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How to Improve Your Copywriting with a Swipe File

If you are a creative person, you may not like what I am about to say.

I don’t love it either, but the fact of the matter is this: great copywriting is somewhat based on imitation. 

Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another. –Voltaire

The key is to reference past frameworks that allow you to genuinely apply your particular sales point.

When it comes to utilizing the work of past copywriters, a swipe file is critical.

What Is a Swipe File

The best definition comes from Wikipedia (I apologize to all of my past English teachers who wouldn’t accept Wikipedia as a reference!)

A swipe file is a collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters. Keeping a swipe file (templates) is a common practice used by advertising copywriters and creative directors as a ready reference of ideas for projects.

Basically, a swipe file is a collection of great marketing examples for reference in your own work.

I also keep a file for my blogging content. I will store articles that I found valuable or interesting and skim over them at a later time to maybe inspire myself for new content. 

Before You Start Using a Swipe File

There is a fine line between learning by referencing the work of others, and simply copying methods and expecting the same results as the original copywriter.

It isn’t as simple as plugging in your own information and product.

In order to benefit from a swipe file, you will need to understand your target market and their needs. Once you have this understanding, you can leverage the work of others to boost your own sales material.

How You Can Start

You can save your swipe file anywhere, but I highly recommend using Evernote.

The reason I love Evernote for my swipe file is because it has features that other apps and programs don’t.

It allows you to add tags, upload pictures, annotate documents and create audio clips if you’d like.

The Evernote mobile app makes it easy for me to add anything to my swipe file no matter where I am.

That is one of the important aspects of a swipe file, you store things when you find them. When inspiration strikes, you need to be able to capture it quickly. Evernote facilitates this well.

Other Options for Storing Files

  1. Google Drive
  2. Quip
  3. Scrivener  (although I believe something cloud based/mobile friendly is better.)

What You Should Save

The goal is to save everything that may inspire you and be worth emulating in your own marketing work.

So, here are things that I save…

#1 Email headlines…

…that really grab your attention (ones that I open out of curiosity). Here is what the clip looks like for my swipe file (I made the annotations for myself to reference later.)

Swipe File

#2 Images…

…that you may want to use in articles or promotions (note usage rights).

#3 Links to examples…

…that you wan’t to reference products with great sales copy.

#4 Quotes…

…that you can add to your copy (famous quotes, expert quotes etc.)

#5 Screenshots of design elements you like

Below is something I saved that I liked from an email newsletter I receive occasionally (again, I made the annotations for future reference.)

Elements (1)

#6 Facts…

…that may be used to support my marketing message.

#7 Anything that pushed me to buy

If something entices you and leads you to make a purchase (or sign up to mailing list, group etc.), you may be able to use the same elements in your own copy.

FB Examples

#8 Questions

…that people have regarding your product(s) and similar products.

Note: For each of the items above, if you use Evernote, you will want to add tags to each upload. These make it easier to find what you’re looking for later.

About Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.

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