What is a Copywriter?
Copywriters aren’t just stellar wordsmiths — they’re the most stealthy and creative salespeople out there. With subtle marketing techniques, captivating storytelling, and carefully crafted sentences, a copywriter lures their audience in and gets them to invest in their client’s products… even if customers don’t actually need the products (yes, we’re all victims of this!).
Whether you’re a freelancer looking for another side gig, or a 9-to-5 worker wanting a career shift, copywriting offers a lucrative earning potential with plenty of opportunities, both freelance and full-time. The best part? It’s a flexible career that can be done practically anywhere and everywhere!
While copywriting may seem daunting, with the right guidance, resources, and mindset, anyone can pick up the skills needed to succeed. Plus, it’s a career that’ll allow you to finally put your years as a bookworm to good use.
Copywriting involves creating persuasive, compelling text or “copy” that encourages the intended reader to buy a product or subscribe to a service. Effective copy evokes emotions, builds a connection between the business and its target audience, and communicates the message without triggering the person’s SPAM radar. It’s stealthy stuff.
Today’s audience is frustrated with obtrusive, in-your-face advertisements. Attention spans have shrunk, and clients value emotional connection above all else. In fact, copywriting is so important to businesses today that it’s widely considered the backbone of digital marketing.
A Brief History of the Industry
The act of storytelling to compel an audience has existed for eons — yep, even ancient Egyptians were dipping their reeds into copywriting. However, the copywriting we know (and love) today dates back to the creation of the printing machine in the 15th century.
Back then, businesses, politicians, and news outlets were finally able to distribute papers en masse, which meant a whole new way to advertise themselves to audiences. Writers — aka early copywriters — were hired to create these advertisements, and they focused on creating content that, due to print restrictions, was concise, informative, and structured.
This rigid approach to content creation changed in the mid-20th century with technological advancements and the shift in audience perspectives. Media’s goal changed from informational to being a form of entertainment, and copywriters adapted, incorporating storytelling, persuasive techniques, and emotional language.
Today copywriting is a new creature entirely, thanks to advanced digital capabilities and the decline in print media. Modern copywriters understand digital marketing and are skilled in connecting with audiences across an array of diverse platforms, from social media posts to email newsletters.
Furthermore, today’s technology allows copywriters to work remotely from anywhere, in both full-time and freelance positions, and on a schedule that suits their lifestyles. It’s a flexible, lucrative career path that anyone can succeed at if they put their mind to it.
How to Become a Copywriter
You don’t need a degree to become a successful copywriter, but you do need stellar writing skills, good attention to detail, and a passion for research. A strong piece of copy employs all of these skills and more to capture the audience’s attention and convert prospects into long-term clients.
We understand that all the skills that go into being a copywriter can sound intimidating, especially if you’re new to writing professionally! But we’re certain that, no matter your age, experience, or educational background, you’ll learn everything you need to thrive — and from the comfort of your own home!
Essential Copywriting Skills
To excel as a professional copywriter, you’ll need a mix of practical, creative, and digital marketing skills. Here are the essentials:
- Clean, error-free writing
- Ability to conduct thorough research
- Knowledge of digital marketing strategies
You’ll also need soft skills like time management, attention to detail, and good communication skills.
One of the best ways to pick up the skills needed for copywriting (and general freelance writing) is by enrolling in an online course. There are many courses available that are affordable, designed for beginners, and that allow you to learn at your own pace. We’ll mention some of our favorite copywriting courses below, so stay tuned!
Copywriters don’t just need to be great grammarists, punctuationists, and spellers. They must use tone and style to create compelling, engaging text that connects with (and persuades) their target audience.
The skills for writing well also require you to confidently employ various creative and persuasive techniques, such as storytelling, metaphorical language, and creating emotional hooks.
As a copywriter, you’ll have to write on dozens of topics, many of which may be new to you. You’ll need to perform effective research, use reliable resources to back up your claims, and communicate your findings using technical jargon within your niche.
Researching may even include performing interviews with authority figures in the field to ensure your copy comes across as credible and connects with potential clients!
Knowledge of Digital Marketing
Today it’s especially important for copywriters to consider how the internet reads copy. Incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) practices is one way that copywriters ensure their writing gets seen by their intended audiences.
Copywriters also need a good understanding of digital marketing, including analyzing and drawing insights from marketing data, and they should know how to build a social media presence.
Attention to Detail
Copywriters must have an eagle eye for proofreading to ensure the copy is clean and represents their client’s brand and values professionally. Typos, grammar mistakes, factual errors, and inconsistencies can ruin the copy’s credibility and prevent its message from reaching the intended audience.
Copywriters often have to juggle multiple clients, projects, and deadlines, meaning time management is paramount, ensuring they can stay on top of everything without sacrificing quality in the process.
Time management isn’t just about hitting those looming deadlines though — it’s also about maintaining a healthy work-life balance and keeping burnout at bay.
There are plenty of online resources, guides, and distraction-lessening apps that can help you brush up on your time management skills.
Here are some of our faves:
- Todoist’s Productivity Methods Quiz — Give yourself a time-management check-up!
- ClickUp, Trello, Toggl Track, and TimeTree — Apps to keep you on track
- PA’s tips on how to stay focused — We’ve written extensively on how to manage time well. Perfect for chronic procrastinators!
Best Copywriting Courses
An online copywriting course is the easiest and quickest way to perfect your copywriting chops. Most online courses are self-guided (learn at your own pace and schedule) and come with a wealth of resources to help you kickstart your copywriting career.
While there are plenty of copywriting courses to choose between, our personal favorites are…
Write Your Way to Freedom
Write Your Way to Freedom is a true favorite here at PA! This course lives up to its moniker for the heaps of knowledge, tools, and support it offers, helping you write your way to a lucrative copywriting career! With over 70+ training modules, the course covers virtually everything you possibly need to know to become a copywriter, from how to write viral-worthy copy to the fundamentals of SEO.
The best part about the course is its amazing support system. You’ll be included in weekly one-on-one coaching with top copywriters in the industry and have access to a private community page where you can connect with fellow students, exchange insights, and support one another throughout your career journeys.
You can check out the free Copywriting Masterclass for a taste of what the program has to offer.
The Freelance Writer’s Guide
Established by copywriting entrepreneur Colleen Welsch, The Freelance Writer’s Guide is an amazingly affordable copywriting program, beneficial to both beginners and experienced freelance copywriters. You’ll learn skills beyond the fundamentals of copywriting and business, to how to better manage your work-life balance (so yep, chronic procrastinators, this course is for you!).
Colleen’s program includes 56 lessons, 5 hours of video content, and plenty of downloadable copywriting resources and templates. You’ll also have the opportunity to attend monthly live Q&A Zoom calls to receive feedback and get your questions answered.
The course will only set you back $405 ($75 per month if you’re paying in installments) and you can use code PROOFREAD to get 20% off.
Even if you’re not quite ready to commit to a copywriting course, we still recommend checking out Colleen Welsch’s website. It’s stocked full of helpful freelance copywriting resources, many of which are totally free!
Our friends at Transcribe Anywhere have teamed up with the billion-dollar copywriting mentor, Adil Amarsi, to create a brand new copywriting course with 17 video modules, downloadable slides, a downloadable homework guide, and three bonus courses in marketing and pricing.
Copywriting in the Digital Age
The digital age has changed how people view media and interact with media, and copywriters must adapt to these changes, too. Professional copywriters must battle information overload, by employing personalized storytelling, connecting with audiences, following web standards (aka SEO), and familiarizing themselves with digital marketing strategies.
Copywriting in the digital age calls for copywriters to engage and interact with their audiences. They create trendy, data-driven hashtags, aim to transform their clients’ businesses into characters, and communicate directly with customers (shoutout to Wendy’s on Twitter).
The work can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not familiar with digital marketing or concepts like SEO. But trust us when we say these concepts sound a lot scarier than they actually are. Even those who aren’t tech-savvy can learn them, and there are plenty of online educational resources that can help!
Understanding digital marketing is also vital if you want to pursue a freelance career. Knowing your way around all facets of the digital realm will allow you to effectively self-promote your services, connect with prospective clients, and gain a consistent stream of income.
The Growing Presence of AI: Is Copywriting Doomed?
No matter what the apocalyptic sci-fi movies may lead you to believe, copywriters aren’t going to be replaced by robots anytime soon.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) writing tools like ChatGPT aren’t perfect, and cannot create like humans can. They can’t match the same depth, complexity, and originality, nor relate to readers on a personal or emotional level. Reports say AI writing tools also have a bad habit of backing up their claims with fabricated sources — a career-killing move for a copywriter.
However, AI can be used as a tool to help copywriters reach their full potential. AI software can speed up the proofreading process, provide creative prompts, and help writers organize their thoughts. AI can even help with time management.
Want to find out exactly what kinds of AI tools are out there for freelancers? Check out our post on the best AI tools to improve your business!
Finding Your Copywriting Niche
As the saying goes, if you’re a jack of all trades… you’re a master of none.
While it’s definitely possible to establish a copywriting career without specializing in a niche, focusing on one industry or style will make reaching that high-income bracket a whole lot easier. You’ll be seen as an expert in your area, which will help you stand out against the competition and give you the authority to charge much higher rates than generalist copywriters.
There are many types of copywriters, and choosing your copywriting niche can be tough. There’s no surefire formula and no one can decide it for you. You can choose to specialize in a particular industry, like travel, SAAS technology, or hospitality, or a specific type of copy, like case studies, email campaigns, or social media posts — the options are practically limitless.
Here are some tips we hope will help you narrow down your options and find a niche you’re passionate about.
Here are some writing prompts to help!
Grab some paper and a pen, and jot down answers for the questions below. By the end of this activity, you’ll hopefully have a much better idea of what your niche could be!
- What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
- What are your current hobbies? Are there any other hobbies you’ve wanted to try?
- What industries have you previously worked for? Which industry was your favorite?
- Has a past job given you expert knowledge in an area?
- Have you done content writing in the past? What did you enjoy writing about?
- Was there a previous work project that inspired you?
- Have you earned any certifications, achievements, or qualifications?
- If you’re a freelancer currently, which clients have you enjoyed working with the most?
- What organizations, groups, or clubs are you a member of?
- Have you undergone any professional training?
- What professional contacts do you have? What industries are these contacts in?
- What is your home life like? Do you have children? Are you a carer to someone?
- Do you have a blog? What are your most successful blog posts about?
- What life experiences have shaped you or given you a new outlook?
- How did you overcome a challenging time in your life? What helped you?
- What kind of content do you enjoy reading and/or writing?
You can also connect with experienced copywriters and ask them how they were able to find their niches. Even the most successful copywriters were once in your shoes — just check out our interview with copywriting entrepreneur Colleen Welsch! Every professional has a unique story of how they grew in their career, and we’re sure many would be happy to share their personal experiences with you.
Choosing your niche can be daunting, but don’t be afraid to make the “wrong” decision. If you’ve scrolled job boards and the first niche you chose didn’t work out for you, you can always experiment with other niches until you find one that does. You can also take on multiple niches if you have expertise in different industries. That’s the best part about copywriting: You have the freedom to take your career in whatever direction you like!
Copywriter Salary and Pay
Copywriting, especially freelance copywriting, gives you the flexibility to work from anywhere. But believe it or not, that isn’t the biggest perk — the pay is. Copywriting is an incredibly lucrative career that can allow you to hit a six-figure income.
Beginner freelance copywriters in the US earn around $41,799 per year, while skilled copywriters with a few years of experience under their belt can expect an annual income of around $70,000 to $84,000.
In-house copywriters earn slightly less than freelancers, with an average income of $61,424 per year, though in-house roles do bring more stability.
Both in-house and freelance copywriters can earn over $100,000 per year, especially if they specialize in a lucrative, well-paying niche. For example, B2B copywriters typically earn between $64,000 and $107,000 per year, while UX copywriters can earn an annual income of over $125,000.
Copywriting isn’t the only lucrative, flexible career path out there for wordsmiths — SEO writers, ghostwriters, and content writers all have great income potential! You’ll definitely want to check these out if a career in copywriting doesn’t sound right for you.
Copywriting offers a fulfilling, exciting career path for passionate storytellers who want to put their writing chops to good use. While it does involve a bit more technical knowledge and digital mastery than other writing roles, anyone can pick up the skills with time and dedication. The pay-off is also worth it: You’ll be rewarded with a lucrative income, endless room for growth, and a flexible career where you can work from home in the comfort of your PJs.
A fantastic way to begin your freelance copywriting career is by taking the Write Your Way to Freedom course! You can also browse our Freelancer Resources page for plenty of helpful templates, guides, and resources.