One of the quirkier hobbies that I've gotten into over the years was hand-crafting knives and straight razors.
(Yes, the kind you shave with.)
When you ask an experienced “bladesmith” how they make such beautiful razors, you're likely to get the following response:
Well, you start with a hunk of steel, and you grind away everything that's not the razor.
Har har, very helpful.
That answer seems pretty flip, but there's definitely something to it.
In the end the way that I learned to make “functional” razors was to closely study the dimensions of antique razors, then take my own piece of steel and remove metal until the proportions were similar…
Until eventually a useable razor blade emerges.
Now it's not perfect. Maybe the angles are a little off here and there, and it feels a little clunky to use.
I'd made something that WORKS, though.
And from here out it's a matter of refinement.
There's a similar process that goes on when you're first learning to write sales copy.
At first, a lot—and I mean a LOT—of your effort goes into carving away those sales-murdering “rookie mistakes.”
Like focusing on yourself rather than the customer.
Or blathering on about features instead of focusing on benefits.
Or forgetting to “ask for the sale.”
Typically when I do a copy review I spend 80-90% of my time chipping away at the common errors to reveal a useable sales message.
Eventually as you progress as a writer, you hit this threshold where you've “ground away” most of those bad habits.
And suddenly you produce a piece of copy that an experienced copywriter can look at and say:
“Hmmm, this looks pretty good to me. I don't see anything obvious that you need to fix. Good work!”
This just happened to my buddy Derick Bailey, a software developer who runs a screencasting site called WatchMeCode.net.
Derick enrolled in CopyHour after hearing me rave about it for years.
CopyHour is NOT an easy program—it's kinda like Marine Corps bootcamp for copywriting.
Derick WANTS this skill though.
And he's hung in there, consistently putting in at least 8-10 hours per week of grueling work.
Five weeks into the program, he sent me some copy he'd written for a new product he's launching…
And I just broke out into a grin while I was reading it, because I couldn't see any major flaws or problems I could fix!
I have no problem admitting that I can't predict whether Derick's sales page will be a massive home run.
Even hall of fame marketers and copywriters often can't predict whether a piece of copy will blow the roof off.
Usually though when you get to this point where you've polished out all the common beginner mistakes, you'll find that you rarely “strike out.”
You WILL make a solid number of sales.
And all that remains is to put the copy out there—and see how the market responds.