TCC Podcast #384: The Bottlenecks Holding You Back with Josh Long - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #384: The Bottlenecks Holding You Back with Josh Long

At some point in your business journey, you will hit a snag. An obstacle. A bump in the road. These bottlenecks hold you back from the kind of growth or results you want. In the 384th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob talk with business consultant Josh Long about the various bottlenecks that hold us back and what to do to breakthrough and achieve more. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

Stuff to check out:

Bottleneck Breakthrough by Josh Long (book)
The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
Blue Ocean Strategy
by Chan Kim.
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground

Full Transcript:

Every business—large and small, successful or struggling, profitable or barely scraping by hits it’s share of bottlenecks. If you’re struggling or barely scraping by, those bottlenecks are usually obvious. Not enough leads. Not closing enough projects. Or not enough profit. Identifying bottlenecks in a successful business can be a little more difficult… it takes a deeper look at what’s holding you back or slowing you down.

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And on today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, I had a chance to talk with business consultant, coach and author Josh Long.

Josh is the author of a fantastic book, Bottleneck Breakthroughs, that is written to help business owners of all sizes figure out what’s holding them back. And during our conversation we stepped through what it takes to grow and build a business at all stages, and how our businesses are slowed down when we don’t pay attention to the six levers Josh wrote about in his book.

We stepped through all six and if you’re a copywriter or content writer with your own business, you’ll definitely want to hear what Josh had to share.

But first, I want to tell you about The Copywriter Underground. You’ve heard about the library of training that will help you build a profitable business. You’ve heard about the monthly coaching, and the almost weekly copy critiques and the helpful group of members ready with support and even the occasional lead. Last week we recorded an exclusive training for Underground members on the diagnostic scorecard that helps you close just about any prospect or project on a sales call. It’s the kind of business secret you don’t read about in free facebook groups or even on most email lists. But right now, you can watch that training and get the diagnostic scorecard to help you close more projects when you go to and join as a member.  But hurry, that training disappears in a few weeks.

Now to our interview with Josh…

Rob Marsh: All right, Josh, I’m familiar with you and your book and some of the stuff that you do, but just to get started here and let our audience know, tell me a little bit about how you became a management consultant, business coach, author and all of the things that you’re doing today.
Josh Long: Yeah, Rob, thanks. Well, when I was in kindergarten and they said, what do you want to be when you grow up? I just thought, you know, that’s what I want to be—a consultant.

Rob Marsh: Yeah.

Josh Long: Not quite, not quite on the radar. Back then I was trying to get into med school and I had a professor who suggested I get my MBA while I was waiting to get into med school. I didn’t even know what MBA stood for. I got in and went to Fresno State. They had an entrepreneurship program. And you could major in your MBA in entrepreneurship. And I was like, that’s crazy. And I loved it. 

I had met my wife while I was in grad school, and every doctor that I knew that was married before med school wasn’t married after med school. I knew that I valued her more than my career, so I decided to go the entrepreneurial route. 

I got out, tried a software venture in grad school that failed, but it was a really cool opportunity. Then my roommate was in the mortgage business, so I got into the mortgage world. I quickly learned how little I knew how to run a company. So a friend of a friend introduced me to a guy named Dan Kennedy and I latched onto his stuff and just gobbled it up. And it really helped me understand what it takes to get clients, and to sell to clients, and to understand that dynamic of just building demand and then go from there. 

And then I filed bankruptcy. I had a mortgage brokerage for four years, and went down in a ball of flames. And while I was licking my wounds, figuring out what I wanted to do, I had read a guy’s book called The Ultimate Sales Machine by a guy named Chet Holmes. And I really liked it so I reached out to him and went to work for him and grew to be his right-hand man in that company for a couple of years. I ended up becoming marketing director and realized I could go out and do consulting on my own. I have done that since about 2010. And so that’s how I ended up getting into management consulting through the door of Dan Kennedy and marketing and Chet Holmes and sales and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Rob Marsh: So mentioned Dan Kennedy, Chet Holmes, you’ve worked with Jay Abraham, I think.

Josh Long: Perry Marshall. Yep. Got to know Jay through Chet. They were good friends. I spent time down in Jay’s office. He’s a very kind, generous, brilliant man. Yeah, and I work closely with Perry Marshall. We’ve been partnering on a project for the last six years called Advanced Mastery Network, where we help companies that are trying to get across what I call a seven-figure desert. Because you can have a really great company in the $1 to $2 to $3 million range that becomes a cash cow. But you don’t want to get stuck at five to seven million. You’ve got to get to 10 million if you’re going to try to cross that desert. So we’ve been running that and Perry’s a great guy. Obviously how we found each other.

Rob Marsh: Perry introduced me to you through sharing your ideas. But you know, as you’ve worked with these masters of business—not even online business, but business—over the last decade or two, what are the biggest lessons that you’ve taken away from those guys?

Josh Long: Yeah, well, the first one is, They have charisma for days like they’re born with it. So anybody that thinks they want to be the next Dan Kennedy, J. Abraham, or Perry Marshall, I will tell you, you can’t. It’s not possible. You either have it, you’re born with it, or you’re not. I ended up teaching at Fresno State. I taught for four semesters, business plan writing and feasibility analysis in undergrad for entrepreneurs. The program director, who was my program director, Tim Stearns, brilliant guy, we would talk and we would debate, are entrepreneurs born or can they be made? And obviously, Tim is an educator. He was the chair of the entrepreneurship program. He created it. It was one of the only entrepreneurship programs in the nation. And so he wholeheartedly believes that entrepreneurs can be made. 

This is one of the few places on fixed mindset, I would say, that I actually believe in. Otherwise, everything else is learnable and expandable. But I really do think entrepreneurs are born. I really think they have the DNA, the wiring, the charisma, the ability to communicate, the ability to take risks. And seeing that magnified in Dan and Jay and Chet and Perry—they’re just wired to be on the stage. 

The other fascinating thing is just how brilliant they all are and how fast their minds move and how fast they can synthesize ideas and data and connect dots. So that was really fun. And it was really fulfilling because I got to do that a lot with Chet. He and I would have a weekly call and we’d be going through strategy for clients. I was 15 years younger than anybody else in the company and the consulting side, and yet I was his go-to. I was his brainstormer. So that was really fulfilling to validate my ability to just connect those dots. 

Other things I would say, being around those guys helped me realize that for you to get the most from them, you have to be incredibly coachable and wired in a way that you resonate with them. Because as coaches, as consultants, as advisors, there’re a lot of different personality types, and there’s a lot of ways that things can get done, right? You can skin a cat a lot of different ways. But To work with Dan or Jay or Chet or Perry, you’ve got to resonate with them. You’ve got to be in their lane, so to speak, on their frequency. Because their way isn’t the only way. It’s a very effective way, and it can work really well. And they’ve got troves of success stories.

But I think this was important for me to realize because, like a guy that’s really popular right now, Alex Hormozy, right? Brilliant guy. And he’s a great educator. But his hustle and grind philosophy does not work with me, doesn’t resonate with me one bit. I don’t care. I’m not that money motivated. I have a family. I’ve got three teenage kids. I’ve got a great wife. I’m not gonna work 80-hour weeks just to achieve something. And so knowing that, I think, is another thing. 

And I’d see people that would come into these orbits and feel bad because they couldn’t get results following some of these guys’ advice. And Chet was probably the most hard-nosed of the bunch. He had a very grinder persona. And caring, I mean, all of them have big hearts. I think Dan is the one that reveals his the least. He tries to be the grumpy curmudgeon, but he really does care about everybody. But Chet was the most grinding of the bunch. And I realized I could fit there, I could get along, but it wasn’t my nature. Like, that’s not who I am at my core.

Rob Marsh: So this is an interesting idea, the made versus born idea, but also how much hustle does it take to be an entrepreneur? I actually posted on LinkedIn about this a little while ago, and there were a lot of people debating back and forth. A lot of people push back against the hustle culture. I have a sense that—and this is just from my experience looking out at the world—I can’t recognize a single successful business where the founder founders didn’t have to hustle or if you don’t like that word hustle didn’t have to bust their butts sometimes for years to make it happen and so that probably goes along with what you’re saying. You almost have to be born with that hustle—maybe hustle’s the wrong word… drive. The drive is probably a better word in order to make that happen. 

Josh Long: I think there’s a couple paths so like many, I just fell into entrepreneurship. My grandfather had an educational games company when I was a kid, but he was an educator and his two partners were educators. He passed away when I was 18. So he was not around for me in my early entrepreneurial career. I didn’t really have a mentor or guide. And I was just making a lot of mistakes. When you start that route, you’re very isolated, you’re trying to just prove yourself, to get out there you go through the Dunning-Kruger effect, right? 

You start with all this confidence and all this bravado and no skill. And as you gain skill, you quickly learn how little you know, right? And as I tell my kids all the time, wisdom makes life so much easier. Unfortunately, most of our wisdom is gained through making mistakes, right? So that’s one path. And that is the most common path, right? I think there’s a better path. And this is the one that I encourage anybody that has the ability and the time and the wherewithal—go get mentored by somebody. Go work in a company that runs really well. And we see this in the PayPal mafia or the Google experience of people that come out of those places. They are able to go launch successful businesses because they’ve seen what success looks like. 

Now, I’m not saying they’re not working hard, but it’s definitely not as much of a grind when I see those people come out and succeed. I see this a lot in management consulting on the higher end, like the private equity guys, or people that start in high end management consulting, move into private equity, and they just have a smoother path, because they’ve learned on the job from somebody else that really knew what they were doing. And so that’s the ideal to me is go get the experience, go get the mastery, go learn it without all of the pressure of payroll, without all of the pressure of getting clients, without all of the pressure of things breaking, and the sleepless nights, and all of that stuff. 

It’s not that one’s right or wrong. By no means am I beating up or belittling anybody that is working really hard and trying to find their way. I just found there are easier, smoother paths and being around people who know how business works can make it a lot more smooth in the process.

Rob Marsh: Okay, so let’s say that I or somebody who’s listening is in that first group. We’ve been hustling. We’ve been breaking our… bouncing our heads against the wall. We’re basically hitting what I think you call the bottlenecks. Let’s talk about those things that we hit in business and some of the solutions, some of the things that you talk about in your book that help us overcome all of these problems that come up. I think you break them out into six different levers in the business, which cover various things like marketing and strategy, but can we just talk about some of those places where we get stuck as business owners?

Josh Long: Yeah, I think what happened for me early on was I was talking with so many business owners during the recession in 2008, 09 and 10, when I was working for Chet and I just started seeing these patterns show up based on their revenue stage. And so as you go through revenue plateaus, you have common problems that others at those stages have, just like developing a body, human body and a child, like child development and human development has stages that are all going to be the same, right? 

And so what I find is when you get to about a half a million in revenue, the most common bottleneck, the most common problem that you start having is starting to organize people around unique activities. Because when a company’s small, when there’s about a half a million a year in revenue, 30, 40, 50 grand a month coming in, It’s all hands on deck, right? Everybody can kind of crosstrain and do kind of everything else. Everybody kind of covers for everybody. And the team is just really an extension of the owner. They’re like go go gadget arms, right? They just make the owner’s arms a little longer to get around everything. And that’s great. And it’s a fun space to be when everybody’s willing to roll up their sleeves and everybody pulls some all nighters together. They’re up for jumping in on the weekends in a pinch. 

But when you get to about that half million dollar mark, you gotta start dividing and conquering. You gotta have specialists that somebody’s in charge of payroll or billing or accounts receivable, or sales or marketing. And it doesn’t mean that you have to have one person for each of those. Some people wear multiple hats. But knowing that, hey, here’s your hat, Rob, you really got to take care of our accounts receivable. Because our accounts receivables got too far back, we got too many, too many payments that are over 90 days late. And We all just were kind of dealing with whatever clients we came across, whatever invoice we saw. But I need you once a week for an hour every week to call everybody on this list that’s over 30 days. And we need that money in. And that’s the beginning of an org chart, right? 

That’s the beginning of creating structure. And then at a million, I mean, only 7% of businesses ever get to a million dollars a year. So you’re in rare air. It’s a very successful stage. And a lot of entrepreneurs think, oh, Once I get to a million dollars, all my problems will be solved. No, they just change. They get bigger and different. And at a million, the most common problem is you don’t have an operations person. And I call it the little Napoleon that’s just going to keep cracking the whip and making sure the trains are on time and everything’s going well. 

So you as the entrepreneur visionary can keep going out and rainmaking and getting more business or being the visionary that’s setting the strategy of figuring out where you’re going and not having to deal with fulfillment. And I find a lot of entrepreneurs that are very successful, very capable, that don’t realize they need that little Napoleon, that operations director, operations manager. What happens is when they start getting into that million dollar ceiling, they start throttling their sales. They start throttling their ability to go rain make because they know if they get more business, they’re just going to have more fires to put out on the fulfillment side. 

So those are really common patterns that I see in companies at those stages. And so what I recommend is you do a brain dump, right? You got to get stuff out of your head. 

I talk about it in the book of just how to capture all of your ideas and then how do we weigh them? How do we figure out what’s worth pursuing? What’s not, how do we prioritize? Because entrepreneurs like novelty, right? We like new ideas. We like new shiny things. We’re always looking for the new shortcut. It’s not because we’re lazy. It’s not because we’re dumb or whatever. It’s evolutionarily. We’re meant to find the shortcut, the fastest path to the fruit, to the food, to the meal, to safety. Right? So, And in the marketing world, online marketing, there’s only about 11 bajillion new shinies every day coming out, right? AI being the latest. 

And so what I walked through in the book, really, in chapter 13, is the profit priorities process. And it’s like, just dump all of your ideas in there. And then let’s go through and let’s actually score them on five different factors. Because when we score them on five different factors of how much time and effort is this going to take? What’s the cost? What’s the upside? And what’s the current pain that we’re experiencing? Then we get a much more sober perspective. And then we just look at the scores and say, oh, I didn’t think that was going to score so highly, but it did. Let’s go do that first. 

And then you’re able to get results and they compound. I’ve had some consultants that have wanted to be trained in this in the last year and I’ve taken them through it. One of them said that he took a client through this in the fall, just their leadership team, and they just dumped everything out and they scored it all. And they were shocked at the top one or two solutions that they needed to implement because nobody would have guessed that those would have been the most valuable or that would have made the biggest change. 

By going through this process, they all got unity on it, and they all were able to move forward in clarity and take action on it. And so it feels tedious, but to me, this is kind of like sharpening the axe, right? You can keep sharpening your axe so you cut trees down easier and easier, and you’re not just spinning your wheels, staying busy, getting through the end of the day and being like, I don’t feel like I got anything worthwhile done today.

Rob Marsh: Very common feeling. It’s interesting, you’re talking about these larger businesses. I was sharing with you before we started recording, we gave your book to all the members of our Think Tank mastermind. And they felt that it was incredibly valuable. And every single one of them is running a one or two person business. And so the ideas that you walk through—you don’t necessarily need a seven or ten million dollar business to benefit from the ideas you share. Even small business owners think, I need to take a step back here and figure out like, where are my leads coming from, right? Or like, how am I marketing my business? So I want to interject that—simply because I don’t want anybody who listens thinking, oh, my gosh, my business isn’t at half a million dollars. I can turn this podcast off because that is very much not the experience that I had reading your book or the members of our mastermind as well who are using it again, just as as one or two person businesses, too.

Josh Long: Right. And I think for them, when I go through their day-to-day, they’ve got to cut out a lot of things that just aren’t moving the needle. That’s the biggest activity that I recommend is to really get critical at what you feel you have to do versus what is actually making a difference, right? And that’s, again, having a sober perspective, really being critical of Gosh, you know, this is: I love this idea and I’ve got to go create a new course or something and I’m going to have this new offer and you’re going to go spend all the time creating it and you’ve not talked to anybody about it. You’ve not pitched anybody on it. You’ve not built an interest list. And so you can go spend this time on something you really think is going to be powerful and meaningful. And you spend two months in your spare time or extra time building it, and then you go to launch it and you realize, I didn’t even see this fatal flaw or I didn’t get this feedback or I didn’t do this thing. 

I think that’s where a lot of small teams and entrepreneurs, freelancers and stuff that are delivering great value to clients, they get kind of isolated and they fall in love with their own ideas and they don’t have community to just go bounce it off of or they’re too afraid to go pitch it to some prospects or clients and get the real answer of where it’s at. And so I think that’s a common one I see. 

And so I would just say, again, brain dump, get out of your head all the things you think you have to do. Let’s start go scoring them and let’s start seeing like, did this make a difference today? And I think for freelancers, a lot of times, I mean, I just saw a guy post the other day, I suffer from this, right? I’m not good at building my own list. And he said, every day, I spend a little bit of time offering something to get people on social media to join my list. And then I spend a little bit of time every day offering people on my list something to buy. And I was like, that’s so simple, right? Gosh, even I have been doing this for as long as I have. And I suffer from not doing the basics and not doing the things that are going to move the needle on a regular basis.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, again, like ringing all of the bells for me and my business, we make all of those same mistakes. And I’ve seen everybody do it. It’s interesting, we used to do an exercise with our mastermind, where we have people rate the various parts of their business, similar to some of the systems that you break down in your book. We’d have them rate red, yellow, green, based on how good are they going, right? And at the end, everybody would look at their sheet and see all this red and yellow and very little green, and it’s immediately frustrating. Like, oh my gosh, how is it so bad? 

And yet, Oftentimes, they’re running six-figure, mid-six-figure businesses. They’re succeeding. They don’t necessarily even have employees at this point. They’re running a successful business, and yet everything is still broken. I think this is something that we all experience. One of the things that as I was going through your book, became really helpful is to start breaking out where am I in strategy and what do I need to start thinking about a little bit differently? So as we think about those kinds of businesses and how we’re all broken in different ways, can you step through those six levers and just give us a sense of what we should be thinking about with each one? Like what are the one or two hot buttons, the most important things to have right or to be working on getting right?

Josh Long: One bit of encouragement for anybody that’s got those bloody sheets of red things that are broken, but you’re still making money. It means that you’re delivering something of real value. Because you found a market fit, right? You found a product market fit, as they would say that, despite not having all these other fundamentals, you’re still finding people that get value from you. So that’s, that’s the goal, right? That’s the real metric is, Am I delivering value? Am I getting rewarded for the value I deliver? And am I able to do that in a consistent way that pays my bills and makes me have the lifestyle that I want? 

And so going through the six levers—I start with strategy because that really encapsulates what Peter Drucker would say is innovation and marketing that innovation, right? He thinks that that is the backbone of all business. Everything else is a cost. Because you have to create an innovation, you have to come up with some kind of offer. And you have to be able to communicate that offer in a way to a target audience that is compelling, that gets them to take action. 

As copywriters, you guys all get that. But a lot of businesses still lose sight of that. And so what I did was I walked through the strategy of how are you differentiating from your competitors? What are the factors? And one thing that I really loved was the Blue Ocean Strategy book. And I actually got permission from them to republish some of their content in my book and walk through how I walk my clients through looking at their value curve, looking at their competition, looking at what they differentiate on. And their four factors are: What are you going to raise or create? What are you going to reduce or eliminate?

I think especially new entrepreneurs, we tend to overcomplicate things. We add way too many features. We add way too many details. We add way too much complexity that isn’t going to move the needle. And so Perry and I, we walked through this in our advanced mastery network program of, How do we proposition simplify? That’s something from Richard Koch that is not in my book, but it all fits under the strategy umbrella of as a proposition simplifier, what are you doing to add significantly more value and ease and you’re able to charge moderately more price for it? For example a proposition simplifier… I just keep coming back to the iPad. It was such an easy tool to use, and yet they charge an arm and a leg for them, right? And we don’t have to go into hardware manufacturing and all that because it’s really complex, but what can you do on the service side?

I had a client years ago as an orthodontist, who hired me to overhaul his sales process. And I went and I made these presentation books of before and after teeth for kids. And I missed an opportunity to simplify his experience more by just ordering a hundred of them to sit in his office. I made him, I designed him, and then I gave it to his office staff to order. And I gave him the link and it was like, all I had to do was just buy them for him. And it would have made the experience that much more enjoyable. So that’s looking at the strategy, like how do we make it smoother? How do we make it easier? How do we make it more valuable, especially the perceived value? and how do we differentiate? So that’s what I cover in strategy. 

Next, we move to marketing, and that’s what most small business owners think they need more than anything, because out of the gate, we need clients. Without clients, there is no business. But as you grow, marketing is no longer the main bottleneck. Other things show up, and we’ll get to those later. But when you start with marketing, the biggest thing I focus on is where is your most consistent source of quality leads coming from and how can you expand that further? And so I talk about traffic pillars like the Parthenon or Greek or Roman architecture. They have pillars that are part of their buildings that have stood thousands of years, fires, earthquakes, wars. They’re still standing to this day. And so, how can we view your traffic sources as pillars? 

Now, out of the gate, you may have some referrals, you may have a Facebook post that went viral, or something that generates a little bit, but then they kind of die down. And it’s like, okay, well, those worked, how can you beef them up a little bit? How can you turn them into more of a pillar? And getting into the fundamentals of like, how many, your funnel, right? Like, how many leads are coming in? How many conversations are you having? How many proposals are you giving? How many are you closing? And just getting an average for that. 

And of course, it’s like sales team management or marketing team management. But on a one or two person team basis, you’re still going to have a rhythm, you’re still going to have a pattern of how many people are you talking to? What’s your workload? How many clients? How often does your average client last? 

And you may be like me where it’s, I call it bimodal, right? A nerdy statistical statement, but my clients are bimodal. They either last three to five months, because either we fixed it or most often we got something deeper and they got frustrated and they tapped out or they last forever. Like that’s kind of how my clients work. And so once I started realizing that it was like, okay, let’s change the engagement. Let’s just do 90 day engagements to start with just to flesh out things and see if we can build a relationship or if we’re just going to part as friends because it’s not working instead of just jumping in. And I always want to marry everybody cause I love people and I love helping and I just want to put a ring on their finger and say, let’s work together forever. But the reality is half of my clients—we run into deeper and deeper bottlenecks that they don’t want to deal with at the end of the day, or I haven’t figured out how to get them to deal with in a diplomatic way. So that’s marketing. I’ve been rambling for a while.

Rob Marsh: I feel like I feel like I’m in an MBA class learning about how to run my business. But when you talk about those people who tap out, you know, you get to that deeper problem. What’s usually going on there? Is it an inability in their business to do it? Is it more mindset related? Because I have seen the same thing. When we’ve coached people, oftentimes, we’ll go through this, we show them all the things to do, and they still aren’t getting it, and sometimes they’ll leave. Not that often, but it’s that frustration. I’ve had that experience in programs that I’ve been part of as well. I’m looking at what’s the common denominator there that makes us not get to the finish line?

Josh Long: Yeah, and that’s the last lever is mindset. And I put it at the end of the book, because 50% plus of my clients just don’t want to deal with it, don’t want to look internally, don’t want to reflect. But I think it’s the most valuable lever of all, I think it supersedes all of them. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not willing to look at your own beliefs, which drive everything, right? Like we all have subconscious beliefs and things that are running our operating system. 

If you’re not willing to look and review those, then you may have a chronic issue that maybe you’re a yeller. Maybe you just, you get to a point and you just start yelling at your staff. And that’s the only way you feel that they’re going to listen to you. And it’s like, well, you’re going to just run the healthy people away because healthy people don’t put up with yellers, only traumatized, dysfunctional people put up with yellers, right? And so you’re just going to end up with this semi-retarded version of an organization where you’re there And your only way to lead is yelling. And the only people that’ll stick around are the ones that were abused by yelling growing up. And you guys have this really twisted relationship, right? And so that’s, that’s really what’s happening at the end of the day is every business grows to the limit of the owner. That’s it. And so unless that owner is willing to look internally and level up and deal with their own stuff, we’re just going to end up at an impasse. 

I had a client, I parted ways with a year ago—they were afraid of hiring. They’d had a couple of bad hires. And so they made this 85 deck slide PowerPoint process of hiring. And I’m really good at recruiting. And I can talk to some an applicant, I can create a great ad, I can look at the review, the applicants, I can get to the top five, interview each of them for five minutes, and I can pick out the best one. All in 25 minutes, right? I’ve been doing it for years. 

Their marketing was working so well, their support team was running into limitations. And I was like, we need more support. And the owner was just so afraid that I was gonna break something and hire somebody bad. And so we ended up recruiting the person. It was a great hire, but the owner kept fighting me the whole time on my process. And it was because he had some kind of trauma around hiring, having a bad hire. And, and it was just indicative of all these other things that we weren’t willing to get on the same page. 

And so I was like, I like you guys, you guys have a great company. But it’s not a fit for me. And I parted ways. That’s a simple example. They just didn’t trust me at the end of the day to deliver a quality candidate, even though I did. And that person’s still there and they’re thrilled with them. And, but the owner even fought and he said, this guy’s overqualified. He’s not going to last. I’m like, I don’t know how to help you. You keep fighting me. Does that resonate?

Rob Marsh: It definitely does. I can think of all kinds of little hang ups like that. You kind of touched on it early on when we started talking, but a lot of copywriters are afraid to go out and pitch for clients because basically it means they’re going to, they want to fill up the day with work, but then it also means, oh, now I’ve got to deliver. Right. And so if you can shoot yourself in the foot on pitching and not do it well, you can sort of limit the downsides of doing the work. That becomes a self-sabotage pattern.

Josh Long: Yep. I see that in every industry, every skill set, whether it’s web designers, graphic designers, copywriters, whatever. It doesn’t matter. Once you start hitting your upper limit of, I’m making enough money, I’m working with enough good clients… This is where I think Dan Kennedy did it so well. Instead of sabotaging yourself subconsciously, and pushing away the ones that you just don’t really want to work with, make the waitlist long and just start raising your pricing. 

But then guess what? Now you’ve got to look at your perceived self worth. How worthy are you of earning what you earn versus what you deserve. I’ve got a great case study of a guy who does mineral analysis for health stuff—hair mineral tests—and he was only charging like three or $400 for this test, a huge analysis, and a game plan for rebalancing your minerals.

And I was like, how’s that going? He says, I just got people that don’t show up to calls. I got people that complain. I told him to triple his pricing. This is one of those classic cases where you’re just attracting the wrong audience because your price is so low. And I had a call with him a month ago, and he was probably doing like 60, 70 grand a year, frustrating clients. I said, well, what’d you do last year? He says, 300 plus. And I’m like, and what were the clients like? He says, I loved everyone. But he had to work through that belief system. So that’s the other part that once you start digging, you realize, mindset is the ultimate bottleneck because yes, I’m self sabotaging as Rob said, but then. Okay. I’ll make a wait list. I’ll only cherry pick. I’ll make clients have to jump through hoops and then I’ll charge more. It’s like, Oh no, I can’t. My dad will think I’m ripping people off if I charge more or whatever the belief comes out. Right. I mean, it’s just, it’s all tied to that stuff.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, there’s so many ways we sabotage ourselves in business. Okay, so after marketing, the next lever is management. And I can see applications here with the big C applications with a big team, plus personal management, you know, and with freelancers, oftentimes, the worst of our employees is ourselves.

Josh Long: Well in this case, I would look at client management, because you’ve got people on a team that you’re having to deal with now. And it’s a difficult dynamic, because you don’t have the authority to fire them, push them around, set deadlines, or whatever. But you have all the responsibility for delivery, right? And so you end up in this imbalance, right? You don’t have equal parts authority and responsibility. And so as freelancers, when you end up in that spot, it can feel like purgatory. It’s not quite hell, but it’s definitely you’re stuck. And so the way that I work through that on the management side is whoever hires you starts having conversations about that authority discussion and about the feedback loop, right? 

I had this client years ago, they were doing a big project for Starbucks, and they were manufacturing trailer units that were going to go into Walmart parking lots for a Starbucks. They were just dropping them as a drive-thru Starbucks in a parking lot. And Starbucks loved the idea, and my client had manufactured all sorts of stuff like that before, but Starbucks kept delaying signing the contract. And I told my client, I said, Every week that they delay, you have to push your delivery out. That has to be in the contract. It’s like, no, no, it’s a two, two and a half million dollar project. Starbucks won’t do that. I’m like, you’re just getting pinched. You’re just getting pinched. You’re just going to end up squeezed so bad. And sure enough, they did and they got pinched and it was a mess and they still pulled it off, but they were way more stressed out than they needed to be because when they made the proposal, it was based on a six month timeline. And when they got the contract signed, they had three and a half months and couldn’t move until they got the contract signed because you never know, the company may bail. 

So when you get started with a company, let that hiring person, whether it’s the owner or marketing director or whoever is in charge, if you’re not reporting directly to them or dealing with them on a day-to-day basis, say, hey, what I found is when I work with teams like yours, a lot of times the team views my requests as nice to haves, not deadlines or ultimatums. And so would you be up for letting them know, hey, this person needs responses within 24 hours, because I can’t guarantee any kind of consistent delivery if I’m not able to get feedback or copy reviews or input or graphics or whatever, and just start setting that management expectation. 

This is what I call management by agreements. And with most professionals, this is really, really simple because nobody’s going to disagree with your requests. Nobody’s unreasonable. But by making that request, then if it’s not heated, if they’re not complied with, then you can go back sooner and say, hey, hiring person, you know, I’ve been having this issue. I’m not trying to get them in trouble, but it’s making delays. It’s putting things off. It’s slowing down. And I don’t want to have this come back to bite us. And I know that may not feel like a comfortable thing to go do to have that confrontation. But by having that little discussion early, that makes that confrontation, that resolution so much easier. And I think under management, I talked, I wrote a whole chapter on confrontation, because I realized like, that’s such a huge skill. And I was so bad at it. And my family, we were all so bad or just passive aggressive people pleasers. And Like there was just no modeling of healthy confrontation in my family. So I realized like the most successful people I knew were comfortable and good at confrontation. And so to me, the confrontation isn’t to beat somebody up or to get mad at them or Lord, anything over them. It’s just saying, Hey, there’s a dysfunction in our dynamic and I just want to heal it. I want to make it better. I want to resolve it. And so when you have that conversation upfront and then. are able to go back and say, hey, this wasn’t maintained. How do we make this right? And that’s it. And then people make it right.

Rob Marsh: I think even the word confrontation has that negative connotation to it. So we want to avoid it. And really what we’re trying to do here is just set healthy boundaries, get, like you said, the agreements so that we can move forward.

Josh Long: Yep. So that’s management. And it really is a four letter word for most small business owners. They think it means bureaucracy and or they’ll say micromanagement. And that’s not it at all. It’s just keeping communication priorities and organization together so that we can achieve something worthwhile. 

Then from there, we get into systems. And this is where a lot of people, especially right now with AI, that they over focus. And I would say systems, and I wrote about it in the book, I titled the chapter, delegate, document, then automate, and really, it should be in parentheses, maybe, like, Automation is not guaranteed. Most people do not need automation in most systems. But you need to document it. And I said delegate at first because most entrepreneurs aren’t good at documenting. But if you’re a one-man person, one-man crew, then you’re going to have to document some things. And you may go to Upwork and find somebody that’s really good at documentation that you talk it out with and get them to just document it, create it, and then be done with it. But it really is just getting it out of your head and just getting it down on paper of how you do things. 

The beauty is when you do this, especially with client fulfillment related items, you can then turn that into a little document to show clients, Hey, when you work with us, here’s what our process is going to be like. Here’s how we’re going to have a kickoff call. Here’s what our deliverables are going to be. And that becomes a great sales tool that helps that prospect see, oh, they’ve really got this thought thought out, they’re really professional, I have a lot of certainty, about 60% of the US population has a personality profile, where they crave certainty, they crave structure, they love rules, they love checklists. And so 60% chance that the person you’re dealing with wants to see that document, wants to see that checklist. And so if you create it of how we fulfill people, and then you’ve got it in a way that you can share it with prospects before they’re closing, you’re providing a whole lot of certainty in the process.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I mean, this is one place where I think freelancers very quickly figure out, wait a second, if I don’t figure out a system here, there’s no way I can grow. Even getting six figures becomes a really difficult goal. If you’re making things up every single time you have to do something, you’re starting over and working from scratch. So this is one we talk about a lot. I’m a full believer. I’m terrible at systems myself. But I’m a big believer in having somebody on the team who can do it.

Josh Long: Yeah. And so from systems, then we move into vision and vision really comes down to what do you actually want out of this business, this career, this occupation that you’ve got. And I, I find a lot of business owners start with a vision of one thing, but after 10 or 15 years, they’re way over here, just grinding it out with no concept of, What is this doing to serve my needs? And I think entrepreneurship is the greatest gift to humanity. I think it has created everything that we love and live with and all the abundance that we have in our society. And I think the number one purpose of any business or occupation or career is to serve the lifestyle we want to create. And there’s a lot of other benefits we get from it from fulfillment and working out our gifts. 

At the end of the day, if you’re not getting the lifestyle you want, you’re missing the boat because you’re creating your own reality. You create the rules, you create the rules of engagement, you create the rules of delivery. All of it is made up by you. You may say, Oh, well, this is my industry standard. I’m just following that. It’s like, well, people break it all the time. People create different rules of engagement all the time. And so if, if you’re not actively thinking about the lifestyle that you’re creating, then you’re missing the boat. And for me, as a freelancer, as a consultant, I always said I wanted to have as much time, freedom and flexibility as possible. I want as much autonomy as possible. And that’s just something that I value in my life. And we homeschool our kids. I work from home or around each other all the time. But we love it. And that was important to me. I want to be able to work wherever I want. 

And so since 2011, I’ve been working from home. And we have a lot of flexibility. So we take road trips off peak a lot, because again, we’re homeschooling, so we can take our kids whenever we want. And we were able to move to Hawaii for two years from 2018 to 2020. Because we don’t have to worry about school districts or we could stay in Airbnbs and we could figure out until we had some stable housing. And so that’s something that’s really important to me. I told a buddy of mine, we’d both worked for Chet and he went on to work at a bunch of other companies and he was climbing the ladder and he would call me on his commutes in the morning in SoCal for an hour. And I said to him one day, I said, you know, I realized I’d rather make 50 grand a year and have all the time freedom in the world than make 500 grand a year and have no time. And in 2016, we were having dinner down in Orange County, and he said, you win. I’m like, what are you talking about? He says, I’m making 500 grand a year, and I’m miserable. And I said, well, thankfully, I’m making more than 50 grand a year. And he ended up quitting his job a couple weeks later, because he was commuting from Orange County to Dallas for two weeks a month, and just had no time. That’s miserable. So that’s the vision of like, what is it you actually want?

Rob Marsh: So, and is vision always about like the business owner or does it also go into like the rest of the business? If I am building a team, do I need a vision for what they’re doing as well in addition to, you know, what I’m building for myself?

Josh Long: I think that gets more into the strategy of the business, like early on, what are we building here? Why are we building it? What does the team look like? The vision in the book is really just for the owner, because good owners end up being too self-sacrificing, too altruistic, putting everybody else’s needs before their own, and never really think about, well, what am I actually getting out of this business? 

Rob Marsh: And then we talked a little bit about mindset already, but is there anything you would add to it?

Josh Long: Yeah, I mean, mindset, like I said, is more valuable than all the others. And it’s a journey, right? It’s not something that’s fast. It’s not something that’s a quick fix. But to me, it’s where all the gold in the world lies of removing the limiting beliefs and the little emotional traumas, and you may have big emotional traumas. There may be things driving your operating system that you don’t know are there that are creating a lot of conflict. And so like some for me early on that I got through with coaching was, you Like, I grew up in a Christian church and a household, and I had a distorted view that money was like manna, like the Israelites in the desert, that it would come from the skies, and if they tried storing it up, it would spoil. Somehow, that was embedded in me. Even though logically, I was like, no, we need to save, you need to build wealth, blah, blah, blah. I did financial planning for people with my mortgage brokerage. But I had a belief that money was like manna. 

So guess what? I never had savings. It would always show up the day before I’d need it. I’d have a $3,000 tax bill. Lo and behold, the day before it was due, money would show up. And it’s like, well, gosh, that’s a really stressful way to live. It’s a really dysfunctional belief. And I had to clear that and remove that. And lo and behold, savings starts building all of a sudden. So that’s the kind of stuff for me that has been so fascinating to watch in my own journey get worked out. And the beauty of working through your mindset stuff with your business is that it ripples out to every other part of your life, right? It doesn’t just have an effect on your ability to make money or your ability to lead, but it also makes all of your life more rich and more fulfilling because you’re not, you’re not fighting against yourself internally.

Rob Marsh: Yeah. I want to come back to an idea that I think we talked about a little bit earlier, which is around mentorship and being ready or knowing that you’re ready for that coach, that person that you can connect with. I think a lot of times we don’t realize that we’re ready until well past when we actually needed to look for a mentor. We should have been working with, and this is especially true, I think, with mindset. but probably with all of the things that we’re talking about here. Have you, as you work with so many different businesses, do you have a framework for identifying like, okay, this is the problem that I’m starting to see show up now. I need to start looking for a mentor to help me with this, or where you can look at people and say, oh yeah, you’re definitely ready for this kind of a mentor. How do we know when we should be looking for that stuff?

Josh Long: Yeah, I think like I’m much more open to people finding their own way and not scaring everybody into, you need a mentor yesterday. But the thing that I will say that every client has that makes them a great spot for me is they’ve run into the same issue multiple times, haven’t been able to get past it, and now they’re really ready to get the help to solve it. As entrepreneurs, we have egos, right? We want to prove ourselves to the world. We’re always in that state of trying to show that we’re good enough and that we’re worthy in some capacity. Some of us have it more than others, but what that does is it causes us to hold on to our rightness, our belief that we know where we’re going, we know we’re on the right path. 

If you’re in that state and you’re like, no, I’m going to prove it, I’m right, this is going to be it, then you’re definitely not in a spot to be coached because you’re just going to argue with that coach or you’re going to undermine their advice or you’re going to subconsciously push back against them. If you’re in a spot where you’re like, you know, I thought I knew what I was doing was going to work, but I keep bumping my head into the same wall. Maybe there is a better way. Like that’s the beginning of being ready for a coach. 

And I got a good buddy. He had a software company that was developing in a language called Python and he started it around 2009 and had quick success. And, um, or maybe it was 2007, but he had quick success and he got up to about 1.8 million in about three years. And he thought he was the next Steve jobs. He just, there was no way to tell him otherwise. And I had, I had helped him. We’d become friends, but we just both butted heads. We were both young and dumb. And I left. And then a few years later, we reconciled, and he was still at 1.8 million. And he finally admitted, Oh, yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing. I need help. And so that’s the hard part of early success can give us a lot of false confidence. And early success is almost like a curse for some people, because that means that they’re just not going to be open to input, or they just think they’ve got it figured out. So I don’t know if that answers your question. I think it’s more of the mindset of, are you ready to change? And it’s not at whatever cost. It’s not like you’re going to become a completely different person, but you have to be in that coachable state and not feel like you’re just going to try to argue with somebody that’s coming in to give you guidance.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, I agree. So I want to ask this because so many copywriters have dealt with a really rough last year or two where the economy’s been really different. I know you’ve seen this in other businesses too. So many people are struggling to find clients. Obviously, there are lots of different things that can get in the way of that positioning, outreach, all kinds of stuff. But just real broadly, I’d love your advice. If I’m struggling in business to find clients, what are the two or three things that I should be doing to make it more or make it easier for clients to find me or for me to be able to connect with those that I need to connect with?

Josh Long: Yeah, so it shifted. The market has been shifting for a while. 2022 is a real watershed. that when they started raising interest rates in March of 22, but then by the end of 22, around October, when the FTX crisis happened, and then a bunch of layoffs at big tech companies started happening. I mean, Amazon froze budgets. I was dealing with a division of Amazon at that time for a client. Like they just came back and said, budgets are frozen. And so last year, in early 2023, with this one client, they were working with big companies. And I said, you got to change your target audience of who you’re going after. 

Now, this isn’t the full advice, but this shows the shift that I’ve been seeing. And I said, you guys are going after all these tech companies. And like, I said, go after basic companies like Procter and Gamble, or 3M, stable companies. And I ended up procuring a relationship with Nestle with them, like, just giant companies that are stable, not going anywhere. The next day, Silicon Valley Bank went under. Silicon Valley Bank was a prospect of theirs I spoke to in November of 22. So I was like, I had no idea that I was that on point that the market was shifting that hard for them. But what happened through the first half of 2023, in just about all industries was the shockwave went through the market and a lot of prospects just sat and they got skittish and they got hesitant. 

And so the advice I’ve been telling everybody since then is you have to completely change your offers, not that you no longer are a copywriter, just change the packages. Start playing with smaller packages, foot-in-the-door type offers, things that allow you to earn trust and build a relationship because the market is skittish and people are knowing they need to just sit on cash and they need to improve their cash reserves and they need to improve their cash positions. And so that’s a hard thing because in the small business world, the first expense that is cut when an entrepreneur feels tight is marketing. It’s the stupidest thing. It makes no sense. You can’t, you can’t logic them out of this. It’s just a protection mechanism. It’s like, it’s like marketing is their limbs and everything else is their torso. And they just go like this to protect themselves. They don’t want to get hit. They don’t want to get stabbed, whatever. They don’t want to bleed out. 

So then, you have to make smaller and easier, foot-in-the-door offers, I call them, things that are like, hey, you know what? Let me go through your email list and let me see what your email looks like and what your open rates are. Let’s do three emails. I’ll do them for $500 or $1,000. Let’s see if I can increase your open rates. Let’s experiment with that. um and and then you’re they’re like oh wow that worked really well well what else can you do right like that’s the goal of trying to um get that foot in the door and so i would go back to everybody you’ve given a proposal to everybody you’ve worked with over the last two to three years and just go back and start making a new offer of like hey um i know things are tight i know i know things can feel skittish i’d love to come in and really make it easy for you to get a quick result and see if that works. How does that resonate, Rob?

Rob Marsh: It definitely resonates. It also couples really well with what you were saying earlier about making things easier for clients. You know, if you are able to take on, you know, managing that email list so that you’re taking something off, off of their plate, or you’re able to take something and make something else easy for them. Now there’s a reason to keep you around, right? You’re, you’re adding value and helping them find time so that they can, you know, fulfill the vision, all that stuff.

Josh Long: I’ve got a client, she’s got a great company, and she’s been doing Facebook ads and email management. And she just told me the other day, she’s like, and she’s like a million and a half pushing 2 million. And she’s like, I think I’m just going to stop email marketing and just focus on Facebook ads because they’re working so well. And I’m like, no, just go find a copywriter that’s going to manage your email list. Like, but she just was so overwhelmed and hadn’t thought about it. And she’s just coming out of like stages of overwhelm. Um, and she told me the other day, she’s like, yep, I found a copywriter. It’s been going great. Thanks. That was the right advice. So you guys as copywriters can look for those situations of where’s the, where’s the heavy lifting that it’s getting neglected or somebody is resenting it, that I can come in and just take that over and maybe expands your scope a little bit beyond what you’re used to. Um, but it adds a ton of value and then you’re embedded and you’re not, you’re not going to go anywhere. You’ve got more stable client relationships.

Rob Marsh: Yeah, 100%. Okay, Josh, I really appreciate the hour you spent chatting. You know I’m a fan of the book, but if anybody is new to you, your world, the Breakthrough Bottleneck world, where should they go to find out more, get their hands on the book?

Josh Long: Yeah. So the book’s available everywhere. You can get it on Kindle, Amazon, audible. I did the audible for it a few years ago. Some guys, I was at a conference speaking and they’re like, we only listen to audiobooks cause they’re all out in the field. They’ve got home service businesses. I was like, Oh, you’re the first guys that are actually successful business owners that tell me they only listen to books. So I got it done. 

But bottleneck is my site. I’ve got great resources there. I’ve got a new guide I just put together on, um, how to double your close rate and using some cool tools that I like that really help filter and make your prospecting and your conversations with prospects a lot easier. 

So you can get that at And I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. 

I need to build out my Twitter more. Um, I’m enjoying that more and more, over the last year as it’s been less censored. But yeah, those are the great places to find me. Feel free to connect with me on any of those platforms and, um, feel free to reach out if you need some, some kind of guidance or some feedback on the book that you need more clarity on. 

I think it was Juliet. I can’t remember. Is it Peavy? Is that her last name? Yeah. So she was the one that kind of gave it away that you guys were giving my book away on LinkedIn. So she had tagged me and we’ve had a number of great conversations on LinkedIn. So yeah, I’m stoked, Rob, that the book’s been valuable for you guys.

Rob Marsh: It’s funny, this is not the first book that we’ve given away, but it’s easily the one that’s talked about the most. And there’s a couple that really resonate, but this one I think has been number one. I mean, again, when I found it, I went through it, I’m like, every chapter, I’m like, oh, there’s yet another thing that I can be working on and improving. And even as I was prepping just to chat this morning, looking at it, I’m like, ah, I need to go through this again.

Josh Long: Thanks. That was my goal. I always said most books aren’t worth reading, fewer worth finishing. And the ones that are worth finishing, like I want them to get to manual level status, like where you pull them out every year or two. And that was the goal when I wrote the book was that it would be useful for small business owners to just go back to over and over and get something new from it and be implementable forever.

Rob Marsh: I think it’s there. Definitely belongs in every copywriter, every freelancer, contract worker. If you’re working on your own, it’s definitely a great resource to have. So thanks. Thanks, Josh, for your time.

Josh Long: Thanks, man. This is so fun.

Rob Marsh: That’s the end of my interview with Josh Long. Before I go any farther, as a business owner, you really should have his book, Bottleneck Breakthrough, on your shelf. You’re going to turn to it again and again as you hit different bottlenecks and challenges in your business. Just go ahead and get that now. We’ll link to it in the show notes, but of course you can find it wherever books are sold. I want to echo an idea or two that Josh shared as we talked. 

Right there at the end, as we wrapped, Josh was talking about what he’s seen take place over the last couple of years in the economy and with business spending and marketing spending. I think he hits the bullseye with his analysis. Companies and people are gun shy when it comes to spending and businesses are especially hesitant to spend on marketing. And that trickles down to copywriters and to content and the kind of work that we do. So coming up with new ways to make your offers easier to try, easier to say yes to, that’s exactly the right strategy. If you struggle to find clients, you’re going to want to give this tactic a try. Make your offer smaller, make the value more obvious, give your clients a better experience, and then go back to them for more and more. 

Near the beginning of the interview, Josh mentioned the two kinds of entrepreneurs, those that jump right in and figure things out and those who have a mentor for a while and grow their skills and connections with the help of others before jumping in to start their business. I agree that both paths are viable. But given all we’ve said today about mentors, how they help, even if you’re in the jump in and figure it out path, a mentor can still help make things easier. 

You may need to stumble or hit a bottleneck before you’re ready to ask for help, but you don’t have to wait for that. 

That’s why we created the Copywriter Underground and the other programs that we offer. We’re here to help with mentorship when you need it. But like Josh said, we’re not trying to force anyone in. If you’re not ready, it’s not going to do you much good anyway. But if you are ready, if you are one of those people who doesn’t want to go it alone or would like that expert help, check out 

That’s definitely for you. I want to thank Josh again for joining us to chat about his business and about his book. I highly recommend you follow him wherever you find yourself online, whether that’s on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you want to look him up, Josh is just someone who’s worth following and seeing how he thinks about business and the challenges we face.


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