What would you do if you could turn words into wealth? Copywriting isn’t for everyone, and it’s not get-rich-quick, but if you enjoy writing, it can be a lucrative career.
Copywriting is a genuine profession. Once established, a freelance copywriter can make six-figures annually. However, it might take a year or longer to reach that level of income. For someone who enjoys writing, copywriting isn’t difficult to learn.
If you can write, you have a valuable skill. There’s no reason for you to struggle financially.
This article explores the copywriting profession and shows you how a copywriter earns. You’ll also discover an affordable way to become a copywriter.
Can You Make Money Copywriting?
Copywriting is an established profession going back to the 1800s when newspapers first published print ads.
Unlike creative writing such as fiction and screenplays, copywriting is probably the best way for a writer to earn a respectable income.
It may be a good fit for a liberal arts major, struggling novelist or screenwriter who has never made a dime as a writer.
Copywriting isn’t picky. There are never enough copywriters to meet the demand.
Anyone willing to spend six months to a year developing their craft and building a business can earn six-figures.
Naturally, the first requirement is the ability to write. If you have a passion for writing, all the better. Not everyone can sit at a computer for hours and cobble together a piece of copy.
If you don’t enjoy writing, copywriting isn’t for you.
However, if you have a passion for stringing words together, you’ll probably feel right at home as a copywriter.
If you’re a frustrated novelist or screenwriter, I think you have a considerable advantage, because, in my experience, the most engaging copy tells a story.
Novelists and screenwriters understand story structure. It’s how they dream.
If stories aren’t your thing, that’s okay. There’s room for you in the profession too.
How Much Do Copywriters Make?
There are three ways to make money as a copywriter. The route you choose will determine how much you earn.
An entry-level copywriter working for an agency or corporation can expect to earn about $40,000 a year. Typically, agency copywriters are not given credit for their creative work.
The project manager will take credit for all the successes and blame failures on the lowest ranking employee in the bunch.
Also, in the agency and corporate environment, advancement is dependent on how well you play the office politics game. If office politics isn’t your forte, consider writing copy as a freelancer.
Freelancing pays about $20,000 a year for someone who writes copy on a part-time basis. As work efficiency and negotiating skills improve, so will the income.
A six-figures is realistic for a full-time freelancer after the first year.
Estimated Freelance Fees:
To give you an idea of the income a freelancer can anticipate, I’ve listed some estimated project fees a freelancer might charge.
The actual fee you might charge is dependent on your competence as a copywriter, your reputation for getting results for clients, your negotiating skills, and your confidence.
- Full Page Print Ad: $750 – 2,500
- Sales Letter (1 or 2 pages): $1000 – $2,500
- Direct Mail Package (lead generation): $2,000 – $4,500
- Direct Mail Package (sales generation): $3,000 – $10,000
- Banner Ad: $750 – $1000
- Landing Page: $1000 – $2000
Writing for Direct Marketing.
Perhaps the highest paid specialty in the copywriting profession is direct marketing.
When you create a sales letter, marketing script, or sales funnel that makes money for a company, you’re a salesperson armed with a keyboard.
The more money your copy earns for the company, the more you are paid.
However, there’s a good reason why companies pay direct marketing writers so well. It isn’t easy.
The foundation of direct marketing copywriting is the sales letter sent through the mail. It’s the most personal form of copywriting.
A direct marketing project typically pays a fee to create the sales letter, plus a percentage of commissions generated by sales.
Online, direct marketing begins with an ad or email that draws a prospect to a landing page and sales funnel.
When writing for online businesses, knowledge of digital marketing is essential.
Writing for Marketing Campaigns You Own.
A copywriter who limits her skill set to just persuasive writing will miss many opportunities.
Digital marketing skills are also valuable, and when combined with copywriting, can be very lucrative.
Before the internet, it was expensive for a copywriter to launch a marketing campaign by themself.
She was typically stuck writing copy while the marketing department managed ads and built the mailing list.
The list was so valuable that copywriters could not access it. If a copywriter had the list, they could launch campaigns without the company.
With digital marketing skills, a copywriter can start a campaign and manage every aspect of it from a laptop.
Essentially, the copywriter becomes an affiliate marketer, promoting products and earning commissions.
To learn more, read Copywriting and Affiliate Marketing.
Copywriting Reality Check.
Some marketers offer expensive copywriting courses and membership sites as an easy way for anyone to make a lot of money fast.
I strongly advise that you do not purchase a costly copywriting course. It’s not necessary, and it will probably be a waste of money.
Not everyone who wants to make money has what it takes to succeed as a copywriter. And, knowing how to write is not enough to succeed as a copywriter.
Some writers find copywriting dull.
There are some aspects of copywriting that some people find difficult to endure, such as the sometimes-inconsistent income, finding clients, chasing clients to get paid, and trying to please clients.
As a copywriter, even as a freelancer, you don’t truly work for yourself, you work for your client. It can sometimes feel that you have several bosses.
Some creative types I know, who were good copywriters, left the profession because they found it unfulfilling.
What is Copywriting?
In the beginning, there was the newspaper and the print ad. Back in the 1800s, it was easy to know what a copywriter did.
He wrote copy for newspaper ads. That was all that was to his job description. Period. The end.
In those days, print ads were about the only way a company could promote its products. It was a world without radio, television or telephones. The internet was unimaginable.
Copywriting grew out of that simpler time and now includes a range of projects so broad it is difficult to define precisely.
I’ll attempt to define copywriting, just to give you an idea of what to expect from the profession.
Copywriters aren’t journalists, and they are not creative writers either. Although investigative and creative skills are invaluable to a copywriter.
In addition to writing, a copywriter has the soul of a businessperson. They understand business and the drive to find and exploit markets.
Copywriters still write the text in print advertisements. They might also write a press release, a salesperson’s pitch, a corporate video script, a landing page, a sales page, emails, a sales letter, the script for a radio commercial or a YouTube ad.
As a very loose and general rule of thumb, copywriters create persuasive text designed to move the target audience into taking a specific action such as buying a product, donating to charity, accepting an idea, or backing a political candidate.
However, a copywriter may also write technical papers and business to business communications.
Advertising drives the modern consumer economy. Copywriters are the ones who pull the levers that move people to buy.
Plenty of Copywriting Work Available.
The market for copywriting services is huge and growing. There are hundreds of thousands of advertising agencies, design agencies, and marketing firms who need copywriters.
You only need a few clients to stay busy and earn six-figures.
The Skills You Need to Succeed as a Copywriter.
Because some marketers push copywriting as an easy way to make a lot of money quickly, many myths surround the profession.
It’s not quick, and it’s not easy, but for someone who enjoys writing, it is doable.
Success in copywriting doesn’t demand you can write like Steinbeck or have the marketing chops of Donald Draper in Mad Men.
You don’t even need to be a creative genius, but it wouldn’t hurt.
The talent to succeed as a copywriter is surprisingly common.
It begins with a knack for using words and the ability to communicate a persuasive message to a target audience.
Because writing is a solitary pursuit, a copywriter must be self-motivated and comfortable working alone.
A copywriter must also work well with others, because, from time to time, they may be part of a marketing team.
As a team member, a copywriter may need to coordinate their copy with the work of illustrators, marketing strategists, department managers, legal consultants, and others.
Defining Characteristics of Successful Copywriters.
There are a few personal characteristics that set the best copywriters apart from the rest.
- A Passion for Research
- Writing Skills
- Creative Intelligence
- Sales and Marketing Skills
- Computer and Internet Skills
- Negotiating Skills
A Passion for Research.
Good copywriting begins with exhaustive research. You might find it surprising to discover that most of the time spent on a copywriting project is research.
Copywriters spend only about 20% of their time writing copy. The rest is research and preparation.
Before she types a word, the copywriter must become an expert on the product, the target audience, and the competition.
You can’t fake persuasive writing, even with software. Good copywriting is an intimate conversation between the writer and the prospect. That takes skill.
Words and sentences are the building blocks of engaging copy. The pros have an intuitive feel for writing that works.
They weren’t born with it but developed the insight over years of writing.
Producing copywriting that is persuasive, and original requires the ability to imagine innovative solutions to marketing problems.
You don’t have to be a prodigy, but creative intelligence is a defining characteristic of the most successful copywriters.
Coined by psychologist Robert Sternberg, creative intelligence is the ability to embrace an unfamiliar situation and create a novel solution.
People who possess creative intelligence tend to be freethinkers and capable of processing large amounts of information to find new patterns and insights.
Not everyone is capable of empathy, but it’s essential to good copywriting.
As mentioned earlier, before a copywriter can craft engaging copy, she must first understand the target audience.
Specifically, she needs to know the problems or desires the prospect is experiencing that the product can address.
Empathy, the ability to understand someone else on an emotional level as if you were that person, gives the copywriter invaluable insight into the prospect.
Sales and Marketing Skills.
Copywriting is selling, so an understanding of the sales process is essential to copywriting success.
At its best, selling is a precision process of matching products and services to the needs and desires of people who need them.
Copywriting expands the process from a person-to-person transaction to a mass effort.
However, because each prospective customer experiences the process individually, copy must be written as if it’s still a person-to-person transaction.
The key to selling with words is to build trust through authenticity and information that is genuinely helpful to the prospect.
Computer and Internet Skills.
Computer skills are essential. In our digital age, a copywriter won’t survive long without minimum computing and typing skills.
They don’t need to be programmers, but they must be able to use software such as MS Word and Excell.
A high percentage of copywriting goes to feed online marketing campaigns.
In addition to knowing how to use a computer and word-processing software, a copywriter must understand online marketing.
It isn’t unusual for a copywriter to expand their skill set with additional projects such as building landing pages, sales funnels, and email sequences.
Naturally, the more skills a copywriter has to offer, the more valuable they are to the client, and the more income they can generate for themselves.
Every project is negotiable.
A freelancer needs to be comfortable negotiating both the parameters of a project and the fee.
An in-house copywriter also needs negotiating skills to move up the corporate ladder.
For the introverted copywriter, negotiating can be a difficult task. I suspect it is a primary reason some copywriters earn below average.
Where to Learn Copywriting.
Copywriters usually have a broad range of knowledge and experience.
Many come to the profession later in life. Some may have formal education. However, formal education isn’t required.
The beauty of copywriting is that the only requirement is the ability to write persuasive copy. A portfolio of your work will prove you can.
The best way to develop copywriting skills is through self-study and practice. Avoid expensive courses and mentorships until you have mastered the basics.
Read Copywriting Basics and The Best Copywriting Guide.
Then write practice projects and build a portfolio. To see how, read How to Build a Copywriting Portfolio.
Write for freelance sites to learn how to bid and manage a project, relate to clients, and to build confidence in your skills.
How to Become a Copywriter.
It doesn’t have to cost much to become a copywriter, but it does take work, tenacity, and patience. Start by learning Copywriting Basics.
Practice writing projects until you are confident you can be creative on demand and complete any assignment. Then write assignments you give yourself to showcase your skills.
Put the best examples of the projects you’ve written in a portfolio.
To learn more about creating a portfolio, read, How to Build a Copywriting Portfolio.
When you have a portfolio to show prospective clients and employers, create an account on a freelance site like Upwork or Freelancer and bid on writing projects.
Writing on freelance sites will be challenging. For the first few months, you’ll probably only get jobs no one else wants, and they won’t pay well.
The purpose of writing on freelance sites isn’t to make money. It’s to gain experience and confidence. You’ll learn how to interact with clients, even the nasty ones. And, you’ll learn how to be creative on demand.
Most of all, you’ll learn to trust your inner creative genius and complete projects no matter what they are. Add every completed project to your portfolio.
Remember, there are freelancers on these sites that earn very well after they have built a solid reputation as a professional. You can do the same thing and get plenty of work on the site.
Or, you can look for clients directly or apply for employment at an agency or corporation. Prospective clients and employers want to see your portfolio.
Can You Make Money Copywriting?
Yes, indeed, but not everyone can do it. However, for those who can, it might feel like turning words into cash.
Copywriting is a legitimate profession where demand outpaces supply. A good freelance copywriter can make six-figures annually.
Writing is a superpower. It doesn’t matter where you are in life; if you can write, there’s no reason to struggle financially.
Start by reading the recommended articles linked below.