A copywriter is someone who specializes in writing content designed to sell, educate, or otherwise persuade consumers toward greater engagement with a brand. Copywriting can come in a wide variety of forms, both long and short, and usually demands a lot of creativity and flexibility.
Companies of all kinds—in all industries—can hire copywriters or contract them for freelance work, and they are often paid well. Learn more about this field and what it takes to be successful.
What Is a Copywriter?
A copywriter's primary job is to use words to convey a brand's voice and identity in such a way as to persuade consumers toward more engagement with that brand. That engagement might look like signing up for a newsletter, following the brand on social media, or making a purchase. It all depends on the goals for the copy.
Copywriters can also be thought of as commercial writers since their goals are primarily aimed at increasing company exposure and sales. For this reason, they typically command a higher pay rate than other types of writers.
You can find copywriters in advertising, radio, and TV, as well as the written media. Even schools, government organizations, and other nonprofits rely on the work of copywriters.
Although it's common to refer to people who write books as authors, in a broad sense, they are copywriters, too. Today, though, most commercial writers write copy projects much smaller than the time-consuming and disciplined genre of books.
How a Copywriter Works
A copywriter may need to translate any number of complex topics—often laden with jargon—into compelling, attention-grabbing writing. The job involves much more than writing copy. On any given day, a copywriter may spend their time researching, interviewing subjects, brainstorming, meeting with other contributors or subject matter experts, developing a creative strategy, or making edits to previously written content.
Types of Copywriting
Copywriting comes in many different forms. Here are just a few ways an organization might put a copywriter's skills to use:
- Copy for printed marketing collateral (brochures, flyers, print ads, billboards, etc.)
- Website copy
- Blog posts
- Annual company reports
- Technical writing
- White papers
- Social media posts
Characteristics of a Copywriter
The traits needed to be a copywriter are similar, no matter the type of environment in which a writer works. For example, copywriters must be easygoing personalities, as their work is very often criticized, changed, or scrapped. They must be willing to accept others' ideas and edits. They must have a creative streak, especially verbally. Most of all, copywriters must understand how to use and bend the language to capture attention and drive sales. Mastery of language, grammar, tone, and style are all essential skills for a copywriter to develop.
How to Become a Copywriter
A career copywriter will generally begin with a bachelor's degree in marketing. If you're pursuing a copywriting career out of college, the typical path often includes some kind of internship, followed by a directed job search.
This is by no means the only route, however. Many successful copywriters get their start in journalism or even creative writing, and some aren't formally educated in a related field at all. Some find their way into it by developing specialized knowledge in an industry or trade.
One major component of this job search will be the copywriter's portfolio, which is a physical or digital representation of projects/products that they have worked on.
Career Copywriter or Freelance Copywriter?
There are two career moves when it comes to copywriting. Writers can grab traditional jobs in an 8-to-5-workday office setting, either with an ad/creative agency or perhaps even directly with an outlet such as a magazine or newspaper.
On the other hand, writers can strike out on their own, hanging out a shingle as a freelance copywriter. Freelance commercial writers and freelance copywriters are entrepreneurs writing generally any type of copy to make money. They may specialize in certain types of copywriting or a specific set of industries, but they choose their clients and set their rates as they see fit (and as their experience and the market dictates).
How Much Does a Copywriter Make?
According to data from O*Net Online, the average salary for a copywriter in the U.S. was $63,200, or $30.39 per hour, in 2019. Actual pay will vary significantly depending on the type of industry for which you are writing, where a company is located, and your experience level as a copywriter. Overall, copywriting has some of the best salary prospects of any type of writing.
Copywriting vs. Copyrighting
Although the two terms sound the same, "copywriting" should not be confused with "copyrighting." Copyrighting is the process of establishing creative ownership of intellectual material. It determines who owns the rights to a piece of work. The two fields have very little in common, other than the fact that a copywriter may need their work copyrighted.
- A copywriter writes content to sell, educate, or persuade greater engagement between a consumer and a brand.
- They may work directly for a brand or creative agency, or they might freelance and create copy for clients independently.
- Copywriters can create all types of content for brands in nearly any industry.
- Because it is commercial, copywriting typically earns a higher rate than other forms of writing.