We Write to Teach: What My Time as a Teacher Taught Me About Copywriting

Nathan Healy reflects on what he learned about copywriting in his time as a high school teacher. Good copy doesn't just inform: it educates.

teaching and copywriting
Good copy doesn't just tell. It teaches.

Two dozen sets of eyes stare up at you. Some of them are tired and bored and some are alert and joyful. But all of them, every single set, are expectant. What do you have for me today?

I spent the better part of a decade standing at the front of high school classrooms, looking back at eyes that asked me this very question. And as teacher, it was my job to deliver. Every single day I was expected to show exactly what I had for my students.

As I transitioned from teacher to copywriter, I found that the blank page and the blinking cursor on my computer screen were not unlike those expectant eyes. Well, what’ve you got today? the page and cursor seemed to ask.

My experience as a teacher has a tremendous influence my work as a copywriter. After all, what is effective copywriting if not a tool to educate? A lot of the same principles I used when I was frantically scribbling on chalkboards, navigating rows of desks answering questions, and lecturing about historical moments inform my copywriting today.

I’d be lying if I said it was expected, but looking at it objectively, it makes complete sense. So what are some of those teaching principles I use now in my everyday work as a copywriter? Well, it all starts with…

Setting your expectations

As a teacher, I started each class with a clear outline for the day. This is what we’re going to cover. This is how we’re going to cover it. This is what you’re going to know and be able to do by the end of class.

As a copywriter, it’s just as important to set expectations. Readers don’t want to be lead blindly through a maze of copy that seems incongruous, unrelated, and pointless. The most important information (a company’s value, its differentiators and benefits) needs to be offered immediately. This above-the-fold placement paints a clear picture for readers: here’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. Strap in.

But even when I set expectations for my class, things rarely unfolded cleanly. This leads to the second principle…

Adapting to engage and educate everyone

Most of my classes had an average of 24 students in them. That’s 24 individual personalities, minds, and learning styles. What helped one student understand something might not work for another, so I had to think outside the box. I had to develop an approach that was inclusive and comprehensive, so every student had the same opportunity to learn, regardless of their style.

When I sit down to write copy, my goal is to craft an informative narrative that speaks to the widest audience possible. There are always certain boundaries I work within, such as a client’s brand voice and target audience. But even within those boundaries, there are hundreds and thousands (and in some cases, millions) of people who the copy is targeting.

Just like I needed a fluid approach to engage a room full of teenagers, connecting with a wide readership requires adaptability. No two people learn in exactly the same way. As a copywriter, my goal is to craft content that educates everyone. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Education is about much more than imparting information. It’s about empowerment. Done right, it spurs a deep understanding that informs attitudes, beliefs, and actions—which brings us to the third principle…

Teaching the audience to fish

It was always a thrill to see a student’s eyes light up with the joy of understanding. I felt good in those moments, like I’d fulfilled my purpose. But in reality, my job was only partially complete. What did they do with that understanding? Did they store it away somewhere deep in their mind? Or did they fold it into their life, using it as a tool for action and growth?

While I could only ever take my students so far, my aim was never to simply impart information. I worked hard to empower and motivate. I never handed my students a fish. Instead, I handed them a pole—and taught them how to use it.

With that in mind, I ask myself one question about everything I write: does this encourage readers to act? For different clients, “action” means different things. For some, it might be a phone call for a consultation. For others, it could be a share on social media or a direct sale. Regardless of the specifics, the idea is the same.

Effective copywriting doesn’t just dispense information that’s quickly forgotten. Effective copywriting opens readers’ eyes wide, fills them with excitement, and sets them on a course where, because of what they know, they have no choice but to act.

Need a hand with writing that educates, empowers, and converts? Get in touch with us today.   

Nathan Healy

Nathan Healy

Nathan spent a number of years as an educator, so he knows the importance of clear, succinct communication. Whether it’s explaining a highly technical concept or wading through the details to deliver key facts, Nathan writes for one reason: to teach. He enjoys interacting with people, learning about their passions, and helping share them with the rest of the world. In his free time, Nathan enjoys a good Netflix marathon, a long hike up a mountain, and spending time with those close to him.

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