Posted 04 April 2023
Mention Reed Words
Written by Jamie Thorp

What is copywriting and how do you get into it?

While you might not realise it, copywriting is almost everywhere you look. From the push notifications that pop up on your phone, to the ads you see on TV or at your local bus stop, it’s a copywriter’s job to use language to speak to different audiences. Intrigued? We ask the team at verbal branding and copywriting agency Reed Words to talk us through it all, before sharing some essential resources – including schemes, books and websites – for would-be copywriters.

🤔 What is copywriting?

Put simply, copywriting is any writing you do for a brand. And despite the name, the idea isn’t to ‘copy’ anything. It’s about using original ideas and language to make people sit up, take notice, and think about buying a product, using a service, donating to a cause… the list goes on.

Where design is how a brand looks, copywriting is how it talks. Let’s take Nike as an example. Its iconic piece of design is the Swoosh, and its iconic bit of copywriting is “Just do it.” Three-word taglines like this are copywriting at its punchiest, but there are countless places where writing can make its mark on a brand (more on that later).

Because brands use words in so many places, there are a tonne of different types of copywriting out there. Here are a few:

  • Branding
  • Advertising
  • Business-to-Business
  • Social media
  • UX writing
  • Brand voice
  • Brand naming
  • Charity fundraising

A lot of copywriters do a number of these, while some choose to specialise.

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Reed Words’ work for Byron Burger; design by Taxi

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📂 What kinds of projects do copywriters work on?

A lot of projects need copywriting – whether they’re in the strategy, design, or launch phase.

Say you’re branding a new product. The copywriter usually comes up with the name, the brand story, the brand voice and the launch comms. This happens at different stages of the project, but the copywriter has a role to play throughout.

Or, on the advertising side, the copywriter will be part of the initial brainstorming and pitching, and then develop the idea and come up with the script or campaign line for the final ad.

Sometimes a copywriter is around for the whole project; sometimes they just help out with one stage. But anywhere a project needs good words, it needs a good copywriter.

👀 Where have I seen it before?

Everywhere! On social media. On TV. On billboards. At bus stations. In the name of every product or service you’ve ever used. These are the obvious cases, but copywriting exists in a lot of other places too. Whether it’s the description on the back of a packet of crisps or a push notification from Monzo, someone, somewhere, came up with it.

Here are some examples of great copywriting in action:

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Reed Words’ worked on the tone of voice for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) producing practical guidelines to cover all kinds of conversation; design by Studio Output

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🔨 What skills are required?


  • Love of language and the craft of writing
  • Ability to express yourself
  • Lateral thinking – seeing what others don’t
  • Ideas and imagination

Good to have:

  • A head for strategy
  • Knack for wordplay
  • A stickler for details
  • Open to feedback and being edited

At Reed Words, we don’t expect junior writers to be perfect, but here are some things we look for in portfolios:

  • Imagination – strong creative ideas, captured simply and intuitively
  • Inventiveness – using language in a way that feels fresh and compelling
  • No clichés – avoid phrases and trends that have been done to death
  • Keep personal projects to a minimum – things like poems, blog posts, or reviews. We’re much more interested in what you can do for a brand in response to a brief (this could be a real brief, or one you’ve given yourself)

💼 What tasks does it involve?

  • Researching new topics (i.e. becoming an expert on a huge variety of things)
  • Interpreting briefs
  • Distilling information
  • Presenting ideas
  • Incorporating client feedback
  • Writing, writing, writing
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Reed Words’ work for Heinz, including product descriptions and tone of voice guidelines

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🗺️ Where do copywriters normally work?

• Writing agencies:

• Freelance, working directly with clients and with branding and advertising agencies. Some of the industry’s top freelance writers:

• In-house at branding, design or advertising agencies

• In-house for brands

Because copywriting doesn’t need any fancy equipment, you can do it from pretty much anywhere. All it takes is a Word document and some good ideas.

❇️ What kind of jobs can I do?

  • Advertising copywriter in an agency or freelance

  • Brand writer at an agency, in-house or freelance

  • Content creation (blogs, articles and so on)

  • Social media manager or creator

  • Freelancer – in a specific field or as an all-rounder

💰 What can I expect to be paid?

Copywriting salaries tend to match those of designers pretty closely.

According to ProCopywriters’ 2021 salary survey, an average freelance copywriter day rate was £387. The average for an agency copywriter was just under £38,000 per year.

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Reed Words’ work for ethical brand directory Goodfind; design by Matt Morgan

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🧫 What are the culture and hours like?

The culture at agencies that purely focus on writing tends to be more relaxed than at agencies which focus on design or advertising. When you’re the only writer on a team, it can mean quite a lot of pressure – but also more freedom.

Because writing is so close to thinking, it can be hard to switch off. You might wake up in the night to scribble down a new brand name, or spend your weekend thinking about that killer tagline. So although you usually leave work on time, sometimes the work follows you home.

💬 Any last words of advice?

Really, it starts with being great at writing – so invest time in that. And when we say great writing, we’re not talking about the essays you wrote at school. You don’t get any points for a huge vocabulary or an ability to write long sentences. Copywriting is about capturing ideas in a simple and accessible way, and that takes practice.

After you’ve got the hang of that, set yourself some briefs. Rewrite bad ads you see on the Tube. Come up with names for products that don’t exist yet. Start a blog on something that interests you. These are all valid things to put into a potential portfolio, and they show you’re serious about getting into the world of copywriting.

Resources for budding copywriters, as recommended by Reed Words

💼 Internships, online communities and newsletters

Superunion, Landor & Fitch, Raw LDN and Jones Knowles Ritchie all offer internships for writers.

The Wordsmiths is a Slack group for copywriters which regularly features job opportunities.

Word Tonic is a copywriting community specifically for Gen-Z writers.

Reed Words advertises job vacancies in our monthly copy-focused newsletter, Fresh Words.

🧑‍🏫 Learning platforms and courses

D&AD Creative Copywriting: The Fundamentals

Brixton Finishing School offers free courses particularly for if you want to get into ad copywriting.

Future London Academy runs an online course on brand language.

Reed Words has a series of tutorial videos on YouTube for different types of copywriting.

📚 Books

We, Me, Them and It by John Simmons

Copywriting by Mark Shaw

The Copy Book by D&AD

Copywriting Made Simple by Tom Albrighton

Junior by Thomas Kemeny

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

Can I Change Your Mind? by Lindsay Camp

On Writing by Stephen King

💻 Websites

Tone Knob: a blog about brand voice

D&AD: great work through the ages

Monzo Voice Guidelines

Dave Trott: copywriting veteran


Reed Words is a Creative Lives in Progress brand partner. Every year, we partner with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Creative Lives a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email
[email protected]

Mention Reed Words
Written by Jamie Thorp