In the 11th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob talk with direct response copywriter Amy Posner running an agency and her move to freelancing, her lead magnet and what she includes with it to close more projects, her sales process and how she closed a $27,000 project, and the advice she would give to a copywriter who is just starting out. Great advice here. Don’t miss it.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Mastermind
Amy’s Info Kit
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
KH: The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for
professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at airstory.co/club.
RM: What if you could hang out with really talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work process and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I try to do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
KH: You’re invited to join the club for episode 11 as we chat with freelance copywriter Amy Posner about her client proposal process, cold prospecting, being a direct response copywriter, and her thoughts about certifications for copywriters.
Thanks for coming back, Amy. I feel like we should share that we already have a interview due, and had a conversation with you, and it erased by accident and it was gold. It was pure gold.
RM: We lost it, and we are sorry, but we are grateful to have you back.
AP: Yeah. I hope I can do whatever magic it was last time. I can’t remember.
KH: The good thing is, it’s been a couple of weeks, so I have actually forgotten most everything we talked about, so this all feels fresh and new to me. We’ll just start from scratch here.
AP: Sounds good.
KH: To start, Amy, I know that you’ve had a really evolved last year. You changed a lot in your business, and you joined The Copywriters Mastermind. Could you just share just kind of an overview of how your business has changed over the past year?
AP: Wow. That’s a big question. I’ll preface it by saying, I’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time and I seem to thrive on change, so that’s kind of like my MO. I’m not sure that that’s the best thing, but what’s happened this year has been really good. I have resisted choosing a niche for many years. I kind of niched in copy as opposed to like in a, in an industry sector.
One of the things that I realized, at some point last year, was that I wanted to streamline my business. I started this … What is this? 2016? The end of 2014, I developed this little mantra, which was “work less, earn more.” I set about trying to figure out, “How do I do that?” What I realized was I get bored easily, so I’ve always really enjoyed diversity. Doing different things. Working for different clients. I did a lot of jobs that were involved and complicated and many of them were one-offs.
Sometimes clients would come back after a year or two but I didn’t have a lot of regular, repetitive business. That meant two things. One is that I was learning. I was taking a big learning curve all the time, and I was enjoying that for a long time.
The other thing was it meant I was always on the hunt. I decided that that wasn’t the most efficient way to run my business, so I looked for ways to streamline my efforts, and fulfill this “earn more, work less” kind of thing that I set up for myself. I don’t know if I answered your question exactly, but those are some of the broad strokes.
RM: Amy, I’m really curious. You mentioned that you haven’t really niched yourself except to say that you’re a copywriter, but in a lot of ways you’ve, over the last few years, sold yourself as a direct response copywriter. I’m curious how you see direct response copy being different from other kinds of copywriting or content creation.
AP: Direct response to me is really … It’s a lot about the psychology of what happens, and really understanding the audience. Traditionally, and direct response has been around a long time. I mean, direct response is just what it says it is, right? It’s giving people a vehicle to respond, so that you can measure results. That’s essentially what it is. I guess sort of scientifically/technically however you want to think of that, but to me what it is, is it’s really tapping into the psychology of your reader.
Whether it’s a web-visitor, print, material. It’s really … It’s client-focused, reader-focused, visitor-focused. It’s audience-focused copy the really taps into people’s pains, problems, aspirations. Sort of the theory being that people won’t pay attention until they know that you understand who they are, where they’re coming from, and what their problem is.
To me that’s what direct response. It really taps into that, and connects with the audience, and then there’s other techniques that you can use to engage them, or move them to action. That sort of thing. To me that’s sort of the essence of direct response.
RM: Would you say it’s basically the same thing as what the buzzword lately is been conversion copywriter? That they’re really the same thing?
AP: You know, yes and no. I mean to me, I kind of think of it this way. Direct response is what you do to get people interested, and conversion is what you do to get them to take action. Although there’s overlaps in both disciplines. That’s kind of how I’ve come to think of it, and I’m not sure that that’s accurate definition, but it’s kind of my working definition at the moment anyway. Does that make sense?
KH: It actually really helps because I didn’t … I have not understood direct response, and the difference at all. I thought they were about the same, so this has clarified it.
RM: Yeah. I think of them similarly. I started as a direct response copywriter as well, and you know back in the ‘70s and ‘80s direct response was the Columbia Records Club, right? The book of the month club. You got that offer. You responded to it. You could track it back to a particular newspaper ad, or maybe some other kind of coupon vehicle. That kind of a thing.
Conversion copywriting is pretty much online I think, and it’s tied to things like analytics, you know watching traffic patterns, conversion rates, and increases in revenue, so I think there’s a lot of crossover, but I think like you’re saying, there is some differences. At least how I’ve perceived them throughout my career.
AP: Yeah. You know as you’re saying that one of the things I’m thinking is it’s … They both … Good copywriting I think is a mixture of art and science, like creativity and formula, but I think to some extent it’s almost like the direct response is the creative, “Let me get you interested,” part, and the conversion part is now “Let me make you do something about it,” which is art/science. Kind of interesting. Even though they both have elements of each.
KH: Amy, what is your process behind the scenes? You know I have been able to work with you on a project or two, and we have a similar style, and that’s why it works well, but how do you combine the art and science, and how do you do it in such a way that you’re able to juggle multiple projects at the same time because I know you take on a lot, and you’re able to deliver on all of those projects.
AP: You know, it’s funny. I think to some extent it’s how I’m wired. I don’t know if you guys, or anybody in the audience has had their Kolbe profile done. I had mine done early this year, and it was really interesting because it talks about your… It’s not a personality indicator. It’s kind of like your inherent strengths, or how you approach things, like just your natural, the natural way you’re wired to approach anything. Whether it’s a problem, or a project, or a relationship, and one of the things that I found out about myself was that I do really well doing things in short bursts, but having a lot of diversity.
I kind of knew that about myself, but I always felt guilty like that was wrong. I should be more focused. I should turn everything off, and just concentrate. That doesn’t work for me so well, so I’m not sure that my particular style is useful to anybody because I’m a little bit all over the map, but I find that having about three different things going seems to be what drives me. I’m sort of motivated, and I can jump from one to the next, and I can get enough time to leave this one over here for a couple days, and then come back to it and be fresh.
That just seems to work for me rather than just this intense focus on one thing. I don’t know. Rob, do you work that way too? Because I know Kira does. I imagine you just sort of more deadline focused on one thing.
RM: I wish.
AP: Oh, okay.
RM: You know I have this idea in my head that I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to crank out a thousand words or whatever, and sometimes as I’m sitting down, and I … You write out a paragraph, and I’m feeling really good about it like I’ve almost got so much adrenaline that I have to stand up and walk around, and go get a drink, and then I come back to it, and reengage, and yeah.
I wish that I were better at sitting down for the 35 minutes of the Pomodoro method, right? And cranking it out, and then taking a very calculated break, but I’m not like that unfortunately.
AP: It’s funny because it seems like … That sort strikes me as your personality type, but interesting.
RM: I fake it. Fake it till you make it, right?
AP: Yeah. You do a great job. Must be the dad thing.
RM: It could be that. Right? Amy, I have some questions about prospecting. You do some things that are pretty interesting to me. One of them is the information kit that you offer on your website. You offer a piece called “Copy that closes,” but in addition to that, if somebody requests to receive that from you, you’re sending out 10 pages of “All about Amy,” and the kind of stuff that you do. Will you talk a little bit about the thought process behind creating this piece, and what it does for your clients, and how they perceive you when they receive it?
AP: Yeah. I mean it’s interesting. I got the idea to do that from a mailing that I did, so it started with this direct mail prospecting piece that I had, and I needed some kind of bait in the prospecting piece, so I was sending a letter in the mails, like a, I don’t know, two-page letter essentially, and I had this candy bar in it. It was a candy bar that I had a custom label made. It had a picture of me, and some of my bullet points, and my contact information, and so on.
I wanted to put something … I mean, I needed to put something in the letter besides, “Hey. Call me if you need me.” I wanted some way to have people sort themselves out, and raise their hand whether they were immediately interested, or marginally interested, just curious, whatever, so I can build a list of suspects, and turn them into prospects.
I decided that the information kit was sort of the pitch in the letter was … It was to marketing directors specifically, and it was about having somebody on tap when you needed them, and this was my way of introducing myself, and letting them know a little bit about me, and hopefully opening the door. Combining that with the “Copy that closes” piece was meant to be kind of a … I don’t know. It might sound a little fancy to call it like a thought piece, but to give people my viewpoint on marketing and copy.
It’s worked really well for me in that people come into the … People who’ve looked at it, come into the conversation, A, knowing a little bit more about me, but also I have felt like with a little bit more respect.
RM: Yeah. It’s interesting. I mean, you see a lot of people have the lead magnet, or the ethical bribe, however you want to call it, but basically what they get is just the PDF, or the information, and the sales is sort of left to a follow up email, but you’re combining the two, and that seems like a really smart approach to me.
AP: Thanks. Yeah. You know, it’s funny, and you guys know this because I’ve said it before. I love the sales process. I really like prospecting. All of the things that go into that I just enjoy, and part of that … I’ve done this in all my businesses is just sort of courting people over the long term. I have never been one of these people who if someone says, “No,” or, “Not now,” gets bummed out. I’m just like, “Oh. Okay. Not now. Well, just keep in touch.” That’s won me a lot of business over time, but I think partly because I don’t take it personally. I don’t know. I’m digressing a little bit, but yeah. I’ve just found that that approach works really well.
KH: Well, and that’s actually what I wanted to ask you about next is just your killer sales process because you do land a lot of business, and it’s well-paying business, and you just do it so naturally. I’ve heard you on calls, and you just have a way of commanding the call in a way that people respect you, and it shows that you’re professional and experienced, and you know what you’re talking about.
What are some ways that other copywriters can really start doing that in their sales process? Do you have any tips that you could share from your experience?
AP: Yeah. Get old. Have a lot of experience. Yeah. I mean, I think the thing is, is to really … You know, this is a challenging thing honestly because I think what it comes down to is really knowing your business, and feeling confident in what you do, and it’s that age old paradox. It’s like, “How do you get the experience when you don’t have it?” I think that the way to do that is to have confidence in something. I mean you don’t have to have confidence in absolutely everything that you do, or all your skills. I mean, I don’t think we ever do because ideally we’re always sort of evolving and growing, and so on, and adding to our skills, but I think it’s having confidence in something, and coming across, you know, genuine.
You don’t come across like trying to be cocky, or confident, but maybe it’s your confidence in the service that you deliver, and by that I mean it could be customer service. It could be the particular thing that you’re offering, but standing up for yourself, and knowing that you’re right. What I always think is a good way to start that if you don’t have that, or it’s not innate, is find one thing that you can hang that on. You know, one thing that you know you do really well.
Whether or not you’re promoting that, bring that to the call. Bring that into the equation. Do you know what I mean? I’m not talking about fake it till you make it because I don’t buy that, but just finding somewhere that you feel confidence in someplace that you can have that conversation from where you feel that, and I think that evolves over time as you feel more confident, but I think you have to find something to hang on as your developing that. Do you guys relate to that? Does that make sense?
RM: Yeah. It definitely makes sense. Just knowing a little bit about you, I’m guessing that a lot of your confidence comes from, as you said, your experience, but you went through a time when you owned a agency, and were working with very large clients. I’m assuming you were working with other writers, other designers, even account management people, those kinds of things going on, and if I’m not mistaken, that whole experience probably informs what you’re doing now today.
In fact, I’d be really interested in hearing about how you came to start your agency. What that felt like? What you were doing during that time, and why you decided to move away from that ultimately?
AP: Okay. Well, I mean just to wind back a little bit, I mean I grew up in a family business too. My parents owned a retail business. I kind of feel like it was in my blood. I mean, that’s what we talked about over dinner, you know? Customers, and what you, and how you handled things. My dad did all the marketing and advertising. He had this big architect’s table he used to work, and I was fascinated by it.
I had that sort of early on, but the funny thing about it was I was a rebel. I know that’ll surprise you guys, and I was like, “I’m not getting into business. I’m going into something creative. I’m going to be an artist, or I’m going to change the world,” and I don’t say that tongue in cheek. I really felt strongly about it. It was like business just seemed so mundane to me, but it turned out that it was something I really loved, and I was really good at.
There’s a really long, interesting story about how I got into it, which I’ll tell you some other time, but in terms of starting the agency I was working with some people sort of casually, and one was a graphic designer, and one was a typesetter. This was back in the days when … It was really pre-PC. All these things that we did for clients, I mean it was … You were making mock ups by hand.
The three of us thought, and we had some … We had really diverse kind of clients. Like everything from hospitals and universities to smaller, small and medium sized businesses. We thought, “Well, hey. What if we put our skills together and expand it, and appeal to a wider variety of types of clients, but we could also offer more services?”
Those days I was kind of the person who ran the business, and brought in business, which is maybe speaks to this sales bit. We had people working for us in different ways that we did things. We probably employed two entire courier companies in Manhattan at the time. Had all these bicycle messengers running back and forth with our bits and pieces because even then we were kind of working virtually.
We were all working out of our own offices, yet working together, and I really like the model. I really, really enjoyed it. When I stopped enjoying it was when we grew, actually, and had to start adding more people, and … Excuse me. I had to manage people, and hire, and fire people, which I absolutely hated, and I don’t think I was any good at.
That’s when the business started to sour for me when it grew from being a fun, we’re all in this together, kind of entrepreneurial startup to being something more established, and never from the client point of view. I still enjoyed all the client meetings, and all the courting, and all of that. I just really, really did not like managing people.
KH: Just curious, what size was your agency when it felt like it was too big, and all of a sudden it was no longer fun?
AP: You know, honestly for me it was pretty small. It was about six or seven people. Even at that point I just was really not enjoying it anymore. I enjoyed the coordination. I liked putting everything together, and having everyone do what they were doing, and all of that, like the actual work, and the work product I really enjoyed. It was the having to talk to people about what they were or weren’t getting done, or how they were performing. Just was not my strong suit.
RM: You’ve talked a lot about how much you love sales. Are there some specifics about the sales process that you feel like you’ve got nailed down? Things that you always do that you could help me improve my process with?
AP: You know, for me the sales conversation is just that. It’s really a conversation. It’s kind of similar, to come full circle, to the direct response writing where you’re figuring out … Excuse me. Sort of what makes that person tick. I have found with clients, and you guys have probably heard this, it’s like the more you let somebody else talk about themselves, the more they like you.
RM: That’s why were letting you talk Amy. We hope that you’ll like us a little bit better after this show.
KH: We’re just trying to make lots of friends through this podcast.
AP: You know, I have just found in the process, and this again, this is part of my personality, so it’s not great advice. I mean, I’m pretty good with the extemporaneous, but I have found just really asking people about them, and about their business, and finding out what they know as a way of demonstrating expertise, so in other words, you’ll tell me a little bit about your business, and I will ask … This kind of goes back to one of your other questions about confidence and talking to people. It’s being willing to probe a little bit, and admit what you don’t know.
I remember in early years I felt like, “Oh, I should know what they’re talking about,” and then you’d realize it was really either unique to them, or unique to the industry, and they were waiting for you to ask, but you didn’t want to look like you didn’t know something.
You just really ask questions, and delve down, and drill down in the process, but also to never get out of a conversation without expectation set, so you always need to know what’s the next step going to be. If you’re having a conversation with someone, and you’re going to send a proposal, or scope of work, set an expectation, “Okay. Today is Wednesday, Rob, so what do you need in terms of time, and what’s your ultimate timeline, and when can I expect a decision from you, or when should we talk again, or what else do you need to make a decision?”
Asking very forward questions, and doing it in a way that’s at the same time friendly, but also sets expectations, and I think what happens is it makes the process clearer for you, and so you’re not waiting, and wondering going, “Should I, and is it too soon, or is it too late?” I think it gives you confidence, but I think it also gives the client confidence when they feel that you’re in control of the process, and probably more than anything, when they feel you actually have a process.
RM: Yeah. I imagine that’s huge. It seems like when you take control, and you say, “Okay. The next step is I’m going to deliver a proposal, or I’m going to start the research process,” and then the client actually sees you taking action, or receives the proposal when you say you were going to give it, that seems like a really big step where they look at it and say, “Yeah. Amy has got this under control. I can trust her. I’m glad I hired her. She’s worth every penny.” That kind of a thing.
AP: Well, you know what’s interesting is, and I don’t know if you guys run into this too, but I have run into … I don’t know if I’ve run into the copywriters, but I get so many clients who tell me about bad business practices of creative people they’ve worked with. Whether it’s copywriters, or designers, like people who just don’t do what they say they’re going to do.
I mean, this is sad, but I think you can have a real leg up just if you’re reliable and competent. I think I heard someone say once, “You can eat a lot better if you’re a mediocre copywriter who shows up and gets the job done, than if you’re like the best copywriter in the world, and you’re a primadonna.”
KH: We interrupt this interview for a very special announcement.
RM: The Copywriter Club has our first sponsor. It’s Airstory. Before we get into what Airstory does for writers, we just wanted to share that this is actually a sponsorship we went after. We actually approached Airstory because we like the tool so much, and said, “Hey. Would you guys like to sponsor the show?” We were thrilled when Joanna said yes that they would like to. Kira, you’ve played around a little bit with the tool. How would you use it as you create the sales pages that you work on?
KH: Recently I used it with a fellow copywriter, and we were working on a sales page together, so it’s a great tool to use with team members, fellow collaborators, and you’re able to kind of piece the cards together with different sections of copy. Maybe you have a card for objections, or for pain points, for key benefits, and you can kind of piece it together, and create a sales page in an easy to use environment with a collaborator. It beats jumping into Google Docs.
My Google Docs usually look like a disaster by the time I’m done with them, and I have a hard time keeping track of all the content I need, so Airstory’s been a great way to stay organized, which is a challenge for me at times.
RM: Airstory has this beautiful interface. It works really well. It connects with Slack and Evernote, Typeform, even Gmail. If you want to learn more about Airstory go to airstory.co/club to join and start your first project. Now back to the show.
KH: Amy, how do you present your proposals throughout this entire process because I feel like that can be the awkward point in the relationship for a lot of people.
AP: Well, you know it’s interesting. First of all, this year, just this past year, I stopped sending what I … I stopped calling them proposals, and I called them “Scope of works” or “Scopes of work,” “Scope of work.” How do you say … What’s the plural?
RM: I think scopes.
AP: Scopes I think. Scopes of work. Part of that is like this subtle psychological thing where if I’m proposing, you haven’t accepted. If it’s a scope of work, I’m just presenting the work to be done.
RM: I like that.
AP: Yeah. It feels like it puts me in a little bit of a more advantageous position, and I also … I really try and get to some key points before creating that, and one of the key, key, key, key points is price, and I don’t always do it, but one of the things I’ve really tried to do more and more this year is to make sure that we’ve at least discussed some kind of ballpark price, so that if there’s something in the proposal, or the scope, if there’s something that they’re not accepting right away, I want to have a sense of what it is or why, so I can have a conversation.
I think the big, the thing that really sort of freaks us out as copywriters in submitting proposal is we agonize about the price. Should I price it at this? Should I price it at that? I didn’t hear from them. Was it too much? Should I make it less? I think if you’ve already had that conversation it removes a lot of the stress and expectation. It also keeps you from spending the time because it takes a lot of time to write that stuff up.
I’ve kind of systematized that a little bit, so it doesn’t take as much time, but I think that’s part of it is to have a sense of whether they’re going to go for that part of it, so that’s not the barrier.
RM: How do you price your projects? Do you have a minimum rate, or minimum project fee that you do? Do you think things through by the hour? Do you just sort of know that if it’s a sales page it’s going to be $2,000 or $5,000, or I don’t know what your price points are, but how do go about pricing a project?
AP: Boy, that is such a good question. I’m finding myself just really at a crossroads with that question right now because I’m raising my prices, and I’ve been finding things are just all over the map. It’s like you could do a sales page for someone who’s happy to pay, you know like a long form sales page, so we’re talking like probably somewhere like 20 pages, or 25 pages. They’re people who’ll pay you 2,000, and there’s people who’ll pay you 20,000. It’s like, which? Obviously you want the $20,000 clients, right? If you feel confident enough to A, get them, and B, quote them that.
To answer your question, I never quote anything by the hour. I never have. I mean not to a client. Everything is by the project, but in my mind, not so much anymore, but the way that established prices was by deciding sort of a rough hourly rate, and then spending probably a good part of not last year, but the year before, tracking every project that I did. It was really … It’s tedious.
You start writing at 11:00, and if you stop at … Yeah. If you stop at 11:10, “Okay. 11 to 11:10 because the phone rang. I worked on X,” and then you’d pick it back up at 11:30, so anyways. I had to learn how long it really took me to do stuff, and then I’d price accordingly.
Now, what I do I’m pricing more by what I think the market will bear, and testing that out. I don’t know if that’s really helpful, or if you need me to get more granular on that, so it’s more helpful to other people.
KH: I’d like you to get more granular. What do you mean by testing the market?
AP: Just to give you an example. I was doing … I had a client come to me, not this year, but the year before, and they wanted me to write an email series. I’m trying to remember how many it was. There was like 20, 25 emails. They wanted to pay me I think $6,800. You know, I always ask people, “Well, what’s your budget, or do you have a budget?” I’d say like 90% of the time people say, “Well, no. Why don’t you just get back to me with something.”
When I asked this client they said, “Well, we’ve got,” I think it was $6,800 for this. At the time that was more than I would’ve charged for that. That was one of these eyebrow raising moments when you go, “Okay. Well, if they’ll pay close to seven grand for this work that I would’ve maybe quoted 3,500 for, who else will pay that?”
You know I have to admit, I’ve totally lost my train of thought, so what am I answering for you?
KH: Just how your testing the market with your sales process, and your rates, and the rates that you throw out there now, and how does this different than what you used to do?
AP: Really that’s it. When something like that happens, then it’s like, “Well, I can … Maybe I can raise my rates over here,” and so that’s what I’ve done incrementally. I think for the base rate I run in my head, I mean I know what certain things will take me, and so I run that in my head, and then I add. Then I go, “Okay. If that comes out to four grand, what do I think the market will bear? Can I quote it at six? Can I quote it at 10?”
I’ll tell you a story, which I think I told you last time, and it’s less fresh in my mind because it had just happened, but a client, this is a long-term client of mine, came to me and they wanted some copy, and they need it in a hurry. What had happened with this client previously is … This was their story, right? They would not get in touch for a while, then they’d get in touch and they needed it immediately. They pay pretty well, so I would usually jump when they wanted something immediately.
Well, this time I thought, “Well, I’m going to charge them like a little pain in the ass tax,” and I wasn’t sure how much to charge them, so I pulled a number out of a hat, and then I got some consultation on what I should charge, and the advice was to bid about twice what I was considering, and so … This was on a project that I probably would’ve bid maybe, I’m going to guess, between 16 and $18,000, and I was told to bid 35, and I was like, “No way.” Like, “I just can’t.” I couldn’t stretch myself there, but I stretched to 27/5, and the client said yes in a heartbeat.
RM: You should’ve stretched all the way to 35.
KH: That’s amazing.
AP: Maybe. I don’t know. You know, I felt really fine about it at 27/5. I mean it feels really good for me, but yes. Could I have stretched to 35? See, this goes back to this other question. I’m not sure I would’ve felt comfortable asking that, and they may hae said yes, but I didn’t feel at all like, “Oh. I missed out on five or $7,000.” I felt like, “Yes. I got way more than I would’ve asked.” This informs what I need to do in the future, or how I need to think about A, pricing, and B, who I work with.
RM: Yeah. I want to go back to the thought where you were talking about this project where the client said that they had a budget that was higher than what you were originally charging. I often ask clients, in fact I always ask clients for their budget, and a lot of clients are really hesitant to give me the budget because I think they’re thinking in their heads, “If I say $10,000, or if I say $5,000, and Rob is actually at $3,000, he’s just going to increase his rate to $5,000 because he’s going to, he wants to take that whole budget.”
I’m not sure that I really approach it like that. When I look at it, I want to understand a client’s budget so that I can see first of all, “Is it within my minimum?,” because I do need to make a certain amount of money obviously, but second of all, do they have money that maybe could be used in different ways, right? Instead of just approaching it from a copy standpoint, I also want to look at marketing things, and say, “Okay. Well, you came to me for a sales page, and I can do it for X, but we still got money leftover in the budget. Maybe we can build a drip campaign, or a sideways email … Sorry. A sideways sales page. Whatever they call those that are dripped out over a series of emails and use that budget in a way that benefits the client.
I just want to clarify. You’re not saying, “Make sure you get every penny out of the client that you possibly can.” You’re basically saying, “Yeah. Maybe the market is higher than what you are. Be aware of that, but be smart in how you’re using your client’s money.”
AP: Yes. I think that’s really important to clarify. I don’t think … It’s not a money grab. It’s not like, “Oh. Let me get as much as I can here,” but it’s like how do you position yourself A, for what the market will bear, but for different types of clients. I mean it’s funny because you can underbid yourself too, and someone will think, “Oh. They must not be a professional, or they must not be any good.”
The other client who wanted to pay 7,000, and then if I came back with 3,500, maybe they would’ve doubted me a little bit. Rob, how do you do that? How do you … How do you have that conversation with a client? I mean, I’ll give you an example. You’re right. People think you want to eat up the whole budget, and I’ll say to them, “Do you have a budget? I want you to understand I’m not going to … If you tell me your budget is 5,000, I’m not going to automatically come back and say, ‘Well, the project is 5,200.’ What I want to know is what do we have to work with here, and what can I offer you?”
It’s just what you’re saying, and so if can get into that conversation with them and let them see that you’re not just the writer. You’re not like a writer to order like, “Oh. Hey, I need a sales page,” and so you crank out a sales page. You’re going to look at it more strategically, and say, “Okay. What is this sales page, and where does it fit into your whole marketing picture?” They say, “Oh, well they’re going to slap up the sales page,” and they haven’t thought about how they’re going to drive traffic to it, or what they’re going to do once they drive traffic to it, and someone opts in.
There’s all these moving parts that we’re aware of that they aren’t necessarily. Is that how you approach it Rob? I mean, do you have that big picture overview first, or how do you do that?
RM: Yeah. I mean obviously I have a project minimum, and so my first question is really to make sure that somebody’s coming to me, and they’re not asking for a sales page and five emails, and their budget is $1,200, right? Because my time is worth more than that, and I can’t serve that customer as well as maybe somebody who is in that budget area, but yeah. I look at it as we’re solving marketing problems for our clients, and we’re not just delivering copy.
We often times call ourselves copy writers, or that’s the product that we deliver in the document, or in the wireframe, but the customer doesn’t really care what the words on the page say really. What they care is that somebody’s buying their product or their service, and so you need to sort of take a more holistic look, or at least I try to take a more holistic look.
If somebody came to me for a sales page, and said, “Hey. We’ve got $40,000 for this,” if it wasn’t going to take me two months to write it, I would have a really hard time saying, “Well, yeah. My rate just happens to be $39,500, so we’re in the same place.” I wouldn’t do that. My rate is still going to be roughly in somewhere between say 3,000 and $8,000 just sort of depending on what’s required from a customer research standpoint, how much time it’s going to take, if I’m writing a 70 page like the stuff that Ramit Sethi does, it’s going to be more than say a 5 to 10 page sales letter, right?
All of those factors come into it, but yeah. I want to know the client’s budget simply because I can then help them maybe figure out better ways to use what they may have budgeted for something that they’ve over budgeted for, or in some cases, they have under budgeted, and I just want to make clear that I can help them solve the problem, but it’s going to take me three or four, or a week or two weeks time, and that time is worth something, and I need to be able to capture that value.
AP: Yeah. I think you just made a really important point, and I think especially for anybody listening to this who’s newer in the process, it’s … You know, I think we tend to think of the work product like here is X pages of copy. What we don’t think about as much, or maybe we don’t … The client is as aware of is how much work goes into getting to the place to write the copy. I think if you do your research properly, and you do all that work, the copy in some ways writes itself, but that’s the real … I don’t know. That’s the real work behind it. I guess or some of those other things, and I think you can’t discount that as the writer, and you need to educate people about that because they don’t necessarily understand.
They don’t need to know every little thing that goes into it because part of it’s like your secret sauce and your magic, but I think you can underestimate that as a writer. I think newer people tend to write that off, or they feel like they’re not doing it right if they’re spending a lot of time in advance where that’s really … It took me a long time to realize that’s really where most of the time goes. Would you agree? Is that fair to say?
RM: I totally agree. Yeah.
KH: Amy, I just want to jump back to the $27,500 that you made on that recent project. What were you thinking? What is the psychology behind it when you land a project like that, and you’re like, “Oh my goodness. This is the most I’ve ever charged, and I just landed it,” because I feel like there could be some fear around the project when you actually get it. How can you deliver on it? Maybe not at your stage. You’re more experienced, but I could see that happening for newer copywriters.
AP: Yeah, and you know I think actually that particular thing that you’re describing … Well, it can be your stress, or your … What is it? It’s like a fear of producing, or of being good enough, or of doing it right. I don’t think that that’s necessarily tied into the dollar amount. It isn’t for me. Just to give you an example, with this particular client I’ve done a lot of work for them over the years. I’ve probably been working with them for, I don’t know, maybe two, three years, so I didn’t feel nervous.
I didn’t feel like, “Oh, no. Now I’ve got this price out there. I’ve got to be worth it.” Where with other clients where I’m newer, and it could be even a lesser amount, there’s always that like showing them the first thing that you’ve done for them ever because that’s sort of where the rubber hits the road, right? You find out it’s like … You’re waiting for them to respond, and say like, “Who are you? How did you miss the mark so badly?,” or, “Wow. How did you get this when I haven’t been able to articulate this for 10 years, and you came along and said it perfectly?,” or you get some response in between.
I think, and I have to admit, I still have that stress with a new client. Much more with a new client. For me I guess it’s more related to that then it is to the dollar amount. I don’t know if that’s helpful at all, but it really … The money thing doesn’t phase me other than getting me excited. It’s like, “I did this. I broke a barrier. I want to do this again,” but it doesn’t make me nervous than about the output.
RM: We could probably talk about money for another 10 or 15 minutes because it’s one of those curiosities that like nobody ever talks about it, so Kira and I … All of our guests we like, “Okay. Let’s talk about this,” and hopefully they will.
KH: We should call it the money show.
RM: There you go. I want to step back, and ask a different kind of question Amy, and that is you know if you could go back in time, and you’ve got copy cub beginning writer Amy Posner, and you could give her some advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell her?
AP: That’s a really good question. I think what I would say is that it really all unfolds, and it takes time. It’s like I think when you first get in you look at other people who are making more money, and you think either A, it’s rarefied air, and there’s not enough room for you, or B, you don’t see yourself as good enough to get there, and I was absolutely in that position, and I think most of us are.
This is probably not just true in writing, but probably anything that you start and you’re the new kid on the block, but I think with the writing what I see is two things happen. It seems to take about two or three years, and suddenly you feel like you have your chops, you know what you’re doing, you’ve made enough mistakes, and bid enough projects wrong, and lost enough projects that you’re a little bit hardened and seasoned. The experience just starts to add up, and you attract better people, and you get clearer about what you want. When you get clearer about what you want, you get more of it.
I think the main thing I would say is to know that you have to pay your dues, and that it will happen. I think some of the things we’ve been talking about like developing your business skills along with your writing skills, and thinking about how you run your business, and how you want to show up as a business person, I think all of those things they take time to develop. You can’t get in and know them instantly. It just doesn’t work that way.
I think what i would tell myself, and hopefully it would be relevant for other people is to be patient, and be willing to be a beginner. Be willing to be a cub. One thing that I did not do was seek help or seek input as much as I would have if I wasn’t such a private and ornery type of personality-
RM: When you say seek help, you’re talking about an advisor? You’re talking about a mastermind group? Are you talking about a partner? What does seeking help mean?
AP: Yeah. Not a partner. I’ve done a lot of partnerships. That would not be what I would recommend for seeking help. Mastermind is great. Other copywriters. Getting input. Having people look at your work. Looking at other people’s work. I got a coach a number of years ago when I decided to really get serious about this business. Someone to help me figure out how to run this business, but I was not … I just wasn’t as open I think as I could’ve been. It took me a while.
I think any of those kinds of things. Connecting with … Maybe it’s different for everyone what’s meaningful for them, but finding what that is, and investing in yourself, and investing in the business.
KH: Well, I find comfort in that advice because your basically saying just show up. Show up everyday. It seems to be a theme of a lot of our calls and interviews. Just continue to show up and things will get better, which is always good to hear. Amy, I have one big question. It’s kind of talking about the money again, but we keep talking about getting better clients. You know, life gets better when you get better clients. They’re easier to manage. Cooler projects. Blah, blah, blah. How do you find those 20K, 27/5, clients that have those budgets, that know what they’re doing, they’re a pleasure to work with? Where are they hanging out? Where can I go and find them?
AP: It’s a really good question. I don’t have the answer to it. I wish I did. I think, I mean there’s certain industries where there’s a lot of copy being written, like financial, like in the wellness space, in SAS. I think it’s kind of this is the big question in this business because I think this is the hunt. It’s like, “Okay. Where do your skills intersect with the people who need them and can afford them?”
Like I said earlier, I used to go for these smaller businesses and they would need, maybe every year, or two, or five, they would need a six or an $8,000 copywriting project, and that’s great, and that’s not a bad fee at all. I’m not knocking the fee, but if they only need it once in a while, you have to look for a lot of those, where if you look to some bigger companies … I think you have to get online and hunt them down, and figure out what kind of companies might you work with, and then start poking around.
What kind of content do they put out? What kind of copy do they put out? Knowing if they have the budget, and if they outsource. I don’t know. Rob, do you have an answer for that? You’ve been doing this I think longer than I have.
RM: You’re making me sound so old. I think it is a tough one.
AP: I haven’t been doing this my whole career. Let’s be fair.
RM: It is a tough one, and I think you’re right. For the most part the big fees are going to come from big companies, and that brings up a whole other issue of its own. Working with big companies and bureaucracies can be really difficult. There are some people who understand copywriting and value it who pay high fees for one-of projects, but when you’re talking about retainer projects, you’re really working with profitable companies that have the budget, probably have a marketing department, and an ongoing need for constant copy in order to justify that kind of an engagement.
AP: Yeah. It’s interesting. I’ve worked on and off in the health and wellness niche, and I think you have too Rob, haven’t you?
RM: I have. Yeah.
AP: Interestingly, I mean, I kind of just fell into something recently with a client who I did a trade for for referrals, and it’s in that space, which I have one really good client, repetitive client that I’ve had in that space, but funnily enough, I haven’t delved deeper into it, and I’m kind of scratching my head about that now because I’m seeing how much money there is, and how much constant copy there is being cranked out, and it’s just the kind of copy that I like to write, so I think … This is sound so tripe because I’ve heard it for years and I could just never land. It’s like, “Okay. Where’s the crossover between what interest you, where you have skills, and where people are spending money?”
It doesn’t have to be something that you absolutely love, and you’re passionate about, like if all you want to do when you’re sitting at your desk is fill in the blank, ride mountain bikes, or go golfing, that you’re going to write in that space. I mean, it’s great if you can, but is there money in that space. What else interests you enough so that you’re not going to get bored.
I’ve written in industries where it’s like, “Oh my god. If I have to think about this for another minute I’m going to smash my head on the desk because it’s stultifying. It’s just awful.” I think you have to find something that you like enough that it can keep you interested where there’s money being spent, and so I think that’s just really … It’s a hunt, but I’ll just say one thing about that because I’m making it sound sloppy.
The thing is, if you’re willing to do that, you can go after those clients, and there’s all kinds of clever ways to do it, and get your foot in the door. I think it’s way harder figuring out who to go after than it is going after them.
RM: We are out of time, but this has been really informative. As I’ve listened to how you approach your clients, and realize that I really need to dial up my game when it comes to pricing, and be smarter about what the market will bear, but also making sure that I provide that value to my clients. Amy, if people are looking for you online, where would they go to find you?
AP: It’s my name is my website. Amy Posner. A-M-Y P-O-S-N-E-R dot com. Hopefully within like a few weeks it’ll be a brand new site.
RM: We can’t wait to see it.
KH: Thank you Amy. I really feel like this was even better than our last conversation with you, so thank you, and I just want to say I think you always are so excited about your writing projects, and it inspires me because you truly enjoy writing. You enjoy the process. You enjoy everything about it. It’s a pleasure to hang out with you, and write with you.
RM: Yeah. I agree.
AP: Well, right back at you. I love what you come up with. It’s like, “Where do you come up with some of the things you think of?” Man. You impress me every time.
KH: Thank you.
RM: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, and full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.