GUEST BLOG: Career paths in copywriting

UoY Careers Rocket illy  Guest blog written by Derryck Strachan, founder and MD of the copywriting agency Big Star Copywriting

Where to go with words?

If you’re studying English or a related topic at the University of York then you’ll be pleased to know that there are a wide range of career paths available to you. One of these is copywriting, and even within the confines of this single sector there is a broad spectrum of paths that you can take.

Speaking as the founder/ managing director of a successful online copywriting agency, I can tell you that there’s never been a better time to embark on a career in copywriting. Thanks largely to the internet, you have access to a huge range of opportunities, some of which didn’t even exist when I left university.

While I’ve presented these as a series of clear-cut choices, it’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of overlap, and you may well pass through several or all of these during your career. I myself started out doing PR copywriting in the music industry, and later worked as a freelance copywriter and journalist, before going on to build my own copywriting agency.

Career path #1 – Agency copywriter

Agency copywriters come in many different shapes and sizes, but in general they’re tasked with creating content according to set briefs for a wide variety of clients. Some agencies work within specific sectors, or focus on either print (newspaper ads, brochures, B2B magazines etc) or digital copy (web content, online articles), while many today do both.

Career path #2 – Freelance copywriter

Freelance copywriters carry out possibly the widest range of work, and may work with a large number of different clients and agencies on an ad hoc basis. Working freelance is undoubtedly the most flexible career path and can in theory be done from wherever you can find an internet connection, but getting started can be difficult. Note that as a sole trader you’ll be responsible for finding work, invoicing clients, managing your own time and, of course, paying your taxes.

The best way to get started freelance is to set up your own website advertising your services, and actively market yourself to businesses locally and nationally.

Career path #3 – In-house copywriter

Many large brands employ copywriters to work within their office. You may be responsible for all sorts of brand communications, such as print and TV advertising, social media, newsletters and brochures. This requires writing using the firm’s own particular brand voice at all times, which some of you might find restrictive.

Career path #4 – Technical copywriter

This type of copywriting is particularly suitable for anyone with a strong eye for technical detail and in-depth knowledge of a particular subject. If you’ve got scientific or engineering qualifications in addition to strong proven writing abilities, this may be a good path for you.

Career path #5 – Copywriter/ social marketing guru

Social media as a brand communication sector is growing on a daily basis. This means that many businesses are now looking to combine copywriter roles with a social media aspect. If you’re something of a Twitterholic and you enjoy communicating with people then you may well get a kick out of such a role.

If I could give you one tip that covers all these different career paths it would be this – write! Whichever path you take, people will want to see some evidence of your writing and creative abilities, in the form of a writing portfolio. Writing for your university’s Grad Mag is a great way to start building that portfolio, and glancing through this very blog I noticed that they’re currently looking for writers. So what are you waiting for? Get scribbling.

Derryck Strachan the founder and MD of the copywriting agency Big Star Copywriting has some 20 years’ copywriting experience.  He started out in the music business (working for Warner Music, Virgin and Polydor Records) before going freelance (for, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Time Out among many others) and then setting up Big Star (with clients including River Cottage, Interflora, Ecco Shoes, Hilton Hotels & Thomas Cook).