Copywriting Courses

Every few weeks I receive an enquiry from someone considering taking a copywriting course with something called ‘The Institute of Copywriters’. The enquiry will usually ask simply whether I can recommend this course.

Now ‘The Institute of Copywriting’ is worthy of some scrutiny, not least as an exercise in copywriting! The use of the word ‘Institute’ suggests that this is some kind of ‘industry body’, and the ‘Institute’s’ website states that “The Institute is wholly financed by its members, from its courses and subscriptions, from lectures and published material.”

Note the use of the word ‘members’, if you will.

An innocent reader is thus very likely to feel they are entrusting their training to an association of copywriting peers and elders.

Innocent reader, beware!

Knowing for a fact that there is no such assembly of copywriting yeomen (not in the UK, at least), I wrote to the Institute of Copywriting to verify that they are, in fact, actually just a distance learning company, whose business is selling distance learning courses. To claim to have members, rather than customers or students, is again, I’d suggest, calculated to imbue the ‘Institute’ with some unwarranted gravitas.

Well, I’m pleased to say that the Institute of Copywriting was 100% honest and straightforward in its reply. “Yes”, its Customer Service Coordinator wrote, “You are quite right in your assumption.”

So. Not an industry body, but actually a company in Somerset, called The Learning Institute, selling distance learning courses. (The same company also sells ‘Diploma’ courses on ‘Garden Design’, ‘Personal Training’ and being an ‘Image Consultant’).

So then I asked about the Diploma and Accreditation which the Institute of Copywriters awards to those completing its course.

“Is this ratified by any UK organisation authorised for the issue of academic qualifications”, I enquired. “Or is this simply a qualification ‘of your own’?”

Again, with commendable clarity, the Institute confirmed that “The diploma is ours.”

So. Now I am able to offer an informed view on The Institute of Copywriting and its Copywriting Diploma course.

1) This isn’t an industry body. It’s a distance learning business. The Learning Institute (the company behind The Institute of Copywriting) is, however, properly accredited by the ODLQC, the UK body which monitors distance learning organisations.

2) The Diploma issued by the Institute has absolutely no academic or professional validity recognised by any UK authority licensed to regulate qualifications. Writing Dip C (Inst CW) after your name, as the Institute tells you you will be entitled to do, is about as meaningful as appending your starsign.

3) But…the ‘Institute of Copywriting’ course does offer what appears to be a reasonable introduction to copywriting, on a distance learning basis. There’s no knowing how good the ‘professional copywriters’ reviewing your assignments will be, but that’s pretty much the same in any educational situation. There appears to be a reasonable raft of course material (though some of it looks a bit like padding to me) but, in the end, the cost of the course seems quite modest.

Would I recommend it to you? Well…if you have some commercial experience of your own, particularly marketing experience, and have done some copywriting already, then maybe not. I suspect that you probably know enough to be going on with, and what you really need is more real experience. Having said that, you may find the Institute’s course’s exercises of some use as practice. On balance, I’d probably buy 2 or 3 good books and save my money.

If, however, you have no experience, and no marketing background, and the few hundred pounds charged for the course isn’t a big deal to you, then my guess is that you might find it a useful ‘first taste’ of copywriting, with at least some infrastructure to get you into the swing.

Just be aware, though, that you are buying books and distance learning tutoring. You are NOT buying a professional qualification, nor the learning of some august professional body of copywriters; which entity does not, as I have said, exist.

24 Responses to “Copywriting Courses”

  1. Leah Salmon

    Hi there,
    Would you consider starting a distance learning course yourself, so that potential students would benefit from the guidance of a professional in the field even if it’s not accredited with letter after your name?

  2. Laurence Blume

    Nah. Not my thing, I don’t think! However, I am vaguely thinking about trying out a day or weekend masterclass event at some point. If anyone else would be interested in this, please add a comment here and I’ll think more on it.

  3. Mags Mercer

    I’m interested. I took at look at the Copywriting course and wondered about validity – so thanks for checking it out.
    Been in marketing for 20 years and freelance for about 5.
    Doing quite a bit of copywriting & I would be interested to meet with really experienced copywriters to ignite fresh ideas!

  4. Penny Dablin

    I’m currently working through the Institute of Copywriting course as a newbie to copywriting. I’m halfway through and now feeling a lot more confident in my abilities.
    In my opinion the course is very good. It gives a thorough grounding in different aspects of copywriting and the assignments mean you actually practice what you’ve learned – which is not so likely from just reading a book or two.
    My assignmensts are marked by a working copywriter – I’ve checked out his website thoroughly – and his comments have been helpful and thorough.
    As a beginners’ course I would rate it excellent.
    As to whether the letters after your name have any value – that’s all in the eyes of the reader. Personally I’m not impressed by letters after a name so I won’t be using it, but I may be missing out on impressing those who think they imply a level of study (which they do!)
    Having decided I wanted to pursue a career as a copywriter I knew I needed to learn. There are a number of courses – Institute of Copywriting, AWAI, Pete Godfrey, local college writing courses… and a huge array of books – Dan Kennedy, Joe Sugarman, Robert Bly… They all cost money, some considerably more than others, and they all have some relevance.
    How do you choose when you’re completely new??
    Some of them are very single minded – focusing only on website sales letters, or only on how to write with emotion.
    I chose the Institute of Copywriting course and I have not been disappointed.
    The ‘Institute’ course covers the whole spectrum of copywriting skills: press releases, direct mail, press ads, brochures, newsletters, tv & radio commercials, creating branding, how to set yourself up, marketing yourself, web copy and freelance business advice.
    And, you do have to do the work to get the diploma!

  5. Laurence Blume

    Penny, thanks for the thorough report. It’s great to hear that the IoC Course is working well for you. Letters after names may or may not impress anyone (and should always be treated with due reserve), but they are still an entitlement for those who have achieved certain regulated standards in their chosen field. In the UK, there is a recognised accreditation system for the award of both academic and professional qualifications, and outside of that there is no entitlement to ‘arbitrarily’ award or wear qualifications as an adjunct to one’s name.

  6. Lucy

    I did the “Effective Copywriting By Distance Learning” course from the Publishing Training Centre. It certainly taught me a lot – mind you, I was a complete beginner. Has anyone else tried it?

  7. Kit

    Thanks for your comments on the course.
    Speaking for the Institute, yes we help people hone their copywriting skills and enter the profession. Which has got to be a good thing.
    Every student gets a working copywriter as their personal tutor. And the testimonials on our website show that we often succeed.
    What’s more (he said, warming to his subject), the course is better than the US internet-based courses which teach only about hard-sell direct mail. By contrast, we show our students how they can earn money from writing press releases, newsletters and more more besides.
    You can learn (sorry, discover!) more at http://www.inst.org/copy
    PS Good to hear you get queries about the course, Lawrence. Maybe we ought to talk?

  8. Liz

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this blog. I’ve been an English teacher for the last twelve years, but before that I worked in an advertising agency. I wrote copy for all manner of clients, and got paid peanuts as I was a recent graduate. I’m taking a break from teaching, and would like to do some freelance copywriting, but I have no idea where to start.
    I had looked into taking the course as a way of making contacts, at least, but having read this, I don’t think I’ll bother!

  9. Joe

    Laurence,
    Which “two or three good books” would you recommend as an alternative to the Institute’s course?
    Like Liz, I am unsure where to start too.
    Thanks.

  10. Laurence

    Joe…Please take a look in teh bookstore section of the site. Everything there has its merits. do like Drayton Bird’s Sales Letter’s That Sell, however…not just for what it teaches about sales letters, but for what it teaches about copywriting in general.

  11. Nigel

    Wish I had a quid for every aspiring writer who’s asked me if it’s worthwhile signing up for this. Really, the only qualification for any copywriter is merit. If you have a good portfolio, it’ll get you work. If you do that work well, you’ll get more. Period.

  12. hougenie

    Hi There,
    I was thinking of taking a copy writing course so I was wondering if anyone did some research or took the copy writing course from AWAI(American writers and artists inc.)?
    Would really really appreciate some more info on this
    company.
    cheers!

  13. Paula Charnock

    I qualified with the Inst of Copywriters three years ago. The course was well thought out and covered everything a new starter needed to know. My on-line tutor was more than helpful and the time and effort she put into my feedback most impressive. Well worth the money in giving you the necessary confidence and practical skills.

  14. Alister

    What about the writers bureau course ‘The complete copywriter’ does anyone have experience of this course, good or bad? I want to become a copywriter just dont know the best course for a complete beginner, any suggestions would be great.

  15. Leif Kendall

    I would bet that most of what you will learn on a course like this could be absorbed by reading 2 or 3 books.
    I think the Institute of Copywriting is misleading because they aren’t a real institute. Shame they can’t be more honest in their marketing.

  16. Manny Manuel

    Please, could somebody tell me if writers Bureau course in copy writing is a good one. I don’t know which to select-Inst. of copy writers or Writers Bureau?
    Thanks
    Manny

  17. Denis MacEoin

    I am considering employment as a copywriter. I have about 30 years experience as a writer: over 30 books, 25 of them novels, several bestsellers. I have published a lot of journalism, many reviews (books and TV), advocacy pieces, and encyclopedia entries; I have been the editor of a US journal, worked as a writing tutor for the Royal Literary Fund, and taught some creative writing. Would someone in my position really need to take a course in copywriting? Are there skills I have yet to learn, or does my writing experience trump those skills?

  18. Laurence Blume

    I’d say it’s far less what you know about writing that what you know about business, Dennis. Copywriting is essentially a business skill within the marketing function. If you have knowledge in that area, you might just get stuck in and see what happens.

  19. Rich Woodruff

    I’ve just been onto the “Institute’s” website and it’s frankly a mess. Hardly any of the links are working, you can’t find out the rates of the course, they haven’t even bothered to make sure that the ‘Register Online’ link is working. The images they’ve used are not compatible with two browsers i’ve tried. This is hardly a benchmark for new online copywriters to aspire to…

  20. emma

    Laurence, after reading your comment about the Institute of Copywriters and their courses, my question would simply be – what copywriting course(s) can you recommended for distance / home learning with proper validation from an educational / professional establishment? And if you cannot (because there are none), please may you recommend a few books that can do the same job, or at least get a newbie started? I do a fair bit of website writing (travel & leisure) on the back of being a travel writer / author, but without any formal teaching in the art of copywriting. I’d like to learn about website copy writing predominantly and also how to write up press releases and newsletters. If you could suggest any courses or books, I’d be grateful. Thanks.

  21. Laurence Blume

    Emma, I honestly can’t recommend courses. I’m certainly not aware of anything that I’ve heard described as outstanding. I’ve heard many people say they benefited from the IoC course, and I am simply at pains to point out that it’s self-accredited distance learning, and not some academically or professionally recognised issuing body. That doesn’t mean you would not learn from it, however. So far as books are concerned, just go and browse. You need a couple of decent books on marketing, and a decent basic reference on copywriting. Frankly, I’d buy the Teach Yourself Copywriting book by Jonathan Gabay (do NOT by his Copywriters’ Compendium, which is an utter waste of money in my view), and go from there. Read lots of stuff online and then decide what works for you and what doesn’t. Good luck.

  22. Pratyush Kumar Gupta

    I believe that copywriting is a demanding task. One has to learn skills and acquire knack to say the ideas in different perspectives without losing its true sense. A well researched article indeed. Looking forward for more from you. Many Thanks 🙂

  23. Farhad Khurshed

    I would suggest investing in a Direct response copywriting course from one of the modern legends of copywriting such as Dan Kennedy, John Carlton, Clayton Makepeace and others. The late Gary Halbert is a great example to follow. Read his newsletters. They are worth their weight in gold.
    Also check out the awaonline website. This could be another great starting point.