Mark Elmo Ellis – Get more out of my site HERE
“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
~ Bruce Lee
No matter what endeavor you go into in life, you’ll never go too far if you’re a wandering generality. One of my biggest pet peeves as a teacher is to listen to a parent ramble on to me about all of the activities their child is involved in.
“My son’s involved in: Karate, line dancing, marching band, art classes, Boy Scouts, Booster Club, bowling, golfing, blah, blah, blah…”
I’m not impressed at all with someone that is involved in doing 900 things because I’ve been around long enough to know that you’re probably not going to be very good at any of them.
Simply put, you are spread too thin.
It’s the same thing with learning a skill like copywriting. You need to focus on core basics and practice them to the point of insanity if you want to get good at it.
Trying to tackle too many concepts and different aspects of copywriting at once will only make you confused and distracted. You need to break down your practice sessions into segments and focus on a few core ideas at a time.
Or as Bruce Lee used to say about practicing an art, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Another reason why you won’t want to tackle too many concepts at once is that you’ll quickly realize that there are only so many hours in a day to get them done. This will only create anxiety and ideas that will make you feel like the tasks before you are too big and difficult.
So, having said all that, whittling down your copywriting activities to core practice sessions will allow you to enjoy your practice sessions much more.
How to Practice Writing Advertising Copy
One of the best ways to get started copywriting is to begin by copying it. Later on, we’ll start working on exercises that will specifically target different parts of advertising copy so that you will see that there are no mysteries to writing copy.
If you’ve been to my blog before, you’ll no doubt have heard that I am a professional trombonist. I also studied art and it is one of my passions. With both music and art, you learn by studying works that preceded you.
More importantly, you should study work that has stood the test of time.
Unfortunately, in the arts, you have to spend a great deal of time learning the basics first. In both art and music, you must learn the syntax.
In other words, in music, you must learn note reading, and the basics of playing the instrument before you begin to play works by accomplished composers. With art, you will have to practice loads of contour drawings and hand-eye coordination studies before attempting to copy anything by the masters.
Once an artist practices the basics for a few years, they can then move onto copying works by the masters. If you go to any of the famous museums around the world, you’ll see students of art sitting in them doing studies of the paintings and sculptures.
It’s the same thing with music, you must practice what other famous musicians have studied before you in order to learn how to play better.
This brings me to one very important point and I would like to make it perfectly clear. In both art and music, it is standard practice to drill the basics AND copy works by the masters. It is the exact same principles of practice that will lead you onto the path of great copywriting.
The reason why it will be far easier for you to learn how to write advertising copy than say…learning music and playing an instrument, is because if you are above the age of six or seven, you already know how to read and write; the syntax is already in you and you know how it works.
So, since you already know how to read and write, you’ve got a leg up on learning how to write great advertising copy.
And since you already know how to write words, we can quickly move on to actually copying great pieces by some of the masters. And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you first.
You see, as an educator, I know just how antsy you are to actually start writing — I don’t blame you one bit because I’m the same way. So, to get you started right away and to give you that feeling of accomplishment that is so vital for a learner to feel at the onset, I’m going to get you writing…Pronto!
The first piece of copywriting you will be copying and writing out by hand is from the genius and master copywriter, Gary Halbert.
Never Judge a Sales Letter by its Simplicity
This simple looking letter was mailed out over 600 million times over a 30 year period and brought Gary Halbert in so much money, he had to hire a staff of 40 people to just deposit the checks! Even though it looks simple on the surface, it is one of the classics of copywriting that writers refer to over and over again.
After you have read it ten times and then copied it out by hand thrice, copy it by hand one more time. However, the last time you write it, make notes on it about what you thought made this letter so successful. If you write out a sentence or a phrase, write some notes as to why you thought that section made sense or resonated with you.
After you’ve done all that, you can listen to Gary Halbert tell you what made this such a great sales letter in the audio clip below. ( Taking notes while listening to this would be great idea.)
Making Your Writing a Habit
One of the keys to becoming proficient at anything, is to make sure you practice your craft every single day, come rain or shine. There is absolutely no substitute for practice on a regular schedule.
The best way to do that is with a calendar. You decide ahead of time what you will need to write or practice, so you write it down in a calendar and execute it. Pretty easy, right? The key to getting this to be effective is planning ahead of time what you need to practice.
Much of this will depend entirely on how much time a day you have to spend on practicing and writing. But at any rate, any way that you can keep track of your progress will definitely help.
I personally use several different methods to get my goals in place. First, I have a huge whiteboard in my house where I place my main goals in main view of my work area. This board has my goals listed on it and as I complete each goal, I cross off the goal. This way, I’m able to see my progress and stay motivated to complete my lessons or projects.
If you think using a whiteboard like this is a joke, I can honestly tell you from experience that it does work. My wife and I rehabbed an entire house by using this goal setting technique.
When you are doing a massive task like home rehabbing, you can be easily distracted by other tasks so setting goals about what you need to get done is vital in the process. I took a whiteboard to the house we were working on and I would write on it all of the things that I wanted to get done that day. Once the task was complete, I crossed it off the whiteboard.
Turns out that we got the house finished and ready to live in well ahead of schedule.
So, what I learned from this was that if you have your goals right in front of you as you work, you can get a lot done in record time.
There is nothing more motivating than seeing your goals completed and that you are actually making progress. So get them up in front of you and keep track of your work.
Use a Note Card
I got a great tip sent to me in an email. I can’t remember who it was, but this young entrepreneur had an excellent way updating his progress using nothing but note cards. (If anyone knows who this is, I’d personally like to thank him.) The real beauty of doing this is that you can keep your progress on you at all times and even put it in your wallet.
Here’s an image of my cards that I’m currently using to get through an HTML /CSS course from Head First Labs:
If you look at the top of the card, you’ll see the goals listed that I want to complete. Only put 3 or 4 of them down at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Once you have these down, put the word FOCUS in the middle of the card. That word is there to remind you that you are supposed to focus on your goals and not get distracted.
Underneath these cards, you’ll see horizontal lines with marks through them. They are page numbers and you can see each one numbered in increments of 10. Whenever I read and consume a certain number of pages, I then mark those pages off with an orange highlighter pen. Once I get to the page number that completes the chapter, I cross off the chapter in the top half of the card so I can see how many chapters I have completed.
It’s an easy system and it works real well. After you get the entire card finished, you can treat yourself to something fun and enjoyable so that you’ll be motivated to do more.
Two tips on this technique: Make sure you don’t put too many goals down on the card. You want to focus only on a few goals at a time. If you put too much down, you’ll probably get overwhelmed. Secondly, use a highlighter to cross out your goals. That way, you can see what you’ve accomplished, and have a reference in case you need to see what you’ve already learned.
Online Tools for Practice
Keeping focused and on task everyday is usually a big challenge for everybody. Wouldn’t it be great if everyday you got an email notification reminding you to do your tasks and to focus on your goals? And not only that, but once you got the notification you could go to the site and check in to see how far you progressed?
Well, there is such an online tool!
Coach.me is an awesome way for you to develop consistency in your copywriting goals and schedule. All you have to do is sign up and write a simple goal for yourself and set it. You can have as many goals as you like and Coach.me will remind you in emails and with an overview of how you are staying on task.
I personally love using this free site. Of course there are upgrades that you can get like hiring a coach to work with you and to help you stay accountable, but for maintaining consistency and being reminded to stay focused on your goals, you can;t beat this free tool.
Use This Tool to Ensure You Get Quality Practice Sessions Every Time
OK, so you decide that you want to sit down and practice writing out headlines. However, you’re already tired and and writing for an hour or two non-stop doesn’t seem too appealing.
It wouldn’t matter if you had to write for several hours or just one, maintaining a high level of energy and enthusiasm is going to be difficult. The best way to handle your writing so that you don’t get burned out is to break it down into segments that your mind and body can handle it.
Back in the 1980’s a writer/entrepreneur named Francesco Cirillo came up with a system of working that helped an individual avoid burn out. He named the system the Pomodoro Technique.
Actually, the word “Pomodoro” in Italian means “tomato”, and when Cirillo was a university student, he would use a kitchen timer that looked like a tomato to break his work segments into 25 minute intervals. Cirillo found that if he had large tasks to complete, he could get the work completed at a much higher state of focus if he broke it down this way.
This is how the Pomodoro Technique works:
25 minutes work. Total focus is required and you are not allowed to do or think about anything else but the task at hand.
5 minute break. You are to get up and do something totally unrelated to the task.
25 minutes work. Total focus is required and you are not allowed to do or think about anything else but the task at hand…again.
Rinse and repeat.
That’s all there really is to the Pomodoro Technique. I’ve been using the tar out of this tactic and when you’re really into what you’re doing, 25 minutes goes fast! You don’t have to buy anything to use one if you don’t want to.
I use an online Pomodoro timer from Marinara Timer online. This is a really nice timer system to use, it has pause features, all sorts of weird alarm sounds, plus a schedule list all of the time you’ve been working. Highly recommended!
Putting All of This Together and Moving Forward
Now that you have your first lesson and a means of practice, it is time for you to take action. Sit down, plan out when and what you’re going to do and execute it. There is absolutely no substitute for taking swift, well thought out steps of action to get your dreams into high gear and start realizing them.
If you want to move quickly, you’re going to have to become obsessive in your pursuit of your copywriting goals. I’m not saying that you have to get good fast, but if that’s your mindset, then you will have to eat, sleep and breathe this stuff.
If you want some inspiration, you can get it from Will Smith:
So there it is.
If you’ve read the last two posts, you’ll have loads of resources and material to get started. If you need someone to help you out, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m an experienced teacher and I can help you get started on the path to learning this craft if you need the help.
In my next post, I’m going to give you the next lesson to help you get started learning copywiting , so sign up for my newsletter and you’ll be updated on when the next lesson is online for your use.
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One last parting thought by the copywriter, Ray Edwards, before I sign off:
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