Copywriter Abbey Woodcock stops by The Copywriter Club Podcast studio to share how she went from being a single mom and journalist struggling to make ends meet to a highly paid copywriter specializing in complex launch sequences. And she shares a few of the hard-won lessons along the way. Things like:
• when you should absolutely NOT buy that course or coaching program
• the #1 thing she learned working for Ramit Sethi
• how she writes sales pages that make customers think she is reading their minds
• the “table stakes” principle for delivering solid copy
• what she does to make sure she’s not the smartest person in the room (even if she is)
• the surprising thought Abbey has on every single project she works on
• why and how she set up systems for her business
• how you can get to the point where you can work on large launch projects, and
• the worst things she sees going on in the copywriting world today
As we were wrapping up the interview, Abbey saved the best for last, sharing the story of how Ramit Sethi was willing to test her ideas—even though his gut said she was wrong and it would cost him thousands of dollars. You’ll want to hear this, and the rest of the interview. To do it, click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The controversial article
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
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.
Kira: What if you could you hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for Episode 44, as we chat with copywriter Abbey Woodcock about her journey from struggling single mom to her place on the A-List. Creating systems for your copywriting business, finding the right voice for your clients, and what she thinks of the gurus who say you should sacrifice everything to invest in your business.
Kira: Hi, Abbey. Hey, Rob. How’s it going?
Rob: Hey, guys.
Abbey: Super excited to be here.
Kira: Welcome. Well, before we start recording, I think Rob mentioned that he’s been stalking you and aware of you for the past year. I really started paying attention to you when I met you in March at Bryan Kurtz’s Titans Master Class. You gave a presentation to the group about helping creatives build systems.
Kira: Which was spoke to me as a creative who just sucks at systems. With your business partner, you’ve figured out how to make it work. I know we’re going to dive into that and a lot of other things, our topics today. To start, Abbey, let’s start with your story. I know you mentioned that it’s not a rags to riches story. But let’s dive into how you got into copywriting.
Abbey: Yeah. Sure. I always say that my copywriting journey started in seventh grade because I wrote a 30-page letter to a boy in seventh grade to ask him to the school dance. That was my first long-form fields letter.
Rob: Did it convert?
Abbey: No. No, zero convert on that one.
Kira: 30 pages?
Abbey: Yeah, 30 pages.
Kira: 30 pages were necessary, okay. Got it.
Rob: That gives a little bit of context for what we’re going to ask about Ramit and what you’ve done for him, because 30 pages is short for some of the stuff he does.
Abbey: Yeah. Absolutely, I was prepping many years ago for that job. Then I graduated high school, which was exciting. My goal was to actually go into journalism. I did that, but the thing about being a reporter is it’s very long hours and very little pay. Right out of college I got a job as a production editor and a reporter for a newspaper. That is the story that you guys had read. At that time in my life, I had no money. I had two really young children. My two children are 15 months apart. They were both under two years old.
Kira: Oh my gosh.
Abbey: It was a really tough time financially for me. I was working crazy hours and trying to figure out all this, being a new mom. It was really difficult for a while. We’re talking having rent payments not happen and services shut off, cell phone and cable and all that. After that I went into corporate marketing. Not because I wanted to be a marketing director necessarily, but it was better pay and better hours. I had to prioritize with my family. That’s how I discovered this whole world of copywriting, was through working in marketing and I discovered that copywriting was what I really loved to do. About two years after that is when I discovered this whole online world that we seem to find ourselves in, Narnia as I call it and ended up on Ramit Sethi’s team being a copywriter. That’s my story, and after a couple years with Ramit I went freelance and that’s where I am now.
Rob: That’s awesome. I definitely want to hear more about your experiences with Ramit because I think so many of us are familiar with the long emails and the incredibly long sales pages that he uses to sell his product. Before we do that, I want to jump to this blog post or article that you wrote recently about investing in your business. You went off, you got a little energized about people who suggest that if you’re not investing in your business and spending thousands of dollars on courses or coaching or training, that you aren’t serious about what you’re doing. Can we talk a little bit about that and the message you were trying to send with that?
Rob: Flag in the mountainside or whatever you call it.
Abbey: It kind of turned into that. I wrote it on a whim after I saw a Facebook comment on one of the … Having these mini Facebook, free Facebook groups for the launches has turned into this trend and I saw one of these big launches has turned into this trend and I saw one of these big launches that was happening and I was looking at the comments in the Facebook group. I always am curious at how the support team is answering questions in the Facebook group. Really, it’s like watching customer service chat live, right?
Abbey: I saw one of these comments that somebody had said along the lines of, “I really can’t afford this course, it’s $2,000.” The support staff was like, “Well, you can’t afford not to invest.” We all know the rigamarole of, “Use your credit card.” And “We have payment plans.” I realized after working with a variety of different types of people. I’m a launch junkie, so I watch all these launches really closely. I don’t think a lot of people understand what it’s really like to broke. There’s a time to invest $2,000 in your business. I’m not saying anything about that you shouldn’t take $2,000 courses or that $2,000 courses re too expensive. In the last year in my business, I’ve spent over $25,000 on courses and Master Minds and events, but I’m at the place where I can do that now. 10 years ago, the story I was telling you about when I was a newspaper reporter just figuring out how to start a business or what I wanted to do.
Investing $2,000 would have crippled me. Number one, I didn’t have $2,000, but if I maxed out my credit card that was the only thing I had if the car broke down or if the kids got sick. It just really upset me that people put this pressure on other people that, “You need to invest in yourself.” While I agree with that, it comes in stages. You have to take baby steps if that’s where you are in your life, that you’re not in a place where you have $2,000 that you can invest in your business, that’s okay. People need to understand. We as copywriters and marketers need to understand that the hard sell is not always appropriate. Sometimes it’s bad for your customer. It’s bad for your business. It puts everybody in a really uncomfortable position. I wrote this post and it turned into this. I don’t want to say it went viral, because it wasn’t that crazy.
Kira: It kind of did.
Abbey: It’s definitely the most popular, most commented post that I’d ever had because I think so many people related to it. I think the people at the top with these successful businesses doing these multimillion dollar launches, some of them have really lost touch to what it’s like to not have $100 in your bank account for example.
Rob: What we saw in our group in the comments. There were a few people who were like, “Right on. This is perfect.” Then it seemed like there were a few people out there saying, “It’s not okay to charge anything, people should be giving this away for free.” That’s not what she was saying.
Kira: Did they say that? I missed that comment.
Rob: There were one or two people who are thinking these people who sell things for $2,000 or more are ripping us all off and really not thinking, “Well, no, that’s not exactly right. That’s not the message.”
Abbey: No. That was unique to your group actually. I had a lot of comments and emails about that about, “Yeah. You’re right. These people that are selling $2,000 courses are unethical. You should always have a $97 product.” I’m like, no. We’re in Bryan Kurtz’s group together. I invested $15,000 into that group and I’ve gotten 10X ROI on that.” Having a $10,000 product or a $2,000 product is not a bad thing. It’s just understanding who you’re marketing that $2,000 product to, because the person that should be purchasing a $2,000 product is not the person whose cable is going to get shut off next month if they don’t pay the bill or whose rent is two months behind. There’s a big market for $2,000 courses and I’ve invested in many of them that have been excellent. I’ve worked on them and I’ve written copy for them. I’m not saying that selling a $2,000 course is wrong or that you should always have a low end product. I’m just saying understand if you’re selling a $2,000 course, that not everybody is right for it, and that’s all right.
Rob: Yeah. It’s all about ethics.
Abbey: Yeah. Absolutely.
Kira: Abbey, you’ve been vocal in the copywriting space and the online marketing space even by posting that particular post. Then reading through your other posts and just paying attention to what you’re saying and sharing. Is that a recent thing, where you’re getting frustrated with certain things that are happening and you feel like you need to call it out, not set it straight, but just start the discussion or have you always been that way or is this a new thing for you?
Abbey: Well. I’ve always been I think vocal about things that I observe. Then I think you’re right that it has been fairly recent, because I’m starting to realize in copywriting and online marketing specifically, there’s this whole world behind the scenes that happens that I get to see because I’m working on these launches on these people that are really familiar names and really big. There’s a perception of what happens on these launches. There’s a perception of how online business runs, which is all created on purpose. There’s all these things that happen behind the scenes that I feel like nobody talks about, because I feel like nobody understands. Recently I’ve been really trying to point some of that out. One of these things like having these huge launches.
I’ve had clients come to me or potential clients come to me or potential clients come to me wanting to have a PLF style launch and they just don’t have the budget for it. People just don’t understand that some of these marketers are spending literally $100,000 on these launches. They’re spending $50,000 just on copy. I think there’s a perception that you don’t have to grow into that, but you can start an online business. The first thing to do is have this complicated launch sequence and start out with a $2,000 course. It’s just people are wondering why they are failing and why they are struggling to get their business off the ground because they’re not following the path that people who are successful have followed. They’re following the shortcuts. I’ve been making it my goal to point out, “Here’s what’s actually going on behind the scenes, that you might not be aware of.”
Rob: I think you’re pointing out, another problem is that if you’re not selling a $2,000 course, you’re selling say a $97 course or a $49 product. You want to copy those kinds of launch things. The money’s not there. It does cost 50 grand or 100 grand to do that kind of video production and to do the multi video staged launches and sending out 50 different emails depending on how people respond to one video or the other. If you’re selling a $97 course you’d have to sell three or 4,000 of those to even get close to breaking even.
Abbey: Yeah. Exactly right. You’ll see it in all kinds of groups, not just copywriting groups, but online business groups, where people are like, “Should I get Infusion Soft?” They’re like, “How big is your list?” They’re like, “I have 200 people.” They’re like, “No. You should not get Infusion Soft.” They’re like Infusion Soft is a great product, but it’s expensive and the capabilities of it are just not going to be utilized on a 200 person list. These are people that have 100,000 people or more on their lists. People want all the software.
They want, “Can I get membership software that can segment and that can have a tiered product and do this and do that?” It’s like, “How about you start off with the basic, and then if you need to upgrade from there because things get so crazy and big. Your product just flies of the shelves and gets so popular that you need to upgrade. Why don’t you do that?” People want to jump right to,”Well, this guru is doing this and that guru is doing this. They have this software and they have this type of site.” It’s like, “Yeah, but it took them 10 years to build that business.”
Kira: I want to shift gears a bit and go back to your experience working with Ramit and that team. I’m curious to hear just what you learned and took away from that experience and how it shaped you as a copywriter?
Abbey: It was definitely the most influential time for me as becoming a copywriter. I was part of that team for two and a half, three years. Ramit is just a really incredible mentor and teacher. There’s this perception that people that are successful would just be successful and wouldn’t teach. Some of them just love to teach and Ramit is one of those people. He just really loves it and that spills over into his business. He really spent a lot of time investing in developing me as a copywriter, as a business person. I really got to see behind the curtain on how a successful business runs. Really the best thing that I learned from him is to expect excellence. That’s expecting excellence from yourself and the people that you’re working with. He constantly would ask me to do things or give me tasks that I was like, “I don’t think I’m ready for this.”
He’s like, “No. You can do it.” It was really great. We would spend hours on Skype and on the phone going through copy and I would watch him write copy. It was just a really, really great experience. He surrounds himself with people that expect excellence. It was just working with the highest level team, which is awesome. It’s also scary as hell, all the time. Because I always felt like I was the dumb person in the room. It was funny because if you talked to the team everybody felt like everyone that surrounded them, was just so much smarter. It was really great. I still work with Ramit’s team on projected from time to time. We’ve continued our relationship. He was really supportive of me going off and starting my business. He continues to be just a really great mentor to have.
Rob: That’s great. I want to ask about copy length because I think Ramit is famous for these massively long sales pages. They’re ridiculous in length. I’ve tried to screenshot some of them. They’re so big that screenshot software won’t capture them, it crashes them. We’re talking 70 pages of copy. I think both Kira and I are about long sales pages. We love that stuff. We understand that the message needs to be long enough to sell the product, but 70 pages? Tell us the thinking behind some of that and how long it takes to create that kind of a page.
Abbey: As far as how long it takes to create the page. A lot of gurus you hear them say things, like how long that they’ve been working on this product. Ramit, no kidding works on products for sometimes two years before he ever releases them. I know that his team is working on stuff that is not going to be released for two or five years.
Abbey: We start the product development process. The copywriters are involved in that from the very beginning. As far as creating the sales page it’s literally sometimes a year long process. Then obviously when we get closer to launch it becomes really a crunch time. It’s working really long hours for a couple of weeks to get them created. There’s three or four people at any one time working on it. As far as the thinking, it took me a while to drink the Kool-Aid of the long-form sales pages. I’m like,”Do people really read it.” It’s interesting because there’s a survey when you join one of the courses that says, “Why did you join and what are you hoping to get out of it?” The product research they do, as soon as you join.
For the “Why will you join the course?” The phrases that people would use, they would lift right from the sales page. They would say, “I’m tired of working my nine to five job and I’m ready to start an online business.” Word for word that’s a phrase that was on page 35 of the sales letter or whatever. It would happen and it would all be different phrases. That was so fascinating to me because I’m like, “People really do read this.” Not the majority I don’t think read it all, because it would literally take you a couple hours to read the entire page. They scroll through it and it really speaks to what they’re going through. The research that gets put into those sales pages. It’s insane, the amount of data Ramit collects on his customers before he even creates the product.
Then we have access to thousands and thousands of customer stories and quotes from Reddit and just all kinds of different things like that. Using the words that the customer uses from that research phase. It will speak directly to somebody and they’ll say things like, “Oh my gosh it’s like you’re reading my mind. I was scrolling through and then all of a sudden I saw this one sub-head, that’s really exactly what I’m looking for.” It’s different for every person depending on their situation. It was quite the process creating those. Then if you see the pages, they’re just beautifully designed too. It’s another three, four weeks of design after the copy’s written.
Kira: You mentioned expecting excellence and that’s what you took away from your time with that team. Is it just a mindset shift for you that clicked and it just sticks with you now? Or do you have to almost check in with yourself to make sure that you are holding yourself to that high bar. Also, just is that a mindset shift that everyone can tap into? Even if we don’t work with a team like Ramit’s team? Can freelancers just figure out how to tap into that excellence and that mindset on their own?
Abbey: I’ve always been somebody that’s held myself to just really ridiculously high standards. I always have to be the best at what I’m doing. A colleague of mine, a copywriter also, he had told me one time. He’s like, “Abbey, you need to chill out. You can’t always be the best.” That’s just always been my personality. The interesting thing about Ramit’s team is he had this phrase that he used a lot called table stakes. Table stakes meant things like, the grammar had to be right. The layout if we were making a webinar slide deck, everything needed to be lined up. The margins needed to be correct. The pictures needed to be right. That was things that just, he shouldn’t have to worry about that stuff when we sent him the copy. He shouldn’t be proofing it for grammar mistakes and that kind of thing, that was table stakes.
What he was looking for was, “Is this the best copy? Is it going to convert? Is it using the best psychological principles?” He wanted to focus on that stuff. That’s been something that I’ve taken away from that is table stakes is, a client should never look at my copy and see grammar mistakes or the layout shouldn’t be confusing. The links should all work. There shouldn’t be broken links or the YouTube video permission should be set correctly. All those just little details. I don’t want my clients to worry about that. That was something that really just came straight from Ramit of having the table stakes of all that little stuff, should be not even a thought on the client’s radar.
Rob: Abbey, I love when you were talking about feeling like you might not be the smartest person in the room. I think this is something you’ve written about a little bit on your blog. You’ve been very intentional about surrounding yourself with people who could teach you. Will you talk a little bit about your thought process around that. Why you do it and the things that you’re doing now to make sure that you have influencers around you to help you grow?
Abbey: Everybody knows that phrase, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I think there’s a second part that nobody really talks about, which is that other room where you go to where you’re not the smartest is a really scary place to be. The mental, just toll that it takes on you, being surrounded by people that you feel are smarter than you. Its awesome. You get to really think the level of thinking and the strategy. There’s no way that it can’t rub off on you. People that expect excellence in their work and people that want to do great things and have these big dreams … The thought of when I was really broke starting a seven figure business, was that was not even in my per view of something that was possible.
Now I surround myself with people that have seven, eight, nine figure businesses. It’s like, “Wow, they’re no different than me. They just have skillsets and they’ve learned things along the way that I haven’t learned yet. It opens up this possibility of what would a seven figure business look like? How can I get there? Or even a six figure business, ten years ago me being told I have a multi six figure business would be insane.
Rob: I’m guessing there’s people in our club that would kill for a five figure business.
Abbey: Absolutely. It’s surrounding yourself with people that have them. People talk a lot to me about live events and which live events I go to. If you’re going to $200 live events, you’re going to be surrounded by people that are spending $200 on a live event. If you go to a $2,000 event, the level of people is going to be so different. It doesn’t even have to be paying for an event, but just talking with people that are way past where you are. It opens up those possibilities of, “Okay, they did it, how can I do that. What steps did they take, that I can follow?” Working with Ramit was one of those things for me where it was like the path was laid out. I knew his whole journey from starting the business in his college dorm room to having a multi seven figure, eight figure business.
I got to see that pathway and it really opened up this world that I had never seen. Like I said, the other part of that is you have to know that it’s going to make you feel like an idiot a lot of the time like, “Why am I the only person here that doesn’t have a seven figure business?” It’s recognizing that your mind is playing all kinds of tricks on you. I’ve never had a project, not one project with any client that at some point in the project I hadn’t thought, “I think I should probably give them a refund because I’m terrible at this.” Not one single project. It could be a small project like I’m writing a landing page for somebody. At one point I’m like, “I shouldn’t even do this. I’m a terrible copywriter.” I’ve been doing this for six, seven years now. It’s recognizing those mental crazies that happen to all of us and understanding that’s just part of the process.
Kira: That’s such a relief to hear because I’m even working on a project right now. I’m just like, “I shouldn’t have done this. I shouldn’t have taken this on. I wish I could just give them back their money.” When I walked into the Titans Master Class in March, I thought the same thing. I looked around the room. It was my first time meeting everyone. I think I texted Rob. I was like, “I am in the wrong room. These people are all doing so much better than I am.” It was also a really good feeling. Then once you get to know the people, just knowing that, no you’re in the right room. You’re exactly where you should be. It’s good to hear that we all feel that way. Abbey, I want to hear about your writing process. You’re working on these big launches. Could you just give us an overview of what it looks like behind the scenes for you? Do you have a team? What does your research process look like? How are you handling all of this. Anything you’re willing to share.
Abbey: Yeah. This is just a huge question that can go in a bunch of different directions.
Kira: Yeah, I know.
Abbey: I think the key for me because you’re right, most of what I work on now are really big launches. When I say big launches, I mean 186 copy deliverables.
Abbey: That’s 100 emails, 17 videos, just a lot of things. You can’t not have a process doing those things. I tried to wing it for a little while with epic failure, because these are sometimes three month projects. If I have a project that’s due on September 1st, today’s June 14th. What am I supposed to be doing today. Casey who’s my business partner and my fiance. He’s a total systems guy. He’s just like, “We need to make structure.” I’m just not that person. Together with a lot of trial and error, we’ve found ways to structure and plan out, “Okay, this week what has to be done? What are the benchmarks that have to be done by the end of this week? How do we know that we’re behind in July for a September due date of a project?”
He’s just really been great at that. Working together has been really interesting because most systems are created by people like Casey who are systems people. Our first go round at one of these systems, he’s like, “I made a whole calendar for this launch. It’s all set. You’ll know exactly what to do.” I was like, “Perfect.” He sent me the calendar for the day and I’ll never forget it because it was like 9:00 in the morning. I looked at it. He was like, “Okay, from 9:00 AM to 9:30 is breakfast. From 9:30 to 10:30 you can be working on the headline. From 10:30 to 11:30-“
Kira: Oh my gosh.
Abbey: “You’ll work on the sub-head.” I literally got up and I was like, “I’m going to go to Target. I’ll be back in a little while.” He’s like, “I cannot work with that kind of structure. It just doesn’t work for me.” We went back and forth and what we created … Everything is broken down by week. I know what has to happen by Friday of this week. If I decide to take the day off on Tuesday because something came up or there’s somewhere I want to go or the kids got sick. I can take of Tuesday knowing, “Okay, Wednesday I’m going to have to hit it. I’m going to have to get these things done by Friday.” We built this crazy Frankenstein spreadsheet template that we use now for these big launches that really breaks down the whole process.
It’s the side benefit of that is that the clients understand what I’m working on, because the problem happens a lot when you’re working on these big projects. Is as copywriters, we go away for two to three weeks to work on things. The clients are like, “Are you doing work over there? What’s going on? What’s the status of everything?” If you’re writing a sales page, for example or a video script, that’s going to take you some time without any really good updates to give to the client. “Oh, I wrote a few sentences today, but the direction is looking really great.” The spreadsheet really gives them an idea of where things are in the process and that you’re still on track, that you didn’t just disappear for three weeks and you’re going to come back with nothing. Long answer, but that’s how we’ve broken down some of these launches.
Rob: The first time that I saw that spreadsheet, I opened it up. It was one of those things where I was totally boggled. Oh my gosh. The spreadsheet itself is a project, just filling it out. I love the idea of sharing that with the client. What else do you do to communicate with the client. What else do you do to communicate with the client as the project goes on? Because I imagine it’s not just, “Okay, this is what I’m working on and I’ll talk to you in September.”
Abbey: Exactly. Casey and I’s background, the other part of my life is I’m a chainsaw instructor for natural disaster non-profit organization, which is the most random two things to put together. That’s where Casey and I met. He has worked a lot in the disaster space, tornadoes, hurricanes, that kind of thing. There’s this system that FEMA created. It actually came out of the Wildland Fire space called ICS, which is Incident Command System. Basically it’s a system that you learn when you get in this space so that all the organizations are speaking the same language. They can communicate with each other. What the Red Cross is doing versus what FEMA is doing versus what whoever. From that system, Casey adopted it because launches can be just as terrible as hurricanes sometimes.
We created this meeting schedule that follows the ICS system. It’s a way to check in with the client. Briefly on Monday you have an all team meeting that just says, “Hey, here’s what the goals are for the week. On Tuesday the creative team meets. We’re like, “Okay, here’s the goals for the week. Is this reasonable? Do we need extra resources? How are we going to get this done?” Then on Thursday you have a check-in with everybody again that says, “Okay, it’s Thursday. Are we on track to get done what we need to get done by Friday? If not, what do we need to adjust.” These are really short meetings, like 15 minutes each. It keeps the client understanding where things are.
It also allows you to communicate like, “Hey, I can’t write this script until I have this information.” You’re continually communicating back and forth with the client. What’s happening? What do you need to make the next step happen? Where are some spots where, this week we’re supposed to write all these ads. I’d really like to bring on another copywriter because this is not going to happen. It’s not reasonable for me to write 15 emails in the next two days or whatever. It really lets the client see on a micro-level what’s reasonable and where you’re overloaded or if things are moving faster. Like, “Hey, you know, we don’t have a lot of work this week, maybe we can get ahead on something.” That’s the brief overview of our system.
Rob: I want to ask two follow-up questions to that. The first is how do you estimate what a typical project is going to cost? Is it, are you looking at all of the elements and you have a fixed price or do you just have a week rate or a month rate? They’re renting your brain for everything. The second question is, how much of your day do you actually spend writing?
Abbey: The first question, honestly it depends. Sometimes I’m on a retainer with a client, so they’ll do the rent me for a month deal if they have ongoing needs like they’re writing daily emails for example. They want help with their daily emails. It’s about the same every month. For launches, we look at the whole strategy. What is this launch? It’s going to be PLF style. That means at least four long video scripts, some emails, we break down the elements. I do have a price list that gives me a starting point. It’s really flexible because what for example Ramit’s going to do in a launch is going to be very different than somebody that is expecting maybe $100,000 launch or a $50,000 launch. The amount of copy needed and the elements are going to be less. We add it up and we also cross check it based on time.
“Okay, here’s all the elements. Here’s what we’re thinking with pricing. Okay. It’s going to take three months.” If I’m going to be working with this client for three months exclusively, is this going to help me hit my goals for three months. This is the revenue I need for three months. Usually they come out about the same because I’ve created my price lists to if for example I have a sales letter that I have to write this month. How many sales letters do I have to write in a month to hit my revenue goals for the month? That’s how I’ve created my price list., they come out the same, but we do cross check it with if it’s three months and I’m working with this client only, is that going to be all right? If I do each of these elements added up, sales letter, plus video, plus email, plus … Hope that answers your question. It seems a little complicated.
Rob: It is. The second question is how much time do you spend writing every day?
Abbey: I’ve created my schedule in a way that I’m rarely writing more than four hours in a day. On a rare occasion, things need to speed up or we have a deadline that we’re coming up on. It’ll go longer than that. I found four hours is really the sweet spot for me creatively. If I’m writing more than that, the quality is definitely going to suffer. It’s really not the kind of life I wanted to build. I don’t want to be somebody that’s working 12 hours a day, six days, seven days a week. It works out really well and also gives me time to focus on my own projects, so about four hours is ideal for me.
Kira: Abbey I have a big question for you, especially for copywriters who are into launches. How do we get to where you are? Working on these big launches. Especially if we’re just starting out and maybe we’re working on that. A baby launch and it feels exciting. We want to move into your direction. How do we do that?
Abbey: There’s a lot of myths I think about how these things happened, which I talked about a little bit earlier about making it my goal to address some of these. If you look up online, “How do I get great clients?” One of the advice they’re going to give you is email the influencer. Then tell them your skillset. Somehow they’re going to hire you. It takes a lot of trust for somebody to hand off a launch to a copywriter, especially if it’s a seven figure launch. Number one, it took time for me to get to that place. Obviously working with Ramit was one of those things that helped me accelerate it. People get really scared of having a full time copywriting job. They think that somehow freelancers outrank copywriting employees.
If you can get on a team where you can start to learn how these things happen behind the scenes, that was so instrumental for Me. The other thing is just doing the launches. If you’re doing small launches, for say somebody has got a $50,000 launch and you’re writing the copy for it. It’s moving up the value chain. If you do great work for them, they’re probably working with somebody that’s doing $100,000 launch. Then you do that one next. You just build up the stepladder, you’re not going to get a seven figure launch if you’re just starting out. It doesn’t matter how great an email you can write or how well you can schmooze somebody at an event. It takes a lot of trust. I was really fortunate to get on Ramit’s team and to really have a relationship with him, which has built some credibility for me.
It’s not something that’s impossible for other people to do. If you can get involved in a small way on a great team, you can build your career from that. That’s how I did it. There’s a lot of other ways that other people have done it. It just worked really well for me. When I started freelancing I already had a wait list of clients, just because working with Ramit, people would reach out to me and say, “I saw that sales letter you wrote with Ramit. Do you take on freelance clients? At the time I didn’t until I left to do freelancing. Getting involved in a small way on the bigger launches is how you build that up.
Kira: I want to get into the weeds a little bit. You mentioned with the proposals and packaging these huge launches. Are you listing almost line items for all the different elements. You mentioned you have prices for sales pages, emails, how do you break it up in an actual proposal so that it speaks to your client and doesn’t overwhelm them. They’re more likely to accept it.
Abbey: The first step is that spreadsheet that I was talking about, that launch spreadsheet. We have a list in the proposal phase of every deliverable that’s happening. That prevents any misunderstanding about what’s expected of you. If you’re charging something like $50,000 for a launch. It’s very easy for a client, any client. Great clients, and bad clients to start to think, “Oh, I’ve paid them all this money, so they can add another email sequence, or they can add an upsell over here, or we can segment the launch and do this.” After the fact, they’re signing off on every single line item of deliverable. It says in my contract any increase in more than 10% in scope means we’re renegotiating the contract.
However, I don’t break down the prices. It’s not like, “Okay five videos, that costs this, 10 emails that costs this.” I give them the package price and say, “For this price, these are all the things that you’re getting.” What happens is then, especially clients that are on a budget, they’ll start to take out things. “Well, if we take out the email on Thursday, that’s $500, so we’ll take that out. It’s like, “Well, if we don’t do the email on Thursday it weakens the entire sequence.” I don’t break it down by price that way for the client. That’s an internal calculation that we do.
Kira: Okay. That’s really helpful.
Rob: So much of what we’ve talked about is all related to the business of copywriting, as opposed to actually doing the copywriting. Obviously you’re a fantastic writer. You’ve really focused in on helping other copywriters with the business side of copywriting as well. Tell us about some of the stuff that you’ve done in that area?
Abbey: When I brought Casey on-board and we started looking at these things. I realized there was two skillsets that were not related at all that you need to be a successful copywriter. One is writing copy and that of course is what 99% of courses focus on. There’s literally thousands of copywriting courses on how to write great copy.
Rob: That’s what we all do well. That’s why we want to be copywriters.
Abbey: Yeah. Absolutely. If that’s something that you need to improve, there’s tons of resources to do that. However, nobody really talks about, “Okay, now you can write great copy. That doesn’t necessarily pay the bills unless you know how to run a business. How do you convert a prospect to a client? If something goes wrong with the client, what do you do? Or if they don’t pay, how do you protect yourself.? How do you manage time? How do manage time? How do you break down these big launches so that you’re communicating with the client?” All these things are skills that every copywriter that I’ve talked to, the only way that they’ve learned it is by messing it up.
Abbey: I messed it up a ton too. I’ve had clients like, “You’ve missed the deadline twice now. We can’t go on with the project.” That happened to me early on in my freelancing. Everybody that I know has had experiences where they’ve messed up because they didn’t manage their time properly or their contract was wrong so the client bailed and didn’t pay. I was like, “Where are those resources?” They don’t exist. I decided to, as I learned these lessons to chronical them. What I did is created a site, it’s actually called TheBusinessOfCopy.com that’s created to have a resource bank of, “Oh, I have my first royalty client, that’s happy to do a royalty. How do I structure the contract to make that happen.” There’s no real good answers for that. If you just Google it. I’ve spent a lot of my time when I’m not working on client work, that’s what I’m doing. I feel like it’s a big hole in the market that’s not being served currently.
Kira: I am part of that group. Are you calling it a membership or what is it?
Abbey: Because the wording is one of those things, it’s funny because I’m a copywriter. Any copywriter that I’ve ever talked to writing copy for your own things is the most difficult to me. Yes, it’s a membership site. It’s a monthly membership. It’s more like joining a gym. People get a little scared when they’re in a membership site and they can’t consume all the content. You’re not going to use every single machine in the gym. If you need to work on arms this week, you’re going to go and use those machines. You pay a monthly fee to have access to all of the machines and whatever specific ones you need to use today. That’s how the business of copy runs. It’s not one of those courses or sites where you’re expected to go through this journey of week one, you should be consuming this content.
It’s like I said, “You have a royalty agreement coming up. You can go into that section of the site and get all the resources or you have a client that’s really pissed off at you about something. There’s a whole section on how to communicate better with clients or you have a live event coming up where you have some people that you would like to make clients. How can you prepare for that so that you can communicate with them and maybe convert them at the live event. There’s a section on that. Really it’s a pic and choose of what you need of those resources are there. It’s not just things that I’ve learned, but it’s resources from colleagues of mine, professional copywriter, marketers, just all kinds of different people. Legal experts, tax experts, all kinds of things.
Kira: Yeah, it’s almost like you take what you need and that will change month to month, but it’s there.
Kira: I wanted to ask you what gaps you see in the copywriting world, since you’ve been in there, you’ve been on teams, you’ve been doing it on your own for a while. What are a lot of the new copywriter just missing out on? Maybe there are opportunities they’re missing out on because we’re focused over in the opposite direction.
Abbey: There’s this interesting thing that’s happening in the copywriter world where there’s a lot of groups out there where people are giving advice that haven’t actually had clients. I feel like that new copywriters are getting this perception of how client management that happens that’s just very wrong. An example they’ll give is we’ve had people say, I’ve seen it. Actually Copywriting Club is one of the good ones because I don’t see those kinds of conversations happening there, but in a lot of the other groups-
Rob: Wiping the sweat from our brow here.
Abbey: If you’re active in any of the other copywriting groups, you see that somebody will say, “Oh, I have this client that said that they don’t like my copy. What do I do next?” You have these people that will say, “Well, you’re the expert. You tell them, this is the way the copy is supposed to be. If they don’t like it too bad.” I’m like, “Have you ever had a client, because that’s not how that’s not how it goes at all. I feel like the big hole right now is that people think that you become a copywriter. You can charge 20 grand for a project and then you walk in to these clients and just tell them what for. It’s not how it happens at all. A client-copywriter relationship is very much like a partnership. I liken it to a doctor, I hate when people do that because the way they say it is that we’re saving lives.
I don’t think that’s necessarily true. If you were sick and you Googled around to try and figure out what was wrong with you. You had a vague idea from Google what was wrong and maybe what medication you wanted to take. You went to your doctor and you said, “Hey Doc, I think I have this disease. Can you prescribe me this medicine?” The doctor would be a terrible doctor if they said, “Okay.” And they gave you the prescription. If you’re a copywriter and your client says, “I want X, Y, Z and you just give them what they want without adding your expertise, then you’re not doing that client any favors. On the other hand, if the doctor said, “I think actually the better course of treatment would be this other medication for you.” You as the client, as the patient.
If you said, “Okay.” And didn’t ask any questions or if you said no. The doctors can’t force you to do that. It works the same in copywriting. If a client comes to me and say, “I want to do this.” I say, “Actually, the better course of action is this.” And they say, “No. I don’t want to do that.” Well, it’s their site, it’s their launch, it’s their product. They actually get the say, just like you have final say over your own body and what happens. It’s really it’s a partnership. The doctor doesn’t come in and say, “This is what’s going to happen, and whether you like it or not because I’m the expert. That’s not how client relationships work. I think that’s big misconception that new copywriters are getting from a lot of different areas, which is really unfortunate.
Kira: I think I’ve seen it happen in our group too. I think people need to call each other out. I think that’s just basically what needs to happen. You are good at that. We have other people in our group and hopefully in other groups where we can start calling each other out respectfully, when it sounds like someone doesn’t actually have clients and they’re dishing out advice because it’s more harmful than helpful.
Rob: You raise a really good point Abbey.
Rob: I think a lot of copywriters like to think that we’re going to get to know our client’s businesses so well that we can make any recommendation. The fact of the matter is, they’re still going to know their business better than we will. They’re talking to their suppliers, they’re talking to their customers. We’ll get a good chunk of that, but it’s a partnership. We’re not the CEO of their business even if we know copywriting really, really well.
Abbey: At the end of the day they’re the ones that are investing. There’s been many times when I worked with Ramit that I wrote an email or I wrote something and he went in a very different direction. I vehemently disagreed with the direction he went in and thought mine was much better. The other copywriters on the team might have agreed with me, but at the end of the day he’s the one that’s paying to send out the email. He’s the one, whose sales are going to be affected if he’s right or wrong. At the end of the day, it’s his decision, it’s his business. I can say to him, “Yeah, you know. I think that might be the wrong direction, but at the end of the day if that’s what they want to do or they’ve decided that because they have better information.” I have a really funny story about that with Ramit.
This goes along with him being a really great teacher. He also gave me a lot of space to fail. There was a launch of his Dream Job product. Which teaches people how to get a really good job and negotiate a really good salary. It has interviewing and resume. It’s an excellent program. We were doing a launch of that. I told him that I thought the webinar should be on interview tips, because everything that I was seeing question wise was people were asking about, “How do I do better in a job interview?” He said, “Most of our customers are not ready for the job interview, they don’t even know what Dream Job they want yet, so we need to focus on that.” I went back and forth with him and said, “No, I really think we should do webinar and interviews.” He launched this product probably a dozen times up to this point. He said, “Alright, do your webinar on interviews then.” I did it and it was the lowest converting launch that we ever had.
Abbey: It was terrible. I totally bombed. I appreciate it. It was a super expensive lesson for him. I appreciated it so much because it cost him money. It cost him money to do that for me, but you can bet that I listened to him from then on about what the customers really wanted, what journey they were at because he just had such a deeper knowledge of them than I did. I had this surface understanding of people asking about interviews because that’s an easy thing to ask about. “How do I make a better resume? How do I do better in the job interview? The real pain point, it’s going deeper. It was such a great copywriting lesson. It was a great lesson in client management. That sometimes, yeah the clients know their business pretty well.
Rob: I love that story. I love that you saved the very best for last as we wrap up. Abbey, this has been such a good interview. You’ve given such great advice. If people want to learn more from you, connect with you in other places. Where would they find you online?
Abbey: My blog, which is a conglomeration of everything that we’ve talked about today. That’s at OnLifeAndWriting.com. The business stuff that we talked about is the BusinessOfCopy.com. Some of my client workflows are up on that site and they can get a ton of information there. If they just want to hear me complain about the state of the industry, it’s at OnLifeAndWriting.com.
Kira: We do. Thank you Abbey and please come back again and hang out with us on the show again.
Abbey: Love to.
Rob: We’ll have you come back and teach us how to run a chainsaw next time.
Abbey: There we go. Perfect.