Copywriting Q&A: Best Backgrounds for Getting Into Copywriting

Best backgrounds for getting into copywriting
When you start something new, especially something that’s important to you, you want to make sure you start in the best way possible. When it comes to getting into copywriting, there are a few things you might have in your background to make for an especially auspicious entry into the industry. Let’s talk about what those are, shall we?

Today’s question comes from Adele H. who asks, “I’m interested in copywriting, but I’m not sure my job history and education are exactly perfect for it. What kind of background do I need to get into copywriting?”

I’m going to approach this question two ways. First, let’s go over the education/experience/backgrounds that are common in copywriters and copywriting—but NOT mandatory:

  • Liberal arts degree, especially in English, journalism or creative writing
  • Communications degree, especially in advertising, marketing or public relations
  • Experience working with interactive or print media
  • Experience in marketing or advertising departments or agencies

Like I said: Those are some common backgrounds for copywriters, but not necessary. If you see your degree or experience on that list, you’ll fit in just fine with many people pursuing a copywriting career.

However, there are other, more specific, elements of experience that will make you an even better student of copywriting and, then, copywriting job candidate—and these are completely necessary:

  • A love of words and a passion for how to use them well
  • A willingness to push yourself outside of your comfort zone
  • A drive to learn as much as  you can, so you can put it to use as best as you can
  • A willingness to go beyond what others are willing to do to build portfolios and get work (no templated cover letter or resume for you!)
  • An ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine what they need to hear (not just what a boss tells you they need to hear)
  • A desire to build an eye for good design, so that you and graphic designers can work together even better—you don’t need to know how to fix a design problem, but you need to learn when something just doesn’t work
  • A dedication to deadlines and to having a reason behind every single word in your copy
  • A willingness to work harder than anyone else (or, at least, harder than most people)
  • Persistence
  • Flexibility
  • Humility
  • A sense of humor (<– Okay, not exactly a necessity but, boy, you’ll get a lot further with it than without it!)

If you have all of the above elements in your personality/background, you’ll stand a much better chance of succeeding as a copywriter, no matter what your college major or—I’m going to say it—your work experience.

Get answers to you questions about copywriting

That said, though, as you’ve heard me say before: You need to get training. Just because you know how to write an article doesn’t mean you know how to write an ad. As with any career, there are specific techniques you need to know, not to mention steps within the actual ad development (and career development!) process.

Taking time to read and analyze ads will help, but it won’t take the place of training. Visiting a cockpit doesn’t qualify someone to walk into a hangar and say, “I’m ready to fly an airplane!”, right? (And that’s exactly why we created a training of our own.)

Remember, too that creative directors have amassed years of experience and training—so they’re never, exactly, receptive to people who apply for work and say, “How have I learned copywriting? I didn’t need training—I’m just really good with words.”

Please understand that I’m not saying that you would to this. But this is actually a really common attitude among would-be copywriters…which gives you another edge. When your competition is people who haven’t gotten training, don’t even understand that they need it and, therefore, don’t know how to write ads, work with designers, and build their portfolios, guess who’s going to get the job? That’s right: You.

Your turn! What’s your background? What got you interested in getting into copywriting? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. says

    This is a really helpful post! I went to a liberal arts college and studied English — and then got a master’s degree in Spanish. I always studied things I loved (reading, writing, language, and culture), without really knowing what career to go into after college — people always told me, “study what you love and a career will come.” HaHA! It’s been quite a lot of work to figure out the career thing after that (though not hopeless). It’s good to know that even without a degree in advertising, I’m still on track-ish for a career in copywriting.

    • Nicki says

      Hi Christina!

      I know—I believe in the idea of studying what you love and letting the money follow…sometimes it’s also a matter of finding the thing you can love that will also pay you! And you’re definitely on track. 🙂

      – Nicki
      Nicki & the Filthy Rich Writer team

    • Nicki says

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks for reaching out! You might be interested in our Comprehensive Copywriting Academy—here’s the link. And if you’re not on our email list yet, be sure to sign up through one of our forms. Only subscribers find out when Academy enrollment opens!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Beverly Gary says

    Hi Nicki,

    I’m a retired teacher, having taught Elementary English and History. I am applying for an Advertorial Writer Position at our local newspaper. Can you give me an idea of what I might expect?

    • Nicki Krawczyk says

      Hi Beverly,

      An advertorial writer is kind of an interesting blend of types of writing. Really, it’s a bit more in the realm of content writing than copywriting (if you’re not clear on the difference, we have an article about it right here). As an advertorial writer, you’d spend your days writing articles for the paper that were commissioned by a company to put their product or service in a good light. They’ll have the same style as a regular article in the paper and look very similar to them, but it’s obviously not an unbiased article since the client company is paying for it. And you’re essentially “selling” people on the company’s product or services, but doing it in a much more subtle way. So subtle, in fact, that they might not even realize it!

      Generally, you’ll be given points that the client company wants you to highlight and asked to form your story around those. Once you’re done writing it, usually both your boss and the client will have to approve it. As you might guess, since it’s not a straight news story, the key to success is creating the most interesting/intriguing/engaging story you possibly can with the points they give you.

      Did this help a bit?

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. yugandhara says

    I jst loved the article. I am a graduate in applied arts and copywriting is my passion. Can you sssuggest me any course if required for further enrichment for my passion.

    • Nicki Krawczyk says

      Hi there,

      I’m glad you liked the article! In terms of resources, if you haven’t yet, I’d suggest you start exploring our site. We’ve got hundreds of articles, chock full of information. 🙂 If you think you’d like to learn more, I’d also encourage you to take a look at our Comprehensive Copywriting Academy.

      Thanks for commenting!

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