What copywriting training do aspiring copywriters REALLY need?

December 6, 2017 •
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I’ve said in the past that I don’t care what qualifications aspiring copywriters have. And I still don’t. When I’m looking to outsource or employ someone, all I care about is their portfolio and their attitude.

I’ve also said in the past that if you’re considering training because you want to learn to be a writer, you shouldn’t bother. I still stand by this. You’re either a writer or you’re not; training won’t help you if you’re not.

But an aspiring copywriter contacted me on LinkedIn yesterday, and while chatting with her about her training options, I realised I’d overlooked something in these discussions of training.

Yes, your portfolio is all-important and, yes, a writer is who you are, not what you are. But there’s still definitely a place for training in the copywriter’s world. For two reasons:

  1. Every writer can be a better writer.
  2. If you’re a writer, you’re not necessarily a copywriter. Indeed, a large part of copywriting isn’t about writing at all.

So writing training and copywriting training can be very valuable. They can actually be the difference between a merely solid portfolio and one that really makes people (particularly experienced copywriters) sit up and pay attention.

The $64,000 question is, what training?

And the $64,000 answer is…


It depends.

It depends on what subject matter you like and dislike. What scares you. What you’re already good at. What you suck at. What you think you’re already good at, but actually suck at. What approach you take to writing. And researching. Whether that approach varies. What tools you use. How you like dealing with prospects and clients. Whether you work at home or in an office. Whether you have a baby or young kids in the house (or on your lap). And a zillion other things.

Which is exactly why I’ve never offered a structured training course or program, or even written a training ebook.

IMHO the best training is one-on-one, detailed, iterative, unstructured, informal, spread out over a period of time, and tailored to your unique personal needs and your real-life client projects. For example:

  • It needs to help you tease out the subtle qualities that differentiate one client from another, even when they offer identical services.
  • It needs to help you decide what to say in your copy about a product that has never existed before.
  • It needs to help you decide when to use reason and when to do something more primal with your words.
  • It needs to help you explain the above two decisions to your client.
  • It needs to help you crack the bastard first sentence.
  • It needs to teach you the art of wireframing.
  • It needs to help you find and fix the bad egg that’s spoiling your entire page.
  • It needs to help you figure out how to rewrite something a client didn’t like.
  • It needs to help you manage bad clients, salvage merely dissatisfied clients and tell the difference between the two.
  • It needs to help you decide whether to say “no”, “you’re wrong”, “give me more” or “sure!”.
  • It needs to teach you the rules, then (more importantly) when you should break them.
  • It needs to help you decide what to say in words, what to say with suggested visual elements, and what to imply with comparisons, metaphors, ‘silence’ and structure.
  • It needs to draw out your writing strengths without undermining your confidence or overwhelming you with best practices.
  • And it needs to help you choose the right tools to actually do it all – to manage your jobs, write your copy and look after your business.

So where do you get it? Well, as far as I know, there’s nothing around that ticks all of the above boxes. (Kate Toon and I have been talking, for years, about doing something that does, but we keep putting it off. We’ve been chatting again recently, though, so you never know… 😉 But there are some pretty good options that tick a few of them:

  • Mine – I offer remote coaching and mentoring. Email me if you want to learn more, or gimme a call on (02) 9121 6211.
  • Kate Toon’s – Kate offers both remote coaching and online copywriting courses. You can learn more about both at the Clever Copywriting School. Obviously Kate knows copywriting like the back of her hand, and she teaches well too.
  • Belinda Weaver’s – Belinda offers an online Copywriting Master Class. Belinda’s a good egg, and really knows her stuff.
  • Paul Jones’ – Paul runs some good face-to-face business copywriting courses over at Magneto. He’s a good guy and definitely knows his way around a copy deck.
  • James Chartrand’s – James offers the online Damn Fine Words writing course, which I believe is good. I’ve worked with James in the past, and she (yes, she – “James” is a pseudonym) is awesome.


Yes, if you’re looking to break into the copywriting industry, some training can help. It won’t make you a writer if you’re not one already, and the presence of a qualification in your CV probably won’t convince anyone to give you work. But if done right, it can definitely make you a better copywriter.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Belinda Weaver wrote on December 10th, 2017

Thanks for the mention Glenn. You’ve got an awesome list of sticky areas of learning! I won’t lie... I’m bookmarking it for ideas. I don’t agree with your idea that you’re either a writer, or you’re not. Unless a ‘writer’ is someone who enjoys writing. I think if you enjoy a thing, you can learn it. And improve. That said, I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘writer’... but that probably for another blog!

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on December 10th, 2017

Thanks Belinda. You're wrong, of course. ;-)

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