Today, I’m going to share not one, but two under-appreciated secrets to your success as a copywriter…
And NEITHER ONE has anything to do with your writing ability.
While many would argue otherwise, the immortal Gene Schwartz once started a talk by saying that he was far from the best copywriter working in the business today (“today” being his day, not ours).
But he had an advantage most other copywriters were unwilling or unable to match.
And it was this advantage that, he said, had led to all his success and fame and fortune.
His advantage is the second secret I’ll reveal to you today.
The first was equally influential in Schwartz’s rise to fame and fortune.
The first secret is finding clients who are able to put your message in front of as big a market as can be made profitable…
It took me substantial consideration to narrow in on how exactly to say this.
Because if you have a client that has a HUGE list of recent customers — and all they have to do is send your message out to them — that’s sufficient.
Boardroom, Inc., is one particularly good example.
Over the decades, they amassed a database of over 4 million paying customers.
Some of those had spent more, some less. Some were more recent, some older. But having over 4 million paying customers on file represents substantial opportunity for copywriters. It’s no wonder so many Boardroom copywriters made over a million in fees and royalties from them!
(I don’t want to reduce their success to this, though — because Boardroom was even more proactive about adding names to their list than they were about selling to past customers.)
It’s not enough though, to simply say a client has to have a big list…
Because, for one, big lists can be bad, non-responsive lists… But also, there are other ways to get your message in front of customers.
— If you have a really good product, and a really good offer, and some pretty good copy, you may not even need a list at all! What you may need instead is a client who is an impeccable media buyer. This is someone who specializes in buying advertising space in others’ media. It could be websites, TV time, magazines, newspapers, the works.
— Similarly, a client may not have much of a list, and they may not have much media buying expertise, but they may have strategic relationships with affiliates, joint venture partners, or others who can give them access to a list of buyers and potential buyers. With an endorsement, someone else’s customers can be almost as fruitful as having your own.
— Or, maybe your client is a direct mail expert, or has retained consultants who are direct mail experts. Direct mail is far from dead. There’s a ton of opportunity there, and in some respects it’s easier than it’s been in a long time because there are less ads competing for the prospect’s attention.
A client may not need past customers, as long as they have the ability to go out and get new ones.
Finding a client who is very proactive about chasing down new customers can have a HUGE impact on your total success…
Let’s imagine Client A and Client B. Each has a marketing piece that works equally as well to the exact same people. (I know this is a ridiculous assumption but it works for this illustration.) They also both have a opt-in email list of 100,000 people.
Client A simply sends out the marketing to their house list. They run a substantial campaign, and they get a respectable 2% of their customers to buy a $99 product. That’s 2,000 customers for $198,000 in revenue. They’re happy, and they call that good. They move onto creating another marketing piece to send out to that house file.
Client B also sends out the marketing to their house list. Again, their campaign nets them a 2% response rate on the $99 product, and $198,000 in revenue. They’re happy with that, but want more.
So they start to test media. They successfully test an additional 10 lead sources that each deliver an average of 200 new customers each month, at a profit.
Suddenly the marketing piece that had generated $198,000 in initial revenue for Client A and Client B alike is ALSO generating another $198,000 in revenue for Client B every month. That’s nearly $1.2 million in revenue within 6 months, $2.4 million within a year. From the same copy!
Let’s say that marketing piece remains the control for 3 years, at an average of 2,000 in additional sales every month. That’s an ADDITIONAL $7,128,000 in sales that Client B generated that Client A didn’t — from basically the same marketing.
If you could spend your time writing for Client A, who would use your copy to generate $198,000 in sales… Or Client B, who would use the same copy to generate $7,326,000 in total sales… Which one do you think you should pick?
Now, these are all round numbers and it’s never this perfect — but the point is made.
The level of success you have a copywriter — once you’re able to write profitable copy — is directly proportional to your client’s ability to put your copy in front of bigger and bigger markets.
The second secret is that if you’re willing to work harder, you’ll get farther…
I’ll admit I’ve probably left more money on the table because of this than for any other reason.
For one, I made a choice when I started as a freelancer in 2010 that I wanted to be around for my kids until they’re all in school. That means I don’t work full-time.
While some copywriters work 60 hour weeks, I don’t.
I regularly spend huge chunks of the workday hanging out with my kids (while most “professionals” are lost in a cubicle farm).
It’s a trade-off.
But I’m also not the best about managing my time and motivation. I continue to get better, but it takes me a lot to stay on track. And I definitely have some lost productivity and success as a result.
The second cause for my under-performance, I’m working on. The first is just how things are for now, my choice. Both will be less of a factor in 5 years than they are today.
Gene Schwartz didn’t work that many hours in the day, either. But he trained himself to be hyper-productive. He famously wrote for about 3 hours a day, in 33-minute, 33-second blocks. (Setting a kitchen timer was one of his productivity secrets.)
And he said during that time — and during the off hours when he was a voracious reader and researcher — he’d outwork any other copywriter by a factor of two to one.
He claimed this as the biggest reason for his outstanding success.
I know many, many of the top copywriters you hear about today share this attitude. Digging harder for the big idea. Exploring more copy angles before committing to one. Investing more in their education. Spending more time honing their craft, even when they’re already successful.
I’ve been listening to an audio book of the Warren Buffet biography, The Snowball, and he, too, shares this trait. There are a few places where he totally, absolutely outworks everybody. One is researching investment approaches (mostly early in his career) and opportunities (his entire life). The other is getting a good price when he buys into an investment. Working harder than any of his peers on these two things made him (off and on) the richest man in the world.
While copywriting is often sold as an opportunity to get paid more for less work, it’s the people who are willing to work harder who usually enjoy the most success.
Big takeaway? You need to get good at copywriting, and you have to remember that skill alone isn’t going to get you there.
Yes, it pays to develop good skills as a copywriter. But you have to be willing to work hard. And you have to go out and find and take advantage of opportunities to work with clients who make the best of your copy.
It’s these last two that are under-appreciated, often forgotten secrets to success as a copywriter.
Maybe that’s because telling you that you’re a lazy bum and you need to get better clients won’t get you to shell out another grand for a copywriting course… Who knows…
But if you want a breakthrough in your copywriting career, you’d be surprised how far these two “lost” secrets to success will take you.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets
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