By the time I turned 25-years-old, I was a starving copywriter with a mediocre track record and no significant business connections.
Within 4 months everything changed…
I was the copy cub of A-list copywriting legend Parris Lampropoulos.
How did this happen?
It all started at a Clayton Makepeace seminar in 2015. An event that cost $5,000 just to attend (which I had to put on my credit card). And an event that ended up changing my life.
But it wasn’t so much the event itself that changed my life. It was this specific, deliberate thing I did at this event and its subsequent outcome that reallychanged my life.
So what is this specific, deliberate thing that led me to skyrocketing my copywriting career, rubbing elbows with A-listers, and exploding my income in such a short period of time?
I did exactly this: I walked up to my dream clients (these A-listers), shook their hand, introduced myself, started a conversation, and told them a story.
But not just any story. I told them a story so interesting, so compelling that…
…even though I was a starving copywriter…
…even though I had no track record or “big wins” to speak of…
…and even though, on the surface, I was no different from a thousand other noobie copywriters…
…these dream clients took a vested interest in my career and in my life. They gave me their private emails and private phone numbers. They started passing my name around to other dream clients of mine, saying they should work with me. One of them, my biggest “dream client” of all, Parris Lampropoulos, even offered to be my mentor!
Talk about crazy.
So what story did I tell them?
I’m going to tell you it in a minute. But first I need to explain what specific things in this story you need to pay attention to so you can get the most value out of it.
First, let’s look at this quote from Claude Hopkins’ My Life in Advertising. Claude Hopkins, a copywriting legend, was an executive at a big ad agency and was responsible for hiring many young copywriters:
“In the early stages of our careers none can judge us by results. The real men judge us by our love of work, the basis of their success. They employ us for work, and our capacity for work counts above all else.”
And “capacity for work” means a couple things. It means the willingness to put in long hours. It means having promising copywriting ability. It means showing your enthusiasm, passion, critical thinking skills, and determination.
And that’s exactly what I did in my story I’m about to tell you. It showcases everything I said above: My enthusiasm and passion for marketing, critical thinking skills, determination, willingness to work long hours and copywriting ability.
Let’s also look at this quote from Dan Ferrari, a top financial copywriter who gave me this piece of sound advice early in my career:
“In the beginning, you need to get someone to take a chance on you. That’s what happened with me at Motley Fool. I met some higher-ups at the company, talked about who I was and what I wanted, and they took a chance on me. It made all the difference in the world.”
It’s no secret that you somehow have to get your foot in the door. But the fact is, the bigger your “dream clients” are, the harder it is to get your foot in the door.
But that’s the great thing about telling a “capacity for work” story. It gets your foot in the door by allowing you dream clients to seepast your shortcomings (lack of track record/skills) and gets them to take a chance on you.
And again, when I first told my story to people like Parris Lampropoulos and Marcella Allison, I had no significant track record to speak of. I didn’t have any significant clients or people I could “name drop” to get their attention.
Also, I want you to know that everybody has a story like this about themselves. There’s no doubt in my mind that you have a compelling, “capacity for work” story that shows your dream clients who you are. And your story will have nothing to do with your “track record” or your “big results” or any of that.
I’ll repeat: You have a story about yourself that shows who you are. A story that makes you dream clients perk up and listen. And be thankful they met you.
So, finally, here’s my story that led me to become a copy cub for Parris Lampropoulos, working with A-list writers, and exploding my income:
The setting: I first told this story to Marcella Allison at the Clayton Makepeace event. She became so interested in me that she dragged me over to Parris Lampropoulos and said, “Parris, you gotta meet this kid and listen to his story!”
And the story I told Marcella and Parris was a story about how I wrote my first ad. But this isn’t a track record story, since nobody actually hired me to write it. I wrote it by myself.
I’m going to tell the story as if I were telling you in person. Here it is:
So early in my copywriting career I ran into a big problem.
I was bidding on copywriting jobs on freelance sites and people would ask me for my samples.
But the problem was… I had no samples to show them.
The only thing I’ve done to that point was read about 6 marketing/copywriting books and took notes.
So I’m like, crap, what am I going to show them!
Then I remembered a story Gary Bencivenga told at his retirement seminar.
Gary said Rodale once hired him to beat a Eugene Schwartz control for a health book Rodale was selling.
And Gary decided that he wasn’t going to read Eugene Schwartz’s control. Instead he was going to do all the research himself, write the ad, then compare what he wrote to what Eugene wrote.
So that’s what Gary did. He dived into the book, took a bunch of notes, wrote a bunch of kickass copy, and placed what he wrote next to Eugene’s control.
And you know what he found out?
Eugene Scwhartz’s control kicked his copy’s ass in every way possible.
So Gary asked himself, “What did Eugene do different? How was he able to write copy so much better than me?”
So what Gary decided to do was reverse engineer every single line of copy Eugene wrote.
You see, in these Rodale book controls in the 1990’s, these controls would have about 100-150 bullets in them. And every bullet would have the page number where the bullet was found at the end of them.
So it would be like, “The secret herb used to cure arthritis. See Page 492.”
So Gary went through literally every bullet and every line of Eugene’s copy. He would then open the book to whatever page the bullet said, and then Gary asked himself…
“How did Eugene read the information on this page and come up with that bullet?”
And by asking himself that simple question, Gary learned so much about Eugene Schwartz’s method of thinking. About how Eugene did research and how to Eugene wrote such great copy from that research in his ads.
So Gary went back, redid all his research, rewrote his ad, and created a blockbuster control for Rodale that mailed in the tens of millions.
All by comparing what he wrote to what Eugene wrote, learning from his mistakes, and using his newfound knowledge to write a better ad.
Pretty interesting story, right?
So, back to my problem about not having any samples.
I was sitting around thinking about what to do, and a memory of that Gary Bencivenga story flashed into my mind.
And I thought, “That’s perfect! I’m just going to do exactly what Gary did! I’m going to take a control that already exists from a major health publisher (my niche). I’m going to write a new ad without reading the current control. Then I’m going to compare my ad with the control, learn from all my mistakes, and rewrite my ad so it’s kickass. Then that will be my first sample!”
Seemed like a solid plan to me!
But what control should I pick?
Well do you know what I ended up picking? A Gary Bencivenga control! I figured there was no one better to learn from than Gary.
So I picked one of his controls (that I never read) about a health book from the 1990’s. I went on Amazon and bought that book (for $4!). Then I researched it (all 550 pages) and wrote my first ad.
Then I compared my ad to what Gary Bencivenga wrote (haha!). And it turns out, I made a lot of mistakes.
So to learn what mistakes I made, I went through Gary’s entire control and I reversed engineered every bullet and piece of copy he wrote. I asked myself, “What did Gary see in the book that I didn’t see? How did he use what he saw to write his bullets? What can I learn from this?”
So after writing down everything that I learned, I went back and rewrote my entire ad.
Which, in my honest opinion, was about a hundred times better than what I originally wrote.
And then I used that ad as my very first sample.
And that’s the story of how I wrote my first ad!
So, yep, that’s the story. There’s a lot going on there, but let’s think about why it’s a great “capacity to work” story. And why Marcella and Parris liked it so much.
As I said before, a great “capacity to work” story talks about the following things:
1. Your willingness to put in long hours
2. Your potential copywriting ability
3. Your enthusiasm, passion, and determination (aka your hunger)
4. Your critical thinking skills (aka how you solve problems)
My story covers all 4 of these things:
First of all, that sample took forever to write. I had to research an entire 550 page book, write a 10,000-word ad, reverse engineer Gary Bencivenga’s 50-page ad, learn from all my mistakes, and rewrite the entire ad myself.
The story also shows a clear improvement in my copywriting ability. (Who better to learn from than Gary Bencivenga?)
The story shows my critical thinking ability (i.e. What’s the best way to get my first sample? What can I do so it’s as good as it can be?)
Plus, only an enthusiastic, passionate, and determined person would even think of writing his first ad that way.
So that story covers everything.
By the way, after Marcella dragged me over to Parris to tell him this story, after I finished telling it, do you know what his reaction was?
It was pretty funny. He walked over to the table behind him, took out a pen and piece of paper, wrote down something I couldn’t see, folded up the piece of paper, and walked over to me…
He handed me the folded piece of paper, looked me straight in the eye, and said,
“I never give this to anybody.”
I opened it up and it was his private email address.
And this was a pretty big deal. For those of you who don’t know Parris, he’s a super secretive guy. He has no website, no blog, nothing. He doesn’t even carry business cards.
Parris is a “you don’t contact me unless I want you to” type of guy. Well apparently after hearing my story he wanted me to contact him!
So now the big question is…
How can you create and tell a story so compelling it gets
your dream clients EXCITED to find out everything about you?
First, you need to think back to a moment in your life (the more recent the better) where you had to overcome some major obstacle. If you can make this obstacle marketing related (like I did in my story) then that’s even better.
Now you need to think of the details of that moment. What was the situation? What was the obstacle? What did you do to overcome it? What did you learn? What did it show you about yourself?
Write these details down. Now think about how you would put those details into a story. Write out a short script. Try going around to your friends and family and tell them the story. Ask about their reactions.
Remember, all you are doing is explaining to someone something that already happened in your life. This should feel very natural. The odds are you’ve already told millions of stories in your life. Why should telling this one be any different?
Think long and hard about this. What story best showcases who you are? What qualities about yourself do you want to communicate to your dream client?
Once you have your story down, the next thing you should know is…
The single best way to tell this story at live marketing events
Here’s the thing. You don’t just want to go up to your dream client and say, “Hi, my name is Jason. Do you want to listen to this 5 minute story about myself?!”
That will 100% fail. What you want to do instead is tell the story at the precise time when it will have maximum impact.
When is that? Well to that you that, you must know my GOLDEN RULE OF LIVE MARKETING EVENTS:
Which is this:
DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOURSELF UNTIL SOMEBODY ASKS YOU TO.
So outside of making your basic introductions (Hi my name is Jason and I’m a direct response health copywriter.), you want the beginning of the conversation to be focused on the person you’re talking to.
Why? Well, what is a person’s favorite topic in the whole wide world?
So in the beginning of the conversation, you want to get your dream client talking about themselves. This shows that you care about them and not just about yourself.
And that’s exactly what I did when I first approached Marcella. I made my basic introduction, then immediately started asking her questions about herself and her career.
Which brings up another important thing: You should know as much info about your dream client beforehand has possible.
This means when you do start talking to them, your questions are targeted and detailed. Your questions should signal to this person, “Wow, this person has really done their homework. They knows what they’re talking about. This person cares about the same things I care about.”
So this person, appreciative of your targeted, detailed questions, starts talking about themselves. This usually lasts about 5-10 minutes. Then, something amazing happens…
Something that I call “The Golden Moment”…
What is it?
They ask you a question about yourself!
Remember the Golden Rule: DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOURSELF UNTIL SOMEBODY ASKS YOU TO.
And this moment is so important. Because your dream client’s interest in you is at an all-time high. Your dream client feels that, because you showed so much interest in them, they must subconsciously reciprocate and show interest in you.
So this is the “Golden Moment” to tell your story. But you want to be careful because when you bring up your story, it should feel like it’s a natural part of the conversation.
To do this, often times you want to lead into your story.
For example, if a dream client asks me, “Tell me about yourself?” or “How did you get started in copywriting?” (Very standard questions.)
I would say, “Oh well I started writing copy about two years ago. But in the beginning it was really tough. I had no clients and no samples. In fact, I have a pretty crazy story about how I wrote my first ad…” (Then I start telling them my story.)
As you see, the “But in the beginning it was really tough” part allows me to naturally transition into the story I want to tell him. It’s just a phrase that connects the answer to his question (Tell me about yourself?) to my story (Writing my first ad.)
At no point do you ever want your dream client to feel like you’re forcing your story into the conversation. Remember, you are having a conversation with a human being. Everything should feel very natural.
And don’t feel like you have to tell your story right away. Sometimes it’s better to talk about other things (whether it’s for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours). Then wait to find a good time to naturally bring up your story.
And remember, live marketing events are usually 2-4 days long. So the odds are you’re going to see your “dream client” many more times throughout the rest of the event.
And here’s a pro tip: The best place to tell your story is at the baror at dinner. This is because it’s easier for people to relax and open up when eating or drinking.
So try to find a way into a conversation with your dream client, ask them questions about themselves, wait for that “Golden Moment”, and look for way to naturally transition into your story.
P.S. Want to know another Pro Tip? Read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie TWO TIMES before every live event. Read it a week before you go, then read it again on the plane ride over. That’s what I do. The book will put you in the exact mindset you need to make career-altering connections at these events.