When you’re looking for copywriting work, recruiters can seem like the magic bullet—after all, they’re in business to get you work! But there are a few things you should know before you put your fate in their hands.
Recruiters can be great because they might help you to get your foot in the door. If you’re a good candidate for a position and they have a real relationship with the company that’s hiring, they can send over your resume and get you in front of important eyes.
However, bear in mind that they’re also sending over other resumes, as well. And, depending on the size of the company, they may be sending over your resume and online portfolio URL to the HR contact they have instead of the actual hiring manager. (So, if you have plans to wow a creative director with your work and a custom-printed portfolio and anything that goes above and beyond, you won’t get that opportunity if that’s the case.)
Recruiters can also be aware of open roles that aren’t even public yet. Sometimes a company can choose to work with a recruiter instead of listing a job to the world to avoid a deluge of unqualified applicants. If you’re not working with this recruiter (or if this recruiter doesn’t contact you), you’d never be aware that the opening existed.
There are a few other things to consider, though.
Recruiters Work for the Company, Not You
A recruiter’s job is to place people in permanent jobs or freelance gigs. They are paid by the company that needs the role filled once they successfully fill it. If they fill a full-time role, they’re generally paid in a lump sum. If they fill an hourly role, they get paid for each hour the person works. This is an important thing to remember as you start working with recruiters: They can be an asset for you, but they are working for the company. They don’t work for you.
Copywriting Recruiters May Keep Rates Low
Recruiters may try to keep your hourly rates relatively low so that they can make a higher fee on top of it. Think about it: If a company is willing to pay $60 an hour total, a recruiter would rather pay you $40 and keep $20 than pay you $50 and keep $10. You must draw a hard line about how much you’re willing to work for—there’s almost always room for them to make the numbers work.
You Need to Play an Active Role
Sure, they can “work for you” in the sense that when you get listed with them, they will try to fit you into some open roles, but they are not actively seeking the right role for you. They are filling the roles that become available and/or that companies hire them to fill. It’s up to you to ascertain what’s the right role for you.
In fact, you may find that if a company wants you and you’re not sure if you want to accept the role, a recruiter may, not so gently, try to push you into taking the role. Remember, they get paid when they fill the position. And they want to get paid!
Expect Copywriting Recruiters to Ghost You
Because recruiters work for the company, you may find that they’re all hot and heavy about getting you to send in your resume to them so they can offer you up for a role, but then you never hear from them after that.
Don’t take this personally; it’s just how it works. If a company isn’t interested in you for the role, it’s a very rare recruiter indeed that will bother to let you know.
You Can’t Apply on Your Own and Via a Recruiter
You should also be aware, too, that you can’t apply at a company on your own and then have a recruiter apply at the same company for you if you find out they have an “in.” A company has no use for a recruiter (and paying the recruiter’s fee) if they can get you on their own, so the recruiter won’t resubmit your application.
As a professional courtesy, you should let a recruiter know which companies you’ve already applied to.
Keys to Getting Recruiters Interested in You
Recruiters will only put forth a small number of candidates for a particular role. Remember that the recruiter is providing a service. If they send through a ton of candidates, some who are exactly what the company wants and some who are not quite right or even downright unqualified, the company will think the recruiter doesn’t know what they’re doing.
A recruiter has an incentive to find and maintain a stable of a ton of different job candidates, but they’re only going to send the very best along to a company. The recruiter doesn’t want to lose that job, so he’s only going to send through the best candidates he can find.
So, what makes you a good candidate?
1. You Need a Variety of Copywriting Experience
Well, the first element is somewhat out of your control. If a company has requested copywriters with healthcare experience and you don’t have any healthcare experience, the copywriting recruiter won’t pass your info along.
That said, let this be a gentle reminder to try to get experience in a variety of different fields. The more experience you have in several fields, the better the chance that you’ll have the kind of experience a company is looking for. (Don’t fall into the niche trap.)
2. You Need a Solid Online Portfolio
Beyond experience, though, things are very much up to you. A recruiter is going to be looking for a well-rounded, professional-looking portfolio with solid samples that prove your copywriting skills.
Even if all, or nearly all, of your samples are spec ads, they still need to be the absolute best you can create, and your online and offline portfolios need to look well put-together, modern, and professional.
A recruiter will want a resume. As I’ve said before, you can often get away with sending along a selected credits resume. But whether you send that or a standard resume, it needs to look professional, sound great, and be entirely error-free. You’re a writer!
3. You Need to Be Hyper-Responsive
Recruiters are often working to fill positions as quickly as possible, and they’re getting in touch with a lot of candidates. The best candidates will respond to their calls and emails quickly and be ready to send along updated portfolio links and resumes at a moment’s notice.
Remember, too, that recruiters are often dealing with a long list of potential candidates for any number of jobs. The truth is that a lot of recruiters just aren’t very good at staying on top of all that.
To be a better candidate for both the recruiter and you, be persistent. Don’t give up after one phone call or one email. If they can’t use you, they’ll tell you. But if you don’t hear from them, keep trying. After all, if you won’t be an advocate for yourself, how can you expect them to be?
The Final Verdict
You should work with copywriting recruiters, but don’t make them your only resource. You need to be pursuing other avenues to get work (networking, contacting previous coworkers, applying to jobs in unconventional ways, etc.) instead of solely relying on recruiters.
They can be great and they can get you work, but use them as a tool, not as a life raft. You can, and should, apply to multiple recruiters, as well. Avoid working with any recruiter who requires an exclusivity clause prohibiting you from working with other recruiters. They’re working with other applicants, so you should be able to work with other recruiters!
On Episode 80 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are digging deeper into how to use copywriting recruiters as part of your land-work toolkit. As a reminder, recruiters should supplement your pitching efforts—working with them should never replace this.
Looking for work? Here are more tips:
- How to Avoid the Job Seeker’s #1 Enemy
- 5 Reasons You’re Not Getting Called Back
- How to Set Yourself Apart from Your Competition
- Why Work Bidding Sites are Bad News
- The Biggest Print Portfolio Mistake
- Why You Need an Online Portfolio
Have you worked with recruiters? What did you learn from the experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on May 10, 2023
Hi Nikki, good stuff but my biggest question is, how do I FIND a copywriter recruiter to rep me (a freelance copywriter)? I’ve been looking on and off for a while now with no luck. Thanks!
Nicki Krawczyk says
Most cities have a decent number of creative recruitment agencies and these should be the first place to start. You can just send your information to the company, but I’d recommend doing a little LinkedIn searching to find someone specific who works there and sending your information to them. You’ll want to send the link to your portfolio site and your resume, of course, but you should also be sure to use your copywriting skills to sell yourself. What do you bring to the table that no other copywriter does? What are your benefits to consumer (consumer, in this case, being a potential client/employer). When you’re looking for these firms, I’d Google “recruitment agencies,” “staffing agencies” and other things along those lines. Just be sure to take a look and make sure they represent creative professions.
After that, do Google and LinkedIn searches for independent creative recruiters in your area. It’s likely you’ll find at least a few. Then, you’ll want to pitch yourself to them in the same way you did for the agencies.
Did this help a bit?
Thanks for commenting!
Working with recruiters can be hit or miss. I do agree that they are a good resource because they are constantly trolling for clients. My suggestion is to be diligent about what you want and how you want to get it. There are good recruiters out there – just be sure to vet them responsibl.y.
Nicki Krawczyk says
Absolutely agree. They can be a great resource – but should only be one of many methods for getting work. 🙂
Thanks for commenting!
Malia Morse says
Hi Nicki! I’m curious about a few things in an effort to understand this new world I’m about to get into.
I work as an administrative recruiter/staffing consultant (plus inside and outside sales) for a staffing agency right now (fell into it, have a young daughter, have to make a paycheck), and noticed you say that copywriting recruiters will only submit candidates to HR, not the creative director. In my current job, I connect with the actual decision maker (often a director or executive in the specific department) to try and get the candidate in front of THEM because I know HR typically does not make the hiring decisions and can’t always provide the right kind of feedback I need in order to pivot my recruiting efforts for them. Is it typically different in the copywriting “staffing” industry? HR at best is an influencer so that’s why I have learned to connect with them but don’t expect a quick hiring process if that’s as far as I’m allowed to get.
Same kind of question, but regarding the “they are not actively seeking the right role for you” statement. The company I work for right now trains us to make sales calls to companies that don’t currently have a job order placed with us, marketing to them a great candidate we recently interviewed, in an effort to uncover open jobs or get them to jog their minds to think where they could find a spot for such a qualified candidate. It works if not immediately (rare) then a few weeks or months down the line–something may open up and they will call us because we are top of mind. I’m wondering if copywriting recruiters don’t do that? I guess it would make sense since there is a difference between “staffing inside/outside sales” versus straight up “recruiting.” Just curious!
Excited for CCA!!!
Nicki Krawczyk says
That’s a good point about working with the hiring manager; it’ll depend on the size of the company, so I’ll update the article. Thanks!
As for your second point, you’re reaching out to companies with a candidate in mind, but you’re not really reaching out *for* that candidate, right? You’re trying to entice a company to work with you and your “in” is with that candidate. If that company said, “Yeah, we need the role filled, but we don’t want that candidate” you’d drop that candidate in favor of finding another one the company liked, right? I’m not saying this to be mean – it’s just how business works. 🙂 Fundamentally, you’re paid by the companies, so the companies’ needs are always going to come before a candidate’s desires. Does that make sense?
Thanks for commenting!