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This is my first post, so apologies if I'm posting this in the wrong place.

I've been working as a freelance SEO blog/article writer for almost a year and a half. While I enjoy the job, I am getting to the stage where I feel like I'm reaching a 'plateau' and not really improving further or learning anything from it. I'd like to take a copywriting course so I could have the confidence take on some more diverse and interesting jobs and learn a little about the craft. It would have to be distance learning so I could continue working and complete the course at my own pace. Does anyone have a course they could recommend or any experience of copywriting courses they have completed?

Many thanks in advance for your responses!

  • This is a forum-style chatty question, and isn't a very good fit for a Q&A format. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 1 '11 at 18:14
  • @NeilFein - do you have a suggestion for the OP for tightening it? I believe someone, the OP or otherwise, could edit it to clean it up. – justkt Oct 2 '11 at 3:28
  • @justkt - How can there be a single answer to this? This is a list question. However, asking what to look for in such a course would make for a much better question. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Oct 2 '11 at 3:35
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    @NeilFein - and the question can be edited to be that question. – justkt Oct 2 '11 at 18:30
  • @Traci - if you edit your question as Neil has suggested, you may get better answers. – justkt Oct 6 '11 at 19:25
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There are many good copywriting software packages, books, and even courses available.

I would strongly suggest that you find successful copywriters in your area of interest and geographic area and meet with them.

Do your homework.

Is the field your are interested in one that will provide the income you want? Do you have the mind-set to cold-call businesses, individuals, and non-profits to get an assignment? Do you have a portfolio of work to present?

What is the future of copywriting in your field of expertise? In today's economic environment you may be in a race to the bottom.

Many companies/groups are embracing other methods of getting the word out rather than the old traditional venues for copywriting.

After you do your homework get a book, learn the rudimentary aspects and do a couple of free projects for the people you contacted while doing your homework. You'll learn whether you want to be a copywriter AND have something in your portfolio.

There is no use spending months and dollars only to learn it isn't what you want to do.

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  • Thanks for your answer. I'm already doing some copywriting - I just want to take a course to further expand my knowledge and my career in it further. There's only so far self-teaching can get you! – Tracie Sherlock Sep 30 '11 at 16:10
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While you are checking out courses and deciding, start a swipe file.

Subscribe to newsletters and mailing lists, and bookmark sites whose copy you like. (Evernote and ReadItLater makes this easy.)

After you have a bunch of items in your swipe file, take the ones you like best and re-write them. And re-write them by hand with pen and paper.

This will force you to get into minute details with your favourite copy.

Your brain will also start to learn techniques and phrases.

And hopefully you will also start seeing common structures in how the copy flows - the journey good copy takes a reader on.

I also recommend AdWeek's book on copywriting. Still in print.

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You posted your question 8 years before the date of this reply. By now, hopefully you have found good sources, clients and/or employers and have become an old hand at copywriting. Some individuals have entered the business and risen to run ad agencies in less time than that.

Nevertheless, I'll try to augment some of the earlier answers. You entered the field at an "interesting" time, and it has become even more "interesting" since. With enlargement of the communications world, to include social and other electronic media, and correspondingly less print, it has become the latest cottage industry. Anyone with a word processor now considers themselves a writer. Some are great at it. Some are chasing a dream that they may or may not reach. Maybe some are the ones asking, "Why don't my ads work?" being prime marks to be sold courses and "templates."

So I put it in quotes rather cynically. Being a copywriter, especially in editorial or advertising work, has always offered a lot of variety, the chance to learn about various products and services and to reach readers, listeners and viewers at a visceral level. But it's a highly competitive business, and even if it has expanded, as with the acting biz, there may be more balls in circulation than there are slots to easily fall into.

But to expound on the answers:

  1. Write on assignment, as much as you can. Preferably in a position that gives you some variety, both to make your day more interesting and to broaden your ultimate range of opportunity. Learn to write, learn to get past writer's block, learn to write to spec, and -- above all -- learn about marketing. If it's not selling something, it's not copywriter, it's just writing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but purely creative writing is a different industry and may not pay the bills.

  2. Although you might find a trusting client willing to hire a newbie, you'll get the needed experience and portfolio much faster and more deeply with a full-time job.

  3. But to get that job, you'll need a portfolio. Various books describe what goes into a top-notch portfolio (anything less than top rank will be problematic). Maxine Paetro has written a good one. It was current when you posted, but I don't think it's been updated to reflect the current scene. Also, it addresses only the Advertising industry, which is only part of today's copywriting scene. Check with Amazon and at your local career reference library. Bob Bly's book i another classic, and surely there are others. Just bear in mind that opportunities for writing marketing communications are very wide, and you might prefer one type of niche or type of industry more than the one any particular book is about.

  4. You can find courses online, but beware of mills and templates. Yes, you might turn out to be the next famous Direct Mail maven, but there are only so many of those. Again, like acting, the business is not just about the core capability (writing). It's also about running a business, keeping up with social trends or technology and whatever industry(ies) you happen to specialize in serving. Briefly, don't pay a lot for a course, but learn what you can from the free ones and move on.

  5. To fill out your perspective, subscribe to AdAge.com and the major trade "paper" sites. Also join your local ad club or copywriting club. One longtime association is The One Club for Creativity (originally it meant "The one club for art and copy," an alternative to clubs focusing on only one of those disciplines), which has a division for students and juniors: https://www.theyoungones.org .

  6. If you live near a university or in a major city, check schools and businesses to see what courses are available. For example, when I was already a copywriter, but needed to network and upgrade my work, I took concept courses at New York City's School of Visual Arts, and from leading creatives at major agencies (through various professional organizations). These are one-shot, a la carte courses, not for a degree. Essentially, the teacher assigns a product, you come back next session with a speculative ad for it, which you present to the class, and the class discusses it. The focus is on your concept, not the body copy. Top ad agencies and other major employers are looking for conceptual thinkers, people who understand consumers (be they average people or business people) and know how to present products in fresh, persuasive ways. Although in the case of technical products there is some need for technical understanding, they aren't really looking for someone who merely writes, comes up with puns, is overly proud of a turn of phrase, or imitates what's already been done. They can find people like that on any street corner.

  7. Take some of your learning experiences with a grain of salt. There is seldom just one way to do anything. Someone else may have come up with a better way than you, but that doesn't necessarily mean your idea was bad. Also, bear in mind that a great Creative Director is not necessarily a great teacher, let alone a mentor. If you're lucky, you'll find a boss or even a client who mentors you to stand more firmly on your own. But a teacher of a course might hold your idea up to ridicule. Whether or not they are right that your ad sucks, that isn't the right way to teach. Consider it a demonstration that the copywriting business, like life, isn't always fair.

Somewhere above, surely you'll find (or have found) a lead to the type of course you were seeking.

I have a further bit of advice at my own site's Copywriter FAQs About Advertising.

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Study the great copywriters. David Ogilvy. Bill Bernbach. Scott Bywater. Jack Trout. Maria Veloso. Herschell Gordon Lewis. Check Amazon for the list. tinyurl.com/n7tfjjm I hope that helps you. BM

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    This is kind of sparse for an answer now. We're looking for answers rather than hints at answers; instead of saying "look these half-dozen folks up on Amazon" can you make specific recommendations and say why they are helpful for the asker's problem? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jan 16 '15 at 15:25

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