When I first heard about this tactic, I was shocked. Someone left a comment on a post asking if there was any use in hand-copying other people’s ads to learn copywriting.
Then, someone else sent an email to the Filthy Rich Writer team. And, after that, I found out that a few copywriting courses make hand-copying ads a major pillar of their teaching.
Let me make something very clear:
No, there is NO benefit in hand-copying ads when you’re trying to learn copywriting.
(And I think that so many people are asking because they already suspect that’s the case.)
Unless your main goal is to improve your penmanship, you’re not going to learn anything from hand-copying ads!
Which makes sense, right? That’s like hand-copying War and Peace to learn novel writing.
Here’s why it doesn’t work—and what you should do if you want to hone your copywriting skills.
Why Hand-Copying Ads Doesn’t Work
When you’re copying other things, you don’t learn the principles and the strategies that went into creating that copy.
When it comes to painting or drawing, there may be some benefits to copying someone else’s work to learn how it was created. You follow the steps, learning how certain strokes evoke a certain motion with the pain or how a specific line creates dimension. But that’s not possible to learn by hand-copying copy.
The way to build and improve copywriting skills is to learn the basic principles, the advanced principles, the most effective way to organize messages, how to incorporate the brand voice, and the other central tenets of copywriting.
For example, if you don’t understand the difference between features and benefits (take our features vs. benefits quiz here to learn more) or what a call to action is, copying the ad isn’t going to teach you these principles. If you’re just starting out, it’s likely you don’t have the vocabulary, never mind the understanding of the principles, to know what you’re copying beyond the words themselves.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t start practicing copywriting! There is a far more effective way beyond hand-copying ads.
How to Practice Copywriting and Improve Your Skills
You need to practice by writing your own copy pieces—not hand-copying someone else’s!
Now, there absolutely is validity in learning from the copy that’s out there in the world, but it has nothing to do with copying it. Instead, as you learn the principles of copywriting, it’s very useful to take time to notice, read, and analyze the ads you’re seeing.
1. Notice Copywriting Around You
The first step may sound obvious. But after working with 10,000+ students over the last 10+ years, one thing our team observes is that copy can be so obvious that we overlook it!
Stop and take a look around you. What copy is around you?
If you’re on public transit, what ads are on the bus, at the bus stop, or lining the subway stop or subway car If you’re on your phone, look at your inbox. If an email is from an organization, chances are a copywriter wrote it! If you’re at home, what mail have you received recently?
Once you start training yourself to look for copy, you’ll notice it in even more places than you could have imagined. (And here’s a pro tip: Keep a swipe file of ads that you find most effective and compelling for inspiration.)
2. Learn the Principles of Copywriting
If you’ve been part of the Filthy Rich Writer community for a while, you know that a major key to finding success as a copywriting is getting trained. (If you’re new to the community, welcome!)
Copywriting is much different than content writing and requires more strategy and skill. You can learn these strategies and skills, but they’re not intuitive. Like learning to fly a plane or bake a flourless chocolate cake, there are steps you need to follow and skills you need to learn and practice.
Whether you opt to get training via the Comprehensive Copywriting Academy or another program, the point stands: You need training.
3. Analyze the Copy You See
Okay, you’ve learned copywriting principles. You’ve found copy in the wild. Now, instead of hand-copying the ads, you want to analyze the copy in front of you. (Certainly write down the ad as a step 3a if it helps you—or if it’s copy you see on a subway and want to analyze later—but the next part of this exercise is far more crucial).
Based on what you’ve learned, is the ad effective? Why or why not?
Is the benefit clear?
How about the CTA? When you take the action, is what happens next what you expected? For example, you click “download” on an email. Does something begin to download? Or you clicked “buy now.” Did you make a purchase or would “add to cart” be more accurate?
Does the tone make sense for the audience? Or is it using words that make sense for a different demographic? For example, copy that says, “The OG razor for some serious rizz” but is aimed at the 50+ demographic isn’t going to land well (or, frankly, at all).
4. Rewrite the Copy
This step is the game-changer. It’s the difference between copywriters who continue to hone their skills and deliver effective copy for their clients and copywriters who never quite grasp the principles.
In order to practice copywriting, you need to…practice writing copy!
Take a piece of copy that is not written particularly well. How would you rewrite it?
It’s true that it’s necessary to learn how to write copy before you try to land clients. (We’ll say it again: It’s a career and it requires training.) But it’s worth being at least a little wary of anyone who tells you that it’s a valid learning method to hand-copy what someone else has written.
I’m not at all saying that our training is the only one or that we’re the right choice for everyone. But before you do commit to learning copywriting, first, make sure that you’re learning copywriting and, second, make sure that their “methods” will help you learn.
Want to hear more about why you shouldn’t hand-copy ads? Watch the video below!
What other weird “teaching” methods have you heard of that you’re skeptical about? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll help set the record straight based on our team’s decades of industry experience!
Last Updated on October 12, 2023