Learning copywriting by yourself can feel like a difficult task. But it doesn’t need to be so hard, if you apply a solid learning system.
This article covers the 5-step system for learning copywriting:
1. Understand who you’re writing for
2. The 6 basic copywriting principles
3. How to study copywriting pros
4. Streamline your copywriting process
5. Practice your copywriting skills
Have you tried to learn copywriting by reading blog posts?
And does it seem hard to apply the tips? As if your knowledge is a little disjointed?
Teaching yourself copywriting can feel like a difficult task.
But it doesn’t need to be so hard, if you apply a solid system. A good learning system stretches beyond understanding copywriting techniques. You also need to understand the structure of good copy, how to streamline your writing process, and learn to evaluate your own writing.
In this article, I reveal the 5-step system I used to teach myself copywriting. This system works whether you want to become a copywriter or if you’re a coach, consultant, or entrepreneur wanting to write better copy for your own business.
What is copywriting?
Blog writing (or content writing) is different from copywriting. In a blog post, your purpose is to educate a reader and encourage him to implement your advice. This is how you build your authority, and how readers will start to trust you.
A blog or content writer writes and publishes articles to answer readers’ questions, to help them achieve their aims, and help them solve their problems. When people google their questions, problems, or aims, they find these articles, and that’s how your audience and authority grows.
A copywriter is focused on conversion—to get web visitors to download a freebie and join an email list, to get email subscribers or web visitors to buy a product, to get customers buy again.
Step #1. Understand who you’re writing for
Good copywriting starts with listening to your clients and stealing their words.
Yes, that’s it. Stealing.
When you understand what potential clients are struggling with, when you hear them talking about their fears and dreams, when you appreciate how you can solve their problems, then you’re halfway to writing good copy.
How to learn to listen (and steal):
One way to listen is to mine reviews, forum questions and blog comments for copywriting input.
However, my favorite way to understand (potential) clients is to talk to them directly. You often learn more from a few in-depth conversations than from a big survey. When you have an opportunity to talk, ask clients these questions:
- Why did they hire you?
- Did they hesitate to hire you? If so, why? If not, why not?
- What did they expect to achieve when they hired you?
- And how did you deliver on their expectations?
- What specifically was most valuable?
- How has your service had an impact on their business or their life?
If you have direct interaction with clients, you probably know a lot already. Pay attention to the problems they mention, and notice their aims, and dreams. Make a note of the phrases they use so your copy reflects what they’re thinking in their words.
When you use their words, they’ll feel understood. And when they feel you understand their challenges and wishes, they’re more likely to trust that you can help them, too.
Good copy is assembled from what your clients tell you. As legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz suggests:
Copy is not written. If anyone tells you ‘you write copy’, sneer at them. Copy is not written. Copy is assembled. You do not write copy, you assemble it. You are working with a series of building blocks, you are putting the building blocks together, and then you are putting them in certain structures, you are building a little city of desire for your person to come and live in.
Good copywriting is less about creativity, and more about listening to your audience and understanding how you can help them improve their lives.
Further reading on listening to (prospective) customers:
- Joanne Wiebe explains how she finds compelling sales messages in Amazon reviews.
- The book Finding the Right Message by Jennifer Havice explains how to research your copy, and turn your findings into persuasive copy.
Step #2. The 6 basic copywriting principles
When is copy persuasive?
And when does it fail to persuade?
The basic principles of persuasive copywriting are:
- Match features with benefits: features are aspects of a product or service; benefits explain why these features matter to customers.
When copy includes a lot of features but fewer benefits, it lacks emotional appeal—people won’t understand how a product can improve their lives. In contrast, when copy includes a lot of benefits but fewer features, it lacks substance and sounds wishy-washy—people won’t understand how a product will deliver what you promise.
- Be specific to boost credibility: Generic statements sound like marketing blurb. In contrast, a specific statement is more credible. So, don’t be afraid to include details, even if they seem too technical. Explain the advantage of each detail and clarify how that advantage delivers a true benefit.
- Use proof (such as testimonials): As legendary copywriter David Ogilvy suggests: “The reader finds it easier to believe the endorsement of a fellow consumer than the puffery of an anonymous copywriter.”
- Overcome objections: Why might people hesitate to buy from you? You have to overcome each objection so readers become more eager to buy.
For instance, if they think you’re too expensive, be sure to explain how much value you offer. If they are worried they don’t have time to commit to your course, explain how the course is designed for busy people so they can study at only 15 or 20 per day.
- Nudge people to take action: Buyers suffer from inertia—an unwillingness to take action and a resistance to open their wallets.
So, try to nudge them to take action, for instance, by offering a time-limited promotion or limited availability, or by reminding them how quickly they can improve their life by taking action right now.
- Be bossy in your call to action: A good call to action is crystal-clear, making it as easy as possible to click a button, whether that’s to buy, to download, or to ask for a quote.
Following the 6 principles of persuasion makes it easier to convert a web visitor into an email subscriber, an email subscriber into a buyer, or a buyer into a repeat customer.
Further reading on the basic principles of persuasive copywriting:
Step #3. Study the copywriting pros
Understanding the basic principles of copywriting is one thing.
But how do these principles work in practice?
By studying the writing of copywriting pros, you can observe how all copywriting elements fit together. This makes writing and structuring your own copy easier.
For instance, when you study a sales page, pay attention to:
- What is the purpose of this page? What action should the reader take? Is that action clear?
- What arguments are provided for taking that action?
- How are features and benefits communicated?
- How are objections countered?
- How does the page build credibility and trust? Why do you believe the content?
- How is the information arranged? Is the most important information communicated first? And the least important information last?
When you study the copy from experienced writers, you learn to detect the patterns of persuasive writing, and it becomes easier to structure your own copy.
Examples of how to study and learn from copy:
- 6 persuasive lessons from David Ogilvy’s famous Rolls-Royce ad
- How to write seductive sales copy like Apple (on NeilPatel.com)
You may also like:
- How to create a swipe file—a swipe file is a collection of copywriting examples, assembled for study purposes
- How to write a sales page (with examples)
Step #4. Streamline your copywriting process
If you want to write persuasive copy fast, then a proven process is a must.
Without a process, copywriting can become a mess.
First, collect all your persuasive arguments—list features and benefits, potential objections (and how to counter them), and proof that can help you establish your credibility. You collect this material by listening to (potential) customers (see step #1).
Secondly, arrange all your persuasive arguments in a logical order—the most important arguments come first. Once you’ve created order, writing a first draft becomes relatively straightforward.
Thirdly, revise and edit your copy to cut flabby phrases and make your sentences smooth, and, if required, optimize your copy for search engines.
A smooth copywriting process not only helps you write faster, it also helps ensure your copy is complete and persuasive.
Further reading on the copywriting process:
You may also like:
- My book How to Write Seductive Web Copy outlines the copywriting process in more detail. This book enjoys a 4.6 star rating based on 268+ Amazon reviews.
Step #5. Practice and evaluate
The quickest way to learn copywriting is to hire a good coach who can tell you what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve.
The next best way is to join a good course that demonstrates with examples how to make average copy more persuasive.
But you can also do this by yourself. It just takes more time.
To learn how to evaluate your own sales copy, start by creating a swipe file. A swipe file is a collection of copywriting examples that you can use to study copywriting techniques and the structure of persuasive copy.
Next, compare your own copy with the copywriting examples you admire.
How to compare?
Focus on one specific aspect of your copy at a time. For instance, underline all your features and benefits, and compare them with the features and benefits in your swipe file examples. Or, only review how credibility is established.
Practice becomes easier when you focus on one aspect at a time.
These before-and-after examples can help evaluate your own copy:
And an in-depth guide on swipe files:
- How to create a swipe file (and improve your copywriting skills)
How to learn copywriting
The 5-step system, as outlined above, helped me go from an unknown, burnt-out marketer to a $250/hr copywriter, and then onwards to teaching copywriting.
My main lesson?
To write persuasive copy, you don’t need to turn yourself into a super sales expert. You don’t need to become pushy.
Instead, listen to your clients.
And communicate your offer with clarity.
Enchanting Copywriting course
Learn how to write a persuasive sales page
without selling your soul
“I have struggled to make my own website for my solo language coaching business for 8 years. I got stuck on the copy every single time. (…) Henneke’s course saved me. I loved the recipes that teach you, step by step, how to organize your sales page and what to say in each section. Each section has an objective. Plus, the example layouts for different kinds of businesses were invaluable.”
~ Alanna Beach
“As soon as I’d finished the course I pitched for some work writing long-form sales description pages. I would never have done this if I hadn’t taken the course. (…) I won the pitch and the client was very pleased with the work.”
Recommended reading on learning copywriting:
31+ best books on copywriting and storytelling
7 copywriting techniques everyone in business must know
11 copywriting tips to turn marketing drivel into persuasive copy
I worked for 2 decades at McCann Erickson, Young And Rubicam and J.Walter Thompson. I love this post because it made me remember how we used to take on all new assignments. We would see what competitors were doing and we could collect those elements that we likes and we made ours better. Love the post
“Listen to your clients” is the best advice, Henneke! Your quote from Eugene Schwartz nails it. Over the years, I’ve found that the most important part of a job, whether it’s for branding, website design or copywriting, is the questioning phase. I mean asking those powerful, searching questions that make a client really think about their business, their personal brand and so on. I winkle out nuggets they wouldn’t have told me otherwise. Once I’ve got those answers, the rest falls into place.
Example: A newly certified leadership coach hired me to create his branding and website. He sent me copy that was very similar to his trainer’s site and that of dozens of his competitors. I wanted to focus more on a leader’s common problems (after I researched what they are) and how my client could help, less on his credentials.
One key issue I discovered is that leaders rarely ask for, or trust in, help from others. When you’re at the top of the food chain, that’s hardly surprising.
I needed to convey my client’s trustworthiness. I had asked him what he’s passionate about outside his work. He’s a diving trainer and buddy diver. The trust involved in diving is second to none. Bingo! So I included that piece of information which really differentiated my client whilst also conveying some powerful personal characteristics.
You beat me to it – 2 years ago I joined a popular American copywriting training school – I signed up and then the prices of the courses came – thousands of dollars – I live in South Africa so the exchange rate just blew those courses out of the water -I decided I would do it myself and started googling “free this and free that ” I am not in the $250/ hr. bracket – haven’t even earned $250 but we will get there and your article just gave me some more “free” stuff – thanks
2022 is the year for me to learn copywriting (according to the stars) so I googled and … as usual info overload. It was the word ‘shoestring’ that tucked at me and got started reading at your website. I love good process and rules as they make outcome more predictable.
Thank you for the free resources and I am sure that you will get many folds back.
I am a beginner here, your article helps alot thanks.
I knew when you advised with using the clients terms (stealing) that the rest of this article would be worth the read. Ok, so I have one question – maybe you have the answer?
As you mentioned – Studying the Masters – which is similar to reverse engineering success. So what is your advice on the best way harness the new expertise learned (from the masters), whilst personalizing that to your brand & applying it practically to your own industry. I sell natural oils (bulk).
Apologies if this is a little deep – I’m trying to be the best in my industry.
Appreciate your valuable content & your time.
How long does it take on average to learn copy writing, when could some one start to offer there service in general? How much should one expect to get paid, like if its a one time thing what would some one charge and so on, is there a software that can copy write for me? And a person could manipulate it a bit here and there. Thanks Christina
Great articles, really valuable content that is action based. most writers will confuse you on where to start. Quick 2 Questions.
1. If i sell a few natural products but one of them is the most important and most selling, shall i write a general value proposition or a specific one for this product? or could i write a general proposition on homepage and specific ones on the landing page of each specific product?
2 In order to find a valuable one and speak the prospects language i wanted to possibly look at reviews but the problem i have is that i am wholesaler and all there reviews are from customers that buy retail so the value proposition i think will be different. any valuable ideas of what to do?
I am a new copywriter and I am creating sample copy for my portfolio. Is there a way for me to get free (or very low cost) feedback on my copy? From my online search, it costs about $50 per page to get feedback from an expert. At this time, I have no income and I am unable to pay for an expert. Is there a forum where I can get feedback from a knowledgeable person?
Hi Henneke, I liked your blog a lot. I shared your blog with few friends of mine. They want to learn copywriting as well. So, from all of us, thank you.
Hi I’m 64 years old with no retirement I do have a good full-time job now but I would like to learn copywriting to carry me on into the future and to have my own time. I’m not sure I can do it but I used to write insurance articles and I also was a journalist for local paper so I’m hoping that I can
🤯 I’m so excited to spend a few minutes on your blog, Henneke. Thanks a lot for the sincere help. I’m a complete newbie copywriter in East Africa trying to learn copywriting by myself on a very tight budget. I hope I will find a lot of directions from you to my successful copywriting journey.
Hi, henneke it’s great to see you are helping others, and encourage beginners. It’s your utmost greatness to serve humanity,
I just started my journey on copywriting and this article was so helpful! I tend to overthink with all of the information out there and this article was straight and to the point. Thank you!
Awesome! The gist of the story is to read, learn,and practice (practice, practice and practice). We may need to be an elegant wordsmith. 😉
Copywriting broken-down plain and simple. I’m a visual and logic learner. For you to explain the process in such plain language that I can “see” it and tell me “why,” is the best!
Great post! Just starting out in the copywriting career field, trying to pick up as many tips and tricks as I can. This was very helpful! Cheers!
I have thought of going in this copy writing profession and as a total newbie i found this really helpful and inspirational, I feel myself someone who certainly improve because i have nothing to lose, so would you like to mentor me for a quick start ?
As a marketing analyst looking to hone their skills in writing and take on more copywriting tasks I found this piece to be very insightful. Thank you.
Even as a newbie to copywriting, I find this article very relatable. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more deets in your next mail
I have started my learning by hand writing old ads by Gary Halbert, David Ogilvy and Eugene Schwartz. I do this four hours a day. My capital is limited with having a family, however my resolve is determined. Any counsel would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Hello, this was a great read. I clicked your link via the search engine just beginning to learn about copy-writing. Back in my high school and college days I was told by my teachers my writing compositions were decent, however I NEVER acted on writing anything since. I am looking to take a stab at learning copy-writing to see if I have what it takes to be successful enough to earn some extra cash while holding on to my full time job as an account auditor. Thanks
Great post. It’s down to the point and it really struck with me.
I’m learning how to write my shop’s product descriptions and was wondering if it’s applicable to write shorter paragraphs or that is more of a different beast with its own needs.
Helpful article. I’ve started learning copywriting by myself, as someone who’s penny short. The courses are so pricey… so I decided to take the hard route. No experience or degree in copywriting, and honestly been figuring things out myself. I searched people who made it by themselves to prove my self that it’s possible. I hope I can be lucky and find a copywriter to be his or her wing. Hard work works! Thanks for enlightening me.
Nothing is possible if you have the determination to reach your dreams…
I hope you upload copywriting formulas/phrases structure that worked well with you…
Thanks for sharing…
You are too real, you just got me hooked with this article. Thanks for opening my eyes to those things that have been missing in my writing
I am still wondering how you can make your words dance. It fascinated me, made me unable to take my eyes off and drove my mind crazy.
A great article
Great article, once again. You are just real. That is hard to find. Thank you for all the great tips. I really enjoy them. 🙂
Henneke, always smart, good reading your work. FYI yours was the third About page guide I bought to try and draft something that wasn’t cocky or ridiculous and yours was by far the best. That’s why I subscribed so your site and bought your kindle gear. Not only that but the tasty recipe made my day, it was such a fun surprise and fitted you completely. I wish you well and admire you.
Great article! I’ve hid from my passion of writing for years and I keep finding myself reading ads instead of good material like the above post.
I have bookmarked this site and will be returning often to begin my copywriting journey post haste!
I always wanted to improve my writing skills in general. But as a business owner copywriting and content writing are important.
In May of this year I did a course on copywriting. It opened my eyes and improve my skills a little. Since then a lot of questions has pop up.
Some are: How to use active voice in your writing? How to reduce adverb? How to use punctuation? etc.
Fortunately I searched for “does adverbs ad meaning to sentences” and came across one of your blogs. I read it and fall in love with your work. I must say I am a fan.
Now I can’t wait to receive you next mail.
Thanks for your great work.
Henneke, I’m learning how to write a sizzling copy. Enchanting Marketing has been critical on this journey. The way your words have power and zest. The hype-free techniques you employ. I am grateful for it all! I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge with other writers.
I am gathering information on copywriting but have not yet taken the plunge. So, I am not even a novice at this point. I have bookmarked your excellent article and hope one or more links will help me understand how to begin both learning the craft and establishing clients appropriate to my skills as they grow.
My goal is to figure out how to transition my income to something that will allow me to work anywhere, provide for my family in a way similar to my current profession, and give me time to develop as an author.
Any pointers on beggining for pre-beginners would be appreciated! You also mention coaching. Additional comments on when and how to find a coach would also be helpful.
I have to spend so much time building a site. There is no time left to consider the flow of words.
Weary of idle promises made by money hungry despots. Always avoid the promise of ‘money beyond dreams’.
Mostly read non-fiction and hadn’t realised (English version) how I influence myself.
Will remember that gem.
Thanks for your reply on the other posts. Would it be fair to say that you just cold “sales lettered” people when you felt ready, and referring them to your blog was a good way to gain credibility ? I suppose you just did marketing but for yourself as a practicing marketing professional. Love all your work it’s fascinating.
Thanks for this super-useful post. I have bookmarked it and will read all the posts you have suggested.
“Every day, in every way, Henneke gets better and better.” 🙂
By the way, what do you think of the advice to hand-copy ads and sales pages?
This is exactly the advice and information I was looking for as I further perfect my craft as a creative copywriter. Thanks so much.
I’ve been looking for an article like this to develop my craft. Just what I needed. Thank you.
Thank you, Henneke! Your blog has been so helpful and valuable for me during these years. Thank you so much for sharing and teaching us what you know.
Great Post Henneke,
Been reading a lot lately about copy writing and you make it so simple to undestand it. The tip # 3 – study the masters for me is the # 1 rule in writing good copy.
Thanks for the post.
Wow! I am so glad I found your blog – it is enchanting! What a great name – your writing is exactly that. 🙂
Listening – super important!
I love your basic rules of copywriting – many of them I had forgotten.
Studying the masters – I love to read good copywriting books and books on marketing.
If I JUST skip to Step #4 and apply it – I bet I could save a ton of time and frustration. I tend to start writing and add in points as they come. That’s not working too well for me. I LOVE this tip and I am going to be changing the way I develop my blog posts!
Great tips and reminders – now back to practicing and evaluating. Thank you!
Saving your blog because I adore it!
Thank you for taking us through these excellent steps, Henneke. You’ve made wading through innumerable blog posts unbelievably fun.
If there was one bit of advice you could give to someone now starting out, what would it be?
Thanks again! I look forward to learning more 🙂
Nothing beats practice in my opinion. I have probably been writing blogs for a good 8+ years now and if I look back on some of my original writing I cringe.
Every year I feel like I get better and more consistent with my writing style. So even if you don’t feel like you have a good grasp of writing on day one, if you keep at it you will improve.
‘Just sound copywriting.’ ?
Excellent post Henneke 🙂 Listening connects dots, and connecting dots helps you craft inspired, goading copy that influences readers to take beneficial actions. But we need to learn how to listen before actually listening. This skill is largely a lost art. Writers often create content based on their wants, totally ignoring the needs of their audience. Listening is the first step in matching reader needs with your copy creations.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you Henneke for all of your brilliant talents. Thank you for being so generous the way that you share and teach. Thank you for letting us see how another person success can guide us to have the confidence to succeed also. I’ve always enjoyed all of your posts. They are so appreciated.
Thankyou Henneke: very valuable…I am using your process and it is working 🙂
The tip on mining reviews on sites like Amazon and Trip Advisor works like a charm, Henneke.
If you know what to look for, the pieces of your copy will literally fall into place as you go through the reviews.
I write a lot of product review articles and I can attest to what a valuable resource Amazon reviews are. I have also found the “Questions Asked by Customers’ section to be a gold mine. The questions are asked by people who are considering buying the product and are answered by the sellers and, importantly, by people who have actually bought and used the product. I get ideas for most of my subheads from there.
The questions people ask help me to focus on the features that address the most pertinent friction points. In the end, I find my reviews are able to highlight actual benefits because they address issues faced by people with first hand experience with the actual or a similar product.
You knocked it out of the park with this one, Henneke. Thanks.
**Thanks for the Copyhackers link, too. I love Joanna’s work.
Thank you Henneke.
Enjoy your days off in Spain.
I think talking with clients is underestimated. Too often, people want to exchange emails. But a telephone (or face-to-face) conversation can shed more light on a project, and yield better results.
Thanks for your crash course!
PS – Enjoy your break in Spain.
Thank you ma’am. I have your books and the Joseph Sugarman book too. Will use this post as a guide. Hugs
Thanks for this. Perfect timing for me as I’m launching a new coaching product and website. I liked the part in the end when you mention you don’t need a funnel or tricks to make a sale and prove value. Good copy, solving a specific problem, and appealing to the needs of your potential clients is what matters!
Be yourself. In a world of gimmicks and tech, this is the hardest thing to remember. Great list, and sound advice, as always! Thanks, Henneke! Hope you are enjoying your trip!
“Stealing” your client’s words is the best tip. It really works to get phrases that mean something to readers.
Recording your conversations with your clients, or getting them to respond in detail via email if they are willing, also means you can refer to their words over and over, and see where they fit best in your page.
Enjoy the tapas! I can almost taste it 🙂
(If you get any rain, send it our way — we’ve just heard that the winter’s rainfall is likely to be lower than we were hoping for.)
Love it! Thanks so much, Henneke for being a limitless source of inspiration! I think I’ve been following you for the last 4 years now or so, and it just keeps getting better and better. Enjoy your holiday!
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