13 Copywriting Lessons I Learned From Robin Williams

I’m a big fan of Robin Williams, so when I learned that he also happened to be an accomplished copywriter, I was intrigued. The idea of combining his comedic talent with an understanding of how to write effective copy seemed like it could be incredibly powerful. 

So when I recently sat down to watch the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, I was excited by what it had to teach me about the art of writing great copy (and also very sad).

Copywriting For Beginners: 6 Lessons To Write Better
1. Creativity Knows No Bounds: Embrace your creativity without limitations, just like Robin’s improvisational genius.
2. Connect Emotionally: Engage readers by tapping into their emotions, as Robin did in his performances.
3. Visual Language Matters: Paint vivid pictures with your words, creating imagery that resonates with your audience.
4. Timing is Everything: Just as in comedy, timing is crucial in copywriting to maintain the reader’s interest.
5. Personal Stories Stand Out: Share relatable personal anecdotes to make your content more relatable.
6. Inject Humor Wisely: Injecting humor can lighten the tone and make your writing more enjoyable to read.
7. Variety in Tone: Like Robin’s versatile acting, use different tones to keep your writing engaging.
8. Unexpected Twists Captivate: Surprising twists and turns can grip readers’ attention, much like a plot twist in a movie.
9. Harness Quirkiness: Don’t shy away from unique angles and quirky ideas to make your writing memorable.
10. Simplify Complex Ideas: Break down complex topics into understandable, relatable concepts.
11. Speak to the Heart: Address readers’ core desires and challenges to forge a deeper connection.
12. Memorable Catchphrases: Craft catchy phrases that stick with readers, just as Robin’s catchphrases stuck with viewers.
13. Be Unapologetically You: Embrace your distinct voice and style, just as Robin fearlessly embraced his individuality.

1. Listen To The Audience; Learn From Them

Listening is one of the most undervalued skills in copywriting. It’s probably right up there with “listen” on a list of skills that writers should improve upon. But if you don’t listen, you won’t know what your audience needs or wants and how they want to be spoken to and that means your copy won’t work as well as it could.

By listening, I mean being part of the conversation in their heads when they read your words not just passively reading along, but actively engaging with them (and maybe even competing with yourself).

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2. Commit To An Idea

One of the most important things I learned from Robin Williams was his commitment to an idea.

I’m sure you can think of many famous comedians who have tried their hand at acting and failed, but when Robin Williams did it, he gave it all he had. He let go of everything else in his life, including stand-up comedy and all other projects that might have distracted him from his goal (and believe me he was a multi-hyphenate).

Like any good copywriter, Robin knew that if you want to make something great, then you have to commit yourself 100%. And if you want to be successful as a copywriter or anything else for that matter, then this is something we must do as well!

Persuasion is a key skill in legal writing, and it’s equally important in copywriting. Explore our guide on writing to persuade to discover techniques that can enhance your ability to influence and engage.

3. You Have A Limited Time In Front Of Your Audience; Use It Well

If you’re going to be talking about something for a while, it should be something worth talking about. If your audience is going to listen to you for more than a few minutes, the topic should interest them. If it doesn’t interest them, why would they keep listening?

Robin Williams was like this in his early shows: he would talk about whatever came into his head at the moment and no matter how strange it was, people kept watching because they were curious about what he’d say next.

A great copywriter follows this same principle; they don’t waste time on boring topics (even if they are interested in the subject personally), and they don’t waste time on topics that don’t interest their audience (even if that’s their passion), and most importantly: They don’t waste time rehashing something that’s already well known.

4. Be Part Of The Conversation

Robin Williams was a master of conversation. He could be talking about the most mundane things, but it was always clear that he cared about what you had to say and wanted to hear more about your thoughts on the subject. 

Your job is to talk about your customer’s problem and not yours,” he said in a speech at Stanford University in 1999. “You must think that everyone else’s problems are more interesting than yours.  Your job is not to tell people how good you are; it’s just as easy for them to find out how good you are as it is for them not to find out how good you are.”

In his copywriting career, Robin Williams played a role similar to the one he played on stage or screen that of an irreverent comedian whose humor had no limits or boundaries. 

However, when he wrote copy (or performed voiceovers), he transformed himself into someone who appeared serious and committed someone who genuinely cared about helping customers solve problems they didn’t even realize they had until they saw Robin’s solution offered up like manna from heaven

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5. Take Risks

I don’t know about you, but I find that sometimes it’s easier to play it safe than to take a risk. When I’m writing copy, I often find myself editing words and phrases that make the content sound too risky or different from what other businesses are doing. 

But here’s the thing: You can’t stand out unless you’re willing to try something new and different even if it means failing!

One of my favorite examples of taking a risk is Robin Williams’ famous line from Good Morning Vietnam: “Oh man…I’ve been shot at more times than all six branches of the military combined.” 

That line alone helped make his character memorable in many ways, including being an example of bravery but also because he took a chance on saying something unusual for his time!

6. Take Risks With Your Voice And Your Writing Style

In copywriting, you’re often told not to be afraid of taking risks. The same goes for your voice and writing style. Don’t be afraid to try something new—it could end up being the most creative thing you’ve ever done!

While it’s true that good copywriting can be learned through practice, there’s no substitute for experimenting with different styles until you find one that clicks with your audience. 

You might make some mistakes along the way, but don’t let that scare you away from trying something new! In fact (and this is probably one of my favorite things), if anything gets in your way while trying out a new style or voice in your writing, just go right ahead and ignore it!

7. Take Risks By Diving Deep Into Your Audience’s Pain Points

There are a few ways to take risks and make people uncomfortable, but the most effective way is to dive deep into your audience’s pain points.

If you’re writing a copy that talks about how much money someone can save by using your product, it’s easy to write something like: “Buying this product will save you $100 a month.”

But let’s say you do more research on your audience and find out that they’re struggling with finances. 

Let’s say they’re so far in debt that they’ve had their credit cards frozen by creditors. This knowledge could help spur some creativity and help them feel more connected with the brand because now they know what kind of things they have been going through! Such as…

Memorandums play a pivotal role in legal communication. Learn the art of crafting concise and informative legal memorandums with our guide on how to write a legal memorandum.

8. Know When To Pull Back. Don’t Make Every Copywriting Lesson A Painful One For Your Audience

The final lesson is knowing when to pull back. Everyone can tell when you’re trying too hard, and it’s important to know when your copywriting style or voice has crossed the line from effective to annoying.

There Are A Few Things That Should Be Avoided

Writing too much Especially in the beginning stages of your career, it’s easy to get caught up in the flow and write 500+ words per article. It might sound great at first, but no one likes reading a novel from any source! Keep it short and sweet, especially if you’re doing your job as editor-in-chief or content director for an online publication.

Going overboard on style – This includes overdoing both text formatting (bolding everything) and image dimensions (making everything huge). 

Nothing makes people click away from a page faster than feeling like they’re reading something written by someone who just finished watching Fight Club for the first time without actually having seen any other movies ever before that moment and then tried their hand at making something similar.

But with less skill than even Chuck Palahniuk himself could muster up on his worst day off work after being asked once too often how many beers he prefers while working on his latest novel draft while carrying out research during lunch breaks spent eating sandwiches made by colleagues who also happen to love beer, so anyway yeah there’s my advice: don’t do this!

9. Be In Control Of The Situation

Robin Williams was always in control of the situation, even when things got chaotic. He could keep a straight face when everyone else was laughing hysterically, or he could make an entire audience feel like they were at his one-man show.

This doesn’t mean being cold and calculating; it means being prepared for anything and knowing how to handle yourself in any situation. You have to know your audience’s preferences and expectations so that you know what buttons to push and what topics are off limits. 

Being able to adapt on the fly is also important if something unexpected happens during a presentation or meeting, don’t freak out! 

Stay calm and figure out what needs doing next (like improv), then proceed with confidence that everything will be okay as long as you stay focused on delivering quality content through your words (and not your emotions).

10. You May Fall Short, But That Doesn’t Mean You Didn’t Try

If we’re talking about copywriting, it’s important to remember that no matter how hard you work and how much praise you receive for your work, there will always be people who won’t like what you do. 

It is impossible to please everyone, so don’t waste your time trying. But even more important than this lesson is the fact that when someone says something negative about your writing, they are saying something negative about themselves they are lacking in some way. 

To me, this means I can always learn from criticism because it shows me how much farther I have yet to go in growing as a writer and becoming better at what I do and that’s an exciting prospect!

11. Through Improvisation, You Can Be More Effective Than You Thought Possible At The Start Of The Performance

One of the best things you can do as a comedian is to be prepared to improvise. Improvisation is one of the keys to being an effective copywriter; it’s also one of the most intimidating skills in comedy.

When I wrote copy for my first stand-up act, I had no idea how much work would go into writing just one joke. But through many trials and errors, and by working with other comedians, I learned that every good joke has a beginning, middle, and end and that it takes careful planning for each piece of your comic routine to fit together seamlessly. 

If you want your audience to laugh from start to finish then you need them to follow along on your journey from beginning point A through ending point Z without losing their interest along the way or getting lost due to not knowing where you were going with it beforehand!

Robin Williams was not just a brilliant actor but also a source of copywriting inspiration. Discover 13 valuable copywriting lessons inspired by him in our article on 13 copywriting lessons from Robin Williams.

12. Compete With Yourself Instead Of Others

If you’re not competing with yourself, then you’re competing with someone else. In copywriting, this is a recipe for disaster. As Robin Williams said in his book Good Morning: “The best way to get better at anything is to compete only against yourself.”

We must set goals for ourselves and work hard towards achieving them because it keeps us motivated and focused on our goals. But there’s also a point where we have to be careful about how much time we spend comparing ourselves to others. We need a healthy balance of self-improvement and competitiveness one does not exclude the other!

13. Be Persistent

This is perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Robin Williams. The man was a master of perseverance, even though he had his share of setbacks and disappointments along the way. 

He didn’t give up on his dreams and he kept pursuing them until they finally came true. He wasn’t afraid to ask people for favors or advice because he knew that sometimes it’s not enough just to have talent; you also need connections and luck on your side. 

It was this relentless attitude that got him through those lean years when everyone had abandoned him after Mork & Mindy ended its run, which led him down a dark path toward addiction before he finally managed to turn things around in his 40s with Good Morning Vietnam (1987).


And so, I hope that these lessons from Robin Williams have helped you in your writing. It’s not easy to write great copy, but it is possible. If we can learn anything from his life and career, it’s that you should never give up on your passion for the written word or otherwise!

Further Reading

Explore more insights inspired by Robin Williams:

Tribute to Robin Williams: Gain copywriting inspiration from the legendary actor and comedian. Discover how his unique style can elevate your writing at expresswriters.com.

Life Lessons from Robin Williams: Learn valuable life lessons from Robin Williams’ journey. Explore personal growth and inspiration on medium.com.

Powerful Quotes for Business and Life: Uncover the impact of Robin Williams’ quotes on business and life. Find motivation to excel at mainstreethost.com.


What were Robin Williams’ notable contributions to the entertainment industry?

Robin Williams made significant contributions to the entertainment industry through his iconic roles in films and TV shows. He was known for his improvisational skills and ability to bring characters to life.

How did Robin Williams’ humor influence his work?

Robin Williams’ humor was a driving force behind his work. His unique comedic style and rapid-fire improvisation set him apart as a dynamic performer loved by audiences worldwide.

What life lessons can we learn from Robin Williams?

Robin Williams’ life teaches us the importance of authenticity, kindness, and embracing our unique qualities. He reminds us to find joy in the present moment and to value human connections.

How did Robin Williams inspire creativity?

Robin Williams’ ability to think outside the box and embrace spontaneity served as a powerful inspiration for creativity. His willingness to take risks and explore new ideas left a lasting impact on creative minds.

How can Robin Williams’ quotes apply to business and personal growth?

Robin Williams’ quotes offer valuable insights into resilience, determination, and the pursuit of excellence. They can be applied to both personal growth journeys and business endeavors, providing motivation and guidance.