Continuing our ‘guest blogger’ thread we’re off to Mayfair 2017 by way of 1960s Madison Avenue to get the inside dope on careers in copywriting courtesy of Daniel Ramirez, Creative Director and Senior Copywriter at Rule of Three. Without further ado…

Copywriting: a creative career for graduate writers

Image: Peggy and Don, copywriters

Passionate about writing, creativity and ideas? Then a rewarding career as a copywriter might be for you. So, what is copywriting, what kind of career can you expect and how do you get your foot in the door?

The UK’s creative industry is worth a record £84.1 billion to the UK economy. And it desperately needs fresh talent. However, there’s a common misconception – the glamorous allure of a creative career should only be pursued by students of the visual or musical arts.

Wrong.

There’s an entire career path in the creative industry that is often overlooked: the professional copywriter – a role immortalised in Mad Men’s Don Draper and Peggy Olsen. Copywriters are the talent that develops the ideas and writes the words for all kinds of ‘creative work’. More than ever, the UK creative industry needs minds bursting with ideas, enthusiasm and a passion for popular culture and writing. In other words, people like you.

What is a copywriter?

Along with graphic design, copywriting is one of the fundamental creative commercial disciplines. Copywriters are essentially writers who create ‘copy’. What is ‘copy’? Traditionally, copy referred to any text for print. Chiefly for advertising, marketing and promotional purposes. However, the world has evolved, and the task of a copywriter has become far broader than ever before, also encompassing any content used in the digital sphere.

What does a copywriter do?

Copywriters create ideas, concepts and text for, well, anything… scripts for TV ads or videos, advertising campaigns, digital content, websites, apps, straplines, brochures, speeches, manuals, white papers, reports, marketing collateral, promotional materials… the list is virtually endless. A copywriter will often work closely with an art director to ensure that the concept, images and words work together as a cohesive, effective whole.

Who needs copywriting?

Every type of organisation that needs to communicate. So, that’s pretty much every entity in every sector – brands, media organisations, businesses, charities, public and private sector organisations…

What career options will you have as a copywriter?

The scope of copywriting careers is vast – from the highly creative (ideas and concepts for big campaigns) to highly specific (technical or medical copywriters who write specialised content). Here are some of the avenues commonly available to professional copywriters:

  • Agency copywriters – agency copywriters are very creative. They will work with a wide range of clients. Junior copywriting positions are the entry point.
  • Charity and non-for-profit – charities and non-for-profit organizations need great copywriters to communicate important ideas, raise awareness and generate engagement from the public.
  • In-house copywriters – many organisations will employ copywriters directly to create their content. This can be a more stable option for many copywriters who want to focus their talents within one organisation.
  • Freelance/self-employment – freelance copywriters get to be masters of their own destiny. This is an option that is best pursued once you have some experience and built some industry contacts. As with any entrepreneurial pursuit, the rewards for going it alone can be great (as are the risks). You’ll need to get organised, managing your time and finances, and securing a regular stream of clients. Essentially freelancers work with any kind of client on a project-by-project basis.

How much can you expect to earn?

That’s the million-dollar question and a lot depends on the route you take. But on average, a junior copywriter can expect a starting salary of around £20K. As your experience and skills grow, so will the demand for your services and your earning potential. Experienced copywriters tend to earn salaries in the higher tax bracket and in-demand freelancers can command six-figure incomes.

What skills does a copywriter need?

Copywriters need to be:

  • Creative thinkers (you need to come up with great ideas).
  • Good researchers (you could be writing about absolutely anything – so you need to dive in and become an expert, fast).
  • Empathetic (you need to connect with and engage your audience).
  • Able to communicate complex ideas concisely (you are often limited for space).
  • And, of course, you need to be an exceptional writer. Obviously.

What kind of academic background should a copywriter have?

The copywriting profession will appeal to a broad range of graduates and provides you with a platform to turn your skills into a rewarding career. Copywriters often have degrees in English, journalism, business studies, cultural studies, media and design.

How can you get your first break?

You will develop the fundamental skills required – namely writing, research and creative thought – during your academic studies. However, you are unlikely to cover the contemporary principles of copywriting in your formal studies.

Before taking your first step into employment, you should familiarise yourself with the main practitioners of the discipline – you will find many books by master copywriters, so familiarise yourself with the work and techniques of celebrated creatives, such as Claud C. Hopkins, David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach.

Junior copywriting positions can be found on all the usual job sites. Make sure your CV is flawless. If you are ambitious, you can approach agencies directly. To demonstrate your skills, you will need to put together a portfolio. Initially, you can gather some experience by writing guest blogs, and pieces based on imaginary briefs or rewriting existing ads. Creative Directors are looking for talent, so demonstrating the quality of your ideas is a great way to get their attention.

Words by Daniel Ramirez

Creative Director & Senior Copywriter at Rule of Three Copywriting Studio

Dan Ramirez Creative Director & Senior Copywriter at Rule of Three Copywriting Studio