3 Ways to keep your copywriting skills sharp

March 6, 2020


You’d think that after a decade of being a professional writer, I’d know most of the things. And you’d be forgiven for believing that after a day of writing copy, the last thing I’d want to do is learn more about copy. Yet during my downtime at the gym or sat on the sofa scrolling through social and email, I find myself reading about and discussing copy.

The thing with being a copywriter is that it’s pretty hard to switch off completely. It feels like your mind is always bubbling away and looking for new ways to be creative. For me, one way to quiet my mind is to indulge in some post-work education. There’s always something more to learn about how to approach and better my copywriting skills.

There are a number of sources I turn to for help. They’re good to remind me of the basics, give me food for thought and keep me up to date with industry findings. All of which help me make sure I continue to create the best copy I can for my clients.  

Listen to podcasts

Copywriters are a chatty bunch, which explains why there are lots of excellent copywriting, content marketing and advertising podcasts. I enjoy turning out from the world and tuning into what peers and experts have to say when I’m putting in the kms on the treadmill. Here are the pods that usually keep me company on my walks.

The All Good Copy podcast

All Good Copy is hosted by Glenn Fisher, a direct response copywriter and author of The Art of the Click. Each 40-60 minute episode is full of copywriting insight and know-how that’s useful for aspiring and more experienced copywriters. From the creative industry professionals Glenn interviews each week to the book recommendations he makes in the ‘End of the Podcast’ section, it’s difficult not to come away with several ideas that will improve your writing and creative process.

Be warned, Glenn often has gate crashers during his recordings. Characters such as ninja copywriting guru Brad Platitudes and Glenn’s dog, Pablo often make an appearance. But even their hijacking of the podcast teaches you something about marketing and copywriting best (or bad) practice.

Favourite episodes: Mac & Moores, Cindy Gallop and Vikki Ross (There were so many I could have chosen, that restricting it to these three was tough!)

The Copywriter Club

When I was setting up my business in Australia and quietly freaking out about being good enough, The Copywriter Club podcast was the podcast I turned to for reassurance. It’s full of big ideas, not just on how to become a better writer, but how to think about your copywriting business and grow it. Hosted by copywriters Rob Marsh and Kira Hug, what I love about The Copywriter Club — especially the early episodes — is that you feel like you’re learning with Kira and Rob.

Favourite episodes: Seth Godin and Lianne Patch

Hot Copy Podcast

Hosted by Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver, I like the Hot Copy Podcast because it’s sometimes a bit mad, scatty and full of tangents. Which is what working as a copywriter often feels like. And they cover a lot. Everything from time management to imposter syndrome. Sweary copy to SEO copywriting. Packaging your copywriting services to cold emailing and lead generation. There’s always good discussion and they’re never afraid to keep asking “why?” to pull a topic apart.

I like that they switch up the format of the podcast, too. Sometimes it’s Kate and Belinda sharing their own experiences of running a copywriting business and their own writing tips. Other times Belinda or Kate go solo and interview a guest, and then there are episodes when it’s both of them running an interview with a guest. It keeps it interesting and, as a listener, it feels like because they have a little more freedom in their format they have room to deliver episodes that play up to their specialisms — so SEO for Kate and sales copy for Belinda.

Again, like with All Good Copy, it’s impossible to listen to this podcast and not come away with something new to try in your business or approach to copy.

Favourite episodes: Time saving tips for busy copywriters, The science of conversational copywriting

Take Fucking Risks

Yes, I became a listener of this podcast because the name caught my eye when browsing on Spotify.

My actual reaction:


Since then I’ve not been able to stop listening because it’s different. They neck a bottle of bubbles with their guest each episode and aren’t afraid to say stuff like, “The advertising industry is fucked,” which they say often. But then they take the time to discuss with their guests — who work in the creative industries — why this is and what needs to change. It’s refreshing to hear —both as a professional copywriter, fan of media and consumer — and brings up interesting topics around approach, creativity, attitudes, and ethics.

Favourite episodes: Drayton Bird and Ryan Wallman (Find it on Spotify)

Get active in The Clever Copywriting School

The Clever Copywriting School (TCCS) is a paid community for copywriters. Founded by Kate Toon, I can hands down say that TCCS has had a huge impact on how I run my business.

For me, getting to know other copywriters and build a network here in Australia is very important. I’m an extrovert, so the community connection is a big thing. I love that there’s a really active Facebook group with lots of conversations. This offers up the chance for peer-to-peer learning.

Kate also runs Toon Training (based on her knowledge and experience working as a freelance writer), Member Makeovers and invites experts from outside the community to share knowledge of their specialist subject during a Masterclass. This is sometimes business process related and sometimes more to do with the technical aspects of copywriting and marketing.

Join in with Twitter chats and hashtags

Are you on Twitter? If not, I suggest you sign up because there are a fuck-ton of amazing copywriters on there who post and share words of wisdom every day. Especially on the following hashtags:

  • #ContentClubUK – a weekly Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 11am (GMT) for anyone who works in content creation
  • #Copywritersunite – set up by Vikki Ross, good for finding jobs, support and tips and pub events organised across the UK. Oh, and Vikki’s #CopySafari trips are brilliant for copywriting discussion too.
  • #Write52 – a weekly writing challenge to encourage you to post something, anything, each week for 52 weeks.

Each hashtag has a tight community attached to it, but everyone is welcoming and friendly. It’s very much community over competition, which is what makes them so valuable.

I try to spend an hour or so browsing through the posts on each of these hashtags, and answer questions or join in the discussions. They force me to think differently, form an opinion and then voice it, which is important. Getting involved lets you ask your own questions and form your own way of thinking about something, which can lead to different ideas and approaches that are helpful. It’s active learning.

Sit and read

If there were more hours in each day, I would spend them sitting and reading all the excellent advice that’s delivered to my inbox. Or downloading and reading more books. And regularly check the blogs I love.

As it is, I don’t have a huge amount of time to read, so when I do I tend to gravitate towards two email newsletters in particular.

Margo Aaron’s, That Seems Important is always full of advice that flips my thinking. She’s got a background in psychology as well as copywriting, so there’s articles about human behaviour as well as the technical aspects of how to write good copy. Margo is also very funny. Her emails are bouncy and often include IRL examples of the topics she’s discussing that you can relate to.

I first heard of Drayton Bird on the Take Fucking Risk podcasts. Since then, I’ve become a fan. Not just because he appears to have lived a bat-shit crazy life (I really should buy his book to find out more) but his techniques for selling and marketing are simple and logical. He shares a lot of this in his emails, from useful checks to make sure your copy hits the mark every time to analysis of the worst ad ever. And the email subject lines are often gold. ‘Goats ate my headline!’, ‘School hero wins VC – F**ks my granny’ and ‘How to write like a German on a Tuesday morning’ — they’re a masterclass in how to write a compelling, clickable email subject line.

How all of this is helping me

Being ‘on’ creatively all of the time is impossible. Going solo all of the time would be exhausting. By reading, watching and listening to or discussing with, other creatives I’m able to get fresh perspectives on topics I thought I knew. Or learn something completely different. And that keeps my copywriting skills sharp because it forces me to try new things, which can only make the copy stronger.

The most rewarding part?

When I learn something, try it and maybe tweak it in my own way, I’m then able to give back by passing on what I learn and understand in my own articles, which hopefully helps someone else down the line.


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