Are you an entrepreneur dedicated to writing effective sales copy?
Are you an emerging copywriter who wants to write effective copy for entrepreneurs?
Well, you’re in the right place because we’re going to learn 7 copywriting exercises to improve your copy.
#1 Keep a swipe file
If you haven’t heard this term before, a swipe file is simply a collection of writing samples that inspires you. It’s fun because it encourages you to read other people’s copy.
For example, maybe you’re subscribed to a brilliant email list, like one of my faves: Alaska Salt Co. I’m not their target audience by any means, but their emails are so fun that I enjoy reading them. When I read a compelling email or sales page of theirs, I’ll keep track of it in a Google Doc.
You can track yours however you’d like. Slowly this will starts creating a swipe file of pieces you enjoy. To remember where you found it, include the link when you drop it in the file. Alternatively, you could create an inbox folder where you send all of your favorite emails.
Swipe files keep you consistently inspired. Imagine having to write for a promo that’s out of your typical scope. It can be stressful trying to figure out what to write, but by having a swipe file, you can look at how other people have pitched similar things. It gives you some structures to work with, so you’re not starting from scratch.
Note: this isn’t permission to copy and paste anything. That would be plagiarizing, and that’s terrible… Plus, you wouldn’t sell anything, because it wouldn’t be tailored for your audience.
As writers, we improve by reading. Keeping track of pieces you enjoyed and noting what they did to make you feel invested will help your practice.
#2 Analyze other people’s copy
This one can be difficult, but so worthwhile— especially if you’re an emerging copywriter. Analyzing a piece of writing ideally once a day, or at least a couple of times a week is a great way to understand what strong copywriting looks like.
You can analyze by taking a piece of copywriting and dropping it in a Google Doc like your swipe file. From there, you’re going to go line by line. I recommend printing it out and making notes, but you could add comments in the margins of your document.
Here are some things to think about:
I. Identify the formula
Are they using the tried-and-true AIDA, or something else?
II. Where are the pain points?
And are they effective? Does it sound like a real person wrote them, or a robot? Are they speaking in their ideal client’s language?
III. Identify the benefits
Are they using language that their ideal client would use? Are they talking about the emotional positive outcomes (more confidence, saving time, etc), or are they simply listing the features of the offer itself?
IV. Analyze the features
Is it just a long list? Or, have they put up a feature + a benefit?
V. What’s their call to action?
Is it effective? Did they use just one? Or did they confuse their reader by giving them multiple tasks?
Note: If it’s a well-written call to action— track it!
VII. Are there any objections? Sometimes it’s listed as a “Myth” and then they bust them. Sometimes it’s formed in a FAQ section at the bottom of the page.
VIII. How do they establish credibility?
Did they start the page with logos from the companies they’ve previously worked with? Did they mention how long they’ve been doing what they’ve done? Do they have testimonials? How do they establish authority, and is it effective?
Then ask yourself: Do I do any of the things that I found ineffective in my own writing?
Yes, it’s one of the trickier copywriting exercises, but it’s a game-changer.
#3 Rewrite the piece you just analyzed
Now, you won’t actually publish this, although you could share it with the people who wrote the original and pitch yourself to write for them. Or you can add it to your portfolio while making it SUPER clear that this was a copywriting exercise and you didn’t write the original version.
What should be the main takeaway though, is that you’re practicing and developing your skills.
To rewrite it, instead of using that existing piece as a structure to improve upon, take a copywriting formula like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action— you can learn more about this formula here!). and experiment. Find what feels effective.
#4 Collect headlines and subject lines that have grabbed your attention
Pull out your phone!
Open up your notes app and start a list of headlines and subject lines that you find funny or “click-worthy.” You’ll start noticing trends about what grabs your attention.
Then take that hook and rewrite it. For example, this blog post could alternatively be called: 7 Practices to Make Yourself a Better Copywriter. You can see by scrolling up what the title is. By being specific and saying “7”, it wouldn’t be as attention-grabbing as something like How to become a better copywriter because “how-to” is attention-grabbing.
#5 A/B test your subject lines and captions
Having a great hook is a surefire way to get people to read your content.
How do you know if your hooks are solid? Test them out!
You can conduct these strategic copywriting exercises through the first line of an Instagram caption, where they have to click to read more. But, how can you tell they did? If they engage with your post, of course, in a way that’s relevant to your caption! More specifically, if they’ve commented or sent you a DM then you know that it was a success!
Likes are referred to as “vanity metrics” for a reason— they’re not useful in gauging if your audience is listening to you because they easily could’ve been scrolling, thought your picture looked pretty, and hit “like.”
With email subject lines, there’s more room to actually A/B test. First, divide your audience into two sections. Send out the same email with the only difference being the subject line. Try to make them both unique. Rather than using subtle variations, try for more broad ones.
Example: One could be a big bold claim. Think along the lines of We’re going to save you $10,000 this week (but make sure you can back up this claim 😉). The next one could be Seven tips to save more money.
You’re trying two different techniques. One is a big bold claim. One is specifics or numbers, and you can see how to respond.
Alternatively, you could test a positive subject line vs. a negative one. There are so many ways to go around this!
Challenge: Every time you’re going to draft an email, pop in at least two subject lines for yourself. So you can A/B test— you’ll start to see what resonates with your audience.
#6 Use software
Sit back and relax, because this one’s one of the easiest copywriting exercises! 🎉
There are many different types of software to help you, but for brevity’s sake, I’m going to just stick with Grammarly.
Grammarly is fantastic because it helps you with both the technical and tonal aspects of writing. Not only can pick up on tone and say “this email sounds happy” but it can also tell you what should be a semicolon instead of a colon.
It’s an easy way to get better at your craft and explains why it’s offering a certain suggestion. Ultimately it helps you to become a better writer and a better storyteller because it can help you to simplify sentences by eliminating unnecessary words.
Grammarly has a free version which is really great, but if you’re writing professionally, their pro version will uplevel your work.
#7 The last and most enjoyable of the copywriting exercises: investing in a writing coach
What’s even better than software? An experienced writing coach.
Yes, your software will pick up on structural elements, but it’s not a human. It won’t understand the complexities of rhythm and emotions that your ideal client would.
A writing coach can strategize with you and talk you through things. Working with a writing coach is so important, especially for emerging copywriters, and entrepreneurs who want to write their copy.
I’ve had many mentors and currently still have a writing coach because the learning never ends! Having that second set of eyes and someone to be accountable to is incredibly valuable.
For example, in my business, Emma Givens: Content & Copy I have my Jr. Copywriter— Sarah. Initially, she started writing coaching with me. We covered growing her business from the ground up together and I realized she was so talented and able to pick up everything that we were working on so quickly, that I’ve brought her on to help me with my client projects. So if you’re an emerging copywriter, writing coaching can spark incredible relationships.
Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to help so many entrepreneurs learn how to structure blog posts and make them SEO-friendly. Together, we’ve dived into the content side plus writing high converting sales pages.
Work with me!
If you’d like to explore writing coaching with me, click here. I’d be happy to hop on a call with you to talk about it! Included is a 1:1 monthly strategy call where we can look at your milestones, any upcoming launches, and create a plan to sell out that launch.
Then we spend the month writing up to 4000 words of copy and content. Every Tuesday and Friday, I’ll go into your documents, and give you detailed revisions via Suggesting Mode. This allows me to explain why I’m recommending things in the margins so we can truly collaborate, and you can visually see the changes so you can consistently get stronger.
You’ll also receive templates, so you’re not overwhelmed by starting your copy from scratch. You’ll have detailed guidance from my templates for anything from home pages to welcome sequences for your email list. And if something’s not there, I’ll create it!
Alongside all of that, you’ll also receive support through Voxer (a voice messaging/walkie-talkie app!). This way, if you have a question between Tuesday-Friday copy reviews, just send me a Voxer message and I can help you figure it out!