My experience with copywriting courses

September 27, 2019

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You’re thinking of a career change and copywriting or content marketing is a direction you like the look of. You’ve always enjoyed writing, you’re creative and you may even have done a bit of this sort of work for your current or previous employer. But you realise you’ve only explored the tip of the iceberg. Now you want something solid to back up what you know and progress your copywriting skills.

Taking a course is, you think, the easiest way to achieve this. Not only will you get a certification (or similar) from some kind of copy/content authority, but from the self-learning you’ve done so far, you’ve discovered there’s a lot out there.

At least a course will cut through some of the noise and help learn all the things in one fell swoop. Plus, signing up to a course means only looking in one place to find the answers you’re looking for, right?

 

copywriting-courses-tell-you-all-the-things

 

I get it. I’ve been there too. And you’re not wrong.

Copywriting courses are a useful way to educate yourself if you’re new to copywriting or content marketing. This is one of the reasons why I took a couple of courses, but it’s my opinion they’re not the be-all and end-all.

New and senior writers (from other disciplines) have asked me about the copywriting courses I’ve taken, so it’s high time I put something useful together. Something that properly answers the question, “Did you find them useful?”

Hell, I did exactly the same before signing up. No one likes spaffing money up the wall. Least of all low-paid creatives getting their businesses started. Every penny counts.

What I’ve got to make clear is that my reasons for taking these copywriting courses may be very different from yours. You won’t hear me say, “These are the best copywriting courses! Take them!” That’s daft. Instead, I’m happy to offer up my honest, personal reasons for taking them and my individual experiences of each.

Two copywriting courses at two very different stages in my career

Here’s a quick outline of the courses I took and when I took them.

The Blackford Centre’s Diploma in Copywriting

Started it in: 2014

Time to complete: Too long, took me about 18 months but if I’m remembering rightly, the course notes said it’s possible to complete in around six months.

Course qualification: Level 4 Diploma (read more here)

Course/tutors based in: UK

I was living in:  The UK

 

Copyblogger Authority Certification

Started it in: 2017

Time to complete: About seven months.

Course qualification: Certificate from course body

Course/tutors based in: America

I was living in: Australia

My motivation for taking the copywriting course

The Blackford Centre Diploma

Working as a freelance journalist, but realised I was getting more jobs (and therefore money) from ecommerce businesses wanting someone to write their blogs, email marketing and website copy. This required a different set of skills to journalism. Found myself coming across the phrases ‘copywriting’ and ‘digital marketing’ a lot more.

My university degree was purely writing for media (journalism, TV, short film) and didn’t cover any type of marketing writing. The jobs I’d had to date didn’t give me much to go on either – the odd advertorial – so thought if I was spending more time writing digital marketing copy and making a better income from it, I should check my skills and fill any gaps in my knowledge.

That’s why I signed up to the course. I picked Blackford Centre because it was the only UK course I could find that offers a diploma regulated by an external awards body.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

Two pretty simple reasons why I did the Authority certification.

1) I wanted more leads to boost my new business here in Australia. Copyblogger is a huge platform. I knew if I could get myself listed as one of their certified writers it would help my business, give me a backlink and be another way of getting quality leads to my website.

2) Although I was (mostly) confident in my writing skills, I was sketchy on project managing the content strategy side of things and knew there was room for improvement — especially as I was going freelance and knew clients would need support with this.

How I found it

The Blackford Centre Diploma

Really well-structured. It delivered a great overview of different copywriting styles which is useful if you’re still deciding what media you like writing for.

Students get a dedicated tutor. Most modules have a short assessment at the end of them, so you can put what you’ve learned into practice. When you’re done, you send this to your tutor and they mark it. 

My tutor was Richard Owsley and he was great. His feedback was always useful and he took the time to answer my questions.

Having worked in the media industry and around PR I already knew some of the writing techniques and mechanics of writing that the covered by the course. Stuff like learning how to structure a piece of writing – the importance of headings, lead lines and where to place hooks in your writing. But all of the marketing techniques such as funnels, direct mail and site maps was info I hadn’t come across before.

My favourite module was writing radio ads. It was a chance to be creative and playful. Sadly, to date, I’ve not written a radio advert but have done a few video scripts.

At the time I took the course there wasn’t much on writing for digital marketing – so copy for websites, sales pages, etc. This was a shame as most of my copy was being used for online media. From what I hear the course has been restructured to include more of this, so it’s likely to be pretty different to the diploma I completed.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

 

Resources, resources, resources! There are loads of them in the Authority Certification. Worksheets and modules are downloadable as PDFs but there are also links to podcasts and articles relevant to each module. Plus a steady stream of emails. Copyblogger also does live Q&A sessions and webinars, but I never tuned in. The time difference was a big factor here.

With all this content to read and listen to it sometimes felt a little overwhelming. Part way through the course I realised I didn’t have to interact with all the things. By this time I’d been a professional writer for around eight years and had on-the-job experience. Plus, my reasons for doing this was to complete the certification and get leads.

To battle the overwhelm I started cherry-picking and using my time to go through processes and ideas I wasn’t familiar with.  

I really liked how this course went deeper into content marketing strategy, so it wasn’t so much ‘how to write stuff’ and more, ‘here’s how to effectively plan, create and use content marketing to get results.’ Although I had some first-hand experience of this, it was good to see how the experts suggest creating a content marketing plan for a client and the resources they use.

While this course doesn’t have assessments at the end of each module, it does include useful exercises.

At the end of the course you can apply to become a Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer. This is how you get listed on their directory.

To do this you submit three pieces of work to their certification board. I think at the time I took it, I was asked to show a website landing page, a blog article and a sales email. The team are really helpful when pulling this together. If you’re a new writer and content marketer without a portfolio they’ll advise you on some hypothetical copy you can write.

Once they’ve reviewed your work, you get a mark out of 100 (I got 94!) and if you pass you get your listing.

Impact on my business

The Blackford Centre Diploma

Copywriting requires a different mindset and skills to journalism. Although there’s some crossover in the writing techniques they are two very different disciplines. 

The diploma gave me some much-needed confidence during the very early days of my copywriting career. Even though there was a fair bit of the course content I knew from holding professional writing jobs, having a certification stopped me from feeling like a total newbie and went some way to putting a lid on imposter syndrome.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

Impact = huge. This certification achieved exactly what I wanted. It brought more leads to my business. Most of them quality leads.

I continue to pay the annual fee to stay registered as a Copyblogger Certified Marketer and it’s not cheap, but I only really need to convert one lead each year and the cost is more than covered.

It’s also a great backlink to have and brings a fair bit of traffic to my site. No bad thing that people are finding me on Copyblogger and taking the time to check out my site.

A final word on copywriting courses

Before investing in a copywriting course get clear on what you want at the end of it. There are so many free and very affordable resources you can check out before investing in a course.

A couple of examples of media that I’ve found (and am still finding) really helps keep my skills up to scratch.

The Copywriter Club podcast

Hot Copy podcast

The Art of the Click by Glenn Fisher

Read Me by Roger Horberry and Gyles Lingwod

Margo Arron’s emails

Drayton Bird’s emails (Just started getting these and enjoying a lot)

The Clever Copywriting School blogs

Digital Drum blogs

There’s also a ridiculously friendly community of copywriters on Twitter. If you use the hashtag #ContentClubUK you’ll find them. Pretty much everyone you see there (myself included) has an open invitation for you to DM them or ask questions about copywriting and content marketing.

So get stuck in and see how far you can get before plunging into a course. You may surprise yourself.

Back to blog >

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Hello, Thank you for this review. Unfortunately, they just stopped offering the Copyblogger certification to revamp their biz model or something….however, I am wondering about the Blackford Centre Diploma….were you able to use a lot of the assignments as portfolio pieces? Was that generally the goal of the tutor-marked assignments — to help you polish your assignments to a level that you could show when looking for work? If so, about how many portfolio-worthy pieces did you get out of the course? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Aimee, cheers for stopping by and taking the time to read. I did hear that Copyblogger have closed their doors for the time being.

      With the Blackford Centre Diploma, I personally didn’t use the assignments in my portfolio. Or I think I used one for a short while: the radio script. Reason I didn’t use more was because I had a heap of articles and bits from my magazine days, plus a couple of early freelance copywriting projects I’d done.

      I did see discussions between other course members about using the assignments in portfolios. Or taking the general theme for an assignments and setting their own briefs so they could build up more of one style of copywriting. You absolutely could use the tutor marked assignments for this. Although each assignment is only marked once, or at least it was when I did it. So it didn’t feel like there was room to keep polishing and refining a piece with the help of your tutor.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

      Reply
      • Hi Rose

        Your information is very useful. I’m looking at signing up for the Blackford course because I like the idea of the module assignments and feedback. I have done some copywriting and have completed a course but I want more repetition to create a decent portfolio. I have access to a Facebook group I could use for on going feedback to polish up my Blackford assignments. Does that sound like a good plan based on your experience?

        Regards

        Mike

      • Hi Mike,

        Thanks for stopping by and reading. Yeah, if you want to keep working on Blackford assignments so they are polished up to become portfolio pieces, you could totally do that. You could redraft based on the initial feedback you get from your tutor and then if people in your FB group are kind enough to give extra feedback then that’s a great opportunity.

        Only word of warning I can think of with getting feedback from a FB group is remember you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen. And also bear in mind they may not have seen your entire brief. Just something to consider. Good luck with the course and hope you enjoy it.

  2. Thank you for writing this. As a journalism major in a Jr. Copywriter position, I definitely feel “imposter syndrome”. Because I’m not so experienced in the field, I was pretty unhappy to see the options for continuing education: daytime ad schools, shady online courses, both for thousands of dollars. I appreciate you breaking down exactly how you benefited from Blackford, it helps me realize it may not be funds wasted. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Kromaly, no worries. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a read. Glad you found it helpful and good luck with your onward journey into copywriting 🙂

      Reply
  3. How you get a copywriting course I would like to join can you send me a course join links

    Reply
  4. Hi Rose,

    I feel the truth in your review, so thank you for that. I have no experience in copy writing or writing, other than helping to proof read or sharpen up co-workers written work. But I really perk up when I have the opportunity to do that and I like to write and speak correctly. Nor am I super savvy with the computer. I am not looking to be a high powered copy writer but I would like to have an income once I retire. Would the Blackford Centre Diploma course be a good fit for someone who had to Google “copy writing” to find out exactly what it is?! Thank you.

    Barbara Lee

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara,

      Cheers for taking the time to read my article and comment. Also good to hear my SEO is working on this one 🙂

      Yes, the Blackford Centre would be a good fit. When I took the certificate it started with the basics, so you can certainly come to it knowing little to nothing about copywriting and learn the skills.

      That said, if you’re completely box fresh and only want to dabble in it part-time – perhaps more from an editing and proofreading role – you might choose to save your money to begin with and invest in a few affordable books and a bit of time. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of ‘The Art of the Click’ by Glenn Fisher to get a good overview of copywriting practices. Also, look up Drayton Bird, The Hot Copy Podcast and The Copywriter Club Podcast. All of these will give you a solid starter understanding of copywriting and content marketing, without having to spend out hundreds of pounds.

      Good luck! Rose

      Reply
  5. Excellent advice. Thank you very much, Rose. I will do that.

    Reply
  6. Hi Rose

    I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for your lovely feedback on the course, and congratulations for all you have achieved!

    I am so pleased to hear how much you enjoyed studying with us, and to see your success and progress.

    If ever you need anything, do let us know, and similarly, anyone interested in the course who has any questions, please do get in touch! Our support team can be reached at: support@inst.org.

    Congratulations from all of us at the Blackford Centre, and the best of luck for the future.

    Best wishes

    Emma
    Support Coordinator
    The Blackford Centre

    Reply
    • Hi Emma,
      Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking the time to reply. As the course has changed since I completed my diploma I also love that anyone who stops by here now has a chance to email you directly. I know that’ll be a big help to many.
      Thanks again!
      Rose

      Reply

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