I got an email from a student who just graduated from college asking me how to break into copywriting. It took me a while to get back to him because honestly, I had to think about it for a while. As you know, it’s probably one of the toughest entry-level positions to get into.
Here’s the thing about copywriting…if you’re looking to work in any sort of creative agency, you’re going to need a portfolio. Schools like SU, Texas, or VCU where students take advertising courses as an undergrad have four years where the curriculum basically programs them with a portfolio to leave with. Still others go on to grad school or portfolio school to make a “book” to pitch to agencies.
This is where I got stuck in my career. I thought I wanted to be a copywriter, but I also didn’t have time This is when I discovered the social media side of marketing…basically it was a self-realization that all the stuff had been doing in the music industry was actually where the entire marketing world was going, so it was an easy transformation.
So am I a copywriter by title? No. Am I a copywriter by job duty? Hell to the yeah, I write more than I ever anticipated.
So below are my four “off the top of the head” suggestions to this student about ways he can break into the copywriting profession.
1. Start blogging, and write often
Copywriting today is not limited to billboard headlines or creative TV scripts, but blog entries, technical manuals, slideshow copy, tweets, Facebook updates and more. Many brands hire people to write this, and you can be that guy. Showcasing that you already know how to write for the web is a big plus, and the better your writing online is, the better you look.
2. Take on freelance work.
When I was in grad school I did a lot of tiny projects that I found off Craigslist or eLance or other sites. This works two ways: first, you’re doing persuasive writing to land yourself a gig, then you’re actually getting to produce a piece for your book. Don’t worry about being paid unless you know it’s something you can absolutely nail 1000% and you honestly have a better idea of what the client knows (and what they don’t know you don’t know).
3. Get an internship and bust your ass.
It could be an ad agency, it could be a small graphics shop, but wherever you go work your ass off and be the best. Being the best at your job is rewarded and the energy needed to get there might be a lot, but no matter if you’re an intern or a CEO it will pay off. Honestly the internship is benefitting you more than the company probably, they’re giving you real-world experience you can put in that portfolio.
4. Create spec work.
Every day online I see articles like “10 Logos Redesigned for the Zombie Apocalypse” or “Nintendo Propaganda Posters.” These artists or writers aren’t getting paid for it, they’re creating because they love to. If you don’t have any paying work, invent your own. Take your favorite ad campaigns and reimagine them as brand new. Don’t worry if you can’t design, a well-thought campaign premise and series of executions is enough to get you started. Post that work online and people will find it, and then you. For example, I was asked to create a deck about a fake Red Bull event before an interview with them in California. Even though I didn’t get the job, I still worked to create a creative concept, and wanted to be able to get some credit for my thinking.
What do you think?