Why I Don't Teach Copywriting Courses

November 26, 2020

Making a living as a writer is hell. It's a one-off business. Clients don't understand the value of copywriting, so they're reluctant to pay much for it. Experienced writers compete on the same level as newbies because, online, you are whatever you say you are.

Back in the day, the agency system vetted writers. Advertising was mainly print or television, and both were expensive. Inept writers were weeded out quickly. Writers succeeded based purely on a reputation for doing competent (even brilliant) work and meeting deadlines. Early in my career, an art director refused to acknowledge me by name until he was satisfied I deserved to be employed as a writer. Until that point, which took months to reach, he addressed me as "You."

Today, most advertising is digital. Internet advertising is cheap. And the share of GDP going to advertising has dropped by 25% in industrialized nations. When ad revenues are smaller, there is less money to support a robust ad industry.

Advertising is no longer an established profession. It has become a fragmented hustle dominated by entrepreneurs. Success is based on self-promotion, not true skill.

Writers sell classes to create passive income

Many marketers-who-are-also-writers have figured out, cha-ching, that it's much easier to make real money by building a passive income string through online courses. Courses can be sold over and over, but copywriting cannot.

Neil Patel tells the story of established U.K. copywriter Len Smith, who earns about $6,000 a month from online courses that require less than 10 hours per week in maintenance and marketing.

Writing courses have two markets

Some copywriting courses target new or aspiring writers and promise to teach them the tricks of the trade. Other copywriting courses target business owners and promise to teach them how to write copy that sells. Both course are built and sold on the untrue presumption that just about anyone can lean to be a copywriter.

1. People who want to get paid to write

The big idea behind freelance writing courses is there are plenty of clients willing to pay top dollar for copywriting.

AWAI offers an Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, one of the first self-study copywriting programs. WAI was co-founded in 1997 by Dan Mahoney, Mark Ford, and Katie Yeakle. It makes promises that are, according to one Reddit member, outright scams. Anecdotal testimonials tell of landing three new clients in two weeks, winning a contract worth $12,500 as a newbie, ad nauseam.

They are not alone. Most online copywriting courses bait the hook with the promise of foolproof success.

For example, the Creative Copywriter, founded by Konrad Sanders and Nitzan Regev-Sanders, promises students that they will become successful freelance writers who can "confidently win clients, make 'em smile... and secure ongoing income."

The Filthy Rich Writer, Nicki Krawczyk, says "copywriting can net you some serious money" and promises to to help you avoid amateur mistakes.

There are many others.

2. People who don't want to pay a writer

Many small businesses don't want to pay a writer. This should be worrisome for writers because 99.9% of businesses in the U.S. are small businesses.

Copyhackers, founded by Joanna Wiebe in 2011, focuses on helping businesses improve their conversion rates with a series of courses that cost $997 to $2,997. Joanna has won high praise from people in the SaaS world, but her real strength is self-promotion. That is true of most writers who succeed online.

The Copy Cure, created by Laura Belgray in partnership with success coach guru Marie Forleo, promises to teach you how to write words that sell. One review says, the course "is a no brainer. The return on investment is immediate."

Another is Copywriting Course, which claims to teach "time-tested [writing] formulas and brain-hacks." Created by self-taught entrepreneur Neville Medhora, the course is best-suited for rank beginners.

I've spent over $10,000 in courses over the past decade and I do not recommend most of them. A lot of the courses have been sweet talk sales pages with zero support once I spent my money. It was like pulling teeth to get the course creator to respond to me.

Justabitofmayhem, Reddit

Course creators benefit more than students

Course creators benefit more than students

To my mind, selling copywriting courses is like selling journalism degrees. Both are dying professions. Yes, demand for writing is increasing, but the demand is for content, not copywriting. Content fills up a web page. Copywriting inspires action.

Back in 2002, I routinely earned $500 or more for a single page sales letter. Companies spent a lot to print and mail sales letters. It was a big investment, so clients were happy to pay experienced copywriters who would get results.

As marketing shifted online, companies began to see copywriting as ephemeral. Content on a web page could be changed very quickly and easily. The main point of web content was to get traffic (SEO). The real emphasis was on quantity over quality. Copywriting lost its value.

Very few writers make money

According to Contently, half of all full-time writers earned less than $25,000 a year in 2015. Less than 5% earned over $100,000. So, no, you are not going to be writing happily on a beach in Thailand for clients like Google. You are going to be writing $25 blog posts for a roofing contractor.

Second, copywriting courses cannot make you a pro. Expertise can only be obtained through experience. It's similar to programming. Knowing a bit about coding does not give you the full stack skills needed to build software solutions.

Established copywriters should mentor new writers for free

Yep, free.

Writing is best learned by doing under the watchful eye of a more senior writer. If a writer truly loves his profession, he will consider it an obligation to pass on those skills to a new generation. A one-on-one scenario allows the senior writer to observe weaknesses and strengths in the trainee.

Agencies used to have formal mentoring programs. Today, most agency owners have no clue about good versus crappy copy. They are just as ignorant as the clients who hire them.

But yeah, I am open to taking on a motivated trainee.

Here is an. example of everything I detest about snake oil salesmen ripping off insecure clients: https://www.thebiscuitfactory.ie/

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