Copywriters come from all kinds of background. Engineering graduates and medicine students dropping out are some of the species whom I have seen taking to copywriting. I entered Advertising with a Master’s in Economics. While many pursue a course in Visual Communication or attend Graphics Software programs with the clear decision to get absorbed into the Creative Department of an Ad Agency as visualizers, aspiring copywriters have a limited choice when it comes to a course focussed on advertising copy. This is probably why copywriting is considered more creative and less technical than visualizing. (This view is often debated and the debate is seldom conclusive. We shall examine this view later in our exchanges.)
Aspiring copywriters, therefore, are not expected to appear with any specific qualification for an interview for a trainee position. While a degree in any discipline is generally considered a prerequisite, what is most important is your ability to talk about advertising intelligently and to show examples of effective advertising with your own succinct explanation of their persuasive power and creative content.
If you have read some well-written books on advertising, such as those by David Ogilvy, you will have much to say in the interview to convince the interviewer of your passion for a copywriting career. But, remember, just reading David Ogilvy is not enough, for he is going to tell you to do certain things, and only by doing those things with sincerity and solid effort will you really profit from the exercise and use the knowledge to your advantage in the interview.
If you make the interviewer believe, not by merely saying, but by showing that you love to be a copywriter, then your chances for selection are very good. If you manage to demonstrate that you absolutely adore advertising and a copywriter is all you want to be, then you will go on board straightaway.
Other questions that pop in front of the aspirant are to do with where the baptism is going to happen. Can it be just any ad agency? Would a small agency be better than a big one? How about a creative shop? Apart from your potential and passion, you need some luck as well. When you are looking, the big agencies may not be hiring. That is all right. It is far more important to get a quick entry and start working. The major difference between small and big agencies lies in the kind of opportunities that you get. Big-budget campaigns happen with big brands, which are always with big agencies.
Getting your break with a big agency is always a big step in your career. But if you have no other offers except the one from a small agency, take it. But do not get cosy there and lose out on your chances. I did exactly that and at the age of thirty-two was considered too old by the big agencies.
That I soon became a freelance writer and happily carried on is another story altogether.