It’s a question you’ll see on forums across the web: “Do I have to get training to be a copywriter?” It’s been asked so often and in so many different ways, that I figured it was time for a definitive answer from a real, live working copywriter who’s written for clients and brands you use every day. Ready? Let’s get down to it.
Today’s Q&A wasn’t inspired by a question from the Filthy Rich Writer community and, for that, I am truly thankful. The answer to today’s question, “Is copywriting training really necessary?” is… YES!
You need training to make french fries at McDonald’s. You need training to do any job. Just because someone is able to string words together into a sentence doesn’t mean they’re a copywriter—just the same way that someone’s ability to take an Instagram of your nephew at his first birthday doesn’t make them a professional photographer.
You need to know the fundamental rules, tools and tactics in order to wield them into effective copy. Anyone, and I mean nearly anyone, can write an email for a product. But a copywriter knows how to write it so that people read it and take action on it. A copywriter is a skilled professional. And skill takes practice…and training.
If someone doesn’t know the difference between features and benefits, can’t define a brand voice, doesn’t understand a call to action—plus a multitude of other things—then they’re not a copywriter.
But there’s another question that’s kind of buried within the “is training necessary” question and that is, “Do I have to have studied it in school or taken a course?” and the answer to that, believe it or not, is no.
You can learn on the job. You can spend years making mistakes, getting corrected, trying to find a boss that can teach you, and bumbling through projects hoping that they’ll keep working with you even when your creative work is clearly sub-par. Oh, and that’s if you can get a job with no experience or knowledge to begin with.
That’s essentially what I did. I learned a bit from my Dad, a marketing director, when he would bring home extra work for me to help him with in high school. Later, when I went into copywriting full-time, I was fortunate enough to get great opportunities and great mentors. I’ve written for interactive and print for clients you know well and I’ve done it for twelve-some years and made a very nice chunk of change.
But would I do it this way again? Nope. It’s risky to try to, essentially, bluff your way into a career. No matter where you live, the creative community is small. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your boss or your client is going to figure it out. And then, good luck getting work after that. You can fake it ’til you make it when it comes to confidence, but not when it comes to competence.
It’s also just a waste of time and energy to try to learn it yourself when other people can teach you. Why put your career and success at risk and try to figure it out when there are people who know what you need to know and are ready and willing to put that knowledge at your disposal?
We’ve put together Comprehensive Copywriting Academy to answer just those needs. You need to get the opportunity to learn copywriting fundamentals and tactics, plus how to navigate the creative process with kickoffs and reviews, and how to build your experience and market yourself as a professional. Anything less than that won’t cut it.
Your turn! What are your thoughts or questions about copywriting training? Let us know in the comments below!