Whew! What a week!
For all the NEW subscribers who came in over the last week, and who’ve been thinking, “I thought I signed up for a daily email — where’s it at?” … I took the week off in preparation for and during my Advanced Direct Response Copywriting Workshop last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday here in Lincoln, Nebraska.
And for all my faithful and engaged readers who open every email as soon as it lands in your inbox, I’ve missed you! It was a bit of a painful decision to take off last week from writing these daily emails (and leave you in the dark!), but it was definitely the right decision.
It gave me just the right amount of head space leading up to the workshop, and the ability to fully focus myself of making it a HUGE success for the copywriters in attendance… As well as, eventually, those of you who decide to experience it at home through the recordings.
Speaking of attendees, here’s the now close-knit group of copywriters who braved Polar Vortex 2.0 hitting Nebraska hard, with sub-freezing temperatures and our first snow of the year…
That picture was taken at our paired wine and Indian food dinner in The Cellar at The Oven that we enjoyed together on Thursday night. The Cellar is Nebraska’s TOP wine cellar, being the only cellar in Nebraska that’s earned Wine Spectator magazine’s Best Award of Excellence. They’ve earned this honor three years in a row — and last year shared it with only 882 other restaurant wine cellars from 80 countries around the world. It’s a prestigious honor in the wine world (topped only by 74 cellars around the world that have earned a Grand Award). And I’m fortunate that an old friend of mine — Charles Ludwig — is now Sommelier at The Cellar, and steward of this decades-old collection. His food and wine choices were top-class, and gave us improbable pairings of, for example, Eastern-European wines with Indian entrees. A delicious experience!
Before we get into today’s Mailbox Monday issue (which is an exciting one for me!), I want to share the feedback of one of my workshop attendees.
Your sales letter (which I found so compelling) started in a way that, at the time, I had to question: “I’m fed up.”
Little did I realize then that I, too, should have been mightily “fed up.”
Tired of and badly-served by the clichés, the so-called beginner information that sends you galloping off in a wrong direction…and the general mystification of what needs to be a straight-forward craft…not ready to give up but certainly frustrated …
You cleared the fog for me.
Your training has put me on course to make that leap, from superficially-informed ‘beginner’ to working copywriter with an understanding of this business – how it works, why it works, what it needs. This is just another way of saying “what prospects need and respond to and, by definition, what clients want and need.”
Before your workshop, I was stuck – confronted by specs with a vague understanding of how to tackle them and win. Now, I have the tools to do the work to win.
Surely, in making this an advanced content workshop, you reduced the number of bums in chairs – and your revenue for this workshop. A brave decision, which I applaud. Like you, I think in the long run this will serve you well – it certainly will serve me and IMO everyone there well – and will be a gift to those smart enough to invest in the CD or DVD version you will soon offer.
Perhaps at another time you will choose to offer a ‘beginner’ level workshop that does set people on the right path from (almost) the start…but I am so grateful that THIS time, you didn’t.
I can’t thank you enough, Roy … but will strive to do that, and also, as you demonstrated … pass along help and support to others who need what you are teaching. If you need a further word testimonial…or anything else…just ask. Or, in that old-fashioned expression, I am at your service.
Wealth & Health Copywriter
I honestly had no clue what would happen.
Yes, I’d done my prep work to distill my last decade or so experience into notes for what to talk about. I’d done my best to systematize everything that’s now becoming automatic for me in writing winning copy. I’d put tremendous effort into integrating the best lessons of all the giants of our industry whose shoulders I’ve stood on — both giving them credit where due and bringing my own fresh perspective and interpretations.
But then, standing there, at 8 AM on Thursday morning, I had what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind.” I sought to come at the material fresh and without too much expectation of what would happen. Without biases or agendas or anything that would get in the way of opening up for attendees.
And by the time I was interviewing attendees on camera on Saturday afternoon about their thoughts and takeaways, it was clear I’d delivered on everything I’d hoped to (and promised) and more.
Some of it even blew me away! (There were a couple moments where I gave myself chills!)
I can’t wait to share.
But in the mean time, my word count is rising and I haven’t even gotten to the main topic — our Mailbox Monday question.
So without any better transition, let’s get moving!
The following is an edited email conversation I had with Marc Aarons — a copywriter and web guy worth watching that I first met at Titans. The email exchange below occurred with the understanding it would eventually be shared with you. Plus I’ve added a few more thoughts to the end.
By the time you’re done reading this, you will know BOTH how I’ve managed to raise my own rates by more than 500% in under 5 years, AND how you can start earning more for your services starting pretty much immediately!
… Plus a few other great lessons!
Here’s our first exchange…
How did you know it was time to raise your rates at the various points you did in your copy career? While I searched the blog to see if you already wrote about this, I might have missed it (love the freelance feast and famine strategy by the way).
My short answer to your question about raising rates is that I just go with my gut feeling.
One time, I simply got offered a higher rate than I’d been charging up to that point. So from that point forward, that was my new rate.
Another time, I’d managed to get a monthly retainer for an even higher rate. And so when I was coming off of that, I use that as my price justification for charging a higher rate.
One thing I caution you against, is being too afraid of high rates. One time a business I was working for spent six figures with an ad agency to get a very short video for their home page, a new logo, and some designs that never really ended up being used.
If you can show proven results that more than pay for your rate, that higher rate is pretty easy to justify compared to that.
Also, I would work very hard to ensure you are earning royalties or results-based income above and beyond the fee you charge.
Anymore, I’d rather have a high royalty and a lower fee than a high fee. If the client does their job and makes sure my marketing is well circulated, this is a much better recipe for higher income than simply charging higher fees.
That initial exchange led to another more nuanced question…
How do you structure a year-long proposal that still leaves room for increasing rates based on results?
I have a request for proposal from a prospective client. However, I’m hesitant to quote for the year and then to outgrow the rate well before the year’s end. My thoughts are to include a clause to quote a rate for the 1st quarter but then to revisit the “numbers” at end of the 1st quarter based on results provided.
How would you approach this?
Well now that’s a completely different question — and now you’re just lookin’ for more good advice!
The real answer to your question is a pay for performance clause in the contract.
It can be a performance bonus, based on lead numbers or revenue benchmarks. (This is generally the most palatable to clients who are not used to paying these things — and a relatively easy sell.)
It can be a royalty on revenue generated. (Mine is typically 5%.)
It can be a percentage of new profits. (This should be a much bigger percentage and “profits” should be very clearly defined — you don’t want your share calculated after the cost of the corporate jet is factored in. A good measure is revenue minus refunds and cost of goods sold, or revenue minus refunds, marketing cost, and cost of goods sold.)
It can be structured in a dozen or more ways…
But the crux of it is that you’re going to get paid to show up and do the work, and that’s a reasonable but minimal fee to cover your time and energy. But when you help this client hit their business goals, you’re going to get a piece of the action for your role in that.
This eliminates awkward renegotiations, etc. And it earns you more money as you get them better results.
And here’s the thing. Your goal should be to make far more as a performance bonus than you can ever imagine charging them as a fee.
If they insist on a flat fee, I wouldn’t work with them. But if you choose to, I think you’ve come up with a fine solution. Set quarterly dates throughout the year where the contract is subject to renegotiation based on results generated. And if you can’t come to an agreement within a certain number of days from each of those dates, the agreement becomes null.
If there’s one thing I’ve regretted most about the long-term contracts I’ve been in since I’ve become a freelancer, it’s been that there hasn’t been a clear exit path built in from the beginning. One started to blow up over a year after it started. Another was just a non-starter. And I wish I’d been more clear in both cases about how it could be ended, at the very beginning. If this is a new client, I’d be really hesitant to go into a full one-year deal with them without clear exits before that year is up. The worst thing that could happen is to have the first month be hell, then realize you’ve got 11 more months of that.
That conversation could have gone on a lot deeper, but you can start to get a good idea of how I think of fees and compensation from that.
First off, don’t be afraid of high fees.
YES, if you’re selling results, you should be reasonably good at delivering results that justify your high fees. You won’t win every time — there will be some projects where the marketing fails and that’s just the nature of direct marketing.
But if your average client makes, let’s say, $100,000 as a result of using your marketing (small for most okay copywriters with good clients and a good offer), a $5,000 fee (medium for most okay copywriters) or even a $10,000 fee (big for most okay copywriters) may be worth it to them. And if you’re able to generate $1 million or more for your clients, even paying you $100,000 is like buying money at a discount.
Second, the best way to get paid what you’re worth is through royalties or performance compensation.
Take the example above of the client who you make $1 million for. If you ask them up front to pay you $100,000 to write a 24-page sales letter and a handful of supporting pieces of copy, they’re going to look at you like you’re cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But a $10,000 advance or fee plus a 10% royalty may feel a little high but be well within the ballpark for most clients — particularly if you bring some sort of personal X-factor to the table.
And if you want to make way more than that, pretty much the only way is to get paid a portion of your results.
Third, be wary of ongoing contracts without a clear exit clause.
It’s like getting married and signing a prenuptial agreement. Nobody wants to do it. Nobody wants to believe their marriage will go south. But then you run into a situation like the $16 billion energy mogul who had to pay a $1 billion divorce settlement last week. I don’t know anything about him or his wife, but I’m sure he’s wishing there was a clear exit clause to his marriage contract.
The worst situation in your career is to end up somewhere that you want to get out of, without a clear path for getting out. So if you’re going to get into anything long-term or especially ongoing without a definite end, make sure there’s a clear way out if the relationship sours or something happens where the marketing just isn’t working.
Trust me on this — it’s better for everyone to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!
ONE LAST POINT of business on the workshop recordings/DVDs!
I DID have my Advanced Direct Response Copywriting Workshop recorded. The recordings will be available for sale… Eventually! However, between now and then, there is a ton of editing that needs to happen, AND I have some client work I have to pay attention to for a while (plus my coaching clients!).
What this means is that if you’re waiting for the DVDs, you may have to wait a while.
I have an idea though that might get you the best of both worlds. Don’t know if I’m going to do it yet, but it’s an idea I’m toying with.
I’d prefer to have DVD buyers help me prepay for the editing process. And so if you KNOW you want the recordings of the workshop, you may be able to help me in exchange for a slightly better deal on the recordings.
Here’s how it would work. You reply to this email and let me know you’re interested (only if you’re serious!). If I move forward with this offer, you’ll have to prepay — though I’ll give you a date of delivery to expect. When I have rough AUDIO edits of the workshop, you’ll be able to download them plus the PDFs of the workshop material.
And then when the DVDs do come out, you’ll get those shipped to you (probably 11 of them — it’s 22 hours of content!) plus the hard-copy versions of the 500+ pages of workbooks.
Just to restate: You get the audio downloads plus PDFs long before any of it is officially released publicly, and the full package when it’s available. (You will have a full year to look at it too, and make sure you LOVE it — or get a prompt and courteous full refund. So there’s nothing to lose!)
Again, reply to this email, let me know you want it. This may be the only time I ever make this offer publicly to get the DVDs for anything less than full retail.
The attendees who were there have already written me to let me know it’s changing their approach to copywriting TODAY. The longer you wait to put this content to work, the more breakthrough results you’ll be missing out on.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets