Saturday, 26 May 2012

Learn Copywriting from Books, or Do You Need a Copywriting Coach or Mentor?

Learn Copywriting from Books, or Do You Need a Copywriting Coach or Mentor?
by Marcia Yudkin

Unlike doctors, lawyers, accountants and cosmetologists, most successful copywriters did not learn their profession from formal classes in school. Indeed, since there’s no standard, set, easy-to-find route to getting started in copywriting, many novices flounder for years, unsure about their skills and how to improve.

Both classic and newer books on copywriting set out the fundamental principles of the craft and should be studied in depth. You should know concepts like “call to action,” “features versus benefits,” “elements of proof,” and many others.

However, books can take you only so far. Books do not tell you whether or not you are applying the fundamental concepts intelligently and masterfully finessing the finer points. They don’t reveal the weaknesses or blind spots in your writing. A copywriting course or private coaching can provide crucial guidance that nudges you away from bad habits, boosts your confidence and quickens your mastery of writing copy. 

Here are ways in which you may profit by going beyond what you can pull out of books.

1. Feedback on assignments from an expert instructor. Some copywriting courses include this, while others don't. When feedback on your work is included, it's worth every penny. I can't tell you how many times I've seen very smart people read how-to material, then miss the important points completely when they tried to apply what they read. A teacher/mentor/coach/instructor can show you where you are going wrong – and going right – in your application.

2. A framework for study. All the masters on people's reading lists don't completely agree with each other. Confusion results. A teacher/guide gives you a single framework for understanding what you're learning and relating the various points to each other. Such consistency takes you faster to a level where you are in turn able to form your own confident opinions on the issues under dispute.

3. Discipline. If it's a course with scheduled meetings, you're more likely to keep up with assignments than when you are slogging along on your own. The same goes for a structured coaching program with a mentor.

4. Answers to questions. There are sure to be some points you don't understand, or something you’re trying to achieve that has you stumped. A mentor/coach/teacher/expert provides answers and explanations.

If you want the above advantages, save up for a copywriting course or coaching program that includes interaction with someone who knows what they're doing and enjoys passing that along to others. Look for the following qualifications in your instructor or guide:

* at least 10 years of copywriting experience, whether on the job or as an independent professional
* experience in teaching or coaching
* a writing style that you respect and like
* a supportive, rather than bullying or dictatorial, style of interaction
* good rapport with you
* agreement with your preferences and goals

You’ll learn best when your mentor respects your goals, listens as well as he or she talks, has a wealth of professional experiences to share and takes pleasure in watching you and other struggling copywriters gain confidence and grow.

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