Tips to become a copywriter
Changing careers is never easy. But with the right moves and strategy, you can ace a new career path even in your mid 30’s.
Copywriting is a creative career pursuit sought after by many people. As an independent copywriter, you get to write engaging copy for a wide variety of clients. Copywriting is a lucrative career option; you got to struggle in the beginning but can earn a lot of money eventually.
Since you are mostly working for businesses, the opportunities to make money are endless.
If you are working as a content writer and want to switch to being a copywriter, you must understand that the two writing styles are completely different.
If you want to switch to copywriting from a different industry, you must get your basics right and follow the right modus operandi.
What is copywriting?
Copywriting is one of the foundational elements of marketing and advertising.
A copy is the indirect sales pitch of a business. Instead of directly telling people to buy a particular product or service, you are using words to persuade them to take appropriate action.
Copywriting is the art and science of convincing people to invest in a product, service, or idea. When you check out an event brochure and the words used in the description seduce you into attending the event, this is an example of great copywriting.
Similarly, when you browse through a magazine and spot a full-page advertisement selling your favorite footwear brand, the words used in that ad are a product of copywriting.
When you attend a corporate event, the promotional material you get to read about the business and its achievements is also a result of copywriting.
Copywriting is used by every conceivable industry. Copywriters work across print, electronic and digital media, depending on the nature of the writing involved. Copywriting for television commercials involves writing a catchy script that conveys the essence of the brand and can be suitably presented visually.
Who is a copywriter?
A copywriter writes catchy, appealing, crisp, clear, concise, and persuasive content for marketing or advertising.
A copywriter usually works within the advertising or marketing departments of a business.
The job of a copywriter involves creating copy with the intent of convincing the target consumers to invest in a service or a product, attend an event, sign up for a newsletter, download an e-book, etc.
As a copywriter, you would be writing copy for multiple media such as advertisements, social media posts, brochures, flyers, posters, billboards, emails, landing pages of a website, corporate literature, product descriptions, etc.
Copywriters are like salespeople, the difference being they do the selling through the art of using words persuasively.
Different kinds of copywriters
Copywriting is a flexible job. It can be broadly divided into three categories. Depending on your goals, priorities, and level of expertise, you can take your pick.
1. In-house copywriting
Most beginners start their careers as in-house copywriters.
As an in-house copywriter, you are employed directly by an organization.
You would usually report to their marketing department. Your job involves writing all branding and promotional material including website copy, promotional copy, ad copy, etc.
The biggest advantage of in-house copywriting is that you get a fixed salary so you don’t have to deal with financial insecurity. You also get to work on a brand long-term and learn a lot by working in a huge team.
The downside of in-house copywriting is that you are working for just one business and your experience becomes super specialized. It gets difficult to break out of the mold if you want to turn into a freelancer later on.
2. Agency copywriting
This branch of copywriting is the perfect bridge between in-house copywriting and freelancing.
Agency copywriters get to work on multiple brands at once. This kind of copywriting is ideal for those who enjoy variety in their routine but would still prefer a stable income.
The flip side of being an agency copywriter is that the work pressure might get overwhelming at times.
Agencies are constantly under pressure to retain existing clients and get new ones. So you might be expected to work round the clock in a high-pressure environment. It’s not for someone who is looking for a relaxed day job.
3. Freelance copywriting
Freelance copywriting is every copywriter’s dream destination!
It comes with its own baggage of irregular income and lack of financial security. So it might not be ideal for everyone.
Independent copywriters are their own bosses. They ideally work with multiple companies across industries and get to set their own schedules and terms and conditions.
You need to be super resourceful and proactive to survive as an independent copywriter. If you don’t manage to create an effective system for getting new clients, work can dry up rather quickly.
This stream of copywriting is a great way to make it big in the industry. But you must evaluate the pros and cons before going solo.
How to successfully transition to a copywriting career
Copywriting is an exciting job, but you must do your homework thoroughly before switching to copywriting from other streams.
This becomes especially important for people who come from a non-writing background. You have the dual task of polishing your writing skills and adapting them to the kind of writing style used by a copywriter.
Here are a few tips to help you make that smooth switch to copywriting effectively.
1. Learn all about the craft of copywriting
The first step is to learn as much as you can about copywriting.
You could go for short-term copywriting courses. Many such courses are available online on forums like udemy and Coursera. Wasting your money on a full-fledged marketing or writing degree program is not worth it.
Since you are already a professional and you wouldn’t want to spend three years of your life not being able to earn anything, your best bet would be to go for these short-term courses or embark on a self-learning routine.
The best way to learn is by going through as many copywriting samples as you can. When you pick up a newspaper or magazine, go through the copy of the advertisements. Pay attention to the language, how words have been used, what is the tone, etc.
We are all surrounded by tons of promotional material online and offline. Observe the writing style of anything you could lay your hands on – pamphlets, brochures, posters, promotional posts on social media, ad copy, e-mailers, website copy, etc.
If you want to take your learning even further, you could start reading books about copywriting. Reading books by experts would give you an overview of the field, what kind of career growth to expect, how to land a copywriting job, etc. Plus you would get excellent copywriting content writing tips from the best in the field.
2. Practice your craft
This is the second step. You are not yet ready to take up a copywriting job. But you can start to practice your newly learned skill.
Give yourself dummy assignments for practice. Pick up an ad copy from a newspaper or magazine daily and then give yourself the task of rewriting that ad in a better way. Write an advertisement selling your favorite perfume or footwear.
Write a dummy copy for an event brochure. Imagine that you are conducting a music festival, and now you have to promote that festival. What kind of copy would you write to promote the event? What formats would you write in? What media would you use for promotion? What kind of people are you writing for? Brainstorm all these questions and then create your own promotional material.
3. Get some work experience
Now that you’ve had some copywriting practice, It’s time to get some real-life work experience.
It will be difficult to get paid gigs initially so look for internships at a copywriting agency. If there is a particular local business you would like to work with, approach them and convince them that you find their brand incredible and would like to work for them for free.
An internship is a great way to get your foot in the door. If all goes well, you will most probably land your first copywriting job at the place you are interning. You also get to learn a lot by getting some great copywriting tips from your company mentors.
The idea is to build a solid work portfolio. You could volunteer to do copywriting work for free for the businesses of friends and family. You could also approach a non-profit organization and write promotional content for them free of cost.
The idea is to get an entry into the field by building a good portfolio and by getting relevant work references. Ask these people for great reviews instead that would help you get paid work in the future.
4. Select your niche
Selecting a copywriting niche makes it easier for you to get work in the long term.
While selecting your niche, you should utilize your industry expertise. For example, if you are switching over to copywriting from a software background, you could specialize in writing for IT businesses and brands. Or, if you provided content writing services before, you could draw on your strengths as a content blog posts writer to excel in the career of writing copy.
Identifying a niche early on will help you develop specific expertise and get regular work. Make sure you select a niche that is in considerable demand.
Going for a field with hardly any demand for copywriting won’t serve you well. Research the niches you are comfortable writing in and then evaluate the market demand for each of those.
5. Decide your career trajectory
Now is the time to decide your future career trajectory.
Do you want to work for an agency or business, or would you like to go solo?
Deciding the future path of your copywriting career is important for ensuring success. Each stream requires a different strategy.
If your dream is to build your career by working in-house for big corporate brands, you need to focus on specialization. If you’d rather go solo and work at your convenience, your goal should be to network widely and get as much experience as you can across verticals.
6. Know your target people
As a copywriter, it’s very important to understand the people you are writing for.
Who is the target audience of the product or service you are writing about? What kind of language would appeal to those people? Are you writing for a cosmopolitan audience or the local crowd? You need to think about all these aspects when you write a copy.
A good copywriter taps into the emotions of the people. You use available information to create a message that will resonate with your target audience. Information is important but making people connect with your brand emotionally is even more crucial.
7. Know how to brand yourself
Copywriters must understand the basics of advertising to be able to secure a solid client base.
It is a competitive business, and you need to constantly upgrade yourself to the demands of the changing market.
As a copywriter, you need to position yourself as a reliable brand with product placement, marketing strategies, brand identity, etc, embedded in the core of your strategy.
You must understand the dynamics of the evolving market and position your brand accordingly.
Switching over to copywriting from content writing
- Many content writers want to switch over to being a copywriter later in their careers.
- The rate of pay for copywriters is much higher than seo content blog writing so it’s a lucrative career option for many people.
- You must realize that content writing and copywriting are two different writing styles altogether; content writing styles you’ve mastered won’t work for copywriting.
- Writing content gives you the required writing base to break into copywriting. It definitely gives you some benefits and leverage. But you need to master a different skill set to become a copywriter.
- Copywriters have the knack for writing short-form content that can range from as little as 10 words to a maximum of 400-500 words.
- Writing content requires you to engage with the audience, but the job of a copywriter is more demanding. A good copy should have the ability to motivate the audience to take action. Merely engaging them is not enough.
- In writing services content, you are not directly engaging in sales. A SEO-optimized blog post or an article draws viewers to your site and is a part of your long-term marketing strategy. But in writing copy, the aim is to have immediate results in terms of sales. That’s why this kind of writing is well-paid because concrete results are expected.
- Copywriters need to use every word with utmost care and precision. The tone is a very important element in writing a copy. You cannot throw around words carelessly.