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Avoid the crisis-lull-crisis of marketing

October 9th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Years ago, a freelance copywriter complained to me about the
crisis-lull-crisis nature of freelance as well as ad agency work.

Many other freelancer tell me the same thing.

When they have little or no work, almost no leads come their way,
and most those that do are of poor quality, and the good ones
never close.

On the flip side, when you get busy, the work keeps on coming,
and your schedule fills to nearly overflowing with great clients
and assignments paying top dollar.

Self-employed professionals in many fields also encounter the
crisis-lull-crisis cycle.

I have found 2 very effective ways to fight it.

The first is continual marketing, which means marketing your
services even when you’re busy — in fact especially when you are
busy.

That way you fill up your lead pipeline, so that if a bunch of
clients go silent or the leads don’t close, you have plenty of
other prospects in line eager to take their place.

The second strategy for keeping busy and profitable is to have a
second stream of income (or several), so when your main business
hits a temporarily slump, you have other revenue-generating work
to turn to.

For freelance copywriters, these second income streams can
include: writing magazine articles … writing books … consulting …
speaking and training … teaching … internet marketing … even
owning an unrelated business, like a restaurant or store.

That way, you remain busy and productive with no interruption in
income.

And just when you think your copywriting business is doomed, the
phone will start ringing off the hook with more clients wanting
to hire you than you can handle.

It’s true what they say: when it rains, it pours.

And despite your temporary drought, rest assured it will rain
again, and sooner rather than later.

It always does.

Why this is true, I have no idea.

But between multiple streams of income and having the cycle of
busy/slow/busy shift once again in your favor, you’ll be A-Okay.

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Category: General, Success | 3 Comments »

The customer is always right — even if he’s not

October 5th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes:

“After 23 years as a full-time freelance copywriter, I still
occasionally find myself in a difficult situation with a client.

“As you know, in their terms and conditions, most copywriters
stipulate that copy revisions are free of charge, but changes to
the assignment will incur an extra charge.

“I do this too, but sometimes there can be a slight grey area in
which a client can argue that a small change to the assignment is
actually just another revision. [This incremental additional work
is referred to as “scope creep.”]

“My client did this today, and I’ve ended up effectively working
3 extra hours for free. For goodwill I offered to ‘meet halfway’,
but the client — a very large company — now refuses to pay
anything above the quoted amount.

“More than ever, clients know how powerful they are and it looks
like I’ve got to grin and bear this loss. Perhaps there’s a
newsletter article here?”

Well, this covers two fundamental rules of the service business,
both of which are important.

The first rule: the time to discuss costs is before they are
incurred, not after the fact.

DC should have given his client a written estimate of the extra
hours the rework would take, and gotten them to agree before
proceeding.

Because he did not, I feel the client owes DC nothing for the
extra rework.

The second rule is: if it’s a choice between being too generous
to your clients vs. being a hard ass and looking out for yourself
first, you should err on the side of being too generous.

I’m not saying you should be a sucker and work for people for
free.

But it’s almost always better, in case of disagreement or
dispute, for the outcome to favor the client, and not you, even
if it costs you in time, money, or both.

Being a large corporation, the client company here could have
given DC a significant amount of new business — many tens of
thousands of dollars — if they continued to use his services.

Therefore, eating 3 hours of DC’s time is insignificant when
compared to the potential income from this account.

And when you treat people in business fairly and favorably, word
gets around, and you build a reputation for being honest and
honorable.

On the other hand, if DC fights the client on this, he will lose
favor with them, and they won’t continue to use him.

The great David Ogilvy likened the advertising business to a game
of chess and advised, “Guard your King and Queen; let the pawns
go.”

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Category: General, Success | 6 Comments »

My perfect day

September 28th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Surely there are some days you feel are just perfect days for
you.

I am no different. I have perfect days. And recently, subscriber
BG asked me, “Bob, what does a perfect day for you look like?”

That’s easy to answer, because I have the scenario of my perfect
day well-established in my mind. So here it is.

To begin with, I wake up very early — around 6:30am — feel full
of energy and enthusiasm, and can’t wait to rush downstairs to
my office and get started.

When I look out the office window onto my acre of woods in the
back yard, the usual deer show up and parade slowly by.
Sometimes a fox or coyote, too.

It’s raining. The weather is cool. The sky is gray. Cloudy. No sun.

I open the window a few inches so I can better hear the sound of
the rain as it strikes the leaves on the trees and also enjoy the
cool air.

I have no phone calls scheduled. I have no appointments, which
means I do not have to leave the house, and I can work on what I
want that day, when I want to.

I have plenty of deadlines, but nothing due that week, adding
another degree of freedom to my schedule for that day.

I fire up the CD player so there is music in the background as I
work. I have wide-ranging tastes, so it could be anything from
Brahms to Barry Manilow, to John Williams and Wazmo Nariz, to
Jimmy Smith and Ian Dury.

There is left-over coffee in the pot, which I microwave,
eliminating the need for me to brew a fresh pot; I actually
prefer the day-old reheated.

My work schedule is filled with a variety of interesting and fun
projects: copywriting for clients, writing my current book, and
working on my online info marketing business.

My wife, sons, daughter-in-law, and sister are having relatively
good days with no major problems, and seem happy and in a good
mood. No one has a cold, flu, or is otherwise sick.

There are no headaches that day, such as the internet not working
or a shingle blowing off the roof or a tree falling and crushing
our fence — which happened recently.

I have no social engagements, so I can just concentrate on work.
I almost never socialize during the work week.

I work about 11 to 12 hours and knock off at around 6pm EST.

Then, I read a book and, if someone picked it up from Walgreen’s,
the newspaper … and, if I have it, the latest issue of the New
York Review of Books.

My wife is either cooking or we have prepared food to heat up —
something I really like, such as eggplant casserole.

If there’s a TV show or two my wife enjoys, I sit in the living
room and we watch it together, though I read at the same time.
The Middle was a particular favorite, though it was just
cancelled.

I go to bed early, around 10pm, so I have good energy when I wake
up early the next day.

And that’s my perfect day. What about yours?

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Category: General | 7 Comments »

What’s your addiction?

September 25th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Yes, it’s my belief that everyone is addicted to something.

Whether it’s surfing the net … gambling … watching sports on TV …
fishing (my dad was) … poker … golf … skiing … baseball … alcohol
… drugs … roller coasters … collecting luxury cars … travel … and
dozens more.

I define addiction as “you just have to do it” — and if you
cannot do it, you’re not happy.

Some addictions, like heroin, are bad for you.

Other addictions, like expensive antique collecting, are not as
bad, though they may cause you to spend money you don’t have.

Still others, like gardening, are healthy and affordable.

And some, like real estate, can actually make you money.

I am addicted to comic books and superhero movies, which costs
very little.

But I have also written half a dozen published books on these
topics, and so actually have made a little money from them.

I do like hobbies and interests that generate a financial return.

My dad, for instance, collected coins for decades, with his
collection appreciating in value substantially.

But he did it because it captured his interest, not to make
money. When I was young, I did it along with him, for the pure
enjoyment.

I am addicted to reading, which for a writer is not a bad thing,
because it is an important part of your professional training and
also your job.

Through reading, you become a better writer and gain a lot of
useful knowledge, which can increase your writing income.

I am addicted to writing books, which also helps make me a better
writer, and with royalties and advances, has earned me a handsome
second income over the decades.

Finally, I am addicted to certain foods, such as kosher hot dogs,
pastrami, and bagels with lox and cream cheese, which probably
doesn’t do my health any good.

My advice for my fellow addicts:

First, control your addiction. I like to collect toy robots, but
I don’t want to clutter the house. So I keep the collection
small, largely so as not to piss off my wife.

Second, break yourself of truly harmful addictions: drinking too
much, drugs, porn, tobacco.

Third, try to find an addiction that is fun, good exercise, and
contributes to your development as a person. And if you turn a
profit from it, consider that a bonus.

I am also addicted to writing these weekly essays, but it seems
to be a good thing for me. And I hope you like some of them!

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Category: General | 8 Comments »

Does it pay to go to marketing seminars?

September 14th, 2018 by Bob Bly

In a recent Facebook thread on the relative value and merits of
copywriting and marketing seminars, my FB friend BM wrote:

“I haven’t been to a live seminar in years. I’m too busy doing
work for clients. How do I sharpen the axe?

“I have every book, ebook, and CD set that Bob Bly has published,
plus I’m an AWAI Infinity member and I have lots of good stuff
from Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia. I’ve cut the number of other
gurus I follow to three.

“It’s all recorded or printed so I can go back to school on my
own time. After taking this inventory I realized that if I did
nothing else I would not live long enough to read/listen to all
of them again. And you want me to sign up for your seminar in Las
Vegas? Egh!”

There are many who, like BM, are highly skeptical that the value
of seminars outweighs the time it takes to attend, especially if
the event requires plane travel.

And many others for whom the tuition is too stiff. They search
for less expensive education and can almost always find it.

My take on expensive seminars and conferences– those with
tuitions in the multiple thousands of dollars — and how to get
essentially the same knowledge for less money and time — is as
follows:

1–I always prefer to sample an expert’s free information before I
pay.

Almost all gurus have websites with a ton of free content — yours
for the taking.

Study that first.

If you don’t like that content, then why would you pay for more
of the same?

(I just saved you a ton of money!)

If you do like the free content on the guru’s website, then one
of two things can happen.

Either it’s so useful that it answers what you needed to know,
you don’t need to buy anything else, and you’ve solved your
problem for free.

Or, it’s so good that you are now confident in getting more
training and advice from this expert, and thereby improve your
odds of successful learning while reducing risk.

2–After I study the free content (e.g., blog posts, articles,
e-newsletters, free reports) … but before I move to a big
purchase … I look on Amazon to see whether the guru has written a
traditionally published paperbound book on the topic.

A dirty little secret many info marketers don’t want you to know:
often their books contain more content, better organized, and
more clearly presented then their expensive courses and products.

Reason: mainstream publishers require a degree of editing,
rewriting, copyediting, fact-checking, and proofreading that 99%
of info marketers don’t come close to. Result: clearer, more
complete, and better organized information.

3–Now, if you have gotten all you can from the guru’s
low-cost/no-cost content … and you still want to study with them
… you can safely and confidently invest in their higher-cost paid
info products.

But … and this is a warning: do not overbuy.

Listen, I love it when I get an email showing a subscriber who
just spent a grand with me buying a dozen different products; I
like money same as anybody else.

But at the same time, I worry about that customer and information
overload.

It’s like going bonkers at Barnes & Noble, buying every book that
looks good to you, and then putting them on your shelf and never
getting around to read them.

At least traditional paperbound books are a nice decorative touch
in a room. You don’t get that with PDFs, mp3 files, and streaming
audio. So unless you actually consume and use the content, buying
info products is pointless.

I know this list isn’t conclusive. But these are the primary
factors that weigh into my decision whether to pull the trigger,
shell out the dough on an expensive seminar, and fly hours to
attend … or walk away.

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Category: General | 12 Comments »

9 tips for webinar presenters

September 11th, 2018 by Bob Bly

There are a boatload of articles giving smart, savvy, strategic
advice on marketing with webinars.

This isn’t one of them.

Instead, here are 9 rather mundane — some might say trivial or
even silly — tips for webinar producers and presenters.

They won’t make you rich or famous.

But they’ll help your webinar go more smoothly while making it
easier for you to give:

#1–Go to the bathroom.

Ten minutes before you call into the webinar line, hit the head
and empty your bladder.

Trust me: There are few things worse than having to take a leak,
because when you are the webinar presenter, you can’t step away
from the phone or microphone to do it.

And the alternatives are all unpleasant.

#2–Have a box of tissues handy.

And, in case you have a cold or allergies, blow your nose —
thoroughly — before you start.

If the listener hears you sniffle or snort during your talk, it’s
awfully distracting.

#3–“Do not disturb.”

Whenever I am giving a webinar, I close my office door and tape a
sign to it that reads:

“Webinar in progress from [hours] — do not disturb UNLESS you are
mortally wounded or the house is on fire.”

#4–The dog trick.

If you work at home and have a dog, have someone take the dog for
a walk or car ride. Or put the dog outside, far away enough from
your office that if he barks, your listeners won’t hear it.

#5–Liquids.

Have a big glass of water — and I mean large enough to last you
through the entire duration of the talk.

#6–Eat.

Eat a light snack before your webinar so you can focus on your
presentation and not be distracted by hunger.

#7–Hard copy.

Print hard copies of your slides and have them on the desk next
to your phone.

That way, if you somehow get disconnected or lose the video
portion of the webinar, you can work from the print copy.

Also, it ensures that you can read the slides clearly in case the
screen shot is low resolution or too small.

#8–Have a back-up plan.

You and the webinar company should have a way to contact one
another in case of a technical glitch.

I have my smartphone and the webinar producer’s phone number at
the ready just in case.

#9–Always record your webinar.

Even if you don’t plan to sell or offer access to the recorded
webinar, record it.

That way a participant who doesn’t get in or is somehow
disconnected can view and hear it later.

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Category: General | 9 Comments »

How often should you check your email inbox?

September 7th, 2018 by Bob Bly

One of my mentors, GN, is one of the top direct response
entrepreneurs.

GN advises us to check our emails only once a day, saying doing
so more often is a waste of time that lowers your productivity.

But GN is a business owner and therefore also a client for people
in service businesses — including freelance copywriters like me.

And while clients can afford to check email just daily, if you
are a vendor, you should do so much more frequently — ideally,
once every hour.

The reason: When your clients or prospects have a need, a prompt
response not only provides superior customer service.

But if you do not reply quickly, they may, if the job is urgent,
email your competitors who, if they answer more quickly than you,
may just get the assignments that you wanted.

In addition, for me, checking my email hourly does not interfere
with my productivity. In fact, it improves it.

I divide my daily writing into one-hour increments, between which
I take a 5-minute break; the great Gene Schwartz worked in
half-hour increments with a 3-minute break between them, though I
am not even close to his level.

During those short breaks is a perfect time for me to take a
quick look at my email inbox.

I quickly delete the irrelevant emails — and respond to the
important ones from clients and prospects on the spot — so they
are never kept waiting too long.

Emails that are less urgent but still important because of their
valuable content, I file for later reading or reference in the
appropriate Outlook folders.

This short break energizes me to get back to copywriting for
another hour.

And if I am worn out on my copywriting project, I switch to
another one, which further refreshes me so I can tackle it with
renewed energy.

So if you are a service provider, I advise you to check and
respond to emails in a timely manner, as it boosts your energy,
productivity, and customer service.

It works well for me and might for you too. Give it a try.

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Category: General | 8 Comments »

On turning 61

August 24th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Last month, I turned 61.

Which means if I live to be 90, my life is more than two-thirds
over.

Now, as I sail into the sunset of that final third of my
existence, here’s some of what I’m going through … and what I
see, feel, and think.

#1–Energy.

I feel fortunate that I still have enormous energy during the
work day — and I still work 60 hours a week.

But after quitting time, then I feel drained, don’t have much
energy, and am content to sit in my favorite easy chair and read
a book or newspaper.

I even turn on the boob tube, look for a good movie, and watch it
for half an hour or so — more than that is too much TV and brain
rot.

This routine is not a huge problem for me, as work, writing, and
reading are most of what I like to do best anyway.

When I was younger, my major energy-consuming activity was
playing vigorously with my kids — a lot.

Now they are 25 and 28, and the play is less vigorous — mainly
board games (which I play with them) and video games (which I
watch but do not play myself).

#2–Materialism.

I was never terribly materialistic, though I liked having a lot
of vinyl records and books.

But when we moved a few years ago, my wife made my get rid of
most of these collections.

And much to my surprise, I was happy to do so.

The older I get, the less stuff I want.

#3–Marriage.

The love of our marriage deepens, at least for me, with each
passing year.

My wife Amy, along with my sons, is the center of my universe.

#4–Dog.

I have always liked dogs and we have had a few over the years.
They were all wonderful.

But our latest, Bailey — a rescue dog from North Carolina and a
Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever — is the most affectionate of
all.

Other people with rescue dogs say the same. I think because these
dogs were abandoned, they appreciate their new owners and homes
even more than other dogs.

I just love him to pieces, and he wants to be with us all the
time.

#5–Patience.

I have never suffered fools gladly.

And as I age, my tolerance for rudeness, ignorance, and stupidity
declines with each passing year.

#6–Socializing.

I prefer to be at home, read and write, spend time with my family
and my dog, and stay in the comfortable, familiar environment of
the house.

My wife drags me out to socialize, and while I enjoy it when we
do, I probably would do it very little if left to my own devices.

#7–Travel.

Pure torture for me. If my wife, my oldest son, and his wife did
not want me to travel with them, my only travel would be to give
seminars, an activity I love.

#8–Books.

I am addicted to reading books and even more so to writing them.

Perhaps paperbound books will vanish one day, and I’ll stop.

But as long as I have publishers who will have me write paper
books for them, I’ll keep doing it.

#9–Mortality.

If I live to be 90, I have only 30 years left, and there is so
much I still want to do that I am running out of time. And it’s
beginning to bug me.

#10–Risk-taking.

If you are over 60 and lose a big chunk of money in the market or
another investment, you may not have the time or future earning
potential to make up for the loss. So I am less of a risk-taker
as an investor, though I was never a big one to begin with. (My
biggest speculation was buying thousands of ounces of silver
years ago when it was at $10 an ounce.)

“Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” — Robert
Browning

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Category: General | 12 Comments »