Copying Versus Copywriting

By Jamie McSloy / May 9, 2018
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Copying Versus Copywriting

It’s common for new copywriters to feel that they aren’t so much writing as they are copying.

I saw a guy on Reddit the other day who fit this description. I think that he was working for a copywriting agency but I’m not sure.

Anyway, this guy was going about his business which involved taking good ads and changing them up for the brands he was working for.

He didn’t feel that this was pushing him and I don’t think he felt that it was particularly ethical. He wanted to know when he would start doing more copywriting and less copying.

What are my thoughts on that?

Let’s find out.

New Copywriters And Copying Writing

The most common advice you get when you are new to copywriting is that you should copy ads out by hand.

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If you come into copywriting via affiliate marketing, then you probably come from a skill set where you spy on ads, copy them and make them better.

Both of these pathways can make you feel like you are not contributing your original and creative thought to the task.

However, this stage is inevitable.

Think of it like this: when you are learning to play music, you can’t just improvise. If you try to improvise without knowing the time signature, chord structure and key of the piece of music, then your improvisation will essentially amount to playing a bunch of notes that are random and won’t sound good.

So most beginner musicians focus on learning the chords, learning how to play scales and learning how to play to a rhythm. This isn’t particularly exciting, and when they first go to improvise having learned these things, chances are they will play the scales and chords they know over and over again.

But this is a key part of the process. They are internalizing the mechanics of improvisation.

The same is true of copywriting. There are people who think that because they have written high school assignments, they automatically know better than everyone else about what good writing is. They rely on the divine inspiration and their creative ability to craft words. Almost inevitably, those words don’t sell, and the writing is bad. They are the equivalent of somebody who has never learned to play a musical scale client improvise. It’s all just random notes.

Then, people will learn how to write copy by copying other people’s ads. The results they get on optically inspiring, but they follow the fundamentals better than just guessing.

Again, this is part of the process.

Beyond The Process

If you have been playing music for years, you probably don’t think about the particular scale you are playing when you improvise. You don’t think about the key signature or the time signature when you’re playing. This is because you have internalized the mechanics and the theory behind those mechanics.

So all that is left is a flow state where you internally know what to do and your creativity guides you.

The same is true of copywriting. I don’t think about the mechanics of writing a sales page now. I don’t think about how to craft an email. Instead, I just think about the goal I have in mind and how I take the reader there.

I don’t have to reference old copy because I’ve internalized all the copy I’ve studied before.

Essentially, the mechanics are taken care of for me.

If you are still using other people’s copy to craft your campaigns, then you haven’t got to this point yet. You can get to this point though. If you do the correct thing, which I will tell you below.

How To Internalise Copywriting Principles And Stop Copying Others

When you start copywriting, you will rely heavily on other people’s work. That’s what we talked about above.

Of course you can’t just copy other people’s work. Not only can it land you in legal bother, but it also doesn’t help you develop in any way.

Here’s what you need to do. Rather than simply copying somebody’s work over and over again, which will make you better at copying other people’s work, you should instead take somebody’s work and twisted to suit yourself.

This takes you away from, “I’m getting good at copying other people’s work,” and takes you towards, “here’s somebody else’s work, how do I make something similar myself.”

When you get into the process of breaking things down and re-creating them, you get better at re-creating them.

As you progress, you need to rely less on re-creating something, and more of it comes from your subconscious as you understand the mechanics of whatever task you’re doing.

The end goal is to have the whole thing be a conscious process of creativity. You will get there if you follow the above instructions.