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Archive for January, 2018

Copywriting vs. traditional freelancing: no contest

January 30th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Back in the day, most freelance writers made the bulk of their
income, which was often quite modest, writing books for
mainstream publishing houses and articles for magazines and
newspapers.

Today this is still the province of “traditional” freelance
writers, though many of the books are now ebooks and the articles
are just as likely to appear online as in print.

But the problem with these conventional and popular writing
assignments — book, articles, columns, essays, stories, poetry,
plays, scripts — is that it is all done “on spec.”

For instance, if you want to write articles for magazines such as
Cosmopolitan, Popular Science, or Modern Bride, here are the
steps:

>> First, you sit around and try to dream up ideas for articles
you think these magazines might publish.

No one has asked you to do this. You aren’t paid for
brainstorming. With rare exception, it’s done totally on spec.

>> Second, you research and read the magazines you might write
for — including the name of the right editor to approach — to
better understand what they publish. Again, on your dime. No pay.

>> Third, you write a “query letter” to the editor describing the
article you want to write for her and why her readers would be
interested. And you guessed it — you are not getting paid to
write that letter.

Although some writers disagree, the best practice is to offer a
given article to only one magazine at a time. So you wait weeks
for them to respond.

Many times, it’s a rejection. Or you may not hear at all and have
to follow up to get an answer. Sometimes you never get one.

>> Fourth, if an editor is interested, there is often no
commitment stronger than “I’ll take a look at the article; send
it along.”

Sometimes, you do get a contract. But read it carefully. Most
allow the editor to reject your article … even though you think
that by giving you the go-ahead, she “ordered” it.

>> Fifth, you research and write the article.

The editor does not provide you with the research materials. You
have to dig it up on your dime.

The editor will probably want you to interview 3 to 5 people for
the article. Again, you have to find them, reach out to them,
conduct the interview, and work the material into your story.

>> After all this effort, the editor still may decide to turn the
piece down, in which case you get paid either nothing or a small
kill fee. So it’s close to a total loss.

With all this speculation, it’s a lot of risk to earn a wage that
in most instances is modest at best, and often — when measured on
a per hour basis — not much more than you would get asking
people, “Do you want fries with that?”

The whole time, you are sitting out there, all alone in your home
office, creating ideas and words that no “client” — which is what
the editor really is — much cares whether you deliver or not.

Now compare that with freelance copywriting where:

1–The client comes up with the idea for the project; e.g. a white
paper on central alarm systems for warehouses.

2–The client calls you and asks you to write a white paper on
central alarm systems for warehouses.

3–You get a contract and a retainer for half the fee up front.

4–The client has commissioned the piece and wants it on or before
the date in the contract.

5–The client provides you with a lot of source material on
central alarm systems for warehouses.

6–If you need to get more information, the client arranges for
one or more of their subject matter experts to cooperate with you
and be interviewed.

The interview subject is provided for you. And told they must
work with you. Unlike with a magazine article, where many people
you might want to interview can be difficult or refuse to
cooperate altogether.

7–You write the white paper, submit it, make any edits requested,
and get paid for the balance of the project.

Speculative time and effort on this copywriting project: zero.
Which means you get paid for all the thought, work, and effort
you put into it.

The fee? Typically 2 to 5 times or more what you’d get paid to
write a magazine article of similar length and difficulty.

I have often said that copywriting is at least 4 times more
lucrative than freelance magazine writing — because you make
twice as much money in less than half the time.

Which scenario — magazine writing or copywriting — sounds better
to you?

Full disclosure: They are not mutually exclusive. I do both. You
can too.

But over 90% of my freelance writing is copywriting, and less
than 10% is writing articles for magazines and newspapers or
books for publishers — because I like the respect and pay I get as
a copywriter. And none of the latter is on spec.

 

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Why those who can also teach

January 26th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In a recent dinner conversation — it happened to be at my best
friend’s wedding — the subject of an option trading course
promoted by Mr. X, a successful trader, came up.

ML, the person sitting at my table who was next to me, said:

“I doubt he is really successful as an option trader. After all,
if he was really making money at it, Mr. X. wouldn’t bother to
sell a course in it.

“The fact that he does so tells me X makes his money teaching his
subject rather than doing it.”

On the surface this may seem like a logical conclusion. But in
fact, ML and others who believe this old saw are wrong.

Nearly everyone in the Information Age has within his or her
grasp at least 2 revenue streams today.

The first is doing the skill or thing they are good at.

The second is teaching the skill or field to others.

And they are not mutually exclusive.

To answer ML, there are 3 reasons why someone who is making a lot
of money as an active practitioner in a skill — be it option
trading or copywriting — would actively create and market a
training program teaching that skill to others:

1–Teaching is a compulsion.

As a species, we are wired to teach, communicate, and pass what
we know on to others.

It’s in our DNA.

Perhaps it’s preservation of the species or our shot at a kind of
immortality beyond our physical lives.

When you teach, write, or speak, your knowledge continues to
benefit people even after you pass on to the next world (if there
is one).

If people did not teach others what they know, our society would
slowly but surely grind to a halt and cease to exist.

2–Development.

The world is dynamic, ever-changing.

So even experts cannot rest on their laurels.

When you teach — whether through speaking or writing — you have
to do two things that make you a better professional.

First, you are forced to organize your knowledge better — a
requirement of presenting it clearly to students.

And doing so gives you a greater grasp of your subject … and
fixes the principles even more firmly in your mind.

Second, you must, through ongoing study and research, stay
current in your field.

Which in turn maximizes your success and earnings — because the
more you know about a thing, the better you are at doing the
thing well.

This is why “continuing education credits” are a requirement of
staying licensed in many fields: the powers that be know that
without continual study to update their knowledge, practitioners
risk becoming subpar and even obsolete.

3–Money.

Even if Mr. X makes a fortune trading option contracts, many of
us really like money.

So if he can make even more by adding the selling of courses to
his business, more power to him.

I love copywriting, but if I wrote copy for the whole of my 12-hour
work day, I’d risk burn-out and fatigue.

So I write copy for clients 90% of the time, but also teach,
write, and speak for a welcome change of pace — which keeps me
fresh and mentally stimulated — as well as producing multiple
streams of income.

So about this idea that if someone is good at something and makes
money at it, they wouldn’t also sell courses or coaching in it?

Yeah, it makes a little sense on the surface. But dig deeper, and
you see it’s mostly hogwash.

That being said, I only buy courses from authors who either
are currently practicing the discipline they teach or have been
practitioners in the past.

And I mostly buy only from current practitioners. Because the
longer a guru has been away from participating in the actual
game, the less up-to-date and relevant his teachings will be.

As for courses by authors who have slim or no experience in what
they teach, I avoid them like the plague.

In particular, never buy a course on how to get rich in internet
marketing from anyone who has sold absolutely nothing except
courses in how to get rich in internet marketing.

To close with a quote from Forrest Gump, “And that’s all I have
to say about that.”

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Why I hate travel

January 23rd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In his book “Far and Away,” Andrew Solomon writes:

“I cherished travel for the way it stopped time, forcing me to
inhabit the present tense.”

Solomon loves travel. I loathe it.

I travel as little as possible and would be happy never to do it
again.

Why?

Here are 7 things I hate about travel:

1–Travel stops time.

Solomon says travel stops time for him.

It does for me too, except not in good way.

When I am in my home office happily working away, the time just
flies by … and so I am never bored.

But for me, being in a strange place, especially overseas in an
unfamiliar country, is a bit surreal.

Times moves at glacial speed, and I chomp at the bit until I can
finally get on a plane and go home.

I’d just rather be home.

2–Travel interferes with work.

Because I am only at my full writing productivity when at my
desktop computer in my home office, travel interferes with my
work.

I hate that.

I am a high-speed touch typist, so laptops are not an option for
me.

On the plane, when the guy in front of me leans his seat all the
way back, it pushes the screen down so I can barely see it or get
my fingers between it and the keyboard.

If two obese people are sitting on either side of me, my arms are
shoved close to my body, which also interferes with my keyboard.

3–Travel puts me out of reach of my stuff.

At home, I have everything I need — food, a refrigerator, books,
papers, files, computer, landline phone, umbrella, coat, boots,
medicine cabinet.

When you travel you must make the choice between having the stuff
you want with you vs. having just one suitcase small enough to
put in the overheads.

Hence I never have all I want and need … and feel deprived, like
a hobo carrying his worldly possessions in a sack on the end of a
stick.

4–Travel is inconvenient.

I long for the days when I didn’t have to take off my belt and my
shoes, or carry only tiny bottles of needed liquids in a clear
plastic case, to get on a plane.

On a recent trip, when I removed my belt, I realized I was
wearing pants that fit when I was 30lbs heavier, and without a belt,
I had to hold them up with my hand to prevent them from falling
below my knees.

Then in the scanner the airport security guard says — “Both hands
up in the air.”

And there are other inconveniences.

When I traveled on business as a young man, all I needed was my
briefcase, a legal pad, and a pen.

Now we carry so many electronic devices and their adapters and
power cards, I feel like I am lugging the Apple store with me.

5–Travel is risky.

I’m not afraid to travel, either of flying itself or of airplane
malfunctions, hijacking, terrorists, or whatever.

But because there is very little pleasure in travel for me … I
completely lack the desire and do not enjoy it … even a little
danger makes for a lopsided risk/reward ratio.

And I dislike the risk of my schedule being at the mercy of the
weather, which may suddenly strand me for a too-long period in a
place I do not want to be.

6–Travel is uncomfortable.

This discomfort has ranged from being in a hot, stuffy cabin
while the airplane sat on the tarmac for an hour delay before
take-off …

…to having to run across a huge airport from one end to another,
because my connecting flight is at the most distant gate
possible.

I also dislike cramped airplane bathrooms and the fact that the
planes are virtually always a full flight …

…which in turn puts in doubt whether I’m going to get overhead
space for my bag.

7–Travel wastes my time.

Flight delays for me are intolerable, as I am in a rush to get
home, back to my office, and back to work.

On a flight from the USA to Ukraine, I had a 3 ½ layover in
Munich between connecting flights.

“So what? Don’t you like to read Bob?” you may ask.

Yes, but in my favorite chair in the comfort and privacy of my
living room — not surrounding by masses of people in a noisy,
crowded airport.

A Kindle reader, then? Not for me, thank you anyway.

I love speaking and giving seminars so much that in the 80s I
considered making training my primary business — but because of
the travel requirements, I quickly abandoned the notion.

Now, thanks to the internet, I can write copy for clients all
over the world without leaving my house — giving me precisely the
lifestyle I seek.

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Copywriters: escape the “commodity trap”

January 19th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes, “What’s the biggest threat facing freelance
copywriters?”

Then he answers his own question: “It’s commoditization.

“To see where copywriting is going, look no further than
translation.

“This is now almost a commodity, in which freelance rates are in
a ‘race to the bottom.’

“In copywriting, barriers to entry are so low … and anyone
anywhere can bid for work.”

Then DC asks, “So how can copywriters avoid becoming a commodity
— what strategy works?”

To answer, here are 5 ways copywriters can escape the commodity
trap:

1–The “double pipeline” strategy.

You calculate the amount of marketing needed to generate enough
leads to keep busy.

Then, do twice that much marketing!

Result: a lead pipeline filled to overflowing — making you an
in-demand copywriter with more potential clients than you could
ever hope to possibly handle.

And when you have 2X more copywriting jobs offered to you than
you can take, then commoditization doesn’t matter.

Demand for your time outweighs the supply, and you eliminate
cutthroat competition or the need to compete on price.

2–The “niche” strategy.

Specialize either in a particular industry, such as financial,
health care, or manufacturing.

Or in a medium or copywriting task such as white papers, email
marketing campaigns, or long-copy sales letters.

The more narrow your specialty — e.g., direct mail selling
insurance — the more you can charge and the fewer your
competitors.

3–The “multiple streams of income” strategy.

If your gross revenue goal is $150,000 a year and all you do is
write copy for clients, you must get and complete $150,000 worth
of copywriting projects.

On the other hand, say you want to make $150,000 a year, and you
can make $25,000 in speaking fees, $25,000 in book royalties, and
$50,000 creating and selling your own info products online.

That adds up to $100,000. So the pressure is off, because now you
only have to make $50,000 a year in copywriting fees to hit your
$150,000 total revenue goal.

4–The “guru” strategy.

Write articles, publish special reports, author books, present
seminars, give talks at conferences, have a content-rich website,
build a Facebook group, tweet, and do other things to help build
your reputation as a guru.

5–The “superstar” strategy.

Be in the top 1% of copywriters in terms of results generated by
your copy.

This is an extremely difficult strategy as most of us have mixed
track records and almost no one writes a winner every time.

The preeminent copywriter in the superstar category today is
Clayton Makepeace.

All 5 strategies are essentially variations on one theme: Be
different in a way that makes you better or more desirable.

But it’s not enough to build or become a better mousetrap.

To get the world to beat a path to your door, you’ve got to
effectively communicate that difference to your potential
clients.

In Working Moms e-newsletter (9/7/17), Dan Kennedy writes:

“Project a powerful, persuasive, intriguing, compelling,
fascinating message. Is your message ordinary or similar to
others in your market? Is it plain vanilla? Easily ignored? Just
about the facts? If so, it needs to be doctored so that it
stands out. This is especially true if your product or service is
widely available.

“Review your marketing. Does it differentiate your business and
perhaps establish you as the expert people should work with,
regardless the cost? If not, it should.”

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Category: Direct Marketing, General, Writing | 13 Comments »

The only 3 ways to become a better copywriter

January 16th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber GJ writes:

“How do I become a better copywriter? Do you have any suggestions
or tips?”

There are really only 3 ways I know to become a better
copywriter:

1–Write.

Start writing copy. Then keep on writing it.

Do class assignments. Write copy for clients … or your own
products … or both.

The key is to write a lot and never stop, as it takes around
10,000 hours of practice to become really great at copywriting or
any other skill.

2–Read.

With only one exception, every copywriter I know is an avid
reader and eager students of all sorts of subjects.

To become a better copywriter, you need in-depth knowledge of
your industry and market — which you can get in part through
reading.

You also become a better copywriter with a vast storehouse of
knowledge on many different topics, and you never know which will
become grist for the copywriting mill … and again, you get that
largely from reading.

3–Study.

Your studies are twofold.

First, study the craft of copywriting and the discipline of
marketing — through books, courses, seminars, conferences,
articles, and so on.

Second, study the promotions that are working in the marketplace.

Tip: if you see a promotion that is running over and over, study
it most carefully.

Why?

Because it must be working; otherwise, the marketer would not
keep using it.

These 3 tasks are not difficult, which is why I call them easy.

(And by that I only mean that the learning is easy. The
successful “doing” can be very hard.)

They all involve reading and writing, which if you are a writer,
is in all probability fun for you.

But, while you can learn the basics of copywriting fairly
quickly, you can then spend a lifetime honing your skills; I work
on mine every day of the year.

Which is why I did not say becoming a great copywriter is quick.

But it is fun.

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Category: Success, Writing | 14 Comments »

9 reasons to market yourself by writing articles

January 12th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DK writes:

“How much stock, if any, do you put in the strategy of putting
articles on-line (or elsewhere) for free?”

Answer: a lot.

I wrote my first article for one of the marketing trade
publications when I launched my freelance copywriting business in
1982.

And I’ve been writing articles to promote my copywriting
business, info products, and books continually since then right
up to this day — and I still do it.

Why?

Here are 9 specific ways you can profit by writing and placing
articles for free online and offline:

1–Builds your reputation as an expert in your field.

Writing how-to articles about your area of expertise helps
position you as a leading authority in your subject matter.

2–Makes great sales literature.

Whether in print or PDF, reprints of your published articles make
great sales literature.

I always recommend having one of your articles as part of the
standard information kit on your services or products.

Also, a PDF with 3 to 5 articles can be an effective lead magnet.

3–Pumps up your online bio.

If you have written for major consumer or industry print
magazines, or even top e-newsletters, say so in your bio.

It impresses prospects when you tell them you have been published
in the Harvard Business Review or even Hydrocarbon Processing
magazine.

4–Drives traffic to your site.

Editors typically include a URL or hyperlink to your website in
the short “about the author” paragraph that runs with your
article.

In this regard, publishing in online media can often out-perform
print, because online has a live hyperlink vs. print only offers
a URL that must be manually keyed into a browser.

5–Gets you free advertising (sometimes).

When a print or online publication doesn’t pay for articles, they
may be willing to give you something else instead — such as a
free ad in their magazine or e-newsletter, or a free banner on
their website.

Not all will. Others might agree to it, but only with authors who
specifically ask.

6–Raises your website’s search engine ranking.

Posting a lot of keyword-rich articles and other content on your
website can raise your ranking with Google and other search
engines.

7–Improves your workshops, seminars, and speeches.

Reprints of published articles with your byline make great
handouts at events where you are a speaker.

8–Broadens your knowledge.

Writing articles educates you as much as your readers.

It forces you to organize your thinking, dig deeper into your
topic, and gain a better understanding of your subject and your
audience.

9–Builds your content library.

The articles you have written for publication and now store on
your hard drive are your content “goldmine.”

You can and should continually recycle your articles. No need to
reinvent the wheel every time you write about your topic.

The key to getting maximum ROI from your content is to retain all
rights to everything you write.

Type “first rights only” in the upper left corner on page one of
every article you submit to any outlet. This way you remain in
control of the rights.

If you sign the rights away, you can’t recycle your material for
multiple uses — which dramatically lowers the ROI from your
article writing.

 

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Category: Direct Marketing, Online Marketing | 8 Comments »

How far would you go to close a $29 sale?

January 9th, 2018 by Bob Bly

A few weeks ago, subscriber MP told me she read someone else’s
book on information marketing, followed the advice, and it did
not work.

And then she asked me, “How is your material any different?”

It sounds like a reasonable question, but I refused to answer it,
telling her “I have no interest in convincing you to buy my
material.”

You might think me rude in my reply, but I said it politely.

And there are three reasons why when anyone asks, “Why should I
buy your course instead of Mr. X’s?” I do not take the bait.

First, in most instances, I have not seen the competing product.

So how can I say how mine is different than that one
specifically?

(In MP’s case, I had not read nor even heard of the book she had
read.)

My usual response is to tell the person to read the sales page
describing my course.

That gives you everything you need to make an intelligent
decision about buying the product.

And then, you either buy it or you don’t.

I’m OK either way.

Also, I am not that sympathetic with people who are worried that,
after buying my info product, it won’t meet their needs.

That’s because I offer an unconditional 90-day guarantee of
satisfaction.

So there’s no risk to the buyer of any kind.

If they listen, watch, or read my info product and return it,
they get a prompt refund.

And they keep all the knowledge they gained — for free!

In essence, I am the one who has in a sense been “cheated.”

Because I have moved all the risk off the buyer’s shoulders and
onto mine.

But I don’t mind. That is the cost of doing business.

And if they can’t even pull the trigger on a $29 ebook with a
money-back guarantee and therefore ZERO purchase risk, well …

Then they probably don’t have the cojones do whatever business
the ebook teaches — so they are wise to walk away.

>> Second, there is the question of ROTI — return on time
invested.

Let’s say — although I charge by the project for my services, not
by the hour — it works out that I earn at minimum $250 an hour
working for my clients.

That’s about $4.17 a minute.

So if it takes me 10 minutes on the phone with MP to answer her
questions, I have spent almost $42 of my time to sell a $29
product — a net loss for me of nearly $13.

>> Third, I have no desire to be a “dancing monkey.”

A dancing monkey is a seller who will jump through hoops — and
say and do anything — to get the order.

There are a couple of reasons not to be a dancing monkey.

The first is: it’s a bit degrading and humiliation — comes close
to begging at times.

Second, it risks alienating many potential clients or customers.

That’s because many prospects are turned off by vendors who seem
desperate and in need of the money.

People would rather buy from someone who is busy and successful,
not someone who is needy and hungry.

Also, when it comes to info products, mine are reasonably priced
— many have said my prices are extremely low compared with others
in my markets.

So I have done my bit to help people improve their lives and
businesses at a fair price that doesn’t gouge them or break their
bank account.

And combined with the unconditional 3-month free trial I offer on
every info product I sell, my conscience is clear … and I sleep
well at night.

MP later wrote back saying, “I will buy it.”

Why?

I told her my bio and testimonials, which are on the sales page
of every info product I sell (see for example
www.theinternetmarketingretirementplan.com), should convince her
or not.

“I guess years and clients have proven you are right,” she
replied. And clicked the order button.

Now, there’s a copywriting lesson here, and it is this:

On your web sales pages, put the credibility right up front —
starting on the first screen.

Reason:

If your credentials are way into the copy in a long sales page,
the reader may never scroll that far down and see them — and
therefore, not buy and click away before ever discovering them.

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Upsell yourself to bigger profits

January 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

When I started my freelance copywriting career in the early
1980s, the most lucrative assignment was writing direct mail
packages to sell magazine subscriptions.

And perhaps the toughest assignment was the “free to paid
conversion” campaign.

This was a direct mail package designed to get people who
formerly received a magazine for free to now pay to subscribe.

Free-to-paid conversion is one kind of upsell, with an upsell
being any marketing that gets a customer who buys a less
expensive (or in this case free) product to buy a more expensive
product.

Now, thanks to the internet, upselling in general is much easier,
faster, and more profitable.

A case in point: Classmates Guestbook.

This is a great website that connects people who went to the same
high school and especially those who were in the same class.

You can look at some of the content and post your profile there
for free to update your classmates on what you are up to.

Then, when a classmate looks at your profile, Classmates
Guestbook notifies you by email.

But, the person’s name and image are blurry.

So you can’t actually see who has checked up on you … unless you
upgrade your Classmates Guestbook status from free to a paid
monthly subscription.

It’s a brilliant upsell, though there have been many smart upsell
programs both pre and post internet.

The classic at Mickey D’s, which has become iconic, is: “Do you
want fries with that?”

In MaryEllen Tribby’s online newsletter, she says this upsell
increased sales of fries at McDonald’s 15%.

And in fact, the fast food chain sells 9 million pounds of fries
worldwide each and every day of the year.[1]

An even more effective upsell was from the copywriter or brand
manager who first wrote these words on a shampoo bottle:

“Rinse. Lather. Repeat.”

This simple consumption doubled the consumer’s usage and purchase
of shampoo for a 100% upsell.

Arm and Hammer baking soda had a similar classic upsell with
their ad campaign extolling consumers to buy a second box of
baking soda to put in your refrigerator for absorbing odors.

For ecommerce businesses, the proven upsell strategy is to serve
the buyer a page with an upsell offer right before or at the
point of checkout.

We recently promoted a $19 ebook; when buyers went to the
shopping cart, they were upsold to an audio course.

The course is regularly $47, but the upsell offers it for only
$28, and about one out of three ebook purchasers takes the upsell
offer.

Opposite of the upsell is another offer that can work: the
downsell.

For instance, decades ago, a company sold a business opportunity
where for a high price you could buy a “business in a box”
selling gold chains, necklaces, and baubles at flea markets, swap
meets, and such.

When someone responded to their ads in business opportunity
magazines but did not buy after getting a series of mailers, the
next mailer offered a scaled-down “start-up” kit for a fraction
of the price of the full business kit.

In restaurants, the downsell to a full racks of ribs is the half
rack.

But that usually bothers me, because although I don’t want to eat
too much, I also don’t like feeling I am getting ripped off —
which is how I feel when a rack is $17.99 and a half-rack is
$14.99.

Once, when we were eating out and the server pointed out this
pricing to me on the menu, I replied, “If the rack is $17.99 and
the half-rack is $14.99, can I get the other half for the
remaining $3?”

The only people less amused than our server were my wife and
kids.

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Category: General, Online Marketing | 7 Comments »