Apprentice Yourself as a Copywriter
By Sean McCool
Everyone starts somewhere. This is the universal truth of brain surgery, leading nations, and … copywriting.
Would-be copywriters should write this down and stick it to their monitors, emblazon it across their walls, and perhaps even copy it on paper by hand the way AWAI’s courses teach copying good ads by hand.
When you’re new to the writer’s life, it’s easy to look at Rebecca Matter, Michael Masterson, and Dan Kennedy and think, “I’m not them.” I’ve got a newsflash for you. Neither were they. They started where you are and became who they are today through hard work, deliberate practice, and determination.
Everyone has felt the way you feel, that the accomplishments of master copywriters (or the big-timers in any profession) are “out of reach.” And most people still feel that way about someone they think is more accomplished than they are.
The best way to conquer this feeling is to understand that becoming a copywriter is a process and to commit yourself to that process.
From this moment on, consider yourself an apprentice copywriter. You are not a student, you are not learning, and you are not new. You are an apprentice building your craft.
As an apprentice, you will study, create a writing practice, and build the mindset of a professional. You become a better copywriter and lay the groundwork to become more successful in the near future and throughout your career.
How to Become an Apprentice
You may be thinking that this all sounds well and good, but you don’t know how to become an apprentice. Where do you apply, and what if they say no?
Fortunately, your apprenticeship is completely in your hands. You simply make a decision that you are apprenticing yourself to your craft, and then live the life and do the work of an apprentice, including …
The Internet and your mailbox are a wealth of study material, in addition to any courses you’re taking.
Read your junk mail. If a letter or email or a sales letter on the Internet does not light a fire in your heart and convince you to take action, why not? Study it. Tear it apart. Reconstruct it until it gets you excited. If it does light your fire, what convinced you? Sit down with the sales material you see each day and read it until you understand what works and what doesn’t.
2. Start your swipe file
This is where you keep copies of the best sales materials you find. (Hint: If you get a letter twice, it’s probably good. If you get it three times, it’s likely very good – save it.) If it’s an online sales letter, print it out in case they change it. Keep your junk mail and your emails. Get on all the lists you can, both physical and email (set up a separate email for your lists), and read everything. Study it, and then keep the best to refer to for ideas in the future. Master copywriters keep swipe files, and as an apprentice, you’re on your way to becoming a master.
However, not just practice. You need to do what Geoff Colvin in Talent is Overrated calls “deliberate practice.” Deliberate practice is not just rote learning. It is not practice for the sake of practice where you just go through the motions. Deliberate practice focuses on improvement.
Colvin estimates that mastery takes 10,000 hours of working at improving and moving toward mastery. Try to reach 100, then 1,000, then 5,000 – start now. No matter what your ultimate goal as a copywriter, you must practice deliberately.
Whether you have your eye on a six-figure income or simply want a part-time job, greatness takes focused practice.
Apprenticing yourself to copywriting means that you make learning and growing as a copywriter your job. Whether you’re learning full time, working a full-time job while serving this apprenticeship, or already working with clients, becoming a copywriter is now your vocation.
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that this sounds like a lot of work. It is, but it’s the best kind of work. If you truly desire to be a copywriter and don’t just harbor a “Wouldn’t that be nice?” wish, you love the work. You want to become the best you can be.
Apprenticeship is a way to accomplish that goal of being your best.
I won’t say it’s the only way. There are easy ways and hard ways and alternate ways of doing everything. I will say that creating yourself an apprenticeship does work. When you apprentice yourself and dedicate yourself to deliberate study and practice, you will see results.
No one can guarantee results or when they will happen, but I can guarantee that if you follow this method, you will become a better and more successful copywriter than you are today.
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