Copywriters produce the promotional, informative and persuasive text used in marketing material, advertising campaigns and on websites. The job of a copywriter is to use text to bring concepts to life, often working closely with artistic directors to convey a message as effectively and persuasively as possible.
Copywriting involves promoting a business, an idea, an opinion or even a person, using words to convey a specific message. Copywriters create the text used in a wide variety of print and electronic material. They are responsible for coming up with ideas for textual content, liaising with clients, researching, writing copy and proof reading. Copywriters work closely with visual creatives and clients to understand the message and bring it to life. They are most commonly found in the advertising agency but with the emergence of the web there are now many more opportunities for copywriters to use their skills. Depending on the nature of the business they work in, copywriters could be required to write press releases, slogans, scripts for radio and television commercials, tag lines, jingles and web content.
The salary of a copywriter varies depending upon the nature of the industry they work in but typically it ranges from £18,000 to £25,000 a year with experienced copywriters earning as much as £50,000 per annum.
Copywriters are responsible for:
- Attending briefing meetings with clients
- Brainstorming and creating ideas that fit a brief
- Presenting those ideas to a creative director, editor or account team
- Presenting creative ideas to the client and making changes if required
- Gaining an understanding of the specific audience group the client is intending to reach
- Gaining an understanding of the client’s competitors and reading the marketing and promotional material produced by competitors
- (In advertising) ensuring that adverts comply with code of advertising practice
- Ensuring that text is original and not plagiarised from other sources
- Writing fluent, readable content for advertising, websites or marketing material
- Researching and gathering information, ensuring facts are straight before writing
- Proofreading copy to ensure the copy is grammatically and factually accurate
- Liaising with other ‘creatives’ such as photographers, web designers, graphic designers, production companies and printers on the visuals to accompany the textual material
There are no specific qualifications required for being a copywriter but a degree in a related subject is usually expected. Degrees in journalism, English, media studies or marketing are all relevant to the role of a copywriter. There are also a number of more specific courses available such as advertising, or marketing degrees and diplomas which usually include specific copywriting training.
Copywriters must have a way with words and a good imagination for creating informative and engaging copy. They must also have:
- An excellent command of the English language and a good knowledge of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- The ability to write in varying styles and assume different tones according to the needs of the project and the target audience
- Excellent communication skills
- The ability to work independently and as part of a team
- The ability to work to deadline and to work well under pressure
- Good attention to detail
- Good research skills
- A knowledge of the messages that will persuade people to buy (an idea or product)
- The ability to solve problems
- A genuine interest in the client’s products and services
- The ability to deal with criticism and sometimes even rejection
Experience is crucial for finding work as a copywriter: employees are usually required to have a portfolio of material to prove to employers that they are able to write fluently and accurately for various purposes. It is worthwhile undertaking a voluntary placement in an advertising agency or marketing company – a good way to gain experience of copywriting and build up contacts for future employment.
Advertising and marketing agencies are the major employers for copywriters, but copywriters could also find work with newspapers, department stores, broadcasters, cable providers, magazines, PR firms and web developers.
In-house copywriters typically work from 9am – 6pm Monday – Friday although overtime may be required during busy periods. Copywriters are usually based in an office although they may be required to travel to meet clients or designers. Alternatively, many copywriters work on a freelance basis, from home or travelling between organisations.
Working as a copywriter allows plenty of opportunities for career progression. With experience copywriters can progress to a management role within an advertising or marketing agency, having more responsibility for business decisions within the organisation. Copywriters could also set up on their own, developing a range of clients for whom they produce copy.
Also known as…
- Advertising Copywriter
What’s it really like?
Gill Howard is 23 and has worked as a copy writer for two years. She gives us the inside story …
I began working as a copywriter whilst undertaking an MA at the University of Leeds. Since graduating I have worked part time for an art gallery and as a freelance copywriter for Fubra Limited a successful web development company which manages a varied portfolio of websites. My work as a copywriter involves writing guides, articles and blogs for various web projects which will inform web visitors and help make sites as fluent and readable as possible. As well as working for Fubra I have also written copy for other one-off projects, most recently for the Science Museum’s Christmas catalogue which involved writing persuasive texts about various catalogue products.
Before I got my job as a copy writer I completed a BA in History of Art and A Levels which included English Literature. I have always enjoyed writing and whilst I was studying I volunteered for the Leeds Student, completed a work placement at a local paper and wrote content for a national arts website.
As a copywriter I have valued the opportunity to develop my writing abilities and to write about various subjects for a wide audience. It is difficult to describe a typical day at work as it all depends upon the projects I am writing for. I usually spend a significant amount of time gathering information, usually by carrying out web-based research where I consult various web-sites to gain a good knowledge of the subject I am writing on. I then set to work writing a travel guide, perhaps, or a news blog for one of Fubra’s website – recently I have written a number of blogs for Fubra’s airport news site, but I have also written on sport, property, and various environmental issues. Before I submit the text for editing I have to proof read what I have written – this is very important as the editor will have more work to do if there are a lot of silly mistakes!
Working as a copywriter I like the fact that I get to develop my writing skills and learn about subjects (boxing for example) which are unfamiliar to me! I like working in a creative role and using words to communicate information. It’s nice to contribute to websites which will educate and inform audiences and I enjoy the process of researching, writing and proofing an article. On the downside it can sometimes be a bit of a drag if the subject you are writing about is not a personal interest – although I generally find that the process of writing illuminates a subject in unexpected ways!
To anyone thinking of doing this job I would advise that they get as much relevant experience as possible. An enthusiasm for writing and a commitment to gaining work experience is a massive plus in the field, as finding work can be very competitive. Volunteering for a student paper or undertaking a work placement in an advertising agency or even a local rag is a great way of developing contacts and giving you the advantage when applying for jobs. A degree in an arts subject such as English or media studies will also be a big bonus as experience writing and a commitment to the sector will always be valued highly by future employers. Working as a copywriter has already helped me in my career development – in my current role as Audience Development Officer in an art gallery I write copy for various purposes, press releases as well as copy for marketing and PR material. I have also had a couple of writing commissions for more specialist magazines which I know is down to the experience I have had as a copywriter.