My experience with copywriting courses

December 2, 2020

Comments

This article was updated in November 2020. It includes an offer that saves you money and, for full transparency, financially benefits me too. Read on: all will be revealed… 

Big chunky caveats you need to know before reading this article

The people and companies creating copywriting courses need to keep them up to date. While the core lessons of how to write copy barely change, the ways we advertise to people (print, radio, PR, digital) do. Couple this with societal changes influencing how audiences think and interact with marketing and it’s clear that our craft can’t remain static. Courses teaching copywriting must move with these changes. 

Both of the courses I took in 2014 and 2017 have changed a lot. In fact, one of the courses doesn’t even exist anymore. The Copyblogger Authority certification has been scrapped — it’s now Copyblogger Pro — and The Blackford Centre have made big changes too; now focussing more heavily on copywriting for digital mediums. 

With all these changes you might be wondering if this article is still relevant? 

Fair question. 

But if you’re torn between whether to take a course or not, this article will still help in the following three ways:

  1. Both courses I talk about are online courses. If you’ve never done one of these before you’ll get insights into how online distance learning works and what you can expect.
  2. Balancing life with study can be tricky. I’ll give you an idea of how much time you need to set aside based on my own experiences.
  3. I share the impact these courses have had on my business. Good and bad.

I discuss parts of the course which, no matter how much the creators tinker with the content, will always be relevant. 

With those caveats out the way, hopefully you’re still interested in reading more about my copywriting course experiences. And for those of you who are serious about taking a course, I’ve negotiated a discount with The Blackford Centre (which I’ll explain in full later on). First, let me share what I know about online learning, the time needed to take the courses and the impact they’ve had on my business. What I have to say may help you decide if taking a course is right for you, right now.

Are copywriting courses worth it?

You’re thinking of a career change and like the look of copywriting and content marketing. You’ve always enjoyed writing; you’re creative and have done a bit of this sort of work as part of your full-time job. Realising you’ve tasted something you like, you’re keen to try a bit more and get your mitts on a certification that solidifies what you already know while advancing your skills. 

Taking a course is, you think, the easiest way to achieve this. Courses look attractive for three reasons.

  1. They offer the chance to be tutored by someone with hands-on copywriting experience. 
  2. At the end of it you get a swish looking certification (or similar) from some sort of copywriting authority.
  3. You learn everything you need from one source. And this is a big draw as you’ll no longer need to scour the web searching for information. Because, as you’ll probably have clocked by now, there’s a lot of information out there about how to be a copywriter. 

I get it; I’ve been motivated by the same thinking and attracted to courses for these same reasons. Copywriting courses are useful. Especially if you’re box-fresh to it. But in my opinion they’re not the be all and end all. It’s right to question their worth and I’m happy that people regularly get in touch to chat it through with me. 

A few times a month I’ll get a message from a writer — both new and more senior — asking me about the copywriting courses I’ve taken. This post is my attempt to put something together that 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 who are starting their business. Every penny counts. 

One thing I want to make clear — and appreciated others saying to me when I was trying to make my own decisions — is that my reasons for taking these copywriting courses may be very different to yours. You won’t hear me say “These are the best copywriting courses, take them!” That would be daft. Instead, I’m offering up my honest, personal reasons for taking them and individual experiences of each. It’s up to you how you use that information.

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: The 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

I was working as a freelance journalist but realised there was more work (and therefore money) in writing blogs, website copy and emails for ecommerce businesses. However, I quickly learnt that writing marketing copy is very different from writing journalistic features. My university degree was purely writing for media (journalism, TV, short film); it 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 was hardly much help) so I thought if I was going to be spending more time writing digital marketing copy and making a better income from it, I should probably improve my skills and fill the gaps in my knowledge. 

These were my reasons for signing up to the course. I picked Blackford Centre because it was the only UK course that offered a diploma regulated by an external awards body.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

I took the Authority certification for two very simple reasons:

  1. I’d just started my business here in Australia and I wanted more leads. Copyblogger is a huge platform. Getting myself listed as one of their certified writers would help get my name out there, give me a sexy backlink to my fresh-as-a-daisy website and drive leads my way.
  2. Although I was (mostly) confident in my writing skills, I had no idea about how to run a business. Project management and content strategy? What the flip did I know about that? Hint: nothing. I knew I needed to improve my skills in these areas and this course covered stuff like that, as well as the technical writing stuff.

How was it?

The Blackford Centre Diploma

This was a really well-structured course. It delivered a great overview of different copywriting styles, from writing press releases to creating scripts for radio ads. This is especially useful if part of your journey is finding out what type of stuff you enjoy writing. 

Note: There have been changes to the course content since I took it. New modules that weren’t around when I did it include:

  • SEO copywriting
  • pay-per-click ad writing
  • social media marketing
  • TV/video scripting. 

One thing that is the same is that each student has a dedicated tutor, and most modules include an assessment at the end which forces you to put what you’ve learned into practise. 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 as a journo on-staff, I already knew the mechanics of some writing techniques covered by the course. Stuff like structure — headings, lead lines and placing hooks — I was confident with. But all of the marketing techniques — funnels, direct mail and site maps — was new to me.

My favourite module was writing radio ads (which is still a feature in the course). I loved how creative and playful I got to be.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

Resources, resources, resources! Copyblogger isn’t short of them. Worksheets and modules were PDF downloads and there were lots of links to podcasts and articles for each module, plus a steady stream of emails. There were also regular live Q&A sessions and webinars, but time differences between US and Australia meant I never tuned in (and admittedly I was too lazy/focused on work to rewatch them). 

Having so much content available was interesting, but sometimes felt a little overwhelming. I have no idea if this is still the case since it’s become Copyblogger Pro. 🤷 

Part way through the course, I realised I didn’t have to read, watch or listen to all of the things in order to complete the certificate, which felt like a weight lifted. By this time I’d been a professional writer for around eight years and had on-the-job experience. A lot of the course content wasn’t new to me so I was feeling a tad frustrated about going over old ground.

Remember, my main reason for doing this was to complete the certification and get leads. 

I started cherry-picking modules that went through business processes and content creation ideas I wasn’t familiar with. And the course did really well at showing and teaching the strategy stuff. I came away from it a lot more confident on how to plan, create and use content marketing to get results. It was good to see how Brian Clark and co 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. It’s then up to you if you take the big certification assessment at the end. You don’t (or didn’t) have to. As I said, for me it was my whole reason for doing it and getting on their directory.

How the Copyblogger certification works

You submit three pieces of work to their certification board. At the time I took it, I was asked to show:

  • a website landing page 
  • a blog article 
  • and a sales email. 

The Copyblogger team were really helpful when pulling this together. If you’re a new writer without a portfolio, they’ll give you ideas for 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.

The Blackford Centre Diploma

The size of the modules varied. Some involved reading five or six pages, whereas others were about 20. I found I’d need between one and three hours to read through it all, completing any exercises along the way. 

For modules with assessments, I’d put at least two-hours aside to work through them. Assessments that involved longer copywriting forms would take more like three hours with around 30-to-45 minutes of editing time.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

What was nice about the Authority certification is that PDFs were usually not much more than five or 10 pages. I was finding I could do bits of it in my lunch hour, or only need an hour or two after my working day to cover off the content. 

Each module also included a recording of the course leader, Sonia Simone, discussing the topic and main points. After a day starring at a screen, it was quite nice to learn through listening and making some handwritten notes.

Impact on my business

The Blackford Centre Diploma

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

The diploma delivered 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 my imposter syndrome.

Copyblogger Authority Certification

Impact = huge. This certification achieved exactly what I wanted; it brought more leads (most of them quality) to my business. 

I kept paying the annual fee for the first three years of my business so I stayed registered as a Copyblogger Certified Marketer. This wasn’t cheap, however I only needed to convert one lead each year to cover the cost. Having my profile on Copyblogger was also a great backlink, bringing a healthy amount of traffic to my site.

Why I left Copyblogger

I got what I needed from it. Three years on and my business is fairly settled. I’ve grown my profile in other ways and so have leads and jobs coming through from places more specific to my niche and interests.

Final word on copywriting courses

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

A few examples of media that I’ve found (and am still finding) really helpful to 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 or #copywritersunite 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. I suggest getting stuck in and seeing how far you get before plunging into a course. You may surprise yourself.

A special treat for those who are

course-ready 

🎁 I’ve wrangled an arrangement with The Blackford Centre. One that saves you money on their Diploma in Copywriting course. And, for full transparency, earns me a few quid along the way. (More on that in a mo.)

So what’s the offer?

A rather delightful 10% off the course price.

So instead of paying £480 for the online edition, you get it for £432.

If you prefer it in US dollars… 

Rather than a hefty $872, it’s all yours for $784. 

You can enrol and get the discount by following this special link.

Alternatively, you can phone 0800 781 17 15 (+44 1373 470 270 outside the UK) and say Rose Crompton sent you to secure your discount.

But before you do one of those, I suggest taking the time to read the course content and understanding what you’ll learn. This is a big investment — of time and money — so it’s important you feel confident the course is going to give you what you want.

That said, signing up to The Blackford Centre is a pretty safe bet. It comes with a 60-day, no-quibble refund, which was one of the qualities that caught my eye (along with the fact it was the only course I could find that offered a recognised diploma). I knew that if I didn’t feel like I was getting what I needed my money would be refunded in full within 60 days.

Having read this, you know I didn’t need to take them up on that guarantee. 

What do I get out of you signing up? 

I’ve written this article to help other copywriters. I know that torn, confused feeling you get as you weigh up whether a course is going to be worth it or not.

All I wanted was to share my opinion in the hope it helps you.

I was getting a lot of comments and private emails from writers wanting to talk more about the courses, but in particular about my experience with The Blackford Centre. Some of those folks may have gone on to sign up as a result of this article, so I thought, why not see if I can strike a deal that benefits the three of us?

The Blackford Centre get a fab new student who’s coming to them informed and confident. I get a small kickback. You get the copywriting training you’re searching for and money off.

And I’m not saying all this because I’m trying to make money.

In fact, I was chatting to a new copywriter at the time I was setting this up with The Blackford Centre. I could have encouraged them to sign up and earned a bit of money. But I didn’t. I actually warned them off, sending them towards some of the free resources first. For them, that made more sense.

So I’m not going to push you into something just because I get a few quid from it. Far from it; I’m not that type of person. I can’t be that type of person. I’m the type of person who wants to help and see you do well, just as others have helped me through my career (and goodness knows I’ve needed that guidance at times!). 

This special offer is for if you know, for sure, that taking a copywriting course is exactly what you want to do. 

If that’s you, and you’re at that point in your journey, then I’d love it if you’d sign up through my special page or phone 0800 781 17 15 (+44 1373 470 270 outside the UK) and say Rose Crompton sent you, to secure your discount.

Thanks in advance if you choose to do this. And as one of my people, please let me know how you go on the course. Email me any time.

17 Comments

17 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
  7. Hey Rose, I’m so glad I came across this. Thank you so much for selflessly putting this out here. Like you said about the ‘torn and confused feeling’, so do I feel! Reading this clears up so much in my head. I also followed you on twitter 🙂 Again, I say A very heartfelt THANK YOU!

    Reply
    • Hi Lee-Anne,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to read my article. Really glad to hear you found it helpful. What conclusions have you come to?

      Thank you also for the follow on Twitter. Right back at you! Have you discovered the #ContentClubUK chat on Twitter yet? I reckon you’d find a lot of value in it.
      Take it easy,
      Rose

      Reply
      • Hey Rose, I will be taking the Blackford Centre’s diploma. I’m looking to practice more and I guess the feedback would help a lot. The biggest bonus would be the certification, it will boost my confidence. I’m grateful for your advice, I’ve made up my mind and I’ll be going through the link you provided. Thanks so so much! 🙂

      • That’s brilliant. Really great to hear you’ve decided to move forward with the Blackford certification. And any time. Keep me posted on how you get on rosemcrompton@gmail.com Good luck!

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