Copywriting is marketing or advertising writing: writing that is designed to sell or to persuade. “Copy” is the words that make up that writing, and copywriters are the ones who write that copy.
And make no mistake: Copywriting is not about being tricky, pushy, or underhanded. Fundamentally, copywriting is about connecting people who have a need with the best solution to that need and doing it by writing in a way that connects with that audience.
Sometimes the “need” will be a big, important one. For example, parents with a diabetic child may need to find a specialty hospital for that child. The copy on a hospital’s diabetes center webpage helps that family understand that it’s the exact right hospital for them.
And, of course, sometimes it’s a lot less “significant,” but still important to the person with the need. A person who needs a quick, healthy snack in the middle of the day but is allergic to nuts finds the answer to her needs when she sees an ad for a low-sugar, no-nut energy bar. She was connected to the answer to her problems via good copywriting.
Copywriting is so much more than writing a headline or a tag line. Copywriting is about connecting people with the solutions for their needs and their wants by effectively conveying exactly why they are the solutions. It’s challenging to do—and that’s one of the reasons we’re paid well to do it.
Is Copywriting Different Than Content Writing or Blogging?
Yes, copywriting and content writing have different purposes. While copywriting is designed to get someone to take action or perhaps to change someone’s mind, content writing is designed to inspire, engage, or entertain.
Copywriters often write content for their clients, but at their copywriting rates. That’s because copywriters are skilled at being succinct and telling a compelling story. They can apply those copywriting skills to create more valuable content for their clients.
Because it doesn’t take as much skill as copywriting, content writing has a lower barrier to entry (if you’re a content writer, you’ve likely seen others competing to write 500-word articles for pennies on the word). That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t write content! It simply means that having training as a copywriter can make you a more in-demand content writer who can command higher rates for pieces like blog posts, ebooks, and more.
What Do Copywriters Do?
Copywriters work with clients or bosses or project managers to identify the purpose of the project. We learn what we’re trying to convey, how we’re trying to convey it and to whom, and then we craft copy to try to meet that objective. Usually, we also work with a designer to match our words up with their images. We get some feedback, we make some changes as needed, and we deliver fantastic work that has an impact.
You’ll notice I said clients or bosses or project managers — that’s because there are a couple of different ways you can actually be a copywriter.
How Do Copywriters Work?
First, of course, you can be an on-staff copywriter. You’re employed by a company or an agency to be their copywriter. It’s not too different from other jobs.
Next, you can be a contractor. You’re not on-staff at a company, but you work for them on an hourly, contractual basis to do work. You generally work from their office. You have the freedom of knowing that the contract doesn’t last forever and you can move on whenever you’d like, but you also benefit from getting to know the people you’re working with and building your professional network (which believe me is invaluable). Also, contractors tend to make more than on-staff copywriters.
Finally, you can be a freelancer — you work for clients, of course, but you generally work from your own home (or wherever you want to) and only meet with your clients occasionally in person or only virtually. Freelancing means you’re responsible for ensuring that you have a steady stream of clients, but you also have an immense amount of freedom when it comes to where, how, and when you work.
And, of course, you can be a full-time copywriter, you can do it part-time, or you can do it as a side hustle to help supplement your income. That’s another thing that makes copywriting so great. You can decide how you want your career to look, and then craft it to be that way. It’s a very flexible job.
How Much Do Copywriters Really Earn?
Let’s get one thing out of the way: It is absolutely possible for copywriters to earn six figures.
That may be hard to believe considering many of us were taught it’s impossible to make a good living as a writer. And sadly, that’s largely true for many careers that involve writing. But not copywriting.
Because copywriting can be directly tied to helping a business’s bottom line, we’re compensated well for it. Some people balk at the idea of being paid well to write, but here’s the thing: we’re connecting someone who has a need with the right solution for that need. And you can choose to work with companies that align with your values.
Learn more about what copywriters earn right here.
How Soon Can I Earn Money as a Copywriter?
This question makes complete sense, particularly if you’re looking to switch careers. We all have bills to pay!
Here’s the thing: how soon you can earn money as a copywriter depends on YOU. The first step is to make sure you have training so you have the skills needed to get paid for your copywriting services. You also need a system for finding clients. Read on here for a few additional considerations that may impact your timeline.
What is a Typical Copywriter’s Salary?
There is no one typical copywriting salary. Inevitably, there are similar trends with full-time, on-staff copywriter salaries as there are with other jobs. For example, a brand-new copywriter in Kansas City will likely have a lower salary than a copywriter with 10 years of experience working in New York City. But that’s only one case.
If you choose to work as a freelance copywriter, you have more control over your income. This may mean you freelance in addition to your full-time role or it may mean you’re full-time freelance! You may opt to work part time or do copywriting as a side hustle or ramp up your work before a vacation so you can pay for it with your extra earnings. You may opt to switch between an on-staff role and freelance. You may pick up a contract for 3 months, go on staff, and then go back to freelancing.
The point is there are so many options and opportunities to fit your lifestyle and reach your income goals. Copywriting is as flexible as you make it!
And, like many careers, as you get more experience, you can increase your rates!
Our Head Copy Coach, Kate, dug into her freelance copywriting salary on a recent podcast. She shared what she earned her first year as a full-time freelancer (when she didn’t have a system for pitching) and what she earned the next three years. (And, frankly, her number in 2020 is incredible!) Listen to the episode right here.
How Can I Get Started?
The most important thing to know first off is that you do NOT need a background in copywriting to get started—you just need the willingness to learn. Remember that no one, not even the highest-paid copywriting pro, is born knowing how to write copy. We all learned how to do it, and you can, too.
If you’re interested in copywriting, I’d strongly suggest you download our ebook, “How to Know if Copywriting is Right for You” at this link.
Then, if you’d like to learn more, you’ll love our free training, “How to Land Freelance Copywriting Clients…Without Wasting Time on Frustrating Job-Bidding Sites or Cold-Calling Strangers.” Even if you’re not yet ready to think about landing clients, it’s packed with useful information and busts a lot of career-ending myths. You can sign up for that free, on-demand video training right here.
Listen to More
Unless you’re talking to someone familiar with marketing, most people don’t know about copywriting or that it’s an entire career!
That’s why on the first episode of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, our team explores “What is Copywriting?” from several angles. Hear more about what it is, where you can find copy, who can write copy, and the career possibilities you have as a copywriter.