How to Become a Copywriter

Writing Dec 17, 2020
In this article

A copywriter writes the text that is used in advertisements. These ads can come in the form of billboards, magazines spaces, emails, social media posts, and a wide variety of other mediums.

The copywriter's job is to connect with the target audience and persuade them to buy the product or service the advertisement is promoting. In order to do this, the copywriter must understand the wants and needs of the target market, and how they best respond to ads.

If you've ever wanted a copywriting career, you're in luck. We're about to walk you through what it takes to enter into and find success in the copywriting world. Read on!

What is a copywriter?

Before we can teach you all the tricks of the trade, it's important to answer one imperative question: what is a copywriter?

Even if you vaguely know the answer, it's always helpful to get a clear, professional explanation so everything is fresh in your head moving forward.

So, what is a copywriter? A copywriter is a specific type of writer that creates the language used in advertisements. They work in marketing and, of course, advertising, and come from a variety of backgrounds that include business, literature, creative writing, and psychology, among others.

Copywriters are people who can balance creativity and analytics very well. They need to know exactly how to connect with audiences, why their brains work the way they do, and how to best win them over.

What does a copywriter do?

Copywriters are busy people! After all, they influence millions of people with their work on a daily basis.

If you catch yourself wondering, "What does a copywriter do?", it's time to put those curiosities to rest. Here's a short list of their routine tasks:

  • Brainstorming campaign concepts
  • Researching audiences, trends, products, etc
  • Writing copy
  • Collaborating with designers and being familiar with a logo maker.
  • Editing copy / campaign materials
  • And much, much more

As you can see, a copywriting career entails much more than just writing. You've got to be a well-rounded individual in order to find success in a copywriting job.

Types of Copywriting

There are a bunch of different things that fall under the "copywriting" umbrella, so to speak. While copywriting means anything written for ads, this can be broken up into many different types of specific ad writing.

Let's take a look at some of the biggest forms of copywriting. Many copywriters specialize in a certain type, and base their careers around that.

Website copywriting:

This covers all copy that you'd find on a website, including blog posts, landing pages, product pages, FAQs, and more.

SEO copywriting:

This involves using keyword research and SEO best-practices to create the best content to rank on search engines.

Product copywriting:

This type of copywriting focuses on marketing and selling a product in the most effective, appealing way.

B2B copywriting:

B2B stands for "business to business," meaning transactions conducted between two parties which are businesses. This copy is geared toward an audience of other companies, rather than consumers.

B2C copywriting:

B2C stands for "business to consumer," meaning transactions conducted between a business and a consumer. This is what people usually think of in terms of marketing and selling a product or service.

Social Media copywriting:

Tweets, captions, and text on graphics all fall under social media copy.

Copywriter Skills

So, what do you have to be good at in order to become a successful copywriter? Obviously this answer differs from one writer to another, but a skilled copywriter will be proficient at a number of things, not just writing copy.

Writing Skills

Duh. You've got to have knowledge on how to capture an audience's attention with words, a mastery of the English language and how to manipulate it to your brand's needs, and to understand how to write for different situations.

Research Skills

A good copywriter is also a great researcher. You've got to know your audience inside and out in order to understand how to grab their attention and their patronage.

Who is your core audience comprised of? What do they like? What don't they like? What similar products and services are they purchasing? How much do they typically spend? What current trends are they participating in, and what are the impacts of those trends?

Being Detail-Oriented

Paying attention to the "little things" will take you from being just a writer to being a very good copywriter. Anyone can understand the big picture, but playing up small details will make your work stand out above the rest.

Understanding Marketing Psychology

This one goes hand-in-hand with research skills. A professional copywriter is also an expert in human psychology, which allows them to know what their audiences want better than anyone else. It's so important to know what compels people to pay attention to something before beginning a new campaign.

Communication Skills

In order to sell something, you've got to make people want it. Even if you understand the psychology component, translating that into something easily readable, quick and snappy, can be tricky. The best professional copywriters are experts in communication.

Creativity

Marketing is all about standing out from the crowd. Why should a consumer pick your product or service over a comparable option?

This is where creativity comes in. Every product could be the same, but the one with the best packaging, tagline, color scheme, etc will win every time. Think outside of the box!

The Roles You'll Play

Copywriters don’t just author one type of content. Since words are a core part of most campaigns, you’ll be expected to don a variety of masks and play the part required by each project. In most businesses these roles will come in one of three flavors:

Content Writer

When businesses are looking for a content writer, they’re looking for someone to write content for their blog (and probably their emails, social media, and website, too).

In this content writing role, you’re basically an essayist. Sure, most people will say blogger, but I hate that word, so I’m saying essayist. Because that’s what blogs are, really.

You’ll be doing a lot of research in this role, which could take two forms: keyword research or article research. In the keyword research part, you’ll be using an search engine optimization (SEO) tool, like ahrefs or Moz, to identify what people are typing into Google most often in your industry.

This data informs what topics you write about. Every company that’s even remotely interested in making money online will want to rank for the most purchase-heavy keywords in their industry. And they’ll need a content writer to write blog posts that are optimized for those keywords.

Personality plays a role here, because every memorable essay is written by a writer with a distinct voice. For the love of all that is holy, inject some personality into the posts you author as a content writer. The internet is already too full of bland writing. It doesn't need more.

So don’t be boring. Do everything in your power to write entertaining articles that inform your readers. Do that and you’ll win their trust, which means your traffic numbers will increase, which means you’re doing a good job.

Conversion Copywriter

Conversions make money, so conversion copywriters are in high demand.

This role requires the most data analysis, because you’ll be constantly testing new copy treatments across websites, landing pages, emails, and social media.

In essence, conversion copywriting requires that you develop an understanding of your audience, identify where conversions could improve in the customer journey, and test new copy until you significantly improve whatever metric you’ve set as your goal.

It’s not a fast process. If your client or employer doesn’t have voice of customer data on hand — and a lot of them won’t — you’ll need to conduct the research yourself. Then you’ll need to categorize and analyze it. All that comes before you write a single word.

Once you’ve written new copy for the homepage or promotional email, you’ll have to test it. And you won’t always beat the control copy. But when you do find a breakthrough, all your hard work will be worth it, because you’ll deliver more revenue, which is what every marketing executive or small business owner values most.

Brand Copywriter

It isn’t enough to just have a good product; these days you’ve got to have a compelling story behind the product.

“Yeah, this electric jetpack works great, but why did you make it?” Every brand needs a story, and that’s where the brand copywriter comes in.

This is the type of copywriting you’ll often find in agencies, because the writing helps shape the backstory and personality of the brand. This includes not only finding a voice for the company, but also dictating those guidelines across all marketing initiatives.

“Yeah, but is it on brand?” is something you’ll often hear these writers ask. Their purvey might also include script writing for commercials and slogan writing as part of the brand identity.

While this is perhaps the most glamorous role a copywriter can take on, it’s also the most expendable. After all, once you sculpt a personality for a brand, why do they need to keep you around?

I highly recommend making brand work an ancillary part of your repertoire. Yes, get good at it, but don’t make it the only thing you can do.

How to Become a Copywriter

Ah, yes. We've finally come to what this entire article has been about. How do you become a copywriter?

Don't get impatient. This is all important information.

Step #1: Understand the Basics

Reading this article is a great first step in learning what it is that copywriters do, and what it takes to become one.

You have to understand what you're getting yourself into before you can get into it; it's essential to know everything about the field of copywriting before you dive in.

As the boy scouts always say, "be prepared!"

Step #2: Find Your Writing Style

Before you can hone those copywriting skills and jump into the copywriting business, you've got to find your writing style.

What is a writing style? You may ask. Well, to keep it simple, a writing style is the way a writer writes. It's what makes their writing sound unique, and what helps it stand out from the rest.

Finding your style is a matter of trial and error. Here are some things you can do when you're trying to develop your own:

  • Read a lot. Think about what you like about each thing you read, and try to replicate those traits in your own writing.
  • Listen to yourself speak. What makes your voice unique compared to your peers'? Read your work out loud and see if you can find some of those unique traits in your writing.
  • Write a lot, and in different genres. Writing outside of your comfort zone can draw out some writing tics that may not show up when you're writing in a genre you feel comfortable within.
  • Google, google, google! The internet can be a powerful tool, and there are plenty of resources out there for developing and sharpening your own writing style.

Step #3: Build a Portfolio

A copywriting portfolio is one of the most powerful tools you can have when you're trying to break into the copywriting business.

A portfolio showcases your copywriting skills and allows potential clients and employers to see that you've got what it takes to be a professional copywriter. Your portfolio is your lifeline; it will prove to people that you're legit.

Your portfolio will include samples of the copy you've written. These samples can include blog posts, landing pages, ad copy, social media captions, and more.

Don't have samples yet? Don't worry━we'll cover what to do if you're just starting out later in this article.

Step #4: Start Looking for Jobs!

A good way to begin your copywriting career is by becoming a freelance copywriter. While this isn't the only route you can take, freelance copywriting allows you to work on your own time, which is especially helpful when you're still figuring everything out.

Make sure you have your copywriting portfolio linked on your resume whenever you apply for a job; that way, any potential clients can see your work and decide if you're the right fit for their needs.

It can take a while of searching through job boards and hiring advertisements, but eventually, you will begin to build your copywriting career. Just keep at it!

How to Become a Copywriter with No Experience

Because everyone has to start somewhere, right?

If you truly have no experience, the answer to "how to become a copywriter" is a little bit trickier. However, it's an attainable goal if you're willing to put in the work.

Step #1: Take Copywriting Courses

Not everyone can afford a formal education, and not everyone is able to put their lives on hold to go to school. While going to college for copywriting and marketing is a great avenue, it's not always possible.

Taking copywriting courses, however, usually is.

There are loads of online courses that will grant you online copywriting certifications. Some of these programs are free, while others cost a fee (which is small in comparison to college tuition!).

This is a great way to learn copywriting skills and build a base of knowledge. While it's not mandatory for those wishing to start a career writing copy, it's a fantastic first step.

Step #2: Figure Out What Makes a Great Copywriter

A useful thing to do is to get inside the head of an already-successful copywriter. Figure out what their writing process looks like, how they get in touch with their audiences, and how they manoeuvre working with new brands.

You might be thinking, Okay, but that sounds complicated. I don't know any copywriters.

To that, I say: the internet is your friend.

There are many online forums, question and answer sites, and chatrooms that cater to every interest. There are certainly online communities of writers, and copywriters fit right in there!

Take some time to browse around in those spaces. With time, you'll be able to figure out what makes a good copywriter, and what separates them from the average ones. Most copywriters would be willing to help someone just starting out.

Step #3: Build a Portfolio

This is going to be a much different step than it would be for someone with writing experience.

To build a copywriting portfolio without having written any professional copy, you've got to get creative.

Find a couple of brands you really like, whether that's for their mission statement, brand voice, or design aspects. Once you've picked a brand or two, make up a campaign that you think would align with their company's vision.

And then write! Treat this exercise as a real-life assignment from that brand. Once you've written some professional-level copy for your fake campaign, you've got samples for your portfolio.

Of course, when you add these to your portfolio site, be sure to add a disclaimer explaining that these samples are for a hypothetical campaign, not actually funded by the brand. This won't discredit your work; if the writing is good enough, it will stand on its own.

Step #4: Network

Remember those forum sites you went on to find out how a copywriter thinks? Use those same sites to reach out to fellow writers.

While this may seem awkward, it's really not. Writing may be a solo profession for most, but every successful writer has a full network of other writers they can call on for help.

A good way to initiate conversation would be to ask someone to review your portfolio, or you could offer to review someone else's who needs a bit of help. Add your opinion to different conversations and consider all points of view that are presented.

If you're open to meeting new people, learning new things, and making mistakes, you should be growing your network in no time.

Tips for Copywriting

After all that, we still have some miscellaneous tips for you that will always come in handy, no matter where you are in your copywriting career trajectory.

Without further ado, here they are:

Be open to new mediums:

Don't limit yourself to just social media, or just ad copy. Try every form of copywriting you can, because one day, that skillset will come in handy (whether that's landing you a new job, a new promotion, or a new connection).

Ask yourself what the point of the copy is:

If you can't identify the reason you're writing a piece of copy, chances are, your goals aren't clearly defined.

Be short and sweet:

You just have a few seconds to grab someone's attention. Use eye-catching language that will get your message across in as little time as possible.

Make sure your language matches your audience:

You wouldn't write super formally for a clown college, and you wouldn't be funny for a mortician. Your words have to make sense for your client and their audience, or else your work means nothing.

Final Thoughts on How to Become a Copywriter

Copywriting skills don't grow on trees. They take a long time to develop and sharpen, and you've got to be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to become a copywriter.

Once you've put in that work, however, writing copy is a very fulfilling career. Copywriters influence society; no one is immune from all persuasive writing.

Whether you become a freelance copywriter, a corporate copywriter, an in house copywriter, or you own your own copywriting business, you're sure to enjoy a lucrative career. People hire copywriters for a number of things, so each day can bring something new.

Get out there and write copy! After all, copywriters write.

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Paige Pfeifer

Along with Guest Author

Paige Pfeifer is any number of things, which include a writer, an editor, and QuillBot’s Communications Manager.
There are a few things she is not, like a hater of lists, or a ghost.
She enjoys reading screenplays and listening to any band that used to play Warped Tour.

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