“It wasn’t the miners who got rich. It was the merchants selling them shovels.”
Yet another one landed in my inbox this week. If you’ve been a writer for more than five minutes or ever signed up to a writing related mailing list, you’ve probably seen them. “I CAN MAKE YOU A SIX FIGURE COPYWRITER!” the email subject line screams. (Sometimes I’m paraphrasing, but sometimes it says precisely this.)
The email itself is usually absurdly long, filled with humblebrags about how #blessed the sender is and how much money they’re making as a copywriter. Oh, and they can teach you to do the same! Just sign up for this course for the low low price of a couple of thousand pounds!
I roll my eyes and unsubscribe, but they keep coming. I know I’ll never fall for it because I saw through it a long time ago. But what worries me is that people who are newer, perhaps younger, more naive, or just a little less jaded, may well fall for it.
Here’s why I hate eye-wateringly expensive copywriting courses that promise the earth.
I hate it because it’s a lie
I’m against anything that sells an idea or a dream that isn’t actually attainable. Whether it’s MLM reps promising you can retire at 25 if you just join their team, or business gurus who swear they can make you a gazillionaire overnight if you just come to this one “Secrets of Success” seminar, it makes me cringe and it makes me angry.
People who claim that their course (which costs hundreds to thousands of pounds, by the way) can make you a filthy rich copywriter are just peddling a different version of the same thing.
By the way: you know the quickest way to get rich on the internet? Sell people a course on how to get rich on the internet (in which you’ll tell them how to create and sell their own course on… how to get rich on the internet.) When you step back and look at it, it’s easy to see why writer Tom Jessessky described this seedy side of the online course market as “the modern pyramid scheme“.
I’m just saying that a lot of these people probably aren’t even getting rich off their own copywriting. They’re getting rich off selling a false dream to people like you. Which is ethically disgusting at any time, but especially in the middle of a pandemic, recession, and resulting mass unemployment.
I hate it because it’s insulting
Think of the various careers that people you know have. Do you think many of them would be amused if someone claimed they could teach anyone to do their job well enough to earn a bonkers amount of money in a short space of time?
Yeah, I thought not.
Selling the idea that writing is easy money, and that anyone can become a highly paid copywriter easily, is insulting to actual professional writers who have worked our butts off for years to get where we are (and mostly still aren’t earning even close to six figures, by the way.)
What we do isn’t easy, at least not if you want to do it well. You can’t learn it overnight, any more than you can master any other skill to professional standard overnight.
I hate it because it’s a rip off
The only way you should ever be paying thousands of pounds for training is if you’re going to get an actual, recognised qualification out – like a degree – out of it at the end. (I mean, you shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for that either because #educationshouldbefree, but that’s a different hill to die on for a different day.)
These absurdly expensive copywriting courses? They’re a rip-off. I can guarantee they’re not teaching you some magical, mysterious secret, because there is no magical mysterious secret. The secret to becoming a successful professional writer is as follows: a love of words, a lot of hard work, a sprinkling of luck, a sound knowledge of how to market your services, and a thick enough skin to keep trying.
Turns out, the secret to becoming a good writer is rather like that old joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall. You practice. A lot. For a very long time. There’s no such thing as a course that can take you from “total newbie” to “earning six figures” in a matter of weeks.
What to do instead
If I’ve just shattered your illusion that you’re going to become a wildly successful writer overnight, I’m sorry. (Except I’m not that sorry, because if I’ve just stopped you shelling out ££££ for some self-appointed “guru” to tell you about spelling and sentence structure, I’ve done you a favour. You’re welcome.)
So what to do if you want to be a professional writer but you’re not there yet?
The good news is that you can find all the resources you need to become a better writer for far less than the price of one “only £2000” (!) course. The information these overpriced courses offer can be found for free online via blogs, Youtube videos, podcasts, webinars, and other resources. It can be found affordably through books and legitimate, far cheaper courses run by actual experts. It can be found through peer learning, mentorship, trial-and-error, and studying what other people do well.
But don’t buy the false dream of quick riches through writing, because it’s all smoke, mirrors, and slick marketing speak. Nothing more.