Skills & Expertise

What Does a Copywriter Do?

Hone your communication and storytelling skills to excel in this creative position

You’ve always had a way with words, an ability to reel people in with your storytelling. How about putting that talent to use as a copywriter? Sounds like a good idea if we ever heard one. Read on to find out everything there is to know about the job.

What exactly does a copywriter do?

A copywriter creates clear, compelling copy to sell products and/or educate and engage consumers, flexing persuasive writing muscle on websites, blog posts, product descriptions, email blasts, banner advertising, newsletters, white papers, PSAs, social media platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, and other marketing communication vehicles.

The job may also entail brainstorming concepts and developing storyboards; working with marketing and other creative departments to develop communication strategies; and ensuring consistent brand messaging, including voice and tone, across print, TV, radio, direct mail and other communication channels.

A typical day on the job might include researching a topic online or conducting an interview, figuring out how to convey an idea to a specific audience, writing and editing copy and finding images to accompany content, says POPQspartygames.com owner Susan Hawkins, who has more than 25 years of copywriting experience, including several as an SEO copywriter.

What skills are required?

Writing skills, of course. But we’re talking about more than the ability to string together a coherent sentence. “As a professional, you have to know how to write copy that sells to the specific audience of the client, agency or business,” says freelance copywriter Helen Holt of Writing-preneur Copywriting Services.  

Grammar, spelling and punctuation count too, adds Hawkins. “Know the difference between ‘everyday’ and the phrase ‘every day’; they’re not interchangeable. Spelling can make or break your career.”

The ability to write for any audience and superior research skills are also crucial, as is adhering to deadlines. “If you can’t deliver quality content on a given deadline, you probably won’t make it as a copywriter,” says Hawkins.

Lastly, you have to be able to follow directions. This is especially true for freelancers hired to listen to what someone is looking for and execute that vision. “A copywriter’s job is providing deliverables,” says Holt, “custom made to order.”

Check out open copywriter positions and other writing jobs on Mediabistro’s job board.

How important are digital skills?

In a word: very. Writing content is no longer enough. “You have to know how to optimize the content to drive traffic to your client’s website, landing page or blog,” says Holt.

This means keeping current with digital technology, including Google’s algorithm changes so you know which SEO techniques are most effective, she notes.

Who is a copywriter’s boss?

If you’re freelance, you’ll likely report to your client’s marketing director. If you work for an agency or a company, you’ll probably take your cues from an advertising, promotions or marketing director.

How do I get ahead in this position?

Practice writing and develop a style, advises Hawkins. And for the love of chocolate, don’t ever, ever plagiarize. “You’ll be outed faster than a cheating politician,” she says.

How can someone break into this field?

A bachelor’s in something like journalism, English or marketing can help, but a powerhouse portfolio filled with an array of samples you created for online copywriting classes or internships or while lending your services to a nonprofit is what will wow potential employers.

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