How English Majors Can Learn Agency Copywriting Skills

When most people think of copywriters, what they’re really thinking of is agency copywriters. These are the people who write catchy slogans and creative copy for your favorite advertisements. It’s the kind of copywriting you see on Mad Men and other shows about advertising.

As an agency copywriter, you’ll work with clients to create compelling copy for their brand advertisements. You’ll try to capture their ideal customer’s attention with a hook or slogan that makes the customer want to buy.

The agency copywriting world has a fairly straightforward path. New roles – such as content strategist and SEO specialist – have provided English majors more opportunities to go the agency route. Despite this, the path to agency copywriter almost always looks like this:

  • Create spec samples
  • Take communications/marketing classes
  • Get an internship with an agency
  • Use internship experience to get an agency job

It’s also possible to get a job working as an agency-type copywriter in a company’s in-house agency, but that’s less common.

Top Agency Copywriter Skills

In our analysis of over 100 job postings for agency copywriters, here are the top skills we saw employers require most often:

  • Review copy by other writers and provide constructive feedback
  • Ability to write independently
  • Write in a range of styles and voices
  • Ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously in a fast-paced environment
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Work with Design teams
  • Experience as a copywriter either in-house or at an agency
  • Internet research skills

You’ll notice most of these skills are “soft” skills you could learn during your coursework. That’s both good and bad.

It’s good because you don’t need to necessarily spend as much time learning skills that are completely different from your degree program’s core competencies.

It’s bad because it means you’re competing with other applicants based solely on the quality of your portfolio and experience. Because there’s no alternate path to becoming an agency copywriter in most cases, you’ll need to create great portfolio pieces and get as much experience as possible.

Unlike other jobs we feature at English Major’s Guide, agency copywriting is more about experience than skills. You’ll need to know basic skills, of course, but you’ll learn those while getting work experience.

Learn How to be an Agency Copywriter as an English Major

In any case, there are some great resources out there to become an agency copywriter as an English major. Here are our favorite links to get you started.

Articles

About Money – Ad Agency Copywriters vs. Freelance Copywriters. A great introduction comparing the different types of copywriting.

John Kuraoka – How to become an advertising copywriter. This is probably THE guide to becoming an agency copywriter.

Mike Palma – On Writers, Copywriting and How to Build a Portfolio. Another wonderful primer on aency copywriting and how to build your agency portfolio.

Books

Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads by Luke Sullivan and Edward Boches. This is a fascinating introduction to the world of agency copywriting. You’ll learn how to tell brand stories for both traditional media outlets and online. You’ll also learn how the values you have as an English major – authenticity, storytelling, narrative – are crucial in creating ads that feel more like stories than spam.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. Everyone thinking about a career in advertising needs to read this book. In it, advertising legend David Ogilvy (kind of a real-life Don Draper) explains how he became one of the top ad men and agency copywriters of all time. You’ll learn how to formulate great copy, why some ads work (and some flop), and whether agency life is for you. It’s been described as “half of all the advertising course you need,” with Hey, Whipple as the second half.