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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 | 36 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 | 104 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 | 42 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 | 32 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 | 30 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 | 37 Comments »

The power of one good idea

August 17th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Here’s a recent incident that illustrates a valuable idea — “the
power of one good tip” — I want to share with you.

What happened was this: my subscriber KW ordered one of our
how-to business guides.

The next day, she sent the following email to me:

“Bob, I just ordered this and went through it quickly. This looks
like a great book for beginners. Unfortunately, it’s too remedial
for me, and it’s the first purchase from you that I am requesting
a refund on, please.”

We issued the refund immediately, without question or quibble, as
all marketers should.

Then KW, being a straight arrow, said to be fair to me, she had
deleted the PDF from her hard drive.

But … my guarantee says clearly: “You can keep the ebook even if
you ask for refund.”

I told KW this — and offered, at no charge, to resend the ebook
PDF.

KW replied:

“Seriously?! Wow! I would be happy to have it back. There were a
couple of items in Section IV that were quite helpful. Thanks
Bob! Much appreciated.”

Wait a second, KW, I thought. Hold the phone.

You mean you LIKED the ebook, got something out of it, and you
still told me to give you your money back?

I immediately replied:

“It’s my pleasure.

“But here’s something to remember before you ask for a refund on
anyone’s info product again:

“Namely, if there is even ONE item in a book that is helpful to
you, that one idea or tip alone could easily be worth 10X or more
what you paid for the product.

“My attitude as a consumer is that if I learn just one new thing
from an info product, I know my time and money have been well
spent.

“And in that case, since you have gotten your money’s worth —
hasn’t the producer earned his pay?

“Think about it.”

There are 2 valuable take-away points here, one for you as a
consumer of info products, and one for you as an info marketer.

First, as a consumer of info products, understand that you should
read for repetition as well as for new ideas.

Repetition has value, because we need to hear an idea or
instruction multiple times for it to sink in.

So if 95% of an info product tells you things you already know,
it is providing value by reinforcing your learning.

Then, if you also get one or two useful new ideas or strategies
in addition, consider it a bonus.

Second, as an info marketer, make the above points explicitly in
your sales copy.

This is typically done by writing on your landing page: “If you
get even just one new idea from my course, it can easily pay back
the cost 10X over or more.”

That way, you set a realistic expectation with buyers that
increases customer satisfaction and reduces refund requests.

Now, do I include that copy consistently on all my sales pages?

No.

Should I?

Yes.

When I returned the ebook to KW, she thanked me and offered
to pay for it again, which was highly ethical and admirable. And
to answer your question, I thanked her for that but did not take
the money, insisting she keep the product free “on the house.”

Why? Because it is always better to under-promise and
over-deliver than vice versa.

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Category: General | 24 Comments »

8 ways for writers to overcome loneliness and isolation

July 31st, 2018 by Bob Bly

What do writers and scientists have in common?

This: for many years, the stereotype of each was a dedicated
individual working alone.

The full cliché had the writer banging away on his typewriter
sitting alone in a room, possibly in a cold garret furnished in
early poverty.

Novelist Philip Roth, for instance, has said many times: “Writing
in a room by myself is practically my whole life.”

For science geeks, the stereotype was the “mad scientist”
working along in his lab, surrounded by flasks and beakers filled
with bubbling fluids.

Some people find these stereotypes a bit romantic and appealing;
others see them as depressing.

But the fact of the matter is .. they aren’t true — for either
scientists or writers.

Or at least they don’t have to be. And probably shouldn’t be.

As far as scientists toiling away in solitude, Yale Professor
Priyamrada Natarajan writes:

“Although advances in science and technology are often portrayed
as the work of solitary men … science has always been a
collective enterprise, dependent on many individuals who work
behind the scenes.”

For writers, though we are more likely to work alone than on a
team, many of us either want or would benefit from more “people
time” and less alone time.

Why? Spending time with others helps overcome isolation and
loneliness, enables productive collaboration, and provides an
opportunity for support and feedback.

If you are a writer alone most of the time but want to increase
your “people time,” here are 8 ways to achieve that goal:

1–Join a writer’s group.

Many towns have writers’ groups, usually mostly amateurs, which
meet to read and critique each other’s work.

2–Attend writing conferences.

There are a ton of them all over the country, and they are
advertised in writer magazines such as Poets & Writers, The
Writer, and Writer’s Digest.

The advantage over #1 is that, unlike local groups consisting
almost solely of amateurs, at writing conferences the attendees
range the spectrum from rank amateur to working journeymen to
superstars — and often editors and literary agents as well.

Two I have attended and can recommend personally: ASJA for book
and article writers, and AWAI for copywriters.

3–Find a writing buddy.

Reach out to a writer you meet at #1 or #2, and pair up as
buddies, much like kids have a swim buddy at summer camp. You
can read each other’s work and give feedback, plus you can have
writerly chats and moral support.

4–Hire a coach.

We live in a coach-crazy world today. If you hire a coach, make
sure the coach is an active and successful writer in the niche
you are pursuing.

5–Join a Mastermind group.

According to an article in Forbes, Mastermind groups are
relatively new to most people, even though Napoleon Hill created
the concept around 75 years ago.

A mastermind group is designed to help you navigate through
challenges using the collective intelligence of others — some who
are your peers, others who may be ahead of you — and there is
often a large fee to belong.

6–Professional association memberships.

I am a chemical engineer and as such am also a member of the
American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Medical writers join the American Medical Writers Association.
You get the idea.

Benefits to association membership are many and varied — from
networking and self-promotional opportunities, to conferences and
education, to affordable health insurance and discounts on
products and services.

7–Build a team.

Hire a virtual assistant, proofreader, copy editor, website
designer, bookkeeper, CPA, and others to build a team that
supports you.

The obvious benefit: outsourcing everything but the writing makes
you more productive and increases your writing revenues.

Also, as you gradually build relationships with team members, you
are almost part of a virtual organization.

8–Take a class.

Many adult education programs at high schools and colleges offer
a variety of writing classes including creative writing,
copywriting, and journalism.

Bottom line: If you are a writer … and you feel too alone and cut
off from others, especially those in your line of work … these 8
ideas can fix that.

As Jor-El told Kal-El in the original “Superman” movie — you will
never be alone.

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Category: General, Writing | 59 Comments »