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How Can I Change Careers to Become a Copywriter?

I don’t want to be unemployed, underemployed or poorly paid. Help!

posted under Advice for Aspiring Copywriters

I received the following email from a business person in England in his 30s looking to change careers. He is an aspiring copywriter trying to decide what path to take in pursuing his dream. I thought I’d share both his questions and my responses to help others who may find themselves in a similar situation.

— Susan Greene

Hi Susan,

I have found your website extremely helpful and very impressive!

I have decided to embark on a new career in my 30s. I’m passionate about creative writing and after much research, I’ve decided on becoming a copywriter. I would greatly appreciate your help.

I already have a degree but it’s the performing arts industry. I’m confused about which copywriting qualification to get.

Is it advisable to gain a qualification in a copywriting-related field to get my foot in the door of a marketing or advertising agency and work my way up? My problem with taking that route is I don’t want to be unemployed, underemployed (working at menial tasks beneath me) or poorly paid while I build a portfolio of work.

My friend told me to pursue a degree in PR {public relations} but I can’t see how that would help me down the copywriting route.

I thought advertising might be a better qualification. Journalism appeals to me as well, but I’ve read that there isn’t much demand or decent work out there for journalists anymore.

Your advice would be extremely appreciated.

Ari G.

Manchester, England

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Hi Ari,

It’s nice to meet you. Congratulations on embarking on a new career. That’s an exciting decision.

There’s no one way to achieve success as a copywriter. Every one of my colleagues has a long story about how he or she was able to get established in the field, as do I. Some took indirect routes, starting off in a different profession before making their way to the copywriting field, while others knew what they wanted and were hyper-focused on their goal.

I’ve heard praise for several online copywriting courses if you’re motivated to work on your own. They will give you the basics of becoming a copywriter much more quickly and affordably than college.

I’ve also heard good things about copywriting bootcamps, which are intense, multi-day crash courses led by people experienced in the field. Attending bootcamp isn’t cheap. Still, it would be less expensive than taking courses at college and probably a much quicker path to your goal.

Definitely, don’t go the PR route. Thousands of students major in PR every year for what amounts to a handful of jobs. And most of those jobs don’t pay well. Supply greatly outnumbers demand.

I’d say the same for journalism, except in that major you also have thousands of experienced journalists who’ve been laid off from reporter positions in print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) competing for jobs along with the many new college grads. Again, supply greatly outpaces demand.

Once you’ve got the basics of copywriting down, then you need to start building your portfolio. I know you said you don’t want to be unemployed or poorly paid while you build a portfolio. I can assure you no one does. Nobody chooses to start at the bottom of any profession, but unfortunately, that’s how it’s usually done.

With regard to copywriting, can you imagine a client choosing between an established copywriter with a wonderful portfolio and a new copywriter who has no portfolio but wants a comparable fee? You know who’s going to win that job.

So unless you’re willing to do the hard work to build your skills and be able to demonstrate those skills with actual work samples and customer testimonials, you will have a hard time getting clients to place their trust in you.

One step you can take to speed up the process is to ask friends and contacts if they have a need for any copywriting. If they own a business, they may want assistance with writing sales letters, web copy or a blog post. Since they know you personally, they might be willing to take a chance and hire you. But if you’re expecting strangers to entrust you with their copywriting work for fee, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find any takers.

I hope I’ve been helpful.

Good luck!

Susan

* : · . . · : * ¨ * : · . . · : * ¨ * : · . . · : *

Susan Greene, Marketing Copywriter
Copy that tells, compels and sells
www.SusanGreeneCopywriter.com

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Dear Susan

I thought doing PR or advertising would be a useful backup and helpful with employment but it makes more sense to focus only on copywriting after reading your advice. It sounds silly to do two courses if only one is needed!

Also I presume trying for a trainer copywriting role or internship once I’ve done a course would be helpful?

Thank you so much again.

Kind Regards,

Ari

* * *

Ari,

You can take a course in copywriting. Or you can pick up a book or online course and start making progress on your own. There’s certainly enough information available online to help you get started.

Completing a formal course will not get you a job. I am certain of this.

The bottom line is you need to start learning to write, and the best way to do that is to write. Practice, practice, practice. It’s similar to learning to play the piano. You can spend years reading every book ever written about playing the piano. But until you sit down at the keyboard and start practicing, you won’t be able to play.

If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell, he says it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at a skill. Whether you get those hours writing for yourself, or via an internship or by clients who hire you, you need experience. So get to work!

Best wishes,

Susan

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