Copywriters provide writing materials that make up advertising campaigns, marketing materials and websites. Their work combines creativity with marketing skills and a strong awareness of the audiences for a brand or product.
What is a copywriter?
Copywriters provide the written content used in marketing campaigns. This varies from writing on websites through to product descriptions and blog posts. The key underlying difference between a traditional writer and a copywriter is that copywriters usually focus their writing on ‘calls to action’, or motivating a reader to do a particular thing in response to their writing. This could be purchasing a product, signing up to a newsletter or booking a service.
Copywriters usually work in one of two ways. A common route is being employed in house as part of an agency or brand. Alternatively, many copywriters work independently as freelancers. In house copywriters will usually work on a variety of different projects within their company where persuasive writing is needed. Freelance copywriters usually work on set projects for shorter periods of time with various different companies as an external contractor.
Much of your training and development as a copywriter will happen on the job.
Copywriters usually have a particular ‘niche’ they write in. This could be a particular type of product, like food and drink or a writing to a particular market like being a legal copywriter, a fashion copywriter or a finance copywriter. Copywriters usually also specialise in either ‘business to consumer’ (B2C) writing, where a company sells product to an individual, or ‘business to business’ (B2B) writing, where a company focuses on selling their services to other businesses.
Your responsibilities as a copywriter will vary depending on whether you are freelance or employed, as well as any niches you have. Common duties include:
- Holding initial briefing meetings with marketing teams or clients to gather the information required for a particular project, such as key audiences, deadlines, length of copy, and overall marketing intent.
- Planning out copywriting requirements across a project, such as deciding on a set number of online blog posts, social media copy and any print copy.
- Undertaking market research on a product or service being advertised.
- Undertaking search engine optimisation (SEO) research - this involves researching popular key terms related to your marketing campaign or product and including these within your copy with the aim of being seen on search engines.
- Crafting initial drafts for an employer or client, taking into account the project’s brief, SEO and any further expectations from the copy.
- Researching any required images or video content to supplement written copy.
- Taking feedback from a marketing team or client and making edits to initial first drafts (this is also known as copyediting).
- Advise on copy layouts, especially around web and print design, factoring in user usability and user testing if you are a digital copywriter.
- Providing branding advice such as deciding on the best ‘tone of voice’ for a new brand.
- Overseeing budgets for freelance support writers, if employed.
- Business administration, such as organising accounts and client data, if you are a freelance copywriter.
- Providing guidance and consultancy to your wider marketing team, especially if you are provided expert copy in an area you are a specialist in.
A copywriter salary will vary depending on whether you are an employed writer or working on a freelance basis. The closer to major cities you are (especially London) the more likely you are to earn higher figures too. Your earning potential will also vary depending on your niche and level of experience.
As an employed copywriter, the average salary is around £31,000 per year. A junior copywriter salary is likely to be around £25,000, while senior copywriter jobs could earn £45,000 and upwards. You may find that positions in marketing agencies that incorporate copywriting as part of the role could also fetch more.
Copywriter freelance rates vary depending on an individual’s specialisms and experience, such as being an education copywriter or travel copywriter. Some copywriters charge per project, while others charge per word or per hour. The average day rate for a copywriter, where a client or agency books them out for a full days’ work, is £385. Junior copywriters are likely to be closer to £250 per day, while senior copywriters can charge anywhere between £800 and £2000 per day. Freelance copywriters can then take this rough rate into consideration when calculating what they annual salary could be.
While you don’t need to have a degree to become a copywriter, it can be helpful. Copywriting is a popular choice within marketing careers, so having a relevant degree can help you stand out. Graduates may find graduate copywriter jobs as part of graduate schemes.
If you plan to niche in a particular writing topic, having a degree in that area could boost your authority. Generalised degrees linked to communications can also be beneficial.
Examples of relevant degrees include:
- Communications degrees
- English Language degrees
- English Literature degrees
- Journalism degrees
- Linguistics degrees
- Marketing degrees
Alternatively, you could study towards an apprenticeship in marketing to build up your skills in copywriting. Marketing apprenticeships are usually assessed at Level 3, and require around 4-5 GCSE’s at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and maths.
Training and development
Much of your training and development as a copywriter will happen on the job. As you work within a company on different projects, or provide work for clients in different capacities, you will develop your craft and skills.
If you work within an agency or in house for a brand, you will be trained in various areas of copywriting and marketing. This should cover writing styles, tone of voice, branding, search engine optimisation and overall marketing strategies. You will usually be involved in larger marketing meetings, where you will get to learn how your work feeds into wider marketing strategies. You could also request to take part in external training opportunities, such as those offered by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).
Writing experience is vital when applying to copywriter jobs or becoming a successful freelancer.
If you go down the freelance route, you’ll usually need to search for your own training. Again, the CIM offers plenty of online courses, while there are further opportunities with multiple private companies or established freelance copywriters. Many universities also offer short courses in copywriting.
Your skills as a copywriter combine creative craft with an understanding of fundamental marketing principles. These include:
- Creativity - you will need to take a set brief and turn this into interesting, compelling copy to persuade a reader.
- An excellent grasp of the language you are writing in.
- A good knowledge of key terms and vocabulary used in your specific industry, such as educational terms or technical terms that your audience will expect to see.
- A good knowledge of search engine optimisation.
- An understanding of different copy outlets - such as web, print, social media and product copy.
- An ability to research new or unfamiliar topics.
- Excellent written communication.
- Excellent verbal communication, especially for running briefings or meetings with clients or teams.
- Excellent organisational skills - you may be managing multiple projects or clients at once, and you’ll need to deliver to each of them effectively.
- Excellent time management for ensuring you meet delivery deadlines.
- Attention to detail - you’ll need to have a keen eye for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes for editing purposes.
- An understanding of content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress.
Writing experience is vital when applying to copywriter jobs or becoming a successful freelancer.
If you plan to focus on becoming an employed copywriter, it’s a good idea to gain some work experience first. You could reach out to companies or agencies local to you or in your area of interest and ask to shadow their work, in order to gain a better understanding of how a full marketing team ordinarily works.
If you plan to go down the freelance route, you will need a portfolio. This usually includes written pieces to show to potential clients when applying for short term posts or projects. Many freelancers starting out in the field create example pieces of work to show to potential clients, while others offer the skills for free initially to build up a list of previous clients and testimonials. Working for free is debated hotly within the freelancing world, so you’ll need to decide if this is something that sits right with you before offering this.
Your career prospects as a copywriter are varied. You could begin within a company working in copywriting jobs such as a junior copywriter, working your way up through time and expertise to a senior level copywriter.
Copywriters provide the written content used in marketing campaigns. This varies from writing on websites through to product descriptions and blog posts.
Many individuals begin as copywriters within an agency or company. They then expand on their understanding of the marketing profession and take on more senior, broader roles, such as content leads or marketing leads. Many copywriters also begin in employment then go freelance to access part time copywriting jobs that fit better around their commitments.
If you work as a freelance copywriter, with time and experience, you can build out your offerings. You could offer larger packages of writing, or charge more for your work based on your expertise. Some freelancers with a successful track record even set up their own copywriting agencies or marketing agencies, bringing in further expertise from other marketers and taking a more managerial role.