Want to know how your copywriter salary measures up? No matter what your industry or specialization, a copywriter’s earning potential can vary like crazy. So if you’ve been looking at copywriting jobs, this guide can help you avoid any nasty surprises.
A quick search for the United States average salary brings up a curious figure.
Not sure how things are in your neck of the woods, but salaries within this range tend to disappoint many copywriters. This quoted average salary range is misleading because:
- It doesn’t get into industry or specialization details. Without the specifics, the figure for these copywriter salaries is meaningless. For example, if you’re also a content writer, you can make a ton more money because of your higher-level skill set. (This is even more true if you’ve got the skills of a technical writer.)
- The average salary figure disregards freelance copywriters. Not every copywriter works in an office (not these days), and definitely not for a company or agency. (We’ll get into it later, but if you’re after copywriting as a job task, you can do that without the “copywriter” title.)
- Location may affect pricing. Where you live may affect how your clients perceive you. That’s why a salary for a copywriter may also depend on the cost of living in your city.
In short, taking the US as an example, the state or national average salary is unreliable. Even though it gives some sense of how much people are earning in a certain role, the number gives zero context.
A quick look at average copywriter salaries per year
Let’s stick to the US example for simplicity’s sake. According to Indeed, the national average copywriter salary in the United States is $61,770. Except for Chicago, though, none of the other cities come close to this national average.
The same resource shows that copywriter salaries are highest in these US cities:
1. A copywriter in San Francisco makes an average of $97, 283.
2. How much does a copywriter make in New York? An average of $81, 061.
3. If you’re a copywriter in Seattle, you’re looking at an average of $71,172.
4. And if you’re a copywriter in Culver City? You’ll make an average of $65,438.
5. A copywriter in Austin makes an average of $65,112.
6. And as mentioned, if you’re a copywriter in Chicago, you’re doing an average of $61,134.
7. A copywriter in Dallas? Your average total is $51,511.
8. And how much does a copywriter make in Los Angeles? An average salary of $50,745.
Looks like it’s smart to take in all these numbers with a pinch of salt. (And some pepper.)
So what’s the difference between the highest- and lowest-reported national average copywriter salaries? (It’s nearly US$10,000!) A whoppin’ amount that you can’t brush off your shoulders as a minor statistical variance.
If you’re starting out as a copywriter with zero experience, these average salary figures may seem intimidating at first. But there’s no need to worry. If you’ve been in the game for a while, though? It’s time to raise the bar if you fall under the average salary range.
So let’s get back to the original question: Just how much is a fair salary for a copywriter?
The real answer? You decide how much you make
Been wondering how high the salary for a copywriter can go? You’ve probably read about some people cracking $200,000 per year or more. If you’re a technical writer or have tech experience, this figure is easier to reach. Tech companies pay a lot of money for writers who can write for their specialized audience. (It’s not easy.)
Copywriters who break 6 figures make up a small fraction of the copywriter population, but this figure is reachable. You’ll need practice and experience, but it’s doable.
Don’t expect to become the richest person in the world on a copywriter salary though. Copywriters who make a ton of money know how to sell themselves and are a different breed. So put the work in, and if you’ve got the smarts, you can lead a very comfortable life going down this career path.
And there’s no secret sauce to getting there either. That’s why the industry’s produced so many 6-figure earners. (Some of them started off with zero experience at low-salary jobs that aren’t even related to writing!)
Many factors go into what a copywriter makes per year (It’s not just location and experience)
Many factors affect copywriter salaries (and project rates if you’re freelancing). By improving yourself in all these areas, you can have more confidence charging more if you’re looking for jobs in copywriting:
1. Social proof. If more people are willing to vouch for you, even while lacking experience, your demand can grow like a money tree.
Here are 3 quick ways you can boost your social proof:
- Ask current and past clients for testimonials
- Build a following by posting relevant content
- Help potential clients and other copywriters by engaging with their posts
But say your referred clients are unhappy with your work. Delivering to expectations is important, which is why we can set expectations with…
2. Work quality. Showcasing your work quality is a great way to put all doubters to sleep. (This is especially true if you’ve got little to no experience writing copy.)
Here’s how you do it:
- Organize your portfolio to showcase your best work
- Create spec copy for products or services, and give context
- Offer a discount on your services to build a portfolio and create a case study
- Show clients how much your past campaigns have generated
It’s worth repeating: If you can write awesome copy and show this with your samples, clients won’t care about experience. Just show people you’re good, and what you’re good at.
This might sound unfair to experienced copywriters. Because this is what it means. If you found out about copywriting only an hour ago, you can write a few spec ads to see if you’ve got the chops to become a decent copywriter.
3. Your network. Network with other writers and corporate bigwigs, and copywriter jobs are easier to come by. Developing a professional relationship means you’ll stay top of mind if they ever need the smooth fingers of a talented wordsmith.
Over time you’ll also be able to increase your average total rates. That way, you never have to worry about making enough to cover the bills next month.
Sure, you can succeed as a copywriter even as a lone wolf… but why go the hard route?
4. Specializing your services. Ever notice how established copywriters almost always mention the market they serve on their profile? Like we talked about earlier, more trust and better-established = higher rates.
That’s the same reason you’ll find cheaper clothes at Walmart than in individual fashion stores, even if the quality is comparable. (The high-fashion brand Liz Claiborne was caught sourcing its products from Chinese sweatshops. These same products cost hundreds of dollars in the United States because they’re sitting on shelves in expensive stores.)
When you serve a specific niche or work with a specific type of copy, you’re making it easier for referrals to position you as an expert.
“Hey, would you happen to know a great generalist copywriter?”
“I sure do!” said no one ever.
5. Education. Many companies that hire salaried copywriters screen candidates for a degree or certification.
So depending on where you want to work, this might matter.
If they’re old school and you don’t have the education credentials they want, your CV might end up straight in the rejection pile. This is stupid because they’re sure to miss out on a few great candidates who didn’t fit their silly bill. (The best copywriters I know don’t have a degree.)
The good news is that there’s more than one way to score copywriter jobs.
3 ways you can get a job as a copywriter
Work for an agency
As an agency copywriter, you’ll work with various brands. So if you get bored writing about just one brand all the time, then agency work might be perfect for you.
- It’s a fantastic place to network
- You get on-the-job training
- Copywriter salaries can get competitive
- You get the job title
- They might fly you out to conferences and provide expensive copywriter training and courses
- You can’t claim the work as your own
- There are little to no career advancement opportunities
- You’re always overworked (Many agencies operate on a churn-and-burn model)
Work as an in-house copywriter
As an in-house copywriter, you only work with one company: the one that hired you.
- Writing becomes easier the longer you work because you’re already familiar with the company.
- You get the job title here too.
- The average base salary is higher compared to agencies. If it’s a small ecomm company or an affiliate company, though, copywriter salaries can be on the very low end. Contrast this with being a technical writer at your company, and 6 figures is easy money.
- You get access to years of data to help you write copy.
- You may have to report to bosses who don’t understand copywriting.
- You’re the first to go when things get bad.
- Your salary may not increase with stagnant businesses.
Screw salaries! Work as a freelancer
As a freelance copywriter, any average salary won’t apply. You decide everything, including how much you work, who you want to work with, and when you’ll raise your rates.
- You don’t need any qualifications or experience to start.
- You save on commutes by working from home and pick your own work hours.
- You set your own schedule.
- You’re in charge of everything.
- You need a lot of self-discipline.
- You’re not guaranteed a minimum monthly income.
Earning a copywriter salary is NOT the only way to make money
Most of the time, the base salary is the information you get when you search for the average copywriter salary. But if you’re chasing salaries only, you’re limiting yourself because you’ve got at least 3 more ways to put more cash in your wallet:
1. Profit sharing. If a startup wants to work with you, you may find that you can ask for a piece of the startup’s profit. Startups do this to offload the upfront costs of hiring a solid copywriter (i.e., direct response).
But if you’re relying on just your copywriter salary to keep the lights on, make sure you hit your minimum financial goals every month.
The upside to this is that if the startup is successful, you stand to learn a lot via profit sharing. But the downside is the opposite: You get less than what you were hoping for (maybe nothing!)
2. Commissions. Freelance copywriters can negotiate a base salary plus commissions on sales generated using the copy they wrote. (Again, this applies to direct response copywriters.)
So how much you take home when the sun goes down depends on the campaign’s success.
My advice? Don’t go for a purely commissioned-based project unless…
- You’re 101% sure your client will pay up
- Based on past campaigns, you know it’s a solid offer
- You’re confident your copy will convert like gangbusters
The better option is to charge your standard rate plus a percentage of revenue.
3. Bonus. Some companies set benchmarks on when their copywriter can qualify for a bonus. Even freelancers get bonuses. If clients are happy with your service, they’ll go out of their way to make sure you’re happy too.
But don’t count on expected bonuses to cover your monthly goals. If it comes, awesome. If it doesn’t, keep doing your thing, but know that clients don’t owe you anything except what’s covered in your agreement.
Interested in becoming a copywriter?
The job of a copywriter is to help businesses drive more sales, either directly or indirectly. (Regardless of your job title, it might also mean that once in a while you need to put on the hat of a content writer.) Whatever you do, you must deliver a powerful message to convince readers to take action.
And in most cases, you don’t need a fancy degree. The only things you need are a laptop and decent writing skills.
Here are some activities you might hold as a copywriter:
- Brainstorming sessions with the client or with other team members
- Writing copy based on client needs and the target audience
- Using a copy brief to write copy
- Reviewing and rewriting existing copy to boost conversions
If you’re serious about working as a copywriter, start by taking free courses, resources, videos, and groups. Heck, you can start by checking out our other guides here.
The next step: Landing your first client
By now, this guide should have you convinced that salaries can be super limiting. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements for companies and agencies, starting out as a freelancer is a great option. If you want to transition to agency or company work later on, this is a good path.
Some successful copywriters took months before getting their first client. But you can score your first client in the next few days by…
- Creating a website
- Joining copywriter job boards
- Creating a strong profile on LinkedIn and Facebook
- Writing guest posts on high-profile sites
When you land that first gig, scoring the next ones becomes that much easier.
Play your cards right, and you just might break 6 figures in your first year.