As a cafe writer, you might want to re-think three things in order to stand out in a competitive marketplace: your business name, your positioning, and your image.
“A toast to my big brother, George: the richest man in town!”
I’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life at least a dozen times, and that line never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
If you remember the scene, just about everyone in Bedford Falls comes to the Bailey house when they hear George is in trouble. He’s rich with friends.
When it comes to money, I’m not the richest man in town (not yet, anyway).
But I can tell you that most days I feel like George Bailey. My life is richer because of the people I know, especially people I’ve met over the past four years through copywriting.
My freelance career has opened up so many doors to friendships, working relationships, and what I would simply call “big idea thinking.”
Copywriters are the richest people I know, and I benefit by associating with them!
You can’t put a price on that.
A side benefit of being a copywriter
Here’s the thing. Become a copywriter and you’ll have a lifelong skill that you can use to generate income at will.
You’ll also hang out with rich people: copywriters.
Let me clarify what I mean …
- Rich in money. Copywriters are a discreet bunch as a rule. You won’t hear us talk about how much money we make very often. But if you’re an observant person like I am, you realize that the A-list copywriters are making huge money. The next tier is living pretty comfortably, too.
- Rich in freedom. Copywriters live life on our own terms. We vacation when we want for longer than the standard one or two weeks. We pursue work we’re passionate about. That’s true freedom! What’s not to like?
- Rich in experiences. I love hanging out with copywriters and swapping stories. Whether it’s rubbing elbows with famous people or globetrotting and working at the same time, copywriters are some of the most interesting people I know. We’re nonconformists by nature, so that alone lends itself to interesting experiences.
- Rich in relationships. Writers tend to have strong personal connections. You won’t meet a more genuine, fun, intelligent, optimistic, hard-working, interesting, entrepreneurial bunch of people. Those qualities tend to attract other sharp people.
Yes, the richest people I know are copywriters!
Do you want to accelerate your path to success as a copywriter? Get to know as many writers as you can, and spend some time (virtual and live) hanging out with them.
The Copywriter Café closed group on Facebook is a great place to do so (request to join and I’ll add you), and so is the Ultimate Writing Retreat™. This year’s retreats are already booked up, but you can start planning for 2014.
I’ll be hosting retreats in Paris, France from April 23-26, 2014, and in Quito, Ecuador, June 25-28, 2014.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. What is one side benefit you’ve received as the result of being a writer? Leave a comment below.
“Help, I’m stuck!”
Ever feel that way? No matter how well your copywriting business is going, there’s always something you could be doing better, right?
Over the past year I’ve had hundreds of conversations with aspiring copywriting rock stars. I love having these “personal conferences” and helping people get unstuck, whether they’re just starting out or at the six-figure mark and beyond.
(And just for the record, I had an A-level copywriter this week help me get unstuck on something. I think we all need someone to check in with on a regular basis.)
Anyway, I take notes during every conference, and it hit me this week that almost every “stuck” situation can be traced back to one of 11 clear steps. Do these 11 steps in order when you’re first starting out, and you’ll set yourself up for success. Go back and review them every three months and you’ll continue moving forward. Overlook any of the 11, and you’ll hit a plateau, or worse.
A word of warning: this isn’t a catch-all formula. I’ve probably missed some (and feel free to tell me in the comments below.) And I’m just scratching the surface on explaining each one. I’ll probably develop these 11 into some kind of e-book soon.
For now, take care of these 11 steps and you’ll do quite well. You might even want to print this part off, laminate it, and hang it where you can see it from your desk.
Copywriting success in 11 clear steps
1. Figure out what you’re good at and how you’re going to help clients.
Not just figure it out, but be able to articulate exactly why someone should hire you. For example, “I’m really good at helping businesses uncover their true unique selling proposition and conveying it in a fresh way to help them draw in more customers.”
2. Figure out who your audience is.
Make sure there’s a demand, and if there is, how competitive it is. Better to investigate upfront to find a lesser-known niche with a huge demand than to follow the masses to an over-saturated niche. By the way, you can always change this, you’re not locked into anything.
3. Make your offering clear.
I like the idea of having three simple packages with fees so prospects know exactly what you’re offering.
4. Now get your website situated.
I see a lot of copywriters put the cart before the horse, spending a lot of time on their website before getting the first three items determined precisely.
5. Create your marketing and sales funnels.
Not sure where to start with this? Dan Kennedy and the Glazer Kennedy Insider Circle (GKIC) are the place to go. A simple framework: Offer something of value for free on your website, build your list, engage your audience, continue offering value, and market to them regularly.
6. Be likable.
The real reason one copywriter often gets hired over another? The client likes that copywriter more. Plain and simple. It’s not always who has the better website, stronger reputation, or better offering.
Can you learn how to be more likable? Absolutely. Start by re-reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
7. Communicate effectively on the phone and via email. In other words, learn how to sell.
This is probably the biggest reason copywriters don’t make more money. You can be the best copywriter and marketer, but somewhere along the line you have to communicate one-on-one in order to secure a project.
That requires sales skills, something severely lacking these days. I learned it by giving over 10,000 one-on-one sales presentations by the age of 23. I’ll be coming out with an e-book on selling for copywriters next year, but for now, focus on two skills: listening, and the art of asking questions.
8. Make it easy for clients to work with you.
In most cases, a simple, quick proposal should just be a formality after you’ve made the sale on the phone or by email. Some copywriters hide behind their proposal, spend way too much time on it, and make it way too long.
9. Give them a reasonable price.
I can hear the objections already on this one. “I’m going after high-quality clients who will appreciate my services and be able to pay my high fees.”
You can charge whatever you want, but it can’t be more than what you’re ultimately going to deliver. In other words, if you’re not an A-level copywriter yet, you can’t charge Bob Bly-type fees. It also has to reflect the supply and demand of the marketplace, unless you’re in a total non-competitive situation.
I’ve been talking to a lot of copywriters lately who are missing out on keeping a full pipeline of work. Their fees aren’t justified and they’re spending too much time writing proposals.
10. Give the client something extra.
Write two versions of the email letter so they can test them. Provide 20 headline ideas when they only asked for 10. If you’re just writing a home page, give them some quick copy for the about page, too.
11. Follow up.
Review every project with the client once it’s over. Get feedback, suggest further ideas, ask for a testimonial and referrals, and most important, secure the next project.
Use these 11 steps as a checklist to see where you may need to polish your skills or take a different approach.
I’m curious. Which of these eleven is most challenging for you? Which one do you think you have down? Your comments here will help me in the one-on-one work I do with copywriters, and also in developing this into a larger manual of sorts for helping you build your Personal Brand.
We think big at the Roller house. My kids take their cue from my favorite Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to new heights.
“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
See, they’re already thinking that anything is possible.
My oldest son is planning to go to Yale in two years. My second son writes his own music and has already done a half-time show at a local arena in front of 1,000 people. My daughter started winning art awards in kindergarten and now does commissioned drawings. My youngest skipped two grades and is still at the top of her class.
I’m not saying this to brag. Well, maybe a little.
I tell you this because there’s something to be said for doing things that people say you can’t do. Most people simply don’t think big enough.
The big, the brave, and the bold
I’m going to make the assumption that you’re a high flier who wants to soar to new heights. I believe that if you’ve read this far, you have a desire to do some really big things.
Beyond being a freelance writer, you have goals you’ve maybe never even told anyone.
You’re careful about revealing your goals because some people will laugh. Others will be envious of your ambition and hope you fail. Still others will secretly wish they were as motivated as you.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been having some fantastic conversations with writers lately.
Not Facebook or email chats. Real, authentic, old-fashioned conversations where you pick up the phone and talk for an hour or sit down in a café for two hours.
I know a writer with young children who’s already traveled extensively to Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador. He plans to use his publishing and copywriting business to fund his world travels in the next five years.
Another writer, a Copywriter Café Member, is already a successful author in a typically male-dominated field (football.) She plans to parlay her book into a nationwide and possibly worldwide speaking business. She’s using her copywriting skills to market herself and make a good living until the speaking gigs really kick in.
A Copywriter Café friend of mine in Oregon is a copywriter who owns a photography and vintage clothing business with her husband. She has big ideas for her retail store and the online possibilities.
My recent revelation
In talking to these big-thinking high achievers, something struck me.
No one gave them the green light to move ahead with their ideas. They just did it. And once they made the decision to do it, magical things started happening and people started appearing who wanted to help.
Here’s the big takeaway: people do want you to succeed. But you have to be bold and make the first move in confidence.
What are your big plans? How can I help you get there?
Would three days in Asheville, North Carolina, discussing Big Ideas and cranking out half a book or more with other high achievers move you closer to that goal? (See http://cafewriter.com/asheville/ for details.)
Four tips for making it happen, to be continued in two days…
“The market seems over-saturated with copywriters. Is there still work out there for freelance writers? How do I get work if I don’t have experience? Everyone tells me I can’t be a generalist. Do I have to choose a niche right away?”
These are the top three questions I’ve been hearing from Copywriter Café Members lately.
You don’t have to be an expert to grab your share. And you don’t need years of experience to get started.
The challenge for new writers is that it’s wide open.
When I first started, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to become a copywriter.
I was completely indecisive, however, about what direction I wanted to go in.
B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business)? Get a staff position with a publisher, like some copywriters I knew of, or go freelance? Specialize in long-form sales letters or short web copy? Within B2B or B2C … what area?
Too many decisions. I was overwhelmed because everyone was telling me I had to pick a niche right away.
Your new copywriting business made easy
If you’re feeling the same concerns, let me offer you a few suggestions:
You don’t have to settle on a niche immediately. If you can, great, but it’s not imperative to start getting work. As you get more established and discover what area you like most, then pick your niche.
Look for voids in the marketplace. Don’t follow the crowds. There’s a lot of demand in niches like financial, alternative health, and self-help, but they also tend to be very competitive.
What I did instead was look at the world I knew from past experiences, business and personal acquaintances, and subjects I was familiar with.
As a result, I got projects early on with a sales training business, a fundraising company, an executive life coach, and a real estate broker. I didn’t have writing experience in those areas, and they didn’t care. They just wanted someone to help them grow their business.
Help those businesses find a “slight edge.” You don’t have to create a complete new idea or strategy from scratch. That can be a daunting task when you’re new.
An easier approach is to improve upon what your client is already doing. For example, I worked with a company that sold Pilates videos online. They were having some success with online video marketing. Instead of trying a new approach, I simply rewrote their video script using direct-response techniques, and their response went up by almost 50%.
Another example is a life coach who had a decent website but wasn’t getting any organic search engine traffic. Easy solution. Through a one-hour consultation, I discovered that she had a unique specialty within the vast area of “life coaching.” I rewrote her website content using targeted keywords, and she started getting traffic and leads.
The bottom line? You don’t have to know everything to get started. Just slightly more than your potential clients.
What other questions do you have as a new (or experienced) copywriter? Let me know and I’ll answer here quickly.
This blog post first appeared as an article in November 2012 in American Writers & Artists Inc.’s (AWAI) The Writer’s Life, a free newsletter that gives you opportunities that enable you to live life on your own terms. If you’re looking for a new career related to writing, there may be an opportunity at AWAI that’s right for you. For a complimentary subscription, visit http://www.awaionline.com/signup/the-writers-life/.