Here’s a little not-so-well-kept secret: In general, writers don’t make much money. Well, most writers.
It’s true that journalism, as a career, is in an abysmal state and that shockingly few novelists can make a living by writing novels unless their main characters are wizards, vampires or fetishists.
I couldn’t tell you why the economics of these jobs mean that writing skills aren’t rewarded in spades—or, more usefully, in loads and loads of dollars. But what I can tell you is where the exception lies.
Copywriting is the writing of ads or marketing pieces. “Copy” (the words that these copywriters write) is created to sell; whether that be to literally sell a product, to persuade someone to take an action, or even just to change someone’s mind about a company or person.
Copywriters write magazine ads, of course, but they also write commercials and emails and banner ads and websites and signage and direct mail pieces and a host of all kinds of other things.
And copywriters make good money.
The thing is, there has literally never been a higher demand for skilled copywriters. With more businesses than ever in operation around the worlds and these businesses appreciating the need for well-written, effective marketing and advertising more than they have before, business is booming for copywriters.
But how much money is “good money?” Well, I’ve got two answers to that question; if you don’t like the first one, stick with me to the second.
The first answers is that I can’t give you an exact number for how much you could earn, because a lot of that depends on you. If you work hard to learn as much as you can and you really put yourself out there for all kinds of different work, you can earn a really good living. Really good.
But someone who learns how to write copy and doesn’t put in the effort to find clients or to set themselves apart from other job candidates isn’t going to make as much money. And that makes sense, right?
The good news is that the potential is there to make an excellent income and much of the outcome is entirely up to you.
But on to answer two, which is probably more what you’re looking for. There are a lot of variables, obviously, but I’m going to give you some ballpark figures. A new (trained) copywriter could make anywhere in the $25 to $35 per hour range, so you’re looking at beginning salaries between roughly $52,000 and $62,000.
The nice thing, too, is that there’s plenty of room for growth and advancement. Right now, it’s completely possible for an experienced copywriter to make over six figures a year. Depending on their experience, level within a company, where they live, and where they work, that could be from a combination of freelance work and full-time work, or it could come from just a full-time job.
Now, again, these are estimates; I’m sure you can find examples of exceptions. But I gave you real numbers because I want you to understand that there is the real potential to make a good living. My first full-time copywriting job twelve years ago earned me about $65,000, and hitting six figures from copywriting alone hasn’t been an issue for quite a while. And I don’t say this to brag—it doesn’t mean that I’m a special person. It only means that I know what I’m doing and I work hard in a career that has a lot of opportunity.
Writing is a crucial skill. It should be easier to get paid well for it. It’s a travesty that brilliant novelists have to work day jobs instead of spending all of their time writing the novels that we love and crave. It’s appalling that dedicated journalists make an absolute pittance when we need them to keep us informed.
But, it’s at least good to know that there’s one set of writers that are being financially appreciated for their skills. Until all writers are making a great living, copywriters will just have to lead the charge.