Six Of The Best: Key Advice on Starting Your Copywriting Career

Copy newbies, welcome.

You are, right now, at a truly exciting position in your copywriting career…

Maybe you’ve just landed your first client, maybe you haven’t…

(Maybe even the idea of having a client seems shrouded in the mists of the future… doesn’t matter.)

You’re still entitled to be excited, however ‘green’ you think you are.


Because you’re at the beginning of an adventure.

A freelancer’s odyssey where you are  the hero, and there’s a whole host of bizarre and unique characters you’ll meet along the way. Heroes, villains, armies, sidekicks… maybe even a love interest.

And those of us a few chapters into the story envy your position in the same way those who’ve read a great book envy those who just picked it up…

These are exciting times for marketing, and copywriting specifically.

Of course, technological developments mean it’s easier than ever to get a message across (a copywriter’s most basic function) – meaning there’s more opportunities than ever before…

But that’s not all.

It’s also a terrific time to get into the game because there’s a goldmine of priceless information on learning the trade available right now.

In my opinion…


“The Single Most Important Factor Behind Any And Every Success I’ve Had So Far…”

…has been the research I’ve done into the biz.

How copywriting works, its importance to marketing, the psychology behind our impulses…

In short, learning has been fun again – probably for the first time since I was about eight years old!

Self-schooling in a creative, vibrant and important industry has been educational… inspiring…

…and even more profitable than I’d hoped when I stumbled into the ‘copy zone’ a couple of years ago.

In recognition of the sheer volume of great advice I’ve received over this period, I thought I’d pay it forward and shine a light on six of the most important copy-schooling tips I’ve learned so far.

Here’s part one:


1 – Find Out What Works… And Why

We all like to do things ‘our way’, but it’s important to pay attention to the touchstones of the industry. The good stuff.

As you immerse yourself in copywriting courses, forums and the like, you’ll notice a lot of references made to old books and old ad-men…

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what relevance some dude’s strategies from the 1950s or even the 1920s could have to today’s constantly-changing marketing… but ignore them at your peril.

When you see names like Claude Hopkins, John Caples and David Ogilvy constantly reappearing in copy/marketing threads, it’s because their most useful advice really is timeless.

People talk about what they did, because it worked.

And the smartest folks around are those who figured out why it worked, and applied it to their own strategies so it worked again.

Make a note of the references to these ‘golden oldies’ somewhere every time you see one – then once you’ve got a few of ’em down, go over the list and see what specific advice gets referenced time and again.

These strategies are your goldmine.

Use them – because if they didn’t work like gangbusters, you wouldn’t have come across them so often.


2 – Mine For Diamonds

Because the internet’s so important to our industry, it’s possible to uncover a whole host of useful resources on learning to write copy that converts without leaving your seat…

Your laptop – or desktop… or even your ‘phone – are your windows into a whole world of useful information.

In one respect, it’s never been easier to learn…

On the other hand, there’s never been so many choices to make.

Who to read? Who to follow? Where to look? What to pay for?

There’s so much information demanding your attention it’s important not to get overwhelmed.

Don’t bookmark everything you find online, and don’t try to apply everything you learn to your fledgling copy efforts…

…sometimes too many teachers spoil the, er, broth (and you thought it was only true of cooks, huh?)

It may not seem this way now, but believe me, you’ll build up a knack for recognising the truly useful info.

Because the important stuff sticks.

As you expose yourself to more and more advice, and more and more perspectives on copywriting, not everything you read will stay with you…

This is a good thing.

You’ll develop an instinct for what works…

And it’ll become easier to spot that diamond in the rough – you’ll know when you stumble across a really useful blog, or a course that has something to offer… because you’ll have honed your info-combing skills wading through the also-rans early on.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of good places to start, so here’s some I’d heartily recommend:

Copyblogger – a staggering amount of useful info on marketing, blogging and copywriting from Brian Clark and an ever-expanding gang of on-the-ball contributors…

The Copywriter’s Roundtable (or just CR) – sign-up for John Forde’s weekly newsletter and consider yourself part of an elite band of in-the-know copywriters who add a new weapon to their arsenal each week…

John Carlton’s Rant – if you’re looking to be inspired, challenged or just want to see great writing, Carlton’s your man…

Then let the whole roadmap open up from there and follow some of the links those guys suggest… you can trust ’em, they know what they’re talking about.

Dig in.


3 – Get Tough On Yourself

a) Set yourself deadlines.

b) Meet them.

If you’re anything like me, starting something is often way harder than finishing something. I can be one hell of a procrastinator.

(If you’re not, great… I envy your get-up-and-go, and if you can stay that way it’ll work in your favour.

But it’s still useful to follow the deadline mantra like your career depends on it… ’cause it will.)

In my early copy days I discovered the importance of setting myself deadlines for study, practice assignments and the like.

I was used to working to deadlines from my press background, but when it came to studying a new trade, I found it all too easy to give myself vague study periods with no real framework…

Sometimes, as your own boss, you have to get tough.

Once I got organised, and got strict with myself, I got so much better at meeting my deadlines, and also at judging how long something should take.

(And I even thanked my boss – me – for showing the error of my ways. Now we get along fine. Mostly…)


Your research and study is the most important aspect of any copy assignment you take on – so the research and study of copywriting itself should be of enormous importance, right?

Stick to your self-imposed deadlines and it’ll be invaluable practice for the real thing – when the missing of a deadline is something you just cannot afford to do.

You’re gaining extra experience with each component you learn if you set – and meet – a deadline, as you’re honing your all-important time-management chops.


Speaking of which, my blogging time’s almost up for today…

So in part two we’ll take a look at three more key strategies for hitting the ground running in your fantastic new copy career.

Look out for it later this week, or sign up to receive it via email or RSS at the top of the page.

Now go hit those books,