How to Become A Copywriter & Get Hired Quickly
Find out how to become a copywriter in a few easy steps: where to learn copywriting, what career path to choose & how to create a portfolio.
If you clicked on this article, chances are you already know what a copywriter is —and that it’s a very promising career to choose. The demand is high, it’s very creative, and there are multiple paths to choose from within the realm of copywriting. So we’ll skip the whole “what it is and why it’s a good choice” saga, and get right into how to become a copywriter.
We’ll talk about what qualifications you’ll need (if any), what skills you should master, and what the different career paths look like. We’ll then lay out the practical steps in a simple guide, including tips on how to build a copywriting portfolio that’ll get you hired.
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- What qualifications do you need to become a copywriter?
- Skills you need to become a copywriter
- The possible career paths for copywriters
- Simple 4-step guide to becoming a copywriter
Do you want just the gist? Here’s the TLDR;
- You don’t necessarily need a formal degree to become a copywriter, but you will need to master the art of copywriting. It could be through a university degree, by going to a portfolio school, or by completing an online course.
- You should decide what kind of copywriter you want to become. It could be an agency copywriter, an in-house copywriter of a company, or you could go freelance. Finding your niche, either regarding the topic or format, is also helpful.
- Whichever way you choose to go, you need to create a copywriting portfolio. This will prove your copywriting skills and credibility to both potential clients and employers. With more and more copywriters on the market, your portfolio can help you stand out from the crowd.
- To get hired quickly, a strong portfolio will always be essential. If you’re aiming to work in-house, you should also focus on getting recommendations and writing a solid resume. If you want to go freelance, start networking once you got your freelancer website up, and learn how to make a good pitch.
What qualifications do you need to become a copywriter?
Whenever you’re looking at a new possible career, the first thing you ask yourself is: what boxes do I need to check to get hired? This usually includes education, skills, and experience. Let’s start with education and look at the qualifications you need to become a copywriter.
Do you need a degree to become a copywriter?
The shortest answer to this question is no, not necessarily. But as you can imagine, it’s a little more complicated than that.
The precise answer depends on the type of job you’re applying for. While as a freelance writer clients might not care about your formal education, employers often have degree requirements for their applicants.
Corporations, big or small, often ask for a bachelor’s degree from their future copywriters. This could be in English, creative writing, communications, or advertising.
Agencies on the other hand might prefer portfolio schools —though as former Ogilvy creative director Nicky Lorenzo told us in an interview, a strong portfolio and solid writing skills are more important than having that on your resume.
And whether it’s required or not, enrolling in and completing a copywriting (or another kind of writing) course is definitely beneficial when it comes to honing your skills.
Where can you learn copywriting?
There are three main options if you’re looking to enroll somewhere to learn copywriting and improve your writing skills.
The first option is to enroll in a university degree program. As mentioned above, you have multiple options when it comes to majors, all of which can be great foundations for a copywriter career. These are:
- Creative writing
- Professional writing
Which of these you choose could also depend on what type of copywriting you’re most interested in.
If you’re looking at longer-form writing, like SEO copywriting, then English or creative writing would be great choices for you. If you’re interested in the traditional advertising creative world, go for an advertising degree. Do you want to become a freelance writer, helping others grow their business? Then marketing is the way to go!
Some examples of degree programs in the US would be:
- The Creative Writing Program at Carnegie Mellon University
- Advertising BSc at the University of Miami
- Journalism BSc at Boston University
- Writing and Digital Media BA at PennState
- Public and Professional Writing at the University of Pittsburgh
- Marketing: Advertising and Digital Media at the University of Northern Iowa
Portfolio schools are specialized institutions that are dedicated to preparing their students for a career in advertising. They’re called portfolio schools because while they’re teaching you all you need to know about the profession, they’re also giving you practical assignments that you can then use in your very first portfolio.
In portfolio schools, you can typically go in two main directions within advertising, going either with copywriting, or design. Some of the best portfolio schools include Miami Ad School, The Creative Circus, and the VCU Brandcenter.
Online (or local) courses
While they don’t give you a formal degree, and might not be recognized by some companies, online (or smaller local) courses are great for honing your craft and skills. Their biggest advantages are that they don’t take years to complete like university degrees and that you get more specialized knowledge and exercises.
At university, there will always be subjects that are not as practical, or not very closely related to copywriting, or the niche you’re interested in. But when you do single courses, you guarantee for yourself that you’re spending your time and money to study exactly what you’re interested in.
Some great examples of online copywriting courses are:
- SEO Copywriting Certification by Heather Lloyd-Martin
- Creative Copywriting: The Fundamentals by D&AD
- Copywriting Essentials Course by ADMA
- Copy School by Copyhackers
Just make sure you find the form of education that suits you, your goals, and your timeline the best. Having solid writing skills and a good understanding of copywriting principles is essential in becoming a copywriter.
Learning them and gaining the skills is not up for debate —but the how is flexible for future copywriters.
Skills you need to become a copywriter
Qualifications are one thing, and mastering the art of copywriting is another. But actually, it still doesn’t stop there. You’ll need other skills too if you want to become a successful copywriter. Let’s quickly review what those are.
Creativity & thinking outside the box
As a copywriter, being creative and able to think outside the box is essential. Whenever you’re writing, its aim will be to drive action and sales, and as such, the standards are high. To catch the attention of people you’ll have to come up with catchy phrases and new concepts, always brainstorming and producing innovative ideas.
It’s probably the most prominent in the world of advertising, where agencies are competing to win over big brands for their new campaigns. There, copywriters take part in the ideation of concepts as well, alongside their art director partners under the guidance of their creative directors.
Communication skills & teamwork
No matter if you end up freelancing or working full-time, being able to communicate efficiently and work together with others will be a valuable skill to have.
If you’re freelancing, it’ll be your potential and current clients you need to communicate with: pitch and convince them that you’re the one they should go with, do discovery calls and revision meetings. Whether you get referrals in the end, might very well depend on how good your communication with them is.
If you’re working in-house or at an agency, it’ll be your colleagues you collaborate with. Depending on your specific job, it could be an editor, designer, developer, project manager —or even other writers in your team.
Editing & proofreading skills
In a big corporation, you might be working together with an editor, but in most cases, you won’t have a dedicated person for that. At the same time, it’s essential to hand over writing that’s flawless. No typos, grammar mistakes, or strangely phrased sentences are acceptable, so you’ll have to pay special attention to editing and proofreading once you’re done writing.
Sales skills & business knowledge
As we’ve already mentioned, the aim of copywriting is to drive action, aligning with the sales and marketing goals of the company. As such writing skills alone won’t cut it, you need to understand basic persuasion and sales principles to write copy effectively.
And if you’d like to work as a freelancer, at least basic business knowledge will be essential too. Because you’ll be running your own business, which not only includes finding and landing the clients and completing the job, but also contracts, invoicing, dealing with business taxes, and so on.
Time & project management skills
Whether you’re working for a client through your agency, keeping up with the timeline of your corporate tasks, or juggling multiple clients on your own at the same time… You’ll need to have exquisite time and project management skills to complete everything on time —and also stay sane in the process.
Luckily there are tools to aid you in this process, like Notion, Airtable, or Trello, just to mention a few.
The possible career paths for copywriters
We’ve mentioned them here and there, but let’s see more in detail what career options you have within the realm of copywriting. We’ll look at the three main directions you can go in and review the possible career paths for each.
One possible direction would be to get hired full-time by a company to be their in-house copywriter. This means that you’d be working for them exclusively, providing them with whatever copy they might need.
In this job, the topic would always revolve around the company, their products, and the industry they are in —but the formats will vary, especially if you’re the only copywriter of the firm.
Career path for in-house copywriters
The typical career path for copywriters working in-house looks somehow like this:
- Communications/marketing/copywriting intern
- Junior copywriter
- Senior copywriter
- Copywriting team lead
- Head of content/communications
Agency copywriters are also hired full-time as employees, but they get to work on multiple different client projects, as part of a creative team. They typically work together with art directors, who provide the designs to the copy they write.
Agencies hiring copywriters are typically either:
- Advertising agencies working on advertising campaigns (think slogans, billboards, TV spots, and the like), or
- Marketing agencies where copywriters tend to work on marketing materials such as landing pages, email campaigns, social media posts, and PPC ad copy.
Contrary to an in-house copywriter working for a corporation, as an agency copywriter, you’ll work with clients from various industries, therefore writing about many different topics. The formats will still vary, but not as much, as you’ll be limited to the services your agency offers.
Career path for agency copywriters
Your career path, if you want to become an agency copywriter, will look somehow like this:
- Copywriting intern
- Junior copywriter
- Senior copywriter
- Associate creative director
- Creative director
…and if you’re working for a really big agency that’s present in multiple countries, you might even become a global creative director in the end.
When it comes to the career path, the one for freelance copywriters stands out the most from the others. As a freelancer you won’t be going up on a traditional ladder, being promoted by a boss from junior to senior levels.
Sure, once you have 5+ years of experience, you can add the senior title in front of your name, but your career path and your specific job title are essentially your choices.
As a freelance copywriter you are your own boss, so what type of clients you work with and what copywriting services you offer, is up to you. But it’s recommended that you choose a niche, either regarding the topics or the format of your writing.
Later on, if you want to get one step further from writing for clients, you can consider consulting, teaching, or creating and selling online courses.
The advantages of going freelance as a copywriter
Freelance writing has been getting more and more popular over the years, and there’s a reason why: the flexibility and the earning potential far outweigh those of the full-time copywriting jobs above.
Let’s start with flexibility.
As a freelance copywriter, you create your own schedule. If you’re not a morning person and prefer to wake up late, starting work in the afternoon, it’s perfectly fine. If you want to hop around and work a few months from different locations around the world, that’s also possible. Do you want to take a month off of work completely? Done! It’s all up to you.
You just need to keep in mind that you earn as much as you work —so if you take a month off, you’ll lose your income for that time. And if you start work late, it’s only going to be sustainable financially, if you keep going at the end of the workday, still putting in all the work hours. And this actually leads us to…
Finances and the earning potential.
While the average base salary for copywriters is $39k – $77k in the US according to PayScale, many freelance writers earn six figures.
It’s because good copy makes a big impact on a brand’s growth and sales —and they’re willing to pay for it. The more money the copy brings to the company, the bigger the compensation.
When you’re a freelance writer, all that goes to you. However much that is, you’ll have to negotiate yourself though, and here’s where the sales and business skills we mentioned come into play.
When you’re working for a company or agency, it goes to them. No matter how big of an impact your copy makes, you’ll still get the same salary at the end of the month. And although that salary is stable and predictable, its growth potential lags behind that of a freelancer.
The risks of becoming a freelance copywriter
An important aspect of freelancing you need to consider though is the stability —or lack thereof. While being a freelance writer is very flexible, with not having to go to an office and adhere to a set schedule, it also comes with more risk.
As you’re not on a salary, your income will depend on how much work you have that month. And while you might have super busy months with lots of client work, slumps happen, and you need to be prepared for that.
Freelancers also miss out on benefits like health insurance or retirement funds that full-time salaried employees receive.
Simple 4-step guide to becoming a copywriter
By now you probably have an idea of where to get the knowledge you need and what direction you’d like to go into as you become a copywriter. But after all that information it’s time to swing into action.
1. Master the craft of writing & work on your copywriting skills
As the structure of this article already suggested, the first thing you’ll have to do is master the craft of writing and work on your copywriting skills. Whether you do that through completing a university degree, or just taking some online courses and practicing lots, doesn’t matter.
The most important is that by the end you can write confidently about any topic (or the niche of your choice), in certain formats —also knowing the basic principles of copywriting. You should be able to tell what makes good copy, write it yourself, and spot the areas for improvement in any written material.
2. Choose a career path and find your niche
Once you’re confident in your copywriting skills, it’s time to choose a career path and find your niche. Feel free to come back to this article and browse through the previous section again, and think about which direction would be the best choice for you.
Just to quickly recap, you could…
- Be an in-house writer for a company, working full-time, providing them with any copywriting material they need
- Become an agency copywriter, and work with multiple clients as part of a creative team
- Go freelance, and work as a copywriter with your own clients, on your own schedule
3. Create a copywriting portfolio
When the goal is set, the next thing you need to do is create your copywriting portfolio.
Whichever direction you choose to go in, you’ll have to present samples of your work to demonstrate your skills in order to get hired. Because everyone can write “copywriting skills” on their resume, even without it being true.
But both potential clients and employers need to be assured of these claims, and that’s why a strong portfolio is essential.
What if you have no experience?
As this is a “how to become a copywriter”, it’s fair to ask how you could put a portfolio together if you’re not a copywriter yet. But don’t worry, it’s part of the process of becoming one.
Do you remember the first step?
While you’re learning copywriting, whether it’s through a degree program or an online copywriting course, there’s a great chance that you’ll have to complete different assignments. The finished results of these, often reviewed and improved by your instructor, will make perfect pieces for your portfolio.
But if you haven’t done enough of those, or they’re not up to your standards, you still have other choices.
A popular recommendation would be to reach out to friends and family who own a business, and ask if you could help them out with some copy. You could do this for free or for just a token payment —the most important here is to get pieces for your portfolio.
If that’s not an option, you could also make up projects yourself. Think of a brand or product, think of a campaign, and write the copy for it. You can then create a case study detailing your creative process and showcasing the results. If your process and writing are good enough, nobody will care if it was a real paid project or not.
What you should have in your portfolio
You got the pieces —check. But what next? What exactly should a copywriter portfolio have? Let’s go through that quickly.
- A photo and a tagline right at the beginning. When someone lands on your portfolio website, they need to know who you are and what you do right away. A short to-the-point tagline will tell visitors that, while a picture of you will help build a more personal connection.
- Your writing samples. At the end of the day, they’re the stars of the show, so make sure you get them all up right after the photo and tagline. You can create short case studies for each, upload them as a PDF, or link out to pieces that were published online.
- An about me page. As your tagline should be short and straightforward, you won’t be able to include every important detail about yourself and your career there —and that’s okay. That’s what the about page is for. This would also be a great place to add your CV.
- Your contact information. Once someone’s looked through your portfolio, the goal is for them to get in touch with you. And they can only do that if you include your contact information. You can add your email address to the bottom of every page, but you should also create a separate contact page with all possible ways of contact on there.
- For freelancers: a services page. This won’t be relevant for those who aim to work in-house, but for freelancers, it’s crucial. You should detail what kind of services you can be hired for, to set the expectations, and save yourself a lot of back-and-forth emails.
How to create a copywriting portfolio
While some people have their samples as PDF files, or just stored in a Google Drive folder, the most professional way to create a copywriter portfolio is to build a portfolio website.
And the easiest way to do that? It’s by choosing a portfolio website builder like Copyfolio, which was designed for copywriters. A great choice because:
- It’s easy to use and loads quickly, so you won’t have to waste time trying to learn how it works or waiting for screens to load.
- The site comes set up with example pages and sections, so you know what goes where and just have to rewrite them.
- It helps you write case studies: prompts and guiding questions lead your way to describe your projects exactly how recruiters, creative directors, and clients want to see.
- It makes designing your website really quick and easy: templates, color palettes, and font presets guarantee that your site looks great —and you can change up its look with just a few clicks.
Signing up and creating a site takes about two minutes, and it’s absolutely free, no credit card needed —give Copyfolio a try today!
4. Start working on getting hired
As you finish your portfolio, you’re ready to work on finding a job. Although that’s always going to be the cornerstone of your application, there are additional things you can do depending on the career path you chose.
For aspiring in-house copywriters: get recommendations & write a strong resume
If you’re looking to become a company’s in-house copywriter, you’ll likely start with an online application through a job portal or email.
One thing all of the job posts will have in common is that they’re going to ask you for your copywriter resume. And as you’re a copywriter, they’ll expect it to be really well-written. For this type of job, you should go with a reverse chronological resume, including a witty introduction or summary, and a section with all of your other valuable skills.
Don’t forget to add a link to your portfolio somewhere, and customize the CV for each application.
In the eyes of recruiters, recommendations from previous employers, managers, and colleagues go a long way. Ask them to recommend you on LinkedIn and point those out during your interview —or feature them on your portfolio site, ideally on your about page.
For aspiring agency copywriters: build a killer portfolio
For agency copywriters, it really is all about the portfolio. Creative directors looking through your materials won’t care about your resumé —they want to see your writing. Big ideas and out-of-the-box concepts are great, but at the end of the day, it’s your writing skills that’ll tell them about your potential.
So make sure to come up with 4-6 projects and feature them prominently on your portfolio site. Don’t worry too much about your website having an elaborate and unique design. What creative directors want is to be able to find your projects easily.
A pro tip from Gari Cruze (associate creative director, HUGE) for the looks and formatting of your portfolio: “Try to make your portfolio visually interesting because the first thing people look at is the visuals. It draws your eye before you read anything. People always look at the images first.”
For aspiring freelance copywriters: start networking and pitching
Finding a job looks very different for freelancers, as it’s not the usual “submit your CV and portfolio and come to an interview” type of process.
Being a freelancer means you’ll have to get hired over and over again, often actively trying to convince people to work with you, not just answering their questions.
This is how pitching comes into the picture. If you want to become a freelance copywriter, you need to be able to tell potential customers about your services, and essentially, sell yourself.
Developing an “elevator pitch”, which is a short and straightforward version that catches someone’s attention, comes in handy. So try to come up with one, and practice presenting it.
But in order to even have people to present it to, you should also start networking. This means getting in touch with people who might need your services —and other writers too, who could possibly pass down some assignments to you later on.
The more people know about you and your business the better, as you never know where the next big opportunity might come from.
Now you know how to become a copywriter, it’s time to take the first step!
We hope this guide was helpful for you, and you’ll soon take the first steps to reach your goal of becoming a copywriter. Don’t forget to check out Copyfolio for building your portfolio website, and browse through our blog for more useful resources. Good luck!