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1. What is copywriting?
Copywriting in advertising and related fields is the process of writing ads, brochures, commercials, mail pieces, and such.

That means sifting through the input information from the client (and maybe from a research department, personal experience, and elsewhere), deciding what's the important part of the message, developing a "concept" that communicates that message, coming up with the headline (or, if you're lucky, writing a commercial), writing the body copy, working together with an art director to come up with a synergistic combination of words and visuals.

Some people confuse copywriting with copyright. Copyright is about patents and ownership rights to intellectual property. Both are as different as chalk and cheese.


2. To become a copywriter, what background do I need?
In fact it's one of the few professions where a degree is not required.

That means anyone can become a copywriter, irrespective of their age, experience, background and educational history (or lack of it).

A background in English helps. You should also have an enquiring mind, store a lot of information and be able to make lateral connections.

Good copywriters are curious and don't wear blinders. Knowing how to write helps, of course.

But be sure of one thing: while the business of advertising can be fun, it's business, not art.

Ultimately, the clients pay the bills. The goal is to sell the clients' stuff. And, although there are many important things you know about advertising that your client might not, you'll never know as much about your clients' businesses as they do.

Part of your job is to draw that knowledge out of the client. And to distill that knowledge down to a key point that speaks directly to the needs of their prospects, catalyzing a message that's more than the sum of its parts. 


3. What does an advertising copywriter need to know?
To begin with, a little of everything. If you can write interestingly and with freshness and insight in a related field, you can learn to apply that writing skill in a business situation.

Where many copywriters (and art directors, etc.) are lacking is in the business aspect.

Your writing needs to speak to the real needs and emotions of the people who buy what the agency's clients are selling. That's true whether you're selling cola to the masses, or computer servers to a small number of engineers. You need to know your market, and be able to talk with them as if you were talking to them personally.


4. Advertising seems like an interesting career?
Yes, it can be very interesting, because the advertising business reaches and covers just about every part of our society.

It also brings together interesting people with a wide range of skills. The profession can be a little frustrating, too, for it is niether pure art nor pure science but an inexact alchemy of both.

You can't prove something will work. Or sometimes even that it did. Advertising is just one part of the "marketing mix" no matter how good the advertising, success in the marketplace is also at the mercy of product quality, distribution, salesmanship, corporate image, the economy and many other factors. 

5. What should I look for in my first copywriting job?
Try to find an agency that has most of the following, if not all...

variety in the types of clients, products and work assignments over the course of the year (if not at the same time),
an exposure to other aspects of the business

The goal should be to do some "conceptual" work soon, not just be pegged as a brochure writer. That is not to say that the other writing jobs are not relevant. The more variety of work you do the better your perspective on all aspects of the job.


6. How do I land my first copywriting job?
You don't necessarily need previous job experience, but you will need a portfolio of your work, even if it's speculative work.

Your speculative ads need to look presentable. It might be a good idea to have a freelance Art Director work on the layouts with you.

Above all, show fresh, original ideas and intelligent thinking.

If you should decide you want to be in account work, or research, or some other part of advertising, you'll probably need more specialized knowledge. You might already have it, depending on what you've been doing so far. Or, you might need to take a course or work in some peripheral area as part of your game plan. 

7. How do I keep track of my career?
Review your work at least once a year. Evaluate what you've learned. Where your strengths are. And where you need to keep pushing yourself.

Always look for opportunities that will give you what you need. Keep working on and refining your portfolio. If you think you can improve something, even after an ad or campaign has been released, do it.

It just might be the most important stepping stone in your career!


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