Having a way with words can be your full-time job - I promise.
In school, there were always a few whose eyes lit up at the thought of drafting an essay, a proposal, a script for drama class, or fleshing out an outline with clever titles. Were you one of those kids?
Well, if you responded with a yes, there's good news - you might have what it takes to be a professional copywriter. Simply put, a copywriter uses their unmatched writing skills to create copy that is both to the point and compelling enough to draw in current and prospective consumers.
Due to the popular demand for copywriting, there has been an increase in the number of content writing service providers, also called copywriting agencies. These service providers offer businesses and media outlets with copy for websites, landing pages, press releases, and ads.
What is copywriting?
Copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text, called copy, for advertising or other forms of marketing. The copy is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.
Copywriters have the unique ability to tell an interesting story about products to initiate curiosity among users. Their expertise is used strategically in ad copy and their company’s website, blog, email newsletters, white papers, social media, and other marketing communications.
What does a copywriter do?
When you think of the word 'copywriter,' there’s a chance you’re visualizing the high-pressure ad world of Madison Avenue and the nostalgia of Mad Men, the period television drama surrounding an advertising agency.
Copywriters are involved in various writing activities depending on the scope and need for sales and marketing materials. Different copywriting tasks require diverse skill sets, and most successful professional copywriters are involved in all phases of business strategies - from ideation to the product launch.
- Brainstorming. Creating specialized concepts for marketing and advertising campaigns. Copywriters work closely with UX designers to adapt messaging with the established brand voice.
- Researching. To craft product messaging, copywriters must be well-informed about the company's products, services, customers, and competitors by conducting market research.
- Pitching. Copywriters often accompany business decision-makers to pitch the campaign to clients as they are well-versed in storytelling and persuasion.
- Reporting. Once the advertising campaign is live, copywriters analyze metrics such as click and open rates to report on campaign success and guide future copywriting strategies.
- Editing and revising. A big part of copywriting is the regular editing and reviewing of copy throughout the process. Copywriters are responsible for taking direction from stakeholders and reworking the copy until it matches the campaign's intent and audience needs.
The roles and responsibilities of a copywriter can also change depending on the type of business they are working with.
If a copywriter is working exclusively for one company, they’re likely working closely with the brand and product teams to ensure that the voice they use in their copy aligns with that of the brand. However, when working for an ad agency, copywriters may be responsible for multiple accounts and matching the various copy according to their brand tone.
10 Types of copywriting
While many copywriters create messages during the ad creation process, content that counts as copywriting surrounds us beyond the billboard designs we see on the streets. There are versions of creative copy like slogans and jingles or TV commercial scripts. There’s also more technical copy like product and job descriptions.
- Brand copywriting: Intended to increase brand awareness, improve brand reputation, and focus on positive brand recognition. Some examples include billboard ads and jingles such as Open happiness by Coca-Cola.
- B2B copywriting: The copy is designed to help companies market products and services to other businesses. Some examples include playbooks, blogs, and white papers.
- Email copywriting: Email copywriting focuses on email metrics and conversions. Examples include drafting campaign copy, crafting sign-ups, or setting up customized automated responses.
- Content marketing: Writing is tailored for customers to educate, inform, and move them down the sales or marketing funnel. Some examples include blogs, infographics, and webinars.
- SEO copywriting: Subset of content marketing; the copy is focused on helpful and relevant content that matches user and search intent. SEO copywriting elements include keyword mapping and on-page SEO factors such as headers, titles, and meta descriptions.
- Direct response copywriting: Designed to bring a sense of urgency for customers to buy products, share contact information, or attend events. Some examples include print ads, magazines, and creating call to actions buttons.
- Social media copywriting: Messaging and content for social media to increase online brand visibility, boost customer engagement, and generate conversation. Some examples include tweets, Instagram posts and reels, and creating copy for social media ads.
- Public relations copywriting: Specialized copywriting to provide visibility for newsworthy topics. Some examples of press release writing include product launch notices, company events, and announcements.
- Technical copywriting: Helps users understand products and services by breaking down complex ideas into simple messaging. Some examples include creating instruction manuals, reference guides, and brochures.
- UX copywriting: UX writers work on improving customer experience with the product by using principles of design within copywriting. Some examples include microcopy, success messages, and error messages.
Skills required to be a copywriter
While general writing skills and knowledge of grammar are integral to becoming a professional copywriter, copywriters of all concentrations must be proficient in business writing. The magic of copywriting is only possible when great writing is combined with knowledge of both hard and soft skills, such as understanding marketing analytics and effective communication.
Some people are naturally gifted with the ability to execute pieces in a way that is short, sweet, and to the point. Others, not so much. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for you if copywriting is your dream job.
We've identified a few key skills recruiters often look for when hiring copywriters.
- Professional writing. Good copywriting goes beyond understanding language basics–focusing on powerful and clear messaging.
Knowing how to create copy integrated for different audience groups and using creative and clever wordplay to boost conversation and drive conversions to key to successful copywriting.
- Persuasive communication. Using language to convince people to take action (whether it’s to sign up for a webinar, subscribe to a blog, or even open an email) is priceless. An important facet of copywriting is emotional intelligence and knowing how to convince people to feel compelled to interact with the copy.
- Open-mindedness and critical thinking. Being clever, concise, and conscious about the words and phrases you use on every platform you publish is a good way to practice clear and critical thinking.
As a copywriter, you will be expected to work cross-functionally across the organization, requiring an openness to others' opinions and flexibility.
When looking for a copywriter position, browse through job boards to find a role that fits your skills, interests, and scope of work.
Note that many companies interchange professional writing job titles, and you may see the same description for positions such as content writer, UX copywriter, or technical writer. If you are interested or have graphic design or technical documentation expertise, you can apply for these positions by brushing up on existing skills and designing your portfolio accordingly.
As with any business writing role, several factors can affect the annual salary of a copywriter.
The average salary for a copywriter is around $51,000 per year. The reported copywriter salaries range from $33,000 to $80,000, providing a large earning scope depending on the listed title, location, skills and qualifications, and type of organization.
Copywriters can also reap the benefits of freelancing by building a strong portfolio consisting of copywriting samples, case studies, and client testimonials. The primary facet of freelance copywriting is that writers can charge a competitive rate that reflects their experience and expertise.
Craft stories that sell emotion
Masters of explaining foreign and abstract concepts, simplifying the complex, and converting audiences into brand evangelists – that’s what copywriters are all about.
In an ever-changing digital world, copywriters are needed now more than ever. Whether you are interested in writing a video script, creating a memorable ad jingle, or are inspired to teach people how to use a complicated appliance, there's something for everyone in the world of copywriting. What will you pick?
Copywriting and content writing are often interchanged but are motivated by different intents and metrics. Explore the basics of content marketing and how to implement a well-thought-out business content strategy.
This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated with new information and data points.