It’s no surprise that searches for “how to become a copywriter” have been skyrocketing year over year.
Because as communication, attention, and sales increasingly move to the internet, copywriting—the writing-based skill of communicating a business’s message—is one of the most in-demand skills on the planet.
Every business, non-profit, or individual brand employs the skills of copywriting in order to carry their message to the masses in a clear, effective, and attention-grabbing way.
For some, the path to becoming a copywriter was straightforward. They started off as English or journalism majors with backgrounds in writing and used that foundation to support businesses looking to engage an audience.
On the other hand, there are many who’ve stumbled into copywriting from fields as distinct and far flung as healthcare and computer science.
Here, we’ll discuss the four most common paths among those looking to learn how to become a copywriter with no experience.
Path 1: English or Creative Writing Majors
Although copywriting doesn’t require formal education, it favors those with a background in writing.
For English/creative writing majors, the foundational skills learned in colleges and universities can provide a significant head start in understanding the form and structure of compelling writing and storytelling.
Your next logical question might be, “What’s the difference between an English degree and a creative writing degree?”
English majors are taught how to analyze and critically review text as a part of their core coursework. Throughout their studies, they will read a wide range of literary works including everything from the classics, to obscure readings, to contemporary literature—analyzing these texts for meaning, subtext, and greater themes.
English majors learn how to quickly dig into texts to extract greater meaning. As a result, they can review copy both from its most granular level and a more holistic approach. In copywriting, the thematic message of a longer piece is paramount to its efficacy, and it’s in this skill set that English majors reign supreme.
On the other hand, creative writing majors offer a separate set of valuable skills to the copywriting discipline—style and creativity.
In the creative writing discipline, the focus is less on analyzing the deeper message of a text and instead on practicing the technical process of writing. Throughout the coursework of a creative writing major, students will learn how to write short stories, poems, and essays, critique each other’s works, and begin to form their own sense of style and point of view.
In copywriting, creative writing majors have the ability to generate ideas with ease and execute them with proficiency. Their writing is stylistic, witty, and interesting due to their strong foundation in storytelling. In fact, these writers tend to flow into more brand-based copywriting such as advertising campaigns for creative agencies and big brands.
If you’re trying to learn how to become a copywriter with no experience, It’s important to note that while holding a degree can always be a leg up in negotiating salaries for a full-time position, if you’re wondering how to become a copywriter without one, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Experience and hard skills are more relevant to getting hired as a copywriter than a degree. If you put the time into learning the craft, you’ll be just as competitive whether you’re looking for agency, in-house, or freelance work.
Path 2: Journalism
Another common path into copywriting is journalism.
In journalism programs across the country, the focus of the coursework is simple: Ask questions. Journalism majors are, bar none, some of the heaviest hitters in the copywriting industry as it pertains to research.
In school, young journalists are taught what questions to ask, how to ask them, where to seek out information, how to keep digging, and, most importantly, how to form a story based on the information acquired—or even to report the information as objectively as possible.
Journalists-turned-copywriters are also pleasures to work with from the client side as they’re accustomed to working in collaboration with other writers and editors, are accustomed to meeting deadlines, and have strong attention to detail.
As you can probably imagine, knowing your client and their product/service in copywriting is absolutely essential. David Ogilvy, one of the fathers of modern advertising and the inspiration for Jon Hamm’s Don Draper in AMC’s Mad Men, had this to say about the importance of research in copywriting:
Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.
– David Ogilvy
Solid research is paramount to good copy, and journalists are among the best researchers out there. Often, copywriters with a journalism background will focus on long-form copy as it tends to favor their extensive research methods. This means that when it comes to white papers, long-form blog articles, and technical copywriting projects, they’re ready to succeed out of the gate.
Path 3: Marketing & Public Relations (PR)
While the hard writing skills found in English, creative writing, and journalism majors can provide a solid foundation for budding copywriters, those equipped with marketing and PR skills are in a class of their own in terms of strategy.
In marketing and PR programs, their focus is on strategy—using the copy or design assets provided in the most advantageous way for the bottom line of the client.
For example, a person with skills in marketing & PR will know exactly what kind of messaging is needed, in what form, and the best time to deploy it for maximum efficacy. Without a great marketing department, there would be no copywriters, so those equipped with the knowledge of strategy are often in a great position to lead company/client initiatives as it relates to copywriting.
While the disciplines are complementary to each other—copywriters should learn strategy and strategists should learn copywriting—an understanding of strategy often requires firsthand experience, which can be difficult to get for new copywriters. In fact, you’ll often see PR and marketing positions have some knowledge of messaging but will defer to copywriters to formally polish it.
The one downside to marketing and PR backgrounds is that writing can be a difficult skill to learn if it doesn’t come naturally. While the tenets of good content marketing and strategy are firmly ingrained, developing the patience, skill, and motivation to be an effective copywriter is a process that many avoid due to a lack of interest or passion.
As a result, budding copywriters with a marketing and PR background should seek out copywriting courses, books, and copywriter mentorships and dive into the discipline head first to become successful.
Path 4: Subject Matter Expert
Perhaps the best example for those trying to learn how to become a copywriter with no experience is the one who started out not as a writer or marketer, but as a subject matter expert.
This may be the former pharmaceutical sales representative that turned pharmaceutical copywriter. These are individuals that have a wealth of knowledge and experience within a specific niche and are using copywriting as the method of expressing that expertise with a sales-driven purpose.
Subject matter experts (SMEs) when equipped with incredible writing skills can become behemoths in the industry. Not only do they have an intimate knowledge of their industry, but their experience also imparts an immediate degree of trust from the reader.
And you’d be amazed how much instant trust can drive conversions.
SMEs turned copywriters are typically rockstars within their niche and can comfortably command an audience’s attention with justified authority and authenticity.
The only area where an SME may falter is if they don’t have the necessary writing skills to communicate their message effectively.
In these cases, the SME will typically use a ghostwriter to convey their experience while leveraging their own experience and authority as a name. However, if an SME is willing to devote themselves to a second discipline—copywriting—they’ll be perfectly positioned to communicate their message in their own niche where built-in trust and authority are the norm.
How to become a copywriter with no experience
If you’re interested in learning how to become a copywriter with no experience, click here for more free resources on becoming a copywriter from Copywriter Exchange.
Cameron Kennerly is a direct–response and creative copywriter with experience writing in finance, tech, healthcare, home services, and legal. His work has been featured in Forbes, LA Weekly, LSA Insider, and The Odyssey.
At Copywriter Exchange, we’re a group of master content marketing pros who bring their diverse talents and backgrounds to bear on the art and science of creating high-performance content tailored to your needs. We exist to help copywriters thrive in today’s economy by connecting them with the resources they need to step up their game. Join now to access our templates, guides, and courses to help you grow your career, skills, and network.