How & why every Entrepreneur should learn copywriting - an interview with Derek Johanson

copyhour copywriting Derek Johanson entrepreneurship marketing sales

6 weeks into Derek's CopyHour course, I wrote the script for a video for an Entrepreneur's Apprenticeship application. I used every bit of knowledge I'd gotten from the course and, 4 months later, I was on a plane from frozen Canada to tropical Bali to live in a villa full of entrepreneurs and make $1800/month (up from $200). Now he's agreed to share the knowledge and open up CopyHour to 15 new members from GiveGetWin for half the usual cost. Here's some excerpts & notes from an interview between Derek and myself. 

Sometime after quitting my 9-5 and touring the world Four Hour Work Week style, I realized a simple truth.

Everyone's a salesman.

You are, I am, so is your mum and your friends and that cute stranger across the street.

No matter who you are, you sell your image to the world, your favorite restaurant to your friends, your awesome idea to your business partners, your dreams and goals to yourself.

And, if you wanna be an entrepreneur, you need to know the psychology of selling.

That's where copywriting comes in. It's the art of selling with the written word.

Once you know the core principles of copywriting, the medium can change. You can be doing a podcast, writing an email, making a phone call, pitching investors, or simply writing a sales page. No matter what you're doing, you'll have the sales skills to do it well. 

You'll start to see the copywriting principles, like AIDA (the copywriting sequence: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), everywhere.

For example, remember the last time you were flirting with someone. They caught your attention by being cute, you got interested in them after learning who they are and swapping stories, you got a bit more physical and flirtatious and kindled desire, and then, well, action.

That's an extreme example just to show what I'm talking about. You'll also be able to tell which of two advertisements side by side in a magazine is going to be the most successful. And you'll know why. You'll see an interesting story and realize that your market would love to know about it, and that you can use it while you're selling to them.

With all this in mind, I asked myself: "What is the fastest way to become good at copywriting? What is the 80/20 of copywriting?"

While searching for the answer, I stumbled across an old secret from Copywriting legend Gary Halbert.


When Gary was teaching his son how to sell, he told his son to take all the great sales letters he could find and write them out word-for-word by hand. That's it.

If that's the wisdom that Mr. Halbert chose impart upon his son, then it was worth a shot.

So I brought in a group of friends from an entrepreneurial forum, set up the idea that everyone pays (including myself), and we all grow through it.

And…it worked. Every single one of us who completed the experiment and handwrote all the sales letters noticed a measureable improvement in our sales.

John Macintyre even used his improved skills to launch a whole new business.

What we didn't know when we started was why handwriting sales letters worked so well.

Reason 1: Recall

Handwriting improves your brain's ability to recall what it's written.

In a study in Indiana University, kids were placed in a MRI machine & shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.

The Journal of cognitive science published a study where adults learning Mandarin were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard.

The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Reason 2: Mirror Neurons

Scientists studying the brains of monkeys found that particular neurons will fire when you execute a very specific action - like pulling a lever... these same neurons fire when monkey's observed others performing the same actions, like catching fish with a spear.

Recent experiments have demonstrated the existence of such neurons in humans, but on a much higher level of sophistication.

You can learn to fashion a tool by imitating the actions of an expert.

You can learn how to write copy by imitating (exactly) the actions of experts...

And the pen to paper element is HUGE…

Why? Because overtime your pen becomes almost an extension of you and that frees you up to think while you’re copying the words.

Have you ever heard a baseball player say, “the bat was an extension of my arms”?

Same idea.

Once you master the particular skill, it becomes automatic, so while practicing the skill, the mind no longer has to focus on the specific actions involved, but instead can concentrate on something higher - what the copywriter was thinking or even what the customer might be thinking…

Like the baseball player can concentrate on what the pitcher is thinking. 

You'll learn sales truths like:

1.      People like buying from people, not corporations. Just look at the Dos Equis guy.

2.      You can't sell to everybody. It's hard for small biz owners to accept that trying to please everybody will lead to pleasing nobody.

I've got a couple friends who own a gourmet sausage food truck. They started out trying to serve every demographic: poor college students, upper middle class business men, everybody.
They'd got to late night college bars, and they were losing money every night.
Even good review on yelp would go to the tune of "Great sausage, but I'm giving it three stars 'cause it was kinda expensive, yo.". They started adding stuff like nachos for the drunk kids…nachos on a gourmet sausage truck.
Finally I sat down with them and asked "Who are the people who are really going to be buying your $15 sausage?" It wasn't the drunk college kid.
A month later and they're reaping in profits every day. Why? Because they shifted their entire focus to breweries. To the high class people out to drink expensive high quality pints and enjoy expensive high quality sausages.

3.      The power of a story. What you will most likely remember from this whole conversation is the story above. They stick in our minds, because stories were the main way humans passed on knowledge for millennia.

And it's a great idea for people who are just starting out as entrepreneurs. You'll see how people sell their ideas. Which ideas and sales pitches work. What makes money.

The best part about CopyHour is that I'm not your guru. You're not here to learn from me. You're learning from the greats. The Gary Halberts and Joe Sugarmans and Joe Karbos. I'm just the guide.

CopyHour is all about human nature. You can do for free on your own, but how do you stick to it daily? How are habits built? A community to be accountable to. An investment to tell your subconscious that it's important. And a team to help you when it gets hard. That's CopyHour.

You can find Derek at & join his CopyHour course and community for 50% off at the awesome "10 Weeks of Copywriting Training: Learn To Sell Anything" GiveGetWin deal.

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