HOW TO BECOME A COPYWRITER

Have you always wanted to work with words but aren’t sure in what capacity? Do you have a degree in English and don’t know what to do with it? There’s probably more out there for you than you think.

Meet Corin Jackson, a Midweight Copywriter at The Body Shop and blogger at Like Her Type. Here, she shares her story of becoming a not-so-penniless writer in London.

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For those that don’t know, what does a midweight copywriter do?

I create all written content for The Body Shop, on a global scale. So that includes everything from press releases to campaign posters to digital advertising. Everything I write is translated and used in over 60 markets worldwide.

Did you always know you wanted to become a copywriter?

Erm. Sort of. I knew I wanted to write, but I had absolutely no idea what a ‘copywriter’ was. I thought to write for a living gave you the option of either journalist or novelist, and then one day it dawned on me that every single thing you read, ever, has been written by someone. Whether it’s the magazine ads on your morning commute or the back of your cereal box, a talented copywriter created those words for a very specific purpose: to sell something. A copywriter’s job is to make an idea sound a certain way for a certain audience. It relies heavily on knowing what people relate to and how.

Did you go to university?

Yes. I was lucky enough to study English at The University of Exeter with The London Ladybird herself.

What was your first job after graduating?

By day I was an intern at an online magazine in London Bridge called London Confidential, and by night I pulled pints in my local. Oh, the glamour. If you want to be a writer, there’s every chance you might have to work for free to build up your portfolio. Just a few articles, blog posts, reviews etc. under your belt can put you in a great position. It’s also really important to have your own blog or projects going on.

How did you end up in this role?

Word of mouth. Which is so crucial to mention. I bloody hate the term ‘networking’ with an absolute passion but if you’re vocal about the opportunities you’re seeking to the right crowd, there’s every chance someone will point you in the right direction. In my case, a friend from Uni suggested I apply for an internship, and the same friend set me up at London Fashion Week. It’s often hard to know where to look, so advice from peers in the know is precious.

What do you love about your job?

I love the variety, the pace and the chance to work with an incredibly creative team.

Any downsides?

Having to be creative on demand – it’s a lot of pressure to come up with words in a meeting to loads of expectant faces. People often don’t understand that crafting copy takes time and lots of thought, even when it’s just a couple of words for a headline.

What has been the hardest thing about getting to your position?

My first paid full-time copywriting job was definitely the hardest to come by, but once you’ve done that all-important junior-level copy role, working your way up generally has quite a clear path of progression. The journey looks something like this, depending on the size and nature of the organisation: Intern > Editorial Assistant > Junior Copywriter > Midweight Copywriter > Senior Copywriter > Team Lead

Have you faced any problems as a woman in the workplace?

Yes. Particularly as a woman under 30. Sometimes, in a big meeting, I will make a point and a few people will nod. Later, a more senior, male member of the team might put forward the exact same suggestion and the room jumps for joy. Voice any concerns surrounding such issues to your seniors and always speak up when you feel you have something valid or interesting to say – being assertive is important. 

Has your job turned out to be what you had expected?

Yes and no. I think when you’re familiar with the world of retail and a particular brand, you have a pretty good idea of the type of content you’ll be working on as a writer. Some brands have magazine-style editorial, a fun tone of voice and loads of social media activity, and some brands just have online product copy and a bit of generic marketing. Research your brand/agency thoroughly before applying. The creative content they produce will vary massively.

What does a typical day at the office look like for you?

I’ll get to the office around 8:30am, grab a cappuccino and work my way through any outstanding emails or small tasks. Then I’ll write a list of everything I have to do that day. I cannot function without some sort of list. About a third of my day is spent actually writing, another third goes on brainstorming concepts with the design team for upcoming campaigns or new products and another third is spent receiving briefs on what needs to be written. Good time management and independently just getting on with it is essential for copywriters. One of the hardest parts of my day is having to explain to someone that the amount of work they require is unrealistic in the time frame they’ve given. Writing copy for every single department in a huge business means knowing what to prioritise. People forget how far you’re being stretched sometimes. I try to be out of the office by 6pm.

What’s the dress code?

So casual. I generally wear a nice shirt, jeans, and brogues or sandals. It’s nice to make an effort even when the dress code is relaxed. Most creative roles adopt the whole dress down policy, which is such a blessing when you’ve got a lot of work on.

What’s the best way to make a good impression?

Make an effort with your appearance, go the extra mile whenever you can,  talk to everyone.

What are the two questions that always crop up in copywriter interviews?

  1. Give me an example of when you’ve had to push back on work and how you told the client their deadline was unrealistic.
  2. How would you describe this company’s tone of voice? And what are our main competitors?

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be?

Definitely a makeup artist. I’d love to specialise in makeup for problem skin, and then I’d write about it. I really feel like I missed a trick with this one. Two of my great loves combined – beauty and words. AND THE FREEBIES, TOO!

And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self?

Get as much work experience as humanly possible, from as early as possible. You are never too young to start building up a portfolio of work. Experience is everything. I wish I’d done this when I was still studying rather than starting from scratch after I left. Maybe then I would have walked into a paid role rather than an unpaid internship?

Above anything, though, work bloody hard and believe in yourself. You’ll get there in the end.

Want to know more about becoming a copywriter?

Contact Corin here.