The moment of truth: I needed to become a better copywriter.
It happened when I was puzzling over the reason one of my sales letters wasn’t working. I consulted with a mentor who said, “You want the truth? The copy sucks.”
Well, I had to admit it: I was lazy with that copywriting. It was for me – not for a client – so I had cut some corners.
I decided I’d gone stale with this particular program. I needed an infusion of copywriting energy. I needed something bigger than a swipe file and smaller than a whole copywriting course. I needed some new ideas, new techniques, perhaps a new headline and definitely an infusion of personality and style.
So I went poking around the Internet, googling on “copywriting.” To my surprise, I found several sites that generously offered what amounts to an advanced degree in copywriting – a way to become a better copywriter – absolutely free.
I also picked up a bad case of copywriter envy. One of the people on this list wrote a post that captured this feeling exactly: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
But as I kept absorbing these new lessons, I could feel myself sharpening my copywriting chops. I demanded more of my copy than before.
These days I suspect everyone can use some continuing education to become a better copywriter because things change. Your market changes. Copywriting styles change. You change: you’re no longer satisfied with the same old, same old. You’re either growing or dying.
And we work alone. Your mentor isn’t sitting next to you when you’re revising your About Page or coming up with a sales letter that’s supposed to fill every space in your next workshop. Want to become a better copywriter? You’re on your own…but you can get lots of free hellp.
How I Chose The Top 12 Websites
As with any list, I’ve used some pretty arbitrary rules to put this one together. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment section. Before I reveal the top 12 websites to make you become a better copywriter, let me explain the criteria I used to build this list.
First rule is, I learned something from the site I didn’t know before. And after that:
- They must be identified as copywriters – not marketing coaches, strategists or rulers of the world.
- They must have FREE resources on copywriting – not marketing strategy – and show they’re currently adding new material, via a blog, podcast or article series.
- The free goodies must be in a blog or website, not a Facebook page or email series, and must be accessible even if you don’t sign up for anything.
- The copy training isn’t the same-old, same-old. I learned something from each website.
Once I started choosing the candidates, I realized very few websites meet these criteria. Some offer wise tidbits about broader strategy, not copywriting. Some just cop attitude and hope you’ll think they’re delivering wisdom. And some very savvy, successful copywriters have no blog at all. No free stuff. You have to pay to play.
Of course some of these sites have some pretty awesome things to buy (and I did buy some pretty awesome stuff, too). But this list focuses on what’s completely free.
Special Note: This isn’t a “read it and forget it” post. These 12 sites give you a free graduate education in copywriting. You can use these sites while you create marketing materials for your business, which probably happens every day. I recommend bookmarking this post so you come back to it for ongoing learning. Apart from getting the free guidance, you’ll be able to evaluate paid offers and come out ahead.
The 12 Websites
Matt Ambrose writes for some pretty heavy-duty clients, such as Siemens and DHL. So he’d be expected to know something about copywriting, right?
What’s surprising is how much Matt shares with his blog. focuses on conversions and inbound marketing – getting people to come to you – with advice for both pro and DIY copywriters. When I was futzing around with my sales letter, I found that Matt’s article “9 Reasons Your B2B Copywriting Isn’t Converting” makes a handy dandy little checklist. to get started.
And Matt reminds us of something we all sort of know: B2B copy isn’t what it used to be. No more dry-as-dust formal biz-speak. No more tired corporate jargon.
Quote: “B2B buyers are humans too.”
If there were a Mount Olympus of blogs, Copyblogger would be at the very top, high in the clouds. It’s one of the oldest, highest quality blogs out there. At one time ordinary mortals could submit guest posts but now Copyblogger has become the domain of the gods and goddesses.
Blog topics cut to the chase. You won’t find the basic how-tos – more like things nobody else has thought of but everybody should know. For example, Yael Gruber’s guest post 7 Ways To Simplify Content While Maintaining Sophistication and Nuance encourages “straightforward analogies and dumb questions. (I’m truly gifted at asking dumb questions, so I can’t wait to try this one.)
The main website of Copywriter Collective focuses on matching freelance copywriters with jobs. The blog is a goldmine of writing tips, each written by a copywriter from the Collective. Because the website offers a compendium of tips, not a single voice, you’ll probably find yourself responding differently to the various posts.
Some of the posts offer contrarian opinions. You probably won’t agree with all of them but they’ll stimulate your thinking.
Quote: “Customers, buyers, and other interested parties nowadays may feel insulted if you use active voice to try to spur them on to do whatever it is you want them to do.” From this recent post.
Henneke (who signs her posts with her first name) is another copywriter who provides thought-provoking blog posts on topics that aren’t normally covered in the basic copywriting courses. She’s got one of the best discussions of metaphors I’ve seen anywhere: choose apt metaphors and use sparingly.
And I’m impressed with the way Henneke nails the essence of copywriting with her post, The Secret Blogging Ingredient. Every copywriter on this list possesses this ingredient, which is hard to explain and even harder to capture.
Quote: “Adjectives aren’t created equal.”
(5) Amy Harrison
UK-based copywriter Amy Harrison delivers copywriting lessons with style and humor. Her videos are a hoot. Check out Using Seductive Symptoms to Write Better Copy.
Amy’s got tons of energy and she derives her copywriting inspiration from everything in her life. Since I refuse to own a TV (and wouldn’t have time to watch if I did), I loved the way she gets copywriting tips from Trash TV. It’s a vivid, memorable way to emphasize the qualities you need in today’s copy: get to the point, tell stories, and keep ’em in suspense.
(6) Jen Havice
Jen doesn’t write many posts, but each one reinforces her theme: “Ready to ditch the cookie cutter.” And each one is a gem. I was so happy to see her speak out against those infernal sliders we see on so many websites. My clients often think they’re a symbol of good design, but in fact (as Jen says) it’s like putting a velvet painting of Elvis on top of your website (unless, as she points out, you’re selling velvet Elvis paintings).
I found Adrianne through her guest post on Danny Iny’s blog, where she offered some tips for low-key people who feel uneasy with the um…strong language many copywriters are using these days. Adrianne’s point was that’s fine for people who truly live out loud … but you don’t have to. You can become a better copywriter on your own terms.
Her POV is consistent with her tagline – use your genuine voice in an online noisy world. So many of her posts deal with letting your true self show through in your copywriting.
Quote: “I want to feel like I’m holding your heart in my hands when I read your blog … I want to feel like you’ve exposed something to me and in turn I can find something in myself that’s been hidden for far too long.”
(8) Stella Orange
Stella Orange’s website has enough personality for 3 copywriters! Start with her guide (“They Won’t Pay You Gourmet Prices If Your Copy Screams Fast Food”), which could be a textbook and inspiration for writing edgy, engaging copy. (It may have changed by the time you read this.)
I like to read Stella’s blog posts when I need to shake up my thinking. Just reviewing her posts will make you become a better copywriter, by sheer osmosis. For instance, she questions whether “woo” can cohabit with “grounded reality.” She attacks the overused word “authentic,” especially when self-applied. She’s so quotable – almost every post has a gem – that I had trouble choosing just one.
Quote: “if you pick the wrong project, it doesn’t matter how much you write the pants off it. It’s not going to work.”
(9) Michele PW
Michele’s website doesn’t pull punches and she’s got a lot to help you become a better copywriter, including free writing worksheets.
Michele covers a variety of topics in her blog. When you search for copywriting posts, you’ll find some advice that I wish would get around more, such as how to handle your own bad news when you’re writing copy. She’s got a way of writing about the basics in an upbeat, refreshing style. For instance, in writing about getting your message out in the world, she talks about being clear on the message and the recipients, but also the need to repeat it consistently: “Resist the urge to “tweak” your message as you get bored with it.” Been there. Done that. Nice reminder. See more at: http://www.michelepw.com/blog/2012/05/3-keys-to-getting-your-message-out-into-the-world-so-you-can-make-a-difference-2/#sthash.Iw9fiA3c.dpuf
Quote: “Telling people you were subject to not one but TWO natural disasters that basically destroyed the same room in less than a year is not smart marketing.” What Happened To You http://www.michelepw.com/blog/2008/10/what-happened-to-you-tips-on-using-bad-news-in-your-copywriting/#sthash.
(10) Hassan Ud-deen
A new copywriter who’s making an impact via highly-charged writing and an awesome list of guest posts. The guest posts are an especially good source of unconventional ideas. Despite the site’s in-your-face name, Hassan’s a solid copywriter with well-written content, delivered calmly and professionally.
Quote: “The purpose of copy is to boil your readers’ emotional cauldron till they are driven to take action.”
(10) Belinda Weavers
I must confess, I love Belinda’s website! Simple and clean. Australian-based Belinda has a number of paid courses, but her blog posts are free. She offers an original, up-to-date perspective on the basics – the kinds of things you’d learn if you took a basic copywriting course, such as the 64 Power Words To Add Rocket Fuel To Your Copywriting and the Long vs Short copy debate. She shows how certain words will deliver emotions, such as caring, exclusivity, and reassurance. And Lies in Copywriting: Hyperbole vs Realism she delivers tips on writing copy that shows uniqueness authentically without resorting to those bold flashy claims “Best in Australia.” And a tutorial on Calls To Action
Gem: In the new world of digital marketing, authenticity sells.
You know you’re dealing with a very special copywriter when you see a lead magnet titled, “What If Your Copy Didn’t Bore the Crap Outta Prospects?” Ten words where most of us would need ten paragraphs, and the humor comes free.
Joanna walks her talk. She writes every sentence in every blog post in original, refreshing style that’s worth studying. Every post, including guest posts, contains a copywriting lesson.
One of my favorite parts of Joanna’s blog is the way she finds copywriting strategies in places nobody else even notices, from sign-up buttons to kickstarter pitches. No cookie cutter, no same-old, same old. If you want to become a better copywriter, you can’t skip this site.
Caution: Before buying their 4-figure higher-end courses, read the fine print carefully.
So what can we learn from all 12 copywriters?
First, they don’t all agree! Some go out of their way to promise authentic copy; at least one detests the word “authentic.” Some recommend fast writing, while others encourage your copy to simmer slowly, like a good stew.
Interestingly, although most copywriters would agree copywriting is a male-dominated field, ten of the twelve sites with generous, useful blogs turned out to be female-operated. They avoid hype and strong language and they use what Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero would call female-oriented copy or “conscious copywriting.”
The consensus was:
You have to add real feelings and strong emotion to your writing.
You have to be true to who you are (which is not the same as saying “the copy sounds like me”).
You write to a person. Each reader should feel you are speaking to her and to her alone.
And of course…
Storytelling has become the most important tool in your copywriting kit.
So now you’ve got it … access to some of the best copywriting training in the world, completely free! It’s like getting a graduate degree in copywriting without leaving home.
And if you’re considering the possibility of becoming a copywriter …check out this affordable course, Become A Copywriter. It’s the only course that shows you how to improve your skills (or start from scratch) an how to market yourself as a copywriter, whether you go free lance or choose another business model.
If you’d like to become a copywriter (or just write better copy), there’s no substitute for one-on-one copy coaching. Don’t miss this opportunity to write copy that sounds like you have a pro copywriter on speed dial. You’ll get the copywriting course included as a bonus!