I took home more than 50 pages of handwritten notes from the copywriting conference TCC IRL 19. I’ll share some of the best bits among them in this post.

In the middle of March 2019 I flew out from Billund, Denmark to Brooklyn to take part in TCC IRL 19 – a copywriting conference. It was the second year that The Copywriter Club threw this event, and I had no doubt in my mind, that I HAD to be there! There was a very special atmosphere at the venue in China Town in 2018, and it had been kept alive online between the events.

These are my most important takeaways from TCC IRL 19

A good read for you, if you want to be a freelance copywriter

  • Get on stages (with a new talk each time)
  • Chase the things, that make you nervous
  • Set aside money for tax payments on a separate account that pays interest rates

Great advice for any copywriter

  • Build and maintain a big swipe file
  • Compile massive research documents for the industries or nices you work with
  • Read Scott Hanes’ Shortcut Copywriting Secrets
  • Read Influence by Robert Cialdini
  • Consider the user intent, when you are writing SEO copy
  • The hero in a story needs to work as a proxy for your reader

The essence of my trip to Brooklyn. Photo: Per Andreasen

A cozy conference for copywriters

The number of attendeees at TCC IRL was capped at 125 this year. It was at 75 in 2018. Everyone seemed eager to learn from each other no matter their age or experience.

Even A-list copywriters like Parris Lampropoulos could be found among the active and knowledge-hungry audience. Here he is asking a question to the much younger copywriter and quiz expert Chanti Zak. Photo: Per Andreasen

Rob Marsh and Kira Hug – creators of The Copywriter Club podcast and hosts of the event – are usually so busy making sure their attendees get huge value from the event, that they hardly have time to listen to the talks.

It’s a good thing they can watch the videos after the event!

In advance, we had all been invited to a Facebook group for attendees. One of the members made a spreadsheet with flight info: when we were flying in and out.

This made it super easy for us to find other copywriters to car pool with to and from the airports of New York.

This year I split an Uber from JFK with two other attendees – Robert Lucas and Betsy Muse. I had never met them before. Never the less it was a nice ride. We got to chat about our flights, The Copywriter Club, Copyhackers, Copy Chief and the other communities and courses we are hurling money at.

I’ve established a habit of shopping on Amazon before the events. This way I have a lot of good stuff waiting for me at the venue, when I check in. And I don’t need to waste nearly as much precious time walking around the city to shop. Book porn: Per Andreasen

That same night a lot of the attendees met at a pub in Brooklyn. I ate dinner at the pub before the meet-up (they had an awesome impossible burger) together with some of the great people from my The Copywriter Accelerator class.

Jessie Lewis, me, Austin Mullins, Jennifer Bell and Robin Crump. Photo: Genise Matias

Since we took the Accelerator course in the fall of 2017, we’ve been on so many Zoom calls, that I was convinced, I’d met all of them IRL.

But I actually hadn’t met Jessie Lewis before.


Ok, but how good were the talks?

So packed with good stuff, that it took me a month to get my brain back up to full speed. I took about 50 pages of notes. Many of them were about actionable steps to fill out the rest of my year.

Joanna Wiebe gave us pointers on how to beat her at her own game. In short it’s all about having a plan and sticking to it.

Give talks and make it a new one each time. Other people that get on stages are crucial to have in your network.

She also told us, that her retirement plan has the headline: 10 years and 10 million dollars. She’s well on her way, and as a freelance copywriter I can only tip my Yankee cap to her for that!

One of the great TCC IRL traditions is the speaker’s dinner on the first evening of the event. Every speaker leads a team of attendees to a local restaurant. I’ve had a professional crush on Hillary Weiss for a long time, so it was a no-brainer for me to ask for a spot on her team this year. We went to Mable’s Smokehouse, and it turns out they make an awesome mac n’ cheese. Selfie skills: Hillary Weiss.

Prerna Malik flew in all the way from India to explain how to run a more profitable business.

She and her husband had an accountant go over their business and optimize it in relation to taxes. That doesn’t sound very Danish – but then it isn’t at all.

They set aside money for taxes each month on an account that actually pays interests. That way they are sure to avoid the tax trap that so many entrepreneurs and freelancers fall into.

In Denmark it is not so relevant advice, as you can hardly get interest in any bank, and most businesses pay the bank interest. But maybe you can negotiate a good interest rate, when you show this level of energy and discipline.


Sam Markowitz held one of the best talks.

It was all about research. And he knows, what he’s talking about. He was a student of Gary Halbert (who initially asked for a stack of 1,000 dollar bills and told Sam to come back after readingScott Haines’ Shortcut Copywriting Secrets.)

His advice is to research the market so thoroughly that you know more about it than anyone else.

Speak to the clients. Watch the same TV shows as them, read the same magazines and books as them. Find the old ads from that market. Go back a hundred years if you can.

Collect all the ads in the market today. Create a Gmail account to gather up email newsletters. Document as much customer interaction as you can.

Go through all of it and put it in a spreadsheet.

This is what your research spreadsheet should contain:

  • Who are the target audiences?
  • What are the USP’s?
  • Which features are mentioned?
  • Which benefits?
  • What are the alternatives to what the industry is selling?
  • Which objections are there? (price is never the true objection).

Organize the elements by popularity. What seems to be working?

Now some possibilities should leap out and attach themselves to your face. Hang on to them!


Hillary Weiss talked about chasing passive income

And she summarized it this way: “There is nothing passive about passive income.”

She has launched a handful of well prepared concepts and courses over the last couple of years. And she isn’t one to disappoint!

You should seriously be keeping an eye on everything she does!

I need nutrition to get through the intense days at TCC IRL! Luckily the amazing burger joint Shake Shack is never far away. Food styling: Per Andreasen

Kate Toon talked about the levels of awareness in SEO copy.

Yes, we want more traffic. But it needs to be relevant! That’s why we need to talk to our potential customers so it fits with their position in the customers journey.

Do they want to buy? To know more? Do they want to compare products and services? Do they just want Google to point them to the website of a specific brand.

She pointed out, that it is crucial to focus on quality over quantity. Build killer content with 20-50 search terms relevant to user intent in each post. And like in all other cases you should use the same language as the customers.


Abbey Woodcock presented some of the results of her massive investigation on pricing.

It was very exciting to hear about the differences between different types of copywriters and their accomplishments.

Some of the conclusions are that the copywriters who don’t charge an hourly rate typically make 2.5 times as much as those who do.

Publicly listed prices seem to correlate with lower revenue. The question then is if there is also causality.

And it seems that female copywriters focus on the wrong things when talking about prices. On average they charge 47 % less than male copywriters.

I’m planning on sharing a link to her complete report, once it’s published.


Chanti Zak talked about internet crack: Quizzes.

We all want to know more about ourselves. And interactive content is amazing, because it – according to Chanti – creates an eco system of understanding.

The target audience learns more about themselves, and you learn more about them. Quizzes make it easy for you to segment leads without them feeling like they get segmented.

But please don’t fall into the Buzzfeed trap! You’re not in it for the clicks, but to create real value.

Never be boring! Make it fun!

I also had a minute to enjoy the view from my hotel room. Photo: Per Andreasen

Parris Lampropoulos held a masterclass on conversion copywriting...

He ran us through a 10 year control of his – an article on Alzheimer’s Disease.

There were A LOT of golden nuggets of wisdom. Among other things …

  • The hero in the story (in this case a patient with incipient Alzheimer’s Disease) is a proxy for your reader.
  • The hero needs to be worse off than the reader. This prevents the reader from being skeptical towards the solution.
  • To me it also increases the readers motivation to read on and avoid the same issues as the hero.
  • The entire article is written in picture words. This makes the copy easy to digest, because each paragraph is intuitively transformed into a scene in the mind of the reader. (You can read more about picture words in The Brilliance Breakthrough)
  • Keep piling up the ills and issues against your hero.
  • When the hero is at a helpless point in the story, Parris writes in a passive style – which we should otherwise never do – to underline how little the hero is able to do.

Learn more about Parris Lampropoulos’ persuasive copywriting techniques.


Lianna Patch talked about comedy in copywriting

When we laugh, we release dopamine and lighten our burden of worries. Nice!

It is also scientifically proven, that we remember stuff significantly better, if we hear or read it right after having a good laugh.

That is why a good laugh is valuable to put in right before an important point in our copy.

BUT!

When we want to write funny copy, it is even more important to know our audience.

Before we get to know them, we can choose some safe solutions: Stuff we notice about the world around us and condescending comments about ourselves.

Always use humor in micro copy, emails, receipts and secret places like your 404 pages. Never in your value proposition!


So there were A LOT of valuable insights.

If you want to watch them on video, you can buy access to the recordings from TCC IRL 2018 and 2019 right here.

But a conference like this also offers up a lot of other value than the professional input.

I love the networking bit! In 2018 we went on a treasure hunt in the streets of New York. It was super fun, so I didn’t want to miss out on the extra activities this year.


On the third day two optional activities took place: Beat The Bomb – a kind of escape room on steroids – and a nice walk out to Levain Bakery on the west side of Manhattan.

Beat The Bomb was hilarious! Each team had to go through four escape rooms and in the last one try to dismantle a bomb.
It didn’t quite go as planned.
On Brooklyn Bridge with the Levain Bakery gang.

The Copywriter Club to me is like one big family of nerdy copywriters

About two years ago I heard a couple of episodes of The Copywriter Club Podcast.

That same day I joined the Facebook group and queued up all the older episodes in my podcast app. Back then there were around 5,000 members of the group. Today there are more than 10,000.

I bought my ticket to TCC IRL 2020 before leaving Brooklyn.

The next conference will be held in San Diego. It’ll be exciting for me to finally see the west coast on my seventh trip to USA.

Don’t you want to miss out on another round of TCC IRL?

Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about it.

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