Copywriter and persuasion expert Adil Amarsi is the guest for the 196th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Adil is working on a book on Persuasion and recently changed the title he prefers from Copywriter to Creative Director because he does so much more than copy. We covered quite a bit of ground during our discussion, including:
• how writing daily stories as a kid led to a gig as a copywriter (before he knew what copywriting was)
• his process for attracting his first clients
• what he did to learn copywriting and who he learned it from
• the “first week’s earnings” deal that netted him six figures
• what not to do when you get a windfall
• going from £300 to $30,000 + 4%—the secret of Adil’s success
• mental health issues and the impact on his business
• how much time he spends writing versus ideation
• breaking down what a $30K project looks like
• the clause that Adil adds to his contract that you’ll definitely want to borrow
• walking the line between manipulation and persuasion
• one of the words you should never use in your copy
• what it means to be a creative director and why he doesn’t call himself a copywriter
• what it takes to create a great offer
• the practical joke he played on one of his friends
You won’t want to miss this one. Download it to your favorite podcast app or simple scroll down and press the play button. You’ll also find a full transcript and links below.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Irresistible Offer
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Rob: This episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Underground, the place to connect with hundreds of smart copywriters who share ideas and strategies to help you master marketing, mindset and copywriting in your business. Learn more at thecopywriterunderground.com.
Kira: What if you could 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 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 196 as we chat with copywriter, podcaster and alchemists of persuasion, Adil Amarsi, about telling better stories, what it takes to create a great offer, how to be more persuasive, and his approach to consulting with his clients on their marketing needs.
Kira: Welcome, Adil.
Adil: Hi. Thanks for having me, guys.
Kira: Yeah, and just shout out before we jump into Brennan Hopkins, who introduced us, so thank you, Brennan for making the introduction. And let’s just kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter, consultant, podcaster, artists and we can go on and on, and on?
Adil: Yeah. So first of all, thank you, Brennan, because he did make this happen. So my story’s kind of I used to think it was interesting until I actually sat down and wrote it out with a friend. So I moved from Africa, like East Africa to the UK when I was four years old. About a year into moving to the UK, in the mid-90s, my dad ended up having a herniated disk that affected his walking, so he was paralyzed from the waist down for about two years. And it’s important to know that I have an older sister and the 90s were basically known as Nickelodeon versus Cartoon Network. You can pretty much guess which side I sided with and which side she went with. I was Cartoon Network, she was Nickelodeon.
I found that the best way I could watch cartoons was to sit down and watch whatever my dad was watching at the time. In the UK my dad really loved watching four shows, in particular. Two quite important. The other two, somewhat. So the first one was the news. My dad loved watching the news. I do not love watching the news. He did, but there was a lot that I picked up from there, especially about how presentation is done and essentially how to speak in a presentable manner. Very unconsciously, I picked up those habits. The second was a trigger show known as Fifteen to One. It was just like the weakest link but less competitive. It was like playing Trivial Pursuit with a real live audience of 15 people.
My dad loved the show called Countdown, which is about words and numbers. And finally, his favorite show of all, for some strange reason, he loved watching the Home Shopping channel with Billy Mays. And he would watch it for two hours a day, six days a week. And this went on for like two years. So in the space of about three hours, or three and a half hours of television programming, me at the age of five to the time I was seven, when my brain is most susceptible to taking on this kind of information, it’s being bombarded with not only cartoons, high levels of creativity because I love to draw, but I’m also being bombarded with mathematics, analysis, trivia, words, propaganda, and of course, direct selling. And this starts to amalgamate and form into my brain.
Fast forward to the time about 11, 12 years old, my dad can walk again. I’m about to go up from what we call the UK secondary school to, sorry, primary school to secondary school, or I think it’s middle school in the US. My parents were pulled into a parent-teacher conference, and they said, well, your son’s smart, but he’s a bit of a perfectionist. And my parents would ask, what do you mean? They said, well, he sits down and he … If he makes a single mistake on a page, instead of crossing it out, he’ll rip out the page and start again. And my mom was like, “Okay.” And my dad was like, “Okay.” My dad was walking at this point. He had recovered. The herniated disc had like eased up off of his spinal cord, and he had a small business that he was running.
This is important to say, because my dad ended up making me write a story every single day in a notepad to give to him. And I thought it was … At the time I was like, I don’t really like doing this, but I got to do it. Even if it’s a small thing, I should get it done. Shortly after my parents separated for a short while, so my mother, my sister, and I moved across city to another part of town, where my school commute became, instead of a 30 minute walk, it became a two hour journey. And in that two hour journey, an hour there, an hour back. Bit of a lonely kid, low self-esteem, very creative. I saw drawing. I started writing poetry. I started writing hip hop and rap lyrics because that was the thing I was into. I kept writing these stories for my dad.
And every weekend I’d go see my dad, I’d drop off these stories to him. And this went on for about two or three years. Around this time, I started getting to other things like stand-up comedy, hip hop, as in actually participating in rap battles because you had to be quick and fast on your feet and that was always a fun thing for me. Slam poetry and of course, I actually hung up my ability to draw for a while. I shelved it because I didn’t like my teacher. And then fast forward to the time I’m 18, I’m also a martial artist at this point. 18 years old, I joined a network marketing company. Things don’t go as well as you want them to. I started off quite well but things kind of deteriorated.
I decided to go online to find out how to do network marketing online. I end up writing a blog post and I was really bad at traffic. I wrote a blog post about the network marketing company I was with at the time, which was a self-development company. I had 10 people view that post, I had seven people buy it from me. I had no idea what I was doing. I went to a marketing seminar and essentially I spoke to two people there and they said, hey, what are you really good at? And I said, “Well, I’m not very good at many things.” They said, yeah, but what are you good at? I said, “I had 10 people read a blog post and 7 of them gave me money. I know that’s not the best result you could go for. But hey, I’m not very good at the traffic.”
And they were just both looking at me like, the speakers in the room, they were just looking at me like I was an idiot. That I just said something that was so stupid. Of course, I asked. I’m an 18, 19 year old kid, I’m like, “What’s going on?” And they’re like, you do realize that’s kind of unheard of, and you have a room full of people that will actually pay you a lot of money for those kinds of results. So ever since then, I went back home. My parents again, my parents did get back together like a few years prior. I see my dad I talked to him. I’m like, “Hey, I’ve decided on a new career path. I’m going to go down the copywriting route.” Because I was a dropout as well. So I dropped out of high school at 17. Graduated high school, but like we have a thing called college here. So technically same thing.
But yeah, essentially that was it. At that point my dad went upstairs, pulled out a black binder. He gave it to me and said, “Read this.” I got about two three ads into it. So I was reading the advertisements for his projects when he had his company before he sold it. I said, “These seem familiar.” He goes, “Yeah, we used to take your stories, clean up the grammar, add a headline, give an actual real story of what we were selling and mailed this out. You were always the essential basis of how we started all copy.” I was like, “That’s crazy.” Over the last 12 years, it’s just been one crazy thing after the other. That’s basically what led me to where I’m at today.
Rob: I love how serendipity seems to play a part in a lot of copywriters lives. I’ve got to know though, that first blog post, what did you do that was so effective so that you could get essentially a 70% conversion rate from what you wrote.
Adil: I wish I knew. I wish I still had that blog post. It was on an old blogspot blog. And the moment I shut that blog down, I deleted all the data and forgot the passwords. I was like, yeah, I’m never going to use this again. Now I’m like, god dammit. Why? Why did they not keep it. It would have been so perfect.
Rob: The only thing the internet hasn’t remembered over the last 30 years is the one thing you want to remember.
Adil: Right? If I knew that URL, I would totally dish it out. But I don’t remember what I even called the blog because it wasn’t under my name. It was under like this weird branding thing that I went through at the time.
Kira: So I want to know about the stories. So the stories you were writing for your dad, he was turning them into copy and ad copy. Can you share an example of what you went through or what you saw later on the story and how it translated into ad copy.
Adil: Okay. So how they did it then, I’m actually not fully sure, because the stories I used to write were mainly, for instance, it was an import/export business. So one of the things that I would have definitely written for my dad would have been around say, a washing machine. I would start talking about the washing machine and how it was … And I’d give it a backstory like the washing machines name was like Molly or something, and Molly loved gobbling up your clothes and cleaning them and spitting them back out. And Molly was amazing because she had these processor speeds. And this made her so different. And the reason why she was an outcast to the other washing machines was because she was better than them in the sense that she cleaned better. She was less expensive, she cleaned better, and she lasted longer. But the problem was, the exterior didn’t look as polished as the other ones.
So because of that, Molly was given her own, like she was never really sold as well. And that was the opportunity … There wasn’t even an opportunity. It was just like, and Molly went home to a happy family. The end. That was basically all I had. It was the story about this washing machine called Molly. And then as I read them back later on like that ad specifically, my dad, his team of copywriters just wrote a headline that said, if you needed was it … What was it? If you’re tired of paying over … What was it? If you’re tired of paying far too much for washing machines, then read every word below, which is a staple that I use nowadays.
And then it just went into … The copyrights took my dad’s voice and just wrote, “I asked my son what he thought of washing machines, and he decided to tell the story of Molly. And I’m going to just show you exactly what he wrote.” And they’ll take my words, put on paper and put the end. And the call to action for that as far as I remember was, if you want to have a Molly of your own in your home and make your wife happy, not make your wife happy, it was like, make your clothes happy, give them some white coats be cleaned and get rid of that horrible smell and all of a sudden, the … Like really adjectives like that. Well, not adjectives but details like that, then head on down, buy this product or call our office and get it today. And it was just something as simple as that.
Rob: I feel like the title of our episode might be something like The 11-year-old Copywriter with Adil… It’s crazy. He started so young. So once you had the room full of people with a network marketing company and you shared that you could do this, how did you start to land those next few clients so that you could actually turn this into a business for yourself?
Adil: I’m going to clarify. It was an internet marketing seminar I did this with, but the way that I actually landed my first clients was I became really good friends with the speakers on stage. And I weirdly took them out to lunch because I was at the green room. I was working the green room, thankfully. I was charged to make sure that they got their snacks, their food, whatever it is they needed, I had to go out and get. So I was fine. And I just became friends with them because I like people and people seem to like me. So just had a really good conversation, connected with a few of them.
I reached out to one of them afterwards and said, “Hey.” I think his name was Matt. So I was like, “Hey, Matt.” Matt Garrett, actually. “Hey, Matt. It was really, really cool meeting you over the weekend at Marks event. My name is Adil. I’m the guy that basically everyone said should be a copywriter and you said to reach out to you for like my first job. Could you tell me more and how we can get started?” So I started to write that way, and around the same time as well. Something I didn’t disclose at the time because I didn’t know was I actually have dyslexia, quite severe dyslexia, which is even more humorous to me that I write for a living.
So with ADD and dyslexia in tow at the same time, what ended up happening was I would have to mail in a lot of the client work and my clients had to edit it themselves. Because I was misspelling things and I had no idea. But they were forgiving at the time. So the way I got my first clients was essentially meet people at a live event, reach out to them and say, “Hey, is there anything we can do to help you? I’m quite new, this is what I’m doing.” And one of them was nice enough to hire me. It didn’t pay thousands of dollars. I think it paid me like 300 to 500 bucks. And they got a sales letter, an email sequence and an upsell letter all from me in the space of about 72 hours. Because back then I could write a full letter, like a full funnel in about six hours. Now it takes me freaking weeks, but that’s because I know more.
Kira: Okay. How did you grow from there? You have your first few clients, you’re getting some wins, what were some of the maybe more standout moments or more important action steps you took in those first few years to grow?
Adil: There was one thing that stands out a lot, and it’s one of few, actually. I got introduced to John Carlton, the John Carlton blog, which is john-carlton.net, I believe, or .com. If you Google it, you’ll find it. But John’s blog became my homepage for about a year and a half. I devoured everything the man wrote. I just kept going on and on. And of course, I didn’t have a lot of money to buy books and products and stuff like that. So I just found as much free information as I could and just started to piece it together. At the same time, I was listening to a Gary Halbert seminar that someone had so kindly gifted me.
One of the things that Gary said and was true of Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy and practically everyone prior to the internet, really, they never niched down. Every one of these copywriters was a gun slinging Maverick. They would go out there and they would write about every single product under the sun, just to gain experience, and to me that was more fascinating than anything else. But one of the things that Gary said, “To get this true experience you needed to hold a job in nearly every type of sales, specifically, door to door selling.”
Prior to this, I had just done retail sales, I’d worked in retail, I had a lot of fun in retail. Of course, network marketing had been gone. And I’d start to look at copywriting more seriously. So I thought okay, screw it. I’m going to go work at a direct selling company for about six … I didn’t say what time. I’m just going to go do it. Right off the bat, I’m hitting it hard. I’m like going straight for it. I start expanding. I get the notes from my Managing Director. I’m on the fast track. The problem, however, is that the teams that we were together with were very negative, so they would just completely drain all positivity before I even got to the selling field. Like within the third week I was there, it was like starting to take a toll.
The rejection started to take a toll, people started to take a toll, my teammates were starting to annoy me, and it just I’d get really, really bad. And that taught me how to persevere. The fact that I was really good at selling if I want it to be on. But at the same time I was having a really hard time. Because at the same time of this sells, I was writing copies. So I’d work about 14 hours in the day, knocking on doors, being in the office, traveling back and forth. Get home, have some food, see my family for a moment, hop onto my laptop and start writing copy, and start looking at what I could do if he was just writing copy about fictional products. I just wanted to keep my mind sharp.
At the same time I was reaching out to people saying, “Hey, I saw your sales letter. If you want me to write a better one or if you want to try mine against yours, see how that comes out. Let me know.” There was just so much that went on in that time period that was … How do I put this? It was just overwhelming. There was a lot of stuff going on. But the thing that really kind of came out for me at the end of this was during this time period, I got introduced to a real estate training company in the UK. They had a course that was about £15,000 over the year and they hired me with a promise for one thing.
They wanted me to write the letter. They’d give me a very small upfront payment about £3000. And I’d take, I think it was like 2 or 3% of the first week’s earnings. Nothing else, just the first week’s earnings. Because like the person that hired me have a soft spot for me. So I sit down and write this ad. I’m about 19 years old. I think I’m 20 at this point. 19, 20 years old. I start writing at 19, I finish when I’m 20 because it was about a month and a half in. I remember handing in the copy and just going to work wondering if it’s going to be fine.
About a month later, I had like some serious credit card debt as well I was trying to pay off. I was knocking on the door and my phone started to ring and I was like, I’m not going to answer this. The door didn’t open so I picked up the phone. It was my bank. I thought okay, they’re going to call me to actually ask me to make a payment of which I don’t have any money of or money for. And they were like, yeah, that was exactly what it was. I was like, “Cool. I’m just walking right now. I’ll give you guys a call back at the end of the day.” Hung up. Fine. And then I get another phone call from the bank. I pick it up, I’m like, “Hey, how are you?” Just speaking to them.
At this point it was like 2011, I think. I get a text message while I’m on the phone. So they’ve got me on hold verifying my bank details. I look down and look at my phone and there’s a text message. So I put my phone on loudspeaker, look at the text message. It’s my client. He basically messaged me and said, “Hey, has your bank called you yet? If they have, just confirming you need to tell them that the company name is this name because we just made a deposit to your account.” So I’m texting back saying, “Cool. How much?” He goes, “It’s a surprise. Just ask them, they just need to verify it’s you.” Okay.
So I’m thinking this is strange enough. I’m on the phone with them, talking to them. Been with this bank for 12 years. They know me, I know them, whatever. Finally get through and they’re like, “Is this Mr. Adil Amarsi, account under this, code this?” “Yep.” I was like, “Have you received a payment from this client before, because I’ve seen company news.” I was like, “Yes.” They’re like, “Okay. We are just verifying all the data and stuff like that. They have just made a deposit of £80,000 pounds.” Which is the equivalent of $150,000 at the time. So I made my clients in the region of about $6 million in the first week of that letter going out.
Kira: Oh, my goodness.
Rob: At 3%, that’s like, I mean US, $450 or £450 per purchase, right? That’s a ton of purchases.
Adil: Yeah. They made a lot of money because they sold out all their events for about a year and a half on that letter. Like right off the bat. I only got 3% of the first week’s mailing. I’ll never get claim of that ever again. Of course, I had to sign NDA, so I can’t say who it was, but I can speak about the results. And again, it’s one of my favorite sales letters. Actually, I printed the sales letter out. It’s at my parents place right now under a file just marked, please do not throw out, adults belongings. Because it’s one of those like classic pieces I mailed out that actually made so much money, like make clients money.
And unfortunately what happened was you think that you make this much amount of money, you now go charge a lot more. The truth is I was a bit of an idiot. I wish I could say I spent my money on something fun. I didn’t. I spent most of my money paying back debts, paying off other people’s debts and loaning money out to friends. Money, which of course, I later learned that I shouldn’t do because I’ve never seen it back. But lessons learned, you’re young and you should learn-
Kira: You’re a good friend.
Adil: I try to help where I can. But at the end of the day, I was out and I couldn’t … For some reason in my head, I had this belief that there’s no way in hell anyone would ever pay me $10,000 to write a sales letter for them. And now it’s kind of weird how that paradigm has shifted. Now where I’m essentially charging upwards of, it’s now like five grand to just get me on an hour’s call to do consultations with people. So it’s like, that’s a little bit of a difference of time and experience what you can go through. But during those early years, of course, there was a lot of self-doubt. And the only way I overcame it was by practicing standing in the mirror and just seeing the next number up until I was like completely fine with it.
Rob: I love listening to you tell your story, because if I remember the numbers right, you started out at $300 for quite a bit of work and now to £300 pounds maybe, to $5,000, £5,000 pounds for an hour of your time. That’s amazing. Again for somebody who, like you said, dropped out of school, had other disabilities working against you, and still you’re able to do it. So what’s the secret?
Adil: Honestly, perseverance. If I had to pull it down to anything, it’s just the sheer fact that I always persevere and I’m tenacious. So this is something that kind of relates to this, and I think a lot of copywriters need to. I’m glad we’re speaking about this more often, and that is the mental health side of copywriting. Is it cool if we go into that for just a second? Because that’s-
Rob: Yeah. For sure.
Rob: Let’s do it.
Adil: So a lot of people now know this because I publicly spoke about it a while ago, a couple years ago. But from the time I was about 13 till the time I was about 19, I had about seven suicide attempts in my life. A lot of them cleared up after I started writing, so I kind of drove that way. But those came from pre-existing condition of like bipolar depression and stuff like that. But what ended up happening that really kept me persevering was that I could not stop. Like no matter what I put my mind to, I could never do anything by halfs. If I said I was going to go run a mile, I was going to go run that mile in the fastest time possible. If I was going to go for a run and I had no specified number of time or miles I wanted to rack up, I just run until my body gave out on me.
This was just the mindset I always had. I was like, you keep going until you burn out and you keep going some more, and that’s how you get tenacious. Which in the early days of my career served me. Now if I was to give that advice, how do you get better? How do you keep like keep growing? If you have anything that is like you have depression, or you have anxiety, or whatever it is, start looking at like the mental health side of stuff. Start looking after yourself, start having yourself a care list, start making sure you take time off to relax away from work, because that was something I didn’t do for many years, and that led to more burnout.
By doing all these things, and sometimes it sounds a little hokey, I know, but by doing them, that’s how I got better. Is when I had time off my brain actually allowed me to find the actual root problems I was looking for and how to overcome them. To charge more, as I mentioned, that again comes down to self-esteem. Dan Kennedy spoke about Maxwell Maltz book, Psycho-Cybernetics, which is Great book. But one of the most powerful exercises I picked up from Dan Kennedy was standing in front of the mirror and asking, like having on a posted note, how much do you charge? Or what is your cost in different ways? Like what’s the investment?
Have these written down on three posted it notes in front of my mirror, stand for the mirror. I’d look myself dead in the eye and I’d ask myself that question, and then I would answer that question the price that I wanted. So if it was £300 pounds or $500, basically, I’d say it’s $500 continually, and that’s $1,000. Then it was like $3,000, that’s 5,000. And I kept doing this to the point where I could comfortably say what my figure is today, like to write a full funnel is like … Do you guys mind if I actually say how much my fee is because I feel-
Rob: We don’t mind at all.
Kira: Yeah, we love to talk about money.
Adil: Cool. Perfect. So like today I charge $30,000 plus 4% of anything I create for you in perpetuity until we have renegotiations or anything like that. But essentially, it took me a long time to get to that point of comfortability. And essentially, that was it. That was like essentially how I did it. Was I took care of my mental health. I started to practice what was right. And I made sure that I reminded myself of the wins I had in my life. That really helped me solidify the confidence of asking.
Kira: Yeah. I love this conversation around mental health. Let me see what the question is here. But I feel like I’ve gone through that journey too of the hustle and hustling hard to build your business. And then at some point, it’s almost like you flip a switch and you need to go into that mental health side where you’re taking care of yourself because the hustle is no longer working for you. So how do you prevent yourself from going back into that previous mode permanently, and kind of getting stuck back into that hustling hard lifestyle when you really shouldn’t be there anymore and you should be focusing on mental health and rest and kind of operating at a different level?
Adil: I plan my days. I don’t know about what you guys do, so I’ll ask this question to you guys as well. How many hours a day do you guys truly work? When I say truly work, I mean, like you’re sat in front writing a piece of copy. That is like for clients or for yourself, like how many hours?
Rob: I mean, it depends on the day but it probably ranges between one to four. If I’m really in a groove, maybe I get to five, five and a half, but almost never more than that.
Kira: Yeah, it’s similar, but it’s also our days include a lot of coaching calls now. And so it’s a little bit less writing, but writing time, it would be three hours, probably no more than three hours for writing time.
Adil: Yeah. See, for me nowadays, I kind of just have my week set up. So for every day, I’ve actually realized I spend more time in ideation on podcasts, on my own stuff as well. So I spend more time there. But for client work, maybe two or three hours a day, maybe four to push. And the reason I have my day segmented this way, is I know how much creativity … Like when I go to write some copy, I know how much creativity is used and how much time I need to replenish it. Because if I do that thing where I’m like, okay, I’m going to pull two all-nighters back to back and work like crazy like I used to, and like really hustle hard, I know where I’m going to end up again.
The other thing that prevents that for me is not only do I structure my days, but I also have a reminder in my journal. Like any time I’ve had a very bad day where I feel burnt out, when I used to have those moments, I would journal all that down. And I keep those journals closer to hand than my success journals. And the reason basically being is anytime I feel like, okay, I’m going to go back to this old way of thinking, I need to be like that. I read those journals and see the reality was, yeah, you were working a lot harder but you were miserable. Like there was no time out for you, there was no relaxation. You had no time to paint, you had no time to draw, you had no time to explore other areas of life.
Rob: While you’re talking about some of these other things that you’re doing, what is it that you get from pursuing art and doing some of this other stuff that … What’s the impact that it has on your copywriting? How does it make you a better copywriter?
Adil: Okay. So I have a variant of interest in like so many areas like from combat sports, to heavy duty psychology of criminals, to like cult building stuff, to movies, pop culture and everything. And of course, artwork and all the things they actually fall into. But the reason all these things make me a better copywriter is a piece of advice that I’ll share right now that might seem a contrary. Not contradictory. It’s a little contrarian to the normal, I assume. At least, what I’ve seen. And that is I kind of shocked the whole research part of my work. Because when I was younger, I used to spend hours studying different marketplaces for that research to find out just in case that day that client came and I knew what I needed to do. So I was obsessed.
What I found is by actually studying different areas of life, enjoying different things like … Another thing that I used to do was I was a stand-up comic for a while. And I still am technically but I don’t actually perform as … I haven’t performed in like a year. But stand-up comedy is another way. All these elements gave birth to areas of copy and understanding. So for instance, combat sports, jujitsu, that taught me a lot more about structures. If you have a structure in place, it’s a lot harder to break it and it’s a lot easier to flow into that structure. So with writing copy, I put all my stuff into a structure. And when I put that to a structure, I doubled my production per year.
So it took me eight years to write the structure out. And then in the last four years since then, I’ve made the exact amount I did in the first eight years for my clients. So it’s been ridiculous. With cooking, that has taught me to actually have an appreciation of how food can feed the soul and how you can turn food into stories and how those stories can be used into words to actually get someone to salivate, and want to buy in and want to be a part of something.
Then there’s stuff like stand-up comedy, which is learning how to think on your feet, come up with stories that are hilarious, find different spins on what is the norm, and essentially do it to a point of making someone laugh. And one of the things, of course, we all know and love is Dan Kennedy’s old saying, “If you can make them laugh, you can take their money.” So that was in mind. Yeah. So every single area of writing and artwork itself, they’re all expressions of creativity. And as expressions of creativity, the allow me to be more creative in my copy.
Kira: I want to back up a bit and talk about, we were talking about money, let’s just go back to the 30K plus 4%. Because I know copywriters listening, some copywriters listening are thinking about that and how you structured it and wanting to do something similar, even if they’re not there yet. So could you just break it down a little bit more for us? Like, what are you doing for that 30K? What does even the communication with your client look like on a project like that? How do you structure it just so we can work towards it if we’re not already ready to jump into it?
Adil: Okay, cool. So the way I actually got there was, I was speaking to one of my mentors and friends, John Benson. And for the longest time, I had a real hard time charging above $20,000 like a real hard time. But at that point, at that point in my career, I had already hit well over 600 million for my clients. I had already made my clients well over $600 million, we’re on our way to 700 million. And John just were talking and he was like, this is the closing script, I’d say. Is like, if your client wants to make a million dollars with you in the year, calculate how much another copywriter would charge. Because that’s not a one time million for them, that actually expands out to like three years.
So if they’re making $3 million, you should not be charging … You could charge 100,000, you can charge more or less to what your number is. We just came to the number that I feel comfortable asking for 30 plus 4% to make up the difference. And actually we talked about it because I want them to do well. So of course I’d worked with them, and I want to get paid well, so it’s incentive on both sides. The communication with my clients, however, is the exact same how we’ve always communicated with my clients, which is we do the call, they find out exactly what the fee is. I break down what they’re receiving, which is of course, for that package, it’s usually a sales letter, an email sequence, ads, landers, upsell, down-sell and a VSL, a video sales letter, or a webinar, depending on what we feel is actually the right thing to actually send them.
Once that’s mailed in, now once that’s done, and I usually do if, it depends, I usually do 15 or $20,000 upfront and the remainder on delivery. And then of course, we test and tweak and make sure the client is happy. And then once everything kind of passes through as an okay, from my side, it then goes out to the client naturally we run with it. They basically make money from it. And of course, I get paid and of course, the structure of my contract is either monthly, the first of the month, or every 90 days, or every six months depending on the client of how often we get paid out based on the industry therein.
So the way they basically put these deals together with the client and the communication is I always … So the way they do it is that once the client has actually agreed and sent me the first payment, we get onto a phone call for about 30 minutes to an hour. And this phone call, if you listen to it, it wouldn’t make as much sense. It would make some sense, but not all the sense to someone else listening to it because, of course, I ask them about the product, I ask about the service, what they’ve done, who they are, how long they’ve done this, what their story is, because I want to know how they got to this point. There’s a very specific story structure I use to get this out of clients.
And then from there, I ask them very strange, random questions like, what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? When you were a kid, what superhero did do you want to be? And the reason I’m asking these is because I want to get different tonal inflections, because one of my superpowers is I can listen to your voice, I can basically pick up your mannerisms and tonality and I can tell your story better than you. Because of like how I know structures work and I know how to pull out what I need from you in order to get something. And I’ll amalgamation of something fairly quickly.
So after I’ve got that for my client, it’s then, cool, we’ll speak to each other when the deadline is in or if I need anything from you. I also have it in my contract because one of the things is creative. I don’t know if other creatives get this, but for me, it really does matter. I really dislike being asked how the project is going while I’m writing. Because there are days where I’m writing, then I’m not writing. There are like three days that will I would just take off to do something else during my deadline with a client. Because those are days off, I need to relax, rejuvenate, and let my brain marinate in what I’ve been listening to and hearing and researching.
So being asked how something is going while I’m on a day off, usually doesn’t … It increases my anxiety, which of course, undoes a lot of the good work I’ve already been doing. So I’ve made it a stipulation in my contracts that that is not a question to ask me while I’m walking. And of course the client receives the work as is, and if there are any updates like if there’s a delay for any reason, my client gets an email roughly detailing what’s been going.
Rob: I’m going to have to add that clause to my contract. I love that idea. I’m not sure how it would go over with a lot of clients.
Kira: Me too.
Rob: Yeah. You can’t bother me until I give you the first draft is interesting an idea.
Adil: Well, the truth is, for me, it came to the point where I realized every time I was bothered, or if a client wanted to see the first draft, because John Carlton said this year’s goal was he got to the point where he could write a great sales letter in one draft. I think I was about 22, 23 when I had that, and I made that my life’s mission, that I do not want to write a sales letter in more than one draft. So now whenever I write a sales copy, it’s usually perfect the way I want it to be in the first draft. Or if there’s anything we need to change, it’s usually very minimal additions and never subtractions for what I’ve sent in.
So that all came about because I started to tell my clients please don’t bother me. Because whenever they did bother me, they would ask me if they can see a draft where my head’s going. I’m like, “Well, I can send you this.” But the problem is they would really like the way my brains going and be like, yeah, run this way. And I’m like, I don’t like dictation of where I’m going. Because it turns out many a time that when I followed this path in the early part of my career, very early part of my career, I realized I was failing. I was not doing this well. Because then I have resistance finishing that. So I’d write the ad they wanted me to write and I’d write the ad that I wanted to write.
So in the end, my clients have received two sales letters. They’d receive a note saying, you didn’t pay me for the other one, but I just want to know if it works. So run it and let me know which one pulls better. One of my clients said, what’s the reason for this? And I think my response back as a 20-year-old was bragging rights. And he went, okay. And then from then on then, I just told all my clients, if you want to work with me, this is how I work. And if a client says, I don’t like how you do business, my response is always going to be, I guess I’m not the right person for you, and have a great day.
Rob: Yeah. So Adil, before we started recording you and I were talking about our mutual interest in persuasion and persuasion tactics. Let’s shift the conversation there just for a little while, because I’m interested in your take. You were talking a little bit about sort of walking the line between changing lives and manipulation. So can we talk about persuasion, how you do it, and are there tactics that we should all be doing more of to be more persuasive a in copy?
Adil: Yes. This is brilliant. Okay. So these are more principles than tactics, so they’re more life giving and long going. So this is something that I picked up from studying humans for as long as I did in many different ways. When it comes down to persuasion, it falls into a very strange gray area, and that’s where it is. It is a gray area. I’m going to give you two analogies to actually really show you what I mean by this. So they always say that influence and manipulation are two sides of the same coin, the heads and the tails, say to say.
Persuasion in my books and in my books that I’m currently creating is, as you turn the coin onto its horizontal, there’s like a little bit of an edge just around the coin, because obviously, for there to be two sides, there has to be a middle section. Otherwise, it wouldn’t just exist, no matter how thin that middle section is. That right there is known as the persuasive line that is. That is persuasion my books. Because you are using elements of influence, asking someone and influencing someone in a positive manner in order to take an action that benefits them. So everyone wins.
But there’s also an element of manipulation where you have to sometimes, and I don’t like using this, where you have to inflict a small level of pain to prick up that is in order to get them to cross the line so they could live a better life. Persuasion is essentially being ethically okay with doing both but not going so far in either realm. So that’s one explanation. The other for my Star Wars fans in the world that are listening, essentially you are Mace Windu. You are the Gray Jedi. You are the one that walks the line. You can use a dark side methodology with a light side … You can be light side and also have like some dark side ability inside of you as well.
And some of the principles I would definitely recommend that you guys start using, the first principle, as anyone that knows me, knows I have a list of words I deem never to be used in copy that I write, which we’ll get into in a moment mainly because of the psychological reasons really impact. But the other is, write this down and put this on your laptop, on your wall or anywhere else that you are looking when you are writing. Put it on your phone. And it’s a rule they live by. Remove as much fear as humanly possible and that’s how you get the sale. That is the persuasion principle I live my life by. If I can remove as much fear as possible, then I know I’m in for a win. Because at the end of the day, that is what persuasion is, that is what selling is. It’s removing fear and objects and obstacles out of your way for you to make a decision the benefits you.
Kira: And can you share those words or phrases that you don’t include in your copy?
Adil: Yes. So the key one in particular is the word learn, L-E-A-R-N. I do not use that word in any of the copies I use, and there is a reason. The only times I ever used the word learn in copies is when I’m referring to myself, like I have learned this through many a time or I learned this in this manner. And it was a lesson learned or something like that. It’s always previous texts and something that’s that. Or I want to learn more about this, so I did this. The reason we don’t use it when we’re describing what you’re about to do, for instance, you’re about to learn how to write excellent copy verses you’re about to discover how to write excellent copy, or about uncover how to write excellent copy. Same kind of thing, change out the world. And the reason we do this is because I actually did pay a lot of money to have this tested in a MRI scanner like years and years and years ago.
When we sell to people, depends on which audience you’re selling to. My audience I’ve always sold to and the majority of audiences I’ve sold to are more kind of entrepreneurial, gunslinger, go out my own way, I want to work for myself. Or if I work for a team, I work in this capacity of freedom. Every single one of them hated school. Every single one of them would rather stab their own eyes out before they would ever go back to school. And I’m one of them. I don’t know about you guys. But I do not get on well with traditional schooling. Because of this, our brains have entrenched the word learn in our subconscious as a painful word. And Tony Robbins says that we either move towards pleasure or away from pain. We never move towards pain, unless you’re into that.
But essentially, by using the word learn on a very unconscious level, your subconscious is telling your brain, your conscious brain to pump the brakes, which is why I’ll come up with, I’ll do this later, I won’t buy this right now, I don’t have enough money, or there is enough money, but I’m thinking of buying something else with it. What would my partner say? Think of an excuse, it comes up. And we actually tested this for about four years on well over like 1,000 campaigns and that was the only way we changed in all copy. But the difference in return was incredible. We even asked people, what was your excuse for not buying the first time around? And they were like, it didn’t feel like the right time. And then when we actually interviewed them further, what was the difference in time? They were like, not much. I don’t know, it just follow the right time.
Kira: I want to ask about your recent transition from copywriter to creative director. I know a lot of copywriters in our audience are making that change or thinking about it and more drawn to the creative director role. Can you talk a little bit about the catalyst for that, and then what it takes to actually make that change in your business.
Adil: So the catalyst came from a friend of mine, her name is Shawna. We were just hanging out one day, like a couple of weeks ago, actually, we were just socially distancing hanging out. She had mentioned to me that she works in an advertising agency in the finance department. And she said, “You know what, I never understand what you do.” As she watches me and she goes, “I know you say you’re a copywriter, but you’re not. I’ve seen you work for like three years.” She’s known me four years. “So like through the time I’ve known you and seen you work for three years, you’re not a copywriter.” I was like, “What do you mean?”
She goes, “You’re more of a creative director. Like, you actually come up with not only the idea, but you come up with the execution and why it would work, and all the elements in between from like years of copywriting has taught you how to do that. But you do more than just write. It’s like your thing goes above and beyond. But you can’t execute the highest vision because you don’t have the infrastructure in place.” So I started building that infrastructure, which we have underneath this. And that transition basically looks like calling myself a creative director isn’t like say the new funnel hacker or whatever it is. It’s a creative term that’s been around forever.
Essentially, what it entails is that you’re able to see in two ways at the same time. You’re able to see the 30,000 foot view while also focusing on the most minute detail that is in the moment. So you know where you’re both going and where you are. It’s a duality. But on top of that, you also have to be able to come up with a multitude of ideas and different ways of executing your vision. So, Jay Abraham, who is a former client of mine actually did say that cross-pollination is most powerful things you can pick up in marketing. And the same goes in creative direction, that’s essentially what you’re doing.
You’re taking concepts from one working market and testing them out in another. But you’re not just saying, hey, have you tried this? You’re actually fully flourishing, fleshing out what that would look like. And of course, it’s on to my clients to either find the right people to execute it while I maintain this high level of consultancy and creative direction. Or I have my own team, which they end up hiring our team out for, to deal with their campaigns. So that’s where that’s going.
Rob: So I’m curious what you do when you’re either developing an offer or fixing an offer. What does it take to make it great so that people can pretty much not say no to the offer that you make?
Adil: Perfect. Okay. So the first thing I say is read Mark Joyner’s this book, The Irresistible Offer. It’s a brilliant book that actually answers a lot of this stuff from his perspective, which I actually agree upon with quite a lot of the principals. Myself, when I look at offers and know what the difference is between a winner and a loser is, quite simply, this is how much research has gone into it. Because when you actually develop an offer, if you have one right now, how much time do you research into the actual problems that people have?
Now, while I do preach that I’m not a huge fan of the pinpoint selling, which is you hone in on the pain, then you just keep going with that same thing until the buy, I subscribe to a slightly different methodology. What I found is you should still have those pains inside your product as solutions. You should actually be solving those solutions in your product. So look at what solutions you’re bringing to that problem that’s existent. And then also give them enough reasons why. When you’re actually creating a really great offer itself, make sure that it hits the formatting levels, make sure it’s open to like peer review so you have actual customers go through it fast and give you feedback.
One of the elements that we have today that we didn’t have even five years ago, what we did but not to this level, is you can actually create courses on Facebook. For Facebook is you can either do Facebook Lives or you can use something like Zoom. Get a group of 10 people together that are your focus group, and create the program with them right then and there. Get them to give you like feedback after the thing is done or during, and what you could make better. Do Q&A sessions, record those. Once you have all these aspects together, not only do you have a varying group of 10 people with at least three unique businesses in that, because that allows more people to look in and actually apply to their own world. It’s accessibility. You also have direct feedback.
So you’re not creating something thinking, okay, this is really going to work. You’ve done the research, you’ve now executed, you’ve got creative feedback, and you’re putting it together. So by the time the offer goes to market now, it has already gone through so much testing, that you should be fairly certain you know what to do. And you have testimonials, you have stories, you have ideas to how you came up with the product and what problems you overcame to actually reach to the point that it is today. And then of course your bonuses, and this is something I do want to touch upon, the late great Andy Jenkins did say this. And that’s who I picked it up from, which was a bonus has one of three purposes.
It’s either to get the person that says yes, to say, hells yes, this is amazing. Is the person that says maybe that’s on the fence and knock them over to a yes, by answering any of the objections they have or any of the things they think are missing. And the person that says no, I’m not into this, the bonus is all about knocking them on to the maybe. It’s all about moving it forward. So with that in mind, those are the elements I look at with a great offer. Is it well-researched? Does it actually add some problems that my audience wants? Has it been peer reviewed? Has it gone through all the testing? If it has, that’s a great offer. Let’s go out there. If it’s already gone through that and the offer is still failing, now I’m going to Start looking at your copy and see what story you’re telling. Because if you’re not telling the right story, if you’re not writing the right sales piece, that’s where you have a disconnect.
Kira: All right. So you have me thinking about some of the offers you’re putting out, which is good. But in the last few minutes, I just have to ask you, because of your stand-up, your background in stand up comedy, what is one of your favorite jokes that you’ve shared on a stage that you could share with us?
Adil: Okay. All right. I’m going to try and make sure that I don’t … Obviously, my joke’s a little bit more like towards adult. So I’ll a find joke that actually work. So the perfect one is about a decade ago flying into New York when my hair was down to my shoulders, and I had a really big beard. So one could say that as my friend did call me on the flight over, he was like, you look like a hipster Jesus. I was like, okay, that’s fun. Flying over there was me and six other comedians. The only two other people you need to know about in the story of Carl, who is one of our friends and Stephen.
Now, me, Stephen and Carl are all different ethnicities. Stephen is black or British-African [inaudible 00:51:12] black. I’m brown and, what’s his face, Carl is white. Easiest way to describe anyone and if that offends, I apologize. But realistically, those are my friends. We went through customs and as we were flying over, it turns out it was Carl’s birthday and our handler says to us, “Guys, don’t make any jokes at TSA. Adil, we’re looking at you.” I was like, “Why?” They’re like, “We’re flying into New York. For the love of God, man, do not make a single joke going through customs.” I was like “Fine, I won’t make a joke.” Because I like to make people laugh. So many good. Because if we made a joke, one of us could get deported and that would suck because we had a whole comedy tour lined up over there.
So I’m going through customs and in front of me Carl goes through. Stephen is like on the left behind me. It’s like a couple of people behind but on the left hand queue. Carl has gone right through. And as I’m emptying out all my stuff and like What are you here for? Before I can get the words out, I’m here for a stand-up tour, Carl is yelling out over me going, “He’s the Messiah. He was telling everyone on the plane that he has returned and arisen and all this.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was 22, 21-22 years old, mortified. Looking at the TSA agent, please don’t believe this. Please don’t believe him. Needless to say, I got detained for four hours. Stephen, he got detained for two hours.
Carl and the other people all took the limo that we had and took it into Manhattan without us. And we’re like, God dammit, fine. The one thing you don’t want to do, you don’t leave two guys like me and Stephen together after you’ve pissed both of us off, took our limo and basically left us stranded. Because we also had to pay for our cab fare into the city and then we were going to get reimbursed later. So like, fine. As we leave, we come up with this plan. Now on the plane, it was called birthday and we asked what are your biggest fears? My biggest fear was, of course, I don’t want to get deported and sent to Guantanamo Bay or something like that by a false charge, go through TSA because that’s what my paranoia was.
Stephen had his. And Carl said that he was terrified of Chucky dolls because his older brother made him watch Chucky when he was really, really young and it scared the crap out of him. So you don’t give that information out to comedians and you sure don’t do that to a comedian that basically you just pissed off. Fine. We get to New York, we go to Best Buy to pick up a webcam, a wireless webcam. We go to Godiva to ask them if they can give us a box full of chocolates and just wrap the box and leave the chocolates outside for us to consume and we just filled them up with like pebbles. And just wrap it all up. And then finally we went to, I don’t even know what the store is called in New York. It’s been that long ago but they sold Chucky dolls. We got two of them.
We went into the lobby into the hotel and I posted waited my way through the front desk by telling them, “Hey, have they checked in?” They’re like, “No.” I was like, “Well, it’s his birthday. We’ve got all these balloons and stuff. Can we have the room opposite his and can we get his key card to set up the surprise for him?” And like, “Oh, my god, that’s so sweet. Yes, you should totally do that.” They had no idea what we were up to. We got to his room. We forged a letter from three of the comedians who were opening for that weekend. That week, sorry. And it said, Happy Birthday call from Dave, Chris and Louie, put that on the bed and then basically … Underneath the bed, there was enough space that we can actually slide the box underneath and we put a Chucky doll in front of it. So his gift was under the bed, had a Chucky doll in front of it.
Now on the back of his door had a hanger, so we decided to hook up the wireless webcam to our webcam to our computer across the hallway and have that Chucky at the back of his door, basically, with the webcam. So we just waited. It was like the most creepiest hour we’ve ever done. We were like Peeping Toms looking through a peep hole for literally an hour waiting for him to come home. He finally came home. He walks in through the door. And I’m like, “Stephen, Stephen, Stephen.” “What?” “Record it.” So we’re recording. We’re recording it. We got it going.
Carl walks across into the room, he’s got the happiest dance in his life. He’s put his bags down. He’s so happy. He’s like, life so good. Puts his back down. Sees the letter, gets really excited, looks underneath the bed. I’ve met like, you know that thing where you jump back and you hit your back against the wall?
Adil: Yeah, he did that in shock. And then he turned white as a ghost ran towards the door, saw the other Chucky doll, screamed, passed out. He passed out. He screamed so loud, he passed out. And we had the video of this for about six years before like my laptop got stolen, the one that had the original copy of my book, that got stolen and unfortunately hard drive that had the video on it as well went. That was a bit that actually I did do on stage in New York the night after it happened because I was really pissed off, I forgot what my opening joke was. So I told that story instead.
Rob: Listening to you tell that, I can’t decide if I want to be your friend or not be your friend at all.
Adil: I’m very lovely. It’s just he tried to get me deported.
Kira: Yeah. He deserved it, really.
Adil: He brought this on himself.
Rob: Yeah, I love it.
Adil: In all fairness, after we woke him up, he did just … Well, he cursed us both out, then laughed. And then when we went out for dinner, he told the waitress that story, and she just laughed her ass off. So he gave me permission to tell that story afterwards.
Rob: That’s great. This has been a really, really great interview, Adil, with the things you’ve shared about your experiences becoming a copywriter with the struggles that you’ve had, talking about persuasion. I can imagine there are a lot of people who may want to connect with you after listening to this. Where should they go to do that?
Adil: So the best place to connect with me, well, there’s three places really. You can connect with me on Instagram because that is the place that I’m most messenger active, like I respond back to a lot of messages on Instagram. You can follow me on my Facebook page, which is facebook.com/adilamarsi. Or if you want to connect with me a little bit more personally, or whatever it is, head on over to my website, adilamarsi.com and send me an email because I actually respond to those, believe it or not. Just put a good subject line so know it’s you.
Kira: All right. I’m following you on Instagram. Just happened.
Adil: Yeah, follow back. I saw that come up, I was like, God damn, she’s like straight off to the races.
Kira: All right. Thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a ton and it’s great to hear your stories. We didn’t even get to talk about your story format, so you’ll have to come back to talk more about that.
Adil: I’d love to do that.
Kira: Next time.
Adil: Next time on … What’s this room called? The show?
Rob: The Copywriter Club podcast.
Adil: That’s the one.
Kira: Where am I?
Adil: It’s because I thought you said The Copywriter, what was it, The Copywriting Underground for a second when we started. So I was like, damn, do we change the show?
Kira: That’s our membership. That’s our membership.
Adil: See, that’s what tripped me up, was The Copywriting Club podcast. We’re here.
Kira: We like to trip people up at the beginning of our show. But yeah, we’ll just plug it right now. That’s our membership. If you’re listening and you want to join the Underground, jump in there. But thank you Adil for joining us today.
Adil: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me.
Rob: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.