The 4 Stages of Becoming a "Rock Star" Copywriter

Do you have a copy problem?

If you’re in business, you probably have at least one copy problem. Most likely more than one...

What you need is a rock star copywriter...

Or... you need to BECOME a rock star copywriter. 

So, how DO you become a rock star copywriter?

The path to rock star copywriter status is almost identical to the path to becoming a real rock star.

There are 4 stages.

I call stage one“The Shed” … and there are 4 phases of learning in the shed.

PHASE 1 - Cutting Your Teeth on Cover Songs

You grab your guitar and head out to the shed. It’s time to cut your teeth on all the great cover songs.

All by yourself you start learning to play as many great songs as you can. You learn every detail. The rhythm guitar, the bass part, the keyboard, the lead guitar, the vocals. All the ins and outs. All the riffs and licks and sho-be-do-waps.

In copy, you do the same with the great sales letters. You dig in. You get inside the head of the copywriter. You get inside the head of the people they were persuading. Like a guitarist learning every lick of the “Stairway to Heaven” solo, you learn the turns of phrase that made Gary Halbert and Gary Bencivenga the master copywriters they are.

PHASE 2 - Becoming a Fanatic at Fanboy Fantasy Camp 

After you get the beginnings of your chops, you’ve gotta get some real “heroes” to emulate. When I was learning to play the guitar in high school, my heroes were the Beatles. I got as many LPs at Goodwill and Salvation Army I could find. I got a turntable and wore those records out from all the starting and stopping so I could learn the licks and play along. You go deep and learn how they put together their songs. What was their process? What influenced their music? 

Having heroes as a copywriter is really important too. It’s good to have a general and somewhat wide knowledge of all the great copywriters. But picking a couple heroes and going really deep into their work is super important. First of all, these copywriters probably have a niche they specialized in. If you want to get into the financial markets, you need a financial copywriting hero to model. If you want to get into health or any other niche, the same rule applies.

You’ve gotta fanboy these great copywriters like crazy. Learn everything you can about them, their writing, their methods, their results, their flops. All of it! Even the great Gary Bencivenga advocated for this kind of hero worship (see his interview with Ken McCarthy at

PHASE 3 - Jamming with Friends and Proving Your Chops

As you start to make progress, you’ve gotta start jamming with friends as soon as possible. It’s best if you’re the worst player in the room. Don’t get frustrated. Show ‘em what you’ve got. Try out all the cool stuff you’ve been learning. See how they respond. See what lands. See what misses. Pick up some new tricks from your friends. Add some new riffs to your repertoire. Often a good jam session is equal to 10 sessions in the shed. You grow like crazy in this environment.

Like the garage-band jam session, getting out and actually writing some real copy with a mentor or copy chief is the next step. You really need to get your legs under you by being cut down by other good copywriters. It’s not that it’s rude behavior or hanging with mean-spirited jerks that makes you better. It’s getting someone who’s a better copywriter, who has more wins, more experience, more failures, to help you see if you’re going in the right direction. Like the jam session, these early projects, even on spec, are super valuable and help you learn 10 times faster than reading the books and hand copying the sales letters.

PHASE 4 - Finding the Diamond in the Dungheap

With all the time you’ve spent in the shed practicing, learning, mimicking, modeling… and then all the time you’ve spent jamming with your buddies… you start to hear something unique in your sound. It’s your own voice. You keep hearing some cool things that you’re doing. Most of what you’re playing sucks… but you’re starting to hear a few really cool things in your own playing. Pretty soon these cool things develop into your very own special riff or lick. Sort of like your first signature move. It’s probably the first thing you can be super proud of and happy to play for whoever’s listening. But to find it, you had to go through all kinds of awful playing, modeling, learning, covering, jamming. But it’s worth it because now you have the kernel of your own hit song!

At this stage in your journey as a copywriter, you’re starting to see the beginnings of a “big idea.” Something unique to you. Something you’d never have come across without all the trial and error, the re-writes, the edits, and the failures. But out of all that reading and writing and studying, you start to hear a clarity in your own voice. And you’ve got an idea… something you’ve never seen anyone else write about. A special hook, or headline. A different approach to this or that, that your niche has never seen. That’s the kind of thing you can turn into a real winning sales letter.

But you’re not quite there yet…

You’ve only got through Stage 1. 

Your journey has only just begun. 

Now it’s time to take all you’ve learned and move on to Stage 2… “The Studio.”

I’ll tell you more about the studio tomorrow.

In the meantime, are you struggling to get your funnel to convert the way you need it to?

Is there a leak in your sales process? 

It’s not always the copy. Maybe it’s the offer or the list? It could be. 

But without crisp persuasive copy, you’re hit song will never go gold or platinum… if you get my drift…

Give me a call. I can help you find the leak. 

And once we find it, we can get it plugged up and ready to get a flood of new and returning customers.

You can reach me at

Let’s work together and transform your copy into the music your customers most want to hear.

And remember… you’re just on hit copy-song away from success!