It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — which means I answer YOUR questions!

Today’s a bit of a different Monday for me.  My oldest is at home all day.  It’s President’s Day, which means school is out and the mail won’t be delivered — but just about everything else in the world is expected to go on as normal.

And…  Being a work-at-home parent, that means that at least the oldest (who is in elementary school, not preschool) gets to hang out while I do my stuff.

So, that said, I’m going to dive into today’s question, and try to crank out a high-value answer for you.

Remember: to get YOUR question answered on copywriting, marketing, business, selling, life, whatever…  Just send it through to [email protected], and I’ll add it to the queue.

On to today’s question…

Hi Roy,

In December 2015, my very first health letter beat my client’s control by 42.42%.

My client is ***************.  [Ed. Note: Name removed for privacy.]

My question is: Is there a database or a place where I can find the contacts of other health marketers, so I offer to write windfall letters for them too?

Then, once I know these companies — how do I approach them?

Do I just send them an email selling me?

And if so, which email should I send it to?

Do I reply to their promotional emails?

Do I send it to a contact email they’ve put ?o?n their website?

This may be a very silly question, but there you g?o.?

Kind regards,


First off, Alex — CONGRATULATIONS!

It’s a huge step toward becoming a successful direct response copywriter when you beat your first control.

That — above all else — is the measure of a copywriter’s skill.  Can you write a sales letter or promotion that performs better than what the client was previously using?

We can study copywriting all we want.  We can copy winning ads by hand.  We can write assignments for imaginary products or services, pretending we’ve got a gig to sell them.

We can even write a bunch of copy meant more to communicate more than to sell, getting a bunch of pats on the back and generous checks from clients.

But until we write copy meant to spur the prospect to action, put it in front of them, and get them to take that desired action — at a higher rate than the copy that came before ours — we can’t really call ourselves a direct response copywriter.

Alex, you’ve broken down that first barrier, and that’s a cause to celebrate!

Now, here’s what you need to know to turn that into even more success…

Where do you find other marketers who might hire you as a copywriter?

My first reaction here, because you just had success with that client, is to go back to them and ask them for another gig. 

One of my earliest financial clients snatched me up and gave me a perpetual retainer as long as I’d write exclusively for them.  I wrote a ton of copy for them, including my first million-dollar promo.

Once you’ve written for a client once, you actually have a huge advantage.  You know their products better, you know their style better, you know their systems better.  If they’re a good client, you may want to look for more projects from them, if not steady work.  Early in your career, this consistency with one client can be a great “earn while you learn” experience and shouldn’t be written off.

This, of course, assumes that they liked working with you — as long as you’re not a pain in the neck, those results may warrant more work coming your way.

Second, look to closely-connected businesses to that client.

Here’s a secret you can use with most bigger direct response businesses, to find at least a handful of clients just like them.

Sign up for their emails, and watch what you get.  What you’re looking for is not just the marketing they send out for their own products, but the marketing that promotes others’.

Sometimes it’ll be a joint venture deal, where there’s a link inside your client’s email to a complimentary promotion from another company.  Other times, it’s more of a sponsored email thing, where your client is the one sending it out, but the email content comes from another company.  In both cases, what you’re seeing is another company who wants to have their products in front of that client’s customer base — and a good potential client for you.

Start keeping track of all of these companies, and signing up for their email lists to look for the same thing there.

Look at the type of marketing you’re getting from the different companies, and narrow your list of potential clients down to the ones already using marketing like you want to create (for me, long-form emotional direct response copy).

Third, you can look to events like the AWAI Bootcamp and Job Fair for lists of clients in a handful of industries including health…

This is one of the biggest reasons I’m there nearly every year.  Not for the sessions — although those are good, too.  But because the kind of clients I want to work with go to look for copywriters.

For AWAI in particular though, you don’t have to be there to get at least some benefit out of who they bring together for the job fair.

As part of selling you on attending the event, they list the Job Fair exhibitors on their website, every year.  That means if you’re looking for a bunch of marketers in a particular industry who are hiring direct response copywriters, you can actually go to the Bootcamp information site and look at their list.

Further, if you buy the “at home” Bootcamp recordings, the often come with spec assignments and contact information for the different marketers, so you can see what they want and how to get a hold of them.

In general, I’ve found live events to be a great place to meet clients.  They tend to offer a lot of opportunities for casual conversations, during which you’re invariably asked about what it is you do, and how you can help clients.  A lot of successful, ambitious marketers attend these events — many on the lookout for copywriters.  If you can get there, be there — I’ve always found them helpful for my copywriting business.

Now for what can be a trickier question…

Who do I need to be speaking with at these companies?

Once you’ve started to develop a list of companies you’d like to work with, your job is just started, and nowhere near done.

Now you need to find out who you need to get in contact with to make that happen.

Generally, the LAST person you’d want to get in contact with is the face of the company.  The exception is much smaller companies, usually less than $5 million in size.

But when a direct marketing company gains any momentum, usually there’s a marketing director or copy chief, or someone with a similar leadership title that gets assigned the day-to-day management of the copywriters.

Sometimes this is obvious.  If their role is “copy chief” usually that’s a good sign.

But for the most part, you don’t know.  And it can take some detective work to find out.

The single-best way to figure this out, something Bob Bly has taught regularly, is to simply pick up the dang phone and make a phone call or two.

I know we’re writers and all, and we do that so we can hide behind the keyboard all day, but bear with me…

Here’s how this works.  You call the office number of the business.  Try to avoid something listed as a customer service number, because sometimes that goes to an outside call center.  Make sure when the person answers that you’re speaking with someone in their main office.  (The words “main office” can work even for a single-office business, but are a great way for a call center to know you don’t want to be talking to them.)

Once you know you’ve got the main office, you can ask for a “marketing manager” or some other generic mid-level title in marketing.  You don’t have to go straight for the top, as this will often unnecessarily impede your call if you’re working with a successful company — they often put up roadblocks in front of people looking to connect with the head honchos.

Once they patch you through to whatever schmuck in marketing they’ve pegged for random phone calls, you be really nice to them.  Legitimately, not in the “I’m only being nice to get something from you” way.  Be completely honest.  Tell them you’re a freelance copywriter, and you think you might be a good fit for writing for them.  Tell them you don’t really want anything from them, but you’d like to know who it is in their business that works with copywriters.  Will they give you this person’s email address, so you can get a hold of them and maybe schedule a phone call?

First, you may be surprised and thankful you were nice to this person, because they may be your contact.  Second, your being nice may pay off because they’ll think, “What’s the harm?” and give you the email address, noting to themselves how respectful you were of the person’s time by saying you’d schedule a call.

Then, you thank the person you just spoke with, and make sure you record the name and contact info wherever you’re tracking all these potential clients.

While there are a ton of different ways to try to reach out to folks, including LinkedIn, cold email, and all that, this is definitely the best way to get the highest-quality contacts.

Which leads us to…

What’s the best way to approach them?

In direct response, you already know the magic word: “Control.”

As soon as you have written controls, you’re suddenly in much more demand as a copywriter.

But before I tell you how to present that to them, remember this…

They need you as much as you need them.  A successful direct response marketer is on constant watch for their next good copywriter.  They usually have more potential copy to be written than they are able to produce, and have immediate need for more.  And even if they don’t have immediate need, they’re looking for the next great copywriter for when they have a window to squeeze them in.

Here, you have a couple options.

The first, I’d recommend (at least at this stage in your career), is to reach out with a simple note…

Hi, I’m a freelance copywriter and I just wrote a control for another company in your space.  I’d love to get on the phone and chat with you to see if we might have a fit.

Second, you can dig a little deeper with this first touch…

Hi, I’m a freelance copywriter and I just wrote a control for another company in your space.

I was wondering:

  1. Do you ever work with freelance copywriters?
  2. What would it take to consider me for an upcoming project?

These are probably a little simpler than I would normally write them, and I’d encourage you to make them your own, but they get the point across.

Send out 5 of these emails, you’re likely to get at least passing interest from 2 clients.

Follow up with a kind nudge with the rest, and you’ll likely eventually get at least a pulse from 4 of 5.

This isn’t that hard.  Once you’ve figured out the right company, and the right contact, you really shouldn’t work that hard to go after them.  It conveys the wrong message.

Simply put yourself on their radar using that magic word of “control” and express interest in them.  From there, you can tease a bit but mostly you want them to come for you.

Then it’s a numbers game.  Some clients will never want you.  Some will want you, just not now.  And a few might want to try you right away.  The key is to get a gig with the ones who want you right away, and stay on the radar of everybody else so that when they do want you, they will think of you first.

I know this is a bit vague, but this is the process I’ve consistently followed and it works very well…

The thing about copywriting is if you can write controls, you really hurt yourself by selling hard.  And if you sell hard, clients will assume you probably don’t write too many controls.

It’s not necessarily how things should be, but I’ve found it’s how they are.

So the process above works very well as you get your first few controls under your belt, establish yourself in the field, and start to build a reputation that will bring work to you (instead of you having to chase it).

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr