For many arts and humanities graduates, being a copywriter is a career path that is highly sought-after — and for good reason. There are many ways to branch out once you get into the field and plenty of opportunities to move up the ranks if you work hard enough. Unfortunately, having a university degree isn't enough to get hired as a copywriter. Many jobs will require you to have a mastery of specific writing skills that aren't covered in academic work.
To help you attain this type of experience, here are 5 essential skills that every hiring manager will look for when employing copywriters, including how you can demonstrate them on your resume.
5 essential skills that every hiring manager looks for in copywriters
1. Writing Quickly and Managing Simultaneous Projects
For many writers — even seasoned ones — keeping up the speed to produce high-quality content while juggling multiple deadlines can be the most difficult aspect of their job. Copywriters often find themselves working with a minimum of 5,000-words per day and can even be spread over multiple projects with different clients.
As projects need to be taken on simultaneously, copywriters also need to be quick thinkers and adapt the ability to jump from one task to another without losing time. Of course, experienced copywriters already have their systems in place for producing work quickly. Such systems are created out of practice and can't be duplicated unless you have experienced the ins and outs of copywriting yourself.
In other words, you can get faster by taking on more writing projects and by continuously pushing yourself harder with deadlines.
You can start working on this skill even while you're still at university, and even right after graduation — even if it doesn't pay well, get yourself some freelance writing jobs. This not only helps you build your portfolio but also teaches you to work with the efficiency needed to manage and thrive in a full-time copywriting role.
2. Adapting Your Writing to Meet “House Styles”
Marketing and PR (public relations) agencies are some of the biggest employers of copywriters, and they usually serve multiple clients. Each of these clients will have their own writing style, and every piece of work you complete will need to represent their house-style. This will mean you need to adapt your style of writing for each task and be able to do so without sacrificing time or quality.
The best way for you to practice this is by writing for online publications and magazines that contrast each other in terms of styles. Many publications accept articles contributed by readers, but you will need to match their tone, both in terms of topic and style. All you have to do is email an editor and pitch your article's outline to appropriate outlets.
While many publications don't pay contributions by writers, including this experience on your resume will help future employers know that you have demonstrated the ability to adapt to a writing style.
3. Turning Briefs Into Content
Copywriting projects will usually start with a brief that was passed on to you by either the higher-ups from your company or directly by a client. One aspect that's just as important (if not more) as the actual writing is the ability to follow that brief and understanding the point it needs to convey.
Before trying your luck at an interview for a full-time role, it is best to get a hold of a few project-based work to hone your comprehension skills. Many freelance writing jobs work on an "as needed" basis, so there is plenty of time for you to get used to working with briefs that are already set.
You can further prepare yourself for this type of work by accepting a broad range of topics, which will come with every brief you might encounter in the future. This is essential for tackling a diverse scope of briefs. For example, an informational blog will need completely different information from a brief for sales pages, so the more variation there is in your writing, the better you will do when it's a full-time job.
4. An Understanding of On-page SEO
It’s expected that most copywriting roles will need to make some web-related content, so you’re also expected to know a thing or two about on-page SEO. This refers to how visible your content is on the web and in search engines. Like many things, your knowledge of SEO will depend on how much research you do — so it’s best to read as much about it as you can.
Here are some typical SEO-related questions that you might be asked when interviewing for a copywriting job:
- What are the role of keywords in SEO?
- How are SEO friendly articles structured?
- What role does copywriting play in a larger SEO strategy?
In addition, if you’re aiming for more digitally-focused copywriting roles, an understanding of HTML along with its importance in SEO may be required.
5. The Ability to Take Feedback
Perhaps the hardest aspect of having a career in copywriting — in any career, really — is to have the humility to take whatever feedback is thrown at you for the work you do. Anyone can write an article that follows the brief to a tee, and it may even look good to you and your colleagues, but if the client doesn’t accept it, you will need to accept that.
In these situations, you need to breathe in and see what needs tweaking and then rewrite your work according to your client’s needs. Many inexperienced copywriters often find it hard to take negative feedback, which leads to a diminishing output and motivation. However, with experience comes resilience to negative feedback and improves the innate confidence you have in your writing abilities.
Negative feedback can actually help you get a job, so be sure to have some good examples of how you took feedback on board to improve and adjust your work accordingly. This is because many companies often add this as part of their interview to understand how their future employees might handle difficult situations.
Author Bio: Oli Graham is the Marketing Manager of digital content agency RightlyWritten.