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Ask James Caan – Issue 82

Written by Kimberley Startup | February 8, 2012 | 1 Comment

Dear Member,

As you may have seen from our January report, written by Jay; the start of 2012 – whilst busy – was slightly slower than anticipated. This gave us the opportunity to research current trends, crunch the numbers and look at ways to fine-tune what we do.

One area we’re keen to unlock the potential of is Google+. It’s fast-proving a fantastic resource to build new communities, and we shall be reporting back to you all with our findings to hopefully benefit your job search or business. You can see us in action on Google+ here.

Back to the column, and this week I’m discussing the benefits of pursuing a career in copywriting, and what candidates need to do to get ahead in this competitive field.

Take Rachel’s letter:


‘I am trying to become a copywriter.

‘Having studied English Language, I believe I have a good grasp of writing, and I love coming up with creative adverts. How do I break into this industry?’

Rachel, there are certain degree disciplines that can open up doors into the world of copywriting. English, advertising, communications – all provide a fantastic platform to start your career in writing.

Copywriting is a broad term. It can range from creating ads for the big agencies to writing content for websites and direct mail. It requires someone who can express ideas eloquently and research subjects in-depth.

The basis of copywriting is to get someone to act upon an offer of some form. It goes without saying that your appreciation of language should be perfect, as should your ability to write for a range of audiences. But it’s also your research skills and ability to promote different messages employers want to see.

Any copywriter will tell you the key to success in the industry is a creating a powerful portfolio.

Whilst you are starting up, take any opportunity to write. Offer your services to a local charity with their direct mail; ask friends and family if you can provide content for their businesses, and experiment with different styles.

Brochures, websites, sales copy, adverts and promotional literature are all staples of any worthy copywriting portfolio. Your aim should be to provide examples of each to demonstrate your breadth of skills.

Don’t think it’s all online based. Print still forms a considerable amount of a company’s collateral – think handouts, brochures, competitions – so get to grips with writing for offline and online audiences.

In tandem to this, start researching opportunities in your area. The copywriters I have spoken to are equally split – half work from home on a freelance basis, the others are based in big agencies, PR firms and marketing organisations.

Local advertising agencies are a great place to start. Whilst it will be the bigger ones that have dedicated copywriting departments, their clients will often commission ad-hoc projects so you may be able to find an entry point.

Have you thought about working on a freelance basis? Many writers work on a freelance basis, that’s how they enter smaller agencies.

In this case, word-of-mouth is incredibly important to marketing yourself. One way you could get your name out there is to approach start-up businesses that may not have the money to pay big agencies but are looking for content.

Of course working on a self-employed basis is hard, but if you find you have a business mind and a way with words, it could prove to be a fruitful move.

If there are any copywriters in the group, why not share your tips and advice?

I wish you every success,


One thought on “Ask James Caan – Issue 82

  1. StuartW on Reply

    To James’s very good advice I’d add: start a blog. It can be done quite easily using something like or, and it gives you your own space to write whatever you want. If you’re not sure where to start, some time on Google should turn up some step-by-step guides.

    When you’re applying for a job include the link to your blog in your CV and on your LinkedIn profile (making sure it’s suitable for the eyes of prospective employers!). It’s easy for the recipient to click a link and immediately see what you’ve written about. It also shows that you’ve made the effort to learn some new technology in order to market yourself.

    As you start writing for other places, include screenshots/links/photos on your blog so that it becomes an easily-accessible online portfolio.

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