I hand copied sales messages for 180 days straight… Here’s what happened…

This is a guest post by  Over to you Miguel!

What if I told you there’s a way to become a world-class copywriter 10X faster?

You only have to commit some time each day. Plus, it costs absolutely nothing upfront.

You’ll be able to charge higher fees. Gain respect faster. Enter the “A-list.” And be one of the most sought-after copywriters in your industry.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, think again.

In his seminal book, The Boron Letters, Gary Halbert taught his son, Bond, how to become a skilled copywriter fast.

Gary didn’t tell Bond to buy a book, take a writing course, or attend a seminar (unlike most copywriters would suggest today).

Instead, he said this:

“The best way to become a good writer is by…writing good writing!”

Gary Halbert told his son to copy proven ads by hand. Every single day. Gary said this was his secret for writing million dollar promotions.

No one questioned his wisdom then. After all, he was crowned by legends like Jay Abraham and John Carlton as “The Best Copywriter Of All Time.”

Today, it’s a bit different.

Many emerging copywriters achieved success without hand copying sales letters. This is what they teach their copy cubs. Those copy cubs teach their cubs…and so on and so forth.

Now, I get why many copywriters advice against it. I’ve talked to them, asked their opinions, and…

Here are their best reasons to NOT copy sales letters by hand

1. You’re studying old sales messages

We can all agree that sales messages evolve over time. What worked in the past won’t probably work today.

The market’s level of sophistication has increased. Customers are now more sceptical. The competition is fiercer than ever. For example: “Lose 10 lbs in 8 weeks” looked enticing in the 60s. It would be ignored now.

2. Practising in a vacuum

How do you know you’re getting better or not? What’s your measuring stick?

3. Better to write sales letters and let the market be the judge

This is one of the strongest arguments I’ve heard. It’s better to write your own sales copy and test it in the market. Put your skin in the game. Let your market decide if you’re good or not.

All good points right?

Now, there is only one argument WHY you should follow Gary Halbert’s advice.

To be honest, it’s the only argument you need.

Copying sales letters by hand etches brilliant and profitable sales copy in your mind…

Writing by hand activates more areas of your brain than reading, typing, or reciting.

According to French Psychologist Stanislas Dehaene, learning is made easier if you write your lessons by hand. Yes, typing is easier. Yet, it doesn’t cement the lessons in your brain like handwriting can.

You’ll find hundreds of scientific research like this. All pointing to one conclusion. Handwriting can improve your critical thinking, language, working memory, reasoning, and even certain parts of your brain.

So Gary Halbert’s advice actually has a scientific basis.

All-in, copying great ads by hand is hard to argue against!

Roy Furr, BreakthroughMarketingSecrets.com

In short, copying ads by hand helps you learn copywriting on a subconscious level. You’ll internalize the ads better. You digest every word. Pay close attention to the different elements that make the ad great.

If you can tattoo great, masterful copywriting into your brain, you’d do it, right?

Unfortunately, many beginners do it the wrong way.

That’s why today I’m going to show you the RIGHT way to follow Gary Halbert’s advice.

Before that, I’m going to tell you what’s in store for you. What you’ll gain if you do this.

Here’s what happened when I copied proven sales letters by hand for 180 days straight

The sales messages I hand copied were from a mix of old and modern advertisements and sales letters.

From Gary Halbert to Eugene Schwartz to Gary Bencivenga, John Caples to Ramit Sethi’s sales letters…Roy Furr’s…Ben Settle’s…Joe Sugarman’s…Matt Furey’s…and even some of Robert Collier’s work.

All in all, I may have hand copied 50+ sales letters for 180 days straight.

Now, I didn’t spend hours handwriting them. I wrote 30-45 minutes per day. Once the alarm rings, I stop copying.

In that process, I learned:

1.  How to construct winning sales messages

Hand copying allows you to pay close attention to each word, phrase, and sentence you write. So you’ll better understand an ad’s strengths. See more carefully which parts moved you emotionally or compelled you to act.

You can actually break down the ad and analyze it WHILE you’re copying.

In essence, you’re not just hand copying or rewriting. You’re actually studying it more intently.  

2. How to write “flow-lessly”

Your sales copy should flow like the Niagara Falls. Every sentence’s job is to make sure you read the next.

When you handwrite classic space ads, you’ll see what I mean. Every word deserved to be there. That’s why the transitions from lead to sales argument to offer were as smooth as butter.

You were reading the headline, the next thing you know you’re about to order what they’re selling.

Joe Sugarman calls this the “slippery slide.” You’ll see how this is applied when you start copying old space ads by hand.

3. The successful writing frameworks

The more you hand copy ads and sales letters, the more you’ll see the same sequences, phrases, and frameworks popping up.

You’ll see what words they used, how they started their copy, how they presented their offer, how they closed, their call-to-action, and many more.

For example, Gary Halbert’s Star-Story-Solution framework. An extremely persuasive framework that’s brought in millions.

4. How great copywriters think

Copywriting is more than writing ads, emails, scripts, or sales letters. We need to develop the Big Idea, determine the market’s dominant emotion, sophistication level, awareness level, and so much more.

If you hand copy old ads and modern sales letters, you’ll see how great copywriters tie it all together.

You’ll start noticing their sales hooks, big ideas, and irresistible offers. A big plus if it’s in your industry. You can borrow an idea or two.

5. To start collecting a swipe file

Every great copywriter has a swipe file. The legends have it. The A-listers have it. Why shouldn’t you?

Hand copying not only lets you understand these sales letters on a subconscious level. You can also look to them for inspiration, when you’re stuck or when writer’s block is simply smacking you in the face.

Now, this is all great. But did my copywriting skills improve? Hell yes!

Look at these copywriting results image

That’s why hand copying fits in the copywriting training hierarchy. Here’s where:

Heirarchy of copywriting skills image

The most affordable copywriting education is hand copying. You can find hundreds of ads written by great copywriters on the Internet.

Hand copying lets you know what great sales copy looks like. Books and courses teach you the nuts and bolts. The intricacies of forming sales messages. How to write a sales letter, email, script from start to finish.

On the first two levels, you’re not even getting paid yet. You’re only learning. When you step on the third level, that’s when you should reach a level of competency.

The third level is where many newbies quit. They can’t face the fact they’re not good.

If you’re on this level right now, treasure every moment. Welcome every praise or criticism. It will be good for you in the long run.

Copywriters should have no egos. The earlier you accept this, the sooner you can reach the top.

The fourth level…If you want to invest in higher learning, get a coach or a mentor. Every 7-Figure copywriter has been coached or mentored by an 8-figure copywriter. This is expensive, but it’s available.

The last step is starting your own business. The best-of-the-best (like Gary Bencivenga, John Carlton, Kevin Roger) stopped writing sales copy and built a business.

This is where great copywriters learn the most. They learn from risk, failures, and missed opportunities.

If you’re not here yet, don’t worry. You will reach the top if you stick to the process.

That’s why you have to know what the CORRECT process is.

The correct way to copy ads by hand to 10X your copywriting skill

Everybody should be doing this. I know 6-figure copywriters who still hand copy ads and sales letters from time to time. It keeps them sharp.

If you’re a beginner, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do this. If you’re an experienced copywriter that wants to get better fast, do this too.

Step 1: Find high converting sales letters.

Go to swiped.co. The site has hundreds of proven ads and sales letters.

Step 2: Hand copy sales letters for 30-60 minutes

This is the easy and fun part.

Step 3: Write sales copy

Write an email or short sales letter. Anything. Just write.

Step 4: Read books about copywriting

If you’re brand new, buy Joe Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook.

Learning is applying. Without application, learning on a subconscious level is useless.

Start hand copying. Once you feel you’re good enough, write an ad, a sales page, or an email. Test it in your market. Sell something/

If you want to achieve a level of “competency” or have enough confidence faster, start handwriting sales messages.

Do this for 30 days. Compare what you wrote on Day 1 with Day 30. If your skills didn’t improve, stop. If it did, keep doing it.

What do you have to lose?

16 Responses

  1. Probably the cheapest and best lesson I’ve ever heard about. Will give it a try from today!

    Thank you.

  2. The best free tip I’ve learned is to copy ads and sales messages/letters by hand.

    I used to write better sales copy by studying (reading and reading and reading) the most fascinating copy online and offline. I got 10x times better at it when I started to copy ads by hand. And I only did it a few weeks myself. Imagine what happens when you do it for 6 months in row 😉

  3. Hello Miguel,

    This is an amazing piece. I’ve heard so much about this Gary’s strategy but I haven’t had time to try it out. But while reading this awesome piece of yours, the nudge to try it out is coming.

    I will give it a shot for 7 days and see what will become of my copy skills. I need more copywriters who write with stories.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Emenike

  4. Yep! that is really true…

    I always write with my pen & paper for a copy. And it was more amazing because it’s easy to re-hash and just improve it later.

    And you can write anywhere literally.

    thanks, bro!

    1. Thanks for this Miguel….

      As a beginner in copywriting,I’m definitely trying this out….I believe this is gonna help

  5. You can never go wrong with Miguel’s advice. And it’s free.

    I was mentored by this amazing guy and I already got a client in less than a month of being inside his mentorship program.

    He always makes time for you when you need some help. Just reach out 😉

  6. How long do I have to hand write copy before it sticks in? i am at beginner stage, no client but my writing is pretty good. Any tips for me guys? as I am just starting out my career.

    King.

    1. I can’t really answer this one King as I’ve never actually used this technique. I find it an interesting idea and I know a lot of people who swear but it but I would find it more useful to hear an experienced copywriter point out a technique in action and explain why it works.

      Have you listened to my Hot Copy podcast yet. It’s a GOLD mine of time for what happens next 🙂 — Belinda

  7. Hi Miguel, i just started hand copying sales and advertisement letters but I still haven’t figured the exact benefit of copying by hand. Is there anything i should look out for? or is it because i have only just hand written about 4 letters, is it as I continue going further it will unfold?

  8. Hi Belinda, no I haven’t listened to your podcast. I am new to copywriting and I am excited about it because I enjoy writing. How can I access the pod?

  9. Hi guys this method really works. Just few days after hand copying, my writing improved. I think the major advantage was the flow it gives you when writing your own copy, the continuity is spot on. Although I have heard about this method before but after reading your article I decided to try it and I can see imrpovement already. Cheers.

  10. Thank you so much for this……

    This is actually perfect for every beginner, intermediate or anyone else in Copywriting.

    You want to be very good, better or sought after in writing,
    Learn and follow the right way.

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