Copywriting: Talent or Learned

58 replies
Everyone knows how important good salescopy is. I'd even go as far to say that knowing how to copywrite is the very cornerstone of effective communication. My question; is copywriting a natural talent or can you learn to be an expert copywriter?

I'd never consider myself a copywriter - because I've never researched or delved into the specific aspects of what makes good salescopy. I have a basic understanding, but I'm sure there are advance principals I don't understand.

What shocks me is that I've paid so called "good-copywriters" and although their sales message was not bad - I don't think their "skill" was justified in their pricing. To put it bluntly, I felt like I could do what they do, maybe even better, the only reason I didn't was because of time. I wouldn't call myself a lazy marketer, but sometimes I want to pay out of convience so I can focus on other aspects of my business.

What makes a copywriter good? Is it their writing style? Wouldn't that mean that being a good copywriter is simply being a good writer? Shouldn't I just pay writers then and teach them about marketing principals?

Like I've mentioned before, I'm no expert, but isn't copywriting "fill-in-the-blanks".

Here is what I've noticed

Headline: Grabs the readers attention
Sub Headline (Optional): Sticks them on their page

Intro: Creating rapport with your visitors
Free Gift/Social Proof: You may offer some good advise on your salesletter in order to demonstrate authority or garner up social proof instead.

Scarcity: Limit your product to create a sense of urgency, thus driving sales.

Call To Action: Buy now or forever live a miserable life

Bonuses: Blah blah here are some things that you'll get as well.

Now lets say if I master the above, shouldn't I just train to be a good writer then so I know how to effectively fill in the above sections? What makes a copywriter differnet from a writer with a marketing mindset? Can you learn to be an effective copywriter or is it an inside talent?

This post may seem like it's going in 1000 directions, but i'm just curious about this whole aspect of copywriting because it may be something I want to delve into - I just want to get people's opinion.
#copywriting #learned #talent
  • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
    Okay so from what I understand salescopy needs to be

    1) Easy to comprehend
    the best copywriting is also usually at a seventh grade reading level.
    and

    2) Follow a general "guideline" but nothing to strict or limiting.

    but each product is...or at least should be...unique enough to need its very own sales pitch.
    How exactly can you qualify someone as a good copywriter then?

    I have a 7th grade vocabulary and I can write in "loose guidelines" (I can follow the principals of copywriting basically and know that I'm doing it right) but what separates the Joe Average from the Experts?

    Without seeming to cocky or arrogant, I swear I can do what some copywriters do (even though they charge exorbitant fees)

    My main focus of my online career will be product creation, but copywriting intrigues me so it may be a side-service that I may want to pick up.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kyle Tully
      Copywriting isn't about writing.

      It's about sales.

      Put a door-to-door salesman with NO writing experience head-to-head in a copywriting battle with a published author who has read a couple of copywriting books and my money is ALWAYS on the salesman.

      I swear I can do what some copywriters do
      Maybe you can. Have you written a salesletter and tested it in the market?

      The beauty of good copywriting is it LOOKS so damn simple, so obvious. And it is... but put most people in front of a blank piece of paper and see what happens

      Like the messy hair look -- it takes a LOT of work to make it look that natural.
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      • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
        Originally Posted by Kyle Tully View Post

        Maybe you can. Have you written a salesletter and tested it in the market?
        I have - and it does convert. I can't give an accurate conversion rate because a lot of the traffic is of very low quality (a lot of my affiliates use autosurfs and other "poor quality" visitor techniques) but I think I'll go delve into copywriting now.
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      • Profile picture of the author nontemplates
        Originally Posted by Kyle Tully View Post

        Copywriting isn't about writing.

        It's about sales.
        Did you mean "copywriting isn't about grammar"?

        because if you didn't thats wrong. I've been the door to door salesman and I am a writer. the human motivation to buy a product is the same whether its written or spoken. All that changes is the style. The buttons I am looking to touch are the same. Writing is much more about understanding human motivations and aspirations than it is the words. Good writing is always a sales job whether its novel, scripts, plays or business presentations.

        I think the OP IS on to something. A good writer knows how to move people with words. They can reach inside of a person and touch the buttons they want to. Expert copywriters must do the same and thats a skill that isn't specific to marketing. You can learn the marketing part a lot easier than you can the skill of touching people's buttons.
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        • Profile picture of the author Kyle Tully
          Originally Posted by nontemplates View Post

          Did you mean "copywriting isn't about grammar"?

          because if you didn't thats wrong.
          No.

          I meant exactly what I said.
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  • Profile picture of the author Emily Meeks
    Some people have an easier time with it than others. I've written some bullshit rough drafts (some I'm quite embarrassed about!) but I think I do a decent job... I'm not promoting my site very hard at all right now but I get subscribers almost every day. (Now imagine when I actually try >) Then again, I've always had a passion for writing, though I'd take writing books over sales copy ANY day.

    Previous statement reiterated, I think some have an easier time than others, but it CAN be taught. Apparently there are a lot of copywriters on this forum who are ESL, such as Kevin Lam and Ray Edwards. Learning a language is hard, learning to write copy is hard, these guys put the two together and blow everyone else out of the water. There's something to be said for that.
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post


      Previous statement reiterated, I think some have an easier time than others, but it CAN be taught. Apparently there are a lot of copywriters on this forum who are ESL, such as Kevin Lam and Ray Edwards. Learning a language is hard, learning to write copy is hard, these guys put the two together and blow everyone else out of the water. There's something to be said for that.
      I know that some people get the 'Ray Edwards' confused, but if
      that statement referred to me then I'm not ESL. (Not that there
      is anything wrong with it.)

      As I mentioned just recently in another post, the beauty of copywriting
      is that when you deliver the sales letter to the client, they SHOULD
      think, "I could've written this!"

      Ideally, copy should flow so smoothly that the readers don't even
      notice your sales letter elements and techniques--that's persuasion!

      Read Gary Halbert 'Coat of Arms' letter. Read the famous WSJ letter.
      They are so simple that any decent writer would feel capable of
      writing them.

      Yet, although I've written many effective sales letter, the legendary
      blank page still scare me to death! Copywriting is deceptively
      tough work, because like an artist, if you notice the brush strokes
      and contrast and shadows, then he didn't do his job well.

      In other words, I don't want people reading my copy and saying,
      "What a great headline!", "I love how he writes!" "Isn't this piece
      persuasive?"

      No, I just want them to buy.

      -Ray Edwards
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      • Profile picture of the author Emily Meeks
        Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

        I know that some people get the 'Ray Edwards' confused, but if
        that statement referred to me then I'm not ESL. (Not that there
        is anything wrong with it.)

        As I mentioned just recently in another post, the beauty of copywriting
        is that when you deliver the sales letter to the client, they SHOULD
        think, "I could've written this!"

        Ideally, copy should flow so smoothly that the readers don't even
        notice your sales letter elements and techniques--that's persuasion!

        Read Gary Halbert 'Coat of Arms' letter. Read the famous WSJ letter.
        They are so simple that any decent writer would feel capable of
        writing them.

        Yet, although I've written many effective sales letter, the legendary
        blank page still scare me to death! Copywriting is deceptively
        tough work, because like an artist, if you notice the brush strokes
        and contrast and shadows, then he didn't do his job well.

        In other words, I don't want people reading my copy and saying,
        "What a great headline!", "I love how he writes!" "Isn't this piece
        persuasive?"

        No, I just want them to buy.

        -Ray Edwards
        Oops, sorry bout that

        You make a great point - the idea is to get people to buy, not to analyze how you're trying to convince one to buy! I've been studying sales letters (as I need to make decent copy that will "get me by" till I get more moneys) and notice that they tend to use the same formula... I tried said formula, didn't take on well at all (and it probably wasn't necessary taking it to the WF to figure that one out!). I then said F*** it and basically wrote in my own style, conveying the main points without overdone hype.

        The blank page IS terrifying... I try to get at least a line or two out, so even if I come back later, it won't be quite so intimidating
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  • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
    Definitely some good information here.

    Now my question is - what is the usual process a copywriter goes through before beginning his work? I know it would obviously differ per person, but do you make an "outline" just so you have a mental image in your head of how everything should look or do you just start writing - starting at the headline - and pour all your ideas down and refine?
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    • Profile picture of the author Raydal
      Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

      Definitely some good information here.

      Now my question is - what is the usual process a copywriter goes through before beginning his work? I know it would obviously differ per person, but do you make an "outline" just so you have a mental image in your head of how everything should look or do you just start writing - starting at the headline - and pour all your ideas down and refine?
      No two copywriters are the same and no two letters take the
      same process, but this is how I write sales copy:

      1. I get as much information from the clients as possible. This
      includes the filled questionnaire and phone/instant chat etc.

      2. I do my own research to fill in my knowledge gap on the subject.
      So If I'm writing about a new joint pain relief concoction, then I
      read up on the ingredients, how it is made--the whole shebang.

      3. I also study the competition so I know the background against
      which to position my client's product.

      4. I study the target market by visiting their forums, reading
      testimonials for the product, and study surveys if available.

      5. I look at swipe files for inspiration and ideas on what has worked
      for this market in the past.

      6. After the research stage I leave off this project and go do
      something else while all the information is percolating in my
      subconscious. As flashes of inspiration come to me I write
      these down. (I'm brainstorming for the perfect 'hook/angle'.)

      7. When I return to the copy I either write an outline (hardly
      ever do this because it comes natural to me now) or just
      have the outline in my head.

      8. Next I start 'free writing'. Just write the letter as if talking to
      a friend. (I try not to edit myself too much at this stage.) I also
      know I'm likely to dump this part of the letter since my brain
      isn't quite warmed up as yet.

      9. From the rough outline in my head I write the copy doing as
      much as I can in one sitting. If I find myself losing inspiration
      then I leave it off and return when I'm mentally refreshed.

      10. After I've completed the first draft I now reread for flow,
      (especially checking paragraph transitions and the logical
      connection between paragraphs) persuasive elements,
      (features /benefits, applying the "So what? test etc.)

      11. Then I allow the letter to rest for a few days and come
      back with fresh eyes. Now I can edit myself--look for all
      the mechanics--grammar, spelling, sentence length,
      punctuation for pacing, rhythm, cadence etc.

      12. My final step is the headline that I have been working on for
      the entire period, again in the subconscious--nothing 'spooky'
      or metaphysical. Just that I'm brainstorming the headline while
      I do everything else.

      I also review the layout in the final HTML to make sure that
      the graphics and other physical elements do not interfere
      with my masterpiece.

      Then it's time to put that baby to work. Test, adjustments
      and they should all live happily ever after--well, at least they
      do in the fairy tales.

      -Ray Edwards
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      • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
        Originally Posted by Onslaught View Post

        Craig,
        Have you written a six figure sales letter? Are you going to do the copy for the PLRs now?
        No and No. I like the connection between my product though

        My interest in salescopy rose as I've started to see how vital it is as a marketing skill (also because I've been burned by a copywriter in the past who was labeled a "demi-god" but that is a different story).

        I think my main focus - at least at this current moment - will be product creation / niche marketing. I may start copywriting as a hobby, and if I like it (or if I'm any good at it ) eventually sell my services.

        I'm not the writer for my PLR content - if I was I'd be lying in my salesletter and marketers don't do that... Do they :rolleyes:?

        On a more serious note: My PLR content really is hired out. I hope as I build my budget I can get industry leaders to write the content, but as we all know, you gotta start somewhere and I'm making-do with my avaliable resources. I do know I plan to turn PLRNicheClub into the one-stop PLR Niche website (I'll eventually offer Video Squeeze Pages, Keyword Research, customization tools along with the monthly downloads) but that's a salespitch for another day (one that I may hopefully write myself)

        Good advice in this thread - sorry I got off topic with the above.

        TO Ray: How long does it take you to "perfect" a salesletter? I've noticed that you mentioned that after writing a basic copy, you will come back to it a few days after. Does that mean you spend weeks before your satisfied?
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        • Profile picture of the author Bill Jeffels
          Hey Craig.Michaels,

          Copywriting is something that takes years to master or even be good at. You say that you could have wrote better copy then your "good copywriter" with the little training that you have.

          Well, if that's the case then to be honest your "good copywriter" sucked.

          I was going to take a photo of my accumulation of copywriting tapes, cds, dvds, seminars and courses that I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to obtain over the years.

          But right now I have to go write honest to goodness "good" copy for my client.

          first I have lots of researching to do, find just the right headline, subhead, USP, I have to make the prospect desire the product through out the body copy, with lots of benefits, whats in it for them, craft a great guarantee, reinforce everything in my P.S., and then my first draft.

          Wow, I have lots of work to do. Better go now.

          Take care,

          Bill Jeffels
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        • Profile picture of the author Raydal
          Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

          TO Ray: How long does it take you to "perfect" a salesletter? I've noticed that you mentioned that after writing a basic copy, you will come back to it a few days after. Does that mean you spend weeks before your satisfied?
          Well, the actual writing of the letter is the easy part and may take
          me just a few days, but it's all the preparation which go into the
          writing that takes most of the time.

          Also the more information the client provides the faster I can get
          to working so this is also a factor.

          -Ray Edwards
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          • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
            Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

            Well, the actual writing of the letter is the easy part and may take
            me just a few days, but it's all the preparation which go into the
            writing that takes most of the time.

            Also the more information the client provides the faster I can get
            to working so this is also a factor.

            -Ray Edwards
            One thing I'll add... a copywriter like Ray has written probably hundreds of sales letters at this point of his career. The more frequently you write copy, the easier it becomes to do the actual writing... just like someone who plays an instrument or some other specialized skill.

            Like Ray said, the research and fact-finding is always a major time burn, no matter how long you've been writing copy. Finding the right hook and theme is a lot of work as well.

            It's not how fast you can write it... it's how well does it convert that matters. Everything you do is geared towards that ultimate goal.
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            • Profile picture of the author Raydal
              Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

              One thing I'll add... a copywriter like Ray has written probably hundreds of sales letters at this point of his career. The more frequently you write copy, the easier it becomes to do the actual writing... just like someone who plays an instrument or some other specialized skill.

              Like Ray said, the research and fact-finding is always a major time burn, no matter how long you've been writing copy. Finding the right hook and theme is a lot of work as well.

              It's not how fast you can write it... it's how well does it convert that matters. Everything you do is geared towards that ultimate goal.

              Good point Mike. That's why I hesitated before I gave this answer
              because I didn't want to give the impression that this is in anyway
              the 'standard'. Every writer has his style.

              I write in very intense sessions. I mean, you can literally feel
              the heat coming from my forehead. Some writers do a couple of
              hours per day and the letter may take them a week or two. Do
              what works for you.

              And I must add, that I only work on one project at a time. Some
              writers skip between projects. So I give all my attention to
              one sales letter and then move on to the next.

              But for sure, your confidence and speed grows with experience
              and time.

              -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author megaresp
    Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

    What makes a copywriter good?
    It depends. Here's what I think...
    • If it's response copy - results. Poor results (assuming the copy has been exposed to a sample of at least 500 pairs of eyeballs) signifies poor copy. Consistently poor results over multiple campaigns signifies a consistently poor copy writer (assuming the place the copy appears is otherwise known to work).
    • If it's brand or awareness copy - style. How well does the writer convey the brand values the client wants conveyed? This is much harder to find out. It's also quite common for the client to be unable to judge how the intended audience has reacted. Focus groups and research solicit and obtain opinions. My view is, these opinions don't help.
    • If it's an article - readability. Does the article read well, and communicate effectively? Do you get bored as you force your way through it, or arrive at the end sooner than expected?
    In all 3 cases, clarity is of premium importance. Nothing else matters more. The piece must deliver its intended message into the minds of the intended audience as quickly and simply as possible.
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    • Profile picture of the author DougHughes
      Originally Posted by megaresp View Post

      It depends. Here's what I think...
      • If it's response copy - results. Poor results (assuming the copy has been exposed to a sample of at least 500 pairs of eyeballs) signifies poor copy. Consistently poor results over multiple campaigns signifies a consistently poor copy writer (assuming the place the copy appears is otherwise known to work).
      • If it's brand or awareness copy - style. How well does the writer convey the brand values the client wants conveyed? This is much harder to find out. It's also quite common for the client to be unable to judge how the intended audience has reacted. Focus groups and research solicit and obtain opinions. My view is, these opinions don't help.
      • If it's an article - readability. Does the article read well, and communicate effectively? Do you get bored as you force your way through it, or arrive at the end sooner than expected?
      In all 3 cases, clarity is of premium importance. Nothing else matters more. The piece must deliver its intended message into the minds of the intended audience as quickly and simply as possible.
      Thanks Megaresp, That is one of the things I notice here in WarriorForum. Most people refer to copywriting only in the form of sales pages.

      Copywriting can serve many different functions/purposes such as brand awareness, public relations and credibility, sales, disinformation/misinformation, relationship building (for whatever purpose), etc...

      Among these different purposes are different groups such as B2B, B2C, Non-Profit, Government, etc...

      In all cases, it is my humble opinion that good copy is the combination of strong concise writing coupled with a good knowledge of psychology.

      Pyschology is important regardless of the purpose. At all times in order for copy to be effective, the writing must match the audience with the media to market message.

      Writing at a "seventh grade level" may work for many markets...especially in traditional mass markets(diet, credit, bizopp) where you are targeting a more colloquial audience.

      However, if you are targeting university proffessors, software engineers, or other jargon driven demographics, writing in a "conversational" style will mean different things.

      Interesting post, thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kevin Lam
    Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

    What shocks me is that I've paid so called "good-copywriters" and although their sales message was not bad - I don't think their "skill" was justified in their pricing. To put it bluntly, I felt like I could do what they do, maybe even better...
    Hey Craig, I hope that comment wasn't directed at me. If so, I'm more than happy to refund you your money.

    Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

    What makes a copywriter good? Is it their writing style? Wouldn't that mean that being a good copywriter is simply being a good writer? Shouldn't I just pay writers then and teach them about marketing principals?
    I wouldn't say it's their writing style, but how well they convey the message and their creativity of telling the story and simplifying the process. It's not just writing, it's the ability to get people to buy the product in various markets for various products while feeling as if they are getting the sweetest deal ever - simply because it solves THEIR particular problem.

    Ultimately, it comes down to how well it converts. It doesn't matter how good a sales letter sounds, if it doesn't convert, it's worthless.

    Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

    Like I've mentioned before, I'm no expert, but isn't copywriting "fill-in-the-blanks".
    If that were the case, I'd be done with my clients so freak'n quick.

    Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

    Now lets say if I master the above, shouldn't I just train to be a good writer then so I know how to effectively fill in the above sections? What makes a copywriter differnet from a writer with a marketing mindset? Can you learn to be an effective copywriter or is it an inside talent?

    This post may seem like it's going in 1000 directions, but i'm just curious about this whole aspect of copywriting because it may be something I want to delve into - I just want to get people's opinion.
    Well, you can learn to write better and learn the fundamental concepts as far as subliminal messages, "call-to-action" words, implementing the right approach depending on the product, connecting to the reader through interesting stories or other tidbits and emphasizing the right words and the right phrases at the right time with the right elements.

    Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post

    Previous statement reiterated, I think some have an easier time than others, but it CAN be taught. Apparently there are a lot of copywriters on this forum who are ESL, such as Kevin Lam and Ray Edwards. Learning a language is hard, learning to write copy is hard, these guys put the two together and blow everyone else out of the water. There's something to be said for that.
    Well, thank you for mentioning me. Yeah, English is a second language for me, but I've always liked to write. I started learning to type when I was 8 and started writing stories. Won the contests in my school and got to go to McDonald's during school hours every week. That was fun, lol.

    One last thing for Craig is that, yes, you can learn to be a great copywriter. Just remember that time is critical in everything you do. You can only devote so much time to something. Sometimes, there's no point in doing everything yourself even if you are the best at it. Doing so will only hurt you. I'm glad that you're thinking about copywriting. If you enjoy writing, it really is a great thing to do for yourself. Good luck with everything.
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    • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
      Originally Posted by Kevin Lam View Post

      Hey Craig, I hope that comment wasn't directed at me. If so, I'm more than happy to refund you your money.
      Oh no, the comment definitely wasn't directed towards you. The copy you provided was terrific (and at a great price) and you were (and still are) very helpful. I've had some previous experiences with other copywriters that come to mind when I write this post.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kevin Lam
        Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

        Oh no, the comment definitely wasn't directed towards you. The copy you provided was terrific (and at a great price) and you were (and still are) very helpful. I've had some previous experiences with other copywriters that come to mind when I write this post.
        Oh, okay. Just making sure I didn't do a poor job and that you're happy with the work. Good luck with the launch and I'm glad your WSO is going well.
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  • Profile picture of the author RentItNow
    I don't know if this story is a cliche but it applies.

    "Steam train is not working. Railway carts in an expert to fix it. He looks at the train for a couple minutes, takes a hammer out of his pocket and taps a cylinder. Train works fine. He hands them a bill for $10,000. The railway asks why it cost them 10K for a hammer tap. He says, 'The hammer tap was free. It was knowing where to tap that cost you $10K.'"

    It takes thousands of hours, years of doing that get copywriters to were they are. You are paying for the results, not the material.
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    I have no agenda but to help those in the same situation. This I feel will pay the bills.
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    I'd even go as far to say that knowing how to copywrite is the very cornerstone of effective communication.
    Actually, I'd flip that... Knowing how to communicate effectively is the very cornerstone of copywriting!

    Brian
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Murdaugh
    Copywriting is a learned talent, and some people are going to have more natural talent for it than others, just like anything else in life.

    I was a writer for my high school newspaper and an English major in college, that's not where I learned how to write copy.

    Both of my parents are sales people. My Mom has sold print for almost her entire life, she works for a huge wholesale print distributor, and as I write this she's out of town meeting clients.... Most likely closing them.

    My Dad is one of the best sales people I've ever seen in action. The guy still amazes me to this day. He has charisma that is extremely rare in people, everyone he meets walks away feeling like they've made a friend for life.

    I didn't learn copywriting by writing, and I didn't really choose to be a copywriter.

    I've been selling since I was a kid... I've sold vacations over the telephone, I've sold pianos, I've sold home loans, real estate... I've sold more products than I can count or remember.

    I've pitched products at home shows. I've worked 12 hour days cold calling prospects non stop.

    All of that experience is what has taught me how to grab attention... How to build rapport, build credibility and present people with an irresistible offer.

    I'm a much better salesman than I am a writer.

    I just happen to be a decent writer, and when I started to realize that I could get my message across to the masses instead of pitching people face to face, that's when I became a copywriter.

    When people ask me what I do, I tell them I work in online sales and marketing.

    I still consider myself a salesman... It's just that now the majority of the time I do it in print.

    -Scott
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  • Profile picture of the author MIB Mastermind
    In my opinion it can be learned by almost anyone, and most of the top copywriters will tell you they are bad writers (not all by the way).
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  • Profile picture of the author JECKELLL
    can be both I think, I also think it is the most laborious aspect of SEO, full marks to anyone who does copywriting
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Murdaugh
    Jeckell, copywriters have almost nothing to do with SEO.

    Maybe a little on page optimization, but that's it. Copywriters sell.

    You may be confusing "copywriters" with "content writers"... Content writers generally write articles for SEO purposes... Copywriters convert that traffic into buyers.

    -Scott
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    Over $30 Million In Marketing Data And A Decade Of Consistently Generating Breakthrough Results - Ask How My Unique Approach To Copy Typically Outsells Traditional Ads By Up To 29x Or More...

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    • Profile picture of the author dorothydot
      Talent or learned? Copywriting involves BOTH skills!

      You have to be able to write in the voice of your target prospects... doctors, patients, teen-agers, retirees. This takes talent.

      You have to write using words that compel your readers to keep reading. This is talent - something inborn.

      You have to write following a prescribed pattern - but loosely. This can be varied to some degree depending on the strengths and talents of the copywriter.

      For example, compare Vin's Montello's writing style with Harlan Kilstein's.

      So that is why there is room in the Copywriting arena for ALL sorts of writers.

      Hope this helps,
      Dot
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    Anyone can put a formula together. Hell, I'd go as far to say that anyone can write something that LOOKS like a sales letter.

    What separates a real writer from the amateurs is, IMHO, the "little" things that make such a huge difference... like how they position the product, the kind of USP they draw out, their skill at keeping the reader interested whilst simultaneously emotionally involving them... that's what we do and that's why we charge what we do.

    Having said that... it's definitely a "learned" skill. I consider myself completely devoid of natural "talent"... yet I can write pretty damn good letters.

    Of course, it's taken me years to learn how to do that.

    -Dan
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  • Profile picture of the author Emily Meeks
    Well, thank you for mentioning me. Yeah, English is a second language for me, but I've always liked to write. I started learning to type when I was 8 and started writing stories. Won the contests in my school and got to go to McDonald's during school hours every week. That was fun, lol.
    That's awesome, I taught myself to type when I was 7 or 8. I'd always stay up late writing short stories and even worked on full-length novels (I'd never publish them, but it goes to show I could finish what I started!). I remember typing in the library at my school and the girl next to me said, "How can you type that FAST?" Kinda funny since I took that skill for granted..

    Just remember that time is critical in everything you do. You can only devote so much time to something. Sometimes, there's no point in doing everything yourself even if you are the best at it. Doing so will only hurt you.
    This is very true and also great advice for me. I tend to do everything at once, whether it be graphic design, web design, content, whatever. Part of it comes from using previous skills I'd use in my spare time (I learned HTML when I was 10, built my own websites - a few personal sites as well as fansites. I also pirated photo-editing software at 14 - SHHHHHHHHHHHH don't tell anyone - and played around with that a bunch as well).

    I have to say it kinda sucks in a way. I don't yet have the time to specialize in any one thing - the other part comes from not yet having the budget to outsource. Once I get said budget I'll probably outsource a lot more... but continue to put on the finishing touches >
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    • Profile picture of the author Jay Truman
      Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

      You have to write using words that compel your readers to keep reading. This is talent - something inborn.
      writing compelling words/letters is inborn? if so, then i may be out of luck....
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      • Profile picture of the author Kevin Lam
        Originally Posted by Jay Truman View Post

        writing compelling words/letters is inborn? if so, then i may be out of luck....
        Jay, don't listen to that load of crap. ANYONE can learn to become a great copywriter. Just go pick up Joe Sugarman's books (my all-time favorite copywriter). He has hundreds of students who know NOTHING about selling or copywriting and yet turn them into very successful sales letter that produce massive results.

        Just get started on learning. It doesn't have to be "inborn". Everything we know is TAUGHT. I mean, who is "inborn" to be professional basketball players? No one! They're all taught and trained to be as good as they are (hence why they all still have coaches). Some might have natural strengths and talents, but without the training and dedication, the strengths and talents are useless.

        Don't ever let anyone tell you can't do something.
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        • Profile picture of the author dorothydot
          "Some might have natural strengths and talents, but without the training and dedication, the strengths and talents are useless."

          Absolutely.

          I never ever want to discourage anyone. And hey - if you have the interest in writing, then it's more than likely you have the talent... whether you know it or not.

          Dot
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          • Profile picture of the author Jay Truman
            Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

            if you have the interest in writing, then it's more than likely you have the talent
            I think that's where i fall short, the interest in writing. I do enjoy selling. I've done direct marketing/sales offline, over the phone, and face to face. I fall down at the writing part. I have been a student of copywriting for some time now, although have left it at that.. just a professional student lol..

            Just studying copywriting improves my overall communication skills and thats important... helps me when i do sales face to face...

            copywriters are awesome
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        • Profile picture of the author Jay Truman
          Originally Posted by Kevin Lam View Post

          Just get started on learning.
          hey kevin,

          i think my next step is to just write out a successful salesletter. I've studied copywriting before and i 'get it' , but its the actual writing i don't enjoy or have trouble with. in my case, i think i need more doing, than learning...

          but thanks for the kick in the ass- thats what i need
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    • Profile picture of the author Kevin Lam
      Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post

      That's awesome, I taught myself to type when I was 7 or 8. I'd always stay up late writing short stories and even worked on full-length novels (I'd never publish them, but it goes to show I could finish what I started!). I remember typing in the library at my school and the girl next to me said, "How can you type that FAST?" Kinda funny since I took that skill for granted..

      This is very true and also great advice for me. I tend to do everything at once, whether it be graphic design, web design, content, whatever. Part of it comes from using previous skills I'd use in my spare time (I learned HTML when I was 10, built my own websites - a few personal sites as well as fansites. I also pirated photo-editing software at 14 - SHHHHHHHHHHHH don't tell anyone - and played around with that a bunch as well).

      I have to say it kinda sucks in a way. I don't yet have the time to specialize in any one thing - the other part comes from not yet having the budget to outsource. Once I get said budget I'll probably outsource a lot more... but continue to put on the finishing touches >
      The fastest I've ever typed with 100% accuracy was 115 words per minute. I don't know how people go any faster than that, lol.

      Yeah, you REALLY need to get to the point of outsourcing. Outsourcing saves me about 100+ hours a month, but they're equivalent to about 250+ hours a month. All of this is dedicated to marketing and designing. It allows me to work on the things I love while all of the other work (where I was good at, but too time consuming) is taken care of. I make money day-in and day-out without working too hard. I love it!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raiel Schwartz
    Hehe, this thread made me realize that I have some type of sales technique.

    I mean look at how many people responded!

    (okay maybe I'm taking too much credit )

    Thanks for the advice guy, I see Kevin Lam recommended Joe Sugarman, is there any other people that have copywriting material? Perhaps even free?
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    • Profile picture of the author Hesster
      Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

      Hehe, this thread made me realize that I have some type of sales technique.

      I mean look at how many people responded!

      (okay maybe I'm taking too much credit )

      Thanks for the advice guy, I see Kevin Lam recommended Joe Sugarman, is there any other people that have copywriting material? Perhaps even free?
      Check your local library. If they don't have all the books in the list stickied at the top of the page, then they can get them for you through an interlibrary loan.
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      • Profile picture of the author Collette
        Anyone can learn the mechanics of writing a sales letter.

        Anyone can learn the mechanics of selling.

        Blending them seamlessly... that's an art.

        And not all artists are able to create a masterpiece.

        'Genius' involves practiced skill, knowledge, understanding, AND a hefty dose of natural-born talent.

        We aren't all geniuses. But that shouldn't stop anyone from working to become the best damn artist he/she can be.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Craig.Michaels View Post

      Hehe, this thread made me realize that I have some type of sales technique.

      I mean look at how many people responded!
      You could say "OJ didn't do it" and get even more responses, but you probably won't sell a damn thing.

      Copywriting is like computer programming; it is roughly equal portions of science and art.

      If you don't grasp the art of it, you will never be great. You may be very good, by learning a great deal of the science... but you'll never hit the high notes that a true copywriter can hit.

      And honestly, only another true copywriter can really tell when you've grasped the art. Lots of people can tell when you haven't grasped it, but whether what you have really is it... nobody who doesn't have it can say.

      I know enough about copywriting to know I don't have it, but I've had a few people I respect and admire say that I could have it - that there's raw talent there, which just needs to be developed. Which is encouraging.
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      "The Golden Town is the Golden Town no longer. They have sold their pillars for brass and their temples for money, they have made coins out of their golden doors. It is become a dark town full of trouble, there is no ease in its streets, beauty has left it and the old songs are gone." - Lord Dunsany, The Messengers
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  • Profile picture of the author Mynt
    I think I qualify as a tiny, little, micro-example
    that copywriting can be learned. After reading books,
    researching, and analyzing copy many hours this week,
    I might gave gone from a .0000001% conversion rate to a .000001%
    Good enough for me.


    The implication is the total, absolute requirement
    for a little passion. Passion and compassion
    to share your value with other human beings.

    Without that - you'll never improve.
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    • Profile picture of the author dorothydot
      A little off the topic, but maybe it'll illustrate my point a bit better:

      I dated a man once who wanted to be an author. He wanted to quit his job planting trees and write a book.

      One problem: he hated to read. Avoided it whenever possible.

      Needless to say, that book never even got started. He just was all talk and smoke.

      People here are taking action to become copywriters. To me, that indicates a modicum of talent and intelligence - not just a desire to be a good little parrot, memorize all the right outlines and spit them out upon request.

      This is where talent comes in. And I do maintain that if you didn't have it... you would not be here long.

      Dot
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      "Sell the Magic of A Dream"
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      • Profile picture of the author Ken Strong
        Originally Posted by dorothydot View Post

        I dated a man once who wanted to be an author. He wanted to quit his job planting trees and write a book.

        One problem: he hated to read. Avoided it whenever possible.
        That reminds me of the old comic strip "Pogo" -- a recurring gag over the years was when one of the characters wrote a poem or story on a piece of paper, then had to ask another character to read it back to him so he could find out what he'd just written, because he couldn't read.
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        • Profile picture of the author Roy Miller
          Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

          Every writer has his style.
          As Ray says, every writer does it a little differently, every writer has a "style" (although the good ones adapt to the market/product/need at hand).

          But...

          Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

          It's not how fast you can write it... it's how well does it convert that matters. Everything you do is geared towards that ultimate goal.
          Mike's right. Results are what count. That's the ultimate measure of how good a copywriter is.

          Not writing experience. Not formal training. Not "credentials" based on having taken Joe X's copywriting course. I don't care what the person's name or reputation is. Does the copy sell? That'll do.

          I think every experienced copywriter out there will tell you that testing, a better product, a more receptive market and better targeted traffic will improve how well copy sells. But good copywriters write words that are powerful selling tools even if the stars aren't all aligned.

          So Craig, if you can write copy that converts, you're a "good" copywriter. Anyone can learn how to be one. Some people lack the desire to learn, or don't want to spend the time (yes, good copywriting takes time). Those folks pay Ray, Mike, me and others to write for them.
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  • Profile picture of the author nichedemon
    Definitely copywriting is a combination of talent, mastery over the language and experience. The issue for non-copywriter marketers such as me is it is not worthwhile for me to devote time to copywriting at the expense of reducing the time I could spend marketing. There is only so many hours in a day so let the specialists focus on what they do best.
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  • Profile picture of the author sarahberra
    The best copywriters are the one's who can get inside your head. They know how to make their words come alive. A boring copywriter never sells. They need to master language, and vocabulary and have the ability to turn a boring subject into something interesting. I think it can be learned but it also takes initial talent.


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  • Profile picture of the author reedcopywriting
    I think that anyone can follow a formula and fill-in-the-blanks, and with a little time and practice almost anyone could write a sales letter.

    But in order to write effective copy that grabs the reader up and gets them excited about buying - you have to be a master at getting inside someone's head via the written word.

    Basically, it is just as much psychology as it is marketing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Peter Rubel
    One point I think has been under-stressed in the above conversation:

    Know your target customer.

    Bad copy in the hands of a hot prospect is often better than great copy in the hands of a cold one.

    If selling is the art (and science) of persuasion, marketing is the science (and art) of listening. Hence the background research. Or some of it.

    Great copy gets results. Sales. Conversions. Partly because of where it's aimed.

    So my question is: Without a blunderbuss budget, how do you aim?
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  • Profile picture of the author Hesster
    Learned. I don't believe in 'natural' talent. If it does exist, it has very little effect on how people end up doing. No one was 'born' to write copy. Every one of the copywriters I've studied admitted the ads they started out writing made them cringe later on in their careers.

    Ogilvy freely admitted he didn't have any natural talent. He came into advertising after trying a bunch of unrelated careers, and his first ads were terrible. But he studied, did his homework, stuck to it, tested his results, applied what he learned, and got better.

    Everyone who sticks to it, dedicates themselves, and practices can write good copy. It's just that most people don't have the drive to put the work into it.

    IMHO, sales letter software is worthless. If it were any good, you wouldn't have (smart) businesspeople paying thousands of dollars for a copywriter. If you can write decent English, you can spend a few afternoons reading through Tested Advertising Methods, How to Write a Good Advertisement, or The Robert Collier Letter Book and write sales letters that whip the pants off any software.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Hesster View Post

      Every one of the copywriters I've studied admitted the ads they started out writing made them cringe later on in their careers.
      "Becoming a black belt doesn't make you an expert. It just means you suck on a whole different level." - Jeff Culley

      People who continually improve themselves will always see that when they look back, and if they keep it up, they'll inevitably become someone other people study.
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      "The Golden Town is the Golden Town no longer. They have sold their pillars for brass and their temples for money, they have made coins out of their golden doors. It is become a dark town full of trouble, there is no ease in its streets, beauty has left it and the old songs are gone." - Lord Dunsany, The Messengers
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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Hancox
    Someone once said, copywriting is salesmanship in print. In other words, writing copy is a combination of WRITING and SELLING.

    I'm just in the process of writing a series of blog articles on the skills required to be a copywriter, and so far I've got the following listed, as in little "hats" that a copywriter has to wear...

    Psychologist
    Researcher
    Information Gatherer
    Feature Converter
    Desire Magician
    Attention Grabber
    Shoewalker
    Salesperson

    For example, just the Psychologist "hat" is quite a big one. What makes people tick? What are the deeper reasons people buy $50,000 cars (for example)... it's not just because it gets them from A to B, is it? Why did a selection of 6 jams sell far more than 24 jams, in the classic jam experiment? Or why do some things sell better at a higher price?

    Just to wear the Psychologist "hat", I've had to read books like Influence by Robert Cialdini (for the weapons of influence), Persuasion Engineering (for the NLP angle) by Richard Bandler and John La Valle, The Science Of Influence (for more buying insights) by Kevin Hogan, Predictably Irrational (to show how and why buyers don't act rationally) by Dan Ariely, Time Lines (for reframing anything) by L Michael Hall... and so on.

    Copywriters need to know this stuff because it gives them insight into how people think and what really moves people to buy. It's like these books have taken a chisel to the buyer's brain!

    So you definitely can teach a writer to become a copywriter... it's just about developing the skills, and acquiring the right knowledge... and then practicing.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jo_Shua
      Originally Posted by Paul Hancox View Post

      Someone once said, copywriting is salesmanship in print. In other words, writing copy is a combination of WRITING and SELLING.

      I'm just in the process of writing a series of blog articles on the skills required to be a copywriter, and so far I've got the following listed, as in little "hats" that a copywriter has to wear...

      Psychologist
      Researcher
      Information Gatherer
      Feature Converter
      Desire Magician
      Attention Grabber
      Shoewalker
      Salesperson

      For example, just the Psychologist "hat" is quite a big one. What makes people tick? What are the deeper reasons people buy $50,000 cars (for example)... it's not just because it gets them from A to B, is it? Why did a selection of 6 jams sell far more than 24 jams, in the classic jam experiment? Or why do some things sell better at a higher price?

      Just to wear the Psychologist "hat", I've had to read books like Influence by Robert Cialdini (for the weapons of influence), Persuasion Engineering (for the NLP angle) by Richard Bandler and John La Valle, The Science Of Influence (for more buying insights) by Kevin Hogan, Predictably Irrational (to show how and why buyers don't act rationally) by Dan Ariely, Time Lines (for reframing anything) by L Michael Hall... and so on.

      Copywriters need to know this stuff because it gives them insight into how people think and what really moves people to buy. It's like these books have taken a chisel to the buyer's brain!

      So you definitely can teach a writer to become a copywriter... it's just about developing the skills, and acquiring the right knowledge... and then practicing.
      I just started reading Cashvertising by Drew Whitman. It is a great read so far! Cialdini's book and Kevin Hogan's book are on my list to read next.

      When you finish your blog posts let us know. It will be an interesting read
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  • Profile picture of the author ecoverartist
    I think that at some point, there's a foundation for natural talent there, but continuing to learn the trade and PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE is what makes the difference. If you have a natural talent for writing, you'll probably go farther than someone who doesn't - but only if you don't rest on your laurels and keep learning.
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  • Profile picture of the author keivn2
    By the way, does reading and hand-copy people's sales letter/article/copywriting help in the progress of learning?
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  • Profile picture of the author activetrader
    I think it's a learn skill. I knew nothing about copywriting when I started. Now I have decent conversions from my own copy (after re-writing several of my sales pages several times I have noticed that simple rewriting of the headline can increase conversions by 5 to 10 times)
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