feel free to reach out and add me to your network. And let me know if you have any questions that weren’t answered on this page I can help with.
Disclaimer – Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. But they’re all links to products I’ve bought and used myself.