How to Become a Skilled Copywriter for Less

The fastest way to become a good copywriter is to write copy…period. Reading books, buying courses, and attending events can’t hurt but you won’t get good until you actually write copy.

Think about it. You don’t become a good anything (golfer, basketball player, investor, etc) by reading books and going to seminars. It can help but you won’t get better at anything until actually do it and apply what you learned from books and events.

Before I became the “No BS Copywriter” at Glazer-Kennedy Inner Circle (one of the largest direct response marketing information businesses in the world), I had never been to a copywriting seminar or completed a copywriting course in my life. I couldn’t afford any of that stuff and it didn’t stop me.

The best education is to get on as many lists as you can – not just any list though – the lists of people you know to be good direct response marketers. It could be an email list or a snail mail list or both. Then you study what they do. Over time you’ll notice commonalities.

You could also buy books. Books are cheap or even free if you can find them at the library. The first book I read was “The Ultimate Sales Letter” by Dan Kennedy. It’s a great start. There are many books written by great direct response copywriters. Read as many as you can. Here are a few in no particular order:

1) Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins

2) Advertising Secrets of the Written Word and Triggers by Joe Sugarman

3) Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

4) The Robert Collier Letter Book (this one is out of print, hard to find, and probably expensive but it’s good)

5) Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples

6) The Gary Halbert Letter (TheGaryHalbertLetter.com) – Unfortunately, the “Prince of Print” passed away a few years ago but the archives are still online.

7) Gary Bencivenga – Bencivenga Bullets (Free at MarketingBullets.com)

8}  Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy

9) The last one is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – it’s not about copywriting, but it covers concepts every good direct response copywriter uses and should know.

I’m sure there are more but if you read all these and apply what you learn, you will be off to a great start.

You’re not going to become an expert copywriter in 6 months though. Gary Halbert (and yes, Malcom Gladwell, too) said it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. There are about 2,000 work hours in a year so working 40 hours per week, it would take you 5 years to put in 10,000 hours. You can get there faster by working more but 10,000 hours sounds about right to me. If it was easy and could be done in 6 months, there would be a lot more experts.

As for getting clients, I remember how I found my first client back when I was broke. I was on a lot of lists and I responded to emails they had sent me asking if they needed any copy written. One of them hired me.

I know people who are sites like elance.com but I am not on those sites because everywhere you go, you hear people saying that’s where you go to find cheap [fill-in-the-blank] – copywriters, webmasters, programmers, graphic designers, etc. I don’t want to be found with all the people who will work for next to nothing.

The best way I found clients was to selectively introduce myself to people at live events. I don’t pass out cards to everyone with a heartbeat. I pick and choose people I think I might like to work with and I end up working with some of them. That’s a great way to find clients but it will probably cost you more than $300 to attend most of these events. Then again, one client will cover the cost of attending many times over – especially if it becomes a repeat client.

Finally, 5 proven sales letters you can copy by hand. This is a good idea. I did this once or twice but not often (my hand was killing me from writing so much). I think a copied a Gary Halbert letter and a Dan Kennedy letter by hand.

Something about writing the letter out by hand or even typing it out gives you a deeper understanding than just reading it. I can’t explain it but that’s what happens. Maybe it’s because you have to think more when you write it out than when you read so there is a deeper psychological connection with the words.

Any sales letter written by someone you know to be a good copywriter or a sales letter known to be a winner will do. Here is one that you can find online that will be a great place to start. It’s from the Wall Street Journal and is known as the “Story of Two Young Men”. It follows a simple formula (Winners vs Losers) that’s easy to repeat. That’s probably why it’s one of the most copied sales letters I’ve ever seen.

Anyone that reads the books, study the books, reads them again, and writes out these 250 pages of great sales letters by hand will be a good copywriter. You might even be able to do it in six months…but I would still say it takes 10,000 hours to become really good or even great.

[Ed. Note. Robert Phillips is a professional copywriter who found the job of his dreams by using a system. You can get access to his system and get the job of your dreams with his ULTIMATE Find-A-Job Fast System & Toolkit – The Game-Changing Job Search System Guaranteed to Turn the Tables on Employers and Have Them Chasing YOU! Discover More Breakthrough Strategies.]
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