Geography isn’t one of my strongest suits.
And that means I can’t live without Google Maps.
I’ve always used it whenever I go out, whether I’m trying to find that new cafe where I’m supposed to meet my friend, or figure out where in Shoreditch my go-to hairdresser relocated his salon (pre-Covid-19, obvs).
But sometimes, Google Maps is annoying too- especially when you find out that there was actually a quicker and easier route other than the one the app directed you towards.
There are so many ways to get to where you want to go. You can walk, cycle, take public transport (but not now, if you can) or an Uber.
You can choose any route. As long as you get to the right place and at the right time.
The same goes for copywriting. There is no single, clear-cut way to get there.
What Routes Did the Cream of the Crop Take?
Even the most renowned novelists have different stories about how they ended up choosing writing as a profession.
Sylvia Plath started by keeping a journal at a young age and was already a published writer before even completing her degree at Smith College, where she had a scholarship.
F. Scott Fitzgerald saw his first piece of writing appear in print when he was only 13 years old. It was a detective story published in the school newspaper.
And this inspired him to pursue writing as a living. He started out writing ads for $90 per month, then writing short stories on a freelance basis before becoming a fully-fledged novelist.
Haruki Murakami was already 29 years old and a jazz club owner when he had an epiphany to become a writer while watching a live baseball match.
He had no prior experience in writing, nor did he have any professional training. He wrote his first novel after that and then got published.
In copywriting, you could (like Murakami), become an overnight success out of sheer luck. Or you could choose to combine talent and the academic route like Plath. Or just go freelance like Fitzgerald.
Whichever route you choose, it’s important to weigh your options and know what you’re about to get into.
So what options do you have?
Option 1: Get a Copywriting Degree
Strictly speaking, there are no BA or MA programmes available just for copywriting. Most programmes have a wider scope, and copywriting is just part of what you’ll learn.
If you look at job descriptions for copywriting jobs, one of the most common requirements is a degree in Journalism, Creative Writing, Media and Communications, Advertising or any other related field.
There’s no denying that having a degree has its advantages. After all, it looks good on paper.
Here’s an even closer look at its pros and cons.
- It has a theoretical approach, so you’ll learn why certain copywriting techniques are the way they are, and how they started. You have exams to test your knowledge too.
- It’s highly interactive since you’re learning in a classroom set-up. So you can ask your lecturers questions on the spot and discuss the topic of the day together with your classmates. Since you’re learning together, you can easily share notes too.
- You have three years worth of lessons to study. That means you’ll get to grips with the bigger picture of the Media, Marketing or Advertising industries.
- You’ll get a diploma and make your CV look good.
- Chances are, your university would have a Careers Service that could connect you with Media or Advertising agencies looking for interns, and that could be your stepping stone towards working full-time after graduation.
- The learning is mostly knowledge-based and theoretical. The scope is also more generic and not tailored to the specific area of copywriting you might want to learn most about.
- There will be difficulties in adjusting the curriculum for online use to comply with lockdown policies.
- There aren’t many opportunities to build actual experiences in copywriting unless you take the initiative to find freelance projects yourself or to contribute to the campus paper.
- It’s expensive. For home students, English universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree. And double (or more) for international students. In the USA it can cost up to $53,000 in tuition fees.
- You’ll be spending at least three years of your life studying before you can complete your degree.
- Without a portfolio of writing for actual brands, the value of uni projects isn’t on the same calibre.
Getting a degree might be your best bet if you’re fresh out of high school and have a lot of time to spare for a field that you seriously want to pursue.
If you choose this route, you’ll be investing a lot of time, money and energy, so make sure that you’re really passionate about the programme and the possible career paths you can take (including copywriting) once you graduate.
We’ve mushroom-picked the best copywriting school options in this blog post.
Option 2: Get a Vocational Diploma
A vocational diploma, like a degree, can get you a certificate after completion. But it’s more niche because it’s not just a generic Marketing or Advertising degree.
You can also choose to do it in person in a training centre, or online (which is the wiser option these days, given the current situation). There’s definitely a greater degree of flexibility in this route.
Here are the pros and cons of getting a vocational diploma:
- It’s tailored to your niche. You’ll learn about the aspects of copywriting that you want to learn about. You won’t need to learn about wider concepts that are not related to the area that you want to specialise in.
- You don’t have to spend a fortune or several years of your life until you complete the course. The lengths and prices of courses vary. But you’re looking at completing it between two months to one year and paying between $200 to $1500, more or less.
- A lot of the training you’ll receive will be directly from the frontrunners in the industry instead of members of the academe. So the experience is more practical, with more concrete results.
- You’ll come out of it with professional certification. Chances are you’ll also be able to connect with more experienced creatives whom you’ll get to meet through your instructors.
- Although you’ll get full accreditation and certification, its NQF level is lower than having a bachelor’s degree, which will give you an NQF level 6. It doesn’t look as good in paper, but demonstrating your skills and level of expertise is more important than any qualification.
- If you prefer to assess your performance through marked exams, then the mostly practical lessons would probably not appeal to you.
- It won’t have a lecture and seminar format, and online versions will be more self-paced than guided so if you tend to lose your focus easily, you might go off track.
This could be the right option for you if you want to become a certified copywriter without having to invest the amount of time and money that completing a degree calls for.
This blog post gives the lowdown on the copywriting programs you should know about.
Option 3: Try this Freelance Copywriting Course
If you’ve got an innate knack for words and are considering to become a fully-fledged freelance copywriter, then our very own TCC Academy course could be of great value to you.
There are a lot of good online copywriting courses. And most of what you’ll encounter will be day-long taster courses, a more generic course on copywriting concepts and techniques or even niche ones that focus on just SEO or email marketing, such as Success Works and eMarketeers.
But our TCC Academy course can help you find your niche and eventually set up shop. Here are the pros and cons:
- The course is extremely in-depth. You’ll get methodologies, formulas and recipes broken down into digestible lessons, plus videos, written materials, PDFs, tasks and downloads that make the whole experience interactive even if it’s online.
- You’ll be able to build your portfolio from scratch after completing 86 ‘Present, Practice and Produce’ tasks. You’ll also find out how to effectively create a proposal that will help you charm potential clients silly and win projects.
- You’ll be part of a community where you can share your work, get feedback from the TCC team and interact with other people who are also taking the course.
- You’ll find out how to start your own business, how to set up an invoice system and how to start getting freelance projects.
- You can finish it at your own pace. There are 8 comprehensive modules which usually take between 2 weeks to 2months to finish.
- At $290 (reduced from $1197 for a limited time), it’s good value for money considering what you’ll learn from both the art and science sides of copywriting.
- If you prefer something super short and basic, this is not for you. Although beginners are encouraged to take this course, it won’t be a perfect fit unless you already have some existing skills in writing.
- If you want to do copywriting on the side and are not seriously considering a professional decision to shift to a copywriting career, then you’ll just be spending extra time and money for something that is just a hobby.
- If you’re conscious about getting grades, diplomas and certificates, then getting a degree or vocational course might be a better choice for you.
- If you have a different goal- like focusing on just one niche area or looking at the possibility of writing for non-English speakers, then other courses will be more suitable.
Making a career change to freelance copywriting is a big decision, so make sure that you’re 100% certain that you want to do this so that you can make the most out of this experience.
Hopefully, we were able to shed some light on the many paths that could lead you towards the copywriting career you envision yourself in.
- Make a decision based on your goals, priorities and interests. Don’t make rash decisions because your future literally relies on it.
- Having the highest level of education not necessarily means that you’ll be more successful because in the copywriting game, the skills you can bring to the table and the results you can produce are the factors that will determine whether you’re cut out for it or not.
- It’s never too early or too late to begin your copywriting journey. As long as you have the passion, determination and drive to learn, you’ll achieve greater heights.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Each journey is different. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and nurture them.
I wish you well in your journey, whichever path you choose to take.
And in the words of Sylvia Plath, may you “live, love and say it well in good sentences”.