Digital copywriters produce the written copy and content for webpages and can be employed or work freelance
Your job, as a digital copywriter, is to engage the reader and motivate them to do something, such as buy a product or service. You may also write copy designed to convey valuable information about a brand, industry or issue.
In this role you may also be known as a digital content writer.
As a digital copywriter, you're typically responsible for:
- client liaison: from set-up to completion, you'll be checking in with the client regularly, either by phone, email or face-to-face;
- project scoping: understanding what the client needs by obtaining a clear brief;
- tailoring the content and style of individual writing assignments according to their purpose - whether they are intended to sell or inform;
- understanding the target audience: you're not writing for the client, you're writing for their readers, so you'll need to know what interests them;
- identifying key messages: understanding the main thing that you want the reader to feel and do and how to communicate this powerfully;
- working with creative teams to ensure that the visual elements of the webpage complement the words;
- researching your client's industry and their audience;
- identifying fresh and interesting angles for your articles;
- writing for web pages and blogs, and potentially also for social media, e-books, slogans, and video script;
- editing your own and others' writing;
- working with your team to review the impact your work has had;
- assisting with business pitches to win new clients or projects.
You may also be responsible for providing other digital content, such as images and video. Some clients will expect you to upload the copy you've created.
- Starting salaries for junior copywriters are between £22,000 and £30,000 per year.
- Midweight copywriters with three or more years' experience can expect to earn £25,000 to £40,000 per year.
- For senior copywriters and heads of copy, the salary figure is between £45,000 and £80,000.
Freelance copywriters charge either by commission or by the hour. Hourly rates range between £30 and £100 depending on experience and the market.
Some agencies and employers will offer bonuses and other benefits packages. There can be considerable variation depending on geography and type of employer.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Most copywriters work Monday to Friday, although weekend and evening work can be necessary, especially for projects with tight deadlines.
Depending on the industry and employer, client meetings and award ceremonies may take place in the evening.
Freelancers can set their own hours and workload, although you will need to allocate time to finding the work, as well as completing it.
What to expect
- You'll be managing several projects at once, which makes work interesting but it may feel stressful at busy times.
- You'll need to adapt your writing style to fit with the client's audience. So you may write in a professional, corporate tone and voice for some projects, and could be more chatty and informal in others. In all cases you'll need to do your research to ensure that what you write is accurate and conveys the client's message as clearly as possible.
- Your writing will be subject to editing and feedback - both from clients and members of your team. This can be challenging to hear if you've worked hard on your writing, but it's always about hitting the client's brief as effectively as possible.
- You'll mostly be office based, but face-to-face client meetings will usually take place in their offices or at a place of their choosing. You may also go to networking events, conferences and awards ceremonies. Most copywriting agencies are based in London, but there are opportunities across the country. In-house opportunities are mostly within bigger organisations, and again, can be found across the country, often clustered around bigger cities.
This area of work is open to all graduates, including those with a foundation degree or an HND. Qualifications specific to copy or content writing are not usually required, it's more important to have demonstrable skills through a portfolio (examples of writing for the web), or running your own blog.
Having a qualification in marketing, journalism or creative writing can be helpful, but is not necessary. An essay-based degree, such as English or history will show that you have the skills to make a case with words effectively. If you have another specialism it may help you break into writing for technical, scientific, financial or other specialist industries.
You can gain an introduction to digital copywriting through one of the online courses available, including those run by established copywriters and those offered by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). You can also search online for free resources such as e-books and blogs that will give you tips on getting started.
You will need to have:
- strong listening skills, so that you can understand what the client wants and effectively develop a project brief;
- excellent writing ability, including the ability to write in different styles and to other people's direction;
- good research and analytical skills to gain an accurate understanding of the subject
- the organisational ability to manage multiple projects, often to tight deadlines;
- a creative approach, both in coming up with ideas for new projects and for getting a message across innovatively;
- the ability to work independently and flexibly;
- good attention to detail, including the ability to proof-read your own and others' work;
- strong interpersonal skills as you will be working with a range of clients as well as creative and marketing team members;
- an understanding of digital marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO);
- specific IT skills, such as an understanding of HTML or WordPress.
Work experience is essential for getting your first job, as employers (or clients if you're freelance) will want to see an online portfolio of work.
You could approach employers or agencies for internship, work experience or work shadowing opportunities, or volunteer to create web-copy, or run the blog or social media content for a charity or community project. Creating your own blog or website and updating the content regularly is another option.
Alternatively, write practice samples by rewriting some existing copy in a fresh way. Writing guest articles for blogzines or websites can give you experience in pitching ideas and receiving feedback as well as doing the writing itself.
It's a good idea to get experience of writing for a range of organisations, industries and platforms to boost your portfolio and to show potential employers that you have the ability to adapt your style according to the audience.
If you're seeking to become a copywriter for a specific industry, such as finance or IT, it makes sense to focus your experience on that particular niche.
There are three main types of employer: in-house, agency, and yourself as a freelancer. Many large and medium-sized companies have an in-house marketing and communications department, which will include digital copy and content writers within their team.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and solopreneurs are more likely to outsource their writing to agencies or freelancers.
As a freelancer, you might work directly with your client, or you may get freelance work via digital agencies. Many digital marketing agencies also invite speculative applications, and they will make this clear on their websites.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Brand Republic
- Chinwag Jobs
- Mad Jobs
- Simply Marketing Jobs
- The Drum
Some freelance job boards include:
- Freelance UK
- People Per Hour
Bear in mind that as a freelancer you can bid for and accept work from anywhere in the world. If you are able to research and adapt your writing style to suit a foreign client, there is no barrier to you gaining the work.
If you're employed in-house or at an agency, you'll get trained on the job in the processes and tools used by the team. You'll also benefit from learning about other specialisms such as SEO, account management, social media and content writing. As you progress in your role, it's likely that your working practice will evolve so you take on more specialist or challenging work that matches your skills and interests.
Your employer will usually have a budget for additional training, whether that's in-house, or through continuous personal development (CPD) opportunities such as the Advanced Copywriting courses offered by the CIM. The CIM also offers membership and chartership opportunities as you advance through your career.
If you're freelancing you'll need to create your own opportunities, and budget, for professional development. You can do this through accessing training courses and joining networking groups. Digital and creative networking groups may exist locally, or you can find online groups through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
There are a number of professional bodies with resources, networks and training for digital copywriters:
You'll start out as a junior copywriter and typically be able to access midweight jobs, either with your current employer or elsewhere, after around three years. It's an advantage if you can spend your time as a junior working on a range of projects; as this will demonstrate your ability to work with different clients, create and interpret briefs effectively and take responsibility for project management.
As you gain experience in the role you can choose your direction. Given the range of sectors that require digital copywriters, you may find that you gravitate towards a particular specialism, either technical, education or scientific, for example.
You can progress to the role of a senior-level copywriter after five to ten years. In a senior role you would usually lead on projects, being accountable for the brand, budget and a team of people. Or you may progress to the role of a digital content strategist where you'll conceive and plan the whole process of content creation and delivery across a range of platforms to achieve the best results for the client.
If you're with a smaller employer with fewer senior opportunities, you may find that you need to change location to progress. Some digital copywriters choose to freelance once they've established themselves, giving them the ability to work remotely and flexibly. As a freelancer, you'll find that you can raise your rates and take on new challenges as you develop expertise and experience.