Exploring this Job

As a high school or college student, you can test your interest and aptitude in the field of writing by serving as a reporter or writer on school newspapers, yearbooks, and literary magazines. Various writing courses and workshops will offer you the opportunity to sharpen your writing skills.

Small community newspapers and local radio stations often welcome contributions from outside sources, although they may not have the resources to pay for them. Jobs in bookstores, magazine shops, and even newsstands will offer you a chance to become familiar with various publications.

You can also obtain information on writing as a career by visiting local newspapers, publishers, or radio and television stations and interviewing some of the writers who work there. Career conferences and other guidance programs frequently include speakers on the entire field of communications from local or national organizations.

The Job

Advertisements were once written and arranged by the individual or company selling a good or service. Today, most advertising is prepared by public relations or advertising agencies. Firms split advertising tasks among workers specifically trained to handle the writing, design, and overall appearance of ads. Copywriters and their assistants write the advertisements, including the text in print ads and the spoken words in radio and television ads, which are also called spots.

Copywriters may have to come up with their own idea and words for an ad, but generally the client's account manager and head designer generate the idea. Once the idea behind the ad is presented, copywriters begin gathering as much information as possible about the client through library research, interviews, the Internet, observation, and other methods. They study advertising trends and review surveys of consumer preferences. They keep extensive notes from which they will draw material for the ad. Once their research has been organized, copywriters begin working on the written components of the ad. They may have a standard theme or "pitch" to work with that has been developed in previous ads. One such example, using what is called a tagline, is seen in the popular milk campaigns promoting its health benefits and other advantages—beauty, athleticism, and intelligence. "Milk: It does a body good."

The process of developing copy is exciting, although it can also involve detailed and solitary work. After researching one idea, a writer might discover that a different perspective or related topic would be more effective, entertaining, or marketable.

When working on assignment, copywriters submit their ad drafts to their editor or the advertising account executive for approval. Writers will probably work through several drafts, writing and rewriting sections of the material as they proceed, searching for just the right way to promote the product, service, or other client need.

Copywriters, like other corporate writers, may also write articles, bulletins, news releases, sales letters, speeches, and other related informative and promotional material. Many copywriters are employed in advertising agencies. They also may work for public relations firms or in communications departments of large companies.

Copywriters can be employed either as in-house staff or as freelancers. Pay varies according to experience and the position, but freelancers must provide their own office space and equipment such as computers and fax machines. Freelancers also are responsible for keeping tax records, sending out invoices, negotiating contracts, and providing their own health insurance.