How’s things with you?

Since we last spoke, ChatPGTips has taken over the planet, my wife discovered how to mute the annoying “click” sound the Amazon firestick makes when you’re rifling between apps, and I’ve started experimenting with innovative contractions for “It’s been”….

S’been a wild ride.

Speaking of ChatPG-13…

I’ve been thinking a lot about it, specifically this question:

Is Chat GTA a threat to personality/humorous copywriters?

I don’t doubt the prompt “give me 10 jokes about jam” will bless you with some zingers you can use to liven up Grumpy Gladys at your next WI meeting, but does that mean it’s the end of human-created comedy?

To save me waiting for you to hit reply and answer, I’ll rudely interrupt… 

The answer’s “no”.

When you think about AI taking over the world, you might be tempted to probe your mind for jobs it can’t replicate.

Sure, Elon can build a car that can automatically take you home after a wild night out with your local campanology club. But where are you going to get that late-night, thrilling minicab, “Holy shit, this guy thinks he’s Lewis Hamilton. I’M GOING TO DIE!!!” experience that makes you glad you deleted your browsing history earlier that day?

There’s a better question peeking from behind the “what jobs can’t robots do?” query though…

“Are there things that people will NEVER pay AI to do?”

As a former magician, my mind immediately goes to performing arts. 

(That’s a total lie. As an immature and childish human being, my mind went straight to the same place YOURS did, you filthy animal. But let’s pretend we’re both better than that for a moment, shall we?)

I’m certain someone could build a robot that performs magic tricks… solves a Rubik’s cube in record time… or can paint a perfect replica of the Mona Lisa upside down, but…

Would you travel to Las Vegas and pay hundreds of dollars to see that show?

Would it even come close to the excitement you’d feel, being there LIVE, seeing a real human being do those amazing things?

Same with comedy – there’s something deeper going on.

Whether you’re on stage or in someone’s inbox, comedy is not just about saying funny words. It’s about relating to your audience.

I’d argue this is even more important when it comes to comedy copy, where we’re not just looking to make our audience snigger…

We’re looking to build a connection that makes them happy to open their wallet for you.

They won’t do that unless they can relate to you.

Ever found yourself yelling “OMG – YES!!!” or “I do that too!” while Fanta spurts out of your nose, as you laugh at your favourite comedian?

That’s because of a fundamental principle about humour that most people miss:

Farting IS funny.

All humour starts with TRUTH.

I’ve been banging on about that ^^^ for a while now.

And here’s a clickable piece of blue text to prove it… and give you some ideas about how to use it

We use our words to connect with people. Comedy is a great way to deepen that connection, but you can’t get there by copying and pasting a list of generated gags.

You have to know your audience. You have to know what’s true for them.

Gags get you “when I read your email, I laughed my ass off!”

Relatable gags get you “when I read your email, I laughed my ass off… and knew I wanted to work with you…”


What could you do in 936 seconds?

936 seconds – just over 15 and a half minutes.

That’s how much time I’ve wasted this past year.

Specifically, it’s how much time I’ve wasted on the tiniest of teeny-tiny tasks – putting on my heart rate monitor.

It’s SUPER annoying because the instructions CLEARLY say:

“Attach the unit to the strap with the brand name facing UP.”

Being the good boy I am, I’ve followed this instruction faithfully – for the past 300-odd days – spending an extra three seconds squinting my eyes every morning, as I hold the damn thing up to the light, finding the correct orientation…

On day 313 I got curious and a bold thought flashed across my mind:

“I wonder what would happen if I did it upside down?”

So I plucked up the courage…

I still remember how I felt. My hands were shaking with anticipation as I reached for the strap…

My entire body was vibrating. My brain was screaming “What the hell are you doing???? Brand name UP…UPPPPP!!!!”

It “clicked!” into place and I slid on the strap…

325 BPM!!!!!

… is what it felt like my heart was beating.

Then, 4,000 gazillion years later (at least it seemed that long), two digits pulsed on the screen:


Bloody hell – it worked!

And it’s worked every day since then.

Now, instead of wasting three seconds every day, making sure it’s the right way up…

I’m wasting three seconds every day, making sure it’s the wrong way up…

Just to spite the damn thing.

Here’s the all-important, deep and meaningful marketing lesson you need to take away from this…

I’m an imbecile – a petty-minded imbecile…

If you don’t believe me, ask FIRSTNAME. Seriously. Shoot them an email at EMAIL and ask.

They’ll back me up.


P.S. OK, here’s the REAL lesson…

If you use a story in your email, try and help your subscriber EXPERIENCE it for themselves.

Show, don’t tell.

For example, want your reader to feel the same hand shaking, body vibrating, 325 BPM excitement as you?

Easy. Toss in a line using the *NAME* and *EMAIL* liquid fields.

That’ll get their heart pounding.

I’m not saying you should stop emailing your list, but…

You might wanna after reading this…

There’s a long list of benefits to having your own email list.

I won’t trot them out here. If you’re getting this email, there’s a fair to middling chance you realise the awesomeness email can bring to your life.

Having typed that, I DO want to mention something that’s often mentioned in the “scraping the barrel” section of “2,354,142 reasons email is awesome” lists…

And that’s the fuzzy feel-good factor.

Yeah, yeah, moolah makin’ ‘mails are lovely… but it’s also nice when people notice you’re gone.

Case in point – I’ve not emailed you for about three weeks.

After the first week, I had a few folks reach out, asking if I was OK.

Second week, a few more.

Then, in the third week, Google called me, begging me to email my list, as the “are you ok?” emails were crippling their Gmail servers…

(Clearly I’ve spent the three weeks at Exaggeration Camp. If you’ve not been, you should go. It’s the GREATEST THING IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!!!!!!!)

If you write good emails, people will miss you when you’re gone.

You might have a hard job ascribing a cash value to that, but it feels pretty darn good.

And this isn’t about a schedule either. People don’t miss you because you normally land in their inbox on a Wednesday at lunchtime.

They don’t miss seeing your name on their screen as they sit on the toilet emptying their outbox.

They miss the connection with you.

I’m not talking about anything deep and meaningful here.

Just connection. A simple touch point.

It’s like when you miss a friend…

You don’t think, “It’s 11:13 on Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day… I wonder if Nigel’s OK?”

You just notice something’s missing.

Connecting with someone over email is still a connection.

Yes, you’re “broadcasting” to your email club but, like radio, it still feels personal.

Write good emails and people will miss you when you’re gone.

John Holt

How’s my opening?

“I think I have a groin”.

Not the best opening salvo – especially for someone hoping to charm his way into a same-day appointment to see his GP.

The receptionist laughed. That’s a good sign.

“Sorry, I DO have a groin. Though, to be honest, I haven’t checked today… what I meant was – I think I have a hernia…”

A lot is made of headlines and subject lines.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, you might say.

Your first line counts more than most.

It’s the same with any form of communication though, even verbal.

What’s the best first thing I can say to help me get the result I want?

In this case, it was Friday morning and I knew I’d developed a hernia. Something poking out of your body at your beltline is pretty hard to miss.

I didn’t want to cancel my Only Fans webcam shows this weekend, but also knew my chances of getting a same-day appointment were slim.

A hernia is probably something that can wait until next week.

“What can I do to get the receptionist on my side?”, I thought at 7:57 am, three minutes before the lines opened.

“I think I have a groin” seemed pretty solid – weird, rude, excusable, and with plenty of riffing options should I happen to strike gold and find the one medical receptionist with a sense of humour.

Plus – and this is a big plus…


It gives her a weird story she can use over the weekend whenever the conversation runs dry.

Don’t overlook the power of that ^^^^.

People like to laugh, sure, but they LOVE being the ones to make other people laugh more.

It’s basically how I landed three whopping clients in my first year as a copywriter.

(It certainly wasn’t my non-existent portfolio of proven samples)

I got proof at a team event recently when the boss called out the personalised sales page I created for them when I applied for the job.

“I passed it to my team and said… ‘You gotta see this guy!’” 

Not a bad first impression, eh?

It’s not just big things like sales pages that can have this impact.

Anything you can do to move an interaction from banal to “Oh! I gotta tell you about this…” is worth exploring.

Typos, spelling errors, and “accidental” mistakes are a good place to start. Especially if you’re looking to get on the good side of a medical receptionist.

Want an example?

No. Figure one out yourself. 

Kind refarts,


Far be it from me to go against Ben Settle, but…

I choose not to follow his work-on-your-own-business-before-even-thinking-about-doing-any-client-work advice.

Don’t get me wrong, “paying yourself first” is a rock-solid idea. And if anyone deserves your “best” first hour of your day, it’s probably you.

For a handsome Cheshire copywriter, that probably means I should be paying myself first by writing emails to my list email club or creating mouth-watering offers that make you dribble into your Aldi own brand cornflakes.

But… I don’t. 

And not because I disagree with the advice, but because I REALLY BLOODY agree with it 

“WHAAAAAAT???!” – you, I optimistically imagined when I wrote this.

Putting your own business before your clients is just ONE of the ways you can “Pay Yourself First”.

Another is doing whatever the hell you can to minimise your stress levels and have a semi-enjoyable day.

And that’s ^^^ how I choose to pay myself first.

Working on my own stuff when I have client deadlines looming is NOT enjoyable.

It fires up the nagging voice in the back of my head:

“Oh man, you’ve still got those emails to write… they’re due today, you know…”

Call it “Conscience”, “Your inner voice”, or “Francine”, whatever…

Having that whirl round my mind when working on my own stuff is more annoying than force-pumping me 10 hours of Baby Shark.

Getting client work done frees me up to focus on my own nonsense.

It might not make me the most productive copywriter on the planet, but…

… it makes me happier.

This is why blindly following motivation tips and tricks often doesn’t help.

Joining the “5 am club” so you can do some early morning deep work is all well and good, but if you know your creative cortex only works after 10 pm, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.

Same with using “fill in the blank” copy templates…

Don’t just blindly copy, paste and fire them. Look a bit deeper.

Try and figure out why it’s written the way it is.

Read it out loud and think how your audience will take to it.

Do you need to change a few of the non “[INSERT NICHE’S 17TH PAIN POINT HERE]” bits to better suit your people?

How would YOU say this?

Oh, and if you’re ready to say goodbye to templates forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever… 

Check out my email writing course “Sent.”. 

John Holt