Gary Halbert’s 10 Time-Tested Strategies For Writing Better Copy, Faster

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • Generating ideas
  • Impostor syndrome
  • Writing consistently
  • Finding time to write
  • Loose feedback loops

(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to give you 10 techniques for consistent writing from legendary copywriter, Gary Halbert—that will help you leapfrog the millions of people who quit before they win.

Gary Halbert is the highest-paid copywriter in history

His legendary sales letters generated over $1,000,000,000 in revenue. He has, without a doubt, cemented his place as a true master of the craft: the Hemingway of sales copywriting.

And in one of his very last letters, he shared 10 time-tested strategies for writing better copy, faster.

Let’s dive in!

1. Set up a proper writing space.

Gary was a big fan of writing anywhere.

  • His desk
  • Local bar
  • Bookstore
  • Coffee shop

The location didn't matter.

But he made sure to stick with the same one for long stretches.

The goal was to signal to his brain "it's time to write." Gary knew something important—our brains thrive on consistency. When you do the same thing over and over, like writing in the same place, your brain creates a "path" for the activity.

Over time, the writing becomes automatic.

When setting up your writing space, think about what makes you comfortable and creative. This could be anything from lighting, background noise, lo-fi beats, or even the way your desk is arranged. The goal is to create an environment that creates focus.

And when you’re focused, you’ll want to return to the same place day after day.

2. Set up a writing routine.

“I write when I’m inspired, so I see to it I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.” - Peter De Vries

Time is the first thing you need to write well. But the best writers don't find time to write. They make time to write.

Before Gary went to bed, he would scribble down notes on four questions:

  • What's the big idea here?
  • What's my product's biggest benefit?
  • What's most exciting about this product?
  • What emotion am I trying to create.

Then, he went to bed and let his subconscious do the work for him.

Like clockwork, he would wake up with a clear answer to each question. And then, time and time again, he would write a legendary sales letter that would generate millions in revenue.

If you don't set your own constraints, someone else will set them for you.

Block off a “sacred” chunk of time in your schedule where you are unreachable. Choose a time window (we recommend 2 hours) when you are most productive during the day—5 AM, midnight, high-noon, it will be different for everyone. Then eliminate all your distractions. Get off the grid and then defend the time ruthlessly.

Just you and your work for at least two hours.

Completed daily, these sessions quickly compound.

3. Write. A LOT.

Gary says there's no shortcut.

And he's right. The more you write, and the more often you write, the better you will become. Because no one has 100 bad pieces of writing.

They either have 10 and quit, or do it long enough to figure it out.

We’ve found 30 days is the sweet spot for Digital Writers. It’s enough to build a consistent daily writing habit and learn what your target audience really wants to hear from you. Which is why Ship 30 for 30 is designed around a 30 day sprint of writing every single day.

Everyone wants the shortcut, but shortcuts are always longer roads in disguise.

4. Write for set time periods.

Gary was big on the Pomodoro technique.

He set a timer for 33:33. And his rule was simple: he could do anything he wanted during that 33:33. Except get out of his chair.

And this took the pressure off writing.

Most times he'd stare at the wall for the first few minutes. Sip his coffee. Think about how many other things he'd rather be doing. But then, someway or another, he'd start writing.

And the timer let him know the torture would end soon.

During his breaks, he would walk around, have a quick snack, and do anything else but write. And during this time, inspiration always struck. Then, at the end of the day, he wouldn't say to himself "I wrote until I got tired."

He would say "I wrote for six sessions today."

5. Write something easy, first.

When Gary wasn't feeling it, he would practice “copywork.”

He had a go-to list of great sales letters he would copy word for word to get warmed up. Cole bought Gary's entire collection of sales letters. It cost him $1,500—and showed up to his house in 2 big ring binders. He’s rewritten dozens by hand.

Steal this strategy to get the juices flowing.

6. Allow yourself to create junk.

For every great sales letter, Gary wrote 20 crappy sales letters.

Each letter was a stepping stone to his eventual success. His reminder: "In this history of written communication, nothing has ever been published that is 100% perfect." The mistake many of us make is being too afraid to create something that isn't perfect. We hesitate, hold back, and sometimes don't write at all out of fear that what we produce will be less than stellar.

The path to quality is paved with quantity.

The problem with this approach is that it hampers our growth and development. If we're too scared to write something "crappy," we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and improve. Every great writer started with many drafts they weren't entirely proud of. They didn't magically become great. They wrote, revised, learned, and wrote some more.

Which takes us to the next point.

7. Write your first draft fast and furious with no editing.

When writing, rip out your backspace button.

When editing, but it back and rip out everything else.

Every piece of great writing started as a crappy piece of writing.

So just get started.

  1. Grab your pen.
  2. Just start writing.
  3. Don't pause to edit.
  4. Keep writing until finished.
  5. Read, learn, improve next time.

Keep stacking bricks.

8. Create an idea capture system.

Gary's system was epic.

He didn’t leave anything to change when it came to capturing his ideas. Back in the day, if you wanted to capture an idea on the go, you dialed an 866 number. Gary dialed a number. It recorded his call for 60 seconds, then emailed him a transcription.

Now, we have better tools.

9. Specialize in something.

Writers that go nowhere try to be everything for everyone on every platform, all the time.

You need constraints.

  • Time: Set a timer. Create a the same time every day.
  • Topic: Use the 4A’s. Choose a bucket and stick to it for a month.
  • Length: Short or long-form. Choose one.
  • Medium: Tweets, videos, podcasts, etc. Don’t spread yourself thin.
  • Platform: TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Go all in on one.
  • Cadence: Daily, weekly, etc. Commit to publishing on a schedule.

The fewer decisions you have to make, the better your output.

Setting the rules of the game lets you focus all of your efforts on one thing: creating.

10. Reward yourself.

Humans are simple dopamine chasers.

Amateur writers get dopamine from notifications. Professional writers get it from hitting publish.

The easiest way to do this?

Print out a giant calendar.

And make a big red X every day you write and publish.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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