“Do you know any good copywriters who have availability right now?”
“When is the next open spot on your schedule?”
“Can I send you some clients?”
“We’re looking for good copywriters — can you introduce me to anybody?”
I hear versions of this on a regular basis.
And, unfortunately, I pretty much always have to turn them down, or turn them away empty-handed.
And these are clients who are willing and able to pay $10,000 to $20,000 and beyond, plus royalties, per project.
There’s an abundance of opportunities for great copywriters today…
But there’s a little problem. There’s NOT an abundance of great copywriters.
There are plenty of people who are happy to get paid to string words together. But very few who are up to the task of writing copy to compete among the world’s best marketers, in the most competitive direct response markets.
Especially in financial.
And so there’s a great divide.
If you survey copywriters across the board, they’re vastly underpaid compared to the promise of the opportunity.
Pulling from a recent salary survey from Copy Hackers…
— Only about 1 in 10 freelance copywriters makes six-figures per year. And most of them make between $100,000 and $125,000.
— Only 1 out of every 71 freelancers make more than $200,000 per year.
— Get a copywriting J-O-B, and your chance of making six-figures goes up — a little.
— But your chance of making over $200,000 per year? It goes to almost zero.
— And the worst part… If you average all the copywriters — freelance and employed — the average income for a copywriter is less than $50,000 per year!
All this… While I regularly hear from clients who are HAPPY to pay 10s of thousands for a great copywriter!
There’s a huge difference in copywriting between knowing how to COMMUNICATE and knowing how to PERSUADE.
The former is a $50,000/year skill. The latter has almost no upside. (And even lazy copywriters like me can make a decent living at it!)
Once you understand the fundamentals of how to put together a persuasive sales message… And you apply it in a relevant market where there’s upside opportunity… Substantial wealth is yours for the taking.
That “six-figure” copywriting promise is a good baseline.
Others earn much more.
But that’s the rub.
You don’t learn selling in school.
You don’t learn persuasion.
You learn grammar. And sentence structure. And other ptooey that really doesn’t matter much for this kind of writing.
What matters here is ideas. And knowing how to communicate them in ways that move the market.
What matters is the intuition you develop for what’s working, and what’s not.
What matters is connecting at the gut level, and then bringing the head along for the ride.
This is NOT just “tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you told ‘em,” or any of the truisms you’ll learn in academic communications programs.
It’s about being able to set your ego aside, look at your own work, and realize that your prospect’s going to respond with a “So what?” … And then having the guts to throw out what you’ve been doing, in pursuit of something better.
Allow me this tangent and I’ll connect the dots…
In some Buddhist traditions, there’s something called “pointing out instructions.”
Enlightenment isn’t something that can be taught, at least not according to Buddhists. The realization of enlightenment doesn’t come through reciting a certain mantra 10,000 times, or through some kind of rote memorization.
Rather, it’s an awareness, that once you see it, is blindingly obvious. But that is completely obscured by all sorts of tricks of your ego and thinking mind.
Pointing out instructions are what an enlightened master does for students to try to convey and directly transmit that awareness. To try to cut through the trickery of the ego.
And so they’ll say, “that’s not enlightenment, this is. And that’s not enlightenment, this is.” (I’m really simplifying here, so if you’re enlightened or a Buddhist in a tradition that uses pointing out instructions, I apologize!)
For any student, enlightenment can take decades, or a mere moment. It’s simply a matter of the right master really engaging with them in the right moment, and connecting the dots in a way that makes it click.
In fact, if you’re ready for it, enlightenment doesn’t even have to come from a master. A peer, a book, or a tree can be all you need to open up this awareness.
But the lineages of masters and students going back centuries do suggest that the most enduring way to make it happen is by direct one-to-one transmission.
Gaining the most lucrative copywriting abilities is a lot like this…
I have a HUGE bookshelf (actually, multiples side-by-side) of marketing and copywriting books.
I’ve listened to thousands of hours of programs, podcasts, and more on copywriting and marketing.
I’m scared to calculate what I’ve invested in my business education.
And yet, it’s really just been a few important moments of “pointing out instructions” that have had the biggest impact on my copywriting ability.
— A call with Ken McCarthy very early in my copywriting career, discussing a draft of a landing page I wrote for him.
— A copy review with Katie Yeakle, where she patiently explained that I was saying too much for good sales copy, and could do more by saying less.
— A review with Mark Ford (then known as Michael Masterson) where he showed me how to make my first-page copy tighter, punchier, more emotional.
— A conversation with David Galland where he revealed how I sowed the seeds of doubt against my own sales message with the occasional “negative thought packet.”
— Marathon, 3-way copy read-throughs with Jedd Canty and Henry Bingaman, rewriting copy on the fly, in pursuit of perfection.
— Bouncing copy platforms off Clayton Makepeace, then letting him work his magic on my first draft.
— Even the simple fax from Dan Kennedy, reviewing a draft of my Titans copy, giving 28 tiny tweaks to put a final polish on it.
… Plus, no doubt, many more impactful moments that I’m not remembering in the moment or giving justice to in my memory.
What’s consistent about all of this? Direct feedback.
Now, you can argue that any of the above are more or less “enlightened.” But what they all were was further along the path than I was, and able to light my way.
Not in some vague, put-it-in-a-program-and-sell-it way, but in a direct, 1-to-1 way that can’t be matched by any other learning mechanism.
While I knew how to write and communicate before all that, it was through these moments that I really learned how to persuade through my words.
Every single one of those mentorships — no matter how small — has led to the consistent offers of work I get today…
They’ve made me a better copywriter.
They’ve opened up my network.
They’ve raised my profile.
Which has created a feedback cycle, that’s continuing to pay off.
Heck, I even get the occasional referral from those people or others, who come to me out of those relationships.
You can never know how exactly seeking out direct mentorship will pay off. But it almost always will.
It may even lead to me passing some of that work your way.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,