How The “Tube Dominance Test” Can Help Freelance Copywriters Create Small Wins

How The “Tube Dominance Test” Can Help Freelance Copywriters Create Small Wins

I recently heard of an experiment called the “Tube Dominance Test” and immediately thought about how copywriters could use it to their advantage.

Here’s how the test works:

Researchers put two mice in a tube, facing each other. They meet in the middle and push.

The first mouse that finds herself out of the tube, the end she came from, is determined the loser. The other mouse that pushed her out is the winner.

Image from Stanford medicine.

Image from Stanford medicine.

What’s interesting is what happens to each mouse after a win or loss.

The winners, if put back into a tube dominance test, will be statistically more likely to win a match vs. other mice.

The winners will also be more likely to win in other scenarios — like if they’re placed in a cage with no heat, the winners will dominate the space next to a heater.

What’s really interesting is that even if you help the winner win by pushing her forward, that winner will still be more likely to win in other unaltered scenarios.

The loser, even though they had no chance of winning, will now be a “loser” in other unaltered scenarios.

One theory is that the winners… no matter how they win… are benefiting from forward movement. They are pushing forward, not being pushed backwards. And that forward movement activates chemicals in their brain that help them win in other scenarios.

So… how can we use this information as copywriters?

Well, I’ve talked a lot about it before, but I think a major reason why handwriting sales copy helps copywriters is because it creates small wins.

Your brain perceives that you are moving forward, creating little hits of dopamine.

Try to sit down and write your own words… writing is a massively frustrating endeavor.

You don’t know if what you’re saying is good and will work (produce sales).

You feel like you’re moving backwards.

Handwriting, on the other hand, is an easy task that feels like forward movement. You don’t have to worry if it’s working or not. You don’t have to worry about much besides just hand copying. But when you’re done it feels like a win.

You’re like that mouse getting a free push forward.

So… once you’re out in other scenarios… like when you need to write for yourself… you’re more likely to win.

Your brain chemistry has been primed to be a winner.

Anyway, that’s just one possible explanation of why handwriting works.

If you’re feeling stuck with your own writing, like you’re going backwards, it could be because you don’t have enough “winner juice” flowing through your brain and body.

Try a little hand copying first to get some forward momentum.

Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

“What Is Copywriting?” How To Explain It To Your Mom

“What Is Copywriting?” How To Explain It To Your Mom

You’re mingling at a party.

You get introduced to a new group.

Some dude with slicked-back hair, a big watch, and those stupid pointy leather shoes shakes your hand a little too firmly.

“What do you do for a living?”

You say, “I’m a copywriter.”

He says, “Oh. Legal. Got it. I’m in real estate.”

Before you can correct him he’s assaulting someone else’s hand.

You stand there in your flip flops and breathe a giant sigh of relief. “Thank god he didn’t ask any follow up questions. Now I can drink.”

If you dare to become a copywriter you can look forward to many scenarios like the above.

People will be confused by what you do for a living. When you say “copywriter”, they will hear “copyright”.

People will assume you make little-to-no money. But Slicky McGoo in the story above will need to sell 3 expensive houses this month to keep up the pace.

And oh yeah, this party might be the first time you’ve been “forced” to leave the house because you work from home and set your own hours. “No Saturday open-houses for me, Slicky.”

What Is Copywriting?

“Copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing.”

Mmmk. Thanks Wikipedia.

Here’s how I explain it to my mom:

“I write ads.”

That’s plain and simple the easiest way to explain what copywriting is.

The best ways to get paid as a “copywriter” are to write promotional…

  • Ad campaigns (for Google or Facebook).
  • Emails.
  • Sales pages or Video Sales Letters.

And all these things have the purpose of selling something.

That’s the important distinction.

Copywriting is meant to sell something.

That’s why it’s sometimes called “salesmanship in print (or text)”.

Editorial writing is meant to express something… like an opinion.

You CAN be a content copywriter. You write content that leads towards a sale.

You CANNOT be a journalist copywriter. You don’t want to lead someone to think. You want to lead them to ACT.

And preferably that ACTION is to buy something as soon as possible.

So during the holidays, if mom or a relative asks what you do, you say, “I write ads.”

Trust me.

She’ll think about Madison Ave and you can resume drinking heavily with your uncle Bob.

Copywriting IS NOT Copyrighting.

Again, if you make the mistake of telling a layman:

“I’m a copywriter.”

They are going to hear, “copyrighter.”

And think you’re some kind of lawyer.

Copyrighting is, of course, the act of securing the legal right to publish, perform, film, etc.

So they’ll ask, “You help people copyright their work? Like music?”

Then you’ll have to use my canned response and say, “Oh no, I do copywriting for ads. I write ads.

Why Are You Thinking About A Career In Copywriting?

Here are the main reasons why most people get excited about becoming a copywriter:

  • You can work from home or anywhere in the world. I’ve lived in Thailand, Argentina, and Colombia. I now live near the beach in San Diego, CA.
  • You don’t need qualifications. I have a degree, but I’ve used it approximately zero times. A lot of the best copywriters I know didn’t even finish college.
  • You can actually make a lot of money without a ton of physical effort… or even really hourly effort. It’s one of those skills that can help you get paid while you sleep. Making money while you’re awake is sooo early 2000’s.
  • As a business owner, copywriting will make you more sales and more money. A lot more business owners should ve interested in learning how to write copy… but they’re always so busy.

What Qualifications Does A Copywriter Need?

Anyone can become a copywriter. Literally anyone.

I’d say it’s better the dumber you are because you won’t overthink things.

The cool part about copywriting is that there’s only one requirement…

That you are able to produce the results you promise your clients.

It’s that simple.

You don’t need a degree, or a certificate, or a license. (I’ll sell you one of those if it makes you or your parents feel better.)

Let’s drill into this for a second: “Can you produce the results you promise your clients?”

If you’re a freelance copywriter, can you make the amount of sales you promise you’ll make for someone?

You say to a client: “I’ll write you an autoresponder (emails) that will make more sales than you’re currently making.”

If that’s true that’s all you need.

As you get deeper into the game, you’ll understand better what value you bring to your clients… which means, your rates are not fixed. You can charge more and more as you get better and better.

But the bonkers thing is… if you can produce results, you can apply the “advanced” tactic of value-based pricing for your services immediately, before you have a ton of experience.

Essentially, you base your rates on how much net profit you anticipate bringing a client. You can also base it on a percentage boost you’ll give to a client over their current conversion rate. Value-based pricing is a topic for another article but know that it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

How Much Money Do You Copywriters Make? “Can I Make Six-Figures?”

Hey, how big is your…?

But seriously, this is a tough question to answer. It’s not a normal career.

The best copywriters in the world, who are working for bigger companies, can demand up to $1M a year plus bonus incentives.

This is not professional sports, or even Wall Street, where the top people can make $100M in a year.

If you’re a pure copywriter… and an employee… your income will be capped in this range even if you’re the #1 person in the entire world. You’re still an employee.

The nice part, however, is that once you learn the skill of copywriting, you’re never limited in how you use that skill.

In other words, you can use those sales skills in whatever scenario you choose.

I have lots of friends who make millions a year as business owners. A copywriter can also be a business owner.

But to answer the question: six-figures as a copywriter is very achievable. Of course you have to work hard and smart.

I’ve had students achieve the six-figure level in under 6 months.

I’ve had others without as much fire or natural talent take longer to get there.

I’ve had still others who didn’t have a lot of time to devote in the beginning, use copywriting as a side-hustle, and eventually build up their business over the course of several years before quitting their regular job.

Look… copywriting is still writing. Some folks are going to be better writers than others and will ascend faster.

However… again, this is NOT professional sports. You don’t have to be the best of the best to make a decent living and add value to the businesses you work with.

You don’t have to take a traditional path to be successful as a copywriter.

Some people will work more than others.

Maybe it takes you 40 hours a week to make a six-figure salary.

But another copywriter has found a more lucrative niche and/or they’re a more gifted writer, so with only 20 hours a week, they make six-figures.

The interesting thing is, you really can have a choice in the matter unlike other professions. You can work more or less. Experiment with rates, etc. and make as much as you want.

The possibilities are endless.

What’s The Best Way To Learn How To Become A Copywriter?

You’ll hear some snarky “veteran” copywriters say, “Just start writing copy, that’s the place to learn how to write copy.”

They’ll tell you to avoid books, courses and coaches and “just write”.

In what other career do people give you that advice?

“Just go start lawyering, dude.”

That’s going to cost you a lot more time, energy (and money) than getting a solid foundation with a copywriting book, course or coach.

That’s why I created CopyHour and why I have copywriting coaches here to help.

A great first step on your copywriting journey is to join my free copywriting newsletter. I’ll send you a 5-part training series on writing copy that sells.

Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

The Best Books For Copywriters In 2021

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Here are the best 7 copywriting books for serious business owners and freelancers in 2021. These books should provide you with the most solid foundation possible moving forward.

These will change how you view copywriting, marketing, persuasion and maybe even the world.

The Top 7

I’ve listed these in the general order I think they should be read. The only book I’d really avoid reading too early is “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene Schwartz – and it just so happens to be the most expensive and “course-like” of the bunch.

1. “Influence” by Robert Cialdini

This is not a book on copywriting specifically but on persuasion. Through stories and personal anecdotes, Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say “yes”.

You’ll learn 6 principles of influence that you’ll use in your marketing efforts for a lifetime (Reciprocity, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity).

2. “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” by Joseph Sugarman

This is a great entry-level book on copywriting from the Blublockers founder and famous copywriter Joseph Sugarman.

There are a couple important take-aways from this book.

First, is Sugarman’s list of “Psychological Triggers” in chapter 19.

Second, is the concept Sugarman calls the “Slippery Slide”: The purpose of the headline is to get people to read the subheadline. And the purpose of the subheadline is to get them to read the first sentence of the first paragraph… and so on until the ad is complete.

3. “My Life in Advertising & Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins

This is two books in one from Claude Hopkins and two things will blow your mind: Hopkins invented test marketing and coupon sampling. And, these books were originally published in 1923 (Scientific Advertising) and 1927 (My Life in Advertising).

But DO NOT let this stop you. The content, especially Scientific Advertising, is remarkably relevant.

There’s a story that Claude Hopkins tells in “My Life In Advertising” that I love.

Hopkins talks about a railroad foreman who looked at his work in a different way than the men he supervised.

Here’s what the foreman said:

“Look at those boys play ball. That’s what I call hard work… “

“Note what I have done while they loafed there this evening — built most of the porch on my home. Soon I will be sitting there in comfort, making love to a pretty wife.””

“They will always be sitting on those soap boxes around the grocery store. Which is work and which is play.”

“If a thing is useful they call it work, if useless they call it play. One is as hard as the other. One can be just much as a game as the other…

All the difference I see lies in attitude of mind.”

4. “Tested Advertising Methods (4th Edition)” by John Caples

Make sure you buy the 4th edition of this book. It’ll be more expensive but worth it.

David Ogilvy said this about the 4th edition, “This is, without doubt, the most useful book about advertising that I have ever read.”

5. “Ogilvy On Advertising” by David Ogilvy

Sir David Ogilvy is often described as “The Father of Advertising”. He built a Billion Dollar ad agency in the 70’s!

I like to think of him as the father of modern content marketing too.

Why? Here’s a lead generation space ad for his firm Ogilvy & Mather: “How To Create Advertising That Sells.”

Ogilvy is also famous for saying, “‘The customer is not a moron, she’s your wife'”.

6. “Great Leads” by by Michael Masterson & John Forde

This book will answer the most pressing question in copywriting: “How the f*ck do I start my sales message?”

After you’ve built a solid understanding of copywriting principles, Great Leads will open everything up for you.

7. “Breakthrough Advertising” by Eugene M. Schwartz

This book coupled with Great Leads has probably produced more clarity (and cash) than any other resource I’ve purchased.

Just wait and see what happens to your brain when Schwartz drops the concept of Market Sophistication and Awareness Levels on you.

If you want to buy this book on Amazon, it’ll probably cost you over $400. You can get it through Brian Kurtz for cheaper. Here’s how:

“Many people told me they have seen used copies for sale on line for hundreds of dollars…and those who wrote to me found out that I have copies available at $95 plus shipping.

So if you are interested in purchasing a copy directly from me, just send me an e-mail with “Breakthrough Advertising” in the subject line and I will send you the details on ordering.

And because of the response to last week’s blog, I am planning a re-printing of the book for which I will write an updated Foreword; and doing a “Breakthrough Advertising Course” is also moving up my priority list thanks to all of you!”

Email is


Which one of these copywriting books do you like the most?

Friday Copy Over Coffee #78: How To Write Ads For Clothing Products on Taboola

Derek golfing

I drained this shot for an eagle… joking.

Last Sunday I was accused of stealing and called a “lying son of a bitch” by an employee at a golf course.

It was a shocking experience.

Before pushing off for a relaxing round, I was hitting some balls on the practice range.

I had about 7 range balls left in my bucket and I wanted to go do some chipping.

So I walked back to my cart with the range balls to grab a different club.

John, the employee in question, rushed over to me and said, “I can’t let you take those range balls.”

A bit taken aback I replied, “I know. I’m going to chip over there.”

John says, “That’s the 18th green.”

I looked at him blankly.

“Uh, not there. On the chipping green.”

He said, “Oh, okay. Go ahead.”

It was a strange interaction but I shook it off and made my way to the chipping green.

Then my friend comes over and says, “That guy just called you a ‘lying son of a bitch’ and said, ‘I know he’s trying to steal those balls’ in front of about 15 other golfers using the range.”

Thankfully my buddy immediately called John out and told him I wasn’t trying to steal the balls.

(FYI: range balls are terrible balls that you’d never want to use for anything other than practice. I’d estimate their combined value to be under $2.)

I was rattled and pissed off by the accusation…

By the time I returned to the range John had snuck away and seemed to be hiding himself after getting called out by my friend.

In year’s past, I would have freaked out and let this guy completely ruin my day.

I’d have complained to the GM and requested compensation of some form. I’d have spent hours scouring reviews looking for confirmation that the course employees were assholes. I’d have signed up for a Yelp account just to leave a bad review and shit on the staff.

And you know what, I’d be justified in doing all those things.

But here’s the thing…

When you make the leap from full-time employee to business owner or freelancer… your time is suddenly freed.

You really can spend your hours doing what you please.

Which is good and bad.

I could probably spend a few hours and get John fired (which he honestly should be).

But instead I’m going to spend a few hours reflecting on the experience and writing about it.

I’m going to identify why his words triggered me so much.

I know I wasn’t going to steal the golf balls. What do I care if John tried to embarrass me in front of ~15 other people I’ll never meet again? What do I care about what John thinks at all?

So that’s where I’ll spend my time.


And then that time will be worth a heck of lot more than a free round of golf or even a little bit of revenge.

Anyway, join the CopyHour Facebook group and watch some videos on copy. That’s a good use of time. 🙂 Also, signup for a free 5-part copywriting training course.

Good Ad

Tecovas has spent ~$221K in the last 44 days on ads like this via the Taboola content network.

tecovas ad

If you’ve been a reader for awhile I’m sure this looks familiar.

This campaign is practically a carbon of a Mack Weldon campaign. Here’s the landing page.

mack weldon ad

This is a concept I’ve discussed when it comes to finding “big ideas” for ad campaigns.

The big idea here is, “Lots of people are switching to this new/innovative product, here’s why…”

Why does this idea work?

1. Social proof. “Thousands are switching…”.

Social proof is a powerful form of proof. And it makes people pay attention. Even though the social proof here is WEAK – it’s unspecific and unsubstantiated – it still works because social proof is that powerful.

2. “New”. New is often touted as the most powerful word in marketing. That’s probably true. New is news. It’s different. Different is interesting and grabs attention.

3. “Here’s why”. This sentence provides a hint that the other side of the click will be “content” not just an ecommerce sales page. Taboola is a content network. Your ads and campaigns should match the medium.

I use Adbeat to find ads and do competitive research.

Product, App, Book or Website I’m Loving:

[BOOK] The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you

I’m in the process of developing a few new products and this book has been invaluable.

“This book shows you how customer conversations go wrong and how you can do better.”

How to Make Great Tasting Coffee

1. Get yourself a good bag of beans with a roast date on it. General advice that’s not a rule: coffee typically tastes better if consumed within 5-10 days of its roast date.

2. Buy a grinder and grind the beans yourself right before you brew a cup. It only takes a few seconds.

3. Brew your coffee with a Chemex* or Aeropress*. Kuerig’s suck at making coffee and they suck for the environment.

4. Water matters: You’re not gunna believe me until you try it – good filtered water will make your coffee taste better (and it might save your life). I use Ian Stanley’s old company: Fixt filtered water pitchers.

5. Temperature matters too. I brew most cups at ~183 degrees. I use Ovalware’s Pour Over Kettle*.

(*Some links on this page are affiliate links. If you purchase anything I will make a small affiliate commission. These commissions are definitely not large enough to factor into my decision to recommend them. I only promote things I use and believe in.)

Friday Copy Over Coffee #77: How To Write Ads For New Physical Products on Taboola

Can you name this bearded businessman?

Can you name this bearded businessman?

I like to give my wife advice.

And she loves getting my advice.

Just f-ing kidding.

She hates it.

This past weekend, a man who’s name you might recognize from the CopyHour world… Rob Hanly, came to visit us here in San Diego.

Over some delicious Rob-made margaritas (pictured above) we got to talking about business.

Rob and my wife discussed some of the challenges she’s facing with her business.

And because Rob does it for a living, he gave her some solid insight and advice.

I sat back, a smug look upon my face (or maybe it was the tequila).

“Does any of this sound familiar?” I thought.

My wife knew what I was thinking.

She said, “I know you’ve told me some of this before. I just need to hear it from someone else sometimes.”

And there you have it: a sales and marketing lesson.

Word of mouth is the most powerful sales channel.

Testimonials and reviews are the second most powerful.

Not giving you advice or anything, but Rob said you should join the CopyHour Facebook group. He also said you should, signup for a free 5-part copywriting training course.

Okay Ad has spent an estimated $157.2K in the last 230 days running ads like this via the Taboola content network.

I think this ad could be better. Let’s take a look.

First, this ad is being shown on the content networks. It looks and reads like an ad. Best practices are to have your ad look, read, and feel like content. Like a news report or blog post, etc.

I’d start testing against this by getting rid of the “!” and the word “Revolutionary”.

We have a Promise-type headline: “Avoid Cleaning Gutters For Life”.

I’d make the next sentence read, “See How This New Invention Helps Homeowners”.

I’d also try to find a photo that’s a little more “weird” to build curiosity.

I use Adbeat to find ads and do competitive research.

Product, App, or Website I’m Loving:

[YouTube Video] How to Get High-Paying Copywriting Clients with Ian Stanley and John McIntyre

– This is a content video.
– Ian & John are both CopyHour success stories!
– You’ll get to see Ian basically mentoring John through pitching a client. They talk about strategy and structuring the deal (including exact dollar amounts).

If you’re interested in buying a course on writing email copy, Ian’s is the best I’ve found. And it’s inexpensive. 8020 Email Copy Crash Course

If you have an email list (or want to write emails for a client with a list), then check out Ian’s “Email of the Month Club”. He sends you 5 tested & proven email templates per month. The sales page is hilarious and awesome. Read more here.

How to Make Great Tasting Coffee

1. Get yourself a good bag of beans with a roast date on it. General advice that’s not a rule: coffee typically tastes better if consumed within 5-10 days of its roast date.

2. Buy a grinder and grind the beans yourself right before you brew a cup. It only takes a few seconds.

3. Brew your coffee with a Chemex* or Aeropress*. Kuerig’s suck at making coffee and they suck for the environment.

4. Water matters: You’re not gunna believe me until you try it – good filtered water will make your coffee taste better (and it might save your life). I use Ian Stanley’s old company: Fixt filtered water pitchers.

5. Temperature matters too. I brew most cups at ~183 degrees. I use Ovalware’s Pour Over Kettle*.

(*Some links on this page are affiliate links. If you purchase anything I will make a small affiliate commission. These commissions are definitely not large enough to factor into my decision to recommend them. I only promote things I use and believe in.)