How to Become a Copywriter

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Susan Lee is a digital marketing instructor at the Toronto School of Management (TSoM), where she teaches the Diploma in Digital Marketing Specialist Co-op. She is a marketing and communications professional with more than a decade of experience working on high profile campaigns in the telecom, consumer packaged goods and tech industries (Telus, Unilever and Microsoft, among others). 

The work copywriters do may be all around us today, but the earliest known example appeared in an unlikely place, and longer ago than you might expect: as an ad printed in 1477 to promote the sale of a prayer book.

With the rise of the Internet and the digital age, modern-day copywriting is no longer limited to print, and success is more measurable. Whether you’re driving around town or shopping online, you will see marketing copy wherever you go. Some common examples include:

  • An eye-catching billboard
  • The slogan on a political pamphlet
  • An online ad appearing in Google’s search results
  • Ads appearing in your Facebook, Instagram or TikTok feeds
  • A marketing email
  • A call to action on an e-commerce website nudging you to “Go to Checkout”

No matter where it manifests itself, copywriting can shape a brand each time it flows from one media type to the next.

Copywriting is currently a highly sought after skill in marketing and one of the highest-paying freelance jobs, with good job prospects. And rightfully so – it is the golden thread that weaves together different elements of marketing and connects businesses to customers with storytelling and purpose.

There’s heightened demand for digital copywriters who focus on writing for digital channels. Digital marketing has rapidly become a vital part of any marketing strategy, fuelled by many businesses (finally) traversing into the online world during the pandemic. As one of the most important skills in your marketing toolkit, digital copywriting can strengthen your online presence and form lasting customer relationships.

What is copywriting?

Before we get into the specifics about how to become a copywriter, we need to first define copywriting.

David Ogilvy, a marketing pioneer and widely described as being “the father of advertising,” is well known for writing compelling copy. One of his timeless quotes is “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them into buying it.”

The truth is, copywriting is using words to sell. In other words, writing copy to sell products or ideas. Copywriting is strategic and audience-focused. Given the importance of  maximizing Return on Investment (ROI) in marketing, copywriting plays a critical role as it has a direct impact on conversions and your bottom line. Conversely, poorly written copy can be a waste of your time and budget.

Copywriters don’t just come up with attention-grabbing headlines or know a thing or two about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), they have the ability to help build a brand — to shape a brand’s story — and drive sales.

The aim of a copywriter is to persuade people to ultimately make a purchase. Copywriters create sales and marketing material that influences decision-making during the buyer’s journey. As a copywriter, you have the ability to move people — emotionally and physically — into taking a desired action.

In this Career Guide, we’ll explore the role of today’s copywriter and everything you’ll need to pursue a successful career as a copywriter.