Many people have asked me this question. Just a few years ago, I would have given you a very different answer or said something annoying like, depends on your definition of “a good living as a copywriter.” Sure, there were peeps out there making seven figures but I think of them like actors at the top of the food chain. You know, the three percent of guild members making a stellar living at their craft (aka movie stars), while 80 per cent of their unions are out of work?
I’ve been writing persuasive copy for agencies and marketers for over 25 years, from building brand awareness to capital campaigns and everything in between. I’ve written for a variety of industries, business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C). Public and private, large and small…oil and gas, beef, grocery, retail, travel and tourism and numerous non-profit organizations. In my early days, it was jack (jill?) of all trades, master of only a few. I prided myself on being a generalist. A good copywriter can write for any industry was my modus operandi. Happily, I loved to do the research as much as the writing.
But then along came the Internet, online marketing was the new normal and the world of copywriting changed irrevocably. A whole industry of online copywriter farms sprung up. Employers had a plethora of choices and the going rates were cheap, cheap, cheap. We old farts couldn’t afford to work for pennies a word or 20 bucks an hour. But there were lots of wannabes with no marketing experience who could and would and did.
From generalist to specialist
But as the saying goes, if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. With the advent of inbound digital marketing strategies and content marketing tactics and the subsequent explosion of social media as a platform ripe for the picking, jumping aboard the online marketing train meant hiring copywriters who had marketing chops. I dove in head first, left freelancing behind, took a full-time job as a writer in the tourism industry and went from being a generalist to a specialist. Tourism became my passion and as a freelancer today, it is still my jam. And it’s a select client list that gets that I’ve got them.
Per direct marketing guru, Brian Kurtz: “The idea that a copywriter is a “gun for hire” and available to all clients is being replaced…by copywriters who are much more focused on only a few clients (maybe even just one) and have moved from “hired gun” to “keeper of all the ammunition and weapons.”
Copywriter as marketing consultant
Today’s organizations are looking for writers who understand their business. Right out of the gate, they expect you to grasp their digital marketing and content management strategies. They presume you have made the transition from print to digital and to know how to write for search engines as well as humans.
B2B copywriter, Roger Williams has this advice: “people want to deal with experts, not novices. So defining your passion and then seeking out an environment in which your passion can thrive…that makes the most sense for today’s eager copywriters.”
So to answer your question, yes, you can make a good living as a copywriter. But it means diving into the realm of digital marketing, learning the language, understanding the concepts, and then choosing an industry that lights you up and get to know it inside out and backwards. Accordingly, you can expect to not only survive but thrive in the highly competitive world of copywriting.
“Copywriters are not just writers anymore. They are marketing experts with copy as their specialty. A full view of the landscape is essential.”
Kevin Rogers, Copy Chief