What’s the best way to learn copywriting?
From looking into “Forget the Funnel” to leaning into journaling, here are 15 answers to the question, “Can you share your most helpful tips for mastering copywriting, and why they work?”
- Check Out Forget the Funnel
- Take Classes at Adhouse or SVA
- Join the Freelance Writer’s Den
- Study With a Master
- Tap into Authentic Experience
- Study Direct Mail Legends Like John Caples
- Read Everything and Practice
- Create a Swipe File
- Gather Books on the Craft
- Build Relationships
- Get Hands-on Experience From Internships
- Work Under a More Experienced Copywriter
- Don’t Skip the Ads
- Let Journaling Unleash Your Creativity
Check Out Forget the Funnel
I love Forget the Funnel, a membership with a marketing course, a helpful community, and regular office hours. Three female SaaS marketers who have experience growing some of the best names in the business created it.
I’ve learned a lot about writing copy to support strategic campaigns. Forget the Funnel is specific to SaaS companies, so if you’re not a copywriter for that industry, find a marketing membership within your industry instead.
You’ll learn more about the struggles that marketing managers are facing, and how you can support them. Plus, you’ll see examples of successful marketing campaigns you can use to build out your industry-specific swipe file.
Take Classes at Adhouse or SVA
I’ve taken several copywriting courses at Adhouse and SVA, and I couldn’t recommend them more. They’re incredible. Whether you’re an aspiring copywriter looking to build your portfolio or a seasoned pro looking to sharpen your skills, these classes will inspire and push you.
Experts in the industry teach classes, so you’ll get exposure to some of the most accomplished creative directors around. Plus, they teach many classes virtually and in the evenings, so even if you have a full-time job, you can fit it into your schedule. Don’t sleep on it! You’ll be glad you took a class.
Every day, the more you write, the easier it gets. Try taking a topic you’re passionate about and writing about why you feel the way you do. The more detailed you can get, the better. Don’t proofread along the way. Just focus on what you’re feeling. You might also experiment with different styles to see what feels most authentic for you.
Two resources I like a lot are the Total Anarchy Newsletter by Ann Handley and following Sam Horn on LinkedIn. Both women have really fun writing styles.
Join the Freelance Writer’s Den
The Freelance Writer’s Den is the best resource around for everything you need to learn while running your freelance copywriting business. They have comprehensive online courses, known as “boot camps,” for all the most important topics: how to create your website, how to market yourself, what rates to charge, using LinkedIn effectively, and, of course, how to learn copywriting.
There’s also a forum where you can post questions and get help from coaches and fellow writers. You get access to everything for a small monthly fee.
Study With a Master
When the 2009 crash came, I quit documentary filmmaking. My first step to launching my copywriting career was to study with two masters. In just a few months, they gave me the skills and confidence to start a second career as a copywriter.
Here are three reasons to study with a master copywriter:
- Learn the skills in weeks, not years. With a teacher, you will:
- Build your confidence exponentially.
- Become an accomplished writer 20 times faster than you would if you were studying on your own.
- Avoid rabbit holes. Without immediate feedback, you could go down a rabbit hole for months and not know it. With a teacher, you’ll know immediately if you’re on track or off track.
- Customize your learning. Most copywriting courses are designed for the common denominator. If you want to specialize in a field you’re passionate about, a coach can help you get to your finish line at lightning speed.
Tap into Authentic Experience
At the risk of seeming reductive, the quality of a copywriter comes down to your experience as a human and your skills as an observer. Babysitter, bartender, exotic dancer, ice cream scooper, globe-trotter, plate spinner, gnome collector, rule-maker (or breaker), bookworm, wallflower, or wallpaper hanger, living life will ultimately cultivate the best content.
Soak up every bit of interesting, tedious, and random information you will artfully dispense as needed. Then, train yourself to tap those priceless thoughts and strategically transcribe them. It also helps to enjoy writing.
Study Direct Mail Legends Like John Caples
Before the Internet, copywriting legends such as John Caples made hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients using direct mail. Since mailings are expensive, they would constantly test different headlines, proof elements, copy length, etc., to see what drove up response.
These copywriting lessons and philosophies still hold true today. I would advise getting John Caples’s books Making Ads Pay and How to Make Your Advertising Make Money. Next, I would read these books 10 to 15 times to create a solid copywriting foundation.
Read Everything and Practice
It’s been all on-the-job training for me. Copywriting is the art of persuading someone to take an action, so develop your writing and grammar skills, whether in public relations, branding, content marketing, or sales—all are important to learn. They will show you the power of language and how to wield it as a tool to further your aims.
Read everything you can get your hands on, print and digital-opinion pieces by famous writers or writers you like can help you hone your style. Then, practice, practice, practice.
Create a Swipe File
Forget the hyped-up courses; the best way to learn to copywrite is by building a swipe file and re-writing those letters, emails, and landing pages by hand again and again.
Copywriting is a skill, and, like all skills, it takes practice to develop. Write the same piece three or four times, and make notes on the side of key headlines, the big promise, and the offers. Study what is in circulation because it is working.
Gather Books on the Craft
The best way to learn how to write fantastic copy is to study the best books on the craft. Buy books from old-school legends like Bob Bly and Joseph Sugarman.
The rules/pointers of the Mad Men days still apply; they’ll help you understand the logic behind industry best practices, inspire you with some of the most creative (and successful) campaigns, and help you understand the habits and mindsets of top copywriters—including reserving time to let their minds wander, reading voraciously, and staying curious about the people and world around them.
Everyone has their “go-to” for learning how to master copywriting. In my opinion, creating copy that converts is as simple as this: remember that it is PEOPLE you are talking to.
All copy aims to build trust, which ultimately leads to a beneficial relationship on both sides. If you want to create copy that grabs the attention of the audience, regardless of the subject, please remember that the audience is filled with people. Start there and build. It works!
Get Hands-on Experience From Internships
Don’t take internship opportunities for granted—even if they don’t pay or the pay is rather low. A copywriting internship is an apt means for aspiring writers to build their portfolios and absorb real-world experience.
It helps get you near the front lines, working directly with skilled copywriters, and serves as an opportunity to find a voice and learn to adapt to the client’s needs. Carefully read the specifics of the internship before applying to ensure you’ll get hands-on copywriting experience and not be used as a glorified office assistant.
Work Under a More Experienced Copywriter
Over the past five years, I’ve sharpened my copywriting skills with on-the-job experience and fabulous courses/online education like CopyTribe and The Copywriter Underground. And while all of those things have helped, nothing can compare to learning from the best; find an experienced copywriter who is willing and able to take you under their wing, give you some work, and provide meaningful feedback.
Typically, pay is lower in these subcontracting arrangements—but it’s worth it for the feedback and mentoring! You can even make this a negotiable item. For example, let them know that while your typical rate is X, you’ll give them a rate of Y for the opportunity to learn from them.
Don’t Skip the Ads
My advice to anyone wanting to be a copywriter is don’t skip the ads! Read advertisements in print publications. Look at the structure of the ad, note the CTA (or lack thereof) at the end, and determine the tone and whether it’s appropriate for the intended audience.
And don’t forget the visuals. Do they enhance or detract from the copy? Do they carry the message forward? (And if the ad doesn’t have copy, imagine the conversation between the designer and copywriter that led to that decision.)
Let Journaling Unleash Your Creativity
Journaling has immediate benefits for your writing skills, creativity, and artistic expression—all fundamental aspects of a great copywriter. I started journaling seven years before I began writing copy and content for clients.
At that time, I had no idea the creative spillovers my journaling habits would have over my copywriting career. It isn’t necessary to limit your writing to themes pertaining to advertising a product or persuading a certain client persona. The writing style and unique mode of expression developed through years of journaling can be invaluable to your copywriting career.
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