How most copywriting training sets you up to fail in lesson 1
I’ve created a lot of copywriting training over the years. Some of my early training was admired by many copywriters. It covered everything from technical copy tricks to broad sales strategy.
This is not me blowing my own trumpet; it’s the opinion of other copywriters I respect. I worked with men like Perry Marshall, Ian Brodie, Daniel Levis, and Donnie Bryant.
So you’d think that I’d have been killer at teaching copywriting.
But the fact is, although copywriters must understand the psychology of persuasion, they seldom understand the psychology learning.
Because of this, when I saw the results people got from my training, I was often puzzled and frustrated.
They struggled to implement what I taught.
It took me a while to figure out why, but eventually I learned that it was because I was modeling my training on material created by other top copywriters.
And here’s the problem:
Just about all copywriting training material is unlearnable by design
I don’t mean that copywriters intentionally make their books and courses hard to learn from.
They’re not setting you up to fail on purpose.
Rather, like most people, they simply haven’t studied learning psychology. They teach “intuitively” — thinking that if they just walk you through writing copy, from headline to CTA, then you’ll come out the other end knowing how to do it.
Unfortunately, as with many things in life, the way we naturally teach doesn’t actually mesh with the way we naturally learn.
The lizard brain gets in the way.
I first realized this after I had been coaching people one-on-one. The more I did that, the more my teaching changed. After a while, I realized that how I taught people in person was utterly different to how I taught them in my training material.
It was also a heck of a lot more effective.
So I set about creating a new training course that followed the same teaching method that I use with my personal coaching. And the result is Copywriting Night School.
My secret sauce: I teach you to write copy backwards
We literally start at the end. You learn to write the call to action before anything else — and then slowly work back toward the headline.
If you’ve done any copywriting training in the past, you’ll know that this is very unusual.
Why not start with the headline, and work forward? It seems logical — but when I actually tried to train people this way, my students invariably struggled out of the gate.
Because the headline is the hardest piece of copy to write!
The lizard brain therefore goes into flight mode immediately — and your well-intentioned effort to learn is instantly crippled.
Only after I started really studying how people acquire new skills and knowledge did I realize that starting at the beginning, which seemed totally natural...was actually backwards.
Copywriting Night School is the result of redesigning my training to work with your natural learning psychology, rather than against it. I identified 5 key ingredients for effective learning, and baked them into the course. These make your lizard brain happy and content. Sometimes they even put it into fight mode (not flight; no L) — iow, I try to stimulate a situation where Mr. Lizard sees each task as an enemy it can beat, and devotes all your energy to whooping.
Either way, you avoid him getting scared and flighty — so he never stops you from getting the job done.
Let me lay out how different this teaching format is from the usual suspects — especially copywriting books and “guru” courses...
A training program designed around 5 key ingredients of effective learning
Here are the key principles that I learned and redesigned my training around:
1. Focus on the 20% of skills that contribute to 80% of success
Other training focuses heavily on the sexy “ninja” techniques and persuasion “chokeholds” that experts use to push their copy the last mile. But those experts only use these skills 20% of the time. 80% of the time they’re using simple, fundamental skills.
These fundamentals are what regular folks — folks who aren’t competing at a world level — need to learn.
I focus heavily on these fundamentals, and leave out most of the top-level stuff. This is the polar opposite to most training, which tries to impress you with advanced techniques. Going deep into fundamentals feels too simple — even disappointing.
But focusing on advanced techniques guarantees failure for someone who isn’t ready. Trying to learn copy that way is like trying to learn to drive at a 2-day racing workshop. A racing driver wants to teach all the nuances and minor techniques that give him an edge. But you really just want to change gear without destroying the clutch or stalling the car.
Overloading yourself with the 80% of information that you simply don’t need is a fool’s errand. You need to drive before you can race.
2. Break up concepts into minimal useful components
Other training teaches copywriting by trying to convey large, complex ideas first (headlines, ledes etc). Copywriting Night School breaks copywriting into its minimal useful “parts” so your brain doesn’t blow out.
Imagine you had to become an expert on your car engine. It wouldn’t make much sense to get a schematic and try to memorize every piece in it from A to Z, right?
You’d have to be a savant for that to work.
What you’d do is break down the engine into its key components. Then you would break down each of those into their key components. And pretty soon, you’d have not only an excellent idea of all the parts of the engine, but also how they fit together and relate to each other.
That’s how I teach in Copywriting Night School. I chunk everything down into minimum useful components, and then explain how those work. Then I connect them to the other components...
3. Explain and link components through unifying principles
Other training seldom explains the key similarities that underlie seemingly different types of copy. Copywriting Night School explains and links components of copy through unifying principles that help you understand why they are effective.
To use the car engine analogy again: becoming an expert on an engine would be very hard without understanding principles like motion, combustion, friction and so on.
In the same way, learning copywriting is basically impossible without understanding the 4 underlying principles that tie everything together, and explain why they matter in the first place.
I call these principles the “4 Cs”. And I teach them progressively by relating each component that you learn back to them in clear, straightforward ways.
4. Promote adherence by intelligently progressing through components
Most other training expects you to simply follow the structure of a sales page or letter, and stay motivated when you start struggling with hard techniques early on. I take a different approach that makes adherence easy — by intelligently progressing through the easy components first, thereby building a positive feedback loop of successful action.
The key to success is adherence. Starting hard makes adherence hard. If you feel like you’re failing out the gate, you don’t tend to stick with it. Not only does a lot of training start with the hardest components to write (e.g., the headline), but it also focuses on writing efficiently and effectively too early.
Yes, of course a copywriter wants to be efficient and effective. And in the long run, you will develop those skills. But when you are learning a new skill, the most important factor to success is simply whether you keep practicing. Demanding effectiveness and efficiency early on sets the bar too high, motivating you to give up, instead of...well, the other thing.
Copywriting Night School is expressly designed to keep you moving forward with small, achievable, but still useful tasks that promote a sense of achievement, while rapidly building into content you can use in your business to make money.
5. Ensure retention through repetition
Most copywriting training assumes that once you’ve learned something, it’s in your head forever. Therefore, repeating it is wasteful.
This is dumb. You need to go over new concepts and perform new skills repeatedly in order to retain them. When it comes to a complex skill like writing copy, you have to practice a lot to get good — and you have to be exposed to the underlying principles (the 4 Cs) multiple times, in multiple ways, before they begin to make sense and become intuitive patterns.
Copywriting Night School is completely structured around incrementally improving your skills and your knowledge by working through multiple different types of copy which you will ultimately combine into a usable, money-making campaign sequence. Spaced repetition of concepts and skills is built into the structure of the lessons.
5 principles for learning = lizard brain ally
By learning copywriting using these principles, your lizard brain becomes an ally to your cause, rather than an enemy.
Because you’re focusing on short-term goals where you can easily see your way, there’s no subconscious sense of danger, and your ability to learn and implement is not impaired.
Because you know these baby steps are culminating in a carefully-planned long-term goal, you can let go and focus on taking things one step at a time.
The result: in a few weeks or months, depending how quickly you work, you will have strong, compelling copy written by your very own self to use in your business — and a skillset that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.
Module 1 of Copywriting Night School is coming out soon. Get the lessons for free as they are released by subscribing:
Now that you know how you’ll learn in this program, next time I’ll tell you more about what you will learn — starting with 3 critical elements of salesmanship.