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Tips for the Young Copywriter

By: Steve H.

First off, I’m a young copywriter too. So this is just as much my daily internal dialogue as it is tips for others. Also, while the following words are my own, I credit most of this advice to my far more talented mentors, teachers and friends. Here goes:

1. Check your ego: Getting paid to write things is a gift. Understand that you’re really lucky to call yourself a copywriter, no matter how junior.

2. Respect your elders: Writing takes practice. Therefore, chances are that the folks who have been doing it longer than you are better than you. If the client likes their line way more than yours, it’s probably not because you chose the wrong career path. You’re just a growing into the gig.

3. Say yes: There’s a project up for grabs that’s got no budget, low reach and in all likelihood won’t end up in your book. Say yes. No matter what it is, you’re going to partake in the practice of writing something. That’s half the battle when you’re young and trying to get better.

4. Do cool, inspirational things: Some jobs allow for clear separation between work life and home life. In advertising we’re not that (un)lucky. The line between the cool things you do outside of the office and inside is very blurry. As a creative, the more thought-provoking stuff you do from 5-9, the better your ideas will be from 9-5.

5. Appreciate your design partner: Know about layout, kerning, color, letting, and generally, what looks good. Hell, draw a picture or download the Creative Suite while you’re at it. That said, don’t step on their toes; they might appreciate your opinion but they get paid to design, you don’t.

6. Be patient: The path for most creatives looks pretty rigid: from junior to senior to ACD to CD to GCD to God of Advertising. But those jumps take time. So take a breath and enjoy the day-to-day.

7. Keep a good idea alive but take a hint: It’s easy to get fixated on an idea or theme. It is your baby, after all. And if you genuinely believe it’s good, by all means try to make it work. But if you keep trying and it keeps dying maybe it just isn’t that great.

8. Be a good communicator: Being a good writer trumps all. But The most well-written concept can sound pretty bad if you don’t present it well. I’m not saying bullshitting can cure a bullshit idea. I am saying it can make a decent idea sound like a great one. It’s advertising; sell the damn thing.

9. Read: Then read, read and read some more. Learn some new words, marvel at poetic run-on sentences, try to figure out how the hell some folks can say so much in such little space. Bottom line, the more good stuff you read the more good stuff you write.

10. Be hungry, humble: Understand that you’re at the bottom of the ladder but don’t sell yourself short. Try your darnedest to write the best line and get your work out; just don’t be a dick when it doesn’t happen.

It won’t be easy but it might be fun.

In union,

Steve

11.24.14   The Words

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