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What is Copywriting?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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Copywriting is the act of writing copy for the purpose of selling or marketing a product, business, or idea. The term copywriting is often used interchangeably with content writing or freelance writing, though this is technically incorrect. A copywriter is one who writes for promotional purposes, and although they may very well be a freelance writer, they have a specific marketing purpose.

A copywriter might write advertising copy, sales copy, sales letters, commercial scripts, or other types of marketing media for a business, such as brochures, billboards, or mass mailings. Copywriters often write copy for commercial websites as well, often for the purpose of search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO uses frequently used search terms in the written copy to promote the ranking of the website in search engines, making it more likely for people to click on the link and visit the website. These are simply common places to find copywriting, but it can literally be found anywhere in day to day life, and you probably don't even notice it sometimes.

Journalists, reporters and other content writers are not copywriters, though they may have started out that way. Copywriting is a great way to break into the publishing industry, and a college degree in marketing, journalism, English, or some other form of writing or communications is a good way to begin. You might be able to get an internship as a copywriter while still in college, making contacts at a company and learning the basics.

Copywriting for a company is often a freelance endeavor. Though companies do certainly hire staff copywriters, it is not as likely as having a pool of available freelancers to choose from. For this reason, a copywriter might do freelance writing for a number of different companies, which can be a great way to build a resume and to make more contacts in the industry. Some copywriters are able to work from home.

Within a company, newspaper or magazine, a copywriter will probably work on a creative team within the advertising department. Because a copywriter is generally only responsible for the written word of an advertisement, she might work with an artist or a graphic designer if they are working on a print ad. If the promotional material requires only written copy, the copywriter will be able to work alone. A copywriter needs to be a creative thinker and a concise and professional writer, able to communicate ideas clearly but in a catchy, memorable way.

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Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Mar 18, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I know that many successful copywriters move on to have their own agency. Having your own agency is like managing any other business. It involves managing not only the projects that come in but the people that you choose to hire.

You can make a lot of money but it can also be stressful as well. Working as a freelance copywriter affords you the luxury of working the hours that you want while owning an agency requires that you work standard business hours if not longer.

Many people find success as an agency owner and as a freelancer it just depends on what aspects of your life are more important. Some people value the freedom to work when they want and would rather work as a freelancer while others would like more structure with the possibility of earning more revenue.

You really have to decide what is right for you because a copywriting career can take many paths.

By sunshine31 — On Mar 17, 2011

@Bhutan -I agree that the copywriting career is lucrative and can be really fun if you have a creative side and have a strong marketing bent.

There are schools that offer courses and degrees in the field of creative copywriting.

I also think that if you are interested in this field it might be a good idea to subscribe to magazines like “Advertising Age” which discuss the advertising field at length. You can also learn which ad campaigns were successful and understand what the latest advertising trends are. It is really a great read for anyone interested in copywriting.

By Bhutan — On Mar 15, 2011

Anon153676 - To answer your question, you might be able to take some courses at a Community College but I do believe that most copywriters have at least a bachelor’s degree.

The copywriting field can be interesting and very lucrative. Freelance copywriters with at least five years worth of experience can earn six figure salaries, but you have to work at your talent. Some copywriters work on staff for companies and many work in advertising agencies when they don’t do freelance work.

You also might want to look at a business journal that publishes information on new businesses so that you can offer information on your services. For example, the South Florida Business Journal offers complete information on new and experienced businesses in the area that you can market it to and offer copywriting services.

New business owners need to be educated on the value of great copywriting and how it could impact their business in general.

By anon153676 — On Feb 17, 2011

Is there any way someone with a high school diploma, but no college education can get a copywriting job without having to go to college?

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