So You Want to Become a Copywriter?
So you'd like to become a copywriter, huh?
Maybe you've heard about The Writer's Life and all its perks — a flexible schedule with YOU in charge, control over your financial future, and the freedom to work from home (or anywhere else).
Maybe you're drawn by the six-figure income possibilities — inspired by story after story of people who've quit their jobs to become freelance copywriters and quickly started earning more than in their past careers.
Maybe you just like to write — and are happy to have finally found a way to leverage your love of writing into a full-time income, and a good one at that.
There are tons of reasons people want to become a copywriter — and I think they're all good, as long as it's the right decision for you.
What does it mean to become a copywriter?
I have a quick story that illustrates what I think, to me, is the single-most valuable part of becoming a freelance copywriter.
This story represents something I could never do when I had a full-time job. It's worth more to me than having a six-figure income. And, when you talk to owners of successful multi-million dollar businesses, even they envy it. Yet, it's something you can have when you become a freelance copywriter.
My story. A few weeks back, my wife came into my home office around 1 p.m. (on a work day), with a question. She said, "I'm taking Dominic [our one-year-old son] to the water park this afternoon. Want to come?"
Before I quit my job and became a freelance copywriter, this just would have made me feel guilty. I would have had to weigh vacation time — how much I'd used, how much I had left — and my answer to my wife would probably have been "No."
Not anymore. Now I just have to think, "Have I been productive today? Are my projects still on-schedule, and will they be if I take the afternoon off?" My answer to my own question was, "Yes."
So, I could also tell my wife, "YES! Let's go!" And, I took the afternoon off to go to the water park with my wife and son. And we had a blast!
That freedom — to me — is the single-most valuable part of becoming a freelance copywriter.
Beyond that, in my first year of freelancing, I'm working toward that six-figure income goal. If I don't hit it this year, I likely will next. (Of course, I've been working about half-time — so if I were working full-time, I'd definitely be on par to hit six-figures!)
I have plenty of friends and colleagues who became freelance copywriters in the last couple of years, and some well before that. And nearly everyone makes six-figures as a freelance copywriter … And very few believe they'd be making six-figure incomes doing anything else.
And writing! I love it. If you're a writer who likes to flex your creative muscles on a regular basis, copywriting gives you the opportunity to do so. Becoming a copywriter is a smart move for writers who want to find a career that meets the "passion test" — that is, "Would you do this, even if you weren't getting paid for it?" For most copywriters I meet, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"
What opportunities exist for copywriters?
If you're looking to become a copywriter, I'm sure you want to know what opportunities exist. The good news is that today is bright, and tomorrow looks much brighter!
I like to break down opportunities for copywriters along two lines: industries, and types of work.
Industries Hiring Copywriters
The demand for good copywriters is through the roof. Every business needs writers who can clearly communicate their message, and persuade customers to buy. If you can write clearly and persuasively, there are businesses in a number of industries who want you to become a copywriter so you can help them succeed.
Business-to-consumer businesses sell products directly to consumers. The style of writing that works best with this type of product is often conversational, and often "salesy" in tone. Top industries for business-to-consumer copywriters are health, financial, self-help, catalogs, and fundraising.
Business-to-business (B2B) companies sell products to other businesses. This isn't "technical" writing, though the writing is typically more formal and informative. It can include marketing business software and services, training and development materials, industrial supplies, or business consulting services — and that doesn't even scratch the surface.
Whether you want to become a copywriter for business-to-consumer or business-to-business companies, you can still enjoy the perks and income.
Types of Work for Copywriters
Becoming a copywriter doesn't mean you'll just sit down and write letters or articles. Sure, these are two particular projects you may work on, though the list is far longer.
Here are some examples of the different types of projects you might work on as a freelance copywriter:
- Online sales letters
- Direct mail sales letters
- Space advertisements
- Lead generation letters
- Catalog descriptions
- Articles (online, or for publications)
- Web pages
- Marketing emails (autoresponders and other marketing messages)
- White papers and special reports
- Books (ghostwriting for clients)
- Press releases
- Blog posts
- Video scripts
As you can see, the list is vast — and on any given day, a client may ask you to complete a new and different project.
The Power of Specialization
It's important to think about specializing when you become a copywriter. You'll find specializing makes it easier to get work, and helps you charge higher fees.
Pick a specific industry that takes advantage of your experience, or that interests you. Or, specialize your copywriting skills on one of the particular types of projects listed. Or both — specialize in one type of project for one industry and be a super-specialist.
You'll find picking a specialty is a smart move for your freelance copywriting career.
Where can you learn how to become a copywriter?
As you decide you're going to become a copywriter, you'll quickly find that it's not something you can learn at your local college. There typically aren't courses in freelance copywriting taught at the college level, and I'm not aware of any accredited university that will give you a degree in copywriting.
Most copywriters learn through a combination of self-study and on-the-job learning.
I have a shelf full of books on copywriting, marketing, advertising, and business, though if I were to narrow down my choices to the most helpful books for a beginning copywriter, here are a few I'd recommend:
- The Copywriter's Handbook by Bob Bly
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- How To Write A Good Advertisement by Victor Schwab
- Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
- The Architecture Of Persuasion by Michael Masterson
Beyond books, there are programs on copywriting published on what seems like a daily basis. While there are many good programs out there, there are also quite a few from imposters who "talk the talk," yet who've never "walked the walk."
I like American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) programs because the company has a 13-year history teaching copywriting and graphic design, and always goes to the top experts in their fields for their instructional content. Their programs include:
- The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting (the core course, and a must have!)
- The AWAI Masters Program
- B2B Copywriting Secrets
- Health Market Copywriting Secrets
- Financial Market Copywriting Secrets
- Copywriting 2.0 (Writing for the Web)
AWAI also has a special website specifically for web writers, Wealthy Web Writer, which is worth checking out if you're interested in becoming a copywriter for the fun and lucrative world of marketing on the Internet.
Finally, there are a number of free email newsletters you should subscribe to if you're interested in becoming a copywriter. Start with these three newsletters on copywriting from AWAI: The Golden Thread, Wealthy Web Writer, and The Writer's Life.