Have you tried to learn copywriting by reading books, blog posts and watching videos?

And somehow things just didn’t click? You might have an idea of how it works but the information seems a bit disconnected. Everyone is telling you to do this; don’t do that. Leaving you feeling lost in the mumbo jumbo of it all.

If you have, then don’t worry. It’s not your fault. 

It’s a skill that very few people truly understand and possess and even fewer know it exists.

However, learning copywriting doesn’t have to be difficult. It is quite simple if you learn to follow a proven process. But before we dive deeper into this process, let’s first define what copywriting is and why it’s in such high demand.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is the ability to use the written word to persuade someone to take an action.

Now that could be to respond to an email message you wrote. It could be to purchase your product or service. It could be to “click here” or “buy this” on your website or take some sort of action. 

Copywriting comes in all different shapes and sizes. Take a look around you. It’s everywhere. Every email message, Facebook Ad, landing page, Youtube Ad, TV commercial, movie script, billboard sign, sales letter you see is copy. I can literally go on and on.

And behind every product you buy and every piece of copy you see, there is a copywriter. That copywriter came up with the concept, wrote the message and persuaded you to make a purchase all with the power of the written word.

How I Got Started As A Copywriter

My first mentor, Alan Jacques, introduced this skill of copywriting to me. For about a year, I worked under him for little to no pay. 

Every day I was licking envelopes to send out these direct mail letters offering different products and services to help people solve a problem.

We sent out thousands and thousands of these letters. And a percentage of the people we sent them to would send us back an envelope with an order form or reply with a check or a money order. 

What’s so fascinating about this was that we were sending out these letters to people we have never met or talked to before and here they were buying something from us. 

I was stunned; completely blown away. From that point on, I was hooked. That’s how powerful this skill is. As Alan had told me, “It’s a skill that once you master it, you will never have to worry about money again.” 

He said, “Copywriters are among some of the highest-paid people in the world.”

After working for Alan, I went out to start my own one-man advertising agency. Within the span of one year, I went from making $1,000 to over $10,000 a month. And I did this without changing the amount of work I was already doing. 

Before I knew Alan, I was struggling financially with nearly $150,000 in debt so being able to make $10,000 from the comfort of my own home was a lot to me. 

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My Definition Of Copywriting

Now, after all these years, as I honed in on developing my high-income skills in copywriting and closing, among my other skills, I think I’ve been able to refine the definition of copywriting. 

Here it is: Copywriting is closing in print. That’s right. You heard me correctly.  It’s the ability to persuade, influence, and engage. It is not about writing. It is about closing and being able to sell. 

Copywriting isn't about writing. It’s about closing and being able to sell. Click To Tweet

If it was about “writing” or academic writing, then all the college professors and all the English teachers would be successful copywriters.

But that’s not the case. Let me give you a perfect example from my mentor’s mentor, Gary Halbert, famously known as one of the greatest copywriters of all time. 

He said, “Claude Hopkins (the greatest ad man who ever lived) was asked to critique and offer suggestions on how to improve some college textbooks on advertising. His suggestion?

…Burn Them!”

You see, copywriting has nothing to do with “writing”. Now, your next question might be, “Well Dan, all of this sounds great! But how do you go about learning copywriting?”

Maybe you want to learn copywriting because you know how much income you could generate as a copywriter, if you’re good, without a college degree or a lot of capital. Maybe you know that you can work when you want, with whom you want, and from anywhere you want. 

All of this is true. But like I said earlier, if you want to learn copywriting, you need to first follow a proven process. 

So let’s get started.

1. Commit To Become A Lifelong Learner 

First, you want to start with reading the classics and learning the basic principles of copywriting that are known to work. If you’re already thinking about skipping this step then please stop reading here and don’t waste your time. If not, then please continue.

Here is a list of books I’d like you to start reading:

“The Adweek Copywriting Handbook”  – by Joseph Sugarman

“Scientific Advertising”  – by Claude Hopkins

“Ogilvy On Advertising”  – by David Ogilvy

“The Gary Halbert Letter”  – by Gary Halbert

“Great Leads”  – by Michael Masterson & John Forde

“The Boron Letters”  – by Gary Halbert 

“How To Write A Good Advertisement”  – by Victor Schwab

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Now, this is a small sample of books that will be well worth your time but it doesn’t mean you should stop here. Make it a habit to always be learning.

Keep in mind that it’s one thing to read books but another to use books. I prefer to use books. As you’re reading, learn to take a few key concepts and put them into practice. 

Also, try to get your hands on any copy or sales letters that were written by some of these Hall of Fame copywriters and read them too: Joe Karbo, Gary Bencivenga, John Caples, Eugene Schwartz, John Carlton, Gary Halbert, and Joseph Sugarman. A good place to look is at: swiped.co 

2. Build Your Foundation With Copywriting Fundamentals 

Once you’ve done all the things above, you need to focus on one of the most basic but powerful practices in copywriting. And that is:

Handcopying.

When I say to handcopy, I literally mean “handcopy” with nothing but a pen and some paper.

Every time I tell people to do this, I’m bombarded with this question: Can I type it out? 

The answer is NO. There is NO shortcut for this. 

I remember when Alan had taught me this secret. He told me that he had asked several people to do this simple task but no one did it except for two.

And one of them was me, Dan Lok. They said it was too much work and that’s part of the reason they never became successful copywriters. 

Now, what I would like you to do is handcopy the successful sales letters you found that were written by the copywriters I listed for you. But the key here is to write it out not once but twice. Or more if you’d like but at least twice.

You might be wondering why I’m asking you to do this. The purpose is to imprint the writer’s style and flow into your brain. Ideally, internalizing their voice so that when you craft your own piece of copy, you’ll be able to inject their voice into your writing. 

A 2009 and 2015 study suggests that the physical act of handwriting with a pen actually increased memory recall and recognition of words better than typing on a keyboard.

So remember if you want to become a good copywriter, put your pen to paper and copy those sales letters slowly and thoroughly. 

3. Steal From “Hall Of Fame” Copywriters

The third step you need to do is build your own swipe file. A swipe file is like a “personal copy vault” for you to store winning sales copy or any piece of copy that really moves you.

It can be as simple as a headline that grabs your attention or a successful sales letter that you want to study. Whatever the case, your swipe file is there for you to house all the copy you’ve collected. 

All great copywriters and those who are serious students of copywriting all have some form of a swipe file. Something I like to do is collect both physical and digital pieces of copy, like in a binder or a separate email account. 

I probably have 60 to 70 binders in my personal library that I’ve collected over the years filled with some of the best-kept secrets in copywriting, proven campaigns and winning pieces that have generated millions of dollars in revenue.

Sometimes I even have entrepreneurs who pay me $10,000 just to sit in my library to study my swipe file.

I use it to get ideas and inspiration when I need to write a new campaign.

Take Your Pick Cafeteria-Style

Now as a beginner, because you may not have a lot of experience, you want to look at other people’s work. That might be an email, a landing page, a letter or marketing message, a catalog, full-page ads, and much more. 

When you study other people’s work, you’ll start picking up patterns. Click To Tweet

So when you need to write that sales message, for example, the last thing you want to do is sit down at your desk, turn on your computer and stare at a blank screen for hours trying to come up with ideas off the top of your head. 

That’s very difficult to do and that’s not what professional copywriters do. Professional copywriters will have their swipe file to refer back to. 

Let’s say you need to write a campaign for a supplement product. Instead of trying to think and say “I’ll sell it this way and this will be the offer,” approach it like this:

Refer back to your swipe file and ask yourself, “In the last 5 to 10 years, what are some of the proven ads and what are some of the proven offers selling this similar product that I could look at?”

You might find a headline that works. An angle that works. Or bullets that works. So then you can change the angle or come up with something similar to compliment the supplement product you’re selling. 

So you see, it’s not about creativity for the sake of creativity. You don’t want to be thinking, “Oh I want to come up with an awesome idea that no one has ever thought of.” That’s just a reckless way of thinking. 

One of the mistakes I see most writers make is they have this misconception that copywriting is a creative activity. They think it has to do with playing around with words.

But what they don’t know is that copywriting is a mechanical activity. Words do play a role but it all starts with the thinking behind the words.

What Are The Magic Building Blocks

Now moving on, after you’ve created your swipe file, you want to take a sales letter you like and break it down into its building blocks:

  1. Headline
  2. Opening
  3. Credentials
  4. Offer
  5. Bullets
  6. Testimonials 
  7. Valid Justification
  8. Risk Reversal (Guarantee)
  9. Call To Action
  10. Urgency 

What you want to do is to study the structure and analyze it. Ask yourself. 

What is the purpose? What makes each element stand out? How does it enhance the rest of the copy? What’s the primary promise? What are the features and benefits? How is it organized? What emotional triggers are at play? How does it build credibility and trust? What action do they want the reader to take?

The key here is to see what has been proven to work. What made the sales message successful? What can you take from the sales copy and apply it to your own copy? 

As you study more and more sales messages, you’ll realize that good copywriters copy but great copywriters steal. But what exactly does that mean?

I don’t mean that you should take what you like and copy it word for word. No. Don’t do that. That would be considered plagiarism.

What you should do instead is steal the thinking behind the copy, not the words. It’s very important that you understand this distinction. 

So be smart about building your swipe file and studying other people’s work. 

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4. Become A Master Researcher & Psychologist

When it comes to copywriting, one of the most important parts of the process is research. 

Before you ever write a single word, research should always come first. As a general rule, you want to spend 80% of your time researching and 20% of your time writing.

As a general rule, you want to spend 80% of your time researching and 20% of your time writing. Click To Tweet

Now, one of the mistakes I see a lot of beginner copywriters make is, they get super excited and they can’t wait to jump onto their laptop or grab a pen and some sheets of paper to start writing. That’s not what you want to do. 

You want to spend a majority of your time researching your prospect and digging deep into learning about their frustrations, their deepest pain points, their unfulfilled desires, and their goals. Figure out where they want to be. 

Once you know a lot about your prospect, you’ll have a much easier time crafting a message that enters the conversation in their mind and speaks directly to them. It should effortlessly resonate with them.

If you do your research right, when you actually sit down to write that copy, you’ll be amazed at how much faster it is to write it.

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How Do You Do Your Research

There are many ways to do research on your prospect, but here are two of my suggestions:

The Slow Way

With this method, you can start by looking at online reviews, like on Amazon. You can use Facebook as a research tool by joining groups that your ideal customers are a part of. If you want to look at specific data and statistics, Facebook Analytics is available. 

You can also use online forums like Reddit and Quora to find out what kind of questions people are asking.

Sometimes they’ll share some very personal stories, which is great because you add that to your copy and they will think, “Wow, it’s like they’re reading my mind.” Although it’s a useful tool, avoid being too dependent on it.  

Reviewing blog comment sections is another great option to see what concerns and frustrations people have as well. 

The Fast Way

This method is actually my favorite. You can simply go talk directly with your ideal customer and get a deeper understanding of what they’re thinking. The great thing about this is not only can you ask questions but you can transcribe their response and turn it into copy. 

I hope by now you can see how crucial it is to understand human nature and human psychology as a copywriter. Figuring out what motivates people to take action and why people buy is not an easy thing to do. 

That’s why copywriters are in very high demand. Businesses and companies are hungry for great copywriters and they are always in need of more. But the problem is that great copywriters are hard to come by. 

5. Write, Write, Write

The only way to become a good copywriter is to actually sit down and write. Take everything you’ve learned here so far and implement it. Try writing your first piece of copy. Start with writing short-form copy first, like an email message or a squeeze page, to get someone to opt in to an email list.   

When in doubt, write. Click To Tweet

6. Test, Test, Test

In copywriting, there is no such thing as failure, there’s only testing. A quick test you can do to see if your copy is any good is to give it to a stranger to read. They can respond in one of three ways:

  1. “Wait, what? I’m confused.”
  2. “Hey, you know what this sounds pretty good.”
  3. “Here’s my credit card! Take my money.”

If you get response (1), your copy is not good. If you get response (2), it’s still not good. If you get response (3), then congratulations your copy passed the test. 

As a copywriter, you are in the revenue-generating business. If your copy sells, then it works. If it can push people to take action, then it works. It’s as simple as that. 

In copywriting, there’s no such thing as failure, there’s only testing. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, the process I have shown you here is only the tip of the iceberg. Learning copywriting actually goes way deeper. And if I were to write it all out here in this blog post right now, it would be nearly impossible. 

The Missing Piece

Now, with copywriting, it’s something that you need to have someone who knows what they’re doing to transfer that skill to you. 

It is very, very difficult to just watch a video and say, “Oh, I’m going to learn copywriting.”

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I always like to compare copywriting to martial arts. With martial arts, you can watch videos and have an idea about how to do certain moves. But how do you actually learn martial arts?

Well, you have to go to school. You have to go to a dojo. You have to have a sifu or an instructor to show you the techniques. As you practice the techniques, your sifu will give you feedback and help you correct the form.

And eventually, you’ll be able to execute the same form in the same way. That’s how it works in martial arts. 

I believe learning copywriting and becoming a copywriter is very much the same way. So if learning copywriting is something you are considering, I could shave at least 5 to 10 years off your learning curve. 

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