Where do copywriters earn the most? See how your setup compares to the industry standard

ProCopywriters have released their 2019 survey of the copywriting profession, and the results make for interesting reading on a range of topics – from where in the UK you can expect to earn the most to whether you need formal training to be a copywriter.

A snapshot of the copywriting profession

The survey of ProCopywriters members returned 514 responses. They reveal that the average age of a copywriter is 40, female copywriters outnumber male copywriters two to one, and full-timers outnumber part-timers two to one.

Read on for more key findings from the survey.

How important is formal education and training?

According to the survey results, you don’t necessarily need formal copywriting training to make a career out of it. Just under half (46 per cent) of respondents have completed copywriting training.

A third (34 per cent) of copywriters have an English language or literature degree, a quarter (26 per cent) have another type of humanities degree, and about a fifth (19 per cent) studied one of social science, science, marketing, advertising or communication.

The survey went on to ask participants how useful they feel their degree has been for their career, with a little over three quarters believing their time spent in degree-level study has been useful to some extent (47 per cent said ‘quite useful’ and 31 per cent said ‘very useful’).

Are more copywriters self-employed or employed?

Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of copywriters run their own business, according to the survey. That’s made up of 67 per cent who class themselves as freelance and six per cent who are agency founders.

This isn’t surprising as it’s relatively easy to set yourself up as a copywriter, provided you have the skills and knowledge to attract and retain clients.

All you really need are a laptop and a way with words. However, the latter isn’t something that comes easily to everyone, despite the fact that – as most seasoned writers will know already – lots of people think they can.

How much time do copywriters spend writing?

It’s also worth noting that if you work in-house, you’re likely to spend less time writing than you are if you’re freelance. This makes sense as you’re less likely to have regular team meetings to attend and other admin tasks to do if you work for yourself.

In-house writers often need to manage freelancers as part of their role, so this could explain some more of that time spent on non-writing activities.

What other skills should copywriters have?

Besides writing, lots of the respondents said they completed other tasks, including:

  • copy-editing (81 per cent)
  • proofreading (73 per cent)
  • tone-of-voice strategy (61 per cent)
  • content management / strategy (55 per cent)
  • SEO (47 per cent)
  • developing style guidelines (40 per cent)
  • training others (27 per cent)
  • user experience (26 per cent)
  • design / layout (20 per cent)

It turns out copywriters are a charitable bunch too, with 70 per cent either offering their services unpaid or being open to it. We covered this controversial subject in an article on whether freelancers should ever work for free earlier this year.

How much experience should I have before I go freelance?

On average, copywriters who decide to take the leap into freelance do so once they have five years’ experience under their belt.

This is reduced from an average of six years’ experience in 2017 and 2018. Could the current economic climate be the reason?

How do I find clients?

Word of mouth is by far the most common way for copywriters to find new clients, at 90 per cent. Having an online presence is clearly important too, as website and social media both returned results of 50 per cent, while only 10 per cent of respondents use advertising.

A little over a third of respondents said they find work through networking events or conferences. This is interesting when you consider that writers are a notoriously introverted bunch.

How much can I expect to be paid as a freelance copywriter?

There are almost equal numbers of freelance copywriters who charge by the project (70 per cent) as charge a daily or hourly rate (66 per cent). Only nine per cent charge per word.

Those figures shift slightly when it comes to how freelancers would ideally charge – 59 per cent would prefer to charge a project fee, 40 per cent would prefer a daily or hourly rate and just one per cent would choose a per word rate.

Where can I earn the most as a copywriter?

The average day rate is up £7 from 2018, now standing at £349, and the most lucrative area of the UK for a freelance copywriter is East Anglia, where the average day rate is £436. Even here, this is lower than the £471 that copywriters aspire to.

Including both self-employed and employed copywriters, the average earnings for a copywriter are £43,092 for full-time and £26,968 for part-time.

When you only take the freelancers into account, the average full-time pay is £37,585. That’s more than £3,000 more than an in-house copywriter, and almost £5,000 more than an agency employed copywriter.

The maximum earnings reported in the survey stand at an impressive £300,000.

Other key findings

Gender

The gender pay gap is 32 per cent, including both employed and freelance copywriters. Interestingly, 43 per cent of women believe gender affects their pay compared to only 17 per cent of men.

Working with clients

55 per cent see a poor brief or source materials as the biggest challenge of working with clients, and 56 per cent see a lack of basic information as the most common problem with briefs.

Do these figures tally with your experience of being a copywriter? Let us know in the comments below.

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