Feeling the impact but adapting to survive: Taking the pulse of copywriters during COVID-19

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Feeling the impact but adapting to survive: Taking the pulse of copywriters during COVID-19

The Clever Copywriting School’s survey of Australian and international copywriters has this year taken the pulse of the profession at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The survey, which took place in May 2020, has previously (2017 and 2019) been a snapshot of copywriters working in Australia. This year, however, the focus was on taking stock of the impact of COVID-19 on copywriters, both in Australia and overseas.

Responses show there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all outcome for copywriters in COVID-19 – while around half (47%) saw a decrease in work, 27% actually saw an increase.

Kate Toon, founder of The Clever Copywriting School, said the results were reflective of the diversity of the profession as a whole: “It’s been an interesting time for copywriters. Many have been incredibly busy while others have felt the impact of project work postponements, a decline in enquiries and, and more invoices being paid late.

“The diverse experiences of copywriters reflects the diversity of the work copywriters are doing. As a profession, we’re now working across almost every industry you can think of – from health and medical writing to real estate, parenting, engineering, hospitality, retail, financial services, tech start-ups and legal, there really isn’t an industry that doesn’t benefit from working with a highly-skilled copywriter.”

More than half (59%) of copywriters surveyed are feeling a medium or big impact from COVID-19 on their business, and around half (47%) have seen a decrease in the amount of work they have due to the impact of the virus.

40% of participating copywriters have lost clients as a result of COVID-19, but 25% respondents have seen an increase in the number of clients, and also an increase in the number of hours they’re working.

Three-quarters of respondents haven’t lowered their rates, and around one in four have changed their business approach or services offered due to COVID-19.

“I think it’s great that most copywriters aren’t lowering their rates (76%), but are adapting their business and packages to support clients who are doing it tough,” says Toon.

“The copywriters we surveyed are being creative with how they provide their services – for example introducing packages to help businesses get online (website and email copywriting), sharing tools for people to market effectively during the pandemic, or turning their copywriting workshops into online content.”

Beyond the solid measures of rates, clients and hours, how are copywriters actually feeling during COVID-19?

Not surprisingly, with 43% of respondents juggling work with home schooling kids, the biggest response to how copywriters are feeling is ‘tired’. But on a more positive note, almost half the respondents said they were feeling hopeful (47%) and optimistic (49%) in the week of the survey.

Amanda Vanelderen from WorkWords Content says while 2020 hasn’t been the year she expected, it’s been a chance to reset for her clients and for her own business: “There were a few nervous weeks at the beginning when everyone pressed pause on quotes and briefings. Throw in having the kids at home and it was a pressure cooker. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who checked job sites in the dead of night.

“But business budgets have switched back on faster than I thought, which is a huge relief. I’m seeing a rise in enquiries for content and SEO strategies – from businesses forced online who want to stay there, and from established brands who haven’t had to compete before. Things are looking up if you have the skills to support clients through their digital transformation.”

In comparison with previous years, the ways copywriters source new clients are definitely changing.

Not surprisingly, traditional face-to-face networking is becoming less important, and there’s been an increase in the number of people using social media presence and online networks to grow their business and attract new clients. One in ten (12%) reported their source of new clients had changed due to COVID-19 – mainly an increase in the use of freelancing websites such as Upwork or Freelancer to source new business.

Upskilling is also on the menu during COVID-19.

61% of copywriters were doing additional training, courses and education at the time of the survey, and the areas of training most in demand are brand identity/tone of voice strategy, content strategy, and SEO copywriting. UX, landing pages, Google AdWords and social media strategy were also popular for copywriters looking to further their training, reflecting the importance of copywriting when it comes to optimising the presence of client businesses online in 2020.

Feeling the impact but adapting to survive: Taking the pulse of copywriters during COVID-19

Adds Toon (pictured above): “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that SEO and big picture thinking are front of mind for copywriters. We’re more than just writers for hire, we’re strategic thinkers who add value to clients, and help them get found online.”

The Clever Copywriting School is Australia’s largest online community of copywriters, and focuses on skill-sharing, collaboration, coaching, training and job opportunities. It also hosts Australia’s annual copywriting event, CopyCon.

About the survey:
– Conducted between 13 and 25 May 2020.
– 214 respondents, with 35% of respondents from overseas, and the rest spread throughout Australia (all states and territories represented).
– The average age of our survey respondents was 39, and the majority (89%) were women.
– 69% of respondents are freelancers, while 19% juggle both a ‘day job’ and freelance copywriting work.
– Respondents work mainly with small business, corporates and agencies.
– Download a copy of the full report HERE.