I recently listened to an episode of The Minimalists podcast and discovered the concept of “cultivating your passion” rather than “following your passion.” The concept comes from hosts’ guest on the show, Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work. Here’s Cal explaining the concept:
“You advocate cultivating your passion, instead of following your passion. What are the key differences?
‘Follow’ implies that you discover the passion in advance then go match it to a job. At which point, you’re done.
‘Cultivate’ implies that you work toward building passion for your job. This is a longer process but it’s way more likely to pay dividends. It requires you to approach your work like a craftsman. Honing your ability, and then leveraging your value, once good, to shape your working life toward the type of lifestyle that resonates with you.”
As I listened to this episode, it hit me that “cultivating my passion” was exactly what I had done with copywriting. And frankly, the realization was a bit of a shock.
You see, years ago when I was in college, I would spend my nights panicking over still not having “found” my passion. And by the time I graduated and started looking for work, I had given up on the idea that I would have a career which fulfilled a passion.
Though it sounds a little sad, giving up on finding a passion was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because it gave me the freedom to pursue things I casually enjoyed (instead of waiting around to feel that spark of passion).
And guess what? One of those mild interests was copywriting.
To my surprise, as I learned more and more about the craft of writing to sell or persuade, I grew more and more excited about it. Until, eventually, copywriting became what some people might call a passion. (I prefer the term “fascination.”)
In this post, I’m sharing some specific ways I “cultivate my passion” for copywriting. In other words, how I keep my copywriting skills sharp and continually deepen my knowledge of the craft.
Taking in-depth courses on copywriting
Completing courses taught by leaders in the industry is the best way to learn deeply and quickly about a topic you’re interested in. For me, courses are especially beneficial for the homework and feedback portions. It’s a chance to get critiqued by people who have been copywriting for decades longer than I have!
I’m almost always in the middle of a course related to copywriting. Right now, I’m enjoying the SEO Recipe for Success course by SEO copywriter Kate Toon. This course is giving me a detailed, full-picture view of SEO (beyond the on-page copy).
Ultimately, it’ll help me write for search engines more effectively because I’ll understand how my writing interacts with technical SEO and other ranking factors.
Here are some other courses I’ve taken just in 2019:
- Copywriting Master Class by Copywrite Matters
- HubSpot Academy Email Marketing course
- Kaleigh Moore’s Freelance Writing Coaching program
Being a part of a copywriter mentorship group
I’m a member of Confident Copywriting, which is run by long-time copywriter Belinda Weaver. This group keeps me from getting lazy with my learning, with…
- Q & A’s with niche, veteran copywriters
- Trainings on how exactly to write for every type of copywriting project
- Coaching calls
- Client work feedback from dozens of other copywriters in the group (both getting and giving feedback helps me keep my skills sharp)
- Personalized feedback sessions with Belinda herself
Reading Copyhackers and Copyblogger religiously
Copyhackers and Copyblogger are sort-of industry secrets. They have page after page of free copywriting and content writing tutorials (usually including a video), awesomely educational blogs, and free resources.
I like to settle in for a long read at one of these sites on Sunday mornings.
Reading full-length books on marketing, psychology, writing, or copywriting
Reading actual, physical books is still my best mode of learning. In a book, an author can get really granular, breaking up complex topics into detailed chapters—stuff you can’t get from a blog post or even a short eBook.
So I’ve always got a book on my nightstand that I read a few chapters of every morning. Here are a few of my favorite recent reads:
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath
- The Art of the Click by Glenn Fisher
- Spunk and Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style by Arthur Plotnik
Creating “swipe files” of copywriting
A swipe file is a stash of clips (usually screenshots) of copywriting examples. I collect marketing emails from dozens of e-commerce stores, home pages, about pages, product pages, and even blog posts from different brands.
My swipe files are gold for when I need inspiration, when I’m writing a post and examples to show what I mean, or when I’m trying to find patterns for which techniques work (and which fall flat).
Keeping a swipe file also forces me to pay close attention to the copywriting I see “in the wild.” The more aware I am of what’s out there, the more I can avoid overused tactics or phrasing and write fresh copy for my clients.
Writing educational articles about copywriting
Writing for my own blog or as a guest for other blogs helps me organize my knowledge and retain it better. Teaching something to others is a test for how well you know something yourself. In addition, writing content is a form of practice in itself.
Getting feedback on my client work from other copywriters
I briefly mentioned this in an earlier point, but it’s so huge that I wanted to address it specifically. In my copywriting mentorship group, we can submit any piece of client work to the group for on-page critiques.
I do this for any sales copy I write—websites, sales pages, landing pages, emails—because I want to be doubly sure that my copy is as persuasive as possible.
Seeing the suggestions my peers have for my work is hands-down the top way I keep my copywriting skills sharp. Plus, this feedback means the work I do for my clients has been “vetted” by other skilled copywriters. Big win-win.
I’m sharpening my copywriting and content writing skills daily. Which means every new client I work for gets an even better version of my copywriting know-how and skillset.
(And I get to feed my copywriting fascination.)