Today we’re going to be talking about an inexpensive and effective way to hone your copywriting craft.
There’s a lot of excellent books and courses out there about copywriting and marketing as a whole. YouTube is an absolute goldmine of resources! Marketing theory is all well and good, and well worth learning but if you’re a practical learner like me, nothing beats seeing great work out in the wild.
Marketing – including copywriting – is all around us nowadays and marketers are finding more than ever that the best creative wins the race against their competitors; creative that’s self aware and knows what it’s up against. This is where today’s tip comes in: always keep a swipe file.
What’s a Swipe File?
A swipe file is a record of creative work that you find particularly inspiring, clever, and stirring. The kind of stuff where you say “I wish I’d created that!”. You can keep swipe files for anything creative that you do, really; copy, design, typography, visual puns, videography, foley sound effects, wordplay, you name it!
Though my services are purely for B2B organisations, my own swipe file contains all sorts of weird and wonderful and decidedly non-B2B things, like TV ads, radio jingles, clothing labels, vintage posters, pint glasses, and much more.
Remember that with every creation, someone has had to put pen to paper every time. They’ve equally had head scratching moments and eureka moments, just like me and you. Every piece of copy has had to be thought about and brought into life. So if that writer or that designer or that sound engineer can achieve marketing magic, so can you.
If you’re familiar with Pinterest, then Pinterest boards are effectively like swipe files – in fact, Pinterest is a great place to keep your swipe file if you’re so inclined! Surrounding yourself with copy and ads that inspire you can shake some creativity loose when creator’s block starts to take hold – it can get you into the right mindset to write about a certain topic, or it can simply give you something aspirational to aim for.
Waiting for inspiring copywriting examples to come your way? Not a problem. Simply pick up one of my favourite books and have a flick through. The D&Ad Copy Book is a great repository of copy-driven ads from yesteryear.
But there’s only so many pages in any book – only so many lessons in any course – fab investment though they are. So to learn more about copywriting, keep an eye out for the copy that surrounds us. If you’re particularly focused on growing your craft, this curiosity may come naturally. But make a point of absorbing the marketing that crops up in day to day life – it becomes habit before long.
Occasionally sit through the ad breaks on TV. Don’t “skip ad” immediately online. Notice the linguistic intricacies of the websites you visit; the software you use; the billboards you pass on your travels. Once you’re tuned into the daily buzz of marketing, you’re likely to start forming ideas for opening gambits, calls to action, and general advertising narratives of your own.
Your swipe file helps to keep you accountable to the level of quality and cleverness that you aspire to, sharpening your wordsmithing tools. It helps you become more discerning – more able to separate good work from bad work… and to realise just how much of that is down to personal interpretation. If you’ve just completed a piece of text that you are really proud of, don’t be afraid to put it in your own swipe file. It’s reassuring that you can achieve greatness, and if you’ve done it once, you can do it again!