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Can you really make money while you sleep?

November 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

A few weeks ago, I checked my email on a Thursday night at around
9pm. Nothing important in the inbox.

The next morning, when I started work at about 7am, I went into
my email inbox to find that 2 of my subscribers had each ordered
multiple information products from me overnight while I was
sleeping.

The total dollar amount: $1,079.

In addition, my agent sent me an unexpected royalty check for
$1,993 for a Japanese edition of a book I wrote in 1985.

Total passive income for the day (so far): $3,072

Hardly a fortune. Didn’t make me rich. For many internet
marketers, peanuts.

But the point is that “in my sleep” that night I made slightly
more money than the average American makes working three full
40-hour weeks (not including commuting time) to earn.

With no labor on my part. No meetings. No phone calls. No leaving
the house. No even being awake!

I tell you this not to brag, but to make a point:

I firmly believe you should have multiple streams of income, with
at least one of them being passive income.

For two reasons.

First, while a paycheck is steady and expected, orders like the
$3,072 are unexpected — and there is delight in surprise.

Even if it’s a small amount, an unexpected royalty, commission,
bonus, or order makes my day … and many of my colleagues have
told me the same is true for them, too.

Second, and more important, if you can develop a passive income
stream that generates annual six-figure revenues … without
active daily labor from you …

(… in other words, you make money when you sleep — or are on
vacation — or do nothing at all …)

…that gives you a degree of financial security that 95% of your
friends, relatives, and neighbors will never have.

I am not money hungry or even money oriented.

I work long hours in my copywriting business and will do so as
long as I am able. Yes, to make money and also for the sheer
pleasure of it.

But by making a six-figure passive second income online, it’s
comforting to know we could live nicely off that $100,000+
alone if our active income profit centers went belly up (e.g.,
you got fired, your luncheonette went out of business).

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Category: Success | 8 Comments »

4 simple steps to make your writing 4X better

October 16th, 2018 by Bob Bly

The quickest and simplest way to make your writing easier to read
is with the “4 S” formula:

#1: Small words.

Small words make writing easier to read because almost all your
readers know and understand the small words you use.

Conversely, when you use long words to impress readers with your
vocabulary, many of them won’t understand the words you are
using.

And if they don’t understand the words, they don’t understand
what you are trying to say.

Back in the day, our elementary school teachers told us that, any
time we encountered a word we did not know, to look it up in the
dictionary — a popular method of improving one’s mastery of
English.

But your readers are busy adults who have neither the time nor
the desire to look up a word in their paperbound or online
dictionary.

And so if you use a word whose meaning they do not know, they
won’t get the full message you want to convey.

Use small words. Remember, you write to express, not to impress.

Mark Twain said, “I never write ‘metropolis’ when I get paid the
same penny a word for writing ‘city.'”

#2: Short sentences.

Short sentences are easier to read than long sentences.

How do you know if your sentence is too long? Use the breath
test.

Read your sentence out loud, at a moderate space, without taking
in a breath before you start.

If you run out of air before the end, the sentence is too long.

Easy fix: divide the sentence into two or more sentences at the
point where a new thought or idea begins.

#3: Short paragraphs.

At the beginning of your document, the first three paragraphs
should be one or two sentences each — no longer.

If you lead with an extremely long paragraph, the large chunk of
text is a roadblock to readership, and it will discourage many
people from reading further.

If a paragraph it too long, break it up by starting a new
paragraph wherever a new thought is introduced.

#4: Short sections.

Sections should have boldface subheads or be numbered.

Numbering makes it easier to have a table of contents.

Short sections and subheads make scanning easier for the reader
and also enable them to find the information they need more
rapidly.

Plus, overlong sections bore readers, and the temptation is to
skip ahead to a shorter section.

These tips won’t make your copy, in and of themselves, more
persuasive.

But they do encourage readership, which helps increase clicks and
conversions.

And that’s the 4 S formula in a nutshell — easy to follow, easy
to execute.

Don’t worry about hitting it on your first draft, either.

It’s easy to take your first draft, make these 4 simple changes,
which all relate to using smaller words, shorter sentences,
shorter paragraphs, and shorter sections with subheads.

Use them and your document will be 2X to 4X clearer and easier to
read.

You will get your message understood and save the reader time and
frustration.

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Category: Success, Writing | 8 Comments »

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 | 9 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 | 10 Comments »

Dream big; start small

October 2nd, 2018 by Bob Bly

In the late 1970s, when I first became a professional writer, the
most sought-after assignment in freelancing was writing magazine
articles.

Today, among AWAI students and other copywriters, the most
sought-after assignment is a long-copy promotion such as a
magalog or video sales letter (VSL) selling a product via direct
response.

Anyway, back in the day, the writers’ magazines … and the
speakers at writing conferences … virtually all gave the same
advice to newbie freelance writers: start big.

They said to avoid the literary journals, the little magazines,
trade journals, and other no-pay/low-pay markets.

Instead, right off the bat, target the top-tier magazines; e.g.
Cosmopolitan, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Omni, and so on.

In freelance copywriting, some — certainly not all copywriting
teachers — say to write for big-name companies paying top fees
and royalties right from the get-go.

This may be great advice, and I may be a chicken about it, but I
largely ignored it and did the opposite.

For articles, I went after smaller outlets, including smaller
papers in the cities where I lived — and magazines in
specialized niches with smaller circulations, such as Chemical
Engineering Magazine, Science Books & Films, Democrat &
Chronicle, Bergen Record, and Writer’s Digest.

When I started freelancing in my spare time right out of college,
my first freelance articles appeared in the Baltimore City Paper
— these were medium-length feature pieces for which I was paid on
average $50 each:

www.bly.com/newsite/Pages/PDFs/journalism-city-paper-stock-racing.pdf

And I had a ball writing them.

But why didn’t I set my aspirations somewhat higher? For several
reasons.

First, I was a beginner with no credentials, so I felt I had a
better shot at these mid-market periodicals.

Second, they were small enough that you could have a personal
relationship with the editor.

To get into City Paper, I went to their offices and pitched my
stories face to face with the editor — and it worked.

Third, I was getting paid, albeit small sums, for learning my
craft.

Fourth, I was getting clips, which helped me break into better
markets and assignments, and also looked good on my résumé.

Fifth, I have always preferred getting published to not, and
here, I could do it.

Similarly, in direct response copywriting, newbies today approach
big-name direct marketers in highly competitive markets —
financial and health — and ask to do a full promotion.

Even if you are hired, these marketers regularly engage the top
guns — and your chances of beating Clayton Makepeace, Richard
Armstrong, or David Deutsch as a beginner are slim to none.

Start with smaller financial publishers, supplement makers, and
other direct response offers such as books, coins, and
collectibles.

Get winners and keep working … and the bigger companies will
slowly take notice and approach you about writing for them.

In the interest of giving you more balanced reporting, sometimes
a newbie takes a shot going after a big client — and it pays off.

In the early 80s I was working for medium-sized industrial
manufacturers and getting decent but not spectacular fees, mainly
writing brochures and print ads.

A newbie I was friendly with approached International Paper about
writing for them.

They took the bait and hired him. He did well and was earning in
his first month of freelancing pay scales it had taken me 3 years
to reach.

So really, what do I know?

However, as a rule, I think my advice here to start smaller and
work your way up is fundamentally sound.

That’s my philosophy. And I’m sticking to it.

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Category: Success, Writing | 18 Comments »

8 ways to stand out in a crowded niche

June 26th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber HC writes:

“I am an aspiring entrepreneur and would appreciate information
on best practices when it comes to positioning correctly in a
niche market.”

A decade ago, being in a niche market WAS your positioning. But
today, many niches are becoming so crowded, HC is correct in that
it’s smart to position yourself within the niche.

And here are a few suggestions on how to do it:

1–Acquire specialized education or training.

There are more and more writers in the science and technology
niche.

My colleague AD has a huge advantage over them because of his PhD
in chemistry.

I have a smaller but still significant advantage because of my BS
in chemical engineering.

2–Gain specialized experience on the job.

My friend EG and I graduated from the University of Rochester
together in the late 70s.

A few years later he was involved in a major SAP implementation
for a large corporation.

Soon after that, he became an in-demand consultant in the SAP
niche who could write his own ticket.

3–Narrow your position in your niche.

For instance, there are a lot of health care ad agencies.

But KS specialized by focusing just on advertising for
audiologists.

Similarly, my old high school friend GG became a practice
management consultant for optometrists only after a career as a
successful eye doctor.

4–Position yourself as a top expert.

My friend, the late HGL, positioned himself as a top direct
response copywriter by being an amazingly prolific producer of
articles, books, and talks on his top (direct marketing).

5–Create a distinctive or outrageous brand for yourself.

Example: Publisher and entrepreneur ML made outrageous TV
commercials in which he wore a jacket covered with bright
questions marks, similar to the Riddler.

6–Invent your own niche.

Author MH created his own niche by writing a book on it:
reengineering.

SG did likewise with “permission marketing.”

7–Be humble, honest, and deliver top quality at fair prices.

In certain niches, there are so many hucksters, you can stand out
simply by not being one of them.

8–Go technical.

If there is an area in your niche that is technical and a bit
difficult to master, study and master it.

For instance, there are more online marketing gurus than you can
shake a stick at.

But my colleague PM differentiated himself by specializing in
Google AdWords and becoming a top expert in pay-per-click (PPC)
advertising.

He is an engineer and told me he picked PPC as his niche
precisely because most other people found it a little too
daunting and technical.

Are there other ways to position yourself for maximum visibility
and success in your niche you think I missed?

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Category: Branding, Success | 7 Comments »

My #1 productivity hack: the quick “kaizen break”

June 1st, 2018 by Bob Bly

“Kaizen” is the Japanese philosophy of making continuous
improvements.

Given that there is hardly anything we do that we can’t do
better, this is a smart approach to business.

The problem, however, is that our time and attention is already
absorbed by pressing tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities.

So making improvements in our systems, processes, skills, and
products too often falls by the wayside.

My solution is a business tactic I call the “kaizen break.”

Notice that as you are working frantically on getting through
your to-do list, you invariably tire.

And when you do, you take a small mental break … maybe 5 or 10
minutes … before either returning to the major task you were
working on — or moving to the next major task.

During these breaks, we often waste time, or at least are fairly
unproductive, doing everything from watching a quick YouTube
video or getting a coffee refill, to petting the dog or staring
out the window.

So here’s how to turn these short bits of wasted time into
profitable time with my “kaizen break” method.

In a kaizen break, instead of futzing around, you do a short task
— usually one with no urgency — that can produce an incremental
improvement in your business.

Example: A few weeks ago I presented one of my standard webinars,
“Effective Business Writing.”

Over the decades, I have presented versions of this basic program
on how to write better and faster dozens of times — earning
hundreds of thousands of dollars teaching it over and over.

Whenever I give one of my talks, I always think of ways,
immediately after presenting, to make it better.

So, after my most recent lecture, I printed a hard copy of the
PowerPoint.

The next day, during a short break between copywriting projects,
I went over the slides with a pen.

I made a few corrections, added a few points, and then faxed my
small edits to my PowerPoint designer for a minor update of the
file.

The result?

In a brief pause between intensive writing, during which I
otherwise would have sat here contemplating my nave l, I instead
made a small but useful improvement to one of my core products.

Namely, a workshop that I get $5,500 a day to deliver to my
corporate training clients.

For me, turning dead time into productive time like this, and
wasted time into a money-maker, is a no-brainer.

Thanks to my new “kaizen breaks,” I am making small non-urgent
but valuable improvements to my systems and products almost
every week of the year.

And now, you can, too.

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The 2/24 formula for turning a no into a yes

May 18th, 2018 by Bob Bly

So many people allow themselves to be defeated by either
rejection or lack of persistence.

“Persistence” is the ability to keep moving forward … and
pursuing your goal or objective … even in the face of failures
and setbacks.

“Rejection” is a more specific case of lack of persistence after
a disappointment: giving up too easily when people say “no” to
you.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Your ability to face setbacks and
disappointments without giving up will be the measure of your
ability to succeed.”

But most people don’t. They give up quickly. Fold too easily. And
as a result don’t get what they want.

The solution is the “2/24 formula.”

It’s simple.

Say you have a negative result. It could be anything from a
publisher rejecting your book proposal — to a potential speaking
client choosing your competitor to deliver a keynote.

The 2/24 formula says that, within 24 hours of your rejection,
you make not one but TWO more pitches for the same project or
work with two new prospects.

So in the case of the book proposal, you turn around and submit
it to not one but TWO other publishers.

Why does the 2/24 formula work?

For three reasons.

First, because it is a formula, following it becomes almost
automatic. So it gets done by you consistently.

The 2/24 formula removes the decision of whether to wallow in
misery … or get up, dust yourself off, and try again … because
the formula says you HAVE to move forward and do so immediately.
It’s mandatory.

Second, the “2” part — by making TWO sales calls for every
rejection, you double your chances of closing a deal.

Third, the “24” part. The formula requires you to take swift
action — within 24 hours. And as my friend Joe Vitale and others
have said, “Money loves speed.”

One more thing….

The old saying … “There is no failure, only feedback” … is mostly
true.

You only really fail when you stop trying and give up.

Rocky Balboa states this idea eloquently here:

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Category: Success | 10 Comments »