Skip to content

Breaking into copywriting: what is the typical copywriter career path?

by Nick Toner on

Copywriters come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and there’s no one fixed copywriter career path. Whether you choose to study, take an internship at an agency, set up your own business or a mixture of all these options, there’ll be a way that’s right for you.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the possible copywriter career paths available and how to successfully transition into copywriting.

Copywriter career paths: How to successfully transition into copywriting

These are some of the most common ways for beginners in the industry to pursue a copywriting career path:

1. Studying for a qualification

Graduate in graduation gown - What is the typical copywriter career path - Copify blog 2

For those who are dipping their toes into the copywriting waters for the very first time and planning their copywriter career path, it may seem like the best route into the career is to study the subject and learn as much as you can – and this is certainly the right route for some people.

One way into learning about copywriting is to take a qualification specifically designed to give you the skills you need. Organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing offer a range of courses, some of which focus on copywriting. Taking an online course may also work for you.

In terms of higher education, there are only a few copywriting degrees offered here and there. Usually, copywriters with degrees have studied other subjects. These subjects offer transferable skills and mean you’ll be able to broaden your horizons a little.

Many essay subjects, such as History, help you to hone your ability to carry out effective and efficient research – a skill essential for a successful career in copywriting.

2. Getting work experience

But you don’t even have to have studied anything in order to become a copywriter. By far the most important aspect of a copywriter’s career path is the diversity of work experience they have gathered – and, for most copywriters with a few years under their belts, their experience and skills speak for themselves.

Every successful copywriter is able to show future clients or employers that they have some experience writing, and work experience is the best way to do that.

The traditional route for those looking for work experience is to work at an agency, and it’s sometimes possible to get a part-time position or internship to get your foot in the door.

Although this means you might be doing some admin tasks as well as honing your writing skills and learning from your bosses, it’s a great way to enter the sector and experience your first taste of work.

Other people join agencies via graduate schemes, while some simply apply for standard junior copywriting jobs. And in some cases, people do other related jobs first – such as journalism – before taking the plunge and moving into copywriting. It’s all about finding what works for you.

As Devon-based copywriter Derryck Strachan has written, whatever copywriting role you apply for it’s important to do your research and tailor your application to them. “Establishing a personal connection with the decision maker at the company you want to work for is a quick win, yet few applicants do it,” he said.

3. Taking the in-house route

Man working at desktop PC - What is the typical copywriter career path - Copify blog 1

In copywriting, the term “in house” refers to someone who works for a specific organisation and devotes all of their working time to writing for them. Unlike working at an agency, where you’ll split your time between a few different clients, an in-house copywriter just focuses on one brand.

There are lots of advantages to doing this at the start of your copywriter career path, the main one being that you get the chance to fully embed yourself in your organisation’s field and learn lots about what they do.

However, you may find that it is difficult to move out of this and back into the agency lifestyle. That’s because a few years’ worth of in-house work will often result in a copywriter specialising in the industry or sector their employer belongs to.

For example, a copywriter who goes to work for a large bank and spends five years writing about loans, shareholder equity and interest rates may find it difficult to transition to in-house copywriting for, say, an arts organisation.

By the same token, an employer searching for an in-house fashion specialist is unlikely to go for someone who has spent their professional life writing about banking, because the relevant industry knowledge is not likely to be there.

While this kind of specialism is appealing to some people, it’s worth thinking about this before making the decision to commit to a certain industry.

4. Going self-employed

But many copywriters choose not to follow either the agency or the in-house route and instead get into copywriting by setting up on their own.

Often, the first step in becoming a freelance copywriter is to launch your own website, containing a portfolio and information about the services you offer.

It’s a competitive world out there, and as a result, it pays to make sure your portfolio is as strong (and well-designed!) as possible in order to beat the competition and surge ahead in the race for clients.

Once you’ve got your website up and running, it won’t publicise itself – so you’ll need to look into advertising. Google AdWords, for example, is a fantastic way to promote your copywriting business, although it does require some investment.

Applying to content production sites such as Copify are excellent choices, too. These companies find clients who need marketing material written for their blogs, social media pages and much more. They then offer the work to a pool of talented copywriters who produce the copy and get it submitted quickly.

As a freelance copywriter, this gives you a way to pick up work as and when you have the time to do it. What’s more, the diversity of briefs on offer means that no two projects are the same, and your general knowledge quickly rises as a result of the many different subjects on offer.

While freelancing isn't without its challenges, if you put some thought in and keep your focus on your copywriter career progression plan, it could well become a rewarding and worthwhile choice.

Main image credit: Ivan Vranić 

Image credits: Albert Vincent Wu, Tim van der Kuip