Is this a setup?
I have, at times, promoted a specific program on doing exactly what this question asks.
And by the end of this email, I’ll surely suggest it again.
But this isn’t a setup (at least to the best of my knowledge). This is, rather, a genuine enquiry into how to get started as a copywriter.
And so I’ll answer it to the best of my ability, as I’d hope you would do if our positions were reversed.
Remember, this week I’m clearing out my Mailbox Monday queue. So even though it’s not Monday, I’ve opened up the ol’ mailbox to answer your questions. On marketing, selling, copywriting, business-building, and more.
Here’s today’s question…
What are your thoughts on starting out as an email copywriter? Would it be a great starting point for someone breaking into the direct response world? Thanks, Roy. (BTW your book is an awesome read!)
My first response: being an email copywriter is a great start to direct response!
Heck, doing ANY kind of paid work is a great start.
But in terms of skills development, email is up there.
I’ll tell you why. Then, I’ll reflect on other types of copy you might want to start writing, to get a good start in direct response.
And I’ll even make a handful of suggesting for how to go even deeper…
Why email is a great training ground for direct response copywriters…
First and foremost, direct response is all about generating response. That is, getting someone to behave in a specific way, as a result of what you write.
In order to get good at this, it helps to be getting a lot of feedback on what you write. Not necessarily from mentors, although that helps, too. But rather, from the market.
If you are constantly putting out copy, into the market, and seeing what response it gets, you’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.
And it’s a whole lot easier and faster to put out a ton of emails than it is to put out a ton of sales letters.
Of course, there is a downside. What gets clicks does not always predict sales. And so it’s best, with your email copywriting, if you also track the value of clicks in different emails, as measured by actual revenue generated down the line.
However, in general, if you can figure out how to get that first click, you’re learning what appeals to people and gets them to take action — and that translates into being able to write longer sales messages as well.
Your best strategy for learning direct response through email copywriting gigs…
… Is probably to get hooked up with a small number of clients who let you write emails constantly, and are generous with sharing stats.
Then, churn out a bunch of emails.
The more, the better.
And start paying attention to these stats, and how they change from email to email:
— Open rate
— Click-through rate
— Revenue per email sent
— Revenue per open
— Revenue per click
When things do particularly well, or particularly poorly, consider what made that so.
If you get decent clicks but your opens are low, you’ll have lower numbers down the line. But really that’s a reflection of a subject line that doesn’t stand out in the inbox, and get initial engagement. (That’s a lesson in headline writing right there.)
If you get great open rates, and great click-through, but revenue sucks, it probably means you were too far off-message with your email. (Assuming the sales page itself is proven to convert.)
There are a thousand scenarios you can imagine. The key is to look critically at the copy and your numbers, and consider why one thing worked and another didn’t.
(Also, consider broader factors including the daily news cycle, time of the day or week, and other less-obvious considerations that could influence response. In financial, an optimistic promotion that goes out on a bad day in the markets will tank just because it’s not where the daily mood is at.)
Now: here’s how to put turbo-boosters on this strategy…
Yes, email is great. But think beyond email.
Most good direct response marketers have a whole pile of short copy needs. And their main long-form sales letter copywriters are often tied up on their next long promotion, and so the marketer will have to fill their short copy needs in another way.
And here’s what’s so great about this short copy…
They need a lot of it. They’re constantly testing it. And they’re putting a lot of money behind those tests.
So, for example, a marketer might have an email list and need email copy. But they could have a dozen or more different controls they’re constantly trying to make work or keep working to cold traffic. And each of those involves ads, advertorial-style landing pages, and other short copy that is constantly being tested.
And so in order to try and get the best ROI for a specific campaign, they could test ten different advertorial landing pages against each other, and run with the best.
This is a HUGE leverage point, knowing that in testing 10, they may find one that gets them 5X the click-throughs, and makes a campaign immensely scalable or profitable, compared to the others. But you don’t find that until you test!
And so if they have the copy they’ll test it.
But they struggle to write as much copy as they’re able to test.
This extra need is often considered “overflow work.” And because it’s a smaller commitment, a marketer is often willing to hire newer copywriters to write a handful of pieces like this, on the hope that one will work well enough to make it all worthwhile.
And so one easy way in the door with a lot of bigger direct marketers is to volunteer to do “overflow short copy work.”
It’s how he got started, and he’s helped a bunch of others get in the door this way. And even though he teaches it as a way to get in the door at one of Agora’s many financial divisions, it works well beyond Agora, and well beyond the financial niche.
Any marketer who spends a lot of money on traffic or has a big email list is going to need a ton of shorter copy. And as a way to develop your chops plus a way to get started, it’s both proven and highly-recommended.
One more idea…
I mentioned this is good to do with a handful of clients.
I actually got my start in copywriting and marketing just by getting a full-time job.
It wasn’t with a direct response company. In fact, if it looked like direct response, the owner hated it. That may have actually slowed my development as a direct response copywriter.
And yet, I was able to incorporate the core principles of direct response into much of what I did. Plus I had substantial leeway to test and drive traffic. And I set up all kinds of tracking on the marketing we were doing.
All of this added up to me writing a ton of shorter copy, and learning a bunch about how to generate response. Even outside of direct response.
A full time job where you can apply some of this could be a great path. Even better if it’s at a direct response company, that would have opportunities to write longer copy as you develop.
Seriously consider it — those who’ve followed this advice often praise it.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,