In Review Part 2: MediaBistro’s Copywriting for the Web Online Course

This week I got feedback on Assignment #1. So, let’s discuss.

My assignment was to write about myself and my online identity. I put together a one-page narrative with links to my website, blog, social media accounts, and the sites where I contribute content. A few days later, the instructor returned the assignment with commentary. I’ve excerpted some of that feedback (mainly the critique) to help you get a feel for what goes onside inside the virtual classroom.

The Short Version

For any of you who don’t care to pick through the details, here are my thoughts on this week in a nutshell:

  • If these courses pay for themselves in any way, it’s in instructor feedback. They spend a lot of time writing thoughtful commentary.
  • I don’t think many people take Mediabistro’s Copywriting courses to learn; I think they take them to learn to make money. I find this a little off-putting, but I realize that I am the weird one here with the social organizing background and the liberal arts education. The vast majority of students I’ve encountered so far are marketers and advertisers through and through.

About My Website

“Think about the proportion of that top banner compared to the portfolio samples and the elements beneath it on the home page. It’s great to see you and to have that hero shot of the city that places you in IN, but perhaps if the other elements were bigger you could explain more the business challenges along with the samples in one shot rather than the ‘…’ to the subpages.”

The instructor had more to say about improving my website, most great suggestions except for one thing: I’m working off a template. Changes to the writing? That I can do. Changes to design? Imma need a bigger budget for that. For now the size of site elements and the “…” cutoffs are beyond my control.

So I got some useful feedback, but I’ll have to bookmark it for later.

UPDATE 4/13: Thanks to some helpful people on the internet, I’m able to make some of the suggested changes to my website. Hooray!

About My Social Media Accounts

“I think your LI is looking fine for the most part, but your Twitter seems kind of all over the place, and while most people use this channel as a microblog, if you are selling social strategy remember those that want to hire you are probably holding your feed to a higher standard …. Your Facebook seems more focused on the author challenges, and while I am sympathetic, I would suggest keeping the publishing content about the pitfalls of the business separate from the marketing writing one. Suess’s Pieces also got kind of lost at the bottom of many of your web site pages.”

My Tweets are all over the place, but my God are they ever representative of the things that matter to me. I started the @EmilySuess account in 2010, and most of my followers would wonder what the hell happened to me if I limited myself to updates designed to impress potential clients or employers.

For me Twitter truly is social. I chat with people I like. I stay in touch with real-life friends. And I think this has worked for me so far for two reasons: 1) I’m a part-time freelancer and 2) I am my own brand right now. If a potential client doesn’t like that I’m vocal about women’s rights or they think retweeting my friend’s giveaway is off-topic, I’d probably find working for them a soul-crushing experience. They’re choosy. I’m choosy. It works out in the end.

But! I do realize where the instructor’s coming from. I’m not sure a separate business account is the way to go, but I’m giving it some serious thought. In the meantime, I’ve got a couple of client accounts to share during the application/proposal process for new gigs.

My excuse for Facebook is that I post what engages people. Ninety-nine percent of my Facebook followers are fellow writers, not clients. When I attempted posting client-focused content, it just bombed. That’s life on the internet.

About Writing for Small Business Bonfire

“[The Small Business Bonfire] seems like a colorful, energetic site, but unless they are paying you … why not just write about similar topics on your other blog or sites instead?”

Of course they pay me. People think this a lot—that I write for Bonfire for free—I can’t figure out why. It worries me, though, for reasons I don’t care to get into at the moment.

About Writing Self-Publishing Content

“Well, you obviously know a lot about this topic and just from glancing at some of your publishing posts, I share many of your concerns …. My question here too is whether it is worth your time to offer this advice for free rather than teaching a class about it down the road or being on a panel where you get some sort of compensation?  I believe writers should really strive to get paid or compensated on practically everything that they do, and I see that you are really busy with your job and already have so many outlets, so I guess consolidation is what I am pushing as a thing to consider.”

Back to the money thing. I get it—that’s why most people are taking this course.

I would never suggest a writer write for free or for the promise of “exposure” ever. I believe in making money for what I do. But, dude, money isn’t everything. Writing about self-publishing and teaching authors how to not get scammed by dubious assholes? That’s a labor of love. I will never charge a penny to share what I’ve learned about the industry. Ever.

In fact, the The Self-Publishing Services Directory is making other people money. I’m okay with that.

More next week!

Want to read past posts? Browse the Ad Copywriting Certificate Review Archive

Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 1: MediaBistro's Copywriting for the Web Online Course

Life got kind of busy there for a while, and I took a break from MediaBistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate Program. But I’m back now, and ready to share what’s going on in the next course: Copywriting for the Web.

This week was week one, so it was mostly introductions and settling in to the program. It’s a six-week course with a challenging, jam-packed syllabus. The class looks to be more promising than the last for a few reasons:

  • This is not the instructor’s first time teaching the course.
  • I’m more comfortable turning assignments from this course into portfolio pieces. (I can’t design an ad to save my life. But respectable looking website templates are pretty easy to come by.)
  • While an obsession with Mad Men made me think I wanted to do more print, TV and billboard advertising, the truth is I don’t. Web and interactive copythat’s my thing.
  • It’s not the holiday season anymore, and I feel like I’ve gathered my wits some.

I’m working on Assignment 2 for this week, which includes picking from a couple of instructor-provided options to create web copy. I’ll be writing a home/landing page, an about/mission page, a banner ad, and identifying audience segments and writing relevant social media content for three social media platforms. (I’m going with the obvious here—Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.)

It might not sound like a lot of work, but it’s a sizable commitment for someone like me who has a day job and a freelance writing business and still tries to find time for life’s little frivolities. You know, things like eating, sleeping and laundry. There’s plenty of reading involved in a course like this if you’re like me and want to scarf down all the supplemental links too.

The first discussion for the course was held Thursday night, but I didn’t make it. So more on that aspect of the course in a future post. If you have specific questions about the program, toss ’em in the comments. I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. If you’d like to contact me privately, that’s cool too. Just use the contact form to send me a message.


Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 3: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate

Just a quick update this week. Why? Because Christmas.

Last Wednesday, we had our second online discussion covering Week 2’s assignments for the ad copywriting course I’m taking as part of Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate. Fewer than half a dozen students stuck around for the full hour, and the majority of the time it was just four of us and the instructor. As with any course—in-person or online—you’re going to have some scheduling conflicts. So it’s not surprising that we were short a few enrollees this time around, but with an already small class the decline in participation had a definite impact on the discussion.

If I’m honest, I’m not really digging the discussions anyway. There’s a lot going on when it comes to the homework. Then, with all of us working on completely unrelated projects, I feel split in a thousand directions at once despite taking each student’s projects one at a time. I refuse to print out everyone’s assignments to have them in front of me, so I end up trying to juggle half a dozen open documents in both Word and Acrobat on my laptop. Plus there’s the open browser window with the actual discussion going on. My monitor just doesn’t have enough real estate. Anyway, brainstorming for someone else’s project on the spot is not one of my strongest suits. I’m a muller. I need time to mull.

From a technology standpoint, the discussion was awkward for me this week too. The instructor would say something and about 3 seconds later, I’d hear it. Not sure what was causing the lag—could be something on my end—but it wasn’t ideal.

Read other review posts:

In Review Week 1: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate
In Review Week 2: Mediabistro’s Ad Copywriting Certificate


Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 2: Mediabistro's Ad Copywriting Certificate

We wrapped up the first week by posting our assignments and participating in our first online discussion on Wednesday evening. Also, the course materials for Lesson 2 went live. Now we’re getting somewhere.

The Recommended Books

I didn’t bring it up in the Week 1 Review, but there are a couple of books that were recommended reading for the Creative Ad Writing course. They are:

I’ve thumbed through the books and read several chapters of the Bly book already. My opinion is that they’re a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the content is immensely helpful, and some of the content is just fluff for me. I find myself skipping and skimming quite a bit. They’re paperback though, so used copies are inexpensive. (Bonus!)  I’ll be keeping both for reference later, because 1.) I have a hard time parting with books, and 2.) the info on strategies could prove to be very useful if I get stuck on a client’s project at some point in the future.

Posting the Homework Assignment

For me, Wednesday night was the first real test of the online system Mediabistro uses to administer class. A few students had trouble uploading their assignments in the dedicated forum thread.

First problem? The system doesn’t support multiple attachments in a single forum post. If you want to post two separate files–one for the creative brief and one for the ad samples–that means you need two separate forum posts. Because of this, I ended up opting out of automatic email updates for new posts. My inbox was being bombarded! Not anyone’s fault, just the nature of the beast.

The thing that forced some students to post multiple comments in the thread: file size limits. A few students had files that were too big to upload because of all the images, and that meant breaking their original files down into smaller chunks. And, since you can’t post multiple files to a single thread….

So, honestly? The classroom software could be friendlier, but in the end we all got by.

The Online Discussion

For the online discussion (held from 8-9 p.m. on Wednesdays for this particular course) Mediabistro uses Adobe Connect meeting software.  I tested it according to the instructions in the course materials a couple of days early to make sure it was working. I had to install a plug-in to make it work, and at first it didn’t want to play nice with Chrome. But after about 15 minutes, I was all set.

I was unsure what the format for our hour-long discussion would be like. Would we all be video chatting like a hangout? Would we all be typing while looking at slides? Turns out the instructor talks, and you can see her webcam feed. The students just type. So, I’m happy to report that you can participate in the discussion while wearing pajamas if you like.

It’s a little awkward switching between talk and text, but you (or at least I) got used to it. As far as the technology goes, it worked seamlessly. The discussion was managed pretty darn well, and we all (well all of us who participated) had an opportunity to talk about our portfolio choices and get some feedback and ideas from the instructor and our fellow classmates.

Other Stuff I Noticed

Thursday morning I signed on to get the materials for Lesson 2. I noticed there was a video lecture in three parts, just like in week one. Then, underneath those links, I saw a link for a PDF of the slides used in the lecture. Woohoo! So I went back to Lesson 1 and saw a link there too. Then I started wondering–were the slides always there and I was complaining like an idiot last week or did they respond to feedback? Either way, I’m a happy camper.

Emily paid the full price for enrollment in’s Ad Copywriting Certificate program and is not being compensated in any way for her reviews.

In Review Part 1: Mediabistro's Ad Copywriting Certificate

mediabistro ad copywriting course

This week I started my first course for the Mediabistro Ad Copywriting Certificate. I thought I’d write about my experiences here on the blog for the benefit of other writers and wannabes. You should know this: I paid the full $1,500 for the certificate program, and I am not being compensated in any way for what I write. (Although, I did inquire if they had an affiliate program. They do not.)

Program Basics

Students must complete a total of six courses within one year to earn the certificate, including four required courses and two electives. The courses are offered frequently; I don’t foresee a scheduling problem.

Required Courses

  • Copywriting: Creative Ad Writing
  • Copywriting for the Web
  • Copywriting: Advanced
  • Brand Writing

Elective Choices

  • Copywriting for the Web: Advanced
  • Search and Online Marketing
  • Writing and Editing for the Web
  • Web Analytics
  • Web Analytics: Advanced

My First Course

I’m starting off with the 8-week, online Creative Ad Writing Course. It’s Week 1, so there isn’t a whole lot to report yet. But we’ve done the online introduction thing through the dedicated forum, and I can tell you that so far it looks like the class is comprised of 7 women and 1 man. Based on the intros, it looks like my virtual classmates are all professionals with some impressive previous writing and editing experiences — a good sign.

A major part of the class is building a portfolio as we work through the lessons, and that involves picking a real or fictitious product or service for the focus of the copywriting exercises. Instead of faking it, I wanted to actually work on a real campaign. So I tweeted the message above, and Sara from Insqpired Quill replied back. (If you read this blog at all, you know I’ve got more than a passing interest in the world of publishing. Should be a good fit.)

Week 1 Lesson: This week’s lesson was a lecture from the instructor presented in three parts in video format. The information was solid, and the instructor has more than adequate credentials to present the course. My only complaint at this point has to do with the presentation of the lecture slides. Trying to read them in the video gives me a headache. In lots of cases the text is too tiny to read in the standard video size. Move to full screen, and everything just gets super blurry. An accompanying PDF of the text on the slides would’ve been perfect.

Week 1 Assignment: By Tuesday evening I have to choose my product or service, write a creative brief, and select three print ads that I like and three I don’t like and discuss why I like them or not. On Wednesday evening, we’ll all join in an online discussion from 8-9 p.m.

$1,500. Is It Legit?

You know, ask me again in 8 weeks. But I will say this: I looked into another online copywriting program last year, and I bailed on it because they were spamming the hell out of me. I never wrote about it (and I won’t name that company here) because I didn’t stick it out. But that company left me feeling like I needed to take a shower every time they emailed me.

Mediabistro does online and IRL training. Plus, they already have a solid reputation when it comes to industry events, news and jobs. I’m much more confident in this program, even though I don’t personally know anyone who’s completed it…yet.

Got questions for me? Drop them in the comments.

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