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Copywriting scam alert

by Nick O’Connor

I’m afraid you’re being lied to.

And it really needs to stop.

Like, right now.

Here’s how the lie – which after 15 years in the industry I’ve concluded is the easily the biggest scam in the world of copywriting – plays out in real time.

So you decide you want to become a copywriter.

Maybe you’ve always loved writing.

Maybe you’re attracted to the idea of creative freedom.

Maybe you’ve had a career in sales but want pitch less and write more.

Or maybe you’ve just heard copywriters make a ton of money and you want in (this is only true for a handful of top copywriters, but that subject is outside the remit of today’s essay).

Motivations aside, the point is you decide you want to be a copywriter.

So you start looking for advice online about how to do that.

The first people you encounter are the total frauds – you know, the people who claim you can “make $10,000 a month as a copywriter even if you’ve never written a single word in your life basically on autopilot and without lifting a finger or doing any work like clockwork while you sleep”.

OK, I might be paraphrasing there.

But there are plenty of people on the internet pushing this sort of shit.

Periodically, I go on YouTube and check out the latest version of this nonsense.

It usually has about a million times more views than anything we’ve ever done. (I blame Glenn for this.)

But that’s not the Big Lie I’m talking about today.

No – I think most reasonable people know it’s going to take a bit of time and hard work to make it as a copywriter, and see through all the “$10k like clockwork” stuff.

What I’m talking about is something far more insidious…

You’ve probably seen it in action yourself.

You’re looking for advice on how to succeed as a copywriter, get more clients, earn more, land better gigs, etc.

And you come across something like this:

“The way to get more clients is to post daily on LinkedIn. Just show up, every day!”

Or maybe it’s this:

“To succeed as a copywriter you need to start your own weekly email/blog and share copy advice.”

Or this old chestnut:

“Monetise your skillset by creating a digital product – about copywriting!”

This is all – and I really hate to be the one to say it – complete and utter bollocks.

It’s nonsense.

It’s not even a little bit true.

And it’s really damaging.


Because all of those suggestions imply that to succeed as a copywriter, you need to build a big audience of other copywriters.

You don’t.

Those people are your competitors.

They might be useful on a social level – or as a support group.

But they won’t get you more clients, or more money.

In fact, a lot of what I see online is just copywriters talking to other copywriters about copywriting.

Half the time it involves some BS like, “Here, steal my LinkedIn hooks and grow your audience 10x faster!”

(Question to consider later: in an industry that values creativity and originality above everything else, how would stealing someone else’s ‘hooks’ ever work?)

It all gets copywriting entirely back to front.

And it means a lot of people waste a ton of time “building their personal brand” or trying to create a digital product they can flog online, instead of, you know, actually earning money as a copywriter.

They lose sight of the goal they started out with.

Be honest now: Maybe you’ve done this too?

Maybe you’ve spent more time posting on social media than you have writing copy, or chasing clients?

Maybe you’ve been taken in by the Big Lie?

If so, don’t worry. I doubt you’re alone. There’s so much of this kind of crappy advice out there that it’s hard to avoid.

So what should you be doing instead?

Well, that’s a subject we’ll cover at length very soon. But for starters, try this:

1) Identify 4-5 businesses in your area of expertise that have a clear and obvious need for new copy (either because their current copy is shite, or they have a very copy intensive business – like email marketing).

2) Work hard to develop the specific skills that’ll help you stand out in that area (eg, if they send 10 emails a day, get really good at writing subject lines and short, snappy email hooks).

3) Figure out who their head of copy or head of marketing is and PITCH THEM (you can use social media as a research tool for this part).

That’s it.

It’s not easy.

But it’s the TRUTH.

Narrowing down a shortlist of people who might actually pay you to write copy, and cultivating the skills and relationships you need to succeed with them…

Well, that’s going to be a lot more useful than writing a social media post to 10,000 other copywriters.

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