How to Practice Copywriting
Czech-American tennis player Ivan Lendl once said, "If I don't practice the way I should, then I won't play the way I know that I can."
Copywriters should take a page from Lendl's book.
Generate ideas, study the greats, and set aside time to create! In other words, play the way you know that you can.
Use these nine exercises to improve on and practice copywriting every chance you get.
One of the most popular ways of practicing copywriting is through basic handwriting. Copy sales letters and other professional copywriting by hand.
As Science Daily notes, when you write by hand, your brain connects more with your motor skills than when you're typing.
You see a phrase, read it, write it, re-read it as you write it, rinse, and repeat. It really helps you understand the choices the writer made.
Find examples of high-selling sales copy and use this method to internalize things like vocabulary, sentence length, how writers sell benefits instead of features, and how long they make each paragraph.
Writing by hand gives you the time to do this.
You can find examples of high-selling copy by searching online, reading books, or observing sales letters from direct marketing companies.
Emails that get you to click open are also highly effective examples.
2. Create Ads on Spec
What's great about the world of advertising is that it's very results-driven. You don't necessarily need a formal degree or even a copywriting certificate to get started.
You just need to show that you can sell and make your own spec portfolio.
Some companies won't hire you without experience, but experience is easy to get when you create ads "on spec." That means you write examples for free to show what you can do.
To get started, find live ads you believe you could improve. As you begin, actively analyze the choices the other writer made on sales approach, word choice, white space, length, and design.
You don't have to send anything you produce. Just keep practicing until you're confident you're ready.
Anyone can write. However, few make a living at it. To be one of them, you have to be a great reader.
Sit down and make a list that includes both the classics of craft and current trends.
Draw from a number of sources. Here are some good starting "textbooks":
Just save any advertisement that catches your eye, read it, and break it down by its components from the headline and lead to body and conclusion.
4. Practice Headlines
Great headlines are easier to write than you think. Just remember two things: repetition and the rule of threes.
The first, repetition, means sitting down and writing multiple headlines per day. It's okay if you write some bad stuff. With practice, the science of the headline becomes more instinctual.
That brings us to the rule of threes—as in, every great headline is composed of three basic elements. It needs what you plan to accomplish ("Grow E-Commerce Sales"), the metric you will measure it by ("By 25 Percent In One Year"), and the how ("Following These 5 Easy Steps").
Embrace the science of the headline. Apply it to the industries in which you hope to work. If you need help getting started, visit some of the top blogs in your industry and see how high-ranking sites are doing it.
You can also check out these 10 great headlines from classic advertisements. As much as copywriting trends can change, these headlines would work in any era.
5. Experiment With Leads
Honing your copywriting skills goes beyond writing great headlines. Deliver with a dynamite opening that fulfills the promise of the headline, and readers will stay with you for thousands of words.
There are many templates you can use to capture a reader's interest. Ask a question: "What if this happened to you?" "Did you know that everything you thought you knew about such-and-such is a lie?"
Shocking statistics are also a popular way to hook readers and not let go. ("Before you make it to the end of this article, two of the 10 people closest to you will have contemplated suicide.")
Famous quotes are also easy to find and incorporate into sales copy. Ralph Ellison, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck are just a few of the many sources from which to draw.
Something all these individuals have in common is storytelling. They're great at it because they're able to tap into their readers' emotions.
They paint pictures with words and imagery and an underlying message that resonates with why their audience picked up their books in the first place.
There's definitely a place for that in copywriting once you come to thoroughly understand your audience and their pain points.
6. Swipe Right
No, we're not talking about dating apps. We're talking about creating a swipe file that you can turn to time and again to repeat the processes we're detailing throughout this piece.
Save the emails that made you open. Look for thoughtful customer reviews on Amazon (usually the three-star reviews because they're the most evenly balanced).
Snatch up all the control letters that you can. In copywriting lingo, a "control" is a company's most active sales letter. It's the one that draws the greatest number of responses or conversions.
With each swipe file example, break it down word-by-word, line-by-line, and paragraph-by-paragraph.
7. Read Features of Popular Products or Services
Another easy way to find writing inspiration is to go to a product's sales page on an e-commerce store like Amazon. Ignore everything on the page but the features section.
Features are the parts of the product. On their own, they're meaningless words on a page. They only take on life when the customer can see how those benefits will improve their lives.
So, to practice your skills, isolate those product features and "translate" each one into a specific benefit. If a home theater projector has the highest lumens available, for instance, don't leave it at that.
Explain to the homeowner how the projector won't just project a clear, crisp image. It will bring the movie theater into their living room.
8. Seek Feedback
Another major value of copywriting courses is that they force you to workshop your copy in front of other writers. This can feel intimidating, but it teaches you to accept criticism and do something about it.
Look, no writer is perfect.
One survey of novelists that The Writer magazine conducted found that each author goes through about 10 drafts of a book before it's ready for publication.
You might not be writing the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, but you are writing copy that has the power to convert readers into customers. Your words can be responsible for potentially millions of dollars in revenue.
For that to happen, it will need to connect with a large assortment of people who share common interests. It will have to do so despite the fact there are many competitors for their money out there looking to beat you at your own game.
Get feedback! It's the only way to know you're not leaving any benefits on the table or failing to address important pain points.
9. Practice Editing
Bad editors are bad writers. In fact, refusing to edit or glossing it over by expecting Grammarly to do it for you doesn't make you a writer at all.
That's because quality writing is re-writing.
Writing copy you're proud of requires you to be ruthless about what you've written. Make each word prove it belongs.
Some helpful tricks include reading your work out loud, searching for "-ly" and eliminating each use through deleting the adverbs and substituting with more descriptive copy, and reading your copy backwards from the last sentence to the first to ensure each idea flows logically from the last.
Only When You Practice Copywriting Can Mastery Be Achieved
As amazing of a career as this is, there is no substitute for hard work. You have to practice copywriting each and every day, even when you don't have any projects, to keep your skills sharp.
Reading great copy, analyzing it, imitating it, and transforming into your own harshest critic during the revision stage will help separate you from the mediocre.
Enrolling in a course or ad school that teaches copywriting will force you to do more writing and less theorizing. The further you go into coursework, the deeper your connections will be. You'll meet serious professionals at all skill levels, branding professionals, and might even walk away with a mentor or two.
If you're just starting out, a beginner's course is a good way to become familiar with the industry, its most in-demand niches, and how to write the different types of deliverables (i.e., ebooks, online courses, social media advertorials, direct mail sales letters, etc.).
Advanced courses will provide more one-on-one training and mentorship. Thankfully, it's easy to get started no matter where you are in life.
We can get you up to speed with our Copywriting To Go course right now. Click here to start.