Secret Copywriter: Recruiters will not help you

So you’re new to copywriting or you fancy a different job. Where are you going to go?

If you’re anything like me, your first thought is to go and register with a recruitment agency. A lot of jobs are posted by recruiters, so you’ll have to deal with one at some point in a job search.

You may have heard it said that recruiters are not on your side.

Their job is to fill the role for the client, not to find you a job. That’s a fair point. What you also need to know is that recruiters are just plain unhelpful in general.

It’s possible you read that last paragraph and feel I’m tarring them all with the same brush. Make no mistake: I am. In my relatively short time as a copywriter, I’ve dealt with 20+ recruitment agencies. All but one have been bad experiences. Those are not good odds.

I’ll give you three examples of bad recruiters I’ve dealt with:

Recruiter A: Pushed and pushed (and pushed) for a company to interview me. The interviewer’s opening words were: “Well, I don’t know why they sent you, really, as you’re not qualified and don’t have the right experience.”

Recruiter B: Told me to come in for a meeting. When I arrived, they’d double booked my appointment and someone else had the room. And it was my fault, because they’d forgotten to send me a confirmation email so clearly I shouldn’t have turned up.

Recruiter C: Gave me this advice: “Redo your portfolio from scratch with an art director and get on the placement circuit.” That’d be logical for someone just starting out, but at that point I had several years of experience. Starting over would have been tantamount to career suicide.

I could provide even more tales of recruiters calling me back and refusing to talk about the job I’d actually applied for. Recruiters who only accept CVs in Word format, presumably so they can edit them. Recruiters who arrange meetings and then leave the agency the next day (yes, that happened).

None of the clients and projects I have right now were found through a recruitment agency. A sad indictment of a broken system. Going through a recruiter gives you one of the least likely chances of finding work.

Now, I did mention one good recruiter. Why was this one so great? Because they were HELPFUL. They sent me prep documents before the interview, and offered advice on tweaking my submissions before passing them on to the company.

Did I get the job? No. Final two, just not the winner. But at least I felt supported.

Secret Copywriter was our anonymous blog series where PCN members can share their experiences of professional copywriting.


20th January 2016

gill knight

I’m with you on this one. I’m in an even worse position as i am starting out and having applied to various agencies have heard absolutely nothing in return. Obviously I’m so hopeless i’m not even worthy of an acknowledgement email. Oh dear, I do sound a bit bitter and twisted..nothing of the sort, I bring sunshine to many lives!! it is a bit of a downer though the agencies only want people with experience and that doesn’t help those of us who would like experience in order to contribute to the business world. As our American cousins would undoubtedly say..Give us a break.
Keep smiling..

21st January 2016


Hi Gill.

Every copywriter goes through this Catch 22 scenario. You need experience, so they won’t give you a job. But they won’t give you a job, so you can’t get experience.

Forget recruitment consultants – they’re not the best use of your time. Instead, send a short, well-written (obviously) email to a creative director, head of copy or senior copywriter in an agency, asking for an old brief to work on. Depending on their workload and how much coffee they’ve had that day, they may oblige. Then when you answer the brief, send your work back to them and ask if they’ll appraise it. Some won’t reply. Some may say they’re too busy. But some word monkeys are very kind, and they’ll take the time to get back to you and help. And the more of these ‘real’ briefs you can get, the more real-world work you can put in your portfolio.

You can also set up a blog or social media account saying what you’re doing to get into the industry, and showing the work you’ve come up with to answer briefs. LinkedIn can be useful too.

Hope I’m not teaching you to suck eggs or stating the obvious, but I wish someone had told me this stuff at the beginning to save me from fannying around for quite as long as I did.

Anyway, good luck,


21st January 2016

Julian Jackson

Well that’s good to know. I’ve been looking to find clients on my own. It’s hard work but does produce results. Occasionally I have tried recruiters but nothing has come of it, so following your advice I am not going to bother and continue with my successful strategy.

31st January 2016

Jacqui Pulford

What ways have you found effective when it comes to looking for clients yourself Julian Jackson – or anyone else for that matter?

26th April 2017

Another secret copywriter

Absolutely correct. In (cough) years I can count on finger the number of recruiters who’ve actively helped me find a new job. (They’re history now.) Most recruiters make snake-oil salesmen look like respectable people. And they get more useless the longer you stay in the business (unless you’re an advertising superstar, but then you don’t need them anyway).

Get work by other means. The nicely-penned letter, a series of @OneMinuteBrief wins, getting to know people, drawing up a pester list, well-timed emails that raise a smile or are at least memorable.

Remember, you need a lot of talent to become an art director or a copywriter. You only need a phone to become a recruitment agent.

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