In 1986, he mailed out a physical letter where he shared exactly how he did it.
Fortunately, his mentee digitized it.
Here are Gary Halbert’s 12 battle-tested strategies to help you write better copy faster!
- Set up a proper writing space
Before you do anything else, make sure you do this.
Have a space that instantly puts you in the mood to write.
At the same time, be flexible when a hot idea hits.
2. Set up a writing routine
For years, Halbert used to be a hardcore nighttime writer, solving problems by brute force.
But that all completely changed when he learned to rely on his subconscious.
Here’s his exact protocol to get brilliant ideas effortlessly:
• He would do a bunch of research, read tons of articles, sales letters, reports and so on.
• Then he highlighted the important parts.
• Then before he went to bed, he would load up his brain by going over the highlights.
• Then he’d ask his subconscious big questions like: “What’s the big idea here?”
• And then… he’d simply go to bed.
When he woke up, his subconscious had done all the hard work for him, and he was able to write multi-million dollar salesletters and ads.
3. Write a lot
Halbert says that the more you write, and the more often you write, the better you’ll become.
I believe you need to *earn* the right to complain.
Too many people complain without having done the work.
4. Write for set periods of time: 33/33 technique
Halbert learned this from another great copywriter Gene Schwartz.
It virtually eliminates writer’s block.
Here’s the trick:
• Set a timer for 33m 33s.
• Take a 5–10m break.
Two additional tips:
i. You don’t have to write but you can’t get out of your chair. This takes the pressure off and you usually end up writing anyways.
ii. During breaks, do something mundane so your subconscious can work. When you get inspiration, get back to work!
5. Write something easy first.
Trouble getting started? You’re likely putting too much pressure on yourself.
The 33/33 technique + start with something simpler.
The secret, Halbert says, is to just get started!
6. Allow yourself to SUCK
“Every word you put on the page does not have to be solid gold. You’re not doing brain surgery.”
Just because you type it, doesn’t mean you can’t edit it later.
And oftentimes, that crappy writing, turns out to be pretty good the next day.
7. Write your first draft fast & furious with no editing.
Whenever you stop to edit (or for any reason really), you break your trance-like state.
Stay in the flow and keep writing.
All that stuff can be done after.
Here’s an excerpt from Steven King’s On Writing about breaking your flow:
“When you sit down to write, write. Don’t do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.”
8. If it sucks, bin it
Don’t be afraid to get rid of writing that sucks.
Oftentimes, you’ll need to warm up.
Those warm-up words sometimes just aren’t up to par.
Delete them and immediately start over.
9. Use tech to capture your thoughts
He described some old-school tech but today, just use Siri or some assistant.
You can say: “hey Siri take a note” immediately followed by dictation.
It’ll then be stored in your notes app ready to be used later today or tomorrow!
It’s 10x easier to capture inspiration when you have it, than to stare at a blank screen the next day!
10. Move your body
To write better copy, faster, you must have energy.
And you’re just not going to have energy unless you move your body.
According to Halbert, there’s a clear correlation between the quality of his work and how in shape he was.
“If you want to write better copy, faster (and make a lot more money), it’s a good idea to specialize as a copywriter.”
You can do it by:
• Industry: Health, Finance
• Medium: Direct mail, Billboards (Out Of Home ads), Twitter
Gary was a huge fan of specialization and wishes he did it sooner for 5 reasons:
• You’ll learn what the market wants which makes the writing easier
• Re-use copy (which saves time)
• Easy to keep up with industry trends
• Being a big fish in a small pond
- Easy to keep tabs on the competition
12. Reward yourself
Buy yourself a fun little gadget or whatever you want.
Halbert believed in having something to look forward to.
13. Bonus I: Read novels
When Scott Haines (Gary Halbert’s mentee) met him, he’d been studying extensively for years.
Going so far as to copy his book… by hand!
He expected him to say “study more of my materials”.
Instead, Halbert bought him a Travis McGee NOVEL.
Scott now considers that Halbert’s most important gift because it made him a better storyteller.
And good storytelling is paramount to persuasion and selling.
He says: have impeccable fundamentals, then read mostly fiction instead of marketing books.
Fascinating take, no?
14. Bonus II: Become a student of life
Halbert was a master observer of life and people.
And an avid collector of stories.
Life can and should be source material for your copy.