4 Steps to Learning Sales Copywriting Online for Free

copywriting steps

Leaping up the steps to copywriting success!

Mark Elmo Ellis – Get more out of my site HERE

There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso.  He was in a restaurant once and an elated fan came up to his table and asked him if she could have his autograph.

“Could you also draw a little picture on it, just so my friends will know it’s really you?” she added.

Picasso didn’t even flinch. “Of course.”

He then knocked out a quick study on the napkin with a pen that the woman provided.

“There you are Madam.” Picasso smiled.

“Oh, thank you” she smiled, barely able to contain herself.

“You’re welcome.  That will be $50,000.”

“What?” she stammered as the smile fell from her face.

“$50,000.  You know, a five with four zeros after it.

“$50,000? But it only took you 3 minutes to draw it!” she bellowed with a croak.

“Yes my dear lady, but it took me the better part of 40 years to learn how to draw it.”

The Level of Commitment You’ve Got to Have

I’ve been a professional Trombonist since I was 18 years old; I actually started learning to play the instrument since about the age of 12.  Every now and then, I bump into someone that politely compliments me on my playing.

They almost always tell me the same thing, “I tried to play an instrument when I was a kid, but I just didn’t have the knack for it.”

Of course, they don’t always say the exact same words, but it usually revolves around the idea that they wish they had stuck with it.  Hence the problem with most people —they just don’t stick with their passion or pursuits.

If you’re going to learn a vocation like playing an instrument or copywriting, then it will take a TON of practice, commitment, and sweat.  Frankly, there is no other way around it.

It’s just like learning a musical instrument or playing a sport; you just can’t pick it up in a few days.  However, if you are passionate, committed, and pour your guts into it, the payoff will be massive.

What was my payoff for putting a solid 7 years of practice into my trombone playing?  I got an awesome gig playing jazz all over Europe making solid money.

I’m not saying that you’ll have to practice copywriting for 7 years before you’ll make any money at it. But to go really go pro, you’ll have to put a lot of time and effort into the craft, and your commitment will have to be very high.

Copywriting – the Basics

The term “copywriting” gets thrown around quite a bit in books, websites and conversations and it can mean several different things to different people.  Sometimes, people call themselves copywriters when they are just writing articles for magazines, newspapers or blog posts.

Other times, they’re writing publications and reports.  And while these people are actually writing copy, the kind of copywriting I’m referring to is the one that’ll make you the most money ― putting words on paper to sell something.

If you think that this is a narrow field of writing, then think again.  Consider how many times a day you are barraged by advertisements and commercials:

  • TV and Radio Commercials
  • Magazine Ads
  • Websites
  • Internet Ads
  • Catalogs
  • Product Copy
  • Direct Mail
  • Email Campaigns
  • Billboards
  • Brochures
  • Yellow Pages

I could easily make a much bigger list, but you get the idea.

So, the type of copywriting that we’ll be concentrating on here is the kind that’s the most profitable ― copywriting that’s selling a product or service.

Two Ways to Sell Using Words

There are 2 different categories of advertising copywriting we can break the subject into, direct mail and agency.

Ad agency copywriting is usually the stuff you see written for big picture displays in magazines or the script you hear in TV commercials.  This type of copy is short and sometimes funny, but it is usually written for the purpose of keeping a company’s brand in your face.  It is a long-term strategy used to build a company’s brand.

Here’s a good example of agency copy written by the marketing genius David Abbott:

VW ad by David Abbott

Figure 1 -David Abbott Volkswagen Ad

This type of advertising copy is usually very expensive, and getting into an agency to write it is brutal and competitive.  It is definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

The other type of copywriting that we want to talk about and focus on is direct response copywriting.  The major difference between agency and direct response copywriting is that with direct response, you’re getting people to take action immediately and fork over their money.

One of the vital elements in direct response that is usually not in agency copy is a “call to action”.  direct response usually asks for the money now.

Take a look at the example below, written by copywriting giant, Gary Halbert:

Gary Halbert Family Crest Direct Mail Piece

Figure 2 – Gary Halbert Family Crest Direct Mail Letter

Another big difference between direct response copywriting and  ad agency is that direct response can be done dirt cheap.  Ad agencies run mullti-million dollar campaigns, while you can run a direct mail campaign for several hundred dollars.

This means that the market for decent copywriters to operate in is significant.  If you hone your copywriting skills and market yourself properly, you won’t have to fight too hard to earn a living or extra income.

The Biggest Benefit of Writing Direct Response Copywriting

Easily, the best benefit of writing direct response copy is the money you can make.  It’s not uncommon for a decent copywriter to bring in $200,000 in sales from a direct mail campaign that cost less than $2000 to run.

If you write your own copy, you can easily create your own product or service and sell it.  The money spent in running a direct mail or direct response campaign is far less risky than running a full page ad in a popular magazine.

As a matter of fact, you’d have to sell your house and your mother’s house just to get a down payment to run an ad in a grade B or C publication.  Compare that with the peanuts it takes to set up an internet sales page, and you’ll see what I mean.

Another upside of this is the clients you can acquire once you have a success or two under your belt.  In reality, if you write just one successful campaign and crow about it in the right channels, you can expect your phone to start ringing.

And when it rings, you can give them a price quote for a single page sales letter starting at $2500 a shot.

Try doing that at an ad agency.

Learning How to Write advertising Copy

We live in a great age.  If you have the desire and commitment, you can learn almost anything you want on the Internet.  Even trades are being taught online, many of them with great success.

In my case, I have learned how to write advertising copy, HTML coding, and now I’m learning how to code JavaScript.  I also got my entire Master’s Degree in Education Technology and Instructional Design from Boise State University online as well.

What I want to do over the course of the next couple of months, is give you as much of an education it copywriting as I possibly can.

However, let me make it clear that I do not want to sugar coat any of this for you. Learning how to write direct response copy is not easy.  It will require you to write every single day.

Over the next several months, I’m going to be writing about how you can learn how to write sales copy for your business right here, on this blog.  If you want to start a freelance copywriting service of your own, you’ll be able to learn a lot from these posts.

However, if I were you, I wouldn’t rely on this blog too much to learn everything that you’ll need to know in order to become a decent copywriter.  Just to be as transparent as I can, this blog can point you in the right direction but you’ll need to use other resources as well.

I’m going to supply you with a list of resources below that’ll help you on your way to becoming a four-star copywriter.  (Of course, I’m assuming four stars is the best in the business, right?)

Limited time for free book

The Definite Steps to Becoming a Darn Good Copywriter

Tip 1

Step 1 – Read…Alot.  You’ll need to start collecting and reading all sorts of books and eBooks on the craft of writing incredible copy.  Here’s a list of free sources to get you started on the cheapest route possible. Even though these resources are free, that doesn’t mean they suck. Some of these free publications and sites are the absolute best in the business and they are free.  The only thing you’ll usually have to cough up is your email address and get put on their mailing address.  I consider signing up for an email newsletter an extremely small price to pay for the incredible value these resources are worth.  But here’s a warning for you, DON’T JUST COLLECT THESE RESOURCES ― READ THEM, DEVOUR THEM, CONSUME THEM, AND MAKE THEM A PART OF YOUR MIND.  Don’t just let them sit on your hard drive, make sure that you use them every chance you get.

Free Ebooks On Copywriting & Marketing:

T.J Rohleder’s 50 Free Ebooks  – You have to be absolutely nuts not to jump on this.  T.J. Rohleder, (pronounced Roll-leder) one of the country’s best copywriters ―is giving away 50 of his eBooks for free.  And they are not pieces of junk either. T.J. and his wife took a mere $300 and transformed it into a $10,000,000 (Yeah, that’s ten million!) empire.

He has written 50 great eBooks on how to get wealthy from direct mail, advertising copy, and other fast-track methods, to great to mention here. You can get them absolutely free by clicking on the link above. Some of them are for sale on Amazon in paperback format. You need to jump on this before it goes away!

Gary Halbert’s Maximum Money in Minimum Time – (Update 08/09/2017: This great report is no longer offered for free.  It became so popular, the Halbert family decided to put it back up for sale at $30.00.  The link has been updated so that you can go to the site and purchase it.) Gary Halbert is considered to be the Holy Grail of copywriters.  If you want to learn how to make money using copywriting and great marketing tactics, then this is the way to go.  Some copywriters have actually written out this entire book by hand in an effort to understand and duplicate Halbert’s success. (I’m actually on the third chapter, myself.)  This free eBook, which I accidentally stumbled upon, is a classic and gives you brilliant insight to a genius copywriter.  I actually had to rub my eyes in disbelief when I saw that this master-class was free!

Copyblogger – This site has a mountain of free eBooks and webpages dedicated to writing copy for Internet sales pages, direct mail and blogging.  The great part about these books is the fact that they are written and revised to stay very current. Absolutely, this site is becoming and industry standard online, and will continue to be an incredible resource for years to come. You’ll have to give them your email address in order to get this incredible information, but it is well worth it!

Tip 2Step 2: Gather great pieces of copy to study.  You’ll need to build a swipe file to begin with by collecting advertising copy pieces you can find on the Internet.   There are several reasons for collecting other copywriter’s successful ads.

First of all, you can use them to get great ideas and inspiration from. Let’s say that you are trying to sell aluminum boats.  While you may not find other copywriter’s ads on the subject of aluminum boats, but you may find ads by great copywriters on other vehicles like cars.

Once you have ads that are similar, you can see what the writer focused on, how he presented the benefits, and the way he approached the subject.  Of course, I’m not talking about plagiarism or copying the other writer’s work, but you want to get ideas on how to write something similar.

Gary Halbert told his copywriting students to collect as many swipes on their subject as they could that were classics, and copy them out by hand several times.  He recommended that they did so right before writing out their own copy so that they could get a good feel for the pacing, language, structure and voice.

Another reason why you’ll want to build a great and vast swipe file by the best copywriters in the land is because you can use them as training material.  One of the core exercises you can do as a copywriter wannabe is to copy out other great pieces of ad copy by hand.

As a professional educator, I’ve had to read a lot of books and research studies on the way people learn to do things and how they concentrate.  There has been a lot of research on students that actually use their hands in an activity while thinking about it.  For example, people that doodle while listening to a lecture will retain a lot more about what was presented than students that just passively listened.

Students that took good notes retained even more of what was said.  So, there seems to be a hand/head connection that will help you learn.  If your body is actively involved with your head, you’ll connect much better.

So, copying out great advertising copy is essential to learning how to write great copy.  It’s not the only thing you should do while practicing copy, but it should be a part of your daily routine.


Where to Find Great Swipe Files

Swipe-Worthy – This is a great resource site that has a vast volume of swipe files on it.  Not only does the site have an impressive collection of swipes in the land, but the sites owners have actually analyzed the copy and extracted out the reasoning behind the copy so you’ll get a deeper understanding of what made it resonate so well with prospects. If you give them your email address, they’ll send you updates on more analyzed copy on a monthly basis.

Bob Bly’s Swipe Files – Bob Bly is not only an incredible copywriter, but he has got to be one of the hardest working writers on the planet.  With an impressive 96 published books to his credit, hundreds of published articles, loads of information products, white papers, etc., it’s no surprise that he has an enormous supply of swipe files from his own portfolio.  Need a swipe file for a software program? Bob’s got it.  Looking for a good swipe on writing a brochure for a college?  It’s on his site.  Want a great example of a white paper?  Check him out.  Bob Bly has a huge and impressive supply of swipe files that should be in your own file.

How to Build a 1,000,000 Swipe File – This is an excellent resource book by copywriter Ben Settle.  It has an extensive listing of links to great pieces of ad copy.  This resource is definitely worth saving to your hard drive and using again and again.

Gary Halbert Swipes

John Caples Swipes

Eugene Schwartz Swipes

More Swipes

Tip 3


Step 3 Build a Great Advertising Copy Resource Library

I’m a cheapskate.  Even when I got my Master’s Degree, I shopped around to find the cheapest degree program I could that was legit. You can get a wealth of information by looking around on the Internet and collecting all sorts of resource material for free.

However, if you want to get a decent course you’ll probably have to pay for it.

If you look around you can get some of the greatest resources on the planet for a lark.  For example, I got Dan Kennedy’s Magnetic Marketing Kit for a mere $25.00 on eBay!  I haven’t checked on the price of that course lately but I can guarantee you can’t get it that cheap on Dan’s website.

I also got a copywriting course by Dan Kennedy for almost the same price as well as a John Carlton course.  Yeah, some of this stuff was done years ago, but the principles of writing all remain just about the same.

You can buy the greatest copywriting books ever written by going on Amazon and looking around.  I almost always buy the used books and almost every time they look brand new with minimum wear.

Here’s a list of books and courses you can buy dirt cheap for your copywriter’s resource library:

The Copywriter’s Hand Book by Bob Bly

Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More

Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Sales Letter

CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone

AWAI Online

Copyblogger Copywriter’s Course

UdemyThis site has loads of video copywriting classes you can take for as cheap as $19.00.  If you’re on a tight budget, you can take some of these classes to help you get started. Who knows?  You may even find a mentor on here.

Warrior Forum – Speaking of mentors, if you go on the Warrior Forum into the Copywriter’s section, you may find some guys and gals on there that will be more than happy to shred the tar out of your copy.  Just make sure you have a rather thick skin if you go this route because those folks won’t sugar coat their critiques of your writing.

My strategy for the WF:  be super nice and thank them profusely for any of the help they give you.

Tip 4

Step 4 Practice, Practice, Practice You’ll need to do this every day as much as you can. There is absolutely no substitute for this last step.  One of the best ways to do this is to get up early in the morning and write for at least an hour.  Then try to do so whenever you get more time. You have got to make this very important and make it your top priority.

If you’re sitting in front of the TV, you have time to write.

If you’re watching YouTube Videos, you have time to write.

If you are playing video games, you’ve got time to write.

If you’re just hangin’ out with your buds or babes, you have time to write.

You can find time to write if you really want to set your copywriting life on fire, you just have to pay close attention to your most valuable resource…Time!

I love Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and I watch those shows Monday through Friday.  After that, I’m usually writing.  However, during those shows, I have a drawing easel that I use to place my notebook on while I’m writing.  During commercials, I take the time to write copy out by hand that I have on hand from a swipe file.

Currently, I’m writing out every Halbert swipe file I can get my hands on.  You can do the same; you just have to have the drive to make it happen.

If you like to watch sports, you can easily write out some copy by hand while watching an event.  Just make sure that you leave your writing materials right next to the chair where you watch TV. That way, you can easily reach over and grab your materials and write out some copy.

Now Get Moving…

Ok, I have easily given you a pile of stuff to read and learn.  In my next post, I’m going to cover:

  • How to think like a salesman when writing
  • How to look like you’re not selling even though you are
  • 7 Reasons why people buy stuff
  • Tried and true ways to start writing your first ad copy

If you want to get a free copy of my latest book plus two free reports, please make sure you sign up to receive my newsletter which will let you know when my latest post is online.

I hope you will be fired-up to start learning as much as you can about the craft of writing advertising copy.  I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section below.

To Your Continued Success!

Mark “Elmo” Ellis


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