A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a smitten more...

by GordonJ 13 replies
can be debilitating... making your copy weak and feeble.

Sorry to say, but, my advice for today's wannabee copywriters is DON'T read any of the classics or take any class, BECAUSE, you'll pick up conflicting and confusing HOW TO.

Sure if you are dead set on becoming an A list 7 figure copywriter, by all means and endless nights study, write, tweak and study some more.

But, if you just want to earn a living writing copy, here is some heresy for you:
the more you read, study and learn...the worse you will become unless you stick with it through some very Ramen and Peanut Butter times.

We like to speak from experience here, and I've long argued about the anecdotal stories of success, whatever that means to you, because what YOU did or he/she did is NOT transferable to anyone else.

Over and over, year after year, I've worked with people who struggled with writing copy for their own products because they knew OR were familiar with some copy guru's formulas, and there are what, 27 different formulas????

On the other hand, I've had some students who didn't even know what copy was and they became much better, and started to make money much sooner than those that had taken courses .
to be continued
so...

Sorry, some glitch with forum. But anyhow, here is my advice for MOST of you, the ones who want to make money from writing copy, and aren't interested in becoming the next guru...

Write.

Write quickly and throw your promotions out there and get feedback in the form of sales or no sales.

Get any sales, you have a start, a baseline to grow from. Too much OVERthinking, over analysis and some pretty stinkin thinking.

I do suggest you start with Colin Theriot (NOT affiliated) at FB, and ignore any and all further study of past greats, old masters, classics, and start selling something as soon as you can.

Copy writing is fast becoming a cheap commodity, cash in while you can. Or not.

GordonJ
#copywriting #dangerous #knowledge #smitten #thing
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  • Profile picture of the author gnojham
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  • Profile picture of the author RazvanRogozC
    I agree.

    It is easy to fall into paralysis of analysis when learning to write copy. There are 500 different rules and filters to run your copy through. I've first noticed this when I've tried to write the copy using the checklists from "The Ultimate Desktop Copy Coach" by Clayton Makepeace. Each chapter came with a set of tasks and this made me treat the copy so analytically, so mechanically that in the end, I had to start again without following 125 different steps.

    At the end of the day, it is a good idea to have some rules to review your copy against. However, the worst thing you can do is have those rules in front of you while you are actually writing it. When you do, it is not copywriting anymore, it is writing code, where the syntax becomes more important than the argument itself.

    This is why the best copywriters don't learn tactics. They learn principles. Principles can be shaped with ease in whatever you need. It is useful to know 41 ways to write bullets but it is a lot useful to know the principles of reciprocity, consistency, the contrast principle and so on.

    Best regards,
    Razvan
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    The overthinking thing is a good ad copy killer. Learn, test, then when you develop skills, learn to trust your gut too. If you copy comes more from a space of co-creation versus manipulation, everything really pops.
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    I have a slightly different perspective, but mostly because I believe in being a lifelong student...

    Study. But take action.

    Do both.

    Copywriters are great synthesizers of ideas, and you never know when some nugget you read in a random newspaper or even an old ad will collide with whatever's been floating around in your head to spark a magnificent hook.

    But the challenge here is that most people read and study and hand copy and never DO.

    I do. But I also study. Getting 1% better every day has put me leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of my competitors.
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  • Profile picture of the author SARubin
    Good post Gordon,

    I respect when you tell it like it is.

    So many wannabes are looking for a secret sauce to make them excel. And there's plenty of gooroos out there who will sell them the "keys to the kingdom" or the "magic formula" to make all their copywriting dreams come true. (All for only $19.97 ... and it also comes with over $2000.00 worth of free bonuses )

    Many moons ago I was one of those holy grail seekers, and I spent a lot of time (and thousands of dollars) learning many formulas and systems, from many gooroos. But they never seemed to work quite the way they were advertised. And too many of them conflicted with the one before it.

    Now don't get me wrong, I did learn some things, and I have very few regrets.
    And besides, I'm basically one of those education junkies. So once I re-framed all the lost time and money, and decided it was just the cost of "real world tuition," then it was all justified and I managed to move on (I figure that I could've easily spent the same time and money going to a college, while still NOT learning how to be successful at anything)


    All that said... I do still read and learn from the classic masters of yesteryear (and today). But I'm not looking for any magic formula. Instead, I like to study the philosophies, and discover little nuggets of wisdom regarding human nature.

    A couple of examples:

    The first time I read Eugene Schwartz "Breakthrough Advertising" (about 15 years ago) it was the first time I discovered the concept of different stages of awareness in the market. No formula... Just solid psychological concepts.

    And Gary Bencivenga was the first one who introduced me to the concept of making the advertising itself contain value to your market. (good stuff)

    I could go on, but I think we all get the point. I don't study this stuff looking for a secret sauce. I study it because I'm fascinated with the power of words and consumer psychology.

    And yes, I do realize that for someone just starting out, my reasons for studying this stuff will lead to many, MANY, nights of Ramen and Peanut Butter.


    So, to make a long post just a little longer... I fully agree with the advice here for up and coming wannabees.

    Right now, don't waste a lot of time (or money) trying to learn all the different, and conflicting, copywriting methods. (Unless you plan on branding yourself as a scholar. But be forewarned, that's the direction I'm considering. And I've already got a head start on you )


    As Gordon already said... ignore all further study. Just start writing and selling something as soon as you can.

    This advice is pure gold!


    But, I will add; if you are looking for something to study, that will help you with your marketing future, here it is...

    Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising (read it 5 times). It will give you the foundational concepts of testing small before rolling out big.

    Robert Collier Letter Book (read it 3 times) The examples in the book are pretty outdated, so take them for whatever they're worth, and don't get too hung up on the outdated language. But the bulk of the book is pure gold for the mindset you need to write with empathy for your market.

    Finally, take this advice from SARubin... Always start with the mindset of "how can my product or service provide value to people" and NOT with the mindset of simply extracting money from people.

    In my own humble opinion, this last one is the best advice of all . And if you can truly internalize the concept, it will shine through in your copy, and serve you well in your career.
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    • Profile picture of the author dee4d
      I believe the best thing is to get a mentor, a very good one at that. You will learn so much from just one person, and get insights that are not shared in any forum.
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  • Profile picture of the author depotgang
    90% of my copy sucked...but 10% did not... wow..do it is the answer it's like writing a hit song...most of time it sucks...but when it's good...boom
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  • Profile picture of the author ThePromotionalGuy
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  • Profile picture of the author ThePromotionalGuy
    Hellor GordonJ,

    Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

    Copy writing is fast becoming a cheap commodity, cash in while you can. Or not.

    GordonJ
    Copy writing is not a commodity.

    Copy writing is a business. A SERVICE business.

    Copy writing services produce commodities, the client's written and/or graphic designed product/project.

    Studying classics doesn't prevent one from acquiring accounts.

    If a wannabee is having Ramen and Peanut Butter days and nights, it is their own fault.

    Not proactively marketing ones services, day in and day out, thins the herd and weeds out the current wannabees.

    This is the real secret to owning and running a copy writing business.

    Chinchilla
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    Force-Communication - "It is the noble art of causing a client, a customer, or a prospect to perform a positive act as the direct result of reading your words." - Herschell Gordon Lewis
  • Profile picture of the author Princess Balestra
    Jus' my luck to go on vacation as WF pitches a humdinger!

    So I return home to discover my GordonJ light is flashin', my Angie C vuvuzela is soundin', an' butterflies been released from their Chinchilla trap.

    *Alert Nirvana!*

    So, hey — gotta wonder 'bout copy tricks gonna play for all eternity (as identified by gooroos & dispensed from their orifi from on high).

    Why so?

    Way I see it, problem with eternity is it goes on kinda forever which means you gotta fill it out with sumthin' excitin' or hang yusself.

    Question is, what stays excitin' for all eternity?

    So I figure runnin' with the same kinda sumthin' gonna be tedious — 'specially for immortal beings gotta digest stuff 24/7 till the enda days.

    That is why Time invented epochs, I guess — evrythin' from The Jurassic Era to the 80s to post-Brexit.

    Eternity as bite-sized chunks is more digestible.

    Gotta figure also how eacha these epochs sub-divide up into more specific interschwinglesa time — idiosycratically arbitrary phases — all occupied by kaleidoscopesa non-immortals hangin' out...together.

    One minute they want finger spinners, next they want cocktail stick crossbow ballistics — an' this specific demand-SLASH-lure defines specific slasha quill ink on papyrus.

    I would want always for any writin' comes outta that kinda slash to pulse out on the nouveau verve inherent in the nouveau situation — spontaneous yelpsa joy as catch the wind an' startle slumberin' pugs kinda thing.

    But mebbe I am antsy cos I am not allowed pets in my apartment.

    Gonna go ladle the butterflies back into their underfloor hammocks an' unpack my vacation stuffs...
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  • Profile picture of the author WD Mino
    No. Don't bother studying the effects of the mind, the emotional response certain word strings will bring, don't bother learning how to format , how to use color, fonts, how to make your sentences impactful and draw people in. don't bother, right?

    Your bank account will forever be=0
    What a bunch of nonsense. Study and learn and do it. practice, do it some more, do it some more, when ya get your first sale from your own copy, that gives you a starting point. I have sat and learned from people who sell billions of dollars worth of products, no they don't have anything to offer or say that will help me at all,
    By the way. your title=Smidgen not smitten. Smitten is like being in love. Smidgen is an increase

    Colin, btw, teaches... well. LOL, ask Him. He studied and studied an awful lot there OP. He is super smart.
    Big difference from following a scientifically proven formula and writing jumble
    No one can drive for you, they keys, gas and vehicle are all at your disposal with training. It is up to you to drive, words are for copy what gas is to cars.your fuel. the car still needs to be put in gear etc.
    -WD
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by WD Mino View Post

      No. Don't bother studying the effects of the mind, the emotional response certain word strings will bring, don't bother learning how to format , how to use color, fonts, how to make your sentences impactful and draw people in. don't bother, right?

      Your bank account will forever be=0
      What a bunch of nonsense. Study and learn and do it. practice, do it some more, do it some more, when ya get your first sale from your own copy, that gives you a starting point. I have sat and learned from people who sell billions of dollars worth of products, no they don't have anything to offer or say that will help me at all,
      By the way. your title=Smidgen not smitten. Smitten is like being in love. Smidgen is an increase

      Colin, btw, teaches... well. LOL, ask Him. He studied and studied an awful lot there OP. He is super smart.
      Big difference from following a scientifically proven formula and writing jumble
      No one can drive for you, they keys, gas and vehicle are all at your disposal with training. It is up to you to drive, words are for copy what gas is to cars.your fuel. the car still needs to be put in gear etc.
      -WD
      Smitten is what 80% of so-called copywriters are in, a state of love of the idea of becoming a successful freelancer. You, and the others are absolutely right, and as someone who has spent over 50 years continuously studying the art and craft of persuasion and influence, it is a game where learning never stops.

      People like Angie, for example, are PROFESSIONALS, and are going to want and love to learn and APPLY. But alas, the real nonsense is in what has become the BIZ-OP of copywriting. Where promises are made and most certainly implied, anyone who can string sentences together, and can follow a formula, or fill in the blank template can quickly ascend to a freelance six figure copywriter.

      Just look around, in Cult of Copy group, Halbert, Kennedy or any of the dozen and one groups and places which allow freelancers to bid on work.

      It does not require a lot of effort to see the vast majority of these trained and schooled copywriters aren't making it.

      BUT my issue is with those who are also writing for their own products, and there is that school of thought which says, a copywriter SHOULD be creating and selling her own products (I belong to this school).

      With all the training, the money being spent, what is most prevalent is the awful attempts at using either "swipes" or "templates", BECAUSE there are so many gurus who are teaching that is all that is needed.

      So, I only take issue with your tone, which I find to be a smidgen smug.

      It is my opinion, today's so-called freelance copywriter is woefully under educated, but, if making money is the goal, he only needs a good cult leader...and any of them will do.

      GordonJ
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      • Profile picture of the author ThePromotionalGuy
        Hellor GordonJ,

        Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post

        But alas, the real nonsense is in what has become the BIZ-OP of copywriting. Where promises are made and most certainly implied, anyone who can string sentences together, and can follow a formula, or fill in the blank template can quickly ascend to a freelance six figure copywriter.
        Oh...

        ...so you don't like how copy writing has become a BIZ-OP. Making or implying promises...

        like...
        • Be your own boss
        • Stop living paycheck to paycheck
        • Live the freelance lifestyle
        • Give up the 9-5 rat race
        • You can make extra money in your spare time
        Sadly my colleague but BIZ-OP selling and the formula above, has been going on long before Claude Hopkins' era. (And with 50+ years in the business you already know this)

        Not just in copy writing...

        But in:
        • Locksmithing
        • Gunsmithing
        • Blacksmithing
        • Small Engine Repair
        • Sharping
        • Graphic Design
        • Published Author
        • Sales
        • Consulting
        • Gold Mining
        • Import-Export
        • Drop Shipping
        • Day Trading
        • Promotional Products
        • Stamp Collecting
        • Coin Collecting
        • Antiques
        • and the list goes on
        It's not that copy writing has become a BIZ-OP. It's just another, out of site service, brought to the forefront with spectacular copy, by none other, but master copy writers.
        • Halbert
        • Kennedy
        • Bly
        • AWAI
        • Bird
        • Hatch
        • Masterson
        • Lewis
        • Settle
        • Makepeace
        • Deiss
        • Bencivenga
        • Stone
        • Jacobs
        • Kilstein
        • Suarez
        • and the list goes on
        If those today, the 80%, believe what is written and told to them, then we must look back on those who changed the service from
        • copy writing
        • to copy-writing
        • to finally copywriting.
        Our forefathers of the craft, who saw yet another chance to bring something mundane, a service, and packaged it, as the next big "Bell & Whistle" opportunity.

        Regardless, what any person, (professional or part-timer), puts into what they've learned, they will reap the effort for it.

        This craft is no different than other crafts listed above. You will have "doers" and "I'll do it laters". Taking action or taking it easy.

        Each are rewarded accordingly.

        Ironically, in your original post...

        Sorry to say, but, my advice for today's wannabee copywriters is DON'T read any of the classics or take any class, BECAUSE, you'll pick up conflicting and confusing HOW TO.

        Sure if you are dead set on becoming an A list 7 figure copywriter, by all means and endless nights study, write, tweak and study some more.

        But, if you just want to earn a living writing copy, here is some heresy for you:
        the more you read, study and learn...the worse you will become unless you stick with it through some very Ramen and Peanut Butter times.
        ...you created a new belief for the craft that the inexperienced and unlearned are sure to latch onto.

        You may be setting yourself up to become a new type of guru.

        Chinchilla
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        Force-Communication - "It is the noble art of causing a client, a customer, or a prospect to perform a positive act as the direct result of reading your words." - Herschell Gordon Lewis
        • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
          Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post

          Hellor GordonJ,



          Oh...

          ...so you don't like how copy writing has become a BIZ-OP. Making or implying promises...

          like...
          • Be your own boss
          • Stop living paycheck to paycheck
          • Live the freelance lifestyle
          • Give up the 9-5 rat race
          • You can make extra money in your spare time
          Sadly my colleague but BIZ-OP selling and the formula above, has been going on long before Claude Hopkins' era. (And with 50+ years in the business you already know this)

          Not just in copy writing...

          But in:
          • Locksmithing
          • Gunsmithing
          • Blacksmithing
          • Small Engine Repair
          • Sharping
          • Graphic Design
          • Published Author
          • Sales
          • Consulting
          • Gold Mining
          • Import-Export
          • Drop Shipping
          • Day Trading
          • Promotional Products
          • Stamp Collecting
          • Coin Collecting
          • Antiques
          • and the list goes on
          It's not that copy writing has become a BIZ-OP. It's just another, out of site service, brought to the forefront with spectacular copy, by none other, but master copy writers.
          • Halbert
          • Kennedy
          • Bly
          • AWAI
          • Bird
          • Hatch
          • Masterson
          • Lewis
          • Settle
          • Makepeace
          • Deiss
          • Bencivenga
          • Stone
          • Jacobs
          • Kilstein
          • Suarez
          • and the list goes on
          If those today, the 80%, believe what is written and told to them, then we must look back on those who changed the service from
          • copy writing
          • to copy-writing
          • to finally copywriting.
          Our forefathers of the craft, who saw yet another chance to bring something mundane, a service, and packaged it, as the next big "Bell & Whistle" opportunity.

          Regardless, what any person, (professional or part-timer), puts into what they've learned, they will reap the effort for it.

          This craft is no different than other crafts listed above. You will have "doers" and "I'll do it laters". Taking action or taking it easy.

          Each are rewarded accordingly.

          Ironically, in your original post...

          ...you created a new belief for the craft that the inexperienced and unlearned are sure to latch onto.

          You may be setting yourself up to become a new type of guru.

          Chinchilla
          Yes, you and the others are right.

          I need a key made, take it to a kiosk, pay for the new key, it doesn't work. Guy tries again, next key doesn't work either. Do I get a refund and try someone else, oh, he has a no refund policy.
          Locksmith goes home, can't open the door with the locks he installed and the keys he made. Maybe should try sharpening?

          The service of locksmithing, with 5 key shops all within a few minutes of each other, is it not a commodity at this point?

          You would say NO, it is a service.

          Copywriting was never hidden from anyone, those classic books shined plenty of light upon the profession, and like the best locksmith in town, the people who studied and learned made more than a guy who sent away a thousand bux to the American Lockpickers Institute and got themselves a how to manual and a tool kit, and SIGN: Open for business.

          GordonJ
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      • Profile picture of the author WD Mino
        LOL,

        Smug is giving advice that holds no water and now trying to justify your position, you are full of it. Without study you can't do a darn thing.

        Yup. sounds whacked out to me.
        -WD
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