Even after 15 years of copywriting in Bristol and Gloucestershire, I’d feel uncomfortable calling myself a master copywriter. That’s not because I’m not a skilled copywriter or an experienced copywriter (both of which I can demonstrate objectively). It’s almost the same for ‘good copywriter’ (however you define ‘good’), but I suppose a portfolio full of delighted clients counts for something...
No, I prefer to think of mastery as something to strive for, but never attain – something that keeps me intellectually hungry and on my creative toes. Maybe the test is for us to chat about your copywriting requirements – followed by me writing for you. You won’t be the first. Since 2006 I’ve made a decent living as a copywriter who can help when you don’t have the time, specialised skills or inclination to write yourself…
We should talk, because I can help you get vital copywriting off your to-do list and ready to work hard for you…
Here are a few things to think about. Then you can decide whether I qualify as a master copywriter – or whether you’d like to discuss your copywriting anyway…
I laugh when I see people offering to help you ‘become a master copywriter in 1 hour’ in Google search results. If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, or his later volume The Story of Success, he says it takes 10,000 hours at three hours a day over 10 years to become a Phenom (a ‘freakishly awesome world-class expert in your field’). That sounds pretty consistent with mastery to me. Interestingly, this corresponds closely with the three hours a day that master copywriter Eugene Schwartz reputedly did. Look what he achieved with direct response copywriting in the 1950s and 1960s.
Even the roughest calculation tells me that over years of copywriting, I’ve broken the 10,000-hour barrier. You can call me master copywriter if you like, but I won’t. That’s because I believe mastery is something to strive for and it worries me that by accepting the label you might believe there’s no more to learn.
And that’s not me, because I learn something new about copywriting every day. And as I do, I become better able to help you and your organisation.
Or maybe I’m being too modest.
The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines a master as ‘The possessor or owner of something (now usu. of a quality, skill, etc.); a person highly accomplished in a particular activity.’
I’ve certainly got the hours behind me. You can add several years of full-time employment as a writer to my years of full-time freelancing. And before that I worked in technical sales, marketing and brand management. All useful stuff to have behind a career as a marketing writer – especially when so many kids leave college with an English degree and aim to set themselves up as copywriters with minimal writing and business experience.
Just a thought
Masters also keep current through continuous professional development. As well as writing five to seven days a week, I keep my knowledge finely honed with courses and seminars. I also listen to the podcasts that matter too, as well as reading voraciously around copywriting, branding, website design and related topics.
From the classics by master copywriters (including Larry Dobrow’s When Advertising Tried Harder and Alaistair Crompton’s The Craft of Copywriting) to the recent works of Andy Maslen and Mark Shaw. It’s all part of mastering the craft.
Maybe another mark of mastery is the things that differentiate you from novices. In my case, little details like analysing hours of a TV celebrity’s programs because a client’s brand language guide specified 80% of that particular person’s ‘voice’. When I was challenged on particular phrasing, I pointed out that it was a characteristic of the person in question. My client was amazed that I’d gone to the trouble to listen to and transcribe the celebrity on screen. I wasn’t surprised at all – doesn’t everyone do that?
I also believe mastery also means knowing where your strengths lie and playing to those (or in my case, writing to them). That’s why I’ve never chased direct response work or conceptual advertising copywriting. And why I specialise in the copywriting that I do best:
Whatever your reasons for wanting to find yourself a master copywriter, I’d like to show you what I can do for you and your organisationPlease contact me.
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