It’s Monday — and that means it’s time for me to dig in the ol’ mailbox and see what kind of questions I can answer for YOU.
Remember, every Monday is Mailbox Monday. That’s when I answer YOUR biggest questions on business, copywriting, selling, marketing, life, and the universe. To get your question added to the queue — and answered here — email [email protected].
For today’s question we’re going to talk about picking copywriting niches — AND how to spot moneymaking opportunities everywhere!
Hi Roy, I have a question for you. By the way, we met briefly at Bootcamp last October, but I wouldn’t expect you to remember that. I’m new to AWAI and copywriting. I quit a corporate job about 3 years ago to invest in a gourmet chocolate business here in Austin with two friends. We are just now getting traction and seeing some success building, but no compensation for the owners yet (like me)…so, I need income. I’m following that dream to be a writer that I’ve had since high school. And I’m out of money…so I don’t have time to kill here. I’ve completed the 6-Figure course, about to launch my website, and feel really good about my writing skills.
My question is about picking a niche. This concept is front and center in every AWAI course for new copywriters, but it’s driving me nuts. I have lots of experience in real estate and mortgage services…but, after 20 years of doing that, I’m burned out. I have a Chemical Engineering degree…but haven’t practiced that in many years. Love to cook…is there money in copywriting for the food industry? I’m a big fan of Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, et al…so self-help is a possibility. But do we really need a niche?
I see successful copywriters doing big promos for all sorts of niches, and I know ‘controls’ and royalties are like the golden goose in copywriting. How does a new guy like me figure out where I fit into this multi-billion dollar industry called copywriting?
Thanks…and all the best to you.
Don, I’m going to do more than help you pick a niche — I’m going to show you moneymaking opportunities all over the place!
First, I want to address your question directly. Because it is a good one — and certainly common.
“Do we really need a niche?”
My very short answer to that is “Yes.”
But that lacks the nuance to make it maximally useful. So let’s pull it apart a little bit.
I’ve written about this before. I’m doing a webinar with AWAI on it again tomorrow.
One of the worst ways to conduct your copywriting business is to try to get business from anywhere and everywhere.
Imagine this for a moment.
You want to dig a hole 10 feet deep. Maybe you’re burying a box of gold.
What’s the fastest way to get a 10-foot-deep hole? Is it to dig a little bit here, and a little bit there, and a little bit over there, and some more over there? Or is it to pick a spot, focus on that one spot, and start digging?
Focus is rewarded with faster, better results.
The same thing applies to copywriting. If you focus on one area, two very important things happen. You understand the market in a way that makes each project easier. And you get a reputation among clients. Both of these lead to better results, both for you and for clients.
That said, you also benefit early in your copywriting career from getting as much experience as you can, as fast as possible. So if you need to, you can spend a little bit of time pursuing every opportunity you find, just for the sake of getting the experience.
But that’s a very short term strategy. You do want to settle into a niche or three pretty quickly.
That last point is important though. You’re not confined to ONE niche. And if you’re ADHD like me, you will actually have a worse time if you try to stick to one subject area. But if you have two or three subject areas that you have some kind of advantage in (experience, interest), you could establish yourself in these limited niches and have pretty much the same advantages as if you only picked one. And further, cross-pollination of ideas from niche to niche could could actually lead to this approach yielding bigger breakthroughs.
Let’s talk about picking niches — using your experience plus general principles…
First off, there are a few things you might want to look for, that dramatically influence your ability to get money as a copywriter or consultant.
First, what kind of margin and transaction size do businesses in the niche have?
I’ve always liked publishing because the margins are relatively huge, compared to just about any other business out there. Also, many publishers offer high-end back-end products that will earn the client thousands of dollars at a pop, and me a percentage of that.
Other businesses may have smaller margins, but much bigger transaction sizes. Real Estate and Mortgage Services are good examples of that. They are dealing with a lot of money moving around, but most of that doesn’t go to the people facilitating the transaction.
That said, their commissions are not tiny either. And if you can drive significant volume in these businesses, you do stand to make a nice income. (There are a lot of marketing consultants, copywriters, and others who have either provided done-for-you and/or marketing information to these niches, and done very well — they are worth research and study.)
Second, a note about feeling burnt out on a niche…
I feel your pain. But it may not be the end of the world. Take the real estate agent who was burned out on all the “requirements” of the job — getting listings, hosting open houses, schlepping buyers all over town to look at a million houses, etc. So he decided to change it completely. He wrote down all the things he liked about his job, and all the things he didn’t. Then, he found a way to keep all the things he liked, while getting rid of all the things he didn’t.
How? He switched his business to dealing 100% with investment properties. 9-to-5 schedule. Buying decisions based on math. Working consistently with a handful of sophisticated, like-minded clients. Maybe you would benefit from simply looking at things in a new way.
Third, consider their past behavior in spending money on advertising.
The easiest clients to get to hire you as a “copywriter” are those who regularly hire copywriters. When you go to a big direct response publisher (often in the financial or health fields), they know they need a copywriter. They value copywriters. And so they will pay you well.
Other potentially good clients can’t tell a copywriter from a copyrighter, but they still do a lot of advertisement. They need leads, and they need new customers. They also want their past customers to come back and do business with them again. And they regularly spend on media — online, print, direct mail, etc. — to make those things happen. In their case, you don’t sell yourself as a “copywriter,” but rather as someone who drives leads, sales, new customers, and profits.
My gut is chemical engineering is going to — at best — fall into this latter category. There’s a lot of sales-related communication that goes out, but they don’t know what a copywriter is. That said, there’s a lot of money in chemistry. I once heard a quote from the founder of 5-Hour Energy, himself a chemist. The gist of it was, “I love a business where I can mix together a few cents worth of chemicals and sell it for a few dollars.”
Food is trickier. It’s a passion industry for many — with food bloggers galore who’d be more than happy to make a pittance to write about what they love. It’s not that there’s no opportunity here (try Omaha Steaks) — but you have to distinguish yourself in some way. Plus, the margins are smaller, so you’re going to need to favor high-end (restaurants, suppliers, etc.) over mass-market consumer foods.
Self-help is also interesting. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there, but it’s also an area where there are a lot of copywriters happy to do the projects at a low fee. Established copywriters can make a great income with the top dogs here, but I found I quickly reached the cap of what many self-help publishers were willing to pay.
Here’s my BIGGEST recommendation to you, something that I have long wanted to execute in a business I’m loosely connected to…
You say you’ve invested in a gourmet chocolate business that’s getting traction, but that is not yet paying you.
I’m guessing — long shot here — that you’re selling individual chocolates. Some direct, but mostly through merchants such as coffee shops, groceries, specialty stores, etc.
I have a “family” business that doesn’t sell chocolates, but does have a similar consumable product. And I haven’t done this with them, because I’m not part of the business and don’t want to push them. But if they made it a priority, I’m confident this would work because THEIR PRODUCT IS LOVED. (And I’m assuming yours is too — hence the traction.)
I don’t know the name of your chocolate business, but let’s say it’s Don’s Chocolates. On every package that went out, I’d put a mini advertisement. “Get a free chocolate bar: go to DonsChocolatesClub.com.”
I’d create a site there that was totally independent from any other site you have for the business. It would be a letter from you, about the chocolates.
Here’s roughly how it would start…
Get a free bar of Don’s Chocolates… Every month!
Dear fellow chocolate lover,
Some people hate chocolate — I don’t understand them. Others like chocolate — they’re tolerable, in small doses.
But folks like you and me — we LOVE chocolate.
I love chocolate so much, I helped start a gourmet chocolate business! And you’re probably at this website right now because you tried some of our chocolate — and you loved it, too!
Well, I’d like to send you a free bar of our chocolate, every month.
You see, I like to go above and beyond for our most dedicated, loyal chocolate lovers.
We’ve created a club where you can get 6 of our most delicious chocolate delicacies, delivered to your doorstep (packed on dry ice), every month of the year.
And right now, we’re offering inaugural memberships to Don’s Chocolates Club, where your membership comes with a free bar of chocolate… Every month!
That’s right… Instead of SIX… YOU get SEVEN bars of delicious chocolate (or truffles, or ______, or ______) delivered to you.
Not only that, members of the club are getting EXCLUSIVE never-to-be-sold-in-stores items direct from our chocolatier’s kitchen, to you.
Plus, you’re paying AT LEAST 40% less per item than you would for the items sold in stores. (And if, by chance, our six scrumptious treats don’t work out to at least a 40% savings, we’ll throw in a BONUS BONUS on top of your seventh!)
You’ll be part of an exclusive club, getting our very best chocolate concoctions every month, so you can feel fulfilled in your love of chocolate.
And as a Club member, you have a very special role in helping us fulfill our mission of creating amazing chocolate experiences for you…
… You get the point. This is a HUGE income opportunity for a one-off food products that rely on multiple other parties (distributors, retailers) to get their product to customers, who each take a cut. It gets you steady, recurring revenue, at higher margins (even with a discount) than you would get going through normal channels.
And, as the Club grows, it’s more reliable income for you. Deliver a good product, and your attrition will be small. Every added Club member will be more reliable revenue for months or years on end. And you’ll be doing it at almost ZERO advertising cost, as you’re just modifying the wrapper of products that are already selling.
As I said, I have an business in the extended family that I’d LOVE to do this with. I’m not going to push it on them, because they didn’t come to me looking for advice. But you did, and I see this as your biggest opportunity.
A final thought about niches, and this recommendation…
Copywriting is a GREAT career choice. You can work from home, have total flexibility, and have the potential for a really good income.
And yet, even “The World’s Greatest Living Copywriter” retired from copywriting, and started an “olive oil of the month” club.
If you want a good income from copywriting, it does pay to pick a niche. And — on top of the considerations above — you’re better picking a niche you understand that you can hit the ground running, than one where you have to learn it cold.
And yet, the income opportunities from copywriting extend well beyond the job of copywriting.
If you can take a look at your situation and see an opportunity where you can be your own client, come up with your own offers, do your own testing, and build your own business, you may find that opportunity for using your newfound copywriting skills is infinitely more attractive.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,