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How I made it as: a Creative Copywriter

By Jack Rivers

As a Creative Copywriter, I’m often asked two questions about my job.

The first - and easier to answer - is being asked what, exactly, a Creative Copywriter does. (For those interested in a handy stock reply, I’ve gotten into the groove of explaining that it’s our job to “come up with the ideas for and write all the ads you see and hear every day.”)

The second - and where things get a little more complicated - involves explaining how you go about becoming one in the first place. Truth be told, however, there is no right or wrong answer; because there are so many different roads that lead to the copywriting career path.

One of my favourite copywriters, Dave Trott, took the traditional route: pursuing higher education which, in his case, involved majoring in advertising at the Pratt Institute in New York. The incredible Barbara Nokes, on the other hand, started out as a creative department secretary. It was only when all the agency’s copywriters were sick with flu, that she was asked to write a deodorant ad – simply because she was the only person there to do it!

Personally, I started my career as a journalist, only to have Peggy Olson’s Burger Chef pitch in Mad Men inspire me to give advertising a shot.

Granted, there’s no scientific formula for success.

But here’s what worked for me and, with any luck, it just might work for you, too.

Write. Write. Write.

You’ll never become a better golfer unless you practice.

You’ll never become a better chef unless you cook.

And you’ll never become a better copywriter unless you write.

The form of writing and subject matter is entirely up to you, simply because the more you practice, the more your copywriting will inevitably improve – as will your chances of employment.

Get to grips with grammar, punctuation and techniques

This one might seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked.

Yes, talent and flair make you a good copywriter.

Grammar, punctuation and technique, however, are what make you a great one.

Be curious

Copywriters and creatives are a curious bunch. We crave knowledge.

We’re fascinated by seemingly pointless stuff. And we’re always asking questions.

All facets that see us constantly going down some pretty random rabbit holes.

The history of the Futura font; conspiracy theories; the highest-grossing films of all-time; New York’s ‘Mole’ people: I’ve lost count of the topics – and time – I’ve spent watching YouTube documentaries and reading articles on until the early hours.

Your body clock probably won’t thank you for it – but your creativity will.

Embrace the fact that ideas don’t work 9 to 5

Ok, so obviously you won’t physically be at work all day, every day – but prepare for your mind to be.

If you love copywriting and creativity, you’ll quickly come to understand that ideas and words never sleep: the best concepts and straplines often present themselves randomly in the shower at 9pm, or when you’re making breakfast on the weekend.

The sooner you make peace with this notion, the sooner you’ll find the perfect response to that brief you’ve been struggling with.

Find your ‘in’ into the industry

It doesn’t matter whether it’s work experience at agencies; writing reviews for local publications or contributing to platforms like; I firmly believe that we create our own luck in life. Which is why I spent vast quantities of my university downtime finding work experience everywhere and anywhere.

Because, if you really want to make it as a copywriter, you need to showcase talent - and work ethic - to the people that can facilitate your career choice.

Granted, volunteering to drive (hungover) to Gatwick on a Sunday morning just to deliver a box of magazines wasn’t my most enjoyable experience as an intern; but it’s the kind of initiative that might help you get your break and, ultimately, your first job as a writer.

Trust me when I say, however, that everything you’ve just read was – and is – worth it.

Because the feeling of making a living as a copywriter is, ironically, beyond words.


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