How to be a successful copywriter: from a man who’s written million dollar emails

If you want to be a successful copywriter, know this: most copywriting advice is terrible.

Copy gurus swear by blinking buttons, scarcity tricks, and bold, red headlines like this:

Scammy internet marketing
Ugh. Who wants to read this?

Ugh. Who wants to read this?

All you need to do is be slightly better than the people using these cheap tricks, and you can make a great career out of copywriting.

But before we dig into what makes a good copywriter, I want to mention what copywriting even is. Have you ever read a website? An email from a company? A product description on Amazon? Or see an ad online?

Well, that’s copy. And copywriters are the people writing that stuff behind the scenes. It is one of the most important parts of an online business.

Copywriting is different than ordinary writing. Ordinary writing (think poetry and literature) is purely creative. Copywriting can be creative, but its purpose is to sell things. (So if you hated English in school, don’t worry. You can be a good copywriter without ever writing a 5-paragraph essay or analyzing Huck Finn.)

I’ve built my business with copywriting, and along the way, I’ve discovered some simple strategies that every copywriter should know. I’m going to reveal those to you today.

Tip #1. Focus on the reader

This sounds so obvious, right? Aren’t all writers focused on the reader? Nah-ah. Not at all. It’s shocking how often writers lose focus when they’re writing. In fact, a lot of writers sit down at their desk, stare at a blank page for a minute, think, “What should I say? What should I say….?” And then wham! They’ll just dive right into whatever they feel like writing about. They go off on long tangents. They inject their writing with random stories. And they make everything about themselves (this is “I, I, I syndrome”). In the process, they kill their writing.

Mediocre writers talk about themselves. Great copywriters write about what their readers care about. This takes planning. You also must be meticulous about the actual words you use (which we’ll cover later in this post). But it’s important to know: the best writers focus their copy on their readers — not themselves.

Tip #2. Focus on learning more.

Good copywriters never stop improving. They don’t wake up one day and think, “Wow, my writing is perfect; I’ll never have to change it again.” That would be absurd.

Beyond that, they’re constantly investing in themselves. They read books on copywriting and marketing. They buy the newest courses. And they read other copywriter’s stuff to stay in the loop. They know it’s important to stay sharp and always keep up-leveling their skills.

Tip #3. Be humble.

Good copywriters aren’t fighting tooth and nail to defend every idea they have. They’re always looking for feedback. That could mean they show their first draft to a friend to see if it’s interesting. Or it might mean reaching out to customers directly for their take. Good copywriters know that getting feedback on their early first drafts helps their writing improve by 10x or even 100x. They don’t see feedback as criticism. They see it as an opportunity to improve their work.

Notice that I don’t say anything about grammar or editing skills. Those things are important, but you can develop those skills — over time — with practice. What I pointed out are the mindsets that you MUST bring to the table.

You can work on your technical writing skills later on, but if you’re starting out with the wrong frame of mind, you’ll never make it as a copywriter.

So adopt these mindsets. If you do, you’ll already be 90% of the way to being a good copywriter.

Tip #4: Use the Bar Stool Test

Imagine you’re sitting at a bar with your closest friends. You’re having a few drinks and chatting away.

After a few minutes, your friend asks you, “What does your business do again?”

friends sitting at a bar together drinking

Would you read off the mission statement from a company about page and say something like, “we’re on a mission to drastically reduce process inefficiencies for our valued clients”?

No. If you used stiff words and robotic phrases like that, he’d look at you like you were crazy.

So what would you do? You’d take a sip of your drink and just start talking, using simple words and stories.

Good copywriting works the same way.

It’s not super-dense technical material. It uses short sentences and reads the way people talk.

If you want to be a copywriter, read everything you write out loud. If you find yourself thinking, “There’s no way I would ever say that,” trash it and start over.

Tip #5: Write to your reader

Every time you write, you should focus on your reader. One of the best ways to do that is to stop talking about YOURSELF and talk to your audience. That means drop all the “my”s and “I”s in your copy and start saying “you.”

  • NO: “My customers don’t like studying — maybe I can help them shortcut the studying process!”
  • YES: “Do you hate studying and do anything to avoid it? Do you wait until the last minute even if you have an exam the next morning to even touch your paper?”
  • NO: “I’m proud of the results that I’ve helped my readers achieve.”
  • YES: “You will see extraordinary results. Our team has helped thousands of people, just like you, create breakthrough after breakthrough in their business. Now it’s your turn.”
  • NO: “I know you’d benefit from our services. I’ve helped dozens of people lose weight.”
  • YES: “If you skip a day of going to the gym, who holds you accountable? That makes it easier to skip two…then three…then suddenly, you wake up and found you haven’t worked out for a month. We’ll make sure never happens to you again — so you look and feel incredible.”

Do you see the difference? When you write to your reader, you turn tired, boring writing into exciting and relevant copy.

Tip #6: Bring your writing to life with specifics

Vague copy is might as well not exist. It doesn’t get people excited or even keep them reading. So any time you find your copy drifting into the clouds, you should try to bring it back down to the ground level with some specific examples. Take a look at these simple edits to vague copy that make them exponentially more powerful:

  • Boring: “I don’t like commuting.”
  • Specific: “Every single day, I wake up and think ‘Oh God, I can’t take yet another 45-minute of sitting through gridlocked traffic just to get to some job that I don’t even like.’”
  • Boring: “You’ll have freedom and flexibility.”
  • Specific: “Want to take a break from work and see a movie at 1 pm on a random Wednesday? You can do that. Have a friend in town and want to meet him for lunch? You can do that, too — and no you won’t have to ask your boss if it’s okay.”
  • Boring: “You’ll look great.”
  • Specific: “You’ll finally be able to fit into your high school jeans and be the envy of all your friends.”

These simple tweaks will make all of your writing much stronger.

And once you understand how to apply these frameworks, you can start earning money right away. Let me show you what I mean.

Tip #7: You can earn money while you practice your skills

Copywriting can be a lucrative career, but you don’t have to go all in when you start out. You can earn a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars per month doing it on the side — in as little as a few hours per week.

How? Think about it like this: every company has something they need to sell, but not every company knows how.

They may have an amazing product or brilliant idea, but no idea how to get people to buy it.

That’s where you, as a copywriter, come in. You can help them sell their products and services better.

All you have to do is work with them on the copy in their sales letters, emails, and on their website.

Think of how horrible sales pitches you’ve gotten. You don’t have to be a great copywriter to do better. And as long as you beat the competition you can earn good money.

There are thousands of people looking for these types of jobs every day. The only hard part is selecting good clients to work with (some people just don’t value copywriting — and that’s okay).

Most copywriters end up chasing low-paying gigs and working with clients who don’t value their services.

Fortunately, I have a system for identifying the highest-paying clients and making them want to hire you.

If you’re interested, simply enter your name and email below and I’ll give you instant access to this free material on getting your first client in less than 6 weeks flat.

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