(Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for books.)
So, you want to learn copywriting online.
Well, the bad news is… I will not be your personal teacher. I have no products or courses to sell to you.
The good news? You can learn copywriting online and become “average” at it – on your own. Average is good enough if you’re just starting out and have no-one else to guide you. Average will get you enough results.
And this article will get you going in the right direction.
- What is Copywriting?
- How Does Copywriting Work?
- Resources: How to Learn Copywriting Online
- How to Practice
1. What is Copywriting?
Before anyone else steers you wrong, let’s get this part clear.
Copywriting is salesmanship in print. It’s writing designed to get a user to take action. To buy. To convert. To subscribe. To hit that like button. Or to leave feedback.
Copywriting is used in…
- Sales emails, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Facebook Posts, Posters, TV Advertisements, Ads inside Magazines, Mail… and anything that requires response or action.
The goal of copywriting is…
— not to entertain
— not to be cute and clever
— not to express yourself through creative writing
The goal is to get the reader to take action. Why? Because action gets signups. Action turns into purchase. Purchase means your copy worked. And that means you’re good enough.
Now, your next question may be “great, but how do I get someone do take action? People are lazy!”
Glad you asked!
2. How Does Copywriting Work?
Alright, so why should anyone take action?
Well, why are you here? Clearly you’re interested in copywriting and want answers. In other words, you’re here for a benefit, right?
Well, that’s how copywriting works.
- You offer a benefit.
- You persuade a reader to get the benefit.
- If they take action, congratulations, your copy works.
So, take a look at some concepts that make copywriting work.
You know how people like to ask “what’s in it for me?”
Well, listen up.
Big rule of marketing, salesmanship, advertising and human nature that you must remember: people are interested in themselves. They don’t care about you or your product or your story.
They care about themselves until…
…you can offer a benefit that is interesting to them.
Yes, people will read an advertisement if it has a compelling benefit. And behind every good ad is what…? That’s right, an irresistible offer or benefit.
In fact, the benefit (or offer) is what carries the whole thing. If you have a bad benefit (bad deal, bad offer, bad product, however you want to phrase it), even great copywriting can’t sell it. But bad writing still can sell a good deal.
So, give “something” that’s “in it for them.”
Example of Benefits/Offers.
- Learn a language fast.
- Get this book for free.
- Learn how to “(some skill that you really want to have)” in 30 minutes
- Lose weight with these 5 3-minute exercises.
- Cure your itchiness.
All of these offers offer some kind of benefit to the reader. And if you target the right reader with the right offer… you have a strong chance of making a sale.
Ignore this at your own peril.
“Get your free 7-day trial.”
“Your internet is free for the first month.”
“Your rent is free for the first month.”
“Buy 1, get 1 free.”
Promise people something for free and you have their attention.
This “Free” goes back to the “Benefit.” Getting things for free, especially things of value, is a benefit, is it not?
What else works?
“Act fast! Sale ends midnight tonight.”
Now, if you take an offer and add some urgency… if you give them a reason to act now instead of later (never), then someone is more likely to buy.
“Act now! We’re running out of widgets so don’t miss out.”
Just like in school. No-one did their reports 2 weeks before the due date. We all waited until the last day.
Which brings us to another element.
People tend to want things that they can’t have.
And they tend to move a little faster if things are selling out.
Why? It means they’re about to lose their opportunity to get some offer or benefit. But, if the “opportunity” to get some “benefit” was NOT running out, they’d take their merry time.
So, “act now, there are just 5 widgets left.” “We only have enough for the first 20 customers. First come, first served.”
E) Call To Action.
Call now. Act now. Join Now.
Everything you write must have a command to take action now.
Because people won’t do it otherwise. Girls don’t go out on dates if you don’t ask them. Managers don’t sweeten your raises if you don’t ask them. Teachers don’t let you do special projects if you don’t ask them.
And customers don’t buy if you don’t give them the “CTA.” Yes, the call to action.
So, these are just some examples of how to get people moving. Yes, there are more concepts, but I’m keeping it simple for the beginners here. So, remember…
- Call to action
Now, a few of you are already thinking…
- “THIS? This stuff works? REALLY? “
- “I hear – CALL NOW ACT NOW – stuff all the time. That would NEVER work on me.”
- “This stuff sounds terrible. So crude. Where’s the creativity?”
- “Who reads this stuff anyway?
All smart marketers, copywriters and anyone in business – track stats and measure their results. Wait, not even smart. Anyone with a brain and of average intelligence does that. And they all do A/B testing. A/B testing is when you send 50% of your customers version A and the other 50% gets version B%.
The version with the most purchases, opens, clicks and so on – is the superior version.
And if they don’t do A/B testing, they will look at what has worked historically. Then, they use past data to guide them.
So, the above are tested and work.
Just like science doesn’t care for your feelings, marketing doesn’t care either. You may wonder why some marketing copy is “bleh” and not artistic enough to your liking well, it’s because it’s been (hopefully) tested to work. However, there are plenty out there that don’t test. But that’s good news for you, if you become a copywriter for hire.
As another point, it doesn’t have to work on you specifically. Maybe you’re not the target market.
As long as it brings in more money than it cost to create the promotion, then it works.
So, as a beginner, you should approach ads with “how can I learn from this?” mindset.
Not “bleh, why did they use that?”
The fact is, the only people that know how well advertisements do are the guys on the inside. The guys that see the stats and sales.
Judges at advertising award shows don’t know. College kids in their 1st or 6th marketing class don’t know. Marketing professors don’t know. And your smug friend who once read a book about marketing… he doesn’t know either. It’s very hard to judge marketing from the outside.
3. Resources: How to Learn Copywriting Online
Want to learn copywriting online?
You’ll need resources.
If you want to stick to online learning, the easiest place to start is Udemy.
I am not a Udemy affiliate (yet) and don’t get paid for the endorsement.
Udemy is an online market place for educational courses.
In my opinion, they seem like an easy and friendly way to start learning copywriting online. These are video courses that you can watch. You can sort through all the copywriting courses and choose the one best for you. And you can read others’ reviews to help you make a decision.
Aside from online copywriting course, you might want books.
If you’re a copywriting beginner, I recommend the following:
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells by Robert Bly.
Or, you can check out my list of favorite books at the link below.
4. How to Practice Copywriting.
A. Copy out other people’s copywriting.
Copy out ads. Copy out emails.
Yes, literally get a pen and paper and copy the words out.
And as you’re doing so, try and….
- Identify the marketing elements inside. Look for the offer. Look for the call to action. Look for the urgency. Look for the deadline. Looks for what’s free. Look for testimonials.
- Look where they’re sprinkled into the copy and why. Where are the testimonials? Where is the call to action? What comes before these elements and how’s the flow? In other words…
- Study the structure of the writing.
Also, it helps to read the copy out loud as you write it.
That way, you get used to the language and the style.
Now, where can you swipe some copy to copy?
It’s a website (swipefile) of examples of advertisements for you to swipe.
You can also sign up for newsletters and emails. You can screenshot ads that you see. And do the same: write them out and write them out often.
B. Follow Proven Writing Formulas.
For example, there’s the good old “problem-solution” formula. “Tired of yellow teeth? Get white teeth now with (insert product).”
There’s the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) formula.
You can learn more about this in my other post:
There are more but let’s keep it simple.
Once you know these formulas, writing is just a matter of plugging words in. First you state the problem. Then the solution.
Or, first you write a line that gets attention. Then you get their interest. Then you make them desire the product. And then, the call to action.
C. Practice turning features into benefits.
Remember, people like benefits.
So, in order to convince them to buy or try a product, you’ll need to stir some interest and desire about the product. How? By turning its features into benefits. In other words, you’re taking things about the product (that no-one cares about) and turning into “what’s in it for me” statements. Then, you’ll have a few people interested.
For example, the red color of a car is the feature. Now turn that into a benefit. “You’ll stand out.” Good start!
Here’s another: The car is a 2-seater. Now, turn that into a benefit. “Turn heads with this sports car.”
You’re probably thinking, “HOLD ON! I know of an EVEN BETTER benefit than THAT…!” Good! See? That’s where creativity comes in.
So, make a list of features of the product you want to write about. Do that on one side of a paper. Then, on the other side, turn those features into benefits.
Once you have your list of features and benefits…
D. Write copy.
The only way to get better at copy is to write copy.
So, aside from copying out other people’s stuff, you can write your own for products you like. Like the Amazon Kindle, some educational website or a fitness app.
If you have your own blog, you can write reviews of products. That’s one way to practice and learn copywriting online. Or, you can create your product and try and sell that.
E. Expose Copy to An Audience.
There’s a caveat to my statement above.
“The only way to get better at copy is to write copy.”
But you also need to publish it and get feedback because…
The one true judge of copy is… how the intended audience responds.
Writing copy without testing it out in the real world is like writing a “will you go out with me” note but never sending it out to the girl. You’ll never know if it works. And the only way to know… is to put it out there.
Just don’t ask your friends.
You: “Hey Bob, my good friend, want to look at my writing and critique it?”
Bob: “Sure! Hmmm… why don’t you start with a joke? And why do you write “you” so much? I think you shouldn’t use sentence fragments.”
Because your friend Bob, not knowing marketing, is going to put his thinking cap on and try to tell you what’s wrong. Sure, Bob is being helpful but he’s not someone that’s going to buy your stuff.
So, you need to expose your writing to the proper audience.
People who are in the market or are interested in that product or topic.
This is easier for those of us with blogs and platforms.
A bit harder for others without a platform.
Which brings us to the next point…
F. Offer to Write for FREE (or for peanuts)
You can try and get gigs on Upwork or Fiverr.
My suggestion is to do it at a low price (or free) if you can. Why?
First, because you’re not proven and have nothing to show.
Second, you need a bit of leverage and you need the education/practice. Because you’re free, you should ask the hiring person to provide you with 1) past campaigns 2) their stats and which did well, and 3) a chance to do some more campaigns. I think the 3rd point is important here.
If you do 1 piece of writing and you’re done, you’ve learned nothing.
If you’ve done 1 piece of writing and they give you the results, now you know how you stand against their prior campaigns. And you can use that data to make improvements and give them a 2nd and 3rd piece of writing. These hopefully will do better than the first. And the result? They’re happy and you get an education.
Now you know a bit about copywriting.
And you know how to learn copywriting online.
So before we finish up, leave me a comment and tell me why you’re learning copywriting.
Done for now.