Hello and welcome to another Mailbox Monday, Rainmaker!
I’m home from Bootcamp and getting back into the swing of things.
And let me tell you what. This is definitely going to be the most lucrative Bootcamp ever!
Not just for me, but for my clients…
For me, the process I described for networking with clients and securing appointments to have conversations AFTER the event definitely paid off.
6 of my 9 most important contacts there have already turned into scheduled calls, to take place over the next few weeks. Not all of them are traditional client work, but they could each turn into enormous opportunity.
For my clients (including YOU Rainmaker), I got some very big takeaways that will strongly influence the marketing I create going forward.
This will definitely lead to BIGGER WINNERS, more profits, more royalties!
REMINDER: Today is the final day to get in on my AWAI “Bootcamp Bonus” where I share my top 10 takeaways from attending. I won’t give away everything I learned (that would be impossible), but you’ll definitely get some very big, actionable ideas that can lead to more income for you. This is a FREE video, sent out via email tomorrow, when you invest in The Copywriter’s Roadmap To Building A Core Offer by midnight US Central time tonight.
Okay, onto today’s question…
Today’s issue is aimed squarely at freelance copywriters looking to break into the direct response field.
Here’s the note I got from this copywriter, Alex, and my response is below…
My name is Alex. I’ve been a full-time freelance copywriter / technical writer for a little over five years now.
I’ve done very little direct response copywriting in the past but it’s something that I’m interested in getting into and I was hoping you could answer a few questions.
My first question is how you broke into the direct response realm? I built my business cold calling and emailing and now I rarely have to search for work at all, but I’m interested in knowing how you went about finding your first direct response jobs.
Secondly how do you charge for your services? I’ve talked to some writers that collect royalties and others that do fixed-fees but I’d be interested to hear what you’ve done over the years.
Also, on a related note, how do you negotiate with your clients? I imagine some are a bit hesitant to shell out a piece of their profits for a single email blast or sell sheet and I was wondering how you go about making them feel comfortable with that?
If you could answer the above questions, I’d truly appreciate it. Like I said, I really would like to get into this area at some point but I think it’d help to have a little bit of direction from someone as successful as you.
Alex, first off, congratulations!
There are so many folks who spend a lot of time dreaming about becoming a copywriter, but not taking the action they need to get started.
The fact that you’ve been a full-time, paid writer for five years means you already know exactly what it takes to get started and get paid for writing.
What you’re looking at now though is how to take that up a notch, to a field that won’t just pay you for output and time, but for results generated.
And, you’re asking a lot of good questions.
What I’m going to do is just copy each question into here, and answer each in turn.
So without further ado…
“My first question is how you broke into the direct response realm? I built my business cold calling and emailing and now I rarely have to search for work at all, but I’m interested in knowing how you went about finding your first direct response jobs.”
If you are comfortable cold-calling, you should do more cold-calling!
I did a LOT of things to get my freelance career rolling, but it’s all very much in line with what you did.
Put in very succinct terms, I…
— Identified clients I wanted to work with…
— Reached out to them, in whatever way I found most appropriate…
— And offered my services!
That was when I was doing copywriting on my side. My full-time gig was running marketing at a publisher of IT training videos.
But when it came time to really branch out and start my full-time copywriting business, writing pretty much exclusively direct response copy, I did even more.
First off, I did spec work.
I don’t recommend specs for all copywriters at all stages of their copywriting career. In fact, I recommend them mostly just to get started, or to break into a new industry.
But spec work plays an interesting role.
A spec assignment is a direct response company’s way of saying they’ll take on new copywriters. They’re specifically looking for copywriters to take a chance on, and maybe to develop in-house.
When I wanted to get started, I did some spec work for AWAI. A while later (maybe a year later), I decided I wanted to get into financial copy so I did a spec for Casey Research.
Both of these got me in the door, not only to the client, but to their industry.
Because once I had some reasonably good copy that had been used by a client, I didn’t have to do spec work. I could just offer a first project.
And second to specs, I started attending events.
In my case, my freelance career really started at my first AWAI Bootcamp. It took 3 months and 3 days to quit my job after, but it was connections made there that made all the difference.
The direct response world is big geographically, but small in terms of the major players.
The more you can get known among the folks who drive the industry forward, the better off you’ll be in terms of getting good work.
That’s why now, 5 Bootcamps later (with 2 missed in the middle), I have clients chasing me down instead of the other way around. I know you’ve done this before, you’ll just have to repeat the process in a new industry.
Watching the clock, I’ll stop at that…
“Secondly how do you charge for your services? I’ve talked to some writers that collect royalties and others that do fixed-fees but I’d be interested to hear what you’ve done over the years.”
Since 2010, I’ve pretty much exclusively worked with clients who are willing to pay me on a fee plus royalty basis.
I charge a flat fee to cover the time I will need to invest in getting their project out the door.
That fee started very low when I had no experience and was doing specs. In fact, my fee at that time was largely determined by the spec assignments I was doing.
Then I pushed that fee up and up and up.
The more experience I got, the more value clients were getting. Also, with all of that, my reputation increased.
These things worked together to justify much higher rates.
In fact, the fee I charge new clients today is about 10X what I wrote my first sales letters for. But the value I’m able to generate for clients has probably gone up even more.
In addition to the fee, I always want to be paid based on performance.
I’ve turned down some very good clients because they didn’t want to find a way to pay me based on how well my marketing did for them. That’s okay by me.
As with the fees, my royalty percentage has gone up. Not only have the results we’ve been generating together gone up, but my slice of that pie has grown a bit, too.
I’m a strong proponent of incentivizing results.
In fact, in the nonprofit industry, which I’ve been paying special attention to as of late, I believe they’re actually getting less donations because they don’t incentivize results.
All else being equal, my clients will make more and I will too if they give me a reason to give my best.
“Also, on a related note, how do you negotiate with your clients? I imagine some are a bit hesitant to shell out a piece of their profits for a single email blast or sell sheet and I was wondering how you go about making them feel comfortable with that?”
Let me start at the end, and go backwards.
If all you’re writing is a single email blast or a sell sheet, you probably won’t get royalties.
Most frequently, when I work with a client, I’m giving them ALL the copy for a specific campaign.
Everything from driving traffic, to persuading prospects, to actually getting them to fill out the order form, to potentially even upselling them to a higher service… And more… This includes ads, emails, the sales letter or VSL script, order forms, upsell pages, more emails, and more.
When I’ve done ALL this copy, it’s abundantly clear why or why not the sale is made — my copy.
This makes it easy for me to justify asking for a piece of the profits generated by the campaign.
Yes, the client has done a lot to cultivate a good list of prospects or buyers, and they and their team should do a good job of making sure your copy gets through to the people who should respond…
But if you’re doing all that copy, you’re the one who is opening and closing this sale, and you deserve a salesperson’s commission for doing so.
So… How do I negotiate?
I don’t, really.
First off, I try to find out if there’s a fit. If there isn’t, I’d rather part ways than get stuck in a situation that didn’t make sense in the first place.
Second, I identify the best opportunity for us to work together. This usually fits within the confines of my core offer — my standard campaign that I do with clients, tweaked to fit their business.
Third, I give them the choice. They can move forward on the terms I lay out, or they can choose not to. Either way is fine with me.
Then, they say yes or no.
Fortunately, I have a lot of deal flow now, so I’m not really concerned about the folks that walk away. But even when I didn’t, this is how I tried to act, because it impacts the entire relationship going forward (in a way that generates a better outcome for all).
I hope this helps!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
PS — Remember tonight at midnight US Central time is the deadline for my special offer on The Copywriter’s Roadmap To Building A Core Offer. If you want to enjoy more success, faster as a copywriter, this training on the BUSINESS side of copywriting is required viewing. Plus, through midnight tonight, you’ll get my top 5-10 takeaways (if not more!) from last week’s AWAI Bootcamp. Click here to get instant download access to the Roadmap training.