Copywriting Shortcut: How To Write Copy, Even If You Don’t Know How

My phone beeped. It was a text from a friend who was also in  the marketing game.

He wrote: “How long did you spend writing the copy for that new campaign”?

I had recently innovated an old-fashioned style of a funnel. (The flow users go through before they buy something). I launched it on an ad network… and it started blowing up.

My texting friend had seen my funnel and wanted to create his own version.

He’d been working on it for weeks and was deathly stuck on rewriting the copy. He couldn’t finish it, so he hit me up to see how long I spent working on my copy.

“About 20 minutes”, I answered back.

This was true.

I don’t invest time into campaigns until I know they stand a chance. Instead of spending weeks getting a new campaign just right, I launch it in 1-2 hours and see what happens.

If my quick-version makes a few sales – I know I have something to play with.

For this campaign:

  • I spent about an hour designing the pages
  • I spent around 20 minutes writing the copy.
  • Then, I set it live and tested it against the old-fashioned version to see what happened.

My version ended up winning, so then I invested more time into it over the following weeks.

*Tip: ^^ Write that down

He replied to my text with shock: “WHAT?!?! I’ve been working on mine for two weeks!

I laughed to myself…

Because he was caught in the trap.

The Great Copywriting Trap

You see, my friend had fallen into a very common copywriting trap.

He wanted to write amazing copy, that would be “perfect” when he launched his campaign.

The problem is, how can you know if copy is perfect, unless you launch the campaign and see?

Answer: You can’t.

Even if you’re a genius and work on your copy for 100 years, it will never be “perfect” until it’s been tested on live traffic.

Most people don’t know this, so they invest three weeks into writing their copy, or spend thousands of dollars for someone else to write it — only to realize that is sucks.

  • So what if you could shorten that three weeks into thirty minutes instead?
  • What if you could reduce your copywriting costs from $5000 to $0.00.

The good news is… you can.

Here’s what I recommend, with some examples to show you exactly what to do.

Copywriting For Affiliate Marketing

  1. Start With Someone Else’s Copy. Most industries have been running marketing campaigns for decades. The copy that works for that industry has already been written and is waiting for you to test. Look around the internet and/or go back and read some of their old print ads. What you’ll find is the perfect template for you to work inside of.
  2. Split Test Theirs vs Yours. Now that you have a version of their copy ready, write one of your own. You can try to rewrite it from scratch (recommended), or just alter it (make it longer/shorter, different headlines, etc.) to make it your own. Don’t spend more than an hour on it. If you do, you’re wasting time.
  3. Optimize Based On Data. Now test the two versions against each other on live traffic. Whichever gets the most profit is the winner — and becomes the version you want to beat.
  4. Focus on Biggest Impact First. In your first series of split tests, focus on the parts of the copy that will make the most impact. I rank “impact” by the number of eyeballs that will see it. Ads are seen by more people than the landing pages, so start there. Tweak the “angle” (image, headline and copy) until you hit a winner. Then work that angle into the headline, main image and first paragraph of your landing page. (Those are the only elements you need to change to test an angle) After that, work on the rest of the page.
  5. Pay A Copywriter. If all else fails, hire a professional to write your copy for you. But remember, a good copywriter will charge you anywhere from $500 – $15,000 to write a draft. And while some well-known copywriters write words that make their clients millions of dollars, there is no guarantee your $500-$15,000 will pay off. And guess who you have to pay again, every time you want to try a new idea? That’s why I save hiring a professional as the last option.

What if there is no existing version?

In most cases there will be existing copy for you to use for inspiration. If there’s no working version out there, there’s a good idea you should not run the campaign.

Why? Because while being an innovator can pay off, it’s rare. Over the years I’ve seen an innovation success rate of about 5%. So out of 20 innovations I’ve tried, only one has paid off.

What does this low success rate mean? It means: start with something that is already working for others. They’ve already figured it out, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

After you’ve killed it for a while, then you can test your own ideas.

If you want to start from scratch, here’s what you can do.

Writing Copy Using Popular News Stories

If you want to shortcut the time you spend writing your copy. Here’s what I recommend.

Find 3–4 articles that have already been written about the subject and combine them together for your first draft.

By browsing trending stories from popular websites as a template, I’ve been able to create winning copy.

  1. Do a quick rewrite
  2. Come up with a better headline
  3. Add a call to action.

That’s how easy it can be.

How it Works

Here’s an example of how to write copy for a new campaign that has no existing examples to borrow from.

Let’s say you’re selling a fat burning supplement on Facebook, targeting Men and Women over the age of 35, who “Like” fitness related things.

#1 Look for Top Stories on popular news sites

One of the best ways to find copy to test is to go to a popular news site, and check out the ‘Trending’ or ‘Most Popular’ stories of the day.

These are the stories and headlines that are already popular, shareable and going viral. So they may work well for you without a lot of effort.

#2 Choose something related to your campaign

You’re doing a fat burner campaign that says it works best when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

This campaign falls under the”Health” category, so let’s find a Health related story that we might be able to use as inspiration.

The story that jumped out at me first was in the lower, right corner. It’s headline: “How to train yourself to exercise in the morning.

It’s a great headline because it takes something everyone on the planet wants to do (be healthy) and claims to be able to show you “How To” train yourself to do it.

Let’s Break It Down: “Training yourself to do it” sounds like a way to put your health on autopilot. Autopilot means less work. People want to be healthy, but don’t want to put in the work. That’s why this headline jumped out at me.

#3 Grab the headline and intro paragraph

To create the first “angle” for this campaign all you need is an image, a headline and one intro paragraph of text. (that’s all you need to create an angle)

So you click through and see what their intro paragraph is.

How to train yourself to exercise in the morning
CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains how to train your body to workout in the mornings — and why that may help you live to 100.

#4 Rewrite the headline and intro paragraph a few times

Now it’s time to make the copy your own.

You obviously can’t any of the names and brands mentioned in the intro paragraph. So we need to do a quick rewrite.

Here’s how you might rewrite it and make it your own.

The headline is great as-is, and it contains no brand or trademark names so you’re good there. The intro paragraph needs a massive overhaul though.

So you’ll try something like this.

How to train yourself to exercise in the morning
Expert explains how to train your body to exercise in the mornings — and why that, combined with a fat burning supplement may help you lose weight.

See how it works?

The 25x headline rule

Okay, so the example above isn’t the greatest headline/ad copy ever written. But that’s okay, because it’s just a start.

I normally recommend you write the headline and body copy 25 times before choosing one to start with.

Why 25x?

Because, a few years ago, I read that viral news sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed were doing it.

Their writers would write 50 headlines for each article and then test them against each other to see which gets the most views and shares.

I adopted the rule into my own copywriting routine and it works like magic.

By the time you get to your 25th (or 50th) headline/copy combo, you will laugh at how bad your first few ideas were.

The trick is not to overthink it. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write as many headlines as you can before it goes off.

Don’t try to be Hemingway, just blast stuff out. And you don’t have to stop at 25…

I’ve written as many as 80 headlines in 10 minutes before.

Even if they’re not all great, SOMETHING will come out of you during the exercise that stands out.

Landing Page Copy

Now, you need to start thinking about your landing page. Since this article is a video and doesn’t have any text to use for inspiration you have several options, here are two.

  1. Watch and transcribe the video.
  2. Google “how to train yourself to exercise in the morning” (or something close)

1) Watch and Transcribe the video.

This is extremely simple. Either watch the video and type down what they say, or hire an outsourcer to do it for you. Either way, you’ll end up with a nice piece of written copy that you can then alter and modify as needed to make your page.

2) Google “how to train yourself to exercise in the morning”.

For this example, I just Google’d the exact phrase. The first page were all duplicates of the same story on other news networks. But on page two of the search results, I found some gold.

After clicking on a few links, I found some great articles I could mine for copy.

You can chop up that information, make it your own and viola! You have some copy to start with.

Because this is a direct marketing campaign (for sales) you need to sell your product. So now you can go back and drop some mentions about your your product and how it works with morning exercise.

You don’t have to go crazy with it. Just mention why you think combining morning exercise with your product may be helpful to the reader.

Then, provide a few text links and a nice call to action about it at the end.

Boom! You’ve got a first draft.

Now the split testing and optimization process begins.

That’s a Wrap

I hope this sinks in for you.

If it does, it can save you countless weeks of needless work and thousands of dollars spent on professionals.

I am not an educated person. I dropped out of high school, and I have been able to write winning copy a hundred times over the years.

If I can do it, you can to.

Just don’t over complicate it.

  • Find an existing piece of content you can start with.
  • Do your best to improve it.
  • Test them against each other
  • Pursue the winner

If all else fails – and you have the money to invest on a professional, go for it.

But keep in mind – even if you hire the world’s greatest copywriter and pay them $15,000 to write something for you.

There’s still no guarantee that it will work.

  • Jim

    Gold. Thank you.

  • Tom Shavit


  • Aaron Buenrostro

    Great Post Malan.. I’ve been stuck writing copy for about 2 weeks now! This is exactly what I needed to read.

  • Matt

    Excellent share Malan, I would tweak the ad copy to include some emotional triggers such as ‘my sister’ or ‘my brother’ or ‘my best friend’.. My conversions rates blew up after adding such triggers to my copy and LPs