This essay can help you make more money.
Rainmaker, this essay came about because a friend of mine — a well-respected copywriter — told me he’s slammed right now.
He’s got a ton of demand for his time and copy.
And, like many of us copywriters, he says no a little less than he should.
So he need to crank out maximum copy in minimum time, and was wondering if I could share some tips.
I’m an occasional expert at this (sometimes I’m also an expert at cranking out minimum copy in maximum time) so I thought I’d share…
These tips are born of a lot of experimentation that resulted in both successes and failures…
And represent what I’m usually doing consistently when I’m at my most productive.
Before I dive in, two big picture thoughts…
ONE… MAKING MORE MONEY…
I started off by telling you that what I’m going to share can help you make more money.
Last night I was listening to one of Dan Sullivan’s podcasts, and he was talking about why 10X growth is better than 2X growth.
10X growth requires you to change everything about what you do. If that’s what you’re looking for, these productivity hacks for copywriters will likely help in the short term (to free up time to work on 10X growth), but they won’t suddenly make you 10X more productive. That’s another essay entirely.
This essay is more about 2X growth. It’s quite possible that if you’re about as productive as most copywriters, that you could very quickly become twice as productive. And it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re spending twice the time writing — it could simply be that you write twice as fast.
How does that lead to more money? Simple. If you bill by the project — and you should — you get the same fee for half as much time worked. That means you can take on twice as many projects in the same time, and earn twice as much. There are a bunch of add-on benefits to this, but in general if you write more, you can earn more. Simple as that.
TWO… THE PRODUCTIVITY CYCLE…
I want you to forgive yourself right now for any time in the past when you’ve been less-than-optimally productive.
This is really important. We beat ourselves up all the time when we don’t knock our productivity out of the park. I know because I was doing the same thing at the beginning of this week, as I was coming back from the long weekend.
Productivity ebbs and flows.
Sometimes — often leading up to deadlines, see below — we’re super-productive. Other times, our productivity lags. It’s cyclical.
While our long-term goal for our productivity should be to smooth out the cycle and generally increase our productivity across the board (a lifelong process)…
The reality is that the cycle is somewhat inevitable.
I liken it to intervals — one of the single-best approaches to physical workouts. We get a better workout when we intentionally exercise in spurts, periods of intense work punctuated by periods of rest or very low-level work.
Our brain can thrive working the same way.
And importantly, we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves because we need those periods of rest or low-level work — because they’re critical to being at max performance during the high-intensity blocks.
Okay, on to the productivity hacks…
Productivity hack for copywriters #1: Deadlines…
I once heard world-famous copywriter John Carlton say that the deadline was undoubtedly humankind’s first invention.
Because without the deadline, nothing else would have happened.
I find — and even my work today is evidence of this — that the deadline is far and away my biggest secret to maximum copy output.
You need a REAL deadline for your copy.
When I don’t have a deadline — when I have all the time in the world to complete a piece of copy — I don’t ever make much progress. (This is actually called Parkinson’s law — that “work expands to fill the time allotted.” It’s a thing!)
When I’m on a very tight deadline, I almost always output a super-human amount of copy in the time given to hit it.
So, if you want to get your copy done in the fastest time you know you can do it, send your client a note. Tell them you’re going to get the copy in by a certain day. And then do everything you can to make that happen.
And maybe just as important, line your next project up to start immediately after that deadline. That makes it even more real — you can’t afford to blow the deadline because you’ve got something else to start right afterward.
Productivity hack for copywriters #2: Planning your time…
I’ve gotten much bigger into planning recently, and it’s been extremely beneficial for my productivity.
It has allowed me to work on two other major initiatives for my business alongside still rockin’ my client work.
It’s also pretty much required for me now because I am booking client time out into the future — I’m booked through April 1st currently and have projects penciled in after.
How to plan?
Well, I got this from Alex Charfen, who I’ve written about a few times.
First, you need to really break down what you see as the most important things you want to accomplish “someday.”
Take a pad and paper, and spend an hour writing down all the things you want to do. Some will be tiny things, others will be really big. As you write, reflect on the importance of each to you.
This exercise will make clear the things that you’ve had on the back burner for a long time that you really want to make progress on, but maybe haven’t.
Then, with priorities in hand, you have to set realistic goals for what can be accomplished on a short time frame.
On a quarterly basis, ask…
– What are the most important projects we’re moving forward for the next 90 days?
– What are we going to do in the next 90 days to hit our big objectives?
This can’t be all your “someday” items. You’re going to have to get realistic about what you can accomplish in the next 90 days.
On a monthly basis, you look at your quarterly goals and ask these questions…
– What milestones do we need to hit in our big projects?
– How will we be able to measure our success?
This is all about making the progress this month to drive you toward achieving your quarterly objectives.
On a weekly basis, you then ask these three questions…
– Where did we move forward in the last week?
– Where could we have moved forward more?
– What progress do we want to make in the next week?
This is all about staying on track for your monthly milestones.
Then, on a daily basis you can refer to your weekly progress goals and identify the specific tasks you want to accomplish, as well as anything else you need to get done today.
Which leads me straight into…
Productivity hack for copywriters #3: Time blocking…
One of the single-best things you can do throughout your day is to give yourself mini-deadlines.
In fact, for the last two days I’ve been emailing copy to my accountability coach on the hour, every hour.
He doesn’t have to read it, but it keeps me accountable when I need to finish up an important piece of copy to hit my deadline.
Blocking out time to do a task and forcing yourself to fit the task into that block can provide huge benefits to productivity.
One of the biggest tricks to doing this well is to be able to estimate how much time you’re going to take for the task.
You’re setting yourself up for failure if you’re trying to write 5,000 words per hour, all day long.
But getting into this practice and refining as you go will go a long way to boosting your productivity.
(For example, I’ve always blocked one hour for writing these essays. When I started, I could write 700-1000 words per hour. But now I’m able to go much deeper on a topic in the same length of time, because I’ve improved my productivity in that blocked time.)
Another important part of time blocking is to block similar tasks together.
Dan Sullivan teaches entrepreneurs to schedule free days, focus days, and buffer days.
Free days are days where you totally check out from work. Focus days are where you’re focusing completely on your highest-value tasks. Buffer days are days where you do all the other little stuff.
For copywriters, I’m believing more and more that we should block of “writing days” that are almost 100% uninterrupted.
Phone calls should be blocked out on specific days of the week, that don’t interfere with writing time.
I have short days and long days in my schedule, and I like to quarantine all my phone time into the short days if possible, and reserve my long days for writing.
All of these are different ways to think about blocking your time that will make you more productive.
Productivity hack for copywriters #4: Make writing a habit…
Earlier this week, when I was struggling to be productive, I believe part of it was that I’d taken five full days off writing.
I’d relaxed my writing muscle. I wasn’t even writing Breakthrough Marketing Secrets during that time.
That made it hard on Monday to come back fully productive.
The more you can make writing an everyday habit, the better off you’ll be.
I know some writers who try to write at least something seven days a week (even if free days you’re writing something personal and not work related) just to keep their writing muscle always at the ready.
Maybe you only write five days a week — but finding the time to write for at least an hour every day (preferably more) will keep you going and writing faster.
That’s why, for example, I write these essays every day — when I could alternately write them all on one day, for the whole week, and not have to worry about them the other six days of the week.
Productivity hack for copywriters #5: Planning your copy…
Getting into specific writing hacks, I find that I write much faster with an outline than when I fly by the seat of my pants.
By at least planning what I’m going to say, before I say it, I’m able to dive in and really crank out the copy.
I do my thinking ahead of time, and that allows me to just write when it’s time.
(Hint: for a long time I just used Clayton Makepeace’s outline described in this article as my copy outline, and I know some incredible copywriters who started their career doing the same.)
And for those who might be concerned that using an outline will stifle your creativity, relax!
Just because you outline doesn’t mean you’re beholden to it.
The process of outlining and mapping out your sales argument will lead to better copy, but if you get to writing and are inspired to take things into a slightly different direction, do it.
Follow the inspiration.
But at least you’ll have the outline as a guiding path to get you started, and to come back to if you feel you’ve veered too far off course with your selling argument.
Productivity hack for copywriters #6: Embracing momentum…
Speaking of being inspired, one of the secrets I’ve found leads to the best copy from me is getting fired up.
So when I have momentum going on a particular piece of copy or with a particular client, I try to stay focused there.
You’ll write better, faster, if you stay in your groove of inspiration and momentum.
Being in momentum has a magic effect in all sorts of ways.
When you find you’re stuck or moving backwards, consider working on another project for the rest of the day, or even for the next hour.
It may be just what you need to come back to the other project with fresh eyes and find that groove again.
Productivity hack for copywriters #7: Write when it’s painful…
That said, it’s often hard to start in the groove on anything.
And over the course of a project, it’s very easy to get out of the groove, and reach a spot where even looking at the document is painful.
That’s when it’s most important to write.
In meditation, a teacher will often tell you that the most important time to meditate is not when you want to, but when you don’t want to.
When everything in your body is resisting, that’s when it’s most important to sit down.
The same applies for writing.
Here, a great hack applies — and it comes from Gene Schwartz…
Get a kitchen timer, and set it for 33 minutes and 33 seconds. Or 50 minutes. Or some other time, preferably less than an hour.
Hit start, and start writing anything.
Even if it’s “blah, blah, blah…”
The goal is to just get moving, when you’re not.
The only rule is that you can’t do anything else until after that timer goes off. You have to focus on the one thing you need to be doing.
Do that, and somewhere before the time is up you’ll go from no momentum to having momentum again, and finding yourself suddenly so productive it will be hard to stop when time is up.
What do you think?
Do you have any productivity hacks that should be added to this list?
There’s a link below to comment and share.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets