What do Agencies Look for in a Creative Copywriter?

Published: 30th August 2015

It’s not too hard to find out what agencies are looking for when Creative Copywriterthey advertise for a creative copywriter.

They might word it differently but they are usually looking for someone who can come up with big honking ideas. This is how Crispin Porter and Bogusky or CPB let you know what they value.

Good Enough Sucks!

YOU DO WHAT YOU LOVE. WE PAY YOU.

It takes a special person to succeed here, one who has the passion, confidence and work ethic to believe in their ability to come up with more great ideas if and when their original great idea dies. And ideas do die here. On every account. In every department. Great, ground-breaking ideas die horribly sad deaths. But what makes us better than most is our ability to go back to the well and come up with more, better and even greater ideas. People who understand this and have the aforementioned passion, confidence and work ethic tend to do well here.

It’s interesting that they don’t give a list of set criteria that you have to tick off your resume — though that certainly helps — what’s valued is your attitude, ability and character.

Perhaps one of the best ‘register your interest’ ads we’ve seen lately was on Everlane’s website.

It read:

‘Dear rule breakers, questioners,
straight-A students who
skipped class: We want you.’

The reason this resonated with us so strongly is because at the time we were in the process of looking for a creative copywriter to join our team, and these were exactly the personal attributes we were after.

It should go without saying that not every copywriter is a creative copywriter and there are more than enough straight copy jobs out there to keep everyone employed for a lifetime without having to come up with a single original line. But the crux of it is, if you don’t compete on creativity then what separates you from the copywriter down the road who can write just like you? Price?

Creative copywriters are a rarer breed, they don’t just write differently — they see the world differently. Actually that’s what allows them to write differently. And if pushed, they can also write straight copy— though it sticks in their craw. We love working with people who know the rules but are always looking to subvert them, or reverse engineer them, or flat-out break them if it means creating great copy. Saying that, there’s a difference with wanting someone who is creative and someone who is a creative PITA.

Having a bit of a rebel-spirit (while also doing your taxes on time) makes you the perfect combination of fearless and organised, which agencies are generally looking for. In our favourite advertising book, ‘Hey Whipple Squeeze This’, Luke Sullivan explains it this way, ‘you should always temper your Irish with German’.  Being fearless makes you a risk-taker. You won’t be afraid of original (and sometimes crazy) ideas, or presenting them to your work mates and clients. You’ll turn your brain into a hamster wheel, and by doing so, unearth concepts that would never have emerged otherwise. But your life will still be organised and you’ll still find the time for the things and the people you love.

Woody Allen once said that “eighty percent of success is just showing up.” This is especially true of being a creative copywriter. The amount of work we’ve won just because we get back to people (quickly) is phenomenal. Clients often say, “I contacted several copywriters, but you’ve been the first to reply.”

A copywriter’s organised side shows that they’re ambitious, meet deadlines, are quick to reply to emails, turn up to meetings on time, juggle (and schedule) multiple projects simultaneously. These qualities are usually necessary for any kind of work you’ll do — but in this field, they’re a must.

Keeping in mind what we just said, what’s ideal isn’t a wild swing from disorganised chaos to colour-coding your sock draw, ­rather you’ll have both attributes working together at the same time. And you’ll always maintain your non-conformist attitude. You may be a word-nerd but you won’t be afraid to tell someone where to stick their HB No. 2 when you need to.

To conclude, agencies aren’t looking for someone who’s done the course, read the manual, had a bit of experience in sales-copy — they’re looking for aptitude and attitude, ability mixed with humility (a small amount, too much is paralysing), courage, creativity, ambition and intuition…(Psst, a teeny-tiny bit of madness helps too :-)).

4 responses to “What do Agencies Look for in a Creative Copywriter?”

  1. Lisa Borland says:

    Fantastic article! I’m just new to professional copywriting but I’ve been writing for years. I’m loving the creativity it gives me. Being able to mess about with words is great fun and I’m super excited (and I mean REALLY super excited) that people want to pay me to basically sit in my pyjamas and use my squishy brain stuff doing something I love. And you’re right. Being a bit mental (special) helps 🙂

    • Hey Lisa. We’re glad you found this helpful. It’s so NICE to get feedback on blog posts. Thank you. From one special person to another 🙂 keep being REALLY super excited about writing. It will drive you to get better and better all the time!

  2. Legatosaurus says:

    This is such a great blog post, and very encouraging. ‘Non-conformist attitude’ just about sums me up, and I love being a creative copywriter — it can get lonely as a freelancer, though. Nice to read that other copywriters know what it’s all about.