It’s an ugly truth all the world’s best marketers know about, and have the war stories to prove it.
Dan Kennedy is one such marketer. Because even his now revered newsletter wasn’t a roaring success from day one.
For a long time he struggled with a high unsubscribe rate. So like any seasoned marketing pro, he started to test.
He tried all sorts of combinations of content.
Until finally, he identified his ‘Foundational 3 Content Split’ – the perfect ratio of content that keeps people subscribed:
33% direct helpful advice
33% commentary on industry topics, case studies, testimonials, and surveys
33% random off topic entertainment, jokes and stories about life
I’m guilty of falling short on the third category. So here’s a random stuff post on what I did last weekend…
Spending too much time staring at pixels is bad for your eyes. It’s even worse for your soul.
So every couple of months I leave my laptop at home to climb a mountain somewhere.
Last weekend I exploded one of the less travelled hiking paths of Laos.
The morning started with a 3 hour cycle ride on bumpy roads… then a 2 hour hike up a horrifyingly steep hill… before spending the night with a hill tribe… and ALL while lugging enough food and water for 2 days.
Joining me on this trip (and providing urgent first aid after I spilt my head open on a pole sticking out of a hut’s roof) was local guide Nign.
Over the course of two days, topics of conversation included:
Will the Chinese Silk Road benefit Laos or is it a smokescreen for financial domination
Can the benefits of modern healthcare outweigh the soul sapping effects of consumerism
When is it ok to kidnap someone if they turn down your marriage proposal
The #metoo movement in China
Impact on truck drivers of AI
How smartphones are turning kids into zombies
Why decision making happens in the crocodile brain and not the neocortex
In April I head to East Java to climb up two volcanoes.
I only narrowly avoided an eruption when climbing a mountain in Borneo. So fingers crossed my luck holds.
“Father of online marketing” Mark Joyner knows a thing or two about stress.
During his time as a CIA agent spying on North Korea, he had to be aware of his surroundings every waking moment on edge.
The ability to stay calm under pressure then served him well as a serial entrepreneur, with 30+ startups under his belt.
At Project Persuasion Goes Dark, Mark Joyner shared his advice on managing stress and staying at the peak of your game.
It drains your energy. Darkens your mood. Makes you sick. And it takes years off your life.
Stress may be unavoidable.
But in the freelance copywriting game, where you’ve swapped the comfort of a regular paycheck for surviving by your wits and word processor, having systems for managing stress is vital to your success.
1. Reduce Overwhelm
Our brain’s can only handle so much information at once. But the amount of apps, channels, and people demanding our attention overwhelmed our brain capacity a long time ago.
The only way to stay productive is to make some cuts.
Identify the habits and channels that aren’t helping you (for me, it’s reading the news) and look to reduce the time you invest in them. Or even better, cut them completely.
Focus on the things you can control and help you towards your goals. Everything else is a distraction.
2. Don’t Feed the Trolls
“The greatest fear in the world is of the opinions of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd you are no longer a sheep. You become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart. The roar of freedom” – Osho
Haters gonna hate.
Us copywriters (me included) tend to be introverted types. We don’t go looking for fights on Twitter.
But as you start growing your following and running ads, the trolls will find you.
There’s no shortage of frustrated people in this world looking for someone to unload on. So when they come, set ground rules on how you engage, if at all.
Personally, I engage with people online the same way I would face-to-face. But if they can’t play nice, I pull down the shutters.
A mind hack for dealing with trolls is to be clear on who you are and what you do. That way you can create emotional distance so you can walk away without feeling like you’ve lost face.
After all, if you’ve confidence in what you have to offer, why should some random troll’s need to unleash bother you?
3. Pursue Fulfilling Projects
Life’s too short to be working for clients who don’t appreciate you or writing about junk nobody needs.
Find projects and quality products you believe in.
This will naturally make the hours at the keyboard more fulfilling. Believing in what you’re selling will naturally make your copy more persuasive too.
4. Replicate Your Role Models
Why allow your feeds to get polluted with people complaining when there are so many positive people to take inspiration from?
People I follow include Arnold Schwarzenegger (if you’ve read his autobiography you’ll get why), Joe Rogan, and Dave Asprey (Bulletproof Coffee founder). I follow them for their work ethic, desire to inspire others to be better versions of themselves, and their healthy attitudes to life.
We might not have the money and success of our celebrity idols. But what we can do is share some of the traits that led to their success.
So write down the characteristics of your role models you admire. Then try to adopt them in your daily life.
Mark Joyner and yours truly
5. Know Your Path
“Comfort is bullshit. Getting most out of yourself is real comfort. Get that through commitment” – The Iceman Wilmhoff
We live in the safest period in history. Globally, you’re less likely to be killed in war or die in poverty. But that doesn’t mean happiness is assured.
We still carry the same primal drives as our ancestors. They had to struggle every day to survive. And the only reason they survived and prospered was because of their motivation to overcome challenges.
The drive to overcome challenges is still buried within us. And it’s something we’re going to need armies of psychologists and sociologists to cope with when AI arrives. When people suddenly have no reason to get up in the morning they’re primed to self destruct.
It may still be a few years before AI can write a natural sounding sales page.
So until that day arrives, remember it’s making progress towards your goals that makes you happy. Not the pot of gold at the end.
6. Enjoy the Ride
When you retire, your brain starts to shut down.
The satisfaction that comes from living a productive life was reinforced to me when I met Drayton Bird a couple of years ago.
Drayton is the UK’s copywriting godfather. Our own David Ogilvy. And he’s still going strong in this 80s. I plan on doing the same.
Many entrepreneurs see retiring by age 40 as the goal. Or amassing a few mill to pay for endless travel.
But this is a mistake countless millionaires have made. They may have bank vaults of cash to roll around in, but many still feel empty inside.
It’s the journey, not the destination. So enjoy the ride.
7. Conquer Procrastination
Procrastination arises from indecision + distraction.
Here’s how to beat it…
Get clear on what you want. Write it down. Then write down how getting stuff done gets you closer to that goal. And post it somewhere around your screen.
Writing down your objectives this way makes it easier to stay focused on the prize. You can strip away the time wasting habits and bat away the “fear” of doing something hard that makes many of us freeze when staring at a blank screen.
If that’s not enough to get you shutting down tabs, keep ratcheting up your desire for the things you want until it overwhelms your avoidance behaviors.
The more you focus on being productive, the more it becomes a habitual pattern.
A couple of days ago I got a letter from an aspiring copywriter. I sent him an email back with advice on what to do when joining the game from square one. I thought it might be helpful for others in the same situation, so reposting it here:
Thanks for your letter.
I’m not currently looking to take on any “copy cubs” (industry term for apprentices), yet there’s a lot you can do to build your skills on your own.
My advice would be to focus on breaking into the US direct response market. I wish I’d learned this sooner, as I spent years writing B2B tech copy. While you can make a good income in B2B tech, when you can write high converting copy that’s directly linked to sales you can make six figures or more.
After you’ve done what he recommends, setup a basic website and write advertorials promoting products on Clickbank. You could also build an email list and upsell Clickbank products that way to earn a small income. Then create your own info product (it could be just a 50 page eBook or you could buy it done for you as a private label rights product = PLR) and sell it yourself. That way you’ll get some stats on conversion rates and sales to attract clients.
When you’re starting out it’s a chicken and egg scenario. How do you get clients without a portfolio? Or how do you build a portfolio without clients?
By creating your own site and running your own promos you can solve this problem.
Starting out is tough. Yet as you sent me a letter and followed up with a phone call, I believe you’ll be disciplined and strategic enough to see it through.
Create your own opportunities, instead of waiting for them to arrive
How did the freelancing life treat you this year?
Get a steady flow of clients to keep amassing your cash pile, Scrooge McDuck stylee?
Or find yourself scrambling for change on freelance bidding sites just to cover the rent?
If it’s the latter – I hear you.
I’ve been through more famines than I care to remember…
Times when I’d stare at my inbox praying someone would reply to the hundredth prospecting email I’d sent out that week.
Or thinking I was a fraud and crazy to think people would actually pay me to write for them.
Sometimes it got so bad I’d even look at full-time jobs. Just imagine.
But the most annoying thing is I could have escaped the feast/famine cycle a lot sooner than I did.
That is if I’d implemented two key pro level tactics.
These are tactics I previously had locked away in my eBook on fast tracking your freelance success. But as it’s Christmas, I’ll share them with you here:
Attending live events is the best way to find high paying clients who understand marketing and respect what you do
Positioning yourself as the “go to” person in a specific skill + niche (e.g. email marketing for vets or webinars for property investors) will focus your marketing activities and rocket your earnings faster than the price of Bitcoin (which is actually dropping as I write, but you get the point)
Now, giving out advice is easy (just ask any of the Facebook gurus making a killing repackaging the techniques of Schwartz or Caples as their own).
But do these tactics work in the real world?
Well, allow me to share how they played out for me at this year’s Copy Chief Live…
Live Events are Where the Big Dogs Hang Out
When you add up the cost of flights to Florida, a room at the Hilton, a new blazer to wow the clients, printing 20 copies of my YouTube Remarketing Generator and networking over nachos, my bill for attending CC Live came to a cool $3,000, or so.
That may sound like a big injection of cash reserves.
But it pails in comparison to the risk another CC member took who gambled their savings to attend, despite seeming cool as a cucumber when I met them at the airport (a gamble which paid off for them in spades, by the way).
Yet had the only benefit of Copy Chief Live been meeting “ethically minded” copywriters at the top of their game, I’d have handed over the money gladly to discover what it takes to be among the best.
Yet luckily for me, I did succeed in getting a new client…
And no ordinary client…
A major A-Lister…
Someone who’s mentored Parris Lampropoulos, Carline Anglade-Cole and many other elite marketers – many of whom are million dollar copywriters today…
I am of course talking about the living legend Clayton Makepeace (I still can’t believe it either).
Based on my samples, he was willing to give me a shot.
My challenge was to write a lead on the impending pensions crisis as a preamble for selling a financial newsletter.
Click below to read it (Just be warned – if you’re retiring soon and haven’t got much squirrelled away it may ruin your Christmas. But don’t worry too much. Japan is in an even worse state, and governments everywhere will likely click the money printers onto turbo and kick the can down the road for another cycle):
A Nervous Month of Waiting
After reading through it so many times I lost all objectivity, I hit send and spent the next few weeks living under a cloud of anxiety, self doubt and being convinced Clayton had mixed up my samples with somebody else…
Then one day an email from Clayton arrived…the first of a series, in fact.
Long story short, he said he was interested in hiring me and would I be available for a promo in Feb or March next year!
After throwing my laptop in the air, spinning in circles on the floor and phoning my mum, I replied in the affirmative.
Now, I know I may have jinxed it publishing this.
A lot can happen between now and Feb.
This career changing opportunity could fall through (comes with the territory, unfortunately).
So for now I’m just going to embrace the satisfaction of having someone of Clayton Makepeace’s stature deem my copy worthy of their perusal.
After all, that’s what we all crave – to have someone we respect tell us our copy is good.
3 Daily Habits for Raising Your Game
I didn’t just write this to boast about getting on Clayton’s radar…
I’m hoping my progress can show you where putting in the work, focusing on a niche and attending live events can get you.
I’ve been through the struggles of worrying about paying the bills, dealing with disrespectful low balling clients, hiring lawyers to take non-payers to court and feeling like a fraud seconds after submitting copy for review.
Yet, what got me through, and will continue to do so, is committing to doing three things every day:
Studying a winning sales letter
Writing at least a couple of pages of sales copy
Coming up with a big idea for a new promo
If 2017 didn’t quite hit the heights you were hoping for, make 2018 the year you commit to doing these 3 things every day to raise your game, as well as niche down and attend at least one live event.
If that event is Copy Chief Live 2018, let me know and let’s grab some nachos.
When was the last time you unshackled yourself from the desk and met fellow copywriters in the flesh?
In my case, hardly ever.
I decided to rectify that by jumping on a jet plane to sun soaked Florida for Copy Chief Live.
For 3 days I was walking around meeting the 3D versions of all the avatars I’d been engaging with in the Copy Chief forums.
Even better, I got to rub shoulders with truly A list copywriters and up and comers at the top of their game.
Speakers included John Carlton, Parris Lampropoulos (good luck spelling that without Googling it), Marcella Allison and Joe Schriefer from Agora (sharing the stage with Donald Trump, weirdly).
Seeing them in action and listening to their talks reinforced the amount of sweat, tears and blood on the page it takes to get to the top. And how much more work I need to do to get there.
A few golden nuggets of inspiration included:
We don’t create mass desire but channel it. Copy is a fundamental journey from pain to bliss.
Your copy needs to tell people they’re not crazy, they’re not alone. There’s hope.
We might not admit it, but we’re all motivated by experiences that wounded us as children (many of us in the room shared the drive to always be proving people wrong as a result of being introverted kids)
At the start of your letter or VSL, confidently make a statement your prospect wants to believe. Then prove it succinctly without getting into a science lesson.
The ultimate hook is to validate a worldview of your prospect
You have to surrender your desire for perfection to stop being cramped and crazy and to progress to the top
Cringing when you read your old copy is a good sign. It means you’re getting better
Obviously, they shared a lot more than that. But I signed a densely worded NDA before I walked in, so I’m sworn to secrecy.
Suffice to say, I’ll be booking my ticket for next year as soon as they’re announced. Will I see you there?