Big IdeasCopywriting

10 songwriting tips to help copywriters

By 07/17/20148 Comments


Don’t you love it when your child starts following in your footsteps?

My son, Solomon, is a great dancer, singer, and actor. Now he’s starting to follow my lead as a writer. Not a copywriter (yet), but a songwriter. He spends hours in his room writing songs, and he also studies the craft and tries to learn from good songwriters.

Today I stumbled across his journal where he had taken notes on “10 Rules for Better Songwriting,” from this blog post.

It immediately hit me that all 10 of these points could apply to copywriting, too.

1. Don’t be a perfectionist

There’s no substitute for one simple thing: writing a LOT. It’s the only way to get better. If that means writing a daily blog post, or writing practice copy that’s not even for a client, or hand-writing (copying) great sales letters by hand every day, do it. 3,000 words a day is a little over a million a year. Not a bad goal.

2. Get feedback as often as possible

I harp on this all the time. It’s the best way to improve fast. Peer reviews are okay, but generally people are too nice, or not good at critiquing and offering constructive advice. Seek out someone who’s better than you to give you regular feedback. If you can find a top-level copywriting friend, a coach, or best – a mentor, it’ll pay off big-time.

3. Hot and cold

This was the songwriting tip to combine opposites, for the purpose of contrast. We can do the same in our copy, of course, by using short sentences altered with longer ones. Simple advice worth noting.

4. Learn to unlearn

In other words, don’t be afraid to break the rules now and then. Direct response copywriters especially seem to follow systems and rules. I’m learning from my ad agency friend Katlynn Blakely to break the rules and throw a little more creativity into my copy.

5. The disadvantage of talent

Sometimes really talented people tend to slack off a little, because they can. Average writers with a burning desire to succeed are often more successful in the long run because of their work ethic and determination.

6. See the bigger picture always

I like this one! The name of my company is Big Ideas Publishing, LLC, because I have some big plans for creating a mini-publishing empire, a boutique agency, and many other things. This is way different than the songwriting angle for this point, but I think we need to go beyond being “just” copywriters. Think big!

7. Say it differently

Underneath it all, we’re wordsmiths, right? Certainly we can come up with creative turns of phrase and clever words. The purpose of writing copy is to convert viewers to buyers, right? You won’t do it with tired phrases, clichés, or overused words. Get creative. Every word counts.

8. Keep it simple

As Winston Churchill once said, “Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.” Well said.

9. Work with others

Amen! That’s a big reason I started the Copywriter Café two years ago. We need to bounce ideas off each other, get critiqued from others, and brainstorm ideas with others. Yes, we’re Independent Creatives, but we shouldn’t be operating in a vacuum.

10. Take regular breaks

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to write copy for more than two hours straight without a break, whether writing for myself or clients.

My favorite writing breaks? Confession time: Facebook. Also quick workouts, hanging out in the sauna (my favorite writing break activity, and where I get some of my best ideas), and reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times at my local coffee shop (also a source of many of my Big Ideas).

I challenged Solomon to take these 10 tips for songwriters to heart, and keep writing, writing, writing. I challenge you to do the same.

What simple tips would you add to the list? For songwriting, copywriting, or both? Let me know here.


Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Alan Steacy says:

    That’s some kid you’ve got there Steve.

    All excellent tips to honing my writing chops. Especially seeing the “big picture”. It empowers us to step beyond even our safety zone.

    • Steve Roller says:

      Thanks, Alan. I’m a little biased, but he is pretty good.

      Yes, the Big Picture is one I’m always trying to remember in the midst of the daily grind. Keeps me going.

      I appreciate you tuning in to all my Cafe stuff.

  • Dale says:

    Both can use Object Writing to perfect skills.

  • Lesa Overhoff says:

    React to inspiration when it strikes. Don’t just make mental notes; they get lost too easily. Jot a note or create a quick outline for future use. I like to use the notepad app on my phone (since it is [almost] always with me) to write a quick reminder that I can look at later. Even if my whole perspective has changed by the time I look back, the idea is there to work with.

  • Jeff Melvin says:

    What a great story about your son Solomon! Thank you for sharing with all of us – it’s inspiring.

    I’m a big fan of #1…handwriting sales letters, of course “perfectionism” is something I have to let go of in my own writing.

    Currently I’m handwriting the HOF letters spending 30-minutes 5-days a week. This practice was recently reaffirmed not only in this post, but in a post John Rugh made in the Cafe from the Art of Manliness – “Want to Become a Better Writer? Copy the Work of Others!”

    Pressing on to Bigger Things!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Thanks, Jeff. Good job on the handwriting of sales letters. I did that once every day for an entire summer and it helped a lot. I need to get back to it again!

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