Getting Started in Copywriting 1

It’s a well-worn theme on the Crafty Writer that it’s difficult to earn a living as a writer, but we don’t want you to give up in despair. So we’ve asked top copywriter Gill D’Achada to tell you about one way writers can make money: through copywriting…

I’ve had many and varied careers and experiences in my 45 years of life – but through it all, I’ve been a copywriter. I haven’t always liked the fact that I am a copywriter but there it is!

I had no great ambitions to be a copywriter, in fact, being a particularly naïve High School girl, I didn’t even know that such a career option existed. Don’t ask me how I imagined adverts got made!

I fell into copywriting by accident. After I graduated with a BA degree my father asked me what career I intended taking up. “I think I’ll be a poet,” I replied. My father, bless his South African socks, knew that a poet had about as much chance of surviving under the hot African sun as an ice-lolly – so he introduced me to one of the members of his Old Boys Club, who just happened to be the Chairman of the Cape Town branch of an international advertising company. The rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, copywriting hasn’t been bad to me because copywriters earn significantly more than journalists, scriptwriters, novelists and poets (shhh, don’t tell them…they’re generally better writers than we are and may flood the market) PLUS, copywriters, once they’ve made a bit of a name for themselves in the industry (pet name for the business of advertising) can go freelance, which means money and freedom – a heady combination indeed and one that I chose to guzzle gustily on for many years.

Intrigued? Want to know if you’ve got what it takes to be a copywriter? Take two minutes out to do our quiz and find out.

Can you crack it as a copywriter?

  1. When it comes to reading, are you…

    a) a slow and careful reader
    b) the queen of skim

  2. When it comes to comprehension, are you…

    a) very good at anything that is explained in writing
    b) bit clueless at everything else

  3. When it comes to humour, do you…

    a) generally laugh at word play
    b) crack up when someone falls off their chair

  4. When it comes to radio, can you…

    a) sing all the jingles, going back to 1960
    b) tune your set in to the Voyager’s satellite feedback

If you ticked mostly a)’s keep reading…

What does a copywriter do?

That’s easy. It’s all around you, every day. Think about that radio ad you heard this morning. A copywriter dreamed up that idea, wrote the words, directed the voice and the music and either got promoted or issued with a verbal warning because of it! Think of that magazine you were paging through this afternoon. Most of the pages weren’t devoted to editorial but to advertising. A copywriter dreamed up those concepts and wrote the words. (Those are the glamorous bits anyway. A copywriter also wrote the blurb on the back of your packet of crisps and the instructions inside your box of paracetamol.)


What qualifications would you need before you could contemplate a career as a copywriter? Many copywriters have tertiary education such as a degree in language or creative writing, but others don’t. There’s an expression in the industry that says “you’re only as good as your last job” which translates – it’s all about being able to do the job, not about being qualified for it. As long as you have above-average language proficiency, the ability to make creative connections and think outside the box, you work well under pressure and can perform to deadlines and you enjoy working in a team with other creative nutters – then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider copywriting as a career – or at least, the moneyspinner that puts the bread on the table that you don’t have time to eat because you’re keeping lunch-hours for your ‘real’ writing.

One thing’s for sure, what you definitely must have when you knock on that first door, is a portfolio – a collection of work that demonstrates your style and ability. In Part 2, we’ll talk more about that….

In the meantime, here are some resources for further reading:




Gill D’Achada is the Creative Director of Mustard Seed Marketing, an advertising agency in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a copywriter by trade and also spent many years writing and producing videos for the corporate world and Christian aid organisations. It has just been announced that Gill’s young adult novel, Sharkey’s Son, is one of the two winners of the Tafelberg / Sanlam Young Novel prize and will be published later this year. Another youth novel she wrote was short-listed for the Maskew, Miller Young Africa Award and she is currently working on another novel and a semi-autobiographical book. She is married to John and they have three adult daughters. We are very proud of Gill’s achievement here at the Crafty Writer, particularly because she took advantage of our critiquing services while drafting her award-winning novel!

Related posts:

  1. Copywriting: write to sell
  2. How to get started in feature writing
  3. Getting started in playwrighting

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