Few fields are more important and more exciting than journalism. Every day as a journalist brings a new experience, a new conversation to immortalize in print. The camaraderie of a good newsroom and the debut of a labored-over series can be matchless in their thrill.
But the job takes its toll.
Long hours, late nights, low pay, and layoffs galore equal a recipe for burnout. Journalism is tough to manage in conjunction with family, hobbies, or having a life in general.
So here you stand at the fork in the road, pondering a different path. You may not know much about copywriting, but you already possess 80% of the skills it takes to break into the field.
Good copywriting courses can help you find the right path and put your best foot forward.
Journalism skills in a copywriter world
Writing is such a nebulous skill. Many business leaders truly believe in the power of content, while others assume that writing a tagline is no different than writing a grocery list.
So what does it take to be a copywriter? Here are the skills you bring to the table already.
Especially if you’ve worked for a daily publication like a newspaper, white screen syndrome is no problem for you. You’re used to working under deadlines and producing content day in and day out.
You’ve developed a sense of cadence and flow, an eye for grammar, and a broader feel for structure. You know how to put the pieces of a story together.
- Sense of Story
Humans evolved to connect with stories — plots and settings, heroes and villains. Journalists have the unique ability to parse a compelling narrative thread from tedious minutiae in any industry or setting.
- Research & Interviewing
In a copywriting context, your research chops allow you to adapt quickly to new subjects. You never enter a conversation underprepared or uninformed. This will buy you a lot of goodwill as you meet with potential clients.
- Receiving Feedback
You know that editing is all part of the process and not to take it personally. You treat feedback from an editor as a conversation rather than a contest. This will elevate your writing quality and the experience you provide for clients.
These qualities may feel like soft skills that are hard to sell yourself on without a copywriting-specific portfolio. However, they form the foundational building blocks of copywriting.
Those new to writing professionally will spend years accumulating the level of experience you’ve already stockpiled in your journalism career. Copywriting courses are a valuable way to refocus that experience in a new direction.
New rules for a new road
So you have a solid foundation for a career in copywriting, but you may not know what skills you’ll need to make the initial leap.
These days, you can trip and fall into a costly copywriting course that promises to rocket you straight to Don Draper status (and pay grade). But don’t be fooled—not everything that glitters is gold.
The right course doesn’t promise you the world. The right course meets you where you are to help you round out the following skillsets.
Marketing aims at a set of goals entirely different from journalism.
All marketing copywriting seeks to inform and encourage a purchase decision. While bias may be your enemy in journalism, bias is your friend in marketing.
Journalism translates most directly to the top of the marketing funnel — the phase in which potential buyers are researching to understand the landscape before them and the possible solutions at their disposal.
As buyers proceed deeper into the funnel, information becomes more technical and product-oriented. At these phases, the buyer has decided which type of solution they want and are comparing direct competitors. Your job here is not to inform, but to persuade readers by differentiating your client’s product and benefits.
Quality is measured differently.
Of course, your first goal is to produce a piece that reads well and gives the reader the information they’re looking for. But marketing content expects results — clicks, visits, sessions, conversions, bounce rate, etc.
If those terms are Greek to you, don’t worry. We wrote a blog on that, too.
The point is you’ll need the lay of the land to understand what’s expected of you, especially in the realm of SEO.
You’ll adopt a variety of voices for various clients.
In journalism, your voice takes a backseat to provide an objective perspective. In marketing, you’ll take on many voices from one client to the next.
Some clients prefer to sound more corporate and polished, while others prefer a rawer, brasher voice, while still others go for quirky and current.
You’ll come to love the shape-shifter nature of the role. As you build your portfolio, the pieces in them should sound drastically different. Copywriters learn to take on a brand’s voice by osmosis — reading other pieces the client has produced and paying attention to the voice and tone rules in the client’s style guide.
Marketing content comes in many forms.
As a journalist, maybe you wrote investigative pieces or feature stories or maybe even a column or editorial. As a copywriter, you’ll be called upon to write:
- Ebooks, case studies, and white papers (~2,200 – 3,500 words)
- Blogs (~1,200 – 2,000 words)
- Landing page copy (~300 words)
- Email copy (~200 words)
- Ad copy (~10 – 50 words)
- Taglines (~5 words)
At first, you’ll probably be most comfortable with long-form pieces and blogs. They allow enough runway to explore a topic as you may in a 25-inch newspaper story.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but lower word counts tend to pay more. A landing page copy that garners more sales is a higher-value asset than a blog.
Ad copy and taglines are worth even more. Think how valuable Nike’s three-word tagline has become. “Just Do It,” indeed.
Longform copy, campaign copy, and branding copy all require drastically different skills, and long-form will almost certainly serve as your entry point. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with long-form, you may seek out opportunities to gain experience with campaign copy.
If you want to go full Mad Men and lean heavily into ad copy and taglines, seeking out a copywriter position at a creative agency is your best bet.
You’ll work in closer conjunction with other creative disciplines.
In journalism, the medium is always the same. Stories are accompanied by photos and maybe an infographic or video. In any case, the story is the most central part of the piece.
In marketing, the balance of copy and design is much more fluid. Design may follow copy in one instance, while copy follows design in another. Based on our content types above, lower word counts might mean that design will play a greater role in the deliverable. Each element feeds the other.
The best copywriters write with the end in mind, and they communicate well with designers, web developers, and other creatives involved in producing the end product. Focusing on the bigger picture is the best way to transition into that valuable campaign copy strike zone.
Recognizing the right copywriting courses
So how do you know the right course when you see it?
Here are some green flags:
- The course is explicitly geared toward beginners.
Several professions face the same challenges as you. The right copywriter course aims to bridge the gap from your current experience into the world of copywriting.
- The course gives you the lay of the marketing land.
Copywriting entails so much more than writing. The right copywriter course helps you start speaking the language of copywriting and marketing. It introduces you to various forms of content and methods of measuring performance.
- The course introduces you to SEO.
SEO is practically synonymous with copywriting. The right copywriter course gives you enough of a primer to understand how SEO works and a set of basic practices you can start implementing right away.
- The course empowers you to run the back office of your copywriter career.
Even if you hope to land an agency or in-house position, you’ll probably start out freelancing to build your portfolio and gain some experience. A good copywriter course empowers you with basic business management skills—proposals, budgeting, invoicing, client discovery, project management, etc.
- The course builds your portfolio.
Let’s be real: to get a copywriter job, you need to show your skills in a copywriting medium. The right course provides opportunities to actually do some copywriting and receive live feedback from other students and real, working marketing professionals.
- The course includes a graded exam and a certification upon completion.
You’d be surprised how much weight a badge or certificate carries when seeking out a copywriter job. A worthwhile course will give you the credentials to stand apart from your competition in the job market.
Start your new chapter with copywriting courses
This blog perfectly encapsulates the marketing funnel.
It meets you where you’re at, then it (hopefully) informs you about the nature of copywriting and how your journalism skills translate to the marketing field.
The green flags above mark the middle of the funnel, differentiating the right copywriting courses for journalists.
Now you’re at the bottom of the funnel — the sell.
EDU by Content Workshop was created by writers just like you, people looking for a more flexible, rewarding way to employ their talents and take more control over their lives. Their courses give you everything you need to take the next step toward a career in copywriting.
Their copywriting courses include lessons like
- How SEO Works and On-Page SEO
- Digital and Print Writing
- Writing to Match Your Brand
- Controlling a Search Engine Results Page
- Call to Action Writing
- Writing to Entertain, Educate, and Engage
Whether you’re looking for full-time employment as a copywriter or you want to up your side hustle grind, your journalism skills have drastically put you ahead of the learning curve. EDU by Content Workshop will equip you to stand out in a crowd of job-seekers, land more gigs, and dictate your future.
Riley Manning is a Content Strategist and Director of Content Operations at Content Workshop. He is also a fiction writer who received his MFA from the University of Tampa. Riley’s work has appeared in Archetype, Hobart Pulp, Rejection Letters, and Bridge Eight Literary Magazine.
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.