Copywriting Q&A: Best Backgrounds for Getting Into Copywriting

What you need to know to be successful at breaking into copywritingWhen 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 completely necessary:

  • 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, as fast 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.

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?

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. 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.

    • 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

  2. I have a BA in creative writing and write comic books. What kind of training would you te omen for me?

    • 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!

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