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The 3 Golden Keys to Success in Copywriting

woman with key standing in front of 3 padlocks
Are You Ready to Unlock the 3 Golden Keys of Copywriting?!

1. The Brief

2. Research, and

3. Instinct…


That is what “success” in Copywriting all boils down to because:

– No matter how many years’ experience you have (even > 30)

– No matter how many content pieces you have crafted (even > 10k)

– No matter how much money you have made (even > $1,000,000)



– No matter who you have written for (insert high authority names here)

– No matter what publications you have been featured in (e.g. Forbes)

– No matter how many steps to success you have on your list (5, 10 or 20)


At the very highest level…

Copywriting at Highest Level is Brief, Research and Instinct

Simplifying and thinking totally big picture now…



1. Mastering the “Brief” through Winning Communication

2. Mastering the “Art” of Research


And ultimately without:

3. Following your “Instinct”


Success in Copywriting can never be achieved!


Agree or disagree with these (I can hear your murmurs) let’s dive straight into it and break down the “3 Golden Keys” to Success in Copywriting…

1. Master the Brief through Winning

Mastering the Brief Sounds Obvious but is Crucial to Success!

Let’s start with the obvious…


A copywriting brief is meant to be:

– Concise

– On-Topic, and ultimately

– Brief.

Note: Read more about best practices for briefs here according to simplifie if interested.


Told you it was obvious – but had to address it – and you would be surprised by how us humans can easily overcomplicate it!

Yeah We Know it's Obvious Too!
Yeah We Know it's Obvious Too!

Now let’s get straight to the point…


Brief, or No Brief…


‘Winning moments’ are never achieved in Copywriting without some sort of:

– Clear / Concise

– Well structured, and

– Logical


Master plan.


Let’s now break down both scenarios:

a) Where you have a brief (hip hip hooray an organised Client!)

b) Where you don’t have a brief (time to create one for your Client!)


a) You Have a Brief

man with pencil standing front of completed checklist
You Have the Brief But Now What?!

Just because your Client has provided you with a brief does not mean you should:


Quickly wrap up your conversation (phone, email or whatever) and say…


I will check the brief and get right back to you!


While there is nothing wrong with doing that (certainly gives you more thinking time / music) – it is far better to catch your Client when first talking to them.


Because when you ‘first’ talk to a Client (as you doubt already know) that is when they are:


‘In the moment’ and most receptive to any questions you have about the brief.


Therefore (as a Copywriter):

– Speed (catching the Client quickly)

– On-the-Fly Analysis (quickly eyeballing / dissecting the brief), and a

– Final Analysis (determining a clear path going forward)…


Is all part of the “Winning Communication” (ultimate guide here) you need to ensure that…


You have a brief that allows you to move forward:

– Confidently (knowing all you need to know about the project)

– Precisely (with all details accurate), and

– Swiftly (starting ASAP to meet your important deadline!).


b) You Don’t Have a Brief

blank notepad on desk with two pencils
This is What Having No Brief Initially Looks Like!











Most often yes.


Because any experienced Copywriter will tell you:


The onus is on the Copywriter to come up with the brief because…


This is key to being a successful copywriter!


No Brief = No Direction = No Goal Met (for your important Client).

Man firing arrow at target and missing badly
Don't Let this be You Missing the Target with your Important Copywriting Client!

So Where Do You Start?


Have one word for you and that is:




What next?

Probe again.


And next??


Probe again.


Probing is an art (as we discussed in another top blog post – that Copywriting is 80% Art).

Ready to Probe Your Client with Great Questions?

Probing is the subject of another blog post – too lengthy to discuss in-depth here.


But the key to nailing your brief is to ‘probe’ (and do it with winning communication) by following these tips:

– Ask more questions (sincere questions will always be answered)

– Try to keep to 10 questions (also allow them to ask questions)

– Use open-ended questions (getting you more answers)

– Be direct (as much as possible – will get best results)

– Never be afraid to ask a dumb question (could end up being a smart one)

– Plan ahead (as much as possible)

– Let your Client say it (how they want to say it), and

– Encourage creativity (as a Copywriter you are an artist after all!).


To Summarise…


Your ‘probing skills’ (no brief or a bad one that needs work) is what:


Will allow you to master your Client’s brief every time!



Learn more about ‘probing’ in this blog post and this content piece from Watershed Associates is also useful.


That is golden key #1 covered (of 3) on what it takes to be successful in Copywriting…


Now let’s dive into step 2 – where we talk about “mastering” the art of research!


2. Master the Art of Research and

picture of keyword research strategy
What Rating out of 10 Would you Give your Research Skills?


Research, and

More Research…


Any Copywriter knows……


Research = Results = Happy Client (celebration time!).

colourful confetti blue background

But exactly how much research: 

Is enough??




You certainly can do too little (jumping virtually straight into it), and

You can certainly too much (checking every resource on the net).


And we all know the latter = missed deadlines (and an unhappy Client).


The solution (as a Copywriter) and drum roll (yes, it is clear as day) is to:


Research Smarter (not harder) with Results-Driven Research.

man rolling sphere easily as opposed to box
Are You Pushing the Box or Sphere when it Comes to Copywriting Research?

And we will be keeping this brief (excuse the pun!) as “Copywriting research” is the subject of another blog post – which you can read here (coming soon).


Smart Copywriting research is about 3 things essentially:

a) Knowing your brief “comprehensively”

b) Knowing how to “summarise” your brief’s end-goal, and ultimately

c) Knowing how to “choose” the best resources for your research.


Let’s start with knowing your brief comprehensively…



Sounds obvious right?

Well just because you believe you nailed the brief does not mean you have:


Fully ‘absorbed’ the brief (into all key parts of your brain required to take action!)


Ensure you:

Read over the brief (however many times it takes for you to absorb it), and

Even write it out by hand (for best results – and to absorb it quicker).


According to the BBC (read more here) taking notes by hand supports the brain’s capacity for retrieval of information.

person about to write notes
Pen and Paper Works Wonders when Trying to Master Copywriting!

And no…


That does not mean you have to write out the entire brief word for word but…


‘Summarise’ (according to importance) – which leads on to the next point for smart copywriting research.


Summarise your brief’s end-goal.

Hit the Bullseye by Summarising your Brief's End Goal!
Hit the Bullseye by Summarising your Brief's End Goal!

Too many copywriters (and people for that matter) fail to get straight to the:


Big Picture (quick enough)…


And that is……


What is the Client’s End Goal?!


Rather than being systematic (even though your brain is wired to be ‘systematic’) get in the habit of straight away noting the end-goal:

– At the top of your brief, or even

– Write it down on your nearest notepad (to better absorb it).


Not the correct end-goal?


The beauty of doing this is it’s all ‘art’ and a ‘skill’ that you will get better with over time.

Because by doing this (even if the end-goal is not correct) you can easily:

Shape it quickly to be correct (by reading just bit more of brief and reflecting on your conversation with the Client).

block of different shapes connected together
Shaping Your Client's End-Goal is an Art that Can Easily be Learnt!

And a big but obvious tip to save time…


Always Get in the habit of asking your Client early in your conversation with them!


Going straight to the end-goal (even though may take time to master at first) is sure to:

Save you ‘tons’ of time and leads straight on to the third and final point in smart Copywriting Research and that is…


Know how to “choose” the best resources for your research.


This is the last part (from the highest level) to smarter Copywriting research and:


Is the hardest and takes the most time to learn – but we told you this was ‘art’ and ‘art’ takes time!


Choosing the best resources is logical:


You need the right keywords and of course page 1 of Google is your starting point.

But the real ‘art’ (and what takes the most time) is being able to extremely quickly…


Summarise (in a matter of seconds) what resource is:

– Relevant (for your project)

– Valuable (and must be enormous), and is

– The best resource (and authority) to help you craft winning copy!


No need to lie…


Experience helps a lot with this but ultimately it is:


Your ability to always have your Client’s end-goal (firmly engrained in your brain) that will drastically help you in mastering the ‘art’ of summarising and:


Quickly choosing the best resources!


That is golden key #2 covered (of 3) on what it takes to be successful in Copywriting…


Now let’s dive into the third and final step  – where we talk about following your “Instinct” and making the play!


3. Follow your Instinct and Make
the Play!

Are you an Instinct Follower or an Instinct Doubter?

I should have gone with my gut feeling??

I should have gone with my natural instinct??

I should have just gone for it!!


How many times have you heard this throughout your life?


Too many – I bet.


We already discussed that Copywriting is 80% Art and 20% Science (in this blog post) and to concisely summarise:


Without “Instinct” in Copywriting…


You Cannot Even Achieve 1% (out of the 80) that it takes to be truly successful in Copywriting.


Think about it logically:


Take baseball for example…

baseballer smashing home run out of park

It is…


Bases loaded and it’s bottom of the ninth (bottom of the ninth is the final inning – for those who don’t know baseball!).


It is the last game in the World Series…


The pinnacle in baseball…


And this is the play that stands between……


The trophy every baseballer dreams of holding high in the air!

person holding trophy with others reaching for it


This is it…


It is nearly midnight (on the dot).


This game has been going on forever, but it is now or never…


Because this is the ultimate play!


Win (and forever gone down in the history books), and

Lose (and be quickly forgotten!).


It is:

– Pouring down rain (the heaviest ever)

– 2 strikes down (this is the last chance now), and

– Bases fully loaded (runners ready and creeping to the next base).


The hitter has over 52 home runs in his career but is tonight (of all nights) really the night for that??


Must score 4 to win the game and win the World Series!


Does the batter:


Have multiple scenarios going through his head (potentially overcomplicating the moment), or


Does the batter:


Step up to the plate only thinking “instinct” (and will only play off that instinct for the next ball fizzing his way!)




You know. I know…

How this story ends!


Instinct WINS and Overcomplication LOSES.


But the ultimate takeaway is that as a Copywriter you absolutely must (and of course this is after comprehensive preparation):


Follow Your Instinct and Make the Play!


And of course, that is Making the Play to Results and a Very Happy Client.

The BBC reports (read more here if interested) that your gut instincts are not as random as they seem.

Because you might not realise it, but your brain is:


Constantly comparing your current situation with memories of previous situations.


And this means:


Even though a decision may feel ‘intuitive’, it might in fact be based on years of experience.

decisions-may-feel-intuitive-but-actually-based-experience-copywriting (2)

Does this mean as Copywriter you should always go with your Instinct??


Yes and No.




The no…


Unfortunately, you cannot always follow your ‘instinct’ (absolutely every time) because after all:


You are working within your Client’s requirements and working towards their end-goal!


Therefore (even with comprehensive preparation and knowing the end-goal) your instinct could pull you in the opposite direction!

two men in canoe rowing opposite direction
Before Jumping in and Following Your Instinct You Need to Think About Your Client Requirements!

But the good news is instinct can be followed most of the time (and this is particularly with more Copywriting experience) because again:


Your instinct (more often than not) = is driven by past experience.


And you can only gain more experience in Copywriting by doing one thing and one thing only:

Writing more!


That is the final and golden key #3 covered on what it takes to be successful in Copywriting…


And now let’s quickly wrap this blog post up!


The 3 Golden
Keys to Success in Copywriting Wrap-Up

video wrap
Let's Quickly Wrap this Blog Post Up!

Years’ experience (in the industry).

How many content pieces you have written (in your career).

How much money you have made (in total).

Who you have written for (Dalai Lama, Prime Minister or President).

What publications you have featured in (Forbes, Fortune or Entrepreneur).


It matters…




Much less thank you think (much less and maybe 1 million times less than you are thinking now)…




1. Mastering the “Brief” through Winning Communication

2. Mastering the “Art” of Research

3. Following your “Instinct” and Making the Play…


Are (from the very biggest picture and as discussed in this blog):


The 3 Golden Keys to Success in Copywriting.


Obey them and win big in Copywriting!


Over to You…

Do you agree or disagree with the 3 Golden Keys to Success in Copywriting? Would love to hear from you in the
comments – any feedback is greatly appreciated.


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