Working as a Copywriter

How to get started as a marketing copywriter will depend on several factors that are individual to you. Your options for starting your career as a marketing copywriter will depend on your education level, writing ability, and marketing know-how, as well as your goals for your career. Copywriters are typically either employed by ad and marketing agencies or self-employed as freelancers.

In this article, we're going to reveal what you need to get started working as a copywriter, no matter if you choose to work for someone else or step out on your own. We'll also give you information on getting started as a freelance copywriter or landing that first job in an ad agency.

Terms to Know

Locate the terms below in the dictionary, then fill in the meaning of each word in your "Student Dictionary" by using Google or another search engine to find the definition.

1. Portfolio

2. Ad agency

3. Proposal

Building a Portfolio

The one thing any potential employer is going to want to see from you when you look for a job as a copywriter is your portfolio. A portfolio contains different pieces of copy that you've written. As much as showing how well you can write, the pieces in a portfolio show how well you can think - or how well you can take an idea, create a strategy, then develop copy that sells that idea. And not just in print, on a website, or in an ad - across all mediums. They want to see you sell that idea on a web page, on social media, in a brochure, et cetera. Potential employers want to see you can develop a message and use that message to sell!

Nowadays, most copywriters keep their portfolio online. Having your portfolio online makes it easy for potential employers to reference it. You can include it as part of your website so that in addition to having your portfolio online, you can include a little more information about you - the copywriter. That said, it's also nice to have a hard copy of your portfolio. Hard copy portfolios are nice for job interviews where you're not sure if the potential employer will have a computer in front of him or her -- or if you're cold calling on potential clients.

Creating a Hard Copy Portfolio

To create a hard copy portfolio, you'll need to print the work you want to include in it if you don't already have copies. You'll also need a binder. Take the time to shop for an attractive binder. Leather is durable and has a professional look. You don't want to skimp on the work you include or the binder. It's important to have an organized, professional image.

Creating an Online Portfolio

If you want to create a digital portfolio, you can do so by keeping it on a CD or a disk. However, most copywriters these days keep theirs on a website or on a writer's portfolio site. This makes your portfolio easier to share. You may need to scan some of your work into your computer, then convert it to PDF or JPEG format. No matter how you choose to assemble your portfolio, you should include at least 12 pieces of work and have as many as 20 on hand in case you need to show more to a potential employer or client.

What Goes into Your Portfolio

A portfolio isn't just samples of you writing. It's also a sample of how you can take an idea and turn it into a strategy, then an effective, winning message. You want to show a potential employer or client that you can translate that message across different mediums as well. That said, include different types of copy, such as website copy, social media posts, et cetera.

Organize the material that you include so you can display all the different types of copy you write. For example, organize it by website copy, social media, brochures, and so on. If you have a hard copy portfolio, use page dividers to organize your work. A portfolio is also known as a book, so take the time to put together your portfolio just as you would a book.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Marketing Copywriter course?

Creating a Portfolio When You Have Zero Experience

When you're first starting out as a copywriter, you may not have any work to include in a portfolio - or not enough work. That's okay. Everyone starts out with zero experience, but it doesn't mean you still can't build a portfolio.

Use your swipe file for ideas, and create your own samples for your portfolio. You can use Microsoft Publisher to create different pieces or - if you have access - you can also employ a graphic designer to help create pieces for you. You can also take the opportunity to create copy for your own business, or you can volunteer your services and write website copy for a neighbor who runs a lawn service or social media posts for a small business in your community. The important thing is to show potential employer and clients that you have the skills and ideas to write effective ad copy for them.

Working as a Freelance Copywriter

While many copywriters work within ad agencies or in-house marketing departments, many experienced and inexperienced copywriters decide to freelance. Freelancing means that you work for yourself. You find your own clients, you provide your own health insurance, and you determine how much or how little you work - and earn. When you freelance, you are an independent copywriter.

How to Get Clients

You have two basic choices for attracting clients as a freelance copywriter. You can cold call local businesses and ad agencies, offering your services. If you do this, you'll probably want a hard copy portfolio, as well as business cards and other information about your services that you can leave behind. In this day in age, everyone says they're too busy to meet with a salesman who comes in off the street, so you'll probably also be asked to leave a rate sheet. You may pick up a few clients this way, but it will be hard to attract a stable full of clients.

Instead, you can use the Internet to find clients. There are sites such as and where you can browse copywriting jobs, then bid on them. When you bid on a job, you'll be asked to enter your price, as well as submit your proposal. In addition, you'll need samples of your own work to show a potential client that you can successfully do the job.

It can be slow getting started with actual work on sites like these because the competition is steep, but it can also be worth it if you persevere. If you do a good job for your clients, you'll get more work from them. Plus, they will give you testimonials which will help you secure more clients. Once you get started and prove yourself as an effective copywriter, you'll be able to find as many clients as you want.

How to Know What to Charge

There isn't one resource that you can consult to tell you what to charge for your copywriting services. Your prices should be competitive, but you shouldn't under-charge either. To start with, you can look in publications from Writer's Digest or the National Writer's Union. However, be warned, these publications typically reflect rates charged by freelance copywriters with experience and who find their clients through other means than freelance job sites. The prices are on the high side.

But what you want is to get started as a copywriter. Even though rates on the freelance job sites are a tad lower, they are the most efficient way to find continual work. To get an idea of what rates you should charge, look at other freelance copywriter's websites. You can even ask other copywriters. You'll find some copywriters charge per project, some per piece, and some per hour.

Consider these things when setting your prices:

? Per hour means per labor hour, not actual hours.

? Factor in your overhead and taxes when setting a rate. Most copywriters charge close to $50 per hour for this reason.

? Consider setting a minimum labor hour rate and using that to produce per-project or per-piece charges.

? Charging less than the competition is a big no-no. It reflects lower quality. Be competitive. You can even charge more once you have the experience to back you up.

? Keep in mind the goals you have for your income when establishing a price.

Test your prices as you start to look for clients. Don't feel like you have to work for pennies because you're inexperienced. Your portfolio speaks for itself and shows clients that you can do the job and do it well. Eventually, you'll start to see the magic spot where your price and your experience come together to make it easier to attract clients to you.

Writing a Proposal

If you decide to get started on one of the freelance job sites available online, the one thing you're going to have to learn to do is to sell yourself, as well as your services, in a written proposal. Essentially, a proposal is nothing but a short sales letter. The proposal starts with a salutation. If you know the client's name, address them by their name. If you know their gender, you can write "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam". You can address it "To whom it may concern" or even "Dear Potential Client". But always start out with a salutation.

Take the first paragraph to briefly introduce yourself. Tell them what you can offer their company. You can cite conversion rates for past campaigns, years of experience, or - if you don't have any experience - you can cite copy you've written that's similar to what they need. If you have experience in their industry, tell them that as well. Keep the first paragraph brief. Just give them a reason to be interested enough in you to keep reading.

In the next few paragraphs, acknowledge the problem they face - or why they need copy written. Explain what your approach to their project would be and why it would be successful. Remember to write persuasive, compelling copy. You are selling them on you! Be exciting. Be convincing. Inspire confidence!

Once you've made your case, make the offer. Tell them your rate for the project, as well as what that rate includes. If you offer a guarantee, state that along with the terms. Never guarantee the success of the copy, because there are several factors that determine the success of a campaign. Copy is one of the main factors, but not the only.

End the letter with an invitation for them to contact you for more information or for an interview. State your willingness to provide whatever they need to be confident in their hiring decision. Sign the letter with "Sincerely" or "Regards" or something of that nature, then follow it by typing your full name.

Working for an Ad Agency

Whether or not you'll be able to work for an ad agency after finishing this course depends on you. It doesn't matter how good of a copywriter you are out of the gate, most ad agencies out there today require a degree or three to five years' experience, if not both. And they usually don't want just any degree either. They look for majors in advertising, marketing, communications, English, journalism, psychology, liberal arts, and media studies.

If you don't have a degree or the ad agency you're interested in doesn't require it, you'll need either a Curriculum Vitae or a resume in addition to your portfolio. If you don't have any experience as a copywriter, highlight any sales or marketing experience that you have that included delivering a sales pitch to consumers. A successful track record in direct sales can be seen as valuable to employers because it proves you can take an idea and sell it to consumers.