Contrary to what some people might claim, copywriting as a career isn’t for everyone. Before you buy an expensive copywriting course, take a moment to consider what it takes to succeed as a copywriter.
Copywriting might be a good career for you if you have a passion for writing, empathy for others and creative intelligence. Because copywriting uses words to influence prospects to buy a product or service, an interest in sales is helpful too.
Some people would have you believe you must be a creative genius and go through expensive training to become a copywriter. That isn’t completely true, although creative intelligence does give you an advantage.
Probably anyone who enjoys writing can learn to be a pretty good copywriter. However, making a career out of it requires more than just a love of words.
Copywriting as a Career.
The demand for copywriters has never been higher. In fact, there aren’t enough copywriters to meet the ever-expanding need for them.
The economy of the world is dependent on consumers purchasing products and services. Purchasing decisions are driven by the work of copywriters.
If you want to be a copywriter, rest assured there will always be a demand for your services. However, if you’re going to write for an agency or work as a freelancer, you still must find clients or job openings.
Don’t expect them to find you.
As a copywriter, you might work in-house for a marketing firm and earn a salary. Or, you may choose to work as a freelancer writing copy for various companies and getting paid per project.
A third option is writing copy for your own online advertising campaigns that promote affiliate products. This can be very lucrative.
How Much Do Copywriters Earn?
If you think copywriting is your path to easy money, it’s time to be realistic.
Yes, some copywriters make extraordinary incomes, but they typically have years of experience and are well connected to high-paying clients.
Also, and this is very important, they love writing!
Don’t become a copywriter because you want to make a lot of money. Become a copywriter because you want to be paid for doing what you love.
According to PayScale.com, an entry-level copywriter working on salary will earn about $40,000 a year.
The income of freelance copywriters is more challenging to determine because many freelancers work part-time or less.
Some sources report freelancers make less than $20,000 a year at the low end and 7-figures a year on the high end.
If you work for an agency or company, your income will be determined by your value to the company. In other words, your value is determined by how much you earn for the company.
If you work as a freelancer, your income will be determined by the number of projects you complete and how profitable these projects are for your clients.
If you write ad copy for your own advertising campaigns, your income will be determined by the profits of your campaigns.
Copywriters who make a percentage of the profits generated by their work often earn the highest income.
The Copywriter’s Skillset.
The core skill of a copywriter is the ability to use written words to communicate effectively to a target audience.
A copywriter must have a passion for writing. Also, the ability to empathize with the prospective customer is essential.
Copywriters are business people who work closely with clients or teams to produce marketing material targeted at a specific marketing objective.
The marketing objective typically contributes to the success of a company or organization as measured in profit.
Because a copywriter serves the interests of business, they need a similar skill set, such as interpersonal, organization, strategic planning and research skills.
Effective Copywriting Begins with Research.
Copywriting that gets results is based on accurate information. Getting this information might take a lot of digging.
It’s pointless to begin writing copy until the product or service and the needs of the prospective customer are thoroughly understood.
The copywriters who earn the highest incomes understand their products, customers, and competition better than anyone else.
This understanding is key to writing persuasively. It reveals the prospect’s needs and desires, their hot-buttons, and how to push them.
Copywriters Write Well.
This may seem obvious, but non-writers often believe writing well is easy. It’s not.
A good writer is someone who cobbles words together and then polishes her work until it shines.
Non-writers don’t understand the patience and effort that goes into a finished piece.
Sticking with a writing project until it is its best requires either bull-headed discipline or passion.
Passion is better and makes the job so much easier.
Without a passion for writing, a copywriter will typically produce uninspiring text that fails to engage the reader or move them to make a purchase.
Such a copywriter won’t enjoy their work and will soon move on to other things.
A skillful copywriter uses phrases, sentences, and paragraphs like building blocks to create an emotionally engaging and persuasive piece of copy.
The strength of the piece determines how deeply it influences its target audience and, ultimately how profitable the campaign is.
A professional copywriter has the power to influence the behavior of prospective customers and bring profits into a client’s business.
The more consistently and reliably a copywriter can bring profit to a company, the more valuable they are, and the more they will be rewarded.
When a copywriter has a reputation for making money for her clients, people come out of the woodwork to hire her.
Earlier in this article, I mentioned that it doesn’t require a genius to become a copywriter. This is true.
A hack writer can learn to be an effective copywriter. However, the most successful copywriters all share a unique mental ability.
They are creative.
The ability to dream up innovative solutions to real-world marketing challenges requires a unique mental capacity.
Psychologist Dr. Robert Sternberg describes this mental capacity as creative intelligence.
The more creatively intelligent a copywriter is, the more effective his copy can be.
Every copywriting project will present unique challenges. How well a copywriter overcomes these challenges is a matter of skill and creativity.
Not every copywriter will agree on the definition of creativity, but they know it when they see it.
Just being different or getting attention is not the same as being creative or useful, at least not in the context of copywriting.
Ad copy succeeds when it’s different, gets attention AND persuades the prospective customer to make a purchase.
If copy doesn’t get the job done, nothing else about it matters.
Characteristics of High Creative Intelligence.
There isn’t a test that can conclusively determine if someone has creative intelligence. However, there are indicators.
If you are considering copywriting as a career, ask yourself how well you measure up to the following list of creative intelligence characteristics.
Creative Intelligence Indicators
A Copywriter with High Creative Intelligence…
- Is a free thinker who can think both strategically and creatively
- Has an extensive attention span and can pursue multiple thoughts at the same time
- Can mentally process and organize large amounts of information
- Focus intensely on the creative process
- Has an intuitive curiosity to examine assignments and marketing problems from various angles
- Has in inherent desire to excel and to produce phenomenal work
- Is self-motivated and enjoys putting considerable effort into every project
Sales and the Copywriter.
Legendary copywriter Dan Kennedy wrote, “Copywriting is salesmanship in print.”
However, the greatest mistake inexperienced copywriters make is being too forceful in their efforts to sell.
Selling is not a blunt force assault. It’s a seduction.
Remember, the person reading your copy can stop reading at any moment. If you abuse them, they will.
Selling through any media is a delicate process of encouraging someone to try your product.
Empathy is Key.
Empathy is the ability to understand another person as if you are in their skin and to vicariously feel their emotional experience as if it were your own.
If you can put yourself in the mind of the prospective customer, you can understand them.
And, if you can understand them, you can write copy that will speak to them and encourage them to try your product.
Where to Learn Copywriting.
In the beginning, avoid buying an expensive copywriting course.
Many of these training packages are pitched like no-money-down real estate courses promising fast, easy money with no risk.
Don’t fall for it.
These courses are often hyped by self-proclaimed gurus who are just trying to make a sale. They don’t care if you load up your credit card only to discover copywriting isn’t for you.
Remember, if you pursue a career in copywriting, think like a businessperson and minimize your risks.
Instead of buying an expensive copywriting course, learn from free or low-cost sources first.
Amazon has hundreds of copywriting books. Plus, there is an abundance of free information online.
Use low cost and free sources to learn the basics. Then give yourself projects and write copy as if you were working for a client.
Once you have the basics down and gained confidence through practice, write assignments to include in a portfolio to show prospective clients or employers.
What to Charge for Copywriting.
Once you have a portfolio of samples of your work, it’s just a matter of talking to enough people who you can help with your copywriting skills.
In the beginning, you might have to write for free. That’s okay. You’ll learn more and you’ll gain confidence.
When you’re too busy with free work to keep up, begin charging for it. A good starting point for your rates is 3X the minimum wage in your area.
Some free clients will drop off.
That’s okay. Paying customers will replace them.
When you’re too busy to keep up with your paying clients, increase your rates by 15%. You’ll lose some clients.
That’s okay. Better clients will replace them.
Continue with this cycle until you are making what you want and also have enough clients to keep you comfortably busy.
Once you know what you are worth as a copywriter, you’ll be in position to pursue a salary position with an employer, if that is what you want.