How long does it take to learn copywriting?

by Wendy Woodhead

Many newcomers to the field often ask: how long does it take to learn copywriting? Erm… you’ve heard the one about the piece of string, right?

The journey to learning copywriting is different for everyone. Some people seem to have an in-built knack for putting together great words, whereas others might have their heart set on the creativity and freedom that copywriting can provide as a career but find they really have to work at it.

For the uninitiated, Neville Medhora shares some excellent tips on how to learn copywriting without any experience. For now, let’s take a look at all the things which affect the time it takes to master the art of copywriting…

What affects the length of time it takes to learn copywriting?

1. Mastery of language

When it comes to pursuing any vocation, a qualification of some sort is often considered a necessity. But the reality is, as long as you can write fluently, concisely and convincingly, you don’t need a degree to be a writer – or most other qualifications.

Of course, some people will have these, so you will need experience and talent to make up for their absence. And if your English skills leave much to be desired, it’ll take you a lot longer to get off the starting line.

Nevertheless, the key to writing great copy is reading and writing…often. From cereal boxes and shampoo bottles, to literary tomes and articles, the more words you consume the more diverse your output will be.

But don’t worry, copywriter Roy Furr has some advice:

“Sit down with a successful advertisement or sales letter, and copy it yourself. The old gurus always said you have to do it by hand. And I certainly did my fair share — filling up yellow note pad after yellow note pad.”

Why is this important to learning copywriting?

“What you’ll be doing is training both your conscious and your subconscious mind what great copy is… What it feels like… Its cadence… Its rhythm… Its pacing… Its stories… Its proof and credibility… Its voice… Its promises and offers…”

2. Practice

The quicker you start copywriting, the quicker you’ll get to where you want to be. One of the best ways in the absence of job offers is writing for yourself and showcasing it to the world. Many successful copywriters started out humbly writing their own blog – and there are good reasons to do it.

Experience doesn’t need to be paid, especially not in the beginning. Submitting guest blog posts, setting yourself writing challenges, contributing copy for a local charity or writing a friend or family member’s website is all good practice.

If you want to get into ad copywriting, participating in Bank of Creativity’s One Minute Briefs might help. And if you already have the foundations of good copywriting skills, you can source freelance copywriting jobs online to build your portfolio and expertise with sites such as Copify.

3. Dedication

Stephen King once said budding writers should write every day. You might not be writing fiction, but this wouldn’t do you any harm, particularly when you’re starting out and want to learn copywriting as fast as you can.

Honing your skills takes time, so even if you’re not yet being paid to write copy, having a firm commitment to writing every day will help get into the mindset of writing professionally under your own initiative. Whether you use that time to write a blog post, practise writing samples, pitching ideas to businesses, volunteering your writing skills, posting on social media, writing guest posts or even writing creatively – every little helps.

4. Willingness to learn

You’ll get further quicker if you take on board the many stages to the learning process.

From responding positively and actively to feedback from clients, teachers and peers, to keeping up to date with the latest rules on advertising and the current trends in copywriting, marketing psychology and SEO, you’ll find your skills improve far more than someone who is still writing copy as though it’s the 1980s.

There are plenty of tutorials and ebooks available online, such as those at Copyblogger 101, while copywriting books and copywriting courses both online and in person can help teach you the ropes.

Participating in forums, attending workshops and webinars and local networking groups for marketers via sites like MeetUp will help too.

5. Creativity

This can be more important to some types of copywriting (such as advertising) than others, but either way, you’ll need to have strong creativity to help you on your journey to becoming a great copywriter.

Copywriting involves taking everyday topics and products and making them exciting and relatable to your audience. To truly engage your reader, you need a healthy dose of creative flair.

3 types of copywriting journey

As with any journey, many find there are three paths you can take, all of which have their own pros and cons…

The short cut

You’ve just decided you want to be a copywriter and want to learn it as soon as possible. It will be tough and may mean you lack the experience of more seasoned writers, but if you have the confidence it’s worth a shot.

Consider the following:

  • Take a short online course like the Confident Copywriting course or a copywriting course from Udemy
  • Read free online tutorials
  • Set up a blog and post every day, promoting it via social media
  • Keep a swipe file and practice writing out persuasive copy longhand; you’ll find you quickly absorb the techniques
  • Actively approach businesses via social media and cold pitching

The middle path

You may be fancying a career change and want to capitalise on your transferable skills while adding some new strings to your bow. If you put in the effort you can capitalise on your former experience to gain some ground.

Consider the following:

  • Use your professional experience in another industry to carve out a niche
  • Read online tutorials, blogs and free resources
  • Enrol onto a comprehensive copywriting course
  • Start a blog and post at least one to two times a week
  • Pitch to companies and guest post

The long and winding road

You want to do things by the book and truly work your way up so you’re confident in your skills and experience. It takes a lot longer but, with dedication, you’ll have an impressive CV and portfolio to take with you to any job.

Consider the following:

  • A bachelors or masters degree in a writing or media-based subject, or a niche field for which you’d like to write
  • Look for placements and internships with in-house companies or agencies
  • Start small by writing on a freelance basis with the aim of joining a company as a junior copywriter
  • Build your portfolio and expertise by blogging and guest posting
  • Attend networking events and webinars

There is no right or wrong journey, and your life circumstances will determine what is the most suitable route for you. However, for the best chance of success, try a few different suggestions from above to give yourself a richer starting point from which to develop your copywriting skills.

So, how long does it take to learn copywriting?

We were trying to put this off, but here goes: you’ll never truly learn copywriting. If you did, you’d be a pretty poor copywriter. That’s because copywriters are truly of their time and must always adapt to the newest products, means of engagement and marketplaces.

For instance, when John Emory Powers sat down to write copy for Beecham’s Pills and MacBeth’s Lamp Chimneys do you think he could possibly have envisaged the rise of SEO copywriting?

Even more recent copywriters such as Gary Halbert could never have predicted the dominance of social media and email newsletters when starting out.

However, it’s true that putting in the time, practising your skills, and being alert to (and taking) opportunities when they come along are key to speeding up your progress to become a pretty good copywriter…pretty fast.

There might not be a set path or timeframe but it all depends on the confidence you have in your abilities and the dedication you have to succeed. In the meantime, why not build your skills by signing up to Copify where you can get paid to hone your copywriting skills.

Main image credit: nile
Internal image credits: joseph_redfieldmichaelaKaz

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Wendy Woodhead

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.