Can You Be a Copywriter Without a Degree?

Copywriters don’t need degrees, but they can be advantageous to newbies. Copywriting is a practical skill learned over time and experience speaks for itself.

Published Categorized as Writing

You do not need a degree to be a copywriter. Applying for copywriter jobs is not like becoming a doctor or a lawyer where you need to prove you have an understanding of the human body or the law.

Copywriting is an acquired skill that is primarily learned by taking on jobs. Having a degree—related to copywriting or not—is rarely a requirement for copywriting work, though it can give the upper hand at times.

Can Anyone Become a Copywriter?

Theoretically yes, anyone can become a copywriter if they can write well—that’s pretty much the only real requirement, aside from an internet connection.

Writers with a degree in topics related to copywriting may be able to start at a higher rate, but that will only get you so far. After a certain point experience speaks for itself.

And copywriters do not all come from a writing background either. Copywriters can come from specialized backgrounds and write for specific topics.

Is Copywriting Easy to Get Into?

It is not too hard to get into copywriting, however, finding meaningful, well-paid work is not so easy at the beginning. Beginners often end up charging far lower than they should just to get some experience (I did the same!).

This can be one of the major hurdles when you start because the money you’re making might not cover all your expenses.

I always recommend beginners have some money saved up before they jump into copywriting, just in case. But it is very important that before you start you have a good idea of your expenses and how much you would need to work/charge to cover them.

What Skills Should a Copywriter Have?

Good command of the language you write in is an obvious skill you must have. (You don’t need a degree to write well.)

Knowledge of marketing and advertising can also go a long way, as well as knowledge of the industry your client works in. But you do not always have to start with these skills, you can learn them on the way.

There are some basic things new copywriters need to learn that studying at university helped me with (aside from helping me write better).

You can’t just copy stuff from other websites and call it your own (especially from Wikipedia!).

You’re not a poet or writing a novel—your material needs to sell and be direct. There’s no need to be poetic and tell a story with everything you write. (You can irritate clients a lot by writing in this way.)

To many clients, there is not a difference here between ‘qualified and unqualified’ copywriters. There are just those who can write and those who cannot.

You must be able to accept feedback. If anything, you should expect it—never assume that your copy is perfect and can’t be improved on—it shouldn’t make you angry or sad.

Of course, while you can learn all these lessons outside university, you may hit a few obstacles.

What Qualifications Does a Copywriter Need?

For copywriters, it is more important to have a portfolio than qualifications. A degree doesn’t mean you are any good at copywriting, but with a portfolio, the evidence is clear. (That said, you can of course put together a copywriting portfolio of your work while studying.)

A degree can help, but it’s not necessary. Don’t feel copywriting is out of your reach if you don’t have a degree.

But also, don’t think that getting a degree in writing or doing a course is some kind of con, there are great benefits to it.

There are plenty of copywriters who badmouth courses and degrees, but don’t assume that their success makes them correct. Studying how to write can expose you to some different ways of writing early on that can help you further down the line.

But it is the practical experience that is most important.

Can I Be a Copywriter with an English Degree?

Yes, you can be a copywriter with an English degree. Ideally, it would be better if your degree is more related to actual writing—not just studying English literature. Your psychoanalysis of Hamlet won’t help you sell car insurance, will it?

To many clients, there is not a difference here between ‘qualified and unqualified’ copywriters. There are just those who can write and those who cannot.

My experience: I studied creative and professional writing at university but when I graduated, I had no idea how to start. I thought that the skills I had learned would only ever do me well as a fiction writer.

I doubted myself and didn’t see writing for a living as a real possibility. It was almost two years after I had graduated when I finally took the risk to start freelancing and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Having a degree put me at an advantage over other newbies, but of course, I was nothing to the big guys with huge portfolios and years of experience.

Completing a course will also not necessarily make you any more equipped as a copywriter. Though it will give you a lot of useful information, copywriting is a practical skill that you have to learn by exercising it.

While degrees may teach you how to write well, they will not necessarily give you the experience to find work, negotiate rates, work out how much to charge, etc. I still felt like I had to start from scratch even though I had a writing degree.

Some of the stuff I learned at university was golden and still helps me out today.

Two of the best lessons I learned from studying writing at university:

  1. Let go of your ego when receiving feedback.
  2. Writing is very much like a muscle, it needs to be exercised. The more you practise it, the better your writing will be.

How Can I Get Copywriting Jobs with No Experience?

The easiest way to get copywriting jobs is to join a platform like Upwork, which is the first thing I did when I started.

You may want to start out writing about something important to you and publish it somewhere like WordPress.

For example, for a brief period, I used to write about film. This did two things—built up my portfolio and gave me some experience (and a little bit of cash too).

Of course, you will get rejected many times in the beginning if you do not have any experience, but do not let that deter you. Once you get that first copywriting job, it will get easier and easier.

How Do I Learn Copywriting?

You learn copywriting by writing copy! The more you write, experiment with different styles, the better you will become.

Completing a course will also not necessarily make you any more equipped as a copywriter. Though it will give you a lot of useful information, copywriting is a practical skill that you have to learn by exercising it.

While there is a lot of free information available on the web from blogs, videos, etc., usually if it’s free it’s not the whole picture.

If you take a copywriting course that makes you write a lot, it’s probably going to be useful to you. Especially if they get you to experiment with different styles of writing you might not have written before.

But if a course is mostly lectures, videos, and reading, it might not be too good. It would also be ideal to teach you how to write in the 21st century. While how we write has not changed, how we get work published has changed tremendously.

Some copywriters would suggest skipping courses entirely and going straight into finding work, but in my opinion, I think a more balanced approach is better—take a course but aim to start working as soon as you can.

Don’t spend too much time educating yourself. The real experience comes from the actual writing. A little secret: I’m still learning myself—it never really ends.

How Do Freelance Writers Find Work?

Platforms such as Upwork, Fiver have become the norm for many freelance copywriters. I have also found numerous jobs via LinkedIn (clients sometimes come to you, after you start to make a name for yourself).

Do remember though that these marketplaces take a slice of what you earn from your work!

Having a blog is also very useful to promote yourself. You can add your contact information and let potential clients reach out to you. Blogs are also an excellent opportunity to show off your writing style too.

In the beginning, you will need to reach out to clients as, of course, no one knows who you are. Because of this, you will need to learn how to sell yourself.

I have my own proposal that I change depending on the job I’m applying for. I usually send this along with a copy of my CV that is strictly writing-related. Over time I have reworked this proposal to make it better and better.

In Conclusion

Yes, you can be a copywriter without a degree. Completing a course can give you a step up in your copywriting career, but it is not 100% necessary.

Copywriters gain their experience from working the job and building a solid portfolio will get them further than any qualifications.

Don’t be against getting an education, it is still highly beneficial, but do remember that how you write will mostly be defined as you practice the profession.

By Craig Britton

Jack of all trades on writing-related topics with extensive experience in copywriting.

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