Just a couple years ago, most businesses placed close to the entirety of their online marketing strategy on the shoulders of SEO strategists (and many still do). The idea is that content that ranks high on search engines will generate leads and ultimately convert those leads into customers.
But more companies are realizing that high search engine performance doesn’t necessarily lead to customers on its own. Good content does. And good content is written by copywriters.
This makes copywriters increasingly more in-demand by organizations looking to employ an effective content-based marketing strategy. But do copywriting jobs pay well? It depends.
Copywriting Careers: Agency vs. In-House vs. Freelance
A quick Glassdoor search will give you a data-based answer for how much copywriters in the United States make:
- A junior copywriter, on average, makes a salary of $51,391 per year
- A senior copywriter, on average, makes a salary of $80,383 per year
These are nice numbers, but they don’t take into account the variety of places you might work. There are many paths you can take. You might see someone get their feet wet in an agency before moving to an in-house position. Or you’ll hear of someone who built a career in-house before deciding to start their own business. There is no one correct path, and that’s a good thing. You can forge your own. These are the three routes that people generally take:
An advertising or marketing agency is a great way to begin a copywriting career and build your craft. You get to write for a variety of brands and learn how writing strong, human-centered content can truly help a company reach their business goals.
There are many pros to working at an agency, including:
- Outstanding training
- Exposure to many brands
- Networking opportunities
- Competitive salaries
Let’s talk about that last bullet. Salaries and hourly rates can vary greatly depending on your location and the agency. They aren’t all created equal, and it’s important to pursue a competitive, high-performing agency if you’re seeking a good paycheck.
In general, agency copywriters earn slightly less on the front end (junior level) than the national average, but more on the back end (senior level) than the national average. Main factors include:
- Years of experience
- Location (jobs in big cities will pay more than jobs in more rural areas)
- Agency name
An in-house copywriter is somebody employed by one brand (business) and who writes content specifically for that business. A copywriter employed by Nike, for example, is an in-house copywriter who writes content specifically for—and only for—Nike.
One of the great things about working in-house is that there is a lot of opportunity for career growth. Because copywriters are part of an organization’s wider marketing department, promotions mean that you can move up not only on the copy team, but through the organization as a whole. This could mean future lucrative leadership positions like marketing or creative director.
Pros for working as a full-time copywriter for one organization include:
- Growth opportunities and clear promotion tracks
- Writing for only one brand
- Competitive mid-career salaries
- Being part of a team with long-term goals
Working in-house typically provides more income at the front end (junior level) than an agency, and a similar income at the back end (senior level). Moving into positions of leadership can significantly increase earnings potential.
Good copywriting can come from a freelancer just like it can come from an agency or an in-house writer. In fact, many companies are increasingly hiring freelancers to meet their business needs rather than full-time employees.
Freelancers can perform a variety of copywriting services, like blog posts, email, web copy, social media, and more. A freelance copywriter has more freedom than a full-time employee because they build their own schedules and find their own clients. And while independence means less guaranteed financial security, it also means that there is no cap to earnings potential.
Benefits of working freelance include:
- Working from home
- Owning full control of your career trajectory
- Uncapped earnings potential
- No boss
While the perks of being a freelancer are great, there are downsides that should be considered before taking the leap to become a freelance copywriter. These include:
- No employer benefits (i.e., health insurance, paid time off, etc.)
- Having to manage your own taxes
- The pressure of finding your own clients
If freelance copywriting does seem like your forte, however, I’d recommend building a portfolio first through one of the first two routes prior to starting your own business. You can also freelance as a side hustle before diving into it full-time. For inspiration, here are three examples of people who have managed to build successful freelance copywriting businesses:
Making a Living
Copywriter salaries can be great. And on average, most in the profession make steady, comfortable livings. But they can also be not-so-great. Do your research before choosing copywriting as a career. This includes learning about and analyzing the different paths there are to see which might make the most sense for you and your goals.