Why Talent Doesn’t Matter:
4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Become
a Successful Copywriter

“You don’t need talent to be a successful and wealthy copywriter.”

That’s what Mike Palmer – lead copywriter and copywriting trainer at Stansberry Research – told 300 Bootcamp participants last week in “My Breakthrough Moment – What Turned Me Into a 6-Figure Copywriter.”

Instead of talent, he said, you need practice. Michael Masterson has preached this to copywriters for years.

But you can waste a lot of time practicing the wrong way. Mike Palmer described the following four strategies that can immediately boost the impact of your practice.

  1. Get Knowledgeable Feedback.

    The most important success strategy: Find a mentor or a group that can give you timely, knowledgeable feedback.

    You can write all the time. But if you don’t get feedback, it’s like bowling blindfolded. You’ll never know if it’s effective copywriting or not.

    A mentor or group committed to giving you appropriate feedback helps you see copy problems you might not otherwise have seen because you’re “too close” to the copy. You wrote the words, so you know what they should say. But when you read them, your expectation clouds your judgment.

    A good mentor or peer group does far more than help you improve your copy. They also support you in your pursuit of copywriting success … they help you through times of self-doubt or frustration.

    If you choose a mentor, you would want one with significant expertise and with good teaching skills. (These do not necessarily go together.)

    But an effective copywriting support group doesn’t need any more expertise than you have. The combined knowledge of the group makes it an effective tool for improving your copy … and for supporting you.

    A good model for a group like this is AWAI’s Circle of Success program. Joining a group – maybe through the AWAI Member Forum – also improves the impact practice has on your copy.

    It’s also taking a significant step toward your goal of achieving copywriting success.

  2. Learn How and What to Practice.

    The best way to learn how to write powerful, successful copy is to imitate powerful, successful copy.

    Start with a piece of superior copywriting from the “Hall of Fame” letters, the Monthly Copywriting Genius archive, the Who’s Mailing What! Archive, or your own swipe file.

    First, go through the letter with a pen and highlighter. Mark every paragraph with what the copywriter was doing. Maybe the first paragraph introduced the Big Idea, and the second paragraph touched an important, core emotion.

    Go through the entire promo this way – analyzing carefully and completely. Pay particular attention to the headline and lead. When appropriate, make comments on individual sentences – and on individual words.

    Once you’re done, you have a template (or skeleton) of a successful promotion. Write your own headline and lead – practice, spec, or full promo for a client – filling in this skeleton structure with your own words and ideas.

    Practicing this way boosts the quality of your writing quickly and efficiently.

  3. Learn to Be Disciplined and Efficient.

    Being disciplined and efficient does not mean working more or longer. It does not mean slogging through a huge pile of work. It does mean making the best use of your time while you’re working.

    Gene Schwartz was the “Master” of master copywriters. He developed a work system that doubles your efficiency … at least.

    First, get your important copywriting work done early in the day. Turn off all distractions. This includes email, telephones, radio, television, and pestering family members.

    Set an egg timer for 33 minutes. Then start writing. Write uninterrupted until the timer goes off. Then stop.

    Get up. Pour yourself a cup of coffee (or better yet, green tea). Take a 5- to 10-minute break. Then start the timer again and get back to writing.

    Five or six of these sessions adds up to 3 hours of concentrated writing. When paired with the second strategy, this amounts to more than enough practice every day to move you steadily toward becoming an A-level copywriter.

  4. Become an Expert in 1 or 2 Areas.

    When you’re just starting out, it makes sense to try different niches. You want to figure out which fits you best. But don’t spread yourself too thin. By focusing on one or two general areas, you build skills far beyond the mechanics of writing.

    For instance, you gain a “gut level” knowledge of the hot topics of the day in that field. You understand what works in the market … and what is old and stale.

    More important, focusing like this helps you learn how to read copy like your prospect – and not like a copywriter or expert. It lets you develop a BS-meter like his. To understand what and how he feels. To become your prospect.

    When you turn into your prospect, your writing becomes almost effortless. It becomes more powerful, more successful … and more profitable.

These four strategies shortcut the time and effort you put into your practice. They work in any niche you’re interested in. Apply them to your copywriting success program starting today, and you will quickly notice a difference.

And don’t forget the most important one of all: Get a mentor or peer group so you can get the feedback and encouragement you need … and deserve.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: November 24, 2008

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