The ProCopywriters Report 2020: What Have We Learned?

If you’re a regular on the Katie Lingo blog, you’ll know I love a good report. Evidently, it seems that you do too. The 2020 ProCopywriters Report has had the biggest number of respondents ever at 640 – up 13 per cent on last year.

With perhaps the most diverse participant pool ever, including a 9 per cent leap in international copywriters, this year’s report has produced some pretty encouraging results.

Starting with money. Well, it makes the world go round, no?

The average day rate for copywriters has risen by 9%, from £349 to £379.

Why this report is so important

I’m sure many copywriters will agree when I say that this report offers so much more than statistics. It gives us the confidence to charge what we’re worth. How heartening it is to see this increase in day rates, particularly considering that copywriting is one of the most undervalued skills out there.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a potential client say, “we would have done it ourselves but we didn’t have time”. Usually followed by a shrug, this casual insult implies anybody can do it.

We all went to school and did our ABCs, so anybody can write, right? Wrong – and when it comes to copywriting, it’s abundantly clear that what we learned in school isn’t going to cut it.

We’ve earned it.

Like any plumber, pilot or paramedic, the copywriting profession needs training. For the first time ever, more respondents have completed copywriting-specific training, covering everything from headlines to UX.

Shocking – we don’t just quote Shakespeare all day long! With digital taking precedence over all other forms of marketing, we have to continue to adapt and learn. The proof is in the pudding:

  • English language and literature studies have fallen this year to 32 per cent.
  • Marketing, advertising and communication studies have risen to 20 per cent from 17.
  • ‘Other’ skills – including languages, journalism, law and business, have doubled to 22 per cent.

What does this tell us? Not only are we pretty adept at stringing a sentence together; we’re also bringing our other skills to the table.

helping b2bHow these skills help you – the customer

Let’s put the spotlight on the marketing side of things. When asked about specialisms, 34 per cent of us said we focused on digital and SEO. That’s a huge increase from 18 per cent in 2019.

Likewise, advertising is up to 17 from 6 per cent, and marketing material specialisms have leapt up to 37 from 15. We’re also putting more time into user experience, SEO and content strategy. Key tools in our arsenal include Google Analytics, Mailchimp and SEMRush.

Essentially, this results in a huge time saving for clients – if we’re already incorporating these skills into our writing, that’s one less job for them to do. B2B was named the most popular sector specialism once again. That’s a whole lot of businesses benefiting from our help.

Freelancers versus agencies – who’s winning?

Again, if you follow the blog, you’ll know I champion the freelancer cause with vim and vigour. That’s why it’s great to see that full-time freelancers earn, on average, a very tidy £42,792 per year. (Not bad considering the average full-time UK salary is £35,423.)

That’s an increase of 5K from last year, but it was in-house and agency employees who saw the biggest average salary jumps:

  • Full-time in-house copywriters earn £40,991, up from £34,119 in 2019
  • Full-time agency employees earn £39,624, up from £32,865 in 2019.

Sure, we freelancers are charging the most, but it’s great to see employers recognising their copywriters’ worth.

What grinds our gears?

A little takeaway for employers and those who outsource to freelancers. Here’s what pisses us off. Save time by avoiding these cardinal sins:

Poor briefs or source material

Fifty-six per cent of us would like more than a title!

Little information on target audience

Fifty-one per cent would like to know who we’re writing for – it really does change the tone.

Insufficient guidance on tone of voice

Speaking of which, any brand guidelines or examples you could send us would be great. It’s an issue for four in 10 copywriters!

We’d also love more access to subject experts, and a little more clarity on where the copy will end up. Honestly, it’s because we care – and who doesn’t love to see their published work?

Oh, and 64 per cent us of would like to tell ‘copy by committee’ to get in the sea. Rant over.

get in the seaWho are these copywriters anyway?

You’re working with a very diverse bunch, with everything from 20-year-old spring chickens to septuagenarians. Women overwhelmingly outnumber men with a ratio of 62 per cent to 38, but that’s always been the case. (The ProCopywriters team note here that more of their members are women.)

Sigh, if only pay gaps weren’t an issue. Agencies and those with in-house teams might be paying more, but the gender gap is widening! It’s biggest for agencies, where men earn an average of £46,517, while women earn £32,944.

On the upside, we’re making fantastic progress as freelancers. The pay gap is just 4 per cent, down from 30 per cent in 2019. Naturally, I am all for women charging what they’re worth. Is this thanks to an increase in female-led business coaching? Possibly.

It’s all about confidence

Let’s hope these results will inspire more in-house teams to ask for a pay rise. It turns out, we’re a pretty ambitious bunch too – almost a third of respondents want to do more strategic/consultancy work, and the number of people wanting to start an agency has doubled.

It’s no wonder when we have such a supportive network around us, in particular, the ProCopywriters team. Notable feedback on how our careers have improved includes:

Knowing my worth

Other copywriters

Treating copywriting as a business, not seeing it as ‘just’ writing

Staying true to myself

Almost two thirds of copywriters said they felt “optimistic” about 2020, and three quarters felt they’d be unaffected by Brexit. Of course, the survey came out before the dreaded C-word, but it’s brighter out there than we might think.

You can find out more about copywriting with the 2020 ProCopywriters Report here. I’d like to end by saying a huge thank you to Leif Kendall and the whole ProCopywriters team for putting this together. Once again, you have inspired confidence.

propcopywriters report
Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
7th August 2020