Although all writers write copy, the job of copywriter typically refers to those who write advertising copy. They might be employed at advertising agencies, marketing agencies and the advertising and marketing departments of different companies. With experience, copywriters can become self-employed as freelancers who work for a variety of agencies and businesses. Salaries depend upon the type of employer, location, the media using the advertising and the copywriter's level of experience.
Many copywriters work for advertising agencies and prepare copy for print, radio and television ads. In addition to ads, they also write brochures, newsletters, direct mail, annual reports, slogans and Internet copy for the agency's clients. According to May 2010 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for writers specializing in advertising, public relations and related services was $62,260 a year.
The advertising, public relations and related services sector paid the highest median wages of several writer categories, the BLS says. It ranked ahead of writers for motion picture and video industries, which paid a median $62,000 a year; writers for radio and television broadcasting, which paid a median $53,400; writers for religious, grantmaking, civic, professional and similar organizations, which paid a median $52,750; and writers for newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers, which paid a median $47,230.
Technical writing is a more specialized form of copywriting. It usually involves technical subjects such as computers, software and related products, engineering and manufacturing. Technical copywriters might work for advertising and marketing agencies that specialize in technology clients, or directly for the manufacturer of technical products. Since technical writing requires specialized knowledge, salaries are typically higher than for other forms of writing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for technical writers as $63,280.
As with most jobs, the salaries of copywriters in major cities tend to be higher than salaries in smaller cities. For example, advertising agencies in New York City and Los Angeles typically pay higher salaries than agencies in smaller markets in other sections of the country. However, the higher cost of living in major cities should be considered before accepting a job for the higher salary.
The number of freelance writers, including copywriters, is on the rise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Freelance copywriters are self-employed and set their own hourly or per-project rate. This rate is typically higher than the hourly rate of a staff copywriter, because freelancers must cover office costs, health insurance expenses, self-employment taxes and other costs. The average hourly rate of a freelance copywriter varies between cities. According to the 2012 Writer's Market, advertising copywriters charge between $35 and $150 per hour, with the average at $83 per hour.