How to Prepare for an Advertising Copywriting Career

Those wishing to succeed in an advertising career as a copywriter may be at a loss as to how they should go about it or even where to start. Copywriting and advertising itself can be highly competitive and exclusive jobs to obtain. Here are some tips on what to pursue and also what to avoid when building your copywriting career.

What you can do NOW

Get a job in sales. Advertising is selling a product. A job in sales that gives you one-on-one contact with customers and experience selling a product will give you foundational knowledge of how consumers think and how to preempt a lost sale. Classroom learning is valuable, and being able to apply what you learn as you’re learning it reinforces it exponentially.

Should you get a degree?

While talent alone may get you into a copywriting position, a college degree is generally expected in the advertising industry. College, like anything else, is as enriching as you make it. Education is up to you, but the variety of learning experiences and guidance are what make a college degree so valuable. Learning new ways to approach and solve problems, expanding your knowledge base in a wide variety of subjects, and the mentoring influence of multiple professors are not easily replicated outside of the college experience.

Some majors are more conducive to an advertising copywriting career. These include the obvious advertising degree, as well as communications, English, liberal arts, marketing, and journalism. Participation in advertising clubs is also beneficial. Either an associate or bachelor degree are acceptable. The benefit of a master’s degree depends on your long term goals.

Copywriting internship and portfolio

If your goal is to have a career in advertising copywriting, accept an internship as a copywriter in the creative department. This may take persistence and determination but will pay off in the long run. Any time spent in another department is time taken away from building your copywriting experience in advertising. Make a point to attend weekly status meetings with the intention of getting a couple of assignments. If you find you are not given enough work, ask for it. Use free time to become acquainted with the creative team, including the creative department secretary, production department team members, and staff copywriters and art directors.

As you complete assignments, get copies to include in your portfolio. Samples can include print ads, radio spots (audio and MP3 format), produced TV commercials (DVD, .mpg, or .mov format), TV commercial storyboards, websites (either high quality prints, CD format, or list of sites), in addition to speculative ads developed independently. Do not include items like a story you’ve written simply because you are proud of the work. If it is not advertising copywriting, it should not be in your portfolio. The ideas and your ability to express them are the most important aspects of your portfolio.

Job description: ad agency copywriter

If your internship doesn’t result in a job, there are some things to remember when searching.

  • It's up to you. Make your resume and accompanying cover letter easy to read and clear as to what you are asking.
  • Send 3-4 samples of your best work.
  • Be able to express your ideas.
  • Beware of taking a job other than copywriting in an advertising agency and of taking writing jobs that aren’t copywriting.
  • Beware of freelance – don’t become so preoccupied with small jobs that you don’t have time to look for an ad agency job.
  • Broaden your horizons – expand your search area.
     

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