Getting Started in Copywriting and NLP

I’ve been asked a couple of times how to get started in copywriting and NLP.

If you Google “getting started copywriting” you’ll see over 200,000 results. Most of the advice I’ve seen and followed boils down to a few steps:

  1. Study the masters
  2. Copy out successful letters
  3. Build a swipe file
  4. Practice on low risk jobs
  5. Build your portfolio
  6. Specialize in a market
  7. Get bigger clients

What I want to point out is that your path depends greatly on your end goal. Do you want to be a corporate copywriter? Freelance? Or how about run your own business?

Personally, I started out following the above steps before I finally accepted the fact that many of the most successful copywriters write for themselves. Even the top copywriters that still write for clients also have their own products, services, coaching programs, seminars, etc. That’s where the real money and real freedom are.

If you’ve managed to stick to the steps long enough to become a half decent copywriter, branching out into your own business won’t be a terrible shock. Selling is the hardest part of any business and you already have a leg up. Plus, if you go after information products online, you’ve chopped your learning curve down again. And you won’t have to go looking for step 4. You can do your own stuff.

If you follow the career path of many copywriters, the steps that follow after the six above are:

  1. Charge your clients more
  2. Get more clients
  3. Get burned out
  4. Have an existential crisis
  5. Get fed up and start your own business

Why not start at step 4 in the first list and jump to step 5 in the second? Anyway, that’s not the point of this post.

I wanted to elaborate on step 1 in the first list for copywriting and NLP. That was the original question… how to get started.

I read the original guys like Hopkins, Caples and Ogilvy. I don’t recommend anyone start with that unless you want to be a corporate copywriter. For direct response copywriters and entrepreneurs, I recommend you study some of the guys who are doing it well online already. Specifically, I recommend (not affiliate links):

  • Michel Fortin – has a great online presence and community
  • Clayton Makepeace – master of melding copywriting and existing business (aka profit sharing and royalties)
  • Ben Settle – a great resource to go for learning about swiping
  • Michael Senoff – an amazing resource for free seminars, interviews and ads on a multitude of business topics. It’s a great place to find ideas.
  • Dan Kennedy – he has a number of good books on the basics. I’m looking at a copy of The Ultimate Sales Letter on my shelf. You can see the 2nd edition free on Google Books.
  • Google “internet business ” and visit the top results. If they’re private business guys with blogs, they obviously know what they’re doing. Richard Lee, Cybercashology and Terry Dean come to mind.
  • [EDIT 5/23/09]I used to recommend James Brausch for his straightforward business formula that went something like “Product + Traffic + Copywriting = $$$.” He’s since sold off his blog and business and the new owners ran it into the ground with poor products and service. Terry Dean has a highly recommended beginner’s guide.

For NLP, it really depends on what you want to do with it. There’s a ton of general info online. Here’s what I recommend:

  • If you want a solid general overview, get a book like Introducing NLP by O’Connor and Seymour.
  • If you want to learn how to do NLP, you have 2 main options: take a practitioner course or read the original books by Bandler and Grinder and find someone to practice with. The first method would probably be easier although I’ve taken the second.
  • [EDIT 10/20/08: Richard Bandler has a new book out, “Get The Life You Want” that has most of his NLP patterns. Each chapter is a background story and the pattern laid out step by step. I highly recommend it as a pattern reference.]
  • [EDIT 5/23/09: It now appears that NOTNLP may have streamlined many if not all the patterns of NLP. If you’re wanting to do NLP in person, I recommend you check it out.]
  • If you want to learn to do Therapeutic Metaphors, learn the vocabulary of NLP first and then get David Gordon’s book on it. Some of it will be lost on you if you don’t know the basics.
  • If you want to learn modeling,  get Gordon’s book on it. [UPDATE: Steve Bauer has a more comprehensive list on modeling approaches listed in a recent post . It includes Gordon’s book.]
  • If you run across something you’re not familiar with look it up in the Encyclopedia of NLP .
  • If you want to learn it for personal motivation, get Tony Robbin’s materials.
  • If you want to be entertained and awed by it, look for Derren Brown on YouTube. “The Heist ” and “Subliminal Advertising ” are especially eye opening.
  • If you want to learn it for a face to face sales context, get Kenrick Cleveland’s materials. I haven’t studied his materials beyond his blog but Harlan Kilstein highly recommends him.
  • If you want to learn if for a seduction context, get the Speed Seduction materials.
  • If you want to have it done on you without worrying about learning it, get some Paraliminals or visit a hypnotherapist or NLP practitioner. I created a similar product you can download free called Passionate Heart.

And finally, if you want to learn NLP for a copywriting context, get my course. The only thing even like it is Harlan’s $1000 DVDs. Even then, a couple people have commented that my course is easier to understand than his. It’s way less expensive too.

You can get the first lesson free here: .

25 Responses

  1. Louis there so much to learn to become a successful NLP copywriter and your course is simply the best. I am on Lesson 9 and each week brings a new gem and a big step towards writing great copy. Anyone who is interested in selling more by excellent copywriting should sign up.

  2. NLP Guru,

    As an NLP Guru, perhaps you’re asking to highlight the benefit you feel the practitioner course has. If you noticed the 2nd point of my NLP list, I did mention the practitioner course. As I said, it really depends on the outcome you’re trying to achieve.

    If you want to learn traditional NLP or get a certification, by all means take a practitioner course. If you’re trying to learn the marketing applications of it, the practitioner courses are probably some of the slowest, most expensive routes you can take. Why reinvent the wheel when folks like Kenrick and myself have already done the heavy lifting? Get our stuff, apply it and move on to something else.


    Thanks for your kind words.

    To all,

    Steve Bauer posted a more comprehensive source on modeling than I listed above. I updated the post to include it.

  3. Louis,

    Here’s one example of how the wool can be firmly pulled over one’s eyes. I watched the Derren Brown video on “subliminal advertising”.

    Actually, there’s no real evidence this trick worked the way Derren claimed it did at the end. That is most likely the “real” trick.

    Consider: it would have been easy to have had the information from the cameramen passed outside of the room to Derren, thus allowing him to draw the pictures in “real time”.

    Then, for a man of his immense talents, it would have been a cinch for him to have swapped envelopes with sleight of hand.

    Which is most likely?

    The latter of the two hypotheses, of course, because it’s quite simply… the simplest.

    And for anyone who wants to poo-poo my hypothesis: that’s cool, and I’m perfectly happy to be shown to be wrong. But show me EVIDENCE, not theory.

    Here we have two hypotheses, and both are given the current evidence equally plausible. Unless there’s other evidence, we can NOT choose between them.

    In cases like this, statistics tells us it’s safer to follow Occam’s razor.

    — Jon

  4. Jon,

    That’s why I said awed and entertained. I definitely wouldn’t want to try to learn to practice NLP by watching Derren. Some say he’s not even doing NLP in his videos… that they’re magic tricks or mentalism or something. Without seeing him in person or knowing him, it’s hard to say. Nothing is at stake so we can accept any theory we like… maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

    NLP Guru,

    You’re welcome here even if you don’t prefer marketing applications. It does make one wonder though… when it comes down to it, isn’t everything about awareness, influence, persuasion and (gasp!) marketing? Hmm. 🙂

    – Louis

  5. Louis,

    Actually, I think you’ve raised an interesting point: “Nothing is at stake so we can accept any theory we like… maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”

    I’m not so sure there IS nothing at stake. To me it demonstrates very well the power of suggestion and its capacity for deception. It behhoves us in all things to take a rational and critical approach to things.

    Consider, too: isn’t Derren using a massive and staggering presupposition here, that “this was achieved by subliminal advertising” when in reality Occam’s razor tells us the sleight of hand method is the most likely. I strongly encourage you to read James Randi’s “Flim Flam” and “The Truth Abour Uri Geller”.

    And yes: EVERYTHING is marketing. In my experience, anyway.

    — Jon

  6. Jon,

    Here’s an NLP approach… how would you know if something were at stake in what you believe about Derren’s videos? 🙂

    Maybe another relevant question is who is Derren tricking… the advertising guys or those viewing the video?

    Personally, I think I prefer to be entertained and leave it at that. I don’t have a good enough reason to worry about it or a way to make a definitive judgment about it either way.


  7. Louis,

    Lol, how would I know? I’d weigh the evidence to see how it looked, tasted, and smelled. Then I’d listen to the arguments on both sides.

    He’s tricking both. And masterfully.

    Of course, sooner or later you can become curious and wonder how you know you don’t have a good enough reason to worry about it or a way to make a definitive judgment about it either way.

    — Jon

  8. This article content is excellent.Tear this article apart by purpose of each paragraph, and you can see how easy it is to write articles that engages the reader.The information about NLP copy writing is excellent.Building a swipe file is useful to revise at any time.

  9. I like the crew over at (particularly Brian Clark) I think their advice, particularly for beginners is great.

    I haven’t touched my NLP books for years – but I still use some of the problem-solving techniques that they described.

  10. Hi,

    In web copy, the common procedure is to use boldface type for the command. Other options could be to use a different color or italics to make it stand out from the remaining copy. The following is how our example looks as it occurs together with other phrases and sentences. I wonder how quickly you are going to say yes to this offer. See how it stands out and creates its hypnotic spell without you knowing it. Pretty soon you will indeed– say yes to this offer.

    To create embedded commands, simply begin with your action word and finish-off with an imperative declaration. Some other samples: learn the secret, read every word of this article, get the ebook now. Remember, start with your action word.

    Ben Tien

  11. I really like how this post is set out! I’ve recently been dabbling a bit in copywriting and have really acquired a passion for it. Thanks for the post! I think it will definitely come in handy in the near future!

  12. A copywriter usually works as part of a creative team.The copywriter has ultimate responsibility for the advertisement’s verbal or textual content, which often includes receiving the copy information from the client.While schooling may be a good start in a budding copywriter’s professional education, working as part of an advertising team arguably remains the best way for novices to gain the experience and business sense required by many employers, and expands the range of career opportunities.

  13. NLP techniques are designed to be used alongside a lot of subtle skills such rapport, calibration, language patterns, anchoring, etc. which really need to be learned in live training sessions where you are interacting with others and have feedback from the trainer.NLP is more about attitude and modelling than techniques, however practicing techniques and noticing the response you get is a good way of developing your NLP skills.The emphasis is being on useful and pragmatic rather than true.

    1. Johan, keep at it. Anything worth doing takes some work. The talent can be developed. Alternately, I see a lot of copywriters who end up creating their own products too.

  14. Hi, I’d be interested in NLP for Therapy in particular not just therapeutic methaphors. Are there any courses/books or advice out there in which direction to look? Pain paradigm, linking mindbody, treating psychosomatic disorders with NLP. Anybody out there with good experiences? Thanks M

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