What do you wish you'd known as a new copywriter?

27 replies
While I'm working, I'm also learning as I go, and I'm really enjoying drawing from the experience of everyone in this forum.

So I'd love to pose a question to those of you who have been in the industry for a while:

What one thing do you wish you'd have known as a new copywriter?

Is there a business lesson you learnt, a 'secret sauce' writing lesson, or anything at all which came along later on in your journey and would have made a difference if you'd have known it sooner?

I know there's no substitute for personal experience and everyone's different, but it's always good to hear some tips and tricks of the trade and how the journey has progressed for others.

#copywriter #experience
  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    You do NOT need permission to be an expert. If you know just 10% more than the next person, you ARE an expert. If you can teach them something they don't know, you are an expert. Own your expertise, build value around it, and CHARGE ACCORDINGLY.
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    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

      You do NOT need permission to be an expert. If you know just 10% more than the next person, you ARE an expert. If you can teach them something they don't know, you are an expert. Own your expertise, build value around it, and CHARGE ACCORDINGLY.
      Thank you for your relevant comment, Angie. Perhaps this is something that every new copywriter struggles with as it's my biggest issue at the moment. I think my inexperience only warrants a low rate, but I know that this is selling myself, and other copywriters, short.

      I am working on documenting the value that my service can bring to a company so any suggestions surrounding this would be much appreciated, perhaps in a different thread.

      Thanks so much again for your insight.
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    • Profile picture of the author RichBeck
      Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

      You do NOT need permission to be an expert. If you know just 10% more than the next person, you ARE an expert. If you can teach them something they don't know, you are an expert. Own your expertise, build value around it, and CHARGE ACCORDINGLY.
      Angie beat me too it....

      I remember Frank Kern saying, "No one needs to anoint you as an expert." That is so VERY true.

      Put yourself out there as an expert... and continually gain more knowledge and experience in your area of expertise.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    The relative value of articles, books, and courses about copywriting vs working with a good coach.

    If I had worked with a good coach from the very beginning, my progress would have been significantly expedited.

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author gingerninjas
    Don't be afraid of feedback, it can actually save you months or even years and fine tune your skills. I wish I had been less frightened and more open to this and also taken more notice of the enormous amounts of knowledge out there available for new copywriters. I was a bit pig headed at first, wish I was a little more open..
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    • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
      There are two things I wish i'd knew:

      1. Opening myself to new ideas and information. When I started, I was so miser to give away my email address to pros of my niche; as if I know everything. The more you think you have learned everything, the more foolish you become. Even a 10 year old can give us an advise worth remembering. We just need to open our brains and souls for new information, opinions and ideas to sink in. This is the best way we can improve.
      2. Clarity. I was not clear of my goals. It took me a long time to understand that I have to focus on one niche instead of trying to grab a chunk out of everything. With so much noise in the internet world, I was confused what to opt for. Only if i'd knew its all about achieving MASTERY in ONE thing at a time :/
      Nice question.
      Thanks
      Junaid
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      • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
        Originally Posted by Junaid khawaja View Post

        There are two things I wish i'd knew:

        1. Opening myself to new ideas and information. When I started, I was so miser to give away my email address to pros of my niche; as if I know everything. The more you think you have learned everything, the more foolish you become. Even a 10 year old can give us an advise worth remembering. We just need to open our brains and souls for new information, opinions and ideas to sink in. This is the best way we can improve.
        2. Clarity. I was not clear of my goals. It took me a long time to understand that I have to focus on one niche instead of trying to grab a chunk out of everything. With so much noise in the internet world, I was confused what to opt for. Only if i'd knew its all about achieving MASTERY in ONE thing at a time :/
        Nice question.
        Thanks
        Junaid
        That's interesting, thanks for your response, Junaid.
        Do you mean that you just write for one industry now? Or a variety of industries but only in one format? I am interested in what you write as I've also been through a phase of writing anything and everything, and I believe that others in this forum have too from previous threads that I've read.
        I'd love to know how you fine-tuned your niche.
        Thanks for your reply!
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        • Profile picture of the author Junaid khawaja
          Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

          That's interesting, thanks for your response, Junaid.
          Do you mean that you just write for one industry now? Or a variety of industries but only in one format? I am interested in what you write as I've also been through a phase of writing anything and everything, and I believe that others in this forum have too from previous threads that I've read.
          I'd love to know how you fine-tuned your niche.
          Thanks for your reply!
          Hi, what I meant by lacking clarity was the way I was following tides. One day, I wanted to be a web designer, the other day I jump over to the perks of blogging.

          I started with web designing initially, learning html and css (at home), coded a 200-page website in a year, only to find that google blocked it due to a DCMA notice.

          Then I learned - "weight loss" is a great money making niche - I went for it creating a blog, only to find out I am not an expert in fitness.

          Fast forward...(some success stories)

          I finally settled myself on copywriting. But I still believe there is a lot more to learn. A lot more to come. Thanks for raising such a nice question!
          Junaid
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          I am conducting 5 FREE copy consultations till New Year...Jump onto my bandwagon while you still can..

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    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by gingerninjas View Post

      Don't be afraid of feedback, it can actually save you months or even years and fine tune your skills. I wish I had been less frightened and more open to this and also taken more notice of the enormous amounts of knowledge out there available for new copywriters. I was a bit pig headed at first, wish I was a little more open..
      Thanks, Ginger.
      I agree with this wholeheartedly and in my earlier years, I took negative feedback very personally. I am much more equipped to deal with it now, but it is still an area that needs work. Once I learnt that someone not liking my copy didn't mean that they didn't like me, I became much better at accepting criticism!

      Learning to emotionally detach from my copy is another recent lesson I've learnt and this does offer some relief too.

      Thanks for your helpful comment
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      • Profile picture of the author RichBeck
        Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

        Thanks, Ginger.
        I agree with this wholeheartedly and in my earlier years, I took negative feedback very personally. I am much more equipped to deal with it now, but it is still an area that needs work. Once I learnt that someone not liking my copy didn't mean that they didn't like me, I became much better at accepting criticism!

        Learning to emotionally detach from my copy is another recent lesson I've learnt and this does offer some relief too.

        Thanks for your helpful comment
        Defining it as "negative feedback" will usually make you have bad feelings about yourself, your work or your clients. You really don't want that.

        All feedback is good....

        If that feedback is you need to improve in an area.... Then, work on that area.
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        • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
          Originally Posted by RichBeck View Post

          Defining it as "negative feedback" will usually make you have bad feelings about yourself, your work or your clients. You really don't want that.

          All feedback is good....

          If that feedback is you need to improve in an area.... Then, work on that area.
          Slip of the tongue (fingertips), I meant constructive criticism; I agree with you and don't believe that any feedback is negative and it's always an opportunity to learn (even if what you're learning is that some people won't ever be pleased )
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          • Profile picture of the author RichBeck
            Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

            Slip of the tongue (fingertips), I meant constructive criticism; I agree with you and don't believe that any feedback is negative and it's always an opportunity to learn (even if what you're learning is that some people won't ever be pleased )
            As soon as you discover you're dealing with a Client who cannot be pleased, I suggest firing him or her immediately... I've never seen even one of these situations end in good way.
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  • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
    spend time on getting low paying clients, or the same time on getting the work where payment is never an issue for them.

    Also, 80/20 (Pareto) on writing/learning. Learn as you WRITE.

    Find ONE teacher; guru, teacher or coach...which resonates with your goals, has written on subjects you want to write on, and follow instructions.

    Ongoing education is essential, but, not in the beginning, noobs get confused and overwhelmed with all the different advice, formulas and methods.

    Stick with ONE way until you start seeing results and then add to your knowledge base (this goes against most copywriting advice, I know).

    LEARN the business, you need to know your place in their business, and if hiring a copywriter is one of the last things they think about or do...instead of one of the first things...don't take the job.

    But #1 is...The TIME you spend will never return to you, so be extremely protective of it and use time to build, but not on a beach owned by someone else, where the tides can wipe you out.

    GordonJ




    Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

    While I'm working, I'm also learning as I go, and I'm really enjoying drawing from the experience of everyone in this forum.

    So I'd love to pose a question to those of you who have been in the industry for a while:

    What one thing do you wish you'd have known as a new copywriter?

    Is there a business lesson you learnt, a 'secret sauce' writing lesson, or anything at all which came along later on in your journey and would have made a difference if you'd have known it sooner?

    I know there's no substitute for personal experience and everyone's different, but it's always good to hear some tips and tricks of the trade and how the journey has progressed for others.

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10763052].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by GordonJ View Post


      But #1 is...The TIME you spend will never return to you, so be extremely protective of it and use time to build, but not on a beach owned by someone else, where the tides can wipe you out.

      GordonJ
      Yes, yes and yes! Thank you, Gordon J.
      I can already see how important it is to have your own beach
      It is hard knowing how best to allocate your time when there are only so many hours in the day. It is a good skill to find a balance between beach-building and playing in the sand.
      Great analogy, thank you for your insight!
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  • Profile picture of the author gurutard
    No matter how much you want to charge, someone, somewhere out there is willing to pay it. I know copywriters making $1+ a word. And they have no problem getting clients. So don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. And if you find a comfortable price range, don't listen to people who say you should be charging more. If you're happy charging, say, ten cents a work, then more power to you.
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    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by gurutard View Post

      No matter how much you want to charge, someone, somewhere out there is willing to pay it. I know copywriters making $1+ a word. And they have no problem getting clients. So don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. And if you find a comfortable price range, don't listen to people who say you should be charging more. If you're happy charging, say, ten cents a work, then more power to you.
      Thank you, good tip.
      I don't currently charge per word, however it's good to know that through your experience, there are people willing to pay that rate! I will definitely bear that in mind for the future.
      Thanks for your advice!
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  • Profile picture of the author [RyanMilligan]
    Banned
    Everyone can be taught something by somebody. Could be something life changing - could be something small. Nobody knows everything.
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  • I started writing direct response flyers for my first business back in 1993. BUT I did not know, what I was writing was a direct response style of advertising.

    2 things I wished I'd known. Where to get "The Robert Collier Letter Book" & "Breakthrough Advertising".

    Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

    What one thing do you wish you'd have known as a new copywriter?
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    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post


      Where to get "The Robert Collier Letter Book" & "Breakthrough Advertising".
      Thanks for these recommendations, I have added "The Robert Collier Letter Book" to my Amazon wishlist but "Breakthrough Advertising" seems to be a little harder to find. I'll keep searching because the synopsis looks great.

      Thanks again!
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      • I just sent you a PM.

        Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

        Thanks for these recommendations, I have added "The Robert Collier Letter Book" to my Amazon wishlist but "Breakthrough Advertising" seems to be a little harder to find. I'll keep searching because the synopsis looks great.

        Thanks again!
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      • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
        Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

        Thanks for these recommendations, I have added "The Robert Collier Letter Book" to my Amazon wishlist but "Breakthrough Advertising" seems to be a little harder to find. I'll keep searching because the synopsis looks great.

        Thanks again!
        Brian Kurtz still sells new copies of "Breakthrough Advertising". He recently stated that anyone wanting to buy a copy should contact him via his email address.

        Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author gurutard
    Here's another one: you do not have to take every client that comes along. I took on some horrible clients out of desperation and wound up being so stressed out the money that they paid me wasn't worth it. Now I carefully screen my clients. I don't want to work with anyone who isn't a good fit for me. Even at the prices I charge I still get people who want to micromanage or are rude to me. I don't have to put up with that. So I don't.
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    • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
      Originally Posted by gurutard View Post

      Here's another one: you do not have to take every client that comes along. I took on some horrible clients out of desperation and wound up being so stressed out the money that they paid me wasn't worth it. Now I carefully screen my clients. I don't want to work with anyone who isn't a good fit for me. Even at the prices I charge I still get people who want to micromanage or are rude to me. I don't have to put up with that. So I don't.
      Yes, I'm already aware that there are some people who are better to work with than others. How do you screen them in those initial conversations, or do you just trust your gut?
      Also, how do you tell someone who's willing to pay you money that you don't want to take it?
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      • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
        Originally Posted by wordsandthebees View Post

        Yes, I'm already aware that there are some people who are better to work with than others. How do you screen them in those initial conversations, or do you just trust your gut?
        Also, how do you tell someone who's willing to pay you money that you don't want to take it?
        Let me take it to extremes so the connection's clearer:

        If someone came up to you and offered you money for sex, would you take it?

        Would you feel skeeved out? Would you have to talk yourself into the reasons WHY you should take it and minimize all the reasons you should NOT take it? Would taking it potentially make you feel crappy about that decision later on?

        The point is that just because someone offers doesn't mean you have to accept.

        Yes, trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling, remind yourself that there are other clients out there happy to hand over money to a skilled professional - you just need to go find them instead of wasting your time with someone who's sending up red flags your mind can't yet identify but your gut's screaming NO NO NO HELL NO DON'T LIKE THIS ONE.

        An easy way to turn them down? "Hey, it looks like my schedule's full" or "You know based on what you need at the moment, I don't think I'm the right writer for the job".

        It doesn't have to be **** YOU AND YOUR MONEY ASSHOLE I DON'T NEED THIS SHIT.

        Just be a pro, ya know?
        Signature

        Aspiring copywriters: if you need 1:1 advice from an experienced copy chief, head over to my Phone a Friend page.

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        • Profile picture of the author wordsandthebees
          Originally Posted by angiecolee View Post

          Let me take it to extremes so the connection's clearer:


          Yes, trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling, remind yourself that there are other clients out there happy to hand over money to a skilled professional - you just need to go find them instead of wasting your time with someone who's sending up red flags your mind can't yet identify but your gut's screaming NO NO NO HELL NO DON'T LIKE THIS ONE.



          Just be a pro, ya know?
          Thanks Angie,

          I am learning very quickly that if I choose to accept the crappy jobs with the painful clients, my time is taken away from the attractive prospects who pay good money, on time; and respect my services.

          Thanks for the advice, my confidence is growing daily with the support and input of experienced copywriters such as yourself.

          Much appreciated
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  • Profile picture of the author semalaia4n
    The Copywriters know that if the headline is weak and the ad will never get read...
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  • I wish I had never succumbed to the red braces an' the pipe.

    Prolly it was never a good look, but such is the lure of iconography when ur slipstreamin' on a dream.

    Experience has since taught me there are better waysa settin' fire to your own hair an' weaponizin' your apparel.

    Accordin' to Cosmo, my life so far has been a "learning curve" in this respect -- an' I am cool with that.

    Not so cool with Cosmo's doobiously borin' horoscopes...
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    Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff togethah.

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