I’ll occasionally get an email from a subscriber or customer asking how to get started in copywriting and how to get good fast. Of course, I’ll reply because I want to help people out, but I thought it was time to put everything in a blog post I can just refer to people who ask.
So here it is.
1) Read All The Classic Copywriting Books
Notice that I didn’t say “one or two” copywriting books. I said ALL of them. While there is a lot of information that will repeat when it comes to persuasion and sales, you’ll learn different tidbits here and there that’ll boost your ability to write copy like a pro.
I would read these in this order:
- Scientific Advertising/My Life in Advertising – Claude Hopkins
- Tested Advertising Methods – John Caples
- Breakthrough Advertising – Eugene Schwartz
- Ogilvy on Advertising – David Ogilvy
- The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
- Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
When I discovered copywriting in 2005, I went to amazon.com and bought all these books in one fell swoop. It only cost me about $100 bucks—money I barely had as a poor graduate student. But those books literally changed my life as they launched me into the world of freelance copywriting.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Hey Kevin, that’s a lot of reading!” Listen, if you want to really get good at this, you need to put in the necessary hours and time to learn the basics. If you read one of these books per week (that’s about 1-2 hours a day), you’ll get through this list in about a month.
So turn off the boob tube and start reading, bucko.
2) Read One Good Ad Per Day
This is something I started doing 8 years ago and never looked back. Of course, sometimes I miss a day, but I have pretty much stuck with this for the past several years.
You’ll pick up something in every ad you read that’ll stick in your subconscious and, when it comes time to write copy, you’ll be able to “pull it out” at the right time. I don’t know how many times I’ve been in the middle of writing an ad and, all of a sudden, I’ll get ideas drawn from an ad I read 2-3 years ago.
Your ability to sell your prospect when it comes to either selling your own product/service or other people’s products as a freelancer improves when you have as many “inputs” as possible…
…and this only comes when you read a LOT of ads.
But you have to make sure the ads you read are REALLY good. You’ll want to read from proven winners (or controls) that have actually made money. Not every campaign is going to work, and you don’t want to learn from someone else’s “dud” ad.
So you’ll want to start collecting winning ads from magazines, newspapers, and books. Regarding magazines, in general, if you see the same ad over and over again, then, chances are, they’re probably making money for the prospect. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be spending money on ads in the first place.
3) Handwrite Good Ads
This is a very painful exercise. Not only is it tedious, but you’ll find yourself suffering from writer’s cramp—as I did. But, rest assured, this one exercise could allow you to get good fast in no time.
This requires handwriting good ads. That’s right, with pencil and paper. This works because, via writing, you basically ingrain the way the copywriter uses his/her words, phrases their sentences, and slips in psychological triggers and techniques that motivates their prospect to take action right now.
This must be done with pencil and paper—not on a computer. I still do this once per week—usually on weekends. Consider this to be “weight training” for your copywriting skills. Sure, it’s not pleasant and you’ll get tired and exhausted, but you’ll come back stronger and better afterwards.
4) Just Write!
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe once you start writing, you’ll start to get momentum and ideas will start coming to you.
Here’s what I do when I sit down to write copy and I don’t “feel like it” or have a block regarding what to write.
I set a timer for 10 minutes. I then sit down and start writing. When the 10 minutes is up, I then ask myself, “Do I feel like continuing, have the energy, etc. to keep writing?”
For me, there are optimum times during the day that I write. I am a morning person. But, invariably, when I start his 10 minute process, I feel like I have enough momentum to keep going.
Sometimes you just need to get the ball rolling, and the ideas will just come to you. However, it does help to have a framework from which to operate.
For example, I have ingrained 11 steps into my head regarding how to write a sales letter. This is something I’ve been doing for years, and it helps me organize my thoughts while I’m writing.
I also have templates/formulas for writing postcards, emails, newsletters…you name it.
Don’t Skimp On This Stuff!
Finally, this is something you cannot do just once and be done with it. These are habits you need to ingrain into yourself if you want to get good at writing copy.
I attended a seminar a month ago and Greg Renker, co-founder of infomercial giant Guthy-Renker, said he reads all of Joe Sugarman’s books every summer. I mean, the guy probably makes million dollars per year and could retire if he wanted to, but he’s still reading and learning.
Heck, I believe you need to get good at writing copy even if you don’t write copy yourself. That’s because you’ll be able to sell your product/service better. Because copywriting is basically a person-to-person sales pitch transferred to paper or video.
Do these 4 steps and you’ll get good in no time. Going through an organized course or having a mentor can accelerate your learning as well.
So what would you rather do—spend time improving your ability to sell your product/service and learn the most valuable skill in the world, or waste 2 hours playing Candy Crush or watching Jersey Shore?
The choice is yours.