6 Surprising Success Habits of the Most Admired Copywriters
This is a guest post by Haris Halkic. In his newsletter he helps you build a business based on highly effective email copywriting by using the single most important marketing secret already at your disposal.
You’ve probably heard of the concept of imitating successful people in a certain field of interest and becoming successful by doing what they do.
In the words of Tony Robbins, “Success leaves clues.”
If you want to be a great race car driver, you would probably imitate Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton. If you dream of a tennis career, you would find out more about what made Roger Federer or Andre Agassi successful and do the same.
Now, if you want to be a great copywriter, you’ll stick around ‘til the end of this article. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
From time to time, we all ask ourselves:
- What makes the greatest copywriters so successful?
- Which routines are best for copywriting?
- How do I beat writer‘s block?
- Why am I still struggling although I work really hard?
In this article, I will show you 6 success habits of some of the most admired copywriters in the world.
These habits will help you become more productive, write better copy, and achieve your goal of becoming a better copywriter in 2018.
I‘m really excited to share today’s post with you.
Of course, the list you’re about to read, which addresses several world-class copywriters and their success habits, is not conclusive in any way.
If you think your favorite copywriter is missing from the list, then you’re probably right. Moreover, if you have another routine or success habit for writing great copy, leave a comment and share your story. We’d love to hear from you.
Now, let’s get started.
Do you remember the movie “Seven” with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman?
Where the two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer.
They just can’t get ahead and the experienced one of them is left with only one way out…
It’s about research.
Morgan Freeman goes to the public library in the middle of the night to do the most important thing a good detective can do.
He thinks, reads, and does thorough research.
That’s also a success habit of great copywriters.
Copywriter Paul Hollingshead says he always does some research to find out more about the product he’s writing about. He usually starts thinking about who his audience is but then tries to imagine only one person that represents his audience. A vision of the ideal customer helps him write specifically for that person.
Nothing beats solid groundwork.
It’s important to read everything you can find on the product. If the client sends you information, read it multiple times. It’s always helpful to find a copy that has already been written on the specific topic and learn from it. You can find all sorts of helpful background information online.
Legendary copywriter John Forde, who worked 15 years for Agora Publishing, recommends you study the product and all bonuses that come with it in the tiniest bit of detail.
With that, he also means reading testimonials and other forms of customer feedback, as well as other successful promotions from the past in his reading list.
Clayton Makepeace is one of the finest examples of how far you should go with your research.
If his job is to promote a paid newsletter, he reads every previous issue he can get dating back up to 5 years. For him, it’s also important to collect and store the gathered information in a structured manner so he can profit from it.
In his “The Gary Halbert Newsletter”, Gary Halbert says that your copy basically writes itself if you have done enough preparation and research upfront.
Remember how David Ogilvy read everything he could find about Rolls-Royce before writing the ad which made him famous? He even talked to the technicians from the company. That gave him the idea for the world-famous headline: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
John Forde shares similar advice. For him, doing extensive research prevents writer’s block by giving him so many ideas that he can’t stop writing.
Bob Bly is another example of the benefits of finding out as much as you can about a product to boost your copywriting skills. His first step is to always gather and organize the content of his copy before writing it.
2. Working environment
Although many freelance copywriters work from their living room as part of the freedom that comes with building an online career, it’s not recommended.
Famous copywriter Bob Bly rents a large room in an office building where he can work without disturbances.
I can already see some of you protesting:
“But Haris, I‘m happy that I don’t have to work in an office anymore. Now you want me to rent one?!”
No, I don’t. I‘m just telling you what Bob Bly, a very successful copywriter, does and what I’d do, as well.
Of course, not everybody can pay a few hundred or even thousand dollars for a month’s worth of rent, depending on your location or the level of luxury you see fit for your own office.
So, what can you do?
Like lots of you already do: get out.
Find a place where you are truly undisturbed and uninterrupted.
Public libraries or university libraries can be a great place to work in silence and get inspired.
For some of you, a café like Starbucks or even a McDonald’s restaurant might work well.
You might also get to the office 1-2 hours earlier in case you have a day-to-day job and work on your copywriting projects first.
However, this is only doable if 1) you work alone in the office or 2) your employer is fine with that (maybe tell them you have to get to work earlier because of the traffic and that you read books or write personal e-mails/messages until the official office hours begin).
If nothing else works, you can use the beach or park as your working zone.
There are many possibilities out there for you to work uninterrupted.
We all know that working from home is difficult sometimes. There’s your wife, your child, guests, the postman, etc.
All in all, it’s lots of distractions… and every time you lose focus, you have to start again.
Copywriting is a creative process. You need to be 100% concentrated to succeed.
Don’t be misled into believing it’s something you can do on the run or while the TV is running in the background. You owe it to your paying customers and readers to deliver your best work every single time.
Sure, you can write the first draft in your car or the metro but to finish it, you‘ll need solitude.
So, even if turning your living room into your office works for you, I wouldn’t recommend it in the long-term.
You will be more productive if you clearly separate your work area and living area.
The temptations at home can be great. It’s almost impossible to teach your small child that “daddy is working right now” or to resist answering your new WhatsApp message.
Legendary copywriter Gary Halbert states that he often writes wherever he is, but nevertheless has a proper writing place with a desk, boots, etc. Halbert sees it as a necessity for being productive and so do many other successful copywriters.
3. Morning routine
Most successful people are early birds. The same goes for copywriters.
Bob Bly works from 7 a.m. to noon.
Dan Mahoney from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Clayton Makepeace starts his day between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Gary Halbert switched from a night writer to a morning writer throughout his career.
There’s more than enough examples of early birds.
The reason is simple. Copywriting is a highly creative process that requires your full concentration.
More than often, the only time you can find silence and not be interrupted by phone calls or other people is when everybody else is asleep.
Rising before the sun has its magic.
Enjoying the quiet is just part of it – it’s also about your energy level.
Naturally, you feel more energized and less tired in the morning than in the evening.
Starting early is the easiest way to avoid having your personal commitments interfere with your work.
Of course, you will need to go to bed much earlier than usual. You won’t go far on just 4-5 hours of sleep per night. In other words, getting enough sleep is crucial.
But as for any rule, there are exceptions. Matt Furey writes in one of his e-mails that although he considers rising early a good habit, he is most productive when he stays up late. Furey talks about rising early being a success rule as a myth most people blindly believe in.
According to Furey, there was even a period in his life where he woke up at 5 a.m. and went to bed by 9 p.m. – still being “broker than broke”.
So, be careful of seeing every single habit of successful copywriters as a must. You are a grown-up individual and you have to find out what works best for YOU.
Everybody is different.
The living conditions you are in might be completely different than mine.
Copywriter John Forde reveals how he worked best late but had to change his rhythm once he and his wife got a baby. Now, he uses the morning hours when it’s quiet and the baby’s asleep.
If you’re someone who is most productive after midnight, it might still be a good idea for you to rise early. If the only time you can find quiet is in the morning before work, then becoming an early bird is recommended.
Legendary copywriter Gene Schwarz used to work just 4 hours a day. He still managed to create one multi-million dollar promotion after another.
You might ask: “How is that possible?”
I’ll tell you how – your success depends on your ability to produce copy, complete projects on time, and constantly create new content to promote your services.
In other words, the higher your productivity is, the greater your results will be.
If you think it’s about being constantly busy, you are dead wrong.
The best copywriters aren’t always writing copy or working 12 hours every day.
If that’s your choice of lifestyle, it’s fine. Just keep in mind that it’s not necessary.
Read “The 4-Hour Workweek” to get an idea of what I‘m talking about.
It’s about delegating all tasks that you don’t have to do yourself.
At the same time, the structure of your work time is important.
When you have a job, you have to be there from 9 to 5 and deliver.
As a self-employed copywriter, you are in a great position.
You control your time.
You decide when you work.
This allows you to use phases when you’re most productive. It’s about your personal times of laser-focused concentration.
We’ve all had moments like these.
You know, when we just keep going for hours; being creative and highly productive?
A big warning sign: you are responsible for the use of your time.
Always be aware of what you’re doing and the level of distraction or concentration you can manage.
If you just THINK the most productive time for you is late after midnight and you spend most of it on YouTube watching funny clips, then you‘re missing the point.
Just like with any CSI detective, there has to be evidence to prove your case.
Don’t just assume when your most productive time is but rather track your results for a few weeks.
With writing, this is really simple. The word count will show you the exact number. How many words have you written in an hour? How much was it during the 30 minutes in the morning?
Find that information out and you’ll get your answer.
Of course, it’s not just about length.
Your clients don’t care about the length of your copy but its effectiveness.
Ask yourself: What particular quality do the texts you write at a specific time have? When do you deliver your best quality? Are there times more you find more suited for writing blog posts and others for communication with clients?
Copywriters like John Forde prefer to accomplish more complicated tasks in the morning while leaving easier ones such as answering emails for later.
Remember: to a great degree, being productive is connected to good time management.
Get your time management in control and structure it the right way and your productivity will rise.
Know when and how you work best and stick to it.
David Deutsch recommends finding your personal working environment and whatever other habits work in your specific case – things like what time of the day you prefer, whether you like to listen to music or work in silence, prefer the usage of paper to a computer, etc.
Deutsch shares a great tip to keep track of your tasks.
He says that a copywriter should be ruthless when it comes to avoiding distractions. No emails, no phone calls, and no texting with friends or family.
You don’t have to do his all the time, as is the case with project management in companies where every single task has to be documented. However, it’s a great demonstration of how well you use your time.
5. Reading & Learning
Bob Bly states that he reads every day at least one direct-mail piece or online promotion. He keeps his eyes and ears open wherever he goes, observing people.
If you want to master copywriting or any other field of interest, you absolutely have to learn from people more experienced than you.
You have to buy the information products, go to the seminars, and constantly read to perfect your art of writing copy.
Don’t worry, it’ll still be different from any other writing style because writing is quite a personal skill.
Your great advantage in copywriting or writing, in general, is timelessness.
The basics of direct response haven’t changed for over 100 years.
The writing habits of Robert Collier and Claude Hopkins hold as much weight today as in their prime days.
If you master this skill once, it will stick with you throughout your life. Just by constantly reading about copywriting, you can always add new ideas to your work.
Take the time to research what the great copywriters recommend for reading. Plus, always aim to keep learning by attending various copywriting events and reading successful sales letters.
The internet constantly brings up new developments that won‘t change the principles of copywriting – they just add new tools for you to use. Still, it’s your job to stay informed.
Listen to podcasts from successful copywriters like Ben Settle but also read and listen to other non-copywriting-related stuff.
This will inspire you.
Examine how a novel author starts and finishes a book or chapter, how he tells a story, how he names his characters, etc.
In fact, the art of storytelling is one of the most valuable skills you can have as a copywriter.
As any other skill, it’s acquired through practice. If you want to have interesting stories to tell and know how to tell them effectively, start practicing today.
You can achieve this by reading a lot, fiction as well as non-fiction, but also observing people and life in general. Take stories from your life and share them. This adds a personal touch to your sales copy, making it more authentic. It’s also more fun to experience for the reader compared to reading dozens of bullet points about a single product.
If you need tips on where to start learning…
Find the podcast episode from Ben Settle called “THE SECRET MARKETING FILES HIDDEN ON MY IPOD”, where he talks about his favorite marketing tapes in detail.
AWAI recommends the newsletters of Gary Bencivenga, Clayton Makepeace, and Bob Bly, among others.
Gary Halbert wants you to read “Scientific Advertising”, “The Robert Collier Letter Book”, “The First Hundred Millions”, “Breakthrough Advertising”, “How To Write A Good Advertisement”, “7 Steps To Freedom”, etc.
There are other great books to add here, but you get the idea.
As Gary Halbert once wrote, “Drench Yourself in This Stuff!”
You’re getting real value here, my friend, so make sure to take action.
Following the tips from this article alone can catapult you from a beginner to an A-class copywriter.
Halbert called this: “Heighten Your Awareness of ‘What’s Working Now’”.
To get inspired and find out what’s working for you, you have to be on hundreds of mailing lists and always keep learning.
6. Write, write, write
To master copywriting, writing has to become a daily habit for you.
Sometimes it’s tough and requires discipline. Like anything worth achieving, it won’t come to you if you don’t put in the work.
Look at every writing session as a valuable training unit. You will get better with every piece of copy you write.
Don Mahoney advises you to write on a daily basis and try to expand the time when you’re the most productive.
Gary Halbert advised readers of his newsletter to write every day at the same time to harness the power of the subconscious mind. He also liked to go through his notes before going to bed and let his mind find solutions while asleep.
So, how much should you write? In Halbert’s words, it should be “a lot” since the best writers in the world write very much “a lot” and all the time.
It’s so simple – the more you write, the better you become at this.
If you write more often, you will make more progress.
It’s a very simple formula, really.
This concept is similar to the rule that says you have to produce much more than you consume, which I talked about in my last article.
Writing on a daily basis is mostly about self-discipline. If you can find enough time to write in spite of all obligations in your life and stick to it over a longer period of time, your writing skills will go through the roof.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld had the goal of writing one joke per day and he would put a mark on his calendar every time he achieved it. The more marks he had on his calendar without a break, the stronger his habit became. He made sure he never missed a day.
If you have trouble getting started with writing, start with the simple stuff. Emails to a contact list are easier to write that a sales letter for a client. A blog post is easier to create than an ebook.
John Carlton once told Gary Halbert that he would start writing bullet points whenever he had a hard time getting started with writing a sales letter. The magic lies in staying proactive once you’ve started writing.
Halbert wants you to just keep on writing. Stop trying to be perfect. Most of the writing will suck anyway, so don’t be afraid to fail.
Even the famous Stephen King does this. He doesn’t pay attention to misspelling, imperfection and never gets caught up in a single idea. If he can’t think of the name of Brazil’s capital, he simply goes with Cleveland, New York, or any other city, for that matter.
Stay flexible. When you sit down to write, keep writing.
According to Steven, the only allowed exception that might serve as an excuse to stop writing is having to go to the bathroom. I think we can all agree on this one.
I am extremely confident that these success habits of some of the world’s greatest copywriters will make you better at your craft once you put them into practice.
Now, go. Don’t delay. Start implementing these rules today and get one step closer to your goal of becoming a better copywriter in 2018.
P.S. Following rule no. 1, I did quite some research for this article. For all of you interested in the sources: “The 7 Daily Habits of Successful Copywriters” by American Writers & Artists Inc. (2005), The Gary Halbert Letter, Ben Settle’s podcast, and Matt Furey’s newsletter.
This is a guest post by Haris Halkic. In his newsletter he shares the SINGLE most important secret of building your online business with effective, controversial and entertaining email copywriting. Want to learn how to unlock your full potential? How to use emails as your secret weapon for getting more sales? Get started today!