“Retire this year, and still make as much money as most doctors…”
It was a STELLAR big idea, for Paul Hollingshead’s pitch for the AWAI Six-Figure Copywriting program.
In fact, I’ll bet most of my readers who are copywriters (whether pro or aspiring) owe at least some part of their introduction to copywriting to that sales letter.
The copywriting industry wouldn’t be what it is today without that letter, and without AWAI’s program.
But that letter has also raised a good question…
“How viable is copywriting as a retirement income source?”
Considering that I’m 37 and not retired, I can only do my best to answer it today.
However, I have enough experience in this industry that I have a pretty good idea…
So for today’s Mailbox Monday issue, I’ll be answering TWO reader questions that came in around this topic.
If you have a question about marketing, copywriting, business-building, direct response, client-getting, or similar topics, you can submit it here to have it answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday issue.
Here are today’s questions…
I’m a former blue-collar worker. I became disabled over a decade ago, and stopped being able to work. I’ve only recently become seriously interested marketing and copy. I’m at the “don’t know what I don’t know” point in this journey. But I’d love to get your thoughts on re-inventing myself as a full-time copywriter.
Not sure I know enough to ask this question. I am a physician with 31 years of practice, trying to disengage from daily practice into another vocation using my training to assist. Looking into coaching, ecommerce, etc.
I am seeking a starting point. I am taking a product, program, coaching course to help in the decision process. I do believe I will need to build an online following.
First things first, copywriting and related fields are WORK…
(I don’t think this applies as much to our friendly correspondents as it does to others who are considering copywriting as a retirement opportunity — but it’s so central to the discussion that I wanted to put it first.)
One of the things that copywriting-as-a-business-opportunity pitches, including Paul’s, do very well is to convince you that success is fast and effortless.
I think success can come faster and easier — at least for some — in this field than in almost any other field.
It’s rare you get someone who starts a career and catapults to a six-figure (or even seven-figure) income in just a couple years. It’s still rare in copywriting, but it’s also surprisingly common.
But what is consistent about all the people who get fast success is that they treat it like WORK.
Some of them spend a RIDICULOUS amount of time every week, writing copy, talking to clients, and so on.
It’s all they do. Stereotypically young, single, and full of hustle, they burn the candle at both ends to get good fast, and their financial results show it.
Likewise, I know many people who’ve learned copywriting then found top jobs (especially with the big direct response companies) or gotten partnered up in companies to make a great living from this work.
Although I don’t love equating time in to dollars out, I will tell you that the people who find success are often the hardest workers.
The good news is, this is ultimately very flexible work…
All of the above noted, I haven’t worked a traditional full-time week in 10 years. Seriously, tomorrow is the 10-year anniversary of my leaving my last job, and I haven’t worked a traditional work-week in a decade.
Most weeks, my official time at my desk is between 30 and 35 hours.
In the summer, a little less.
Some weeks, a little more.
I do think about work outside of work hours though. Like anyone creative, once my mind wraps around a project I’m often “working” on it at any and all hours.
With this flexibility, I have chosen to be around for my kids before and after school. I can take time off when I need to. I can work from any wild location I want.
If I get a few really good, productive hours in, I can consider my main work done for the day.
And sometimes, when people see how often I’m around (and the fact that I don’t look unemployed), they may assume I’m retired or something.
And even the hardest-working copywriters I know share this. We will work hard to do what we need to do, and then we’ll get done and enjoy the freedom and flexibility this wild profession provides.
But what about getting into it in the first place?
You will have a learning curve, but you can shortcut it…
First things first, every variation on these entrepreneurial fields — and here I include copywriting, consulting, and coaching, at a minimum — relies on selling and persuasive communication.
You have to get good at communicating with people in a persuasive way.
You do it to get clients.
You do it to keep clients.
You do it to serve clients and get them the results they want.
If you’re a copywriter, this is obvious. But a coach or consultant also has to be just as good at selling themselves and their expertise. Even if their expertise is not selling.
You have to be able to convince me that you have a solution to my problem or challenge, or can help me get the result I want.
All of this said, if you choose a path that is related to your previous experience or career, you will bring tremendous authority, believability, and credibility into your communication.
And this, above all, is THE most important aspect of persuasion.
If a police office with a badge and a gun tells you to put your hands above your head, you do it.
If your doctor tells you you’re going to die if you don’t take a prescription, you do it.
If someone with a lifetime of experience in your field tells you the way things are, you pay attention.
You can get to an 80% level on most of the basic strategies and techniques of copywriting, consulting, and coaching within 3-6 months of diligent study.
You can get to 95% within 3 years.
But authority, believability, and credibility can take a lifetime to build. Which is the advantage if you’re able to bring your career experience into selling these services.
So then the question is, how do you do that?
The best way to get started is to get started…
Start with your current experience, and work outward.
What are you good at? What areas are you already knowledgeable in?
What did you love about your last career? What of that would you be willing to do again, in this new context?
What do people or businesses in your old industry need, that they’re not getting and that you can provide? What problems can you see, that you could solve?
Now, using copywriting, consulting, or coaching as a wrapper for the service you will provide, what could you get paid to do?
Now, offer that.
Find the people in the industry who you think are the best fit.
Tell them you’re looking to apply your experience and expertise to help them with whatever this new problem is.
Make an offer, that makes it easy for them to say yes — because you want to develop this specific experience.
And then keep doing this process until you’ve had a couple clients.
You don’t need to worry about any advanced knowledge. Or building an online following. Or being an expert at all things. Or even setting up a website and positioning your expertise.
Not yet, at least.
In both of these cases, you need to DO IT. Just try to get a couple projects or client engagements. See what it’s like. Do the work.
And, if lifestyle is the thing — thinking of people who are doing this as a retirement gig — consider whether or not you’re able to maintain the lifestyle you want while you do this work.
I guess it’s not that different from anyone else…
As I consider this, I think the biggest advantage of doing this as a retirement gig is if you get good, you can probably choose your hours, not work full-time, and still make a nice living.
I know many copywriters who will never retire, but work a lot less than they used to, simply because they think the work is more rewarding than the New York Times crossword puzzle.
But for those who think “Retire this year” means never do any work again, I think you’re in for a rude awakening.
(In this regard, I just bought this book: It Takes What It Takes by Trevor Moawad. It’s essentially about embracing the fact that success or living a good life takes work. Seems relevant. I’ll let you know how it is soon.)
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,