I get asked lots of questions about being a copywriter.
The conversation normally goes something like this:
‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a copywriter.’
‘Wow, that’s cool.’
‘Do you take lots of drugs and drink in the morning?’
‘Do you write adverts all day?’
‘Do you lounge around until inspiration strikes?’
‘How’d you get into it?’
Well, that’s an interesting one, actually. Landing a job in the ‘creative industries’ can be pretty difficult. Full-time agency jobs are few and far between, and the market’s saturated with young, bright-eyed and hungry people, all vying for the same few openings.
I’ve recently been through this painful process. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
Degrees aren’t everything.
You don’t need one at all, really. Having one won’t hurt, of course, but it’s not a necessity. You’ll pick up a good haul of transferable skills, but the most important thing is having an aptitude for writing. And being able to prove it when you’re asked to.
Copywriting isn’t journalism – and people aren’t here to read your words.
Journalists report facts as they find them (well, in theory). A copywriter’s job is to sell something. So you need to influence, as well as inform.
Ultimately, your writing isn’t the product.
Clever, witty, funny work is great – if it’s functional. First and foremost, you need to get the message across.
Build it, and they will come.
(A portfolio, and job offers, that is.)
One of the hardest things about starting out is putting a portfolio together. How do you show your work if you haven’t done any work? Here’s how:
Write speculative stuff.
Stuff that displays your ability to write. Ads for Nike. Headlines for Greenpeace. Even if the hypothetical client never sees it. Building a portfolio for a junior role is about demonstrating your ability, rather than proving your track record.
Write unsolicited stuff.
Ever stumble over a website and think, ‘this could be better?’ Well, make it better. And send them a sample. You never know: you might just get commissioned to finish off the stellar job you’ve already started.