How Australia’s only copywriting conference lived up to the hype, delivered the goods, and kicked some goals (and remained a cliché-free zone)  


I’ve just been to CopyCon19, the brainchild of Kate Toon and her Clever Copywriting School.

It was my first.

It won’t be my last.

It was outstanding.

Here’s why.


Why go to a copywriters’ conference?

Being a freelance copywriter has its perks. I can make my business as flexible as I like: I can pick and choose my clients, my work hours and the topics about which I write. I don’t commute to work. I’ve been known to do by best work at 4 am while in my PJs and chugging bad coffee.

I don’t need an office: I work from home. Or from clients’ offices. Or a library, or even in the car. Not while I’m driving, of course. I’m highly evolved, but not even I have achieved such multitasking prowess. And because it’s illegal. (Especially because of that, officer.)

But the perks of being a freelancer are also coupled with some fairly significant disadvantages.

It’s a solitary gig, so the days tend to pass without much communication with others. There’s no banter around the water cooler. No footy tipping competition. No admiration of the workmate who’s managed to snare the business of a big client.

And it’s a challenge to make sure my copywriting skills are updated and on par with industry standards.

So that’s why CopyCon19 was such a great event.


What is CopyCon?

CopyCon is the copywriter’s conference – the only one of its type in Australia. It’s exclusively dedicated to copywriters.

An accomplished copywriter in her own right, organiser Kate Toon now focuses her work on the education of other copywriters through courses and resources in her Clever Copywriting School. In doing so, she has filled a void in the marketing world. Genius.


CopyCon19: The low-down

On 4 May 2019, CopyCon19 took place at the Melbourne Arts Centre.

It didn’t disappoint.

I was looking forward to catching up with the few copywriters I already knew, meeting the experienced copywriters, rubbing shoulders with the guest speakers and meeting two of my mentors: Kate Toon and Bernadette Schwerdt.

And, ummm, yes. A weekend away on my own in Melbourne. That too. Actually, I may have been a touch over-excited about that.


So what happens at a CopyCon?


All presentations, even the keynotes, were brief. The longest were around 30 minutes. And no Q&A sessions afterwards.

The presenters were there all day. With plenty of scheduled breaks, delegates could seek out any of them for a chat. It was a fast-paced day, and the timetable was strict.

Here are some of the highlights:

Host Jenny de Lacy. She may have been wearing black and white, but there was nothing monochromatic about her delivery. She was hilariously entertaining.

Author and freelance business guru Robert Gerrish talking about the dreaded imposter syndrome, an affliction suffered by most writers from time to time, and how to deal with it.


Suzanne Chadwick feathers and all


Suzanne Chadwick, business coach and branding specialist at The Connection Exchange, speaking about brand creation and how to make a business stand out from the pack. She stood out from the pack of presenters by wearing feathered headgear, à la Rio Carnival. I bet she can samba like no-one’s watching.


Ryan Wallman talking taglines


Ryan Wallman, of Wellmark Communications Agency, talking about taglines and how to make them stand the test of time. I’m fascinated by taglines. I mean, imagine being the person who came up with Just do it. The brilliant simplicity and high impact of just a few words gets me every time. This was probably my favourite presentation.

SEO gun Aaron Agius of Online discussed the latest in SEO and content marketing. I’m an SEO fan, so I loved this discussion as well.


Kate Toon works the room


God knows how she found the time, but Kate Toon presented a talk on client relationships. It was vibrant, funny and full of great information. Extra points for crafting it as a presentation about dating.


Berndette Schwerdt tells us all a thing or two


Bernadette Schwerdt, a copywriter, presenter and actress, discussed copywriting techniques. Like taglines, I love hearing about the mechanics of copywriting. Maybe because I’m a copywriter. Huh.


David Bell sheds some light on coveted agency work with Kate Toon


David Bell, a celebrated creative director from agency MercerBell, answered all our questions about how creative agencies work. The inside scoop. Fantastic.


Rob Marsh selling it how it is


And finally, copywriting A-lister straight from the US, Rob Marsh discussed brilliant sales pages. Rob’s also an entrepreneur and business advisor and his presentation was the ant’s pants. Or the cat’s meow. Or both, if you really want to make things interesting.


Other great stuff about CopyCon19

But CopyCon had even more to offer.

Some of our peers were also invited to speak, and it was great to hear from writers whose experiences are a little more like mine (although their presentations were made them deadset legends too, it has to be said).

Sophia Arthur presented an excellent discussion on business processes. Amanda vanElderenden discussed client briefings and how important they are for nailing the copy and the client’s expectations. Detailed brief = happy client. Just sayin’.

Liz Green delivered an entertaining presentation on how she came to be a copywriter.

There was a panel discussion with Nerissa Bentley, Donna Webeck and Rachel Alt about niching, a topic close to my heart. I mostly niche in legal content, so it was great to hear from some highly experienced writers about how niching has worked for them.


The wrap-up

So CopyCon19 was a great day, with much to consider and plenty on my to-do list. But it didn’t end there. The networking party was a hoot, complete with Star Wars theme: May the fourth be with you. It turns out it’s quite a thing.

I made some great contacts, enjoyed a sneaky wine, marvelled at the costumes and loved the music provided by copywriter Bec Djapovic and her band, the Vintage Belles.

My knowledge is updated, and my horizons expanded. I’m looking forward to CopyCon21. But I may have to find a way to get back to Melbourne before then. Maybe to buy some exclusive, tax-deductible stationery. I’m sure I’ll be able to explain that one to my accountant. No problems at all.


By Kate Crocker

Legal content specialist, SEO copywriter, reformed salsa dancer