Career Explainer: What Does a Copywriter Do? (2023)

Copy is the text used to sell products in advertising and marketing and copywriters are the professionals who create this copy. Copywriting is a centuries-old craft. One of the oldest surviving advertisements in English was printed on a small sheet of paper in 1477 by William Caxton, who wrote ad copy to sell a handbook for priests.

Modern copywriting evolved alongside newspapers and magazines and has adapted to every communication innovation since—from television and radio to the internet and social media. Whenever you pass a billboard, watch a commercial, scan a magazine advertisement, or scroll past a promoted social media post, a professional copywriter created the words you see or hear.

These words are carefully selected and arranged to encourage, convince, inspire, and/or educate readers and listeners so that they’re more likely to:

  • Buy a product
  • Buy a service
  • Take an action (register for a site or service, call for more information, visit a store or website, etc.)

I started my writing career as a journalist, which is a common route to copywriting. For the past 15 years I’ve worked as a copywriter for a digital marketing agency and in-house marketing departments and also as a freelancer. Copywriting is a fun career that offers day-to-day variety and collaboration. It requires a self-starter’s mindset, a love of language, and strong listening skills.

Read on to learn more about other essential qualities of a copywriter, the tasks they typically tackle, and the core skills and training needed if you want to pursue a career in copywriting.

(And if you’re looking for open positions, you can search for copywriter jobs right here on The Muse!)

What Is a Copywriter and What Do They Do?

Days, weeks, or months can go into creating copy for ads and marketing campaigns, and the actual writing (as in fingertips to keyboards) is only part of a copywriter’s job. The job responsibilities of a copywriter can include:

(Video) What is Copywriting? (Copywriting 101 For Beginners)

  • Brainstorming and creating concepts for advertisements and marketing campaigns—often working in partnership with a graphic designer
  • Writing copy for various formats and media
  • Pitching ad and marketing campaign concepts to clients or company decision-makers
  • Researching products, services, customers, website search trends, competitors, and entire industries
  • Developing brand voices or adapting copy to an established brand voice
  • Analyzing campaign results to guide future copywriting strategies
  • Editing and revising—writing means rewriting and copywriters are responsible for taking direction from stakeholders and reworking copy through multiple drafts until it’s on target

What Do Copywriters Write?

Copywriters compose the words, phrases, taglines, sentences, and paragraphs that sell products and services. As a copywriter you could write business-to-business (B2B) copy for companies selling goods and services to other companies, business-to-consumer (B2C) copy for companies that sell their products through a retail business, or direct-to-consumer (D2C) copy for companies that sell directly to customers through a website.

Your writing may appear in or on:

  • Print ads (newspapers and magazines)
  • Social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc.)
  • Scripts for radio and podcast ads or any spoken advertising—typically with voice-overs by announcers, show hosts, or actors
  • TV and streaming service ads in the form of scripts, on-screen words, and taglines
  • Websites (homepages, category pages, landing pages, product descriptions, ‘About’ pages, etc.)
  • Billboards and posters alongside the highway and in public transportation hubs, for example
  • In-store signs that drive awareness about specific products and sales in the store

What Is the Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing?

Copywriting and content writing overlap and the roles are often confused. However, their core objectives are different.

In copywriting, the goal is usually to make the sale. The writing is often medium or short form (e.g., the “Got Milk?” campaign) and has a clear, simple message meant to inspire action (e.g., milk is healthy, grab a gallon). Often copywriting directly addresses a customer problem, promises entertainment, or evokes an emotion. For example, the “Share a Coke” campaign put different first names on Coke cans to inspire positive thoughts of friendship.

The purpose of content writing, on the other hand, is educating, helping, or entertaining existing and prospective customers. This copy is usually longer form, such as blog posts, articles, or scripts and text for how-to videos. The main goal of content marketing is to deepen brand relationships, establish topic-area expertise, and confirm that a product, service, or company is the customer’s best choice.

Keep in mind there is significant overlap in these positions and copywriter roles often include long-form content. When searching for copywriter jobs, pay close attention to the job responsibilities so you know what type of writer a company is seeking.

Key Facts About Copywriters

(Video) What is Copywriting? The ABCs of Copywriting for Beginners

Let’s get down to the details and talk about pay, work environment, and more.

Where Do Copywriters Work?

All companies that advertise or market their products or services need copywriters to ensure they capture attention and inspire sales. You could work as a copywriter in any industry you can imagine, including alternative energy, fashion, technology, media, waste management, space tourism, and more.

No matter the product or industry, there are three common options for how you’ll be employed as copywriter:

  • On an in-house marketing team: As an in-house copywriter you work directly for a company as a member of its marketing team. You’ll help develop the company’s marketing strategy and write copy for its marketing campaigns and advertisements. In-house teams are growing, according to a 2020 survey of marketers by Digiday, which found that 83% were handling marketing mostly or completely in-house, rather than hiring external advertising and marketing agencies.
  • For an advertising or marketing agency: Agency copywriters develop ad or marketing campaign pitches to win outside clients and then execute on their successful pitches. With an agency, you’ll write for client companies you don’t work for—often for multiple at a time.
  • For yourself as a freelancer: Freelance copywriters work under contract or on a project basis.

Can Copywriters Work Remotely?

Yes. Copywriters can work remotely and many were already work-from-home veterans before the world went into lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. (You can search for remote copywriting jobs right here on The Muse!)

How Much Do Copywriters Make?

Income for copywriters varies significantly based on what your experience level is, which geographic location you’re in, and whether you’re an employee or a freelancer. According to PayScale, the average salary for a copywriter is $53,154, but jumps to $63,055 in New York, while the average salary for a senior copywriter is $75,656 but only $63,465 in Phoenix. Experienced, in-demand copywriters can reach six or even seven figures.

What Is the Outlook for a Copywriting Career?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 2% decline in jobs for all writers and authors between 2019 and 2029. The emergence of artificial intelligence copywriting technology has raised concerns about the future of copywriting specifically. But AI is meant to support—not replace—human wordsmiths. And as long as companies need to communicate the value of their product or service, they’ll need support from copywriters.

How Can You Become a Copywriter?

You must be a strong writer to become a copywriter, but that’s not the only necessary skill. You also have to come to the table with ideas, a strong point of view, adaptability, and strong listening skills, says Susie Felber, Global Content Director for consumer health electronics company Withings and a former editor of mine.

To develop these skills, start working as a copywriter. Pursue the education and training that supports a copywriting career (we’ve outlined them in the next section!), but remember that there’s a trial-and-error aspect to being a copywriter and the best way to learn is by doing. So seek internships as soon as possible, apply for entry-level copywriting positions, learn from more senior copywriters, and find a mentor willing to help you grow your problem-solving and interpersonal skills.(Remember, you can find open copywriter internships and entry-level jobs on The Muse!)

(Video) What Is Copywriting? How Do You Get Into It?

What Education, Training, or Certifications Do You Need to Become a Copywriter?

There’s no one single route to a copywriting career but as far as education requirements, most copywriting job postings include a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Some of the most helpful degrees for copywriters are:

  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Journalism
  • English
  • Creative writing
  • Education

For more specialized industries (such as medicine, pharmaceuticals, engineering, or technology), companies may seek copywriters with a background in that field in addition to proven writing skills.

Certifications aren’t typically required for copywriters, but there are many available to help you advance your skill set and help you stand out to companies and hiring managers.

Some continuing education certificates to consider earning include:

What Skills Do You Need as a Copywriter?

If you’re serious about pursuing copywriting, it helps if you write consistently, even if it’s not professionally. So definitely work to hone your writing skills as you prepare for your career—and once you’re already in it. Like most things, writing improves with practice.

So strong writing skills are essential, but this is also a career where soft skills rise to the top. You need to learn diverse subjects and industries quickly so you can write about them with confidence, which requires a blend of curiosity and tenacity on top of the ability to pinpoint relevant data. “I look for someone who is deeply interested in almost anything,” Felber says. “Copywriters who have a strong journalism or education background are often curious people who go the extra mile and enjoy finding a story in anything and everything. You may dream of selling a novel, but you’ll find enjoyment even when writing about dog beds or atrial fibrillation.” With these skills, you’re more likely to create engaging copy that addresses the issues that matter most to your target audiences.

Some important soft skills for copywriters are:

  • Ability to take direction
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence
  • Fast learning abilitywith a growth mindset
  • Flexibility and open-mindedness
  • Intuition
  • Persuasive communication
  • Sense of humor

You’ll also need certain hard skills—the specific knowledge or abilities you’ll use to do a job. Writing is an obvious hard skill all copywriters need, but a strong foundation of marketing skills is also important. Copywriters are expected to be strategic marketers as well as creative thinkers, especially as they gain experience. So you need:

  • Writing and wordsmithing skills, including copywriting-specific skills and knowledge
  • Research skills
  • Knowledge of spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Knowledge of strategic marketing
  • Basic SEO skills
  • Familiarity with content management systems
  • Familiarity with digital publishing platforms
  • Knowledge of social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)

Marketing is an ever-changing field, so you’ll also want to be sure to keep up to date on marketing trends and emerging marketing technology as part of your ongoing professional development.

Should You Become a Copywriter?

I love copywriting and am grateful I have the opportunity to write about a variety of topics every day. I’ve written about marketing, meditation, nook decorating, dog howls, and much more. It’s fun to find the words that spark interest, pause the scroll, and drive sales. If you’re a creative, curious writer with a growth mindset and a knack for problem-solving—you may find copywriting is a career path you’ll love, too.

Copywriting is also a challenging, high-pressure career. In addition to writing on tight deadlines, the success of your writing is determined based on metrics, such as sales figures, click-through rates, and conversion rates, so you need to be willing to adjust your work to accommodate these factors. “A great copywriter will have to be open to feedback and willing to make edits and modifications—even if it’s not what they think is best,” says Emma Cimolin, marketing director of B2B delivery software company Routific. “They understand that it is what is best for the client and their needs.”

To keep the stress in check, it’s important that you’re a strong writer who loves the writing process, takes direction well, and can write and revise quickly. “Copywriters can’t be precious about their words,” Felber says. “One with experience knows that your first idea, second, or even third—are rarely your best. Really listening to the client, internal or external, helps you bring their vision to life.” When hiring copywriters, Cimolin looks for candidates with empathy who can understand and write genuinely about audience pain points. Like Felber, she looks for flexibility and a dash of humility. “A great copywriter will need to check their ego at the brief,” she says.

Think back on jobs you’ve had in the past. Did you ruminate on negative feedback from bosses? Did you have trouble shifting gears when required? Or did you see constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn and improve? If you said the latter, you have the temperament to match the job. Responding to constructive criticism and changing course are daily—even hourly—requirements for copywriters.

(Video) Practical Copywriting Course for Beginners [FREE COURSE]

How Can You Land a Job as a Copywriter?

To land a job as a copywriter, you need to sell yourself! Throughout the application and hiring process, you’ll need to share your education and experience while also demonstrating with every piece of your application that you’re a clear communicator, persuasive writer, and solid grammarian.

Before applying for copywriting jobs, be sure to polish your job hunt “calling cards” and skills:

  • Resume: The copy on your resume should be clear and compelling—like your ad copy will be once you get the gig.
  • Cover letter: Consider your cover letter one of the first writing samples someone who hires you is going to see. This is your opportunity to tout achievements from previous positions and demonstrate your stellar wordsmithing skills.
  • Portfolio: Gather a variety of your best writing samples and share them in an online portfolio or on your copywriter website. Include links to your portfolio on your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other sites hosting job-hunter profiles.
  • LinkedIn and/or freelance marketplace profiles: Most of my current clients found me through LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is detailed and includes links to your copywriting portfolio, copywriter-specific keywords (i.e., copywriting, digital marketing writer, paid-search ad copywriter, etc.), recommendations from peers and former bosses, and a professional but friendly headshot. If you’re going the freelance route, build a compelling profile on top freelance marketplaces—but be sure to do your research and be wary of undervaluing your work, taking assignments that don’t match your skills, or taking on too many clients.
  • Interviewing skills: Know the specific skills, responsibilities, and experiences each job description requires, so you can share your ability to meet these expectations when answering interview questions. For example, you might share stories about how you took direction and changed your copy approach or how you put yourself in the shoes of customers. Prepare for your interview thoroughly so you’re more relaxed and able to share your capabilities with clarity and confidence.

Finally, if you want to make your way into copywriting you need to network, network, network! Do you have family or friends in marketing? Reach out to them for informational interviews or career guidance. Join your state’s chapter of the American Marketing Association and attend their trainings and happy hours. Marketers are a social bunch and networking is an important part of career development in the field. You never know who will become a mentor, know of a job opening, or have a colleague who’s hiring copywriters.

If you have the writing chops, curiosity, tenacity, and passion to become a copywriter, you’re setting off on an interesting, challenging, fun, and rewarding profession. I’m rooting for you!

Updated 6/30/2021

(Video) What does a copywriter do?

FAQs

What does a copywriter actually do? ›

The job responsibilities of a copywriter can include: Brainstorming and creating concepts for advertisements and marketing campaigns—often working in partnership with a graphic designer. Writing copy for various formats and media. Pitching ad and marketing campaign concepts to clients or company decision-makers.

What does a copywriter do on a daily basis? ›

Copywriters are tasked with writing text for advertising or other marketing purposes. They may write blogs, content for websites, copy for advertisements, television and radio scripts, social media posts, brochure material, or direct mails.

What is the career progression for a copywriter? ›

From there, the copywriter career trajectory often transforms into management roles like creative director, production director, managing editor, or even chief copy editor. In these positions, you'll rarely write copy from start to finish.

What is a good hourly rate for a copywriter? ›

The average hourly wage for a Copywriter I in the United States is $26 as of December 27, 2022, but the range typically falls between $24 and $29.

What type of copywriting is most in demand? ›

1) Email Marketing

The first area of copywriting that you can make the most money in copywriting is through email marketing.

How do beginners learn copywriting? ›

The quickest way to learn copywriting is to hire a good coach who can tell you what you're doing wrong and how you can improve. The next best way is to join a good course that demonstrates with examples how to make average copy more persuasive. But you can also do this by yourself. It just takes more time.

Can you get a copywriting job with no experience? ›

I'm guessing you've recently found out that copywriting is one of the most lucrative jobs out there, and that it doesn't require a college degree. It doesn't even require much experience. Many high income copywriters started closing big-ticket offers when they were first starting out, with little or no experience.

Do copywriters make a lot of money? ›

You can make up to six figures annually, and some copywriters even pull down seven-figure incomes. There are plenty of examples out there of successful copywriters making great money. So, yes, making good… heck, great money as a copywriter is absolutely possible.

Is copywriting a difficult job? ›

Copywriting is undoubtedly a career that many people go into, but being successful in this particular line of work is more challenging than the average office job or salaried role. As you might expect, from a position that requires additional work and input to achieve your goals.

What training do you need to be a copywriter? ›

Copywriters write persuasive marketing copy in order to move an audience to take action. In order to become a copywriter, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in English, communications, or marketing and gain relevant experience to develop your skills and writing portfolio.

What are the disadvantages of copywriting? ›

Copywriting as a Job: Disadvantages

Churning out copy day in, day out can get tiring. Smart writers know they can't write for hours each day without filling their “creative tank.” To do so means burnout. Most writers work alone to produce copy, even when they're part of a creative team.

Why is copywriting unethical? ›

Unethical (sometimes called 'black hat') copywriting violates website terms, misleads readers, and manipulates search engines.

Is copywriting a boring job? ›

It can be a fast-paced, sometimes demanding career but it is rarely boring.

Can copywriters make 10k a month? ›

If you want to command $10,000 per month as a copywriter, you must have the skills to generate much more than that in value for your clients. This is not easy, but it's certainly doable. Only two things are required: practice and patience.

Is copywriter stressful? ›

Working as a copywriter is less stressful than other jobs since it offers great flexibility. Apart from flexible work hours, copywriters rely on their creative thinking to come up with innovative ideas for content.

How much do beginner copywriters charge? ›

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn't charge less than $50 per hour when starting out. And don't bill by the half-hour. Set project minimums. So if your client asks for just one hour of your time, then charge her for two (or three…or four).

What is the secret of copywriting? ›

Above all, the greatest, most effective copywriting is personal to the target reader. Whether that means a 65-year-old grandmother, an investment banker, or a college student, your writing needs to hit them where it matters. It should speak to their wishes, fears, pain points, and needs. No two readers are alike.

What are the most important things in copywriting? ›

Getting in your target audience's head

However you'd like to refer to this skill, it's about getting inside your target's head and writing to their fears, desires, problems, wants, and needs. Many will argue that creating a standout headline is the most essential skill a copywriter should master.

What is the highest paying copywriting niche? ›

The Riches are in (These) Niches

Medical copywriting, finance copywriting, legal copywriting, and tech copywriting aren't the only high paying copywriting niches out there, but in 2022, they're some of the most lucrative.

Can an introvert be a copywriter? ›

Can introverts be successful as copywriters? Absolutely. A lot of a copywriter's job involves crafting copy by oneself. You just can't write good copy without spending at least some time holed up, by yourself, with just a computer as your companion.

How many days will it take to learn copywriting? ›

Learning essential copywriting skills can take anywhere from three to six months. However, you still need to continuously practice and learn new things to improve and stay on top. Many things can affect the learning time. Most courses online allow you to finish the course at your own pace, so it depends on each person.

Do you need qualifications for copywriting? ›

You can apply to companies directly if you have some of the relevant skills and knowledge needed for this job. Some advertising agencies might consider your application if you do not have a degree. In this case, you'll need to show off your creativity, writing skills and business sense.

What is an entry level copywriter? ›

An entry-level copywriter usually submits each piece to a supervisor or senior employee to edit and publish. The qualifications for a junior role often include a bachelor's degree in journalism or a relevant field, although in some cases experience and proven copywriting skills may be sufficient.

Are copywriters in high demand? ›

skilled copywriters continue to be in demand. The need for copywriters continues to grow. Especially in the digital world. For those with the skills needed to succeed in the field, there are plenty of opportunities.

Is a career in copywriting worth it? ›

Copywriting is an excellent career to have right now, but it also has potential to be even more in-demand in the future as more brands launch ecommerce. Copywriting also has a lower barrier to entry than some other industries, offers work-from-home options, and has minimal requirements.

How many hours a week do copywriters work? ›

While many freelance copywriters work up to 40 hours a week, some may benefit from starting at 20 or 30 hours. This allows them to allot time for any non-billable activities for work, like making phone calls or sending emails.

What is the hardest part of copywriting? ›

As a copywriter, it's your job to find out what's exciting about the subject. This is the true challenge of a copywriter – to really understand the audience, you've quickly got to become an expert in the area and THEN find something unique the audience doesn't know about. It's kind of insane.

How in demand are copywriters? ›

There is a high demand for copywriting jobs. This is because businesses are always looking for ways to improve their sales and marketing efforts, and one of the best ways to do this is by hiring a professional copywriter.

Do copywriters make good money? ›

You can make up to six figures annually, and some copywriters even pull down seven-figure incomes. There are plenty of examples out there of successful copywriters making great money. So, yes, making good… heck, great money as a copywriter is absolutely possible.

Do copywriters actually make money? ›

Copywriting is one of those rare skill sets that is both highly accessible AND highly lucrative. Businesses are hiring copywriters like crazy. Good copywriters can easily earn six figures. Most copywriters today work remotely.

Is copywriting a well paid job? ›

The best Copywriter jobs can pay up to $126,000 per year.

In this role, you research your topic to collect data about your subject so that you can include relevant information in your text, then you develop short- or long-form content for your company, depending on the project.

Do copywriters need a degree? ›

In order to become a copywriter, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree in English, communications, or marketing and gain relevant experience to develop your skills and writing portfolio. An MBA or master's degree in marketing is encouraged to advance into a leadership role or increase your earning potential.

What kind of education is required to be a copywriter? ›

Professional copywriters and related roles are usually expected to have a bachelor's degree or college diploma in journalism, marketing, English literature, advertising or communications or a combination of related education and experience.

Can you make 10k a month as a copywriter? ›

If you want to command $10,000 per month as a copywriter, you must have the skills to generate much more than that in value for your clients. This is not easy, but it's certainly doable. Only two things are required: practice and patience.

Why do copywriters fail? ›

Usually copywriters who “fail” fall into one of two camps: they don't have training or a system for landing clients, or they have training, but are afraid of failure. If you fall into the first camp, you'll want to first get training. If you fall into the second camp, you'll want to listen to today's episode.

Videos

1. Copywriting For Beginners: How To Get Started Fast (With No Experience)
(Alex Cattoni)
2. What Is Copywriting? (Copywriting Explained For Beginners)
(Luke Robins)
3. The Copywriter Job Description
(Open Door Creative)
4. Copywriting skill explained
(Victor Jansson - Dream Jobbers™️)
5. What is a Copywriter | Popular Jobs Explained
(JudgeGroup)
6. Complete Copywriting Tutorial - Examples, Tips and Formulas
(Brian Dean)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated: 11/26/2022

Views: 5639

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Barbera Armstrong

Birthday: 1992-09-12

Address: Suite 993 99852 Daugherty Causeway, Ritchiehaven, VT 49630

Phone: +5026838435397

Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.