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Copywriters come in all shapes and sizes, and from all sorts of backgrounds.

In my travels I’ve come across copywriters who were previously lawyers, journalists, marketers, technical writers and teachers. And they’re all perfectly capable of writing awesome copy.

But when you’re choosing a copywriter for your new website or latest brochure, I recommend choosing an ex-advertising agency copywriter. Here’s why….

Working in an advertising agency is like experiencing the boot camp of copywriting.

There’s a Sergeant Major (Creative Director) screaming “Drop and give me 20 (tag lines for this new online advertising)”, and you’re regularly forced to route march over 200 miles (or pages of copy) at breathtaking speed.

It’s a tough training camp. But the experience is invaluable.

In my experience most ex-agency copywriters are:

Great at producing ideas

In the agency world, when you’re given a brief you have to come up with lots and lots (and lots) of ideas, insights and concepts, very quickly. There’s no time to be precious, or to let the creative mood take you. So while others are waiting for inspiration an ex-agency writer is getting on with the job, developing strong ideas quickly (and with relatively little fuss).

Good listeners

In my agency days I spent a lot of time brainstorming with other creative types, the team and, of course, the client. Working in isolation often doesn’t create the best works. Agency copywriters are good at listening to your needs and objectives, as well as ‘stealing’ your ideas and working them into the overall campaign.


Even in a purely digital agency, the copywriters will probably dip their toe into all sorts of work—websites, social media, email, videos, in-store displays, TV, press, brand guidelines, radio ads and direct mail. Agency copywriters know how to create copy for pretty much anything, and ensure it integrates across all mediums and platforms.

Thick skinned

In an advertising agency you cop a lot of criticism: from your creative partner, creative director, account manager, producer and, of course, the client. To succeed you need to develop a thick skin and, rather than taking it personally, take the criticism on board and make the idea work

Hard workers

Agencies are tough places to work. The hours are long and the pressure is often intense. If you’re working on a pitch, it’s quite normal to sleep under your desk and live on pot noodles and beer. Agency writers know how to deal with pressure and meet the deadline.


Most agencies I’ve worked for live or die by their time sheets. Every second of every day must be recorded, and billable time is everything.  An agency writer is often asked to agree to set hours before they start a project, and they’re held accountable if they run over. This means when an agency copywriter gives you a quote, it’ll be pretty damn accurate.


In an agency you get exposed to big brands with big budgets. And boy, are they tough cookies. They have strict brand guidelines, strong views, and of course your work will probably be judged by millions. Big brand experience is an asset for a small business, allowing you to learn from your risks, experiments and mistakes.


It’s not that easy to get a job with one of the big agencies such as Ogilvy or George Patts. The standards are high, and the other writers I’ve met at agencies are generally bright, articulate and professional. They can present their ideas well, explain their thinking and generally play well with others.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. (And of course I’m not one of them.)

So while a writer with any other background may well write well (just check out some of my awesome guest bloggers for proof of that), an ex agency copywriter might be just the ticket for your next project.

Read about my agency experience here, and if you’d like a battle-hardened copywriter to work on your next project, give me a call.

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