How Ryan Healy Rose to the Top of the Copywriting World
Writing content that both entertains and informs readers isn’t easy. It’s not something you can learn in a classroom or read in a book – just ask Ryan Healy.
Healy has been working as a copywriter since 2002, writing everything from e-mails to sales letters to web content for more than 150 clients. “Time and again, Ryan has far exceeded my expectations and crafted copy that makes me want to buy my own products,” writes one of his customers.
The guy knows a thing or two about wordcraft. Here he offers his expert advice on writing to sell.
So tell us your story. How did you get into copywriting?
I kind of fell into it. I was working at Merrill Lynch when a friend of the family (John) contacted me about working for his company. He was looking for a marketing guy to take over some of his responsibilities, but wasn’t having much luck.
He approached me because he knew I was a good writer (technically speaking) and that I was entrepreneurial. He figured I had the right personality to become a good copywriter.
So John suggested I come work for him and that he would train me how to write sales copy.
I felt like it was a good opportunity to hop into a new field, so I agreed.
What kind of training did you have? Can folks go to copywriting school?
I had no formal training prior to working for John. I did not have a college degree.
To my knowledge, there is no such thing as a “copywriting school.” If there was, I would probably tell you to avoid it.
John mentored me for a period of three years. During that time, I bought AWAI’s Six Figure Copywriting home study program and completed it on my own time.
Later, after I’d gone freelance, I continued to buy and read classic advertising and marketing books.
How did you get to be so good at it?
When you write copy every day for 10 years, you tend to learn some things along the way. You get good through a combination of education, mentoring, experience and lots of work.
How has the field changed since you started in 2002?
There are far more copywriters competing for work today than there were in 2002.
Most of the copywriting work is for online projects. Seems like there was more work writing direct mail and space ads 10 years ago.
Some of the approaches that worked in 2002 would not work today. Consumers have been exposed to so much advertising they are immune to many of the blunt, straightforward, “hyped up” pitches.
What do you think are some good habits of effective copywriters?
Read good sales copy every week. Pay attention to what’s working.
Keep a regular writing routine.
Make sure you do enough research before you start writing a new pitch.
Make time for exercise. It’s important.
What elements should every sales pitch contain?
That’s a big question. Every pitch is different, so I hesitate to say “every pitch should have this, this, and this.”
Now every pitch should DO certain things. For example, every pitch has to capture attention. Then that pitch has to build interest and desire. Finally, the pitch must get the prospect to take some kind of action.
Every good pitch has to do these things. Now how you do these things is up to the copywriter.
We see you offer copywriting critiques. In the copy that you’ve read, what areas do you think need the most improvement? What kind of mistakes do other copywriters commonly make?
I’ve seen dozens of letters that were confusing. Clarity in writing is one of the hardest things to achieve. Headlines and deck copy often need help. Sometimes they don’t do a good job of getting attention. Sometimes they’re too predictable. Sometimes they’re too long, etc.
I’ve also seen plenty of letters that start strong and then fizzle out — just not a big enough push at the end to get the sale. So it really depends. I did a whole series of blog posts last summer titled 15 Copywriting Mistakes that Kill Conversions (and Hurt Clients).
What’s your advice for creating a well-read blog?
There are two primary things you must do to create a well-read blog.
First, you have to write quality content on a regular basis. Ideally, you should be publishing two to three times a week, and maybe more often than that.
Second, you have to play nice with other people in your space. The goal is to get the attention of influencers in your space who have the power to share your work with a larger audience.
I once focused a lot of time and energy on SEO. This strategy worked for me for a while, but I would not pursue this strategy today. It’s too complicated, for one. And since Google updates its algorithms every few months, you’re trying to hit a moving target.
When you’re not writing amazing sales copy, what do you enjoy writing about?
I enjoy writing about history, theology and controversial subjects. I like to change people’s minds. I don’t know if I’ve been successful in doing that, but I try anyway.
Where’s your favorite place to look for good content on the web?
That is a broad question. Generally speaking, I look to see what my friends are reading and recommending. I also have a handful of sites I frequent, including InfoWars.com, ZeroHedge.com, and others.