3 great moves that boosted my copywriting biz to new heights!
Did I tell you this is my 18th year anniversary as a freelance copywriter?
Yep — Happy Anniversary to me!
In fact, it was January 1999 when I officially hung up my freelance shingles — and never looked back on corporate America!
And I remember that it was August and — I still hadn’t gotten a copywriting client. Boy, I was really starting to sweat bullets!
Fortunately, I had ONE client who hired me as a mail plan consultant — so I was at least bringing in some steady income. But I still hadn’t broken into copywriting — my REAL goal — yet.
But perseverance paid off and I got my “big break” writing copy for a male potency product — and as the saying goes, “the rest is herstory…”
Ironically, this month — 18 years later — I’m writing yet another potency package!
And, I’m still wearing my P.J’s and bedroom slippers to work — and lovin’ my job!
As I reflect on my freelance career, I realized that I made a bunch of mistakes — but I also made a few good moves — and that’s what I want to talk about in this issue:
3 good moves that helped me work fast… boost my income… and establish me as an
One of the BEST moves I made didn’t happen until my 5th year in biz. It was a simple move — but it changed the entire way I worked my business. Wanna know what it is?
Good Move #1: I “niched” myself!
Yep — when I stopped trying to be a “Jill of all Trades” — writing financial, health, self-improvement and you name it copy — and specialized in writing primarily for the alternative health field — it changed my life in 3 ways:
#1: Worked faster! No more trying to learn a new market place with every new project. I stayed in the health field and I got to know it inside and out. The result? Shorter learning curve and faster turnaround time for my project. Bottom line: I went from writing 6 packages a year… to 12… to 16 or more! Yep — I doubled… tripled and even quadrupled my royalty income!
#2: Became an “expert” in my industry. Who woulda thunk that turning down jobs would actually give me MORE business! Certainly not me — but it’s true.
Once I started letting prospects know I specialized in the alternative health field and actually turned down non-health projects — and recommended OTHER copywriters for those jobs — I was getting more requests to write health promos.
Prospects saw me as a focused specialist in one area. And if health was their field — they wanted a health specialist!
And the other writers I referred for the jobs I turned down actually reciprocated and gave my name to clients looking for a health writer! Bottom line: I was now only working in the industry I loved and gaining more experience with every project to build onto the next. Plus, I was invited to speak at seminars and webinars and dubbed “an alternative health specialist writer.” Woo hoo!
#3: Multi-tasked and multiplied my income! Now that my schedule was set with mostly health projects — I had a better picture of what was in store for my year. So if I knew I was going to work on a hormone… colon… heart… and liver projects — I would create a dump file for each project. And as I’m working on one project — I may come up with an idea that doesn’t fit well with that project — but would be PURRfect for another project.
So I jot down the idea and throw it in the dump file. Many times, when I’m ready to start a new project — I’ve already got 5…10…20 pages or more of research copy/ideas already in the file! The package nearly writes itself — and I just collect the checks! Like I said earlier: working FASTER + Being more EFFICIENT = Additional INCOME!
By the way, I do take on occasional non-health related projects — just to avoid burnout. But they’ve got to be pretty darn awesome! That’s why I said YES when an opportunity to write for Oprah came knocking at my door!
Ok, so that was my first good move. This next move proved to be a huge time saver — and a major credibility booster for my promotions. What is it you ask?
Good Move #2: Got a researcher!
I didn’t take this great step until about 13 years ago — but boy am I glad the light bulb finally went off in my head!
Here’s how my life was “pre-researcher”:
Client offers me a job. Client sends “whatever he has” about the product. This may include previous samples, research on the product, books, articles, newsletters about the doctor and product samples.
If I didn’t get enough good stuff — I would now spend hours searching the internet trying to find it. Very time consuming. Very exhausting.
Now, here’s my life “post-researcher”:
BEFORE I accept an assignment, I ask the client about the research information he has. If it’s not adequate, I highly recommend he/she get a researcher who can deliver a solid copywriting kit full of credible sources, information on each nutrient in the product, and whatever else is needed to support any claims the client makes about the product. This has proved beneficial in soooohhh many ways. Here are just a few:
#1: It makes the client accountable for his product. My job is to write convincing sales copy — not to develop the client’s product. If the client isn’t sure what his unique selling proposition is — he usually doesn’t have credible research. How could he? He doesn’t know what the heck he’s selling or who he’s selling to! Good research helps ground the client and his product and helps me pinpoint and highlight the best the product has to offer.
#2: You get MASSIVE credibility in your copy. A good researcher is a hidden gold mine. She gets you reputable sources, expert testimonials and a bunch of other essential credibility factors — and that helps your copy KICK BUTT!
#3: You save lots of TIME. Before I had a researcher, here’s how my day went:
Ok, I’m working on a sidebar about gout. So I go online and search “gout”. Then I see gout is arthritis of the foot. Foot? Hmm… I need some new shoes. And the next thing you know — I’ve spent 2 hours online shopping and ordered 6 pairs of shoes! No kidding!
With a researcher — I can leave space in my copy for specific research I need with a note that said “credibility quote to come” — and then I keep on writing without getting distracted!
Now, don’t go thinking I’m stuck-up and don’t do ANY research at all. I do. But my research stays focused on ideas that are relevant to the theme and direction I’m going with my promo — not to general positioning of the product. And I’ll do personal research on my down time — not during key copywriting hours!
So where do you get a good researcher?
Well, I’m fortunate to work with one of the BEST in the industry. Her name is Sandy Ferguson — and she’s DA BOMB at “digging stuff up”. Sandy and I have worked together so long — she instinctively knows the stuff I like.
When I get a copywriter start kit with Sandy’s research — I know I’ve got some good gems! Plus, she’s adaptable and easy to work with — and that’s priceless! We’ve created NUMEROUS winners together.
You can check out Sandy’s website at: Fergusonresearchgroup.com
Now — I gotta tell you — this 3rd good move — took me around the world — without ever leaving my house! Here it is…
Good Move #3: Got a website!
Yep — it was just 12 years ago when I entered cyberspace. Now, I can’t live without my website!
Here’s how my website REALLY made an impact on my business:
#1: No more mailing out samples! Pre-website: I used to talk to a prospect and when he asked for my samples, I’d tell him I’ll overnight them to him. Guess what?
In this day and age — overnight mail is TOO SLOW!
Within 24 hours — the prospective client has already forgotten about our conversation and is dealing with a bunch of other work-related stuff. That means when my samples arrive — they get put aside on the “to do” pile — and probably end up in the trash UNREAD.
Post-website: I talk to a client and when he asks for samples — I just give him my website address: carlinecole.com Usually WHILE WE’RE TALKING — he’s checking out my site and my samples. But it gets even better…
… I get calls from prospective clients who say they’ve seen my website and my samples — and want to book my schedule with the first phone call! Yep, my website has paid for itself time and time again! In fact…
I give my website credit for finding me a client that paid me over $200,000 in one year! Yep — he found my website…read my samples…and hired me on the spot!
#2: International recognition. Great news is that direct mail is growing in other countries — especially Europe. I’ve gotten several calls just in the past few months from European mailers who want me to write a package for them — and they’ll translate my English promo into their language. Some of them want me to come and give seminars to their marketing team.
They now know me as the “American copywriter woman who writes kick butt copy”.
The title’s a little long for my business card — but I LOVE IT! I would NEVER have met these folks if it wasn’t for my website! What’s more, when I get my European samples — I can impress the heck out of my friends with how fluent I’ve become in Dutch, German AND French — overnight!
#3: Passive stream of income: Like I said, direct mail is growing in foreign countries. But while you and I get dozens of promotions in the mail each week — international folks get little to none! Mailers and foreign writers are desperately trying to “stay in the loop” to read promos.
So I’ve got an e-store right on my website. Now, anybody in the world can get copies of my promos. Some of these promos are “classics” — no longer in print — and can only be found in my e-store.
Plus, I offer e-books and other copywriting services in the e-store. The e-store makes life easier for folks searching to find strong controls to study. And it creates a passive stream of income for me. That’s win-win. You can check out my e-store at: CarlineCole.com
So do you have a website? If not — WHY NOT?
Don’t worry — if you need help getting started — you can use the company that created my website: Integrisdesign.com Ken Carroll and his team do a great job creating and maintain websites. Tell him I sent you: Kcarroll@integrisdesign.com
There you have it — my 3 best moves that boosted my copywriting career to new heights! None of these moves is brain science — but man do they WORK! So go for it!
Yours for stellar results,
Million-Dollar Copywriter & Consultant