In 2019, when I wanted to become a copywriter, I failed MISERABLY.
I really struggled to learn what copywriting was and how to write copy that sells.
I was caught like a lobster in a trap with all the fluffy nonsense spread around the web like a yeast infection.
In 2020, I did something that changed my life…
Instead of learning copy from a million different people, I focused on the select few famous copywriters who have proven their success through products sold.
I set out to find the elusive best copywriters of all time & learn from them.
I stopped reading blog posts, Reddit comments and watching YouTube videos from online copywriting “gurus”.
I built my copywriting skills and confidence within a few short months and have secured 100s of freelance clients and a handful of copywriting jobs over the last few years.
The point is…
To be the best, you got to LEARN from the best.
And ONLY the best.
So, if you want to become a top-paid copywriter, you ought to learn, study and APPLY the wisdom taught by the greatest copywriters of all time.
In this post…
I’m going to share 20 of my favorite copywriters, their influence on the copywriting game and ONE BIG idea to take home & apply right away to improve your own copywriting skillz.
The 20 Best Copywriters in the World
#1. Gary Halbert
Gary Halbert is probably the most famous copywriters of all time.
He began his career in the 1960s as a direct response copywriter. He specialized in print advertising. Gary wrote the MOST MAILED piece of advertising in US history – The Coat of Arms Letters.”
He has sold billions worth of products through the words he’s written and has revolutionized copywriting as we know it.
Study Gary’s top ads:
https://swiped.co/ - type in “Gary Halbert” and you’ll find a bunch of his most successful ads.
Sell to a starving crowd.
Gary held a seminar for aspiring copywriters.
He asked them…
‘Imagine you’re opening a hamburger stand —what advantages would you need most to succeed?’
The students replied:
“The best meat”
“The tastiest sauce”
“A great location”
“I’ll grant you all these things, and in return I only want one, I want a STARVING CROWD.”
Meaning, your success as a copywriter has more to do with the MARKET you are writing to, than the product you are selling.
If you choose a hot market, you can get away with mediocre products (and mediocre copy).
#2. Eugene Schwartz
Eugene is one of the best copywriters who’s ever lived. He started his copywriting career at an advertising firm – Huber Hoge & Sons – as a messenger boy and quickly worked his way up to head copy chief.
Then, in 1954, he went into business for himself. Using his elite copywriting skills as the fuel to his business’s success.
Eugene speciated in direct-mail advertising and wrote 10 books, including one the greatest copywriting books of all time – Breakthrough Advertising.
You do not create great copy, you assemble it.
When I heard Eugene say this, my mind exploded.
Ever since, I have viewed copywriting in a completely different light.
You do not write copy, you assemble it.
Every claim, feature, benefit, emotion, etc. already exists.
Your job is to find it.
Assemble it in the most persuasive and engaging way.
How do you find this vital info?
#3. Matt Furey
Former world champion wrestler turned email copywriting legend. Furey is renowned for his massive success in the fitness & self-improvement niches mainly due to his master marketing & copywriting skills.
His background in athletics and personal development played a BIG role & theme in crafting persuasive emails and sales pages that resonate with his target audience.
Most copywriters nowadays don’t know who Matt Furey is, and that’s a shame.
Because he’s probably the greatest email copywriter of all time.
He’s sold millions worth of his own products through email and really changed the email copywriting game.
Matt Furey’s secret weapon was his storytelling abilities.
This guy started 99% of his emails off with fascinating stories that sucked you into his copy and persuaded you to buy.
Start your copy with a story. Don’t overthink it. You can tell a story about anything. After all, humans are natural storytellers.
Learn more about Matt Furey...
Matt’s terrific email copywriting course:
#4. Ben Settle
If Matt Furey ain’t the best email copywriter on the planet, Ben Settle is.
Ben worked as a freelance copywriter for many years for some big-name entrepreneurs – Michael Senoff, Ken McCarthy, Captain Chris and many more.
Then, Ben went into business for himself.
He’s best known for his Email Players newsletter (a monthly print newsletter where he shares email copywriting and marketing secrets).
Mock the trolls.
Most people give in to their critics.
Ben does the opposite.
Instead of lying down in fetal position, he openly mocks his trolls for all eyes to see in his daily emails.
Not only is this very entertaining, but this also helps repel rotten clients and strengthens the relationship with his ideal clients.
Check out Ben's website & subscribe to his email list (he drops daily copywriting gems):
#5. Joseph Sugarman
Joseph Sugarman was a pioneer in direct response marketing and advertising. He founded JS&A Group, a company known for innovative products such as BluBlocker sunglasses.
One of my favorite copywriting books of all time is his book: The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.
In Sugarman’s book - The Adweek Copywriting Handbook - he talks about the importance of getting readers to read every word you write.
And he used a great analogy for doing this…
Picture your copy as a slippery slide. You want readers to slide down your copy as fast as possible.
Lube to grease up your slide – stories, short sentences, talk about what they’re interested in, benefits.
#6. Victor O. Schwab
The man who made “How to Win Friends and Influence People” a best seller, is one of the founding fathers of advertising and copywriting. Victor worked on ads for Charles Atlas & Sherwin Cody. Victor was one of the first copywriters to apply scientific principles in advertising. His background in psychology and advertising research helped him craft extremely persuasive copy.
In his book – How to Write A Good Advertisement – he gave away the 100 most successful headlines (at the time).
But the really valuable thing was, he gave insights on WHY these headlines were so effective.
I recommend every copywriter read this book (multiple times) and study the 100 headlines and insights given.
#7. Claude Hopkins
Claude Hopkins was one of the greatest pioneers of direct response advertising. He believed advertising’s only goal was to sell, rather than to be clever or entertain. That it should be measured by scientific tests and justified by the results it produced. Hopkin’s data-driven approach transformed advertising as we know it.
“Reason Why” copy.
In Claude's magnificient copywriting book, Scientific Advertising, he really emphasized how copywriting is based on proven human psychological principles. And that if you can give your readers a reason WHY they should respond to your copy, you can succeed.
#8. Dan Kennedy
Dan Kennedy is one of the greatest copywriters of all time. He’s worked as a marketing consultant, high-end freelance copywriter, author and business owner. His books and teaching have transformed direct response marketing and have turned 100s of struggling entrepreneurs into “renegade” millionaires.
Dan Kennedy's book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, is one of my favorite copywriting books.
10 market research questions.
Dan used to only give these valuable market research questions to seminar attendees. However, they are widely accessible online now.
I still use these market research questions whenever I’m writing copy for a new market. These market research questions are not your plain Jain copywriting questions. They work so effectively because they tap into your market’s emotions – their pains, problems, desires, etc.
Use these 10 questions whenever you are researching your client’s market…
#9. David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy, The "Father of Advertising," is one of the most famous copywriters of all time. Madmen’s Don Draper was based on this copywriting legend. Ogilvy founded the notorious advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather. He became well-known for his iconic ad campaigns for – Dove, Rolls Royce, Guinness, Hathaway, and many more big-named companies.
Here are two great books written by the legend himself:
Ogilvy explained that if you want to make big bucks as a copywriter, you’ve got to hit homeruns.
Homeruns = your copy is based around a BIG IDEA.
The best way to come up with big ideas is through market research.
Study your market & product INTENSELY.
Then, after you’ve filled your brain with loads of info… take a break.
Give your brain some breathing room.
You’ll be amazed at how many BIG IDEAS your brain will feed when it’s had some R&R.
#10. Mel Martin
Mel Martin was a mail-order advertising wizard. After Eugene Schwartz (mentioned above) helped Marty Edelston lay the foundation for Boardroom (multi-million dollar publishing company), it was Mel Martin’s copywriting that turned it into a $100 million per year goliath. Mel Martin is known for his “fascination” bullets. He’s labeled “the best fascination copywriter you've probably never heard of".
Here's 3 of my favorite bullets he’s written:
- What never to eat on an airplane
- Bills it’s okay to pay late
- What credit companies don’t tell you
It’s hard to find Mel’s work online (couldn't even find a pic of him), however, I managed to find these 2 beauties (notice how 90%+ of this ad is pure bullets):
This man is the KING of bullets. If you want to become a better copywriter, study his bullets and write them out by hand.
#11. John Caples
John Caples was a famous copywriter who was Vice President of ad agency BBDO, Inc. Caples created some of the most successful and swiped ads of all time, like - “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano”… and… “They Grinned When the Waiter Spoke to Me in French,”. Caples was another pioneer for his research and data-driven approach to advertising.
Here are two of the greatest copywriting books of all time written by Caples:
In his book, Tested Advertising Methods, Caples covers headlines in great detail (based on proven headlines backed by tests he ran).
John concluded that the 4 most important elements in successful headlines are: 1. Benefit 2. News 3. Curiosity 4. Ease of use.
Make your headlines better TODAY by adding 4 key elements.
#12. John Carlton
“The most ripped-off writer on the Web” has had a long and impressive copywriting career.
He started out as a freelance copywriter. John was the secret sales weapon behind many ad agencies (agencies would “sneak” him in through the back door to do the selling that their copywriters couldn’t do). John’s written ads for many successful direct response companies, including Rodale Press. And was one of the first marketers to crack the code of how to sell online.
Check out John’s website:
This is one of my favorite copywriting courses:
John Carlton’s One-Legged Golfer ad is probably the most ripped-off ad of all time.
Because of the unique hook used in the headline:
Amazing Secret Discovered By
One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards
To Your Drives Eliminates Hooks
and Slices… And Can Slash Up To
10 Strokes From You’re Game
Carlton was a master at finding unique hooks to display in his headlines and base their overall themes around.
To learn more about how John finds & uses hooks in his copy, listen to this interview between him and Micheal Fortin:
#13. Bob Bly
Bob Bly is another copywriting legend. He has worked as a successful direct response freelance copywriter for nearly 40. He’s written for hundreds of clients including, Intuit, Network Solutions, Medical Economics, Business & Legal Reports. Plus, he has published over 100 books.
4 Us headline technique.
This is one of my favorite ways to write serial killer headlines. I practiced this headline technique when I first learned copywriting back in 2020
The 4 U’s are – unique, ultra-specific, useful and urgent.
Add these U’s into your headline.
The more U’s you add, the more effective your headlines will be.
Bly goes into great detail about how to apply the 4 U’s headline technique in his book – The Copywriter’s Handbook
#14. Doug D’anna
Doug D’Anna is one of the greatest copywriters of all time with an impressive track record of success. His copywriting has generated $100+ million in sales for companies. D’anna has worked with some of the most well-known companies in the publishing industry, including Agora, Forbes, Boardroom, Men’s Health, Lombardi Publishing and many others.
Check this short but valuable copywriting course out
Prospect to product bridge.
Most copywriters start with the product, talking about its features, benefits, USP, etc.
However, instead, Doug taught how you should start with your prospect first. Then, after you’ve entered their world and talked about what they’re interested in (their problems, desires, etc), tie in your product.
The best way to do this is to tell a story about someone your prospect can identify with, who faced similar challenges and then overcame them (by using your product) then tie in how your product can solve their problems.
You start with your prospect, before ever mentioning features and benefits.
#15. Clayton Makepeace
Clayton Makepeace is called the "World's Highest-Paid Marketing Coach and Copywriter" by The American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI). His copy has generated over $1.5 BILLION in sales in the Health and Financial niches.
Check out his course:
Make it personal.
Clayton stressed the importance of conversational copy. Your copy should read as if you are talking to ONE person. When writing, picture you are sitting at your favorite restaurant with a close friend. Write as if you’re talking to them. Lace your copy with the most powerful word in advertising – YOU.
#16. Drayton Bird
Drayton Bird is one of the best copywriters in the world. He has an extensive background in direct response marketing. Some of the companies he’s written for include, Toyota, Visa, Microsoft, IBM, Mercedes, Nestle and Proctor & Gamble.
Check out Drayton’s well respected book:
Write to the ideal prospect.
When writing copy, you want to write to ONE person (even though you’re writing to many). Who is this one person? Your IDEAL prospect. Your copy should be irresistible to your ideal prospect. Always strive to tighten your message to market match.
#17. Gary Bencivenga
Gary Bencivnga is named “the greatest living copywriter in the world.” He is one of the most famous copywriters in the financial direct mail niche. Gary has sold billions worth of products through his magic words.
Check out his extremely valuable “marketing bullets”:
Gary Bencivenga revealed that his secret weapon for stomping out A-List competition and selling BILLIONS (with a B) worth of products is… PROOF.
You want to load up your copy with haystacks a PROOF.
Nowadays, we are pounded to the pulp with outrageous claims.
We can hardly breathe with all the fluffy BS clogging our windpipes.
However, when you add proof elements to your claims, you make them far more believable.
For readers to buy from you, they must BELIEVE what you’re saying is true BEFORE they whip out their credit cards.
The best way to do this is to “sandwich” your claims between proof elements.
Proof elements can be – social proof, impressive titles given by peers, awards won, years of experience, testimonials, etc.
#18. Robert Collier
Robert Collier was a famous author of self-help and metaphysical books. His book The Secret of the Ages sold over 300,000 copies. Collier wrote about the practical psychology of abundance, desire, visualization, and personal development. His book, "The Robert Collier Letter Book," emphasized the importance of persuasive writing in direct response copywriting.
Enter the convo already playing inside your reader’s mind.
Whenever writing copy, you want to enter the conversation your prospect is already having inside their mind.
BECOME your prospect.
Picture yourself as your prospect…
You are bored and mindlessly scrolling through social media (or whatever platform you’re writing for), what’s the ONE thing you could read that would snap you out of your daze and get you to stop scrolling?
You find this out through research.
#19. Leo Burnett
Leo Burnett was one of the best copywriters in the game.
He was the founder of Leo Burnett Company and has created countless iconic advertising campaigns for worldwide companies like, Coca-Cola, Fiat, Marlboro, Kellogg's, Kraft, McDonald's and Nintendo.
Leo was a strong advocate for making his ads believable to his target audience. Whenever you write copy, you should be extremely transparent and honest. Don’t make outlandish claims like every other ad you see, stand out by being one of the lone wolves in the forest with brutal honesty – admitting flaws, handling objections, etc.
#20. Brian Clark
Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, is a direct response copywriting and online marketing genius. He’s worked in a ton of different industries and has contributed a ton of valuable tips and insights on digital marketing.
Instead of just one big idea…
Go here and grab hundreds…
There ya have it, my friend.
The 20 greatest copywriters of all time (in my opinion).
Don’t let their wisdom go to waste, look them up, read their books, study their ads and PROFIT from their timeless wisdom.
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