10 Ways to be a Copywriting Jedi

image of a young Jedi

Do you remember the doubt on Luke Skywalker’s face when he first held the cool metal of an inert light saber? Looking up at Obi-Wan, he believed it when he said, “I can’t go with you to Alderaan.”

Last summer, we felt just like young Skywalker as we waded waist-deep into the bog of online writing. There was much to learn, forces at work looking to sway us to the dark side, and at times, it was hard to believe in ourselves or our path.

What a difference one year makes. Our business is taking off, we have great clients who appreciate our personal attention to their projects, and we’re actually living the dream of doing what we want to do for a living — writing.

But the path to online success wasn’t easy. We’ve run fast and fallen flat on our faces, then got right back up to battle again.

Would you like to unleash The Force in your content? Here are 10 ways you can become a direct response copywriting Jedi.

1. Be a deliberate Padawan learner

Jedi are recognized for their innate ability to harness the power of The Force.

Unearth the exceptional inside you and nurture it constantly. Find your Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, listen to the wisdom these established Jedi masters have to share. They were once where you are now, and understand the dangers and temptations lurking ahead. Be willing to listen, and they can help guide you toward the proper path.

2. Beware the dark side

Fear, anger, aggression, envy, pettiness, and insecurity — they are all natural feelings.

It’s easy to look at the empire building done by your competitors and wonder why you’re not having the same kind of success. Often, we are unable to see the work behind the successes, so it’s easy to believe that someone else got something undeservedly.

But you weren’t there on their journey. You don’t know the long hours, hard work, or embarrassing failures that have been poured into their current successes.

Nothing happens overnight. You will succeed in due time. Shortcuts might lead to a black helmet. Patience and dedication to learning are necessary elements in any good Jedi. You may be a phenomenal writer, or innately good at social media, but you must do your time like everyone else. Anakin fell to the dark side because he believed he was above his teaching.

3. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for

With a wave of his hand, Obi-Wan Kenobi was able to get a hover car full of fugitives past a trio of heavily armed storm troopers.

Writing persuasive copy can pull your reader into your point of view and create a mutually beneficial situation. It’s not enough to convince your prospect, you must also make sure they feel good about their decision if you want them to happily return for more.

4. Do or do not. There is no try

If you want to be an awesome writer, write awesome stuff.

Don’t try to be great. Be great.

That doesn’t mean fake it till you make it, but rather learn what you need to do and then do it to the best of your ability. Always seek to better yourself. Perfecting your craft will ensure that you are not simply trying to be a Jedi master, but are actually growing into one.

5. Use the force

Who needs a computer to hit the target? Trust your well-honed instincts.

As you progress on your path to Jedi master, your instincts will continually sharpen from the experiences and knowledge you accumulate. You’ll know the right things to do, the clients to avoid, and what to do when you make mistakes. A significant slice of success is due to how sharp you can keep the edge of your instinct. Make sure you know when to trust that inner voice.

6. Show empathy

Find out where your prospect is from, what he/she does, and what’s important to them. Just because you’re writing for an online audience doesn’t mean you can’t utilize the web equivalent of good eye contact.

This doesn’t mean being a phony; people can usually smell a Lando Calrissian a mile away. Find a way to relate to people that is genuine. Most well-rounded writers should have varied enough interests and experience to connect with others authentically.

7. I know there’s still good in you, I can sense it

Luke believed there was good in his father all the way until the end. Who knows if it would have been buried without the young Jedi’s belief.

Project the traits you desire for your prospects and watch how well they respond.

8. Don’t be a Sith

A Jedi is always looking out for others; the Sith only look out for themselves.

Develop content that puts others first and you will always come out a winner. We’ve all had experience with shady operators who use content scrapers, pass off others’ work as their own, and look to sell you on half-baked info products with no substance. Not only are these actions bad business, but word will get out about what kind of person you are. Whatever success you have will likely be short-lived.

9. Beware the clones

A Jedi can part a sea of storm troopers with a light saber in one hand and a wave of the other.

Do everything you can to stand apart and make your name synonymous with individual character and quality work. This means not only ensuring that your work sets the standard by which your competitors are compared, but also hiring only the most qualified freelancers when heading to battle.

Just because you can hire cheap labor doesn’t mean you should. Your good name is on the line, don’t exchange short-term benefits for long-term goals.

10. Be direct

A Jedi is never mealy mouthed. They say precisely what they mean and mean every word they say.

Be straight with your clients. Tell them what you can do for them and be honest when there’s something you can’t. Your clients deserve your honesty and will appreciate you more for looking past your immediate interests to help them.

If you want to be a direct response marketing Jedi and gather quality clients for the dollars you deserve, you need to train hard, constantly sharpen your skill set, and follow the rules just long enough to know when and where to break them.

Got a favorite tip for Jedi mastery as a freelancer? Let us know about it in the comments.

For much more advice about how to avoid the “Dark Side” of direct marketing, subscribe to the Copyblogger email newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It starts with a 20-lesson e-course on how to marketing online while staying on the light side of the force. Click here to get started.

About the Authors: David Wright has been told he looks like Chewbacca, while Sean Platt spent his formative years running around his back yard in a tattered Boba Fett Halloween costume. Together, they are independent publishers who also write direct response copy.

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Reader Comments (61)

  1. Carla D. says

    LOL, thanks David and Sean for making my day! I always find it’s best to not have any errors in your e-mails, quotes or IMs when you’re trying to sell editing skills (not so easy when you consider all these new fangled abbreviations floating around the social media networks)
    – that usually works for me, and of course, everything else you mentioned:)

  2. says

    Genius! I love Star Wars. You guys left out focus, but I think that is included in #5 anyway. You have to be able to focus to use the force.

    May the force be with you.

  3. says

    I love the line about trusting the Force-our instincts. Often times, we search high and low for the perfect piece of copy inside us or a killer headline, when usually, writing to human nature will do just fine.

  4. says

    Hey David and Sean,

    I feel the most essential tip here is the Do or Do Not.

    Don’t try to be something. Just be it. Tell yourself, “I’m going to be _____” and just start being that.

    By thinking that you’ll merely try, you’re giving yourself permission to not fully achieve your goal. That all that matters is that you tried.

    By going all the way and doing it (that’s what she said), you’re increasing your chances of getting results. Even if you don’t fully achieve your goal the first/second/etc. time around, you’re coming at it with the motivated attitude that almost guarantees you’ll achieve it sooner or later, in one form or another.

    But by merely trying, you’re almost guaranteeing that you won’t, because you’re psychologically patting yourself on the back for your attempt, not your results.

    This is especially important for avoiding the Dark Side: the others succeeded because they did rather than simply try, so by focusing on doing you don’t fall into the trap of being bitter and not achieving the same results.

    Nice list, interwoven in an entertaining manner with Star Trek.


    PS. Oops, did I write Star Trek? I’m an idiot. Of course I meant Battlestar Galactica.

  5. says

    I love #2 – so hard not to get into comparison-itis and feel like you have so much farther to go. But it is the dark side. Like Chris Brogan said “Just do your work”

  6. says

    “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

    Good read, thanks for the fun analogy. Btw, the plural form of jedi is just jedi, not jedis. (I know, most people don’t care – but I’m a fanatic! :D)

  7. says

    I’m having a fantastic week at Copyblogger.com. The awesome content is out of this world… rappers, Jedis.. If this is the result of Thanksgiving, I’ll send over a batch of turkeys… Don’t get me wrong, the content is always exceptional, but this is fun or maybe it has all resonated with me very well..

    Jedi tip: A Jedi’s power flows from the Force and is never used for attack.

    That poison pen we wield..

    May the Force be with you.

  8. says

    Carla: The abbreviations drive me crazy! I understand the need, and that our language is evolving, but I’m terrified that one day someone is going to say something funny while I’m standing next to them in line and I’m gonna blurt out, “LOL!”

    Henri: Yeah, we could’ve done definitely done “Focus,” but it’s implied in “Use the Force” for sure. But those days when I’m scattered all over the place and not getting stuff cleared from my desk are definitely days when I’m not doing either.

    Shane: I was thinking Ewoks probably aren’t especially good at editing. How about edit like an X-Wing pilot? There it’s all about precision!

    Lawton: Exactly. Relaxing into the most natural rhythm of writing is often the best we can do to get the response we want. Formulas are great, but never at the expense of human instinct.

    Oleg: Aw man! We need to write a sequel for Battlestar Galactica! Dave and I were both pretty nerdy about that show. In my first year, I was comfortable trying. I was learning the ropes and I think that for the most part it was okay to feel the territory. Now, with a year beneath my belt, it’s a good time to take names. I know what I need to do and I have people depending on me to do it. Well said, Oleg.

    Grandma Mary: Comparisonitis is right! There is no overnight success. Keep your nose down, DO YOUR WORK and you will get there.

    Clyde: Love that quote! If the prequels had one character half as charming as Han, they wouldn’t have bitten so hard. Thanks for telling me about the plural of Jedi. I knew that, yet it somehow didn’t make it through to the final edit. My bad.

    David: HA! Yeah, now we need a post about Jedi rappers eating turkey with the third tribe while learning to write better headlines and analyzing their Twitter data. I’m on it!

    Michelle: Hmmm… good question. I’m gonna say I’m Obi-Wan if for no other reason than Yoda takes his time while speaking. Anyone who has ever met me knows that that is a galaxy far far away from me.

    Shane: Well, if we’re going there then I’d much rather be a Direct Response Spielberg, who (I’ve heard it rumored and don’t find it hard to believe at all) helped Lucas to storyboard much of Revenge of the Sith, the best of the prequels. Too bad he couldn’t ghost the direction as well.

  9. Sonia Simone says

    @Shane, you’re making me laugh.

    @Clyde, that might have been my fault, not Sean’s. He’s pretty fanatic too. :) In any event, I fixed it up, thanks for letting us know. These things are important.

    @Sean, I like the sound of that post. :)

  10. says

    Shane: LOL, I’m going to submit a post written entirely in Jar Jar’s voice: “10 Ways Meesa Theenks You Can Be Connecting With Your Audience!” It will be awesome.

    Dan: Good luck and remember – impatience only leads to the Dark Side!

    Benjamin: And you too master Jedi.

    Sonia: Okay, I’ll get to work. You think I should I do it in Jar Jar’s voice or not?

  11. says

    Thank you everybody for the nice words.

    Michelle – I guess if Sean is Obi Wan, that would make me Yoda by default. While not flattering, I guess it’s better than being Jabba the Hutt.

    Shane – I have no doubt in my mind that Sean reads all of his copy in the Jar Jar voice.

  12. says

    Sonia: Seriously… LOL… for like 5 minutes now.

    Dave: How do you think I work on the AD edits each week? I balance the dark material with Jar Jar’s voice. It’s the only way I stay level.

    Shane: Mac Speech Dictate here I come!

  13. says

    Hooray!! Sooo much better than the rapper post (ducking).

    By the way, I saw a movie preview with Alex Baldwin saying, “OMG” to someone. Argghh!!!

  14. says

    David: Sorry. I hope no one revokes my nerd credentials, though if they get a good look at my nose it’s highly unlikely.

    Sonia: Thanks for vacuuming up all my mistakes!

    Jodi: Seriously? WTF? LOL…

  15. says

    Thanks David and Sean for your thought-provoking post. It seems I’m doing most things right most of the time, though anger, fear and insecurity sometimes get in the way.

  16. says

    Dear David and Sean:

    Great article with a lot of great tips that I can use to incorporate into my life and writing. I like how you are making a reference to the movie so people can easily imagine and better remember the concepts that you are describing.

    There are a lot of good tips, but I am a fan using one simple concept to elaborate. It seams that it is always too difficult for me to keep track of all the things that I am supposed to remember.

    Whenever I am trying to get something done I usually just trust that it will work and seek guidance along away. It is easy to remember and easy to use. This article provides a great starting to point to create your own personal list of how to become a master Jedi!


  17. says

    A fantastic post, from the post image to the content. Absolutely first class.

    Main point here is do the time. I’m concious my site is new, but by listening to your master/s you will yourself earn the right of master!

    Really very good

  18. says

    For some reason this post didn’t strike a nerve. In fact, it seemed a bit suburban to me. Perhaps because I prefer a grittier analogue.

    Human beings are a tough nut to crack. Getting them to buy is incredibly difficult unless you are willing to understand the not-so-shiny parts of human nature.

    Star Wars is a great metaphor for traditional advertising – epic vistas, abstract concepts, vast groups with uninspiring labels – The Dark Side, The Force, The Clones, The Rebellion, The Galactic Empire, The Emperor, Master on and on.

    Give me something a bit more unyieldingly selfish. Something greedy. Something unerringly egocentric. That’s where great copywriters start. They delight in crawling into the dark corners of their prospect’s ego and crafting copy that will speak to the reptilian brain stem.

    Sorry Star Wars is a bit naive. Let’s try Battlestar Galactica – Hell Maybe even Alien.

  19. says

    Great advice guys! One of the best things I’ve learned is to get some great skills, keep learning, get your skills out there in some form, keep practicing, and be consistent.

    Like you said, nothing happens overnight and we must all do our time. Not only are great skills and great knowledge very important but consistency and action are the missing link.

  20. says

    “When 900 years old, you reach… Look as good, you will not.”

    This is such a great post.

    I am a huge Star Wars geek and this post really clicked for me. I had no choice but to comment on it. I remember running around the yard with my makeshift light saber yesterday. Wait, no, I mean when I was growing up – good times.

    I always liked Yoda and how he was the smallest, most misunderstood, but he was the one you didn’t want to mess with. With number 4, I agree – there is no try. You just got to do it and stop failing to take action.

    Thanks again for this great post.

    May the Force be with you.

  21. Sonia Simone says

    @David W., if you don’t want to be Yoda, I’ll be Yoda. I don’t mind being short and green. You can be, um, Mace Windu.

  22. Sonia Simone says

    Until you people start talking about a serious art form, I’ll sit on the sidelines. Say, Deep Space Nine. (Or Firefly. Hmmmm.)

  23. says

    Gordon: Anger, fear and insecurity are enemies of us all. But we can crush them with patience!

    Tomas: I agree – one concept drawn out makes it much easier to remember. Bottom line, humans love stories. Whenever there’s a lesson wrapped in something we love, we will internalize the information so much easier and with more permanence. A master Jedi you will be.

    Infopreneur: Thanks, Man. Your off to a great start!

    Stan: I see what you’re saying, but also think it’s general. It’s all about connection. Great copywriting CAN start with something dark, but it doesn’t have to. It just depends on A) What sort of writer you are, and B) What are you selling? As long as the writer can connect with the metaphor and use it to improve their writing and marketing, then the comparison has won the battle. I’d argue that Apple has some of the best marketing around. Their customers are generally happy and feel great about what they buy. They manage to make their diehard fans feel smug while slowly converting others, or at the very least making them curious. Yet there is nothing dark in their advertising at all. Light and delicious.

    Mike: Consistency and action, absolutely. Plus patience. Patience is so, so important.

    George: LOL, I was playing light sabers with my son not two hours ago. You’re never too old. Ever.

    Dave: I was already riled up earlier! I’m thinking we could write the BSG one pretty easy!

    Sonia: Firefly! Right on! You always did strike me as a Joss Whedon kind of girl.

    Dave: Bobba Fett was cool until we found out he was just a sad little puppy who lost his Doggie Daddy.

  24. says

    It’s incredibly how the teachings of Yoda and company can be applied to online writing. As a ghostwriter, if there’s one bit of advice I can give to aspiring writers (or those looking to perfect their craft), it would be to get their hands on a copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing”.

    It is, by far, the best book I have read. Written by the master of the horror genre, he really exposes every single nook and cranny of what it takes to write in a compelling and engaging manner (something that, I suspect, I have yet to learn myself! :-) )

  25. says

    Dan: Wooo-ahhh-rrrr…. : > )

    Gemma: Thanks, Gemma. We’re glad you enjoyed it!

    George: I just finished reading “On Writing” for the second time this past Sunday. I’ve not read many books on writing, but I can’t imagine one more human or relatable. I’ve read it twice and think I’d probably benefit from a third this time next year. The personal stories to the toolbox – I love it all. I think my favorite thing is that King makes me feel like it’s okay to outline. Of the three novels I’ve written (not for clients), I’ve never had a plot beforehand, just a situation I figure out and build on chapter by chapter. Makes the writing more urgent and grounds it in reality I think.

  26. says

    Number 3 is my favorite. Excellent work gentlemen. I think this is a nice morning cup o’ joe/wakeup call for those that feel they are in a rut. We all control our destiny and the Force is strong in this one.

  27. says

    Shayne: We all struggle, just keep those fingers moving!

    Dan: Dude, seriously? I’d love to read it when you’re done. Come back and drop the link.

    Dape: Empathy is good, leads to the light it does.

    Joshua: Thanks, Joshua! I like to have midechloreans with my morning tea.

    Hamilton: No Follow does negate the value of the link, but does nothing to negate the value of the comment itself. The purpose of comments at Copyblogger are for conversation, not backlinks.

    Jodi: Alec is a good Jedi who will forgive us all of our transgressions. I think I’ll have to work on the BSG one first. I’m a little more well versed. : > )

  28. Sage says

    I have spent the last few days as a youngling, scouring through the interweb, trying to absorb as much as possible on a quest to find MY voice. Thanks for the steady handed guidance, good info and solid nerd humor… master.

  29. says

    The dark side should also include the Blogger’s Disease LOF (Lack of Focus). It’s so easy in this business to get side-tracked with forums, new products etc.

  30. says

    As a blogger and major Star Wars fan this post really hit home with me! All excellent points and really something that new bloggers should print-out and put on their wall to review before writing a post!!

    One of my big learning experiences this year was an excellent point you made – “Just because you can hire cheap labor doesn’t mean you should. Your good name is on the line, don’t exchange short-term benefits for long-term goals.”

    I’m with you 100% here – pay for quality – in the end it will make all the difference in the world!

  31. says

    Is this post some kind of Jedi Mind Trick?

    How else can you get all these tweets, shares and comments.

    Great stuff. Feeling inspired and oh so focused.

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