What Color Belt Are You?

What “belt” level are you?

Michael Masterson floated this idea in a recent Early To Rise:

“It occurs to me that I should establish some sort of belt-ranking system for copywriters, something like the one we have in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

  • White Belt: You are a beginner. You are writing, but little or none of what you are writing is getting used.
  • Blue Belt: You understand the basics. You can write short copy: briefs and insert ads.
  • Purple Belt: Your copy is getting stronger and more sophisticated. You have written one or several successful long-form promotions.
  • Brown Belt: You can write a full array of formats (from seven-word teasers to 160-page bookalogs) in your field. You have written at least one blockbuster promotion and several more controls.
  • Black Belt: You have done it all. Moreover, you know you can repeat it at will. You generate, or can generate if you wanted to work 50 hours a week, at least half a million dollars a year in fees. You understand the principles of copywriting and are interested in teaching them to less-experienced writers.

“That would be pretty cool. We could establish an industry-wide association headed by a small group of Red Belts – writers like Clayton Makepeace and Bill Bonner who have been writing at a black belt level for at least 20 years.

“These Red Belts could hand out other belts to their protégés. Once a writer rose to the level of black belt, he himself could hand out lower belts to his students.

“To attain a belt ranking, you’d have to prove that you know certain things (knowledge) and can do certain things (skill) – just as you do with BJJ.

“To go from White Belt to Blue Belt, it might take 1,000 hours of practice – and another 1,000 hours to go from Blue Belt to Purple. Then 1,000 hours to Brown Belt and 1,000 to Black Belt. Five thousand hours in all. And 5,000 hours, as you’ve heard from me before, is the time I say it takes to master any worthwhile skill.”

What do you think of this idea? What color belt are you? What are you doing to get to the next level? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Published: September 10, 2009

2 Responses to “What Color Belt Are You?”

  1. Intriguing idea to say the least. A simple way to encourage commmitment, provide accountability, and bring about community for copywriters. Love it!


  2. I think this is an excellent idea! I have over 25 years as a paid writer/publisher and marketing/branding copywriter under my belt so I suppose that qualifies me for a black belt!

    Katherine Phelps

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