I just got off the phone with Cyndee Davis, a retired nurse and up-and-coming health copywriter, also one of my coaching clients…
I had one of my “a ha” moments this last weekend, about what I think is a huge and totally hidden opportunity for her to grow her copywriting business.
And with her permission, I’m going to use this idea as an example that could help YOU find and leverage hidden opportunity in YOUR copywriting business… OR if you’re not a copywriter but interested in growing ANY business, there’s certainly lessons to be had.
Before I dive in, three important points of business…
— Correction #1: In my article Friday about Will Smith revealing his biggest success secrets, I made an error. Thankfully I have an awesome neighbor with real Hollywood experience (he wrote for South Park, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and others) to correct my errant ways. Will Smith didn’t just choose action movies — he chose SCI-FI action movies. Seems trivial to some, but I’m certain that precision has made tens of millions in difference in The Fresh Prince’s career! By the way, if you ever have any need or desire for a gong, singing bowl, or other related percussion instrument, check out my neighbor’s biz, Gongs Unlimited. Thanks Andrew!
— Correction #2: In my article yesterday on publishing on your own blog or website versus LinkedIn or another platform, I mistakenly referred to WordPress’s hosted platform as WordPress.org. That’s incorrect. You get a hosted blog at WordPress.com. Thanks to watch and gear copywriter extraordinaire Ed Estlow for bringing that one to my attention.
— Finally, NOT a mistake, but a success story! Jackie Johnson was one of the copywriters who came to my private workshop last November. As part of the deal, she got two copy reviews from me. She just got word back on the first copy that I reviewed with her — on a really interesting product that spans business opportunity AND travel. The client tested it… And… IT BEAT THE CONTROL! Apparently it more than DOUBLED the response… Congrats Jackie!
(The $500 I charge for a copy review is a bargain, if you beat the control and get more royalties as a result. The $1,750 I charge to “copy chief” your project beginning to end is also a steal. Especially because I don’t just tell you what to do in a specific situation… But give you takeaway “why” lessons you’ll be using on every piece of copy you write in the future. Interested? Email [email protected].)
Alright, let’s dive in and look at how to find and leverage hidden opportunities…
Like I said, I had an “a ha” moment this weekend.
When you’re looking for opportunities, these come ALL THE TIME. So often that you have to get good at filtering them, or you end up in fractured attention hell.
(I know some people think that’s a very strong word, and I don’t use it often, but when I use it, I mean it.)
But this was one of those opportunities that was not for me, but for my coaching client/student, Cyndee Davis. So it’s a road I can send HER down, instead of me! (Mwah ha ha ha ha ha!)
But I do really think it’s a good one…
Like many folks in copywriting, Cyndee has been looking to make her name in one of the big direct marketing niches…
In her case, health.
I hooked her up with a major publisher in the space, and have been working with her on a MAJOR promo that I think has a very strong likelihood of knocking off a longstanding and very profitable control, by a top copywriter. (She has a secret weapon on this project that the top copywriter could NEVER match, and I helped her find it and use it.)
But also like many folks in copywriting, she’s finding that breaking into direct response is a long, hard climb…
When she was asked, “Can you write a letter like this one?” she answered “Yes!” but didn’t realize that with some clients the “Yes!” only came after seemingly endless rounds of revision, tweaking, perfecting, polishing, and so on…
Direct response can be HARD.
Writing for the bigger, more established companies can be REALLY HARD.
Rewarding, yes. Worth it, absolutely (especially in the long run).
But also, tiring…
And with the size of some of these projects, the payoff can take a while to come.
Cyndee also has another area of expertise, where she initially built her copywriting skills and business…
And this is where my realization came from.
You see, Cyndee recognized, like I did in my own career, that she couldn’t necessarily start at ZERO and instantly compete at the highest levels of direct response, racing at 100 MPH against copywriters with decades’ experience.
And so, rather than going straight to the Indy 500 of direct response, she decided to find some dirt track racing in another niche… (Is my metaphor growing tired yet?)
Mental health professionals…
And so in the four or so years as a copywriter before she started coaching with me and taking on the direct response world, she built a successful little copywriting business helping mental health professionals build their practices. Website work, other marketing communication as needed, and so on.
Even though she was successful there, there was a limit. Mental health professionals are almost all paid by the hour. There’s no income leverage. At best, she’s going to fill their schedules, then they’re going to be turning away patients and her marketing isn’t creating any more revenue for them.
And while some make more than others, there’s a limit to their budgets. They usually don’t spend that much on marketing. Many are kind of anti-marketing.
And so her income from that niche was limited — no matter how effective her copy was!
That also added to her desire to establish herself in direct response.
Now here are the dots I connected for Cyndee…
My wife is also a mental health professional — a licensed psychologist. And so I have the advantage of knowing that niche well.
And I was noticing for the umpteenth time that we got another advertisement for another training program in the mail.
You see, psychologists, like many licensed professionals, have a requirement for ongoing training. “Continuing Education” is the official term. If they want to keep their license, they’re required to complete a certain amount of training every year.
Because of this legal requirement for them to stay in business and practicing their profession, there’s a whole huge industry that’s sprung up. Companies that specialize in providing this training that fulfills the continuing education requirement.
And, like in any industry, there are some that are horrible marketers, a bunch that are average marketers, and a few that are really good marketers.
But by and large this is a niche — like so many out there — that is mostly ignored by copywriting trainees. We’re shown the opportunity with the big direct response companies, so we flock to them like sheep (me included).
Most of the good marketers in this niche are only good marketers because the owners of the business themselves have gone through various marketing or copywriting training, and are doing the important heavy lifting themselves.
For these owners, as well as the bigger companies in the space that have established marketing departments, it wouldn’t hurt to have an outside copywriter available that could be trusted to do some of the writing…
Perhaps someone with training in direct response AND mental health, someone with a history of selling professional services to mental health professionals?
And so I recommended this to Cyndee.
Together, we found a list of authorized continuing education providers in the niche, put out by one of the leading industry organizations. (They make this easy to find for their members, who need to take the training.)
And we discussed a process — inspired by Bob Bly’s book Secrets Of A Freelance Writer — for approaching them to offer copywriting services. (I’ve written about this process before in my post Breaking Into A Non Direct Response Niche so I’m not going to repeat the process here.)
I also recommended Bob’s fee schedule (in the book linked above) as a good guide for setting fees for all the little types of projects that she might get from these companies.
I see this taking Cyndee down one of two paths, either of which are appealing for an early-career copywriter…
In addition to the direct response work, Cyndee still does get a lot of work in the mental health niche, and continues to successfully help clients build their practices there.
But switching to the continuing education companies has a HUGE advantage. Especially when it comes to the publishers in the niche (versus live training facilities). They’re LEVERAGED. A published product (or online course) can be reproduced as many times as needed to fit demand. Versus a one-on-one service that’s limited to the hours in the day. So if Cyndee is good here, she can justify much higher fees than she can to the individual mental health professionals.
And so the first path this could take her down is that it makes a great fill-in-the-gaps opportunity as she continues to build her direct response career. Strong cash flow, interesting opportunities, the chance to continue to build her skills and successes on new projects, and potentially a ton of work in an under-served niche. She could continue to take on these projects, stay busy, and keep strong income coming in while she also is establishing herself in the health direct response market.
Or the second path this could take her down is this could become a full-time thing. She may be surprised by the opportunity here. Like I said, this is a pretty big market — every psychologist (like doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other professionals) has to go through these training programs every year. There’s new training being created all the time. All of it needs marketing. Even a handful of clients could happily keep her busy full-time. And the pressure is not so high as compared to the big direct response niches. She may find it’s an easier route to making a significant income through copywriting.
I’ve gone long, so I’m going to wrap up quickly.
First, always be on the lookout for opportunities. They’re more numerous than you might expect. And often, staring you right in the face, waiting for you to see them. The right ones are worth taking a left turn for.
Second, find a market where they HAVE TO buy your product. Or, where they have to buy your client’s product, if you’re a consultant or copywriter. There’s an enormous amount of opportunity in mandated products (especially training).
Third, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Now that we identified this niche, Cyndee can use some Freelance Copywriting Business 101 approaches to test it. Find the potential clients. See if they need copywriting services. And figure out what you need to do to get in their Rolodex of people to call. Make sure you know what market rates are to charge, and you can build from there.
Cyndee’s going to be a rock star at this. She knows the market already, through from a different angle. She knows copywriting, and will be able to apply the same skills here. A few hours of research, and she’ll know as much about this specific subsection of the niche as 99% of other marketing consultants who might approach these clients.
It has opportunity written all over it.
What opportunity staring YOU in the face, waiting for YOU to see it? Open your eyes, and you might just find a breakthrough!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets