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What Is a Copywriter?

Copywriters often work as part of a creative team.
Modern copywriters might be employed to promote websites.
A copywriter might write for a variety of media, from magazines and other publications to television.
Copywriters may produce a summary in an annual report.
Copywriters often have a degree in English, communications or journalism.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Revised By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2014
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A copywriter is the person who comes up with the ideas and words (or "copy") that get an advertising or promotional message across clearly and effectively. Traditionally, a copywriter's job was to create the text for advertisements, promotional brochures, and other public relations communications. As digital media has expanded, copywriters may also focus on writing copy that promotes a product or a website generally. Some web writers who produce more general copy that is not ultimately promotional, however, may be called content writers.

Nature of the Work

Copywriters usually work as part of a team to develop promotional materials designed to sell a product, service, person, or idea. It helps to be skilled with language and very familiar with the industry of the product they are promoting; someone who works for a confectionery company, for example, should know the terminology and be familiar with the products made by the company's competitors. Knowledge of existing ad campaigns, including historic campaigns produced by an employer, is also useful, as it can help a copywriter set a new tone or direction while avoiding past mistakes.

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During a typical project, the copywriter works closely with the client and other creative team members to generate ideas. An art director supervises the process and directs the visual side of the campaign. From those brainstorming sessions comes a working script which will set the tone for the other elements that will set the tone for other modes of information that may be used in conjunction with the copy, including video, music, narration, and acting. Considerations that the creative team should keep in mind include the company’s reputation and mission, the nature of the product, and what kind of message the company wants to send in its advertising. A shoe company, for example, might want a quirky, fun advertisement, while a cancer treatment center might prefer more serious copy.

Choosing Just the Right Word

Careful word choice is important in this field, as is an attention to detail. Copywriters should have a broad vocabulary that allows them to choose precisely the words they want, whether they are writing copy for a merchandising card that will be used in stores or producing a summary in an annual report. Selecting just the right turn of phrase for a slogan can take days or even weeks in some cases. They copywriter should remain sensitive to social and cultural trends to avoid causing offense or confusing readers with bad phrasing.

Copywriters may develop eye-catching slogans, copy for billboards and advertisements, and detailed scripts for radio and television appearances. Some may write write press releases, annual reports, and other informational documents. This can involve working with people like accountants and analysts to turn dry statistics into interesting and informative reading material for shareholders and members of the public.

Working Under Pressure

Many times, a copywriter works under tight space or timing constraints, so a degree of creativity and the ability to think under pressure is a helpful trait. Clients can also be very demanding and expect constant communication on the progress of a project. Good verbal communication is useful for copywriters and their teams so they can work smoothly and efficiently, both together and with clients.

Education and Experience Requirements

A good copywriter usually has a strong background in English and/or journalism. High school students with an interest in this field may want to consider working for the school newspaper and taking writing electives. In college, majors like journalism, advertising, or English are all good choices for career development. To get more experience, students may want work at a college newspaper or magazine and pursue internships with advertising firms and other companies that use copywriters.

A college degree is not required to become a copywriter, but it can be useful. Entry-level positions may pay slightly more for applicants with college degrees because of their higher skill level, and college can provide an opportunity to gain experience and to network, which may be helpful later in a copywriter's career. Experience is key for most positions; many well-paid jobs require at least three to five years of experience at a large copywriting firm. Knowledge of digital media can also be a helpful skill to cultivate for people interested in pursuing careers in this area.

Career Prospects

Positions in advertising agencies can offer steady pay and mentoring, along with opportunities for advancement over time. A copywriter working for a high-end professional advertising agency can do quite well financially, particularly in a lead role. Copywriters can also work in the advertising department of a specific company, handling particular product lines or brands. Others work as freelancers and independent contractors who provide services when needed, which can offer flexibility in terms of hours and pay.

Career development doesn’t have to stop with becoming a copywriter. Many people who hone their writing skills as copywriters move on to journalism, writing books, editing, and other jobs. Some notable writers including Salman Rushdie, Dorothy Sayers, and Don DeLillo got started in copywriting.

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Discuss this Article

anon290518
Post 31

A huge part of copywriting is engaging with an audience that you know well. Many describe it as a conversation that is directly related to your people skills. Your ability to know people and having a personality or persona that people like or at least respect is critical. That’s been the case offline and is still the case online.

Typically, engagement happens once rapport is established with a person, but a few basic skills like good writing and grammar are critical. That will, after all, be judged against any product or promotion that you’re presenting. But personality is key. People don’t engage well with boring people and they won’t with a boring sales pitch or promotion either. An authentic, friendly attitude can be the ticket to better conversions.

anon226878
Post 30

I have a background in journalism and need to find a new job. I would like to know more about this.

Wordfruit
Post 27

I think it's important to add that copywriting is about Selling.

The late John E. Kennedy called it "Salesmanship in print".

Of course, copy is on screens and in voiceovers too -- not only in print.

Anybody who is learning about copywriting will do well to bear in mind that the number one job a copywriter has to do is to Sell their client's product.

anon169905
Post 24

What type of degree do you need? What colleges are best? How do you get started in the business? When you hire creative writers/directors, do you have to pay?

anon145189
Post 23

Great article. It really clarified a lot. I am a creative writing major who is looking for ways to build on my talent. I searched for and found a Copywriting internship with an ad agency. Upon being given a rigorous grammar test, I was accepted.

So, my advice to those desiring to enter into a career as a copywriter is: make sure your grammar is tight, and also consider an internship; it could provide good exposure and experience.

anon143088
Post 22

There are very few really creative copywriters out there.

anon120654
Post 21

Great article! I am asked this same question a lot, and my response is usually "I'm like a graphic designer... but I use words."

I did notice a few problems, however. First of all, you mentioned that some copywriters can "advance" into an editing career. I view this as backward, because proofreading and editing is only a fraction of our job as a copywriter. (General freelance writing is a little different.)

Secondly, I'm not sure what you meant about some copywriters having a job as a voice over talent, or how this is relevant.

In any case, copywriting is a great career, if you are really passionate about it. Also, be sure to maintain a unique brand.

anon119274
Post 20

It's good to find an article addressing the common question of "what is a copywriter?"

I stumbled into copywriting and did so 100% within the virtual world.

I am a high school dropout and have no formal post-secondary education whatsoever. I did exceptionally well in English and language arts classes throughout my school years. I was advanced from the 7th grade and attended high school a year early, where I received an effortless 4.0 GPA my first semester. I became bored with school and decided to quit.

I'm now in my early twenties, and work from home as a copywriter and personal assistant for a company that is based in south america. I do press releases and rewrite content intended for membership sites. My employer is not a native English speaker, which makes me and my services that much more valuable to the company as a whole.

I have outstanding english skills, grammar, punctuation, spelling and word choice. These are the only skills I possessed and I used the internet exclusively to post my services on several free websites. My current employer approached me with the job offer and I didn't have to job search at all.

Part of my success has been luck, obviously. But I have backed up everything with hard work and strong language skills.

Anything is possible. Don't give up and make sure you put yourself out there or nothing will ever happen!

anon102534
Post 19

In reply to post no9:

"Copywriters are undervalued, and somewhat unknown professionals, especially in the minds of small business owners - most don't know (they don't know what they don't know) the value of what they're missing from a copywriter's expertise, so they don't know to ask for one."

In my humble opinion, it would greatly benefit copywriters to rename their profession. The term copywriter doesn't actually explain what they do in any way. I didn't know the term until now and would have never guessed!

Hence, small business owners do not know they need your services, but they might know they need help with the wording of their marketing/sales material.

ajaymenghani
Post 18

Thanks for this nice piece of information. it helps me a lot.

anon80953
Post 17

This article gives me some concept of being a copywriter. I'm now being a copywriter. I hope some professional copywriters can share your experience here.

anon77459
Post 16

Copywriting is a great profession. I have been in sales (consumer, in-home)and I have owned my own handyman business. By far the best move I ever made was becoming a copywriter. It requires only a self taught education and a driving curiosity about the subject you are writing for at the moment.

And yes, the pay can be very good indeed.

bluepencil
Post 15

This is an excellent article, thanks. Online copywriting is really taking off, so there are lots of opportunities around. I only became a full-time copywriter recently after eight years working in law. So don't worry - there are always spaces for enthusiastic new copywriters!

anon66466
Post 14

At my writer's organization, we have transitioned from freelance projects to working for larger companies, ad agencies and marketing companies. The reason is that the freelance writing market in the U.S. has been hijacked to a large degree by low-ball bidders.

Too many who seek out content writing are satisfied with mediocre writing and the fees have dropped substantially. New writers should seek out work with ad agencies, as the article mentions, to make a reasonable living.

anon65856
Post 13

This is an answer for post no. 5: they said, "I have done my IATA and currently have a confirmed job in an MNC -Travel Agency but i seem keen in joining a advertising industry i don't hold a strong english speaking back ground but have a good command in english, have a hobby in creativity as well as don't mind hard work as long as i enjoy the work please guide me if this could be the right move.

- anon18835" -

I see at least 13 errors in this single paragraph that you wrote? Spelling, punctuation and grammar are very, very important for a writing type job! (Don't you agree?) You may want to look at a different profession!

anon57202
Post 12

I profoundly desire the profession of copywriting. My education is the dept. of English Literature from Dhaka College, Bangladesh.

How can I change my profession? now i'm working in marketing (Circulation dept.) of a national daily independent. How could I change my profession and become a good copywriter? please give some way and tips.

anon48767
Post 11

I'm a copywriter and I don't find much of the work to be "routine." When you're passionate abut your job, it's all exciting! Tim Bete.

anon48379
Post 10

I have over 10 years' experience as a copywriter in Indonesia. Are there any who are interested in hiring me?

anon43960
Post 9

As ideal as it is, the first sentence of the definition at the top of this page is inaccurate. "Whenever you hear a 30 second spot on the radio or read the words in a magazine print ad, a copywriter is responsible."

The sad thing is, most of the time a non-copywriter is actually the one who creates the copy/content for filling that advertising space/time. It is generally the business owner, a few collaborative minds from the company, or the sales person that sold the advertising space/time. It's evident all around.

Copywriters are undervalued, and somewhat unknown professionals, especially in the minds of small business owners - most don't know (they don't know what they don't know) the value of what they're missing from a copywriter's expertise, so they don't know to ask for one.

It goes without saying - If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me "what's a copywriter?", I'd probably be on vacation more.

anon42381
Post 8

I want to know what steps to take to become a copywriter. i have endless ideas, i am super creative, i come up with slogans and random ideas off the top of my head. i know i would be successful.

anon40020
Post 7

This is a very helpful article.

I am a copywriter who specialises in content that draws in large numbers of traffic (articles and blog posts) and often I am told by direct response copywriters that I'm not a copywriter unless I am writing sales copy (which I also do).

I shall point them here in future ;) Thanks! Leah

tinkerbelle
Post 6

Is there a position for a freelance copywriter without a degree? I can write very well and I have had some writing experience.

anon18835
Post 5

I have done my IATA and currently have a confirmed job in an MNC -Travel Agency but i seem keen in joining a advertising industry i don't hold a strong english speaking back ground but have a good command in english,have a hobby in creativity as well as don't mind hard work as long as i enjoy the work please guide me if this could be the right move.

anon18595
Post 4

Funny you should ask! I recently applied for a copywriting position in a local agency and was accepted-- despite not having completed my degree, and the fact that I am a psychology and fine arts major.

I saw the job and wanted it. I went after the position with the ferocity of a wildcat and sought out CREATIVE ways to capture their attention.

Don't give up! Be persistent and be creative. If you don't have the experience, but know you can do the job-- show them!

anon18277
Post 3

I am pursuing a BA in communications and am interested in copywriting for the experience and believe it will be something that I enjoy. Is it possible that employers will want to hire me despite my not having a degree just yet?

anon15520
Post 2

Hi, I am a science graduate and a have degree in Fashion management. I am quite interested in the art of copywriting. I have done some assignments as a freelancer. Is there any scope in copywriting for me? My communication skills are not pretty good but i have a good knowledge of English and can write well.

alexnkc
Post 1

im just curious to know that if someone has a ba in English and they considered a job in advertising, could they easily get into that field?

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