If you’re thinking about becoming a copywriter at a marketing agency, just go for it. Here’s why:
- You get paid to write for a living—something many aspire to but few achieve.
- You’re always learning about new businesses and industries—and, as an extension, meeting fascinating people.
- You get to work on projects your friends and family will likely see out in the world. (And whether you want them or not, you’ll probably get compliments.)
- You get to hang with creatives all day. (They’re the most fun and eclectic people you’ll ever meet).
- You’ll never completely master copywriting; the rabbit holes you can go down improving your craft are endless.
- Kicking your feet up, cranking some tunes, and going into deep thought about what you’re writing next is considered “work.”
- All you need to practice is curiosity and a keyboard.
While it’s a great job, landing your first full-time gig can be a dubious journey. As someone who helps hire writers, I can tell you a lot of people want the opportunity—but few have any idea how to stand out.
I’m going to fix that for you.
The person you really want to impress at an agency is the creative director. So how do you show even the most grizzled creative personality just how sharp, quirky—and downright irresistible—you really are?
Write an undeniable cover letter. This is a lost art, but it’s one of the fastest ways to make an impression. I wouldn’t go in expecting it to work—even if you’re the literal manifestation of equal parts Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson, and Emily Bronte. But from experience, it’s worth a shot, especially because it’s also great practice for developing your tone and voice.
Writing an undeniable cover letter might seem daunting, but you don’t need to be a prodigious wordsmith to succeed. But you must be blisteringly honest and ambitious. You must be unmistakably you. And you must prove (in a few hundred words or so) you are worth the gamble.
Bounce your cover letter off other writers. Join a Discord copywriting group if you don’t have any writer friends. Other people will be happy to help make it great. Remember: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Get your MFA. It’s a long play, sure. But many—nay, most—of the best copywriters I’ve run into over the years have this distinction. An MFA in English or creative writing gives you a certain appreciation for language that’s hard to attain on your own. It gives you an all-too-uncommon grasp on the grammatical foundations of English. It assures you’ve read many of the best novels in Western literature—and probably have at least an idea of how great stories are told. Copywriter candidates with an MFA always get a second glance from me.
Buy the right person a cup of coffee. I see you cringing. As someone who ranks networking just above root canals in terms of things I like to do, I feel your pain. But just because most of us writers are introverts doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight that inclination tooth and nail.
Instead of asking a creative director for a job, write them a cold email or “accidentally” bump into them on the street and ask if they’d be willing to grab coffee with you sometime. Offer to meet somewhere incredibly convenient for them. Have a list of smart questions in your Moleskine ready to go. Take notes during your talk. It might be the best $4.50 you ever spent.
Become an impeccable proofreader. Proofreading is one of the least sexy, highest pressure tasks at any agency. But it’s where an entry-level copywriter can shine. Believe it or not, telling a creative director you’re an incredible proofreader (and proving it) is more compelling than saying you’re an awesome ideas person. Most people are happy to brag about their big ideas. You should be bragging about your legendary proofreading skills.
Becoming great at proofreading isn’t difficult. But it takes a lot of work. You can get there faster with online classes or, better yet, by practicing on your own. Try proofreading news articles and blogs. You might be shocked how many mistakes you’ll find—even in large, reputable publications—if you have a careful eye.
What I didn’t say.
I didn’t bring up resumes. Or LinkedIn profiles. Or big networking events. Or five-thousand-word-a-day quotas. It’s not that a great copywriter doesn’t need to think about these things. They do. But I want to help you catch the eye of a savvy creative director—and those things are just icing on the cake.
The very best copywriters are deep thinkers. They’re often the smartest people in the room but wouldn’t dare think it. They love words and can use them to express ideas in ways that make everyone else wish they’d thought of them first. And if you made it this far, I’d bet that sounds like you.
I’m still waiting for your cover letter.