Are you looking for a career change? Or perhaps writing has always been a passion you’ve wished to follow? Well, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our guide on how to become a copywriter in the UK.
The copywriting landscape
Following the coronavirus pandemic, the freedom of working from home and making your own hours as a freelancer has become more and more desirable. And fortunately, those who wish to embark on a career as a copywriter are in luck.
According to Forbes, copywriting is in high demand, with businesses and brands relying on compelling copy to dominate their content¬¬ marketing strategy: “The businesses making the most sales, especially in the e-commerce and direct response space, are all using long-form copy.”
But how do you break into the industry here in the UK and succeed as a copywriter?
Can you write?
This may seem obvious but many people looking to enter the industry are actually attracted to the idea of being a copywriter for reasons like working from home, making money, working for certain industries like fashion, music, travel etc.
Those are all very well but you need to start with a passion for writing as the centre of your motivation. And actually not just a passion for writing but a level of ability and understanding of what makes good writing. Sure, you can improve your skills, you can learn techniques, you can read David Ogilvy’s sage words but if that’s not underpinned by a love of words and an appreciation for writing in all its forms then you’re choosing a hard path. Like being a chef who is ambivalent about food. Think about this carefully whilst researching how to be become a copywriter.
I would suggest that to embark on a career as a copywriter you need to be someone who reads a lot, who at the very least enjoys writing a journal, a blog or a diary (if not more ambitious pieces of work) and has achieved good results in related English qualifications, probably to A Level if not further. Or some combination of these.
A note on this: in my opinion, good writing doesn’t necessarily equate with accurate grammar and spelling. You can learn those skills and employ editing and proofreading processes to ensure your work is accurate. What is more difficult to learn is a flair for the written word – if that doesn’t come naturally then maybe you’re headed in the wrong direction.
One final comment – copywriting is not novel writing, screenplay writing, journalism etc. It requires a different skillset that is as much about understanding businesses and organisations as it is about using the right words. I think much of the skill of it is in discovering what the client wants to communicate and finding the best way to do that. It’s collaborative. It’s functional. And it often involves huge compromises.
OK – now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the next steps.
How to become a copywriter in the UK – Step-by-step guide
Get to know the industry
To thrive in any industry, you must get to know it back to front. Dedicate time to staying on top of current and upcoming industry trends, topics and news. Turn to online news journals and content marketing platforms, blogs, YouTube, social media and even podcasts. Think about making this part of your routine and get into the habit of consuming these reports, articles and posts for ten minutes every day alongside your morning coffee. Some of our favourites include Moz.com, EConsultancy.com and Copyblogger.com for insight into how content creation fits into the marketing world.
Figure out what sort of copywriter you want to be
Before the majority of content marketing went online, being a copywriter meant scripting TV commercials in an ad agency, writing direct mail campaigns, and producing press releases, brochures and other business literature. Yes, those jobs still exist, but they’re not in great demand. Now, businesses are more likely to search for web editors, SEO copywriters, content managers and other online content roles. Make sure you understand what’s involved in the position you are applying for and upskill accordingly.
Your experience and transferrable skills
If you haven’t any experience as a copywriter, first you want to turn to the skills you have already and make sure they’re transferable. A good copywriter will need to have excellent English skills, be rather creative, and possess the ability to write clearly and persuasively for various audiences and situations, says Reed. Sticklers for grammar and punctuation also tick the box.
A good Copywriter will also need to have the following attributes:
- The ability to work under pressure
- Attention to detail
- Excellent communication skills
Think about how your past roles and responsibilities have helped you develop some or all of these skills and draw on these experiences to set the groundwork for a successful career in copywriting. As long as you can demonstrate these attributes, you’re on to a win. Experience in the industry can be gained, and copywriting specifics can be taught – it’s never too late to learn.
It’s time to upskill
The easiest way to upskill. Write every day. Sounds simple, right?
Practice makes perfect. Top athletes practice every day. So should copywriters. But there are also other things you can do to level up your copywriting game. Here are a few practical tips for how to become a copywriter, that you may not have thought of:
- Write outside the job. Maybe journaling or blogging is for you, or perhaps writing poetry or short stories is more your thing. Write for yourself, not just the job, and get your name out there whilst doing so. I take to Instagram and LinkedIn to blog my thoughts on various things, pushing myself to create compelling copy around three times a week. And trust me, it’s paid off.
- Keep a folder of great copywriting. I have a note in my phone full of links and screenshots of some of my favourite, laugh-out-loud funny and inspiring copy. Create your very own content bible and turn to it when you’re in need of some inspiration further down the line.
- And read a lot. The most prestigious writers are always the most prodigious readers. Push yourself to read books a little out of your comfort zone as well as delving into fiction you love. There are also some excellent copywriting books out there. We wrote a blog with our top five recommendations here.
- Reflect on what you read. Start noticing ad copy, news headlines, editorial, commentary, long-form copy, brochures – every piece of content marketing you see. Think: what do you like about it? What don’t you like? Why?
- Short courses are also a great option. From HubSpot to Google, the internet is your oyster for hundreds of free and paid courses that will show you the ins and outs of the industry. If you’re dreaming of writing website copy, a course in SEO copywriting might be perfect for you. Or, if you want your sentences to sound more convincing, perhaps a short course in persuasive writing could be just the ticket.
Put your name on the map
Building your personal brand and staying connected is the best way to ensure doors of opportunity are opened, and your name is put firmly on the content marketing map. But where do you start?
Keep up to date with your online presence
I mentioned earlier that I make sure showing up on LinkedIn and Instagram is always part of my daily routine. Posting on these social media channels allows you to get your name, and a taste of your skillset, in front of hundreds, even thousands, of people and leading figures in the industry.
Network, network, network
Utilise your recently founded online presence to strike up conversations with writers, industry influencers and even potential clients. Don’t worry about being too forward; too keen isn’t a bad thing here. Engage with their content online, drop them a message and ask to pick their brains – hey, even suggest hopping on a call. The worst thing that can happen is you get a no, or you’ll be ignored.
And finally, pitch yourself
Reach out to brands, businesses and platforms you’d love to work with and sell them the dream. Tell them how you’d make their life easier and elevate their content marketing strategy. You may get a few no’s, but I promise they make that first yes that much more worth it. We hope you found our guide on how to become a copywriter useful and can put it into practice to pursue your dream career.
Copywriters, how did you break into the industry? Have a tip or trick you’d like to share, drop it in the comments down below.