“Needed:If you (or someone you know) has taken the AWAI online copywriting course, please share your review. If you know of anther [sic] course like it, please suggest.”
Well, since my response exceeded the LinkedIn limit I posted my original response here to my blog. The material has been updated over the years for clarity.
Hopefully the no-holds barred response benefits you too…
“Marsha, where do I start?
It’s been quite a number of years since I first joined AWAI as a member of their Six-Figure Copywriting Course. To be honest, I’m glad I joined. Would have been a huge mistake to pass this one by. However, that does not mean I give the course glowing reviews.
First off let me start by saying there is no better single source to begin learning to write professional direct response copy anywhere near this price range. Period. No other single course this strong exists–in any price range.
That said, I’m not saying get the AWAI course and nothing more. I’d never recommend just a single course for learning to write copy.
An advertising and marketing writer needs well-rounded exposure to gain maximum competence. Not even AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is sound enough to gain a complete knowledge of sales copy when competing against other writers (thus the advanced course) nor complete enough to provided specific tools for getting paying clients after completing the course (thus the upsells for client-getting training materials).
AWAI taught me copy details I did not know beforehand.
AWAI taught me how to properly use false closes, the principle of the Four Legged Stool, The Architecture of Romance when assembling copy, and how to use the seven deadly sins (and quite a number of other emotions) in copy.
Mind you, I had been writing copy over the course of two decades before learning these formal definitions from AWAI. I had bits and pieces but no formal training. Most of what I knew to this point I picked up by studying and swiping from the works of copywriters who came before me–and then just putting the stuff into the mail to see what worked. And what didn’t work. The AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting course helped me better understand how copy should work, as a whole.
Powerful desktop reference. The AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is a great reference tool. You will go back to it often. Is one of many I refer to throughout the year when creating copy.
Given your speaking and education background, you might find the writing side of the material a little too basic. Then again, the course really isn’t about grammar and punctuation. It’s about assembling copy that sells. So you might also benefit from having a course that defines several direct response copy elements in a single well-structured source as the AWAI course provides. I know of no other single source that does this so well.
The promised Hall Of Fame swipe file collection is of very very bad scan quality. You can’t OCR many of the swipes because they are badly pixilated or too dark for scanning. Many are also difficult to read with the naked eye. At least my copy is that way.
The folks at AWAI withhold info. AWAI works hard to squeeze more money out of you for “advanced” copywriting training manuals, boot camps (which are not bad in and of themselves), and additional client-getting courses — info several promoters of the course imply you will receive when joining the Six Figure Course. It is not until after you’ve shelled out a bunch of cash you start to feel specific details for getting clients had been either withheld from you or otherwise excluded from the course.
Plus the course is structured in a way that every few pages AWAI is advertising more courses and training materials “at” you. Stuff that I feel should have been included in the first place. Some people won’t mind it. But to me the constant internal advertising where usable content should exist gets annoying.
This course is only about writing copy. If you are writing for yourself or for an employer the course is fine. You’ll have all you need to get started. But if don’t know where or how to start to get clients the course is lacking from that standpoint.
Much is missing if you are thinking of pursuing a career writing sales copy for others.
Here’s a sampling of what I feel is missing:
* How to use persuasion in print (such as NLP or hypnotic language patterns).
* How to determine the right copy strategies for individual projects.
* How to apply direct response copy to video sales letter scripts.
* How to interact with clients so your copy ideas are accepted.
* How to get clients in the first place.
* How to write client briefs.
* How to write proposals.
The course is about one thing: writing and assembling copy that sells in print. Of course the material also applies for the most part to creating long-form sales letters for the web.
Some Straight Talk
My review is not meant in any way to slam/malign AWAI. The course works.
I am hugely grateful for the copywriting details AWAI taught me. Years ago by applying the steps they’ve outlined I fairly quickly earned in excess of the $10,000 award they dangle as a carrot to get you to follow through in finishing the course. Obviously I will continue to be appreciative of what I learn from them in the future too. However, I think it must be CLEARLY pointed out that this course is ideal for the person who has a single goal: getting started at learning to write sales copy. Do you want to learn to write sales copy that works? Then the AWAI course is for you.
Are you joining AWAI because you need a way to get clients? Do you need help in interacting with clients so your copy ideas are accepted? Are you seeking a checklist or feedback to help determine the right copy strategies for individual projects or help at writing professional client briefs or proposals? Then you have the wrong idea about the purpose of The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. The purpose is to help you learn to write sales copy that works. Period.
If you want to learn to write sales copy that works for yourself or an employer then the initial Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting should be sufficient as a start or on its own.
However, if you are writing in hugely competitive markets–where competitive writers are also familiar with sales copy that sells–you’ll need to study beyond The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting from AWAI. You’ll also need the advanced course–eventually. For markets where a strong direct response competitive presence does not already exist AWAI course ALONE will help you write copy that converts.
The course is NOT about getting clients.
I’ll say it again and again like beating a dead horse…if you plan to write as a freelance professional you’ll need a plan that outlines specifically how to go about getting clients once you’ve developed your skills as a copywriter. This Six-Figure course does not provide those specific details.
AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is only about learning to write and assemble professional sales copy that sells–so you can earn money as a copywriter or from income earned from the products or services you are promoting. If this is what you are seeking the course is for you.
Marsha, you also asked about alternative courses. I will attempt to answer that question in this concluding section.
Two things come into play when trying to make suggestions along these lines:
- Your budget
- Your overall objective i.e. learn how to write sales copy so you can present yourself as a competent copywriter to others or learn how to make money writing sales copy. Learning how to make money as a professional copywriter is a different topic than learning how to write copy. I’m going to assume your goal is to learn to write sales copy so you can become a professional copywriter. That is what the AWAI Six-Figure course delivers.
Learning To Write… When Money Matters
If budget is a concern and your goal is to learn to write sales copy as a professional copywriter these resources are a nice first start.
- Dan Kennedy – Ultimate Sales Letter. This is basic because it is formulaic. It won’t make you an expert copywriter. But will help you turn out copy that is superior to folks who are simply ‘winging’ it.
- John E Kennedy – Reason Why Advertising
- Claude Hopkins – Scientific Advertising
- John Caples – Tested Advertising Methods
- Victor Schwab – How to Write A Good Advertisement
- The Robert Collier Letter Book. Dated but teaches the importance of copy strategy.
- Grab absolutely everything by Joseph Sugarman
- Maria Veloso – Web Copy That Sells
- David Garfinkel – Copywriting Templates
- Raydal (Ray Edwards) – Copywriting Protégé
- Randy Gage – Copywriting Stud
- Yanik Silver – Online Copywriting Course
- Brian Keith Voiles – Swipe File of Ads and Sales Letters (out of print last I looked. May need to watch eBay or other such sites)
- Jay Abraham’s Ad Book (not as impressive as I had imagined or hoped, but good if the folks you are writing for have a verifiable track record or are marketing to their own lists of clients or through joint ventures. Hugely useful for those marketing approaches. Not much immediate swipe use beyond that, I think)
- The Greatest Sales Letters of All time – Hodgson
- Million Dollar Mailings – Denny Hatch
The above copy library cumulatively will exceed the cost of the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting course–by far. And you’ll still lack the structure and insights provided by AWAI.
The advantage is you can begin learning to write copy from this ‘Frankenstein’ approach for less money out of pocket or no money at all if your public library houses these titles. Just grab one of these books and start studying.
Frankenstein Created A Monster–Must You?
A ‘Frankensteined’ approach to self-education can work for some. Pulling from one source or another will eventually help you learn to write copy. But in the end such an approach won’t be as complete as joining AWAI. Nor as structured.
But if a person is truly strapped for cash beyond hope a ‘Frankenstein’ approach may be the best (or only) option. Picking and choosing from the above titles can get you started at learning to write copy for far less than the cost of getting started with AWAI. But again, doing so will leave you with a hodge podge of unstructured info…much like I worked from for two decades.
If you are going to go that route make certain to have on hand a collection of winning sales letters to pull from.
The Greatest Sales Letters of All time by Hodgson and Million Dollar Mailings by Denny Hatch contain commentaries on actual sales copy that worked in the past. You’ll see the actual sales letters that worked and for the most part you’ll learn why the copy worked.
Plus, Hatch provides a useful client questionnaire and other material you might find helpful as a professional copywriter. For me Denny’s book is superior of the two because it contains the questionnaire and example sales letters, envelope copy, lift notes, and more to review. But Denny’s book is more expensive of the two. Neither of those two guides teach how to write sales copy though. They are simply collections of copy that worked in the past. Awesome to have if you are seeking winning copy to ‘swipe’ from or learn from.
When You Can Laugh At Money Matters
As I said, though I do recommend AWAI’s Six-Figure Copywriting Course, I never recommend a single source to anyone who is serious about writing professionally.
So if budget is NOT a concern go ahead and join both AWAI courses (Six Figure and their Master course) PLUS order John Carlton’s entire copywriting library. That’s only if you are rich!
Between those two publishers you will get your hands on pretty much all the tools needed for getting paying clients. Plus you’ll become an amazing copywriter–if you seriously apply yourself. This one two punch is probably the strongest I could ever recommend.
However Carlton’s materials are not cheap. Last I checked his library significantly exceeded the cost of joining AWAI. So again, if money is a concern stick to AWAI’s courses. Only add Carlton’s library if money is NOT a concern. And grab his library if you are at the point where you no longer need copywriting training and you are ready to seek clients.
Truth be told, if you only purchased ALL of Carlton’s courses you’d have the tools needed to begin writing *conversational-language sales copy* and the tools needed to learn to get clients. But as I said, last I checked his combined courses are much more expensive than AWAI’s courses. By far. So in terms of cost the Carlton approach is kind of a step backwards because you can get AWAI’s courses for less than Carlton’s materials.
Here’s who else to learn from:
- Kenrick Cleveland has a course that teaches how to use nested loops.
- The late David Ogilvy teaches copy layout and how to be ballsy with clients [if you’ve watched the Mad Men series you’ll recognize where the series quite likely was influenced to create its movie characters).
- From AWAI I learned about false closes, the core foundation for writing good copy and a lots of other copy elements I haven’t found explained as well elsewhere. The list of good sources goes on and on.
- Carlton’s materials are probably the best single source for learning *conversational copywriting*. Especially if a person doesn’t have the time to sort through multiple publications to learn about the business of writing copy. And Carlton’s materials are not filled with hidden advertising messages to get you to buy the next big bobble. That is a comfort.
However not all projects lend themselves to conversational style of copywriting alone. This is where AWAI outshines Carlton. AWAI course does not deliver a one-size fits all approach to copy. AWAI course is more well rounded and polished. And costs less.
Getting Copy Clients
As you may have noticed there are hundreds of how-to-write-copy courses and similar materials being sold online. (Most are total crap). Not many of those courses teach how to get clients starting from ground zero.
The bottom line to most copywriting programs is you are required to have a track record, some winning controls, and a portfolio as a means of getting clients. Those ‘fluff’ courses are useless if you are starting out as a freelancer. You do not yet have a track record to make use of those questionable courses.
Well, these materials are helpful for almost anyone starting from ground zero:
- Harlan Kilstein’s Value-Based Copy (this has jumped my fees more significantly per gig than any other single source. The approach is going to become short lived though as more and more people adapt this process. Use it while you can). This is about selling your services. This is NOT about writing copy. Google it.
- Bob Bly’s Selling Yourself As a Copywriter (an AWAI product) — If you are starting from ground zero there is probably no better guide that teaches how to get real copywriting clients without a track record of your own. I know of a seven-figure copywriter nearly half my age who attributes his start to following this process
- Scott L. Haines – Shortcut Copywriting Secrets. Do *NOT* confuse this with his abbreviated ‘Amazing Copywriting Secrets’ course. Get his full blown copywriting course. Expect to spend a year following his outlined training though. Ideal if you want to become the long-term real deal copywriter who breathes this stuff and not simply need to use references to write. Not ideal if you want to get started quickly.
Working With Clients
Books dealing with the subject of client interaction are rare. Very difficult to find. I think we’d basically need to work for an ad agency to get the full inside scoop on client interactions. Or punt.
These resources I think will go a long ways towards helping avoid preventable difficulties when working with prospects and clients:
- Webster Kuswa – Sell Copy. Copyright 1979. Out of print. AND HUGELY UNDERVALUED. Finding clean copies of this book can be difficult. This is a MUST-HAVE for every copywriter who has not had agency insider experience. You might find reading and applying tips in this book to be worth its weight in gold. And then some. Don’t let the date fool you. The applicable advice is both practical and timeless. For example, this contains tips on client relations, making assignments grow from single jobs to entire series of work, keeping organized, deciding if you want to handle expediting or not, protecting yourself from people who want your work for nothing (there are plenty of scammers out there who’ll milk you for free consulting if you let them), and more. This book is so under valued it is selling on a number of used book sites (search Barnes and Noble) for as little as a penny plus s&h. Get it if you can find a trusted source. Oh. Unless you want to remain a perpetual ‘wage slave’ for the rest of your life skip Kuswa’s advice on determining what to charge for your services. Read Alan Weiss’ Million Dollar Consulting for that. Set fees based on your contribution to your clients not based on time.
- David Ogilvy – Ogilvy on Advertising & Confessions of an Advertising Man. I cannot recommend this man enough. There are a number of valuable gems here you don’t want to overlook in his books. Writing is a very personal thing. What we write often feels as much a part of us as I imagine a woman feels towards a new born child. When writing for others that can be a problem. One important point I came away with after reading Ogilvy’s books is that when there’s a creative difference between you and the client you need to ask yourself whose money is it. Sometimes clients insist on absolutely pig-headed stupid and self-destructive choices. As a copywriter you do your best to advise otherwise. So how do you handle such pig-headedness when it is your copy getting slaughtered and rejected by a client? Checkout what Ogilvy has to say about this. You’ll keep your sanity. But only if you listen.
Hey. You didn’t specifically ask about swipe file recommendations so I won’t fill this page with unnecessary links. Search Amazon for ‘swipe file’ or just ‘swipe’ and you’ll find a few good ones [be wary of the garbage promoters]. Also, the swipe file resources I mentioned earlier are killer resources to add to your library.
Oh. If it hasn’t become apparent I’ve invested thousands, tens of thousands into my self-education. I’ve already taken losses on crap products. So you don’t have to :/
* * *
Very short summary of the above:
If your goal is to learn how to get started at structuring direct response sales copy, then yes, join the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is perfect for what it is designed for: writing copy that sells so you can position yourself as a qualified professional.
I hope this review helps answer any questions you might have had or helps resolve any lingering hesitations. If you appreciate the review and decide to go with AWAI you can show that appreciation by ordering from my AWAI affiliate link. Info about why and when I added the links is somewhere below.
*NOTE: The online version of the course has been updated significantly compared to the original ‘hard copy’ version I bought nearly a decade ago. Much that was missing from the earlier printed course (like writing powerful bullets and tons more) is now available in the online version of the course–thus increasing the value the course offers.
Yes you can position yourself as a professional copywriter after completing the course. Simply completing the course will not give you all the tools needed to get clients. That is NOT what this course is about. AWAI provides an overview within the course for getting clients. But not the full ‘cut and paste’ details. Those details are in a separate course. As long as you realize this going in I think you’ll appreciate joining the course too.
Obviously The AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting isn’t the only course around. There are courses costing as much as $5,000. You could go crazy trying to study it all. AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting is a good all-in-one single copywriting course to start. There is no better single course anywhere near this price range.
This AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting review reflects my own two cents. Your mileage may vary :)
This review and LinkedIn response had been written without regard for compensation. I wrote this material because I truly wanted to help. Despite being an AWAI student for quite a number of years, I enrolled as an AWAI affiliate some time (years) after this review was initially written. Whether or not you order from an affiliate link was not the objective of this review–though it is appreciated. If you’d like to show your appreciation for this review do so by ordering your AWAI course through my AWAI affiliate link.
Here’s my link to Get AWAI Six-Figure Copywriting Course Here if this review was helpful to you.
This content was updated
7/18/2012 7/23/2013 5/1/2015 4/4/2017 (edited for clarity and updates)