Michel Fortin

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: http://hypnoticwriter.org .

Death of the layman

I’ve been reading a bunch of different articles about authority and decentralized responsibility lately.

In case you’re wondering, none of the following links are affiliate links.

Mark Joyner recently published a report entitled, Rise of the Author which is about how you’re automatically an expert if you publish a hard copy book and how you ought to do it soon because books are going out of style… but only if you want to be famous (probably not at all his point- that’s just what I got out of it).

Doctor Douglas wrote an article about how doctors are firing patients who do their own research and have concerns about diagnosis or prescribed medications.

Harlan Kilstein said NLP is dead because there haven’t been any industry wide advances or even cohesion recently.

Ryan Healy wrote about how we ought to make sure our hypnotists have enough training … or at least as much as our barbers. I was completely enjoying that article until it took an unexpected turn into a sales pitch.

And of course we’re all probably familiar with Michel Fortin’s report entitled Death of the Sales Letter .

Incidentally, I just finished reading a book called, The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom . I highly recommend it. Of course, don’t read it if you like the idea of clergy and having religious middle men.

And then I began reading Therapeutic Metaphors and Big Mind, Big Heart .

What do all these threads have in common? They all suggest that the layman is dying if he’s not already dead.

Here’s what I mean by that.

The reason we even have the word, "layman" is because there’s the assumption (perhaps presupposition), that people can be divided into two categories: the expert or the layman. The other assumption that’s less helpful is that if you’re not an expert, your effort or contribution is questionable. In the academic community, you don’t even have a valid opinion without a PhD.

What I see in all of this is that the internet is brining down the walls between expert and layman… at least for the layman. I recently met a financial planner who routinely uses NLP to get his clients to take action in their best interest. Where did he learn NLP? From reading books. I guess he didn’t know he needed an expert to bless his efforts.

This isn’t to say that there is no place for the wise and experienced among us to practice our crafts. And there’s no question that all the different establishments held together by experts will continue on for some time yet. It simply means that if one person can do something, another can too. You don’t have to be an expert. NLP modeling can expedite that process but someone way back in the day had to figure out how to light a fire on their own too the first time.

It reminds me of my training as a medic. We finished our EMT basic certification the first 6 weeks of the 4 month training course but our senior drill sergeant became famous for constantly telling us we weren’t medics yet. We were only about 45% medic. And then about 80% medic. And on and on. Finally, after graduation, he said we were 100% medic and competent enough in our skills to go out there and do something.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait to be christened an expert before you get going. The not-as-good news is that the upcoming generation of buyers and sellers don’t recognize the same marks of authority as previous generations. Keep in mind that Generation Y might as well mean, "Why?" as in, "Why should I listen to you at all about anything even if some people think you are a so-called expert?" Credentials won’t go as far as they used to.

As for me, I’m glad. It just means there’s more opportunity for us non-experts.

Let’s toast to the death of the layman.

PS. My NLP copywriting for non-experts video is coming along nicely. Today I was suddenly overwhelmed by the amount of examples all over the web. I’m having to pick and choose which ones to showcase this first time.