Hello and welcome to Mailbox Monday!
Today’s the day where I answer YOUR questions on business, marketing, selling, the works…
All you gotta do to get yours answered in an upcoming issue of Mailbox Monday is send it right over to Roy@RoyFurr.com. I’ll throw you in the queue and provide you my best answer!
Now on to today’s issue, which is a pretty common one among newer copywriters looking to tap into the riches promised when they signed onto this copywriting journey.
It’s about how to get the big fees for your copywriting… (And I think this is going to be one of those where I’m going to have to pull no punches!)
New subscriber here. Thanks for the insight you provide in your emails.
Biggest question on my mind is how to convince a potential client to pay me $5,000+ when I don’t have a “winning” track record.
I started learning and then practicing direct response copywriting in early 2013. I have spent the past year partnering with a chiropractor on an online business venture. After a year of producing my end of the bargain and him producing very little, I walked away and decide to freelance.
So I have no real “wins” yet.
I do have a glowing copy critique from Ray Edwards for a VSL I created for the chiropractor. It let me know I’m on the right path.
The point is I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I have what it takes to succeed in this business but how do I prove that to the potential client?
Thanks for your insight Roy!
It’s time to get ugly…
Okay, somehow that seems a little weird to say. It’s not really in my nature. I was a fairly timid kid in school, and never really got in any fights.
Heck, I played hockey for eight years, and never “got ugly” — at least, never got in a fight. I played defense and I’d push the opposing players to the point of breaking, where THEY would try to start a fight… And land them in the penalty box for it. But in eight years of playing hockey, I never actually threw down gloves.
Anyway, maybe the appropriate saying is, “It’s time to get serious…”
Because in hockey and dishing out copywriting career advice, I can certainly get serious!
Here’s what you need to know about “getting the big fees” as a copywriter…
The core question here was around…
“How to convince a potential client to pay me $5,000+ when I don’t have a “winning” track record.”
And the bad news is, YOU DON’T!
It doesn’t matter who has reviewed your copy and said they like it. (And I like and respect Ray!)
It doesn’t matter if you know you have what it takes to succeed.
It doesn’t matter if your mom likes you, either!
None of that matters.
What matters is your “risk profile…”
I’ll get to what that means in a moment, but first…
I’ve referenced the Cracked.com article 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person before. I have a Google Calendar reminder that comes out on the first of the month, every month, that reminds me to read it. (There’s a lesson in that.)
And I want to cite some of its (harsh) truths here as context for my answer.
“The world only cares about what it can get from you.”
Clients don’t want to pay you $5,000 — no matter what good you’d do in your life or the life of others with the money. They want you to write copy that will generate profits.
Yes, YOU want $5,000 per project. And you’ve figured out that’s what you need based on whatever idea you have about what you think your income should be.
But what you think SHOULD be real and what the client is willing to make real are two different realities. And, well, only the second one is an accurate reality.
“The hippies were wrong.”
Okay, that’s shorthand for, “It’s not about good feelings, it’s about results.”
Or, “Coffee is for closers.”
“What you produce does not have to make money, but it does have to benefit people.”
To show that he’s not a total heartless SOB, Cracked.com editor David Wong threw this one in there. And he’s right. There are many different reasons people will assign value to what you do.
But we’re talking business here, so let’s talk business. In copywriting — especially direct response copywriting — what you produce DOES have to make money. That’s how you’re measured. That’s how investing in your services is measured by the potential client.
And in their mind, they’re thinking, “Am I going to get a positive ROI from taking a flier on this newbie copywriter? Or am I going to lose money for giving them a chance?”
We’re getting to the whole risk profile thing, but I’m on a roll with this Cracked.com article, so I’m going to keep going.
“You hate yourself because you don’t do anything.”
Wow, that cuts to the chase.
This isn’t necessarily about YOU, Matthew, but it’s very real for people in your situation.
If you want to be the type of copywriter who gets paid $5,000 or more to write a sales letter, what are you doing, every day, to make that happen?
And what are you doing instead of what you know you should be doing, that’s holding you back?
I’m going to leave that one there…
“What you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do.”
Knowing you have what it takes to succeed doesn’t matter at all to clients. Showing it does. Showing it by going out there BEFORE you’re getting paid $5,000 per letter, and being worth that much, consistently.
We’ll talk more about that in a moment, after this last harsh truth.
“Everything inside you will fight improvement.”
Let me get transparent.
When I don’t want to work hard on a project, my mind goes straight for making music on my computer.
It’s my safe place. It’s the place where I can get lost for hours, and never have to think about doing the hard work, or making clients happy.
It’s my getaway.
But I’m not paid to make music. I’m paid to write copy and develop marketing strategies.
Doing music has turned into my way to hide from improvement. To fight against it.
I recognize it.
You have something like this too. And for most folks, it’s unconscious that you’re doing it.
It’s not something you’ll ever get away from. But it’s something you have to learn to manage.
Okay, about that “risk profile…”
A client agreeing to spend $5,000 for you to write a sales letter for them is a risk.
Specifically, they’re risking $5,000.
If you’re a fairly green copywriter without much of a track record (or none at all), it’s a lot like sitting down at the poker table in Vegas, and betting $5,000. Sure, they may be able to control the outcome of the hand by the way they play it. But if they’re putting $5,000 on the line, they’re going to get dealt a hand, and they could lose it all.
Hiring you (a green copywriter) is a high-risk activity.
It doesn’t matter how much book learnin’ you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how good you feel about your future.
None of that matters nearly as much as your proven ability to get results in a similar marketing situation.
Contrast this to the pro copywriter. This is a proven commodity.
This is maybe more like investing in $5,000 worth of merchandise to put into your high-traffic store in the leading shopping mall in town.
You’re almost guaranteed to make money. Sure, there are some risks. The style could be off-trend. The mall could suffer some disaster. You might only sell 80%, rather than 100% of the merchandise.
Even with the moderate risks, you’re likely to make every penny of your investment back, and then some. And there’s a chance you’re going to do much better than that.
That’s the “risk profile” spectrum…
Hiring a new copywriter with no track record is an almost total gamble, reliant on their skills and abilities and effort to ensure they get the best outcome possible.
Hiring a proven, veteran copywriter is an almost sure bet that’s extremely likely to result in positive ROI, may result in big profits, and will occasionally lead to a huge windfall.
You could sit down at the poker table and invest $5,000 per hand, 20 times in a row, and lose it all. (I recently heard through the grapevine of a company that had basically just done that, trying to beat a strong control.)
Or, you could consistently invest in the highest-probability wins, probably walk away at breakeven or better, and potentially walk away really, really rich.
All else being equal, most clients will opt for the “low-risk” copywriter…
That’s why the big guns have all the work they can handle, from here until kingdom come. Sure, they’ll occasionally have a little lull where they haven’t actively booked a client yet. But as soon as anybody catches wind of their availability, they’re booked again.
And this is why it’s so hard to go from “no experience” to “some experience” in copywriting or just about any other field.
Here’s how to make yourself a “low-risk” copywriter TODAY, and get paid what you’re worth (which could be a whole lot more than $5,000)…
You want a client to pay you $5,000 to write a single sales letter? Offer to write it for NOTHING — $0. And in exchange for writing it for nothing, you get to dictate a generous royalty.
Now, some clients’ definition of generous royalty is different than others, but for the purpose of our illustration, let’s say 5%.
So, you’re going to write this sales letter for $0. But starting with the first sale, you’re going to get $.05 for ever dollar it brings in.
That means the only thing you have to do to make $5,000 off this project is to write a sales letter that generates $100,000.
Then it’s EASY for them to write you a $5,000 check.
Oh, and if you write a sales letter than generates $500,000, you get $25,000 for a single sales letter. That number can keep going up and up.
And here’s what’s important…
Under this scenario, no matter how much you get paid, you’re getting paid EXACTLY what you’re worth!
The best way to get projects like this is through what I call an irresistible offer letter. This article tells the story of how I got my first freelance copywriting client that way. (There’s also more complimentary advice in
You can also structure you $5,000 payday on some other performance metric. Beating the control, a certain threshold of sales, whatever.
The key is that you’re taking on all the risk of the transaction.
Now, I know it takes guts to do this, and there are alternatives…
I did this approach ONE TIME — writing for nothing to get the ball rolling. Then, I started working for a lot less than $5,000 per letter, while I built up my portfolio and my track record. (I cringe at how little I got paid for how much work in those early days.)
If you’re fairly new to copywriting, expect to earn fees of less than $5k. $2-4k for a full sales letter is pretty common for new copywriters without much track record, depending on the industry.
If you can negotiate a royalty on top of that (or that fee can be an advance on royalties earned), that’s great. You get paid a minimum amount up front to cover basic living expenses, but you still have to deliver the results to earn your $5,000 or more.
Important: This is part of why I favor the bigger direct marketing companies. Smaller business CAN represent a bigger risk in getting your royalties (not always). The bigger ones have bigger lists to mail to, and better systems in place to ensure copywriters always get paid. But they also have a longer line of copywriters trying to write for them, and you have to work harder to stand out and probably expect lower up-front fees until you’re established.
I know this goes against a lot of what you’ve been told…
It’s easy to sell the idea of copywriting on the dream of instant riches. But the reality is you don’t pick up a guitar one day, and headline Madison Square Garden (or even your local pub) the next.
You have to practice. Which means playing (guitar or copywriting) a lot. You have to gain experience. You have to get a reputation. You have to build up to your success.
There’s not really any shortcuts.
You just have to do it.
And sometimes, early on, that involves doing whatever you need to do to get started and get rolling.
I know other (famous) copywriters have come out and said you don’t need to do all this. But I’ll issue this challenge…
Take their approach of just insisting on high fees, while you’re still a high-risk, green copywriter. See how many doors open for you, and how many projects you get.
Then take the approach I’ve just laid out here. See what kind of different results you get.
I’ll bet taking the road that requires smart, hard work wins every time.
The real way you earn what you’re worth is get results first, and get paid based on that. Royalties are how you literally get paid based on the value you generate for clients.
If you insist on earning fees though, don’t expect a lot of folks to take you up on $5,000 per project until you have samples of successful ads in their niche. And even then, it’s usually the more sophisticated clients who are willing and able to pay a copywriter that much (or a lot more) up front.
It’s not all roses, but this is the truth.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
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