So you wanna be a copywriter?

Random stock photography that relates obliquely to the topic under discussion

Random stock photography image relating obliquely to the topic under discussion.

My late father used to say something is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. So if you’re planning on being a hotshot-copywriter here’s some free advice.

The thing you need to know is that the title of “copywriter” is a misnomer. You’re not just putting words on paper. Most likely you’ll be called upon to conceptualise entire campaigns: think up ideas first and then expound them in words. 

Here’s my number one tip for being a hotshot copywriter: you need to be a reader.

Count the number of books (not comics, magazines or movies you’ve watched based on books) you’ve read a month. If it’s less than 7, prepare yourself for mediocrity. The secret to great copywriting is to read extensively. Read anything. Read everything. Read it twice. Set up a core reading list of non-advertising-related material and then supplement that with advertising-related material. Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. You’re gonna work in advertising, so surely you should read more advertising stuff?

The thing is you’re probably going to read more advertising stuff anyway. But advertising and marketing is about telling stories – so you need to read stories. Authors like Stephen King are masters at compelling tale-telling. Study them and you’re adding weapons to your arsenal that will help you throughout your career.

Reading is the groundwork for great writing. Your brain stores little nuggets (phrases, concepts, clever words) and your subconscious  plays around with it while you’re asleep. And then when you sit down to create, it comes rushing out – idea after idea after idea.

A dam that’s dry won’t burst its banks. Reading is filling the dam.

What should you read? You decide. Pick up a copy of Luke Sullivan’s  “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” and read it cover-to-cover. It’s killer. Then get a copy of Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”. Then read Paul Arden’s “It’s Not How Good You Are. It’s How Good You Want To Be.” Then maybe you should read “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. Follow it up with “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.  

And then..? You tell me. What should you be reading if you want to be the next big thing in copywriting?


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