My name is Nick O’Connor.
Ten years ago I replied to a job advert for a junior copywriting position at a publishing business in London.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but that advert changed my life. Just as this one might change yours.
Long story short: I got the job. It turned out to be with the UK branch of a global publishing business called Agora Inc. If you’ve never heard of Agora, we’re effectively the biggest direct response marketing business in the world. We publish hundreds of titles and have offices all over the world. And pretty much every penny we make comes from the skill and craft of our team of in house copywriters.
That’s why Agora is known as the best place in the world to learn, master and – sometimes – make a fortune from direct response copywriting.
Ah, I promised this would be a short story! Back to me. I joined the team. Ten years on, I’m the publisher of our biggest British business, Southbank Investment Research. At a conservative estimate, I’ve been involved (either as a writer or publisher) in more than £30m worth of sales.
That figure grows every day. Sometimes it grows by an awful lot in a couple of days. Or even a couple of hours. I think our record is £500,000 worth of sales in an hour. What a day that was!
How do we do it?
Well, that’s where you come in. I’m trying to grow my in house copy team. So I’m inviting a handful of hungry, talented writers to London this May. I’m going to show them every copywriting technique I know of. More than that, I’m going to dedicate the entire two weeks to teaching them how to write direct response copy capable of generating tens of millions of pounds of sales for Southbank and extremely lucrative royalties for themselves.
If that sounds too good to be true, know this: this is the second time I’ve done this. I did it for the first time in October 2017. I invited 19 writers to my office by London Bridge and spent two weeks with them. I ended up hiring 7 of them to join my team. You’ll find messages from many of them at the bottom of this page.
Now I’m doing it again. The training itself is free of charge. But I’m not giving away my time out of charity. My goal is to find the very best copywriting talent out there and then HIRE THOSE WRITERS to join my in house team.
Two weeks free training might sound a bit overkill. Trust me, it’s not. It’s the single best way of me seeing if you have what it takes to be a world class copywriter. No interview, CV or writing test can come close to us spending two weeks working together.
At the very least, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how to sell and how a multi-billion dollar publishing/copywriting business works. It will make you a better writer. I promise you that. And you won’t just be learning from me by the way, I’ve invited world-class copywriter Simon Munton from our Australian Agora affiliate to co-run this course with me.
The alternative, best case scenario; you won’t walk away at all. You’ll join my talented team. And I’ll continue to help train and mentor you.
If you’re still reading I’m going to guess (hope) you’re thinking, “How do I get a place on this?!” The answer to that is easy.
First, here’s what not to do. **DO NOT SEND ME YOUR CV** I don’t want to read it. It’ll go in the bin and your application will be rejected. I used all caps, bold and underline to make that point. So no excuses.
The reason for that stipulation is: I don’t care about your background, where you went to school or what relevant experience you have. I only care whether you can write, and write well.
So, write to me. Send me 1,000 words (maximum) explaining why I should pick up the phone and talk to you about a place at our training. That’s it.
If I like what I see I’ll get in touch. Or more likely, my Head of Talent Lauren Brownlow will. And we’ll take things from there. Bear in mind if you really impress me, I’ll cover your expenses to get you on my course, so don’t let distance from London put you off, I’m looking for the best.
Send your application to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t rush it. Get it right. I expect to read more than 1,000 letters. I’ll likely invite 15 people on the training itself. How do you get yourself in that 1.5%? Welcome to the world of direct response copywriting.
Oh, final point. Some of the best writers I’ve hired had NO prior experience. They just wrote me a letter and I liked it. Talent is more important than experience. So show me how talented you are.
Publisher, Southbank Investment Research
P.S. I told you I’d share a few messages from previous attendees. You’ll find them below. I’ve also thrown in a few notes from my management team, to give you a sense of how we value copywriters at our business.
After sending just ONE e-mail - I found myself on an all-expenses paid course… learning the secrets from the best in the business. Honestly, I was surprised I made it, but there was no time for ‘imposter syndrome’. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and threw myself into it.
And it paid off. I landed a direct response role, now working alongside world-class copywriters and a ‘rolodex’ of experts at my fingertips. And aside from learning something new and exciting about the world day in day out, my copywriting skills are getting exponentially better, and fast.
You get unrestricted access to how all and any campaigns are doing - or have done in the past. You’ll know what works to the last digit. Open rates. Click through rates. What’s selling. Everything. This is a true treasure trove of insight, and it’s all there for you to absorb, so you can fine tune your ideas and campaigns so they hit – and hit hard.
But know this: it’s NOT easy. Learning to be a GREAT copywriter takes a lot of hard work. ‘Good’ copywriters are dime a dozen out there, and as the industry grows, competition is fierce. But if you want to learn to be a highly valuable, world-class copywriter – in a short amount of time – you need a role like this, no question. And trust me, once the royalties roll in… you’re hooked!
David Taws, Copywriter
Copy is the lifeblood of our business
As a Publisher here at Southbank, everything I plan, scheme or dream about in the future depends on one thing: great copy that plugs into what’s going on in the world today.
I should know, I have been writing copy here for ten years. Nothing else we do can grow the business like winning copy. And in my view, the rest of the business should act like sunflowers, with the copy department a big bubbling ball of life-giving gas to which they turn for sustenance.
Great copy is about timing. Can you say what’s on the tip of the collective tongue? Can you articulate it in a way that connects with people? Can you move ideas on a step without leaving readers behind? It’s tough. Most people simply cannot do it. But if you can, you will gain admiration, wealth and glory in this life and the next.
Paolo Cabrelli, Associate Publisher
Learning to write copy at Southbank is probably the most fulfilling job I’ve ever done. But it’s sure as hell been the most frustrating, too.
Writing copy to Agora’s required standards is hard. Like, really hard. Even if you’re a good writer, like I thought I was.
Expect for your ego to get a real kicking. Expect to get frustrated. Expect to run into dead ends, and metaphoric brick walls. Expect to occasionally want to throw your coffee mug/one of your colleagues at a passer-by when a copy review doesn’t go your way.
The training’s the easy bit. If you come through it and get a job here, that’s when the hard work starts. (Cliché, but true.)
So should you bother?
That’s not a cynical question. It’s one you should take seriously.
If you expect to write a million-selling control first time out, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect to put a million in your pocket in three months, you’ll definitely be disappointed.
(And I’m not knocking you; I came in thinking both of these things. I’m pretty sure everyone else did, too.)
If you want a chance to bust your ass and do frustrating, hard work every day…with the aim of learning more about copywriting for real, from real, active copywriters rather than from sketchy online gurus…
I can’t think of a better opportunity than by taking the training here at Southbank.
Since I started working here, my copywriting skills have improved immeasurably. I’ve learned more about the psychology of sales in 14 months than I did in a decade of years of writing for digital agencies.
I’ve also had the privilege of learning the Agora way of business inside out, which in turn is pretty much the template for every online business out there.
I’ve taken on skills I’m confident I can use to earn very good money for the rest of my life, and I’m always being given the chance to learn more, and to get better.
Knowing you’ve written something that’s made thousands of pounds is a seriously cool feeling. As is actually taking your commission and buying something with it.
If that all sounds appealing, good. It should. This is unlike any other writing job I’ve ever done, and it’s all the better for it.
Plus, everyone’s very nice, and there’s free pizza and beer sometimes. Can’t forget that.
Shaun Edwards, Copywriter
Screenwriters, graduates, novelists, entrepreneurs, stand-up comedians and artists – over 12 years in the marketing team I’ve worked with a lot of copywriters. They’ve joined from a variety of backgrounds and interests… most have been good writers, some have been excellent. It’s been a pleasure to watch the best of them go on to great things at the company – there’s so much opportunity.
The best copywriters are more than just great writers though. They have a skill at spotting what makes our readers tick. And they’re always talking to me about our marketing. They’re proud, passionate and persistent: “When’s my promotion going out?”… “How many sales did we get yesterday?”… “Here’s what I’m writing next…”
Chris Isaac, Head of Marketing
Before joining Agora I was a stereotypical copywriting nut.
I’d read all the books. Taken all the courses. And copied out ‘The Greats’’ sales letters by hand.
But attending the first iteration of the Agora copy training in 2017 was a game changer.
I felt like I’d been given the ‘keys’ to persuasion I’d always been looking for.
Just two weeks training from these guys advanced my persuasive writing ability – and my copywriting career – more so than several years studying the principles of direct response.
And that was just the beginning.
Since becoming a ‘full time’ Agora copywriter I’ve been fortunate enough to receive what I consider to be the best copywriting education in the world... bar none.
I sit one meter away from one of the most successful working copywriters in the world today. Someone who has generated millions of pounds over the course of the last decade.
He is constantly critiquing my work. And I am constantly improving. It’s a position very few copywriters in the world can say they have the privilege of possessing.
This job isn’t for everyone though. To succeed, a borderline unhealthy obsession with your craft is required.
This is not a 9-5 job. It’s a lifestyle. You’re constantly reading, researching, and writing. In and out of the office.
If you’re not up for that, then frankly, I don’t think you’ll succeed here.
You need to have thick skin too. The feedback on your copy and your ideas can be brutal. As a writer, you pour your heart and soul into your work. And it can be hard to accept someone telling you what you’ve just put so much time and effort into is ‘wrong’.
But if you have a natural curiosity as to how people tick…
Have the willingness to work like a dog…
And have the ability to take criticism on board and act on it…
Then this could be a dream job for you.
Rich Hess, Copywriter
I’m loathe to admit it, but my success as a publisher and editor largely comes down to the talent in the copy ranks. After all, the copy team are the ones that really grow the business. They’re the ones that first grab the attention of our readers and set the tone in how the readers engage with our services.
But it’s no easy job. They need to work with stuffy editors like me, turning our sometimes dry editorial into emotional, actionable sales copy that grabs peoples’ attention. Marketeers and compliance also have high demands of their time and effort.
If there was a formula to what makes a good copywriter, then please write in and let me know. As far as I can work out, no copywriters are alike, coming from a variety of professional backgrounds and holding different interests. Actually, that’s not quite true. They do share one thing in common: any successful copywriter must be an ideas machine, fizzing with the next big idea that will make compelling sales copy that makes you stop, think and buy.
James Allen, Associate Publisher
I’ve worked with many copywriters during my 16+ years at Agora. Some have been truly great…many are good...and others....let’s just say they didn’t leave an impression. In my experience, a great copywriter is more than being inquisitive about the world. Such a quality is standard if you work at an Agora business.
The outstanding copywriter wants to know everything. They are quick thinkers that relish finding innovative ideas. They challenge the mainstream. They respect and want to learn from the expert behind the product they are selling. They are unrelenting in their pursuit of success. It is no coincidence that some of the best copywriters have gone on to start their own businesses within Agora.
Heading up the compliance dept. means I can’t not mention that Southbank is authorised and regulated by the FCA. This can be a challenge. In fact, it’s arguably the biggest challenge after finding a good copy angle. A successful copywriter is able to recognise that regulation doesn’t mean dumbing down their ideas or working in a restricted way. Instead, they can create engaging copy that works within the regulations. We are not interested in finding ways to trick people into buying our products. Our aim is to publish quality work that helps readers build on their financial knowledge and take ownership of their wealth. We want to help demystify the markets, and give readers alternative ideas and opinions from those they find in the mainstream.
To do this we work with experts that make up a world-class editorial team. Convincing people why they need to take notice of them is an art. One that few can master. And it’s respected – I certainly couldn’t do it! If we can’t reach out to new readers with our ideas, our business doesn’t grow. Simple as that. I see copywriters trying every good idea they have. Yet, they are able to move on and learn quickly from the ones that don’t work. When they hit on an idea that resonates with people, they will use all the resources available to them to build on it. They’re not idle. They don’t stop to bask in their success. Hitting on an idea that works is just the beginning…
Becoming an Agora copywriter is an opportunity to learn from the best. But leave your ego at the door. You will need to dig deep, grow a thick skin and learn to collaborate with the whole team to be a true success.
Samantha Ricketts, Head of Compliance