The 411 on becoming a copywriter

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August 24th 2023

The 411 on becoming a copywriter

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We’ll admit it: If there is one career that is super misunderstood (and underrated) – it would probably be copywriting. We get it – just from hearing that word, you can easily associate it with so many things — all of which are wrong. Copyright, content writer and copying something actually have nothing to do with it.

To clear up the confusion, this week on Parallel we’re deep-diving into what a typical Copywriter does during their 9-5, what education is required to get there, what salary you should be expecting and what companies are currently on the hunt for… you guessed it: a Copywriter.

What does a copywriter do?

A copywriter is a professional who creates written content with the sole purpose of enticing and influencing targeted audiences to ‘take action’ — that could be subscribing to a newsletter, buying a product or service, making a call or merely clicking a link. So to an extent, copywriters often act as salespeople of sorts.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll know a copywriter wrote it when you see:

“Join for a free month” “Find out how” “Become an exclusive member” “While stocks last” “Download now” “Book your free consultation”

These are the lines that drive an audience to act – hence the name: “Call-to-Action” (CTA). Every single copy absolutely has to have a CTA. From within the captions of social posts, to the send-off at the end of a newsletter – copywriters actively work to lead the reader to their CTA through strategic use of words. Copywriting is literally everywhere! You just have to know what to look for.

A day in the life of a copywriter

While a copywriter’s day may look the same every day, it involves different types of challenges that require a copywriter to be an open-minded, researching expert with an eye on the calendar for any cultural events to keep their copy on point.

So, let’s give you visuals of what you would do as a copywriter:

  • Developing and executing out-of-the-box content ideas in collaboration with the team

  • Collaborating with Creative Directors, Art Directors and Strategists to devise and deliver clear, concise and compelling digital copy to support the company’s client’s campaigns (if you work in-house)

  • Supplementing writing resources provided with internet research and interviews

  • Understanding and reflecting the “voice” of a variety of clients in different verticals

This career is for you if:
  • You’re an active listener and are always receptive to feedback

  • You understand general human psychology —

    what makes consumers buy a product?

  • You’re a Chameleon! You enjoy working on different projects that require you to summon different personalities to ‘talk’ to different target audiences

  • You have a keen eye for detail and know how to use analytics reports to craft killer copy for campaigns

Education requirements

Although there isn’t a specific degree required for Copywriting, there are related degrees that can definitely help broaden your toolkit when it comes to establishing yourself within the copywriting scene.

From an English or Journalism degree to strengthen your writing and research skills (we’re talking grammar, syntax, style, critical thinking, storytelling techniques, editing and more)! All these are needed for compelling and error-free copy in various formats – it never hurts to be ultra-qualified for a role!

It is also worth noting that copywriting is a dynamic field that often requires additional skills like marketing, SEO and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing digital platforms.

So, does this mean that you are doomed if you do not have any of these degrees? Not at all! Copywriting is one of those careers you can jump into just by taking short courses (try Coursera or Skillshare), reading self-help books like The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly and practicing and displaying spec projects on your portfolio.

Let’s get into the money

Go to any website and read any article about the highest-paying writing jobs and you’ll notice copywriting is one of them! This is mainly because a ton of research, creativity and rounds of edits go into writing copy that will convert. It takes skill!

In the United States, a copywriter makes an average of $60k per year — that’s if you’re hired as a copywriter by a company or agency. However, if you choose to go the freelancing route, you can expect to make around $93k if you charge $45/hr.

Hearing this might make it seem as if the freelancing path is the way, however, you have to take into account that with such high pay, there are certain factors in play that you might not be willing to comprise on… such as stability (which is guaranteed when working for a company than freelancing) and being your tax accountant (yikes).

According to a copywriter

Let’s break the 4th wall for a second and let me share some tips and challenges in this industry… Hi, I’m Mbali — freelance copywriter here at Parallel and if you have made it this far into the post, that means I did a pretty good job at what I do… enticing you to keep reading!

Diving into being a freelance copywriter was such a no-brainer for me because I had been writing pretty much all my life. I run a blog that I launched when I was a teenager so with that I unconsciously and unintentionally gained skills in SEO, researching and marketing (because you have to convince your people that reading your blog will be ‘life-changing’).

So, personally, I would say start there — start by writing articles as though your website/blog is the most reliable source for information (make that your goal)! To add some variety and flex your expertise in different formats, write ads and/or critique them in your articles.

If you are planning on being a copywriter, you cannot run away from writing and what better way to learn and practice than running your own blog? In that way, when you are scouting for clients, your blog will be enough because it will clearly show skills that clients are seeking in a copywriter.”

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