On the 257th episode of The Copywriter Club podcast, Kim Krause Schwalm is back on the show. Kim is an A-list copywriter and copy mentor who got her start in the marketing world. Since her first episode, she’s narrowed her focus on mentoring other copywriters on how to write better copy and attract high-level clients. If you’re looking for advice on becoming an A-list copywriter, this is for you.
Here’s what we talk about:
- Going from time for money to value for money.
- What it looks like to begin mentoring by creating courses.
- The 5 key steps to writing good copy.
- Is there a set timeline for completing copy?
- Fact or myth: Can anyone be a copywriter?
- Why people devalue copy and how we can position ourselves for highest value.
- How grammar can make or break the sale of your product or service.
- The benefits of hiring a copywriter for your business.
- Why you need to stop working IN your business.
- Are the classic copywriting books still worth the read? (Kim needs a word with you.)
- Black and white thinking and how to overcome it.
- The importance of learning and relearning and how it will make you an A-list copywriter.
- Unlearning what you think you know about being a good writer.
- How to use your background to become a better copywriter.
- Do you have to do all the things to be well known in your industry? Podcasts, coaching, Youtube?
- The most common mistakes new and established copywriters keep on making.
- How to create stronger boundaries in order to create a sustainable business.
- Kim’s advice on how to work with head-honcho companies.
- What you need to do to increase the respect your clients give you.
- Getting paid for royalties: where do you begin?
- Outlining your agreements and contracts for greatest success.
- How to build your authority and accelerate your business. How does it actually start?
- Why watching reality TV and reading People magazine can be a good thing.
Listen to one of the best in the business by hitting the button below or by checking out the transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Kira’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Kim’s first episode
Kira: Just about everyone you meet on the street, thinks they’re a writer. You sit across from your cousin at the table and he talks about the novel he’s working on. Maybe you bump into an old classmate and they tell you they’re working on their body of work. Sure, anyone can publish their writing today. We should actually celebrate that, but not just anyone can write copy. If you want to be an A-lister and build a career as a copywriter, it takes more than just a pulse and a pencil to do this thing so many of us do daily. Today’s guests for The Copywriter Club Podcast has built her reputation around her impressive resume of copywriting accomplishments. That’s why she’s an A-lister we can all agree is actually on this phantom A-list.
We’re talking about Kim Krause Schwalm. You can catch our first podcast interview with Kim back in the day in episode 40, where we talk about how she went from successful marketing director to control beating copywriter in less than two years. But today, Kim’s here to bust three copywriting myths. And before we jump into all of that, I want to introduce my co-host for this episode, Matt Hall. Matt Hall is a renaissance man. That’s the best title for him because he can do all the things in the marketing space. Any time anyone has any type of problem, I send them to Matt Hall. But Matt, that is the worst possible title for you. What do you actually do? What do you call yourself?
Matt: What I really do is I solve problems. People come to me and they don’t say, “Matt, I’ve got money for you. Just take it, do with it what you will.” They come to me because there’s something they want me to do and something they want me to make better. So I do that with websites, I do that with copy, I do that with strategic planning. A lot of what I learned has come from being able to interact with people just like Kim. Actually, this is a cool episode to be on because I accidentally sat next to Kim. And I didn’t realize I was sitting next to this copy A-lister. So I’m talking to her, and what I’ve been talking to her about, Montessori for my kid. She was just the nicest, most generous person I could possibly be talking to at that lunch table in Brooklyn. It was just such a cool experience. And then later you realize, oh wow, this is Kim Krause Schwalm, she’s the real deal.
Kira: A big deal, yeah.
Matt: She’s such a huge deal in this space. So this is such a cool episode. There’s so many things in it that I really resonate with. I think the simplicity and clarity, what she says is also going to really resonate with a lot of the people listening today.
Kira: All right. Yeah. Kim is a wonderful, she’s become a friend. We both live in the D.C. area. So we hang out frequently pre-baby, now I’m not hanging out with anybody. Also, yeah, Kim and I have chatted about Montessori as well. So we know she’s very passionate about Montessori.
Matt: Kim Krause Schwalm, known for two things, Montessori schools and A-list copywriting. Yep?
Kira: That’s yep. There you go. So before, Matt, we jump in and get more official with this commentary that we’re about to share, you solve problems, like what kind of problems and, what problems and how can people pay you for those problems to solve? Do you have a package or something you can plug?
Matt: I do. Right now I’m helping copywriters, coaches and consultants break through the walls, keeping them where they are, and implement the systems, strategies and scaling they need to finally hit the income targets that they’ve been aiming at for a while, but haven’t been able to hit. So if you feel like you’ve been stuck, you feel like you know what to do, you know the things that you should be doing every day, but you also really struggle to figure out how to get out there and promote yourself effectively, how to balance your time, how to find the right help for your team, how to overcome your tech blockers, let’s chat because I might be able to help you out. And if I can’t, that’s okay too, because we can get you connected with the right person.
Kira: This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Think Tank. That’s our mastermind. If you listen to the show, you probably have heard us talk about it on just about every show. But today is cool because we have, again, Matt Hall is a past Think Tank member. So I’m going to take this opportunity, Matt, to just ask you, well, what was your favorite part about the Think Tank Mastermind?
Matt: There’s that moment when you first get paid to write copy, and it just feels like magic. You do more copy jobs, you try to find more clients and it goes well, but then you hit a point where you get stuck and you’re like, I don’t know what to do. The cool thing about being in the Think Tank was that you’re suddenly around a group of people who are all facing the same challenges together. And you’re all experimenting in slightly different ways that feel authentic to your business, authentic to your personality. So you get to see, Hey, here’s what works for a lot of different people. You get to pick and choose for what’s working with your community that you’re creating, how you can grow your own business. So it was just wild to see people who were just really down to earth, really cool and chill, people who’ve been on this podcast figure out what to do to break through that to that next step. And being able to learn from them gave me so much hope and a completely new level of freedom.
Kira: All right. Well, thanks for sharing that, Matt. If you’re listening and you want to learn more, you can visit copywriterthinktank.com. All right. Let’s kick off this episode and find out what Kim’s been up to since we last chatted with her on the podcast.
Rob: Let’s get caught up. So you were on the podcast episode 40, that was three years ago.
Kim: So long ago.
Rob: Yeah. We have like, what, 200 episodes since then. We’re coming up on almost 270-ish, close to that. So what’s been going on with you the last three years or so.
Kim: Yeah. Well, I’ve been gradually doing less and less client work, and that’s in part just because I’ve expanded to having people that I’m doing mentoring with. I have some of my own courses that I’ve created that have actually been off shoots of events that I’ve held. So I’ve been gradually doing a bit more with my own business and with my own email list, and I’ve just found it really satisfying on many levels. I was always a marketer that could write copy. I fell into copywriting after a 13 year marketing career. So I’ve missed using those different parts of my brain. It’s also been just really gratifying to be at a point where I can just openly share everything I’ve learned with people. I’m not worried about they’re going to take work away from me because I’m basically semi-retired from copywriting. That’s what I’ve been up to really the last three years.
Rob: If I remember right, I could be getting the timing not quite right, but when we talked to you the last time you were about to have your LA bootcamp-
Kim: Yeah, that was a while ago.
Rob: … with Jay, and that’s become one of your products.
Kim: It is, but I’m actually semi-retired that. I’m having been really promoting that because I do have another copywriting course called Copywriting Velocity, which was part of basically an offshoot of an event I had in March 2019. Then I’m actually about to refocus on that and do some more tinkering and expanding on that program. And then right now I’m actually working on a new course on research, which a lot of people have been very interested in learning more about. I’ve considered it one of my secret weapons for getting really highly successful controls. So I’m really excited to get that course launched. Yeah, but that’s a good memory. That’s definitely going back to the beginning of me putting myself out there and starting to share my copywriting knowledge.
Rob: Okay. So I’d love to dig in a little bit more, what these courses look like and how you think through. And I know they’re usually based out of an event, so you’re doing live teaching at least to start with, but when you sit down to create a product like that or a presentation, like a one, two-day presentation, what’s that process, how do you bullet out all the things you’re going to cover for something that turns then into a course that you can sell?
Kim: I’m going to just be really honest. The first two ones that I mentioned that were all shoots of events, I came up with the idea to do the events on such a short, tight timeframe that I was waiting to see if it was actually really going to happen. And then there was this weekend of panic like, oh my gosh, this is really happening. It just all poured out of me and I’ve always been able to just… The stuff just does really just pour out of me because I’ve been doing it for 20 plus years, plus before that being a marketer, working with copywriters. But the results have been quite good. People love the courses.
Now, when I sat down and did my Million Dollar Controls courses, which is something I did launch last year, it was perfect during COVID because it was six live group calls. Then I turned that into a virtual program. In those, I did think through, I had identified six of my longest running, most successful direct mail and online sales page controls. I put together in-depth eight or nine page sheets of all the bullets that I wanted to cover. And then did these live one to one and a half hour calls with a group of people. That was really in-depth thinking of going really deep into the different process behind each one of these controls and breaking them down and what my process was. That was very different from doing a live event. And then for the research course, it’s actually really an offshoot of having… I’m in my second year now of my fast track to A-list group mentoring program.
This is the exact research process that I’ve been teaching my mentees on our group calls. And then I have them do various exercises to apply what I’ve taught them. So now I’ve just taken basically what I’ve been teaching them and the process that I’ve used myself over the years, and I’ve boiled it down to five key steps. So this is really an in-depth walking you through each of those steps, giving you the templates that I use and that I’ve given my mentees and examples to basically do soup to nuts research from starting out from scratch with whatever start kit you can get from your client, to putting together a copy platform and outline for your promo.
Rob: So, can I get a preview of what those five points are without giving away the store?
Rob: What are the five- what’s the process?
Kim: Yeah, I’ve shared a lot of them with people on my list in the past, so this way you’ll get everything in one course. The first is basically gather all the nuggets. What can you get from your client? Don’t stop there obviously, go beyond that, do the research, figure out who your avatar is, go to forums, talk to actual people, past customers, et cetera. If there’s a spokesperson, find out the backstory on the product or service. There’s a lot of different things you do to gather those nuggets.
The second thing is to really zero in on your avatar or target prospect. And that’s using this prism exercise, which I actually learned from, I got that from Clayton Makepeace, the late Clayton Makepeace. I’m not sure if he got that from someone else or if he invented it. But I remember hearing about it years ago from him and using it, and it just really gets you to shine the light on exactly who your target prospect is, what are their deepest fears and wishes and hopes, and what do they most enjoy and what are their beliefs? And summing it all up in one boiled down paragraph basically. So of course, you don’t just start there. You have to get there from all the previous work you’ve done.
The third step is a five-step features and benefits exercise. A lot of people are taught, do your features on one side and then list all the benefits. It’s got like, the air purifier has this three speed dial so you can adjust the flow of air to where you want. Well, the five-step exercise takes it to three more steps. Why is this one feature there? First, you start with the feature and then you ask, why was that included? And then put that in the column. Then you expand on what’s in it for the prospect.
I’m getting a little into the detail, but anyway, there’s a lot of different steps here. So it was really going beyond the traditional features and benefits to five steps that you get, you’re able to, at this point, to really dimensionalize those benefits and then hopefully tie them to a key emotion that the prospect has. And then this helps you to then figure out, well, which one of these is the most important, which one do I want to go with? The fourth step is to just walk away and let it all percolate, which is a key step in coming up with any big idea or any creative work. And then the fifth step is in putting it all together in a copy platform or outline.
Rob: Okay. And step number four, how much time do you take for that? Is it an hour, is it a couple of weeks? What does that look like?
Kim: Well, it’s definitely at least a day or two. I think it’s nice to at least have a weekend buffer in between. Because then you don’t want to be, well, my break is, now I’m going to work on another project for a week, because then your brain’s just not going to get to rest. So it’s good to just have your brain rest and not be in that work mode. So however much time that you can give it to do that, I think is really important. It could even just be, at least get out for a long walk or leave the house and do something. But that’s true for any kind of writing, I think, you never want to turn your draft in at the end of the day. You always want to look at something with fresh eyes. So it’s the same thing.
You’re giving your brain that time it needs to make connections and stepping away from work and then coming back to it later. I think we’ve all had the experience of, okay, this is going to be the concept and this is the big idea. The client loves it and you start writing the copy. And then you’re suddenly like, “Oh wait, I just thought of something better. It finally came to me.” So you can’t always know exactly when that’s going to happen, but you do want to give some space for that.
Rob: So, as you go through this process then, because obviously you’re looking for the big idea, you’re looking for little ideas also that you can turn into bullets or fascinations, headlines, that stuff. How do you know, as you’re going through this process, when you’ve got a winner, when you’ve got something that’s actually worth pursuing? As opposed to it’s all of the… All of us have had this experience, you do this research and you end up with pages and pages and pages of notes, but the reality is maybe 10% of it is really good stuff. So how do you know?
Kim: It’s got to be that thing, and I wish I could think of an immediate example, but I can’t, but it’s got to be that thing that just makes you stop in your tracks. And you’re just like, “Wow, really?” Or, “Wait, I need to find out more about that.” Or that kind of reaction, that’s what you want. That’s your ideal hook to get someone to want to find out more or stop them. Because, again, you’re going up against so much competition for attention no matter what channel you’re using with your marketing. So it’s just, how do you break through? It’s just the 600th weight loss promotion they’ve seen, or the 100th financial promotion they’ve seen just in the last week. So it’s got to be something new that just hits them, makes them turn their head, stops them in their tracks. So when I feel that especially after doing all the research and I’ve put myself in the shoes of the prospect, that’s when I know this is something I really need to think about going with.
Rob: Exactly. So you have these two approaches to creating these courses or content or whatever. One, coming from the live event and then one where you’re sitting down and thinking through. Do you notice a difference in the quality or in the intensity of the content when you do it one way versus another?
Kim: Well, I think the thing doing this research course, it’s already basically taking what I’ve taught live to people or be it in my mentoring group, and then just putting it into a readable form. But yet again, I was thinking this course is still being created, I will likely include a group training component in this. I think to me, it really hasn’t been that different because the best trainings I’ve done, either it’s been an in-person event or like the Million Dollar Controls where I was on calls, or there was a course that Chris Orzechowski and I had, we since have retired, but on royalties, retainers and recurring revenue deals. We did that whole course basically with group calls, which we then recorded and people could listen to.
I think for me, it’s that live training element that really brings it to life. Because I think it’s really hard to just talk into a camera in your office and there’s nobody there to laugh at your jokes. Like, I need an audience. I can see and I can get a sense for, Hey, wait, this needs more explaining or they can ask questions. I guess the common thread here is I do really like the group training element and I think it helps me teach better and really address the things that people want and need to know.
Rob: Yeah. Okay. So you’ve shifted into doing more of this training, helping other people launch the careers or connect in your world. That brings up the question, can anybody be a copywriter? Can man off the street reach out to Kim and say, turn me into a copywriter, or is there something else that they need before they can write? Can anybody write copy?
Kim: Well, it’s so funny because I just happened to write an email to my list about that very topic. I also posted it on LinkedIn, and boy, did that resonate with a lot of people? I think we all have this experience where everybody thinks they can write copy. They think it’s deceptive. It looks deceptively simple because we’re writing anywhere from fifth to eight grade sentences, we’re writing simple, easy to read words and people are like, “Oh, I could write that.” There’s even some organizations that will say anybody can write a simple letter and make a million dollars. We won’t name names. So it’s given the impression that anybody can do this, which unfortunately, I feel like has devalued copywriting to some degree. Because those who actually know anything about copywriting, whether they’ve done it or they hire copywriters and really respects the value of copy, they know how hard it is to get it right.
To answer your original question, could anybody off the street do it, I think as long as they’re super clear-eyed about what is going to be involved. I like to try to be upfront with people that it takes hard work. People train for months or years at least to get to the point that they can write something like I would write, like a long form promo. I didn’t start off writing those even with my years of experience at a publishing company and running a supplement business. So yeah, I think that does take just some basic native writing ability. I know so many super smart marketers who will say, “I can’t write, there’s no way I could do copywriting. I’m just not a writer.” And there are some people like that.
Obviously you have to feel like you at least are comfortable with writing. You obviously need a good command of grammar and the English language. But beyond that, yeah, if you are willing to put the work into it and really study all the classic books, don’t just buy a course, but actually do it, do it 10 times like Ben Settle talks about. Hand copy or read a successful promo every single day like some of the people I’ve mentored do, that’s what will help make you have a shot at being a good copywriter. It’s not, oh, I can just buy those course and now I’m going to make a million dollars. It really does take the work and being clear-eyed about what it involves.
Rob: Yeah. I want to ask about some myths or maybe they’re myths that people have busted that actually shouldn’t have been busted. I’ve seen very prominent copywriters say typos don’t matter because it’s really the messages that you’re communicating. Would you agree with that?
Kim: The only case that I think that doesn’t matter, I’ll give you two examples. One would be if it’s your own email list and it’s just part of your personality. I’m just rushing this off while I drink my coffee this morning. It just adds an air of authenticity to your message. Or if that’s the brand of whoever it is that you’re, the voice you’re writing in. But generally, yeah, it matters. It matters a lot. And I’ll tell you why. The main reason it matters is if you’ve ever read something and it’s missing a word or the punctuation’s missing and then it trips you up. Because you’re like, wait, oh, I just read that wrong, and then you stop. Well, every time you trip up somebody reading your copy, you risk losing them. You want them to glide effortlessly through the grease tube of your copy and not stop reading that if anything tripped them up. So it’s not about being an anal like, English major, which I wasn’t, I was a math major actually. It’s about not tripping the prospect up, not wrecking the sale, don’t lose them.
The other thing is I just know a lot of clients, it just drives them absolutely freaking nuts. They get these drafts that are riddled with grammar and spelling and punctuation and English mistakes. And they don’t want to sit there and be a copy editor. They’re like, “I’m paying money for good copy.” I can’t tell you how many clients complain about that. So it’s really important. It’s important to come across as professional, that you put that care into your work. It’s also really important just to understand that it’s going to mess up your copy if you lose your prospect by tripping them up.
Rob: Okay. I agree 100%. Myth number two, I’ve seen some business experts-
Kim: Okay. I feel passionate about that.
Rob: Yeah. I do too. In fact, even when I see copywriter… Yes, you will forgive a typo in an email or whatever, but I’ll see some copywriters who misuse pronouns, starting out a sentence with him or her, direct object pronouns, subjective versus objective pronouns, those kinds of things. Again, maybe that’s because I’m a writer, it bugs me more than others, but okay. So setting that stuff aside, another-
Kim: Can I just add one quick a-?
Rob: Yeah, please.
Kim: I think a lot of people know about Parris Lampropoulos Top, top amazing copywriter. I’ve had the privilege of working with him on some of my promos for one of my clients, where he had copied chiefs everybody. And I will just say, talk about someone who is such a stickler for this thing, like you just said, and it’s true. Again, it’s back to, we don’t want to confuse people. They need to be able to understand you. So when you switch tenses within paragraphs, or you end with one idea and you start with something else, you lose them. So you’re right. Good writing, it really does matter. All the top copywriters really understand this.
Rob: Yeah. Okay, I agree with that. Number two, I don’t know if this is necessarily, a lot of copywriters would say this, but certainly a lot of business experts, gurus say to business owners, “You should write your own copy. You’re the one that understands your product. You’re the one that understands your offer and you need to be the one that controls that message.” Is that a myth we should bust or is that true?
Kim: Abso-freaking-lutely, baby. Okay. Where do I begin? Yeah, there’s probably maybe one or 2% of business owners who are really, really good copywriters who can write their own copy. I would maybe say I could do my own copy, although even I have found it beneficial to hire out my own copy for my sales pages. And let me tell you why. I feel like even though I understand the product, I mean the product in some degree, someone else is going to bring this perspective of really who the market is and how does this come across to the market? I think when you’re a business owner and it’s your own product, you might be totally… It’s like an engineer, for example. My father was an engineer.
You might be totally in love with, I’ll go back to an air purifier example, my God, has got this HEPA filter that’s ultra whatever. And it’s got the super carbon zero like, you know. And people are like, who cares? You need someone who’s going to be able to take that, find the magic in it, get that out to the world and position like, this is what’s going to really solve your problems. It’s going to solve this problem and that problem and that problem. A lot entrepreneurs don’t really see it that way. They’re just in love with their product, in love with their service, maybe in love with themselves. I don’t know. And they really need someone who’s going to, how do we translate this to the market? They’re going to bring that valuable perspective. The other major point is, who was it? Michael Gerber had this E-Myth book that came out like 20, 30 years ago.
Rob: Yeah, a really good book by the way.
Kim: Really classic book, it’s the making of resurgence, but the main point was you should be working on your business and not in your business. Again, a common complaint, especially people who own their own business or entrepreneurs is like, “I started this business so I could actually have a life. And now I have no life because I’m busy doing these 16 million things.” Well, hello, copywriting is one of those things that maybe you shouldn’t be doing. And it’s really being penny-wise and pound-foolish to not count what are your lost opportunities by you focusing on this instead of something else that’s actually going to grow your business? And then secondly, we brought somebody in who could do it 10 times better. What does that mean for your business? So it’s just leverage. It’s just another way you should be leveraging your time. You should be leveraging your resources in the best possible way. And for, I would say 98% of entrepreneurs, probably writing copy isn’t one of them.
Rob: Myth number three, or maybe piece of advice number three, is it a myth or not? So I’ve seen some, not very many, but some copywriters say you shouldn’t read books on copy. Eugene Schwartz is too hard to read. Or if you only read copywriting books, you only know copywriting things and that you should actually read fiction instead, or other things. Ignore the copywriting stuff that’s out there. I’m going to guess that you would disagree with that.
Kim: Who are these people?
Rob: Yeah. What do you think about that?
Kim: What do you think? We call this black or white thinking. It’s either/or. Well, it’s not either/or, it’s all of the above. Of course, read some fiction books. I agree. I think that’s great. It helps you with storytelling. It’s also part of that walk away and percolate all that stuff. But the classic books and then the not so classic newer courses and things like that, you can learn so much. Again, a big part of being a successful copywriter is curiosity. Just always learning and relearning. Have you ever been to… You’ve hosted them. You’ve hosted, what, three or four live events. And you’ll see, because I’ve been there too doing the same thing, many of the top copywriters in the audience and they can’t stop writing notes. They know this stuff, but they’re just relearning it again and again. So part of that is just that relentless thirst to constantly learn, improve, be curious.
Why would you say you can’t do these things? I read scientific advertising by Claude Hopkins at least every year. And I have all my mentees do it. It’s the first thing we do in one of our first calls and we share so many brilliant takeaways. It’s actually the first book I read when I became a freelance copywriter. And even though I’ve been working at Phillips and even writing copy while I was there and ran a supplement business, et cetera, it was like, “Whoa, all this just came together in my mind. And this book that’s like 80 years old.” I can’t emphasize enough that should definitely be part of your learning and ongoing development.
Rob: Yeah, okay. As we’re talking about this, can anybody write, I’ve thought about this too. And I think one of the reasons that so many people think that they can write copy, business owners or marketing people, is all through school, we have to write. We’re taught these constructs for writing that are not necessarily very good for, certainly not good for advertising. They’re okay for essays in third grade or fifth grade or whatever. But the flip side is during that same time, we also take time to draw and doodle and we get feedback at the same time. Most of us are told we’re not very good at drawing, but we’re almost never told that we’re not good at writing. It’s like, oh, you need to improve this or keep going or whatever.
I think a lot of us have this idea, oh yeah, I can write because I’ve been writing for 20 years through high school and whatever. But we never learned how to communicate with our writing in a way that’s curiosity inducing, interesting, holds attention, makes a sales argument, all of the things that copywriters do and really have to learn how to do at some point. But if you said, Hey, draw this amazing picture of whatever, it’s only the kids in art class can actually do that thing that the rest of us were told long ago. So I think maybe the metaphor breaks down somewhere, but if you think you’re a writer because you went through school, you’re probably as good at writing as you are at drawing. You can do a stick figure and you can do stick copy, I guess. But unless you’ve really had that training, that encouragement, that feedback from teachers, coaches, whatever, you probably aren’t as good a writer as you think. And that probably even applies to a lot of copywriters unfortunately.
Kim: Yeah, I think you raise a good point. While I say you definitely need to at least have some native innate writing skills, it means more that you’re comfortable with getting your ideas across on paper, but not necessarily having to follow all these rules and constructs outside of just grammar, basic grammar and punctuation and spelling. So yeah, I think maybe a step is, a crucial step and because it’s been so long since I was starting out with this, is to unlearn a lot of things. I encounter this every once in a while when I’m dealing with somebody who’s using AP standards or something, and they’re like, “You can’t start a sentence with and” things like that. So you got to unlearn, you got to know what you have to unlearn.
Maybe it did benefit me that I was a math major in college because I didn’t have all these college level English classes and telling me how I had to write because I didn’t have… Some of us might have more we have to unlearn, I guess is the point. There’s definitely people who don’t have a college education who go on, who can be very successful copywriters because they have a basic ability to write and communicate, but then they also understand salesmanship in print, which I want to just… Another big point of this is also knowing what makes people buy. And if you have any previous sales experience, I think that’s also hugely valuable to being a copywriter.
Rob: Yeah, I agree. In fact, I think that one is often overlooked. Because even if you’re writing content, this top of funnel stuff, it still has to lead at some point to a sale eventually. You’re still moving people through.
Kim: Of course, yeah. Even just working in a store or just knowing how to talk to customers. I shared a story. Actually, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Gary Bencivenga about a month ago and shared this story with him about this crappy job I had during a recession one summer outside Dayton, Ohio, where I worked for a waterproofing company doing telemarketing. I was in this boiler room, handed a phone and here’s a script and here’s the phone list and offer people free basement inspection. Well, the first day I get zero people taking me up on the basement inspection because I’m just basically reading the script. Second day I come in, same thing, zero leads. The third day I come in, I get stopped by the boss. She’s like, “You don’t get three leads today, you’re out of here.”
So, I sit down and I end up just playing around with the script and just adapting it to whoever I was speaking to. Oh, this sounds like a chatty person, let me try this approach. Or this guy sounds like he just wants to get down to business. So let me just talk about the practical aspects of stopping a leak that might be happening and all this stuff. To make a long story short, I was able to stay the whole summer. I got the minimum leads every day. And then little did I even know that that was really great training for writing copy. I think it’s a lot of things that we can pull from our previous experience that just getting comfortable with talking to people and understanding how to get them to take that desire to action is really great experience for copywriting.
Kira: So, let’s break in here to talk a little bit about a few things Kim has shared with us so far. First I want to start, Matt, we talk about being a marketer versus a copywriter. And Kim talks about how she really started off as a marketer. I’m just curious how do you view yourself? Which one are you a marketer, a copywriter, both?
Matt: Yeah. That’s a great question because there’s so many different things we can do and they all require basically the same skillset. The problems that I solve as a copywriter are marketing problems, they’re business problems, they’re business strategy problems. I see myself as a person who solves business problems to better messaging. So sometimes that means copy, sometimes that means how the copy is laid out. Sometimes it means what’s the strategy behind your messaging? As you can tell, I’m not somebody who likes to be pinned down into a small box. So, yeah.
Kira: That’s why you’re the renaissance man. I also liked from this part of the interview where Kim talked about creating digital offers and how she started with live sessions. Some of them were in real life pre pandemic and how she’s gone from live sessions to creating digital products. I thought that was a really great process for creating offers. Something that we’ve done in The Copywriter Club too when we’ve worked with copywriters, it’s getting in there, getting dirty, figuring out during live sessions, what people actually need and problem-solving, and then figuring out takeaways from that before you go and create these digital products and try to create this passive income and evergreen products. So I’m just curious, Matt, what process has worked for you as you’ve played around with different offers?
Matt: Did you catch what Kim said about how she signed up to do this training and it wasn’t even ready yet? It had was happening way too soon. I think especially when you’re thinking about planning an event or planning a launch or whatever it is when you’re creating a product, you want it to be perfect first. I know I am so guilty of this. I think the idea of just getting it out there and beta testing it, practicing it, that’s how you create the really, really, really great stuff that people want and people are going to pay for.
You notice that a lot of copywriters, what they’ll do is transform their keynote address or their speaking presentation into a digital product. I know Joel Klettke does this, I know I’ve seen others who have done this as well, where they just practice giving a webinar, practice giving a presentation. Make it so loaded with value that anybody who listens to it is going to walk away with 10 times whatever they paid for the training. That’s how you get that word of mouth that’s going to help you become the sought after trainer, this teacher. I love what she said about that.
Kira: Yeah, that’s really cool. I think there are different ways to do that, like you shared. Maybe you’re asked to present on a topic at a big virtual event, or maybe it’s a summit of some sort and you say yes. Sometimes those are paid gigs, sometimes they aren’t, often they’re not. But to get the ROI out of it all the time, you’re going to pour into that presentation. It’s such a great idea to deliver an excellent presentation and then get feedback from the audience and see what people loved, maybe what they didn’t like, what was less interesting and then turn that into a digital product. Then also, do more of what Kim has done, where you actually are scheduling live teaching session, live workshops, in-person, virtual, and in there with them learning, listening to their questions and then taking those takeaways and turning into a product.
Then you could also just speak on different podcasts like this one, and test different topics and share different frameworks that you’re playing around with in your mind and see which ones resonate with the audience as well, and figure out, oh, that framework that I shared went over really well. I’ve heard from a dozen people who really resonated with that. So maybe I’ll turn that into some type of digital course too. There are so many other ways you can do that, but I think it’s such a great iterative process that Kim mentioned. Just to follow that, Matt, you’ve created different offers, what works specifically for you? Do you have any examples you could share of offers you’ve tested and then you’re like, eh, maybe not that, but something else worked instead?
Matt: Yeah. Actually just this year. So number one, pandemic land means you have no friends. So I was eager to talk to people. How could I trick people into talking to me so I’m not so lonely during the day working in my garage? I got an idea for a service, an offer, and I just messaged a whole bunch of my copywriter friends. So many of them that I met through the Think Tank and through conferences. I said, “Hey, can I talk to you for like 15 minutes just on Zoom?” So I got Zoom and it’s like, “I’m not going to $10 a month plan or $12 a month plan, whatever. I’m not like a fancy super-duper Zoomer.” I’m just recording these conversations and just talking to them and saying, “Well, what are the problems you’re having? What’s challenging you and your business, what’s keeping you stuck?”
Two things happened from that. Number one, a lot of them were like, “Hey, by the way, I’ve been meaning to do thing, like build a website or whatever, you want to just finally do that?” I’m like, “Okay.” I promise this isn’t a bait and switch where I’m trying to trick you into talking to me so I can get a deposit from you, but I will take one if you need it. Then the second thing that happened is I got a ton of just user research interviews, voice of customer, letting me know what the problems were. I took that information and I turned it into an offer and it totally flopped. I got it completely wrong, and I think when it got wrong was I was trying to be too focused and narrow in my targeting. I just don’t have the audience size for that.
After that flop, I went back to the drawing board. I talked to more people and came up with a slightly different version, different price point, different focus, not quite as narrow. And that’s been great, that’s been awesome. That one’s in beta right now. I’ve got a few beta clients for that and we’re getting ready to open that a little wider. But that process of just throwing stuff at the wall, seeing what sticks, you have to do that. I’m curious, so you’ve got multiple levels of products that aren’t just products or experiences too, right? I know that you’ve been running The Copywriter Accelerator for years now. You’ve had several different cycles that you’ve gone through and I’m sure you’ve learned new things from every single round that you’ve done.
Kira: We will launch the Accelerator twice a year. We have updated it, yes, based off feedback along the way. I think we’ve actually had seven cohorts now. It’s been enough to get feedback and understand 150 people at least, or more in the program. So we understand what works, what doesn’t work, what else people needed. So getting that information, especially at the end after copywriters have been through the program to ask what was most helpful, what was not helpful, what else could we add, has been really helpful for us really to add on to the program and to upgrade the program. Even now, before we launch again in January, we’ll upgrade the program again, just because the space is changing too quickly. We all need to continue to iterate in order to keep up with the changes in marketing too.
Matt: Well, and I don’t want to spoil anything in the episode, but Kim does make a point later about how you can take the same message and apply it in different channels and different mediums and it can work just as well. So it’s not like the work you’re doing to prepare a digital offer or an event offer or whatever only works for that type of product.
Kira: Yes. Teaser, a teaser alert. Yes. So before we wrap up and get back into it, are there any other lessons or takeaways, Matt, that stood out to you?
Matt: Kim has been working in this space for so long and she’s such a pro, but she only recently started to promote herself and become a teacher and to shift away from just doing direct response copy to teaching, mentoring, stuff like that. To me, that lets me know, okay, if I don’t have it all figured out right now, that’s okay. If I don’t want to be someone who’s just doing teaching full-time, if I want to keep doing the craft, that’s okay too. Because I’ve got plenty of time and that’s just going to make me a better coach and a teacher whenever I do want to make that my main focus.
Kira: Yeah. That’s a great point to end on here. Kim is still figuring it out too. Kim is this A-lister so many of us admire and she’s figuring out this new phase in her business. We’re all constantly learning and figuring out what’s next. How can I make this better? How can I improve? How can I help more people? So it is refreshing to hear that.
Matt: And if you want to make your business better, check out The Copywriter Accelerator coming in January 2022.
Kira: We’ll leave that. We’ll leave that in there.
Matt: Let’s go back to our interview with Kim and learn more about warranty contracts and how Kim’s built her authority.
Rob: So, we’ve talked about how you’re doing a lot more training, teaching, and that means you’re working with copywriters who are somewhat just starting out or they’re trying to expand their business, whatever. What mistakes are you seeing the copywriters are making that all of us across the board need to do less of?
Kim: I would say, there’s obviously things with writing copy where you feel like you, well, first off, you agree to maybe too short of a timeframe to really deliver the product. I understand that when you’re starting out, you don’t want to turn things away and you want to please the client and you may not have enough sway to be able to negotiate. But yeah, as I like to say, great copy is not rushed. You really need that time to put into the research. It’s not something you can just do in a few hours and then just start extemporaneously writing. So I would say, being too rushed, not putting the time into research is probably a very common mistake. I would say another common mistake is just with client management in general, not having boundaries that really benefit you and also actually cause the client to respect you more and ultimately make the entire process of working together go more smoothly.
For example, not having some contract or agreement where things are spelled out, not requiring a 50% advance at least to hold your time even, or to start work, somebody’s like, “Hey, can you start tomorrow?” And next thing you’re working, you’re like, “Hey, where’s my check?” So you got to approach it like you’re a professional and you deserve to be treated like a professional, even if it’s your first or second project, people will respect you more. I could tell you so many examples of people I’ve mentored, even one of my mentees from last year reached out and he was pushing back on five different things in this contract with a new client.
He ran it by me. I’m like, “Yeah, this make sense, go for it.” I even gave him a few tips on the kill fee and they basically said, “Okay, we’ll make all the changes.” I just know that project’s going to go probably 10 times more smoothly for him from the start, because he’s showing that, “Hey, I’m a professional and you can’t push me around. I’m not desperate for this.” It’s the thing. If they think you’re desperate, A, they won’t think you’re very good and B, they’ll think they can push you around and take advantage of you. Those are some really common things that I see a lot.
Rob: Okay. You’ve written a lot of niches, a big chunk of your career has been health, wellness, vitamin, health supplements, that kind of stuff. You’ve done a little bit of finance, if I’m not mistaken, as well.
Rob: These are niches that are talked about as the high paying ones with good reason. Not the only places where you can make money, but obviously a lot of people would love to break into those kinds of niches. Do you have advice for copywriters who it’s like, “Okay, I want to work with some of those top companies. I want to work on these kinds of promotions that Kim’s been doing for the last couple of decades.” How do you catch the attention of somebody who can hire you for the next assignment?
Kim: Well, the easiest way, easiest/hardest way probably is to at least have one of these similar long form projects, like a sales page, and write it for somebody and have it been successful. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a big name client, could be some small little business, but they hired you. Maybe you did it for $1,000 or some real cheap rate, but you got your sample. You got something that shows, Hey, this actually worked for this client. Another way would be to start with one of these clients and say, “Do you need any email specs? I’ll write an email spec. If it works, pay me 150 bucks or whatever deal you can make.” Or maybe they need a new headline and lead for an existing control and you do that. Once you get a few wins like that for a client, they may say, “Hey, you know what, we’re going to give you a chance to go up the bat on one of the big things.” Both of those are ways that I use to break in.
Again, I came from a very well-known direct response company. I had a very successful track record as a marketer, but I still had to start from the ground up as a copywriter. I did nothing but smaller projects, backend things the first couple of years. For one of them, it was with a financial publisher. I had been doing highly successful renewal campaigns and all these quick hit things for flat fees. They finally gave me a chance to write a promo. I had to go up against Jim Rutz. The first try, it didn’t work. But then they came back to me six months later and they said, “We really did like your copy and we want to give you a chance to write a whole new one.” They paid me another whole new fee and I beat Jim Rutz on that second try. Then I had the control and I beat him again when they launched another version of the product. Once I beat Jim Rutz and got a control, boardroom was calling and I had plenty of work. But I got that by doing the back end projects, the small ones.
Then breaking into health, one of my first clients, he was having me edit his sales letters that he wrote himself. He was making that mistake. He actually wasn’t bad. He used to train with Ted Nicholas. I finally talked him that, “Hey, you’ve never tried a magalog, why don’t you let me write a magalog?” I charged him some ridiculous, floor flat fee, but I did my first magalog, it wasn’t actually bad. I just look at it now I’m like, oh my God, that was my first magalog. But somebody else called from a supplement business and said, “Hey, you got any magalog samples?” I gave him the one sample I had and he hired me for three times as much plus royalties. I ended up writing him a control that mailed for like 10 years and paid me a lot of money and royalties. So those were two techniques that I used, and I think are still completely valid ways that you can do so today.
Rob: Okay. A lot of what you wrote was actual direct mail, like printed mail.
Kim: It’s still working.
Rob: That’s what I was going to say. It’s like-
Kim: I have controls that are still going out in the mail that I wrote years ago.
Rob: Clearly direct mail is still a thing. It’s not all online.
Kim: Not as much as it was, but it’s still a thing with some companies. But yeah, almost everybody is mostly when they come to me, it’s online, it’s sales pages. I now have several sales page controls. Well, one of my controls is CircO2, which is this nitric oxide supplement. I wrote the promo four and a half years ago. They still mail it every other month at least. But it’s been gangbusters online, especially the last year and a half with COVID because a lot of people… I don’t know, nitric oxide has just taken off in general. So it’s the same exact copy that I wrote for the direct mail promo, has been running as a sales page format and they’ve even made it into a more produced video sales letter, and is working on Facebook, Google with their own email lists, with other people’s email lists. It’s literally the exact same copy I wrote for the direct mail sales letter. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference. It’s learning how to write direct response sales copy and it can work really pretty much in any channel.
Rob: When you do that, when you move from one to another, do you structure the royalty agreement differently?
Kim: Yeah, that’s actually a very… I’m glad you brought that up.
Rob: Yeah, because usually you get paid per piece when you mail. But obviously you’re not going to get paid per view on a sales page. So how do you structure that?
Kim: I actually think I wrote about this recently in list because it was… Another person I had dinner with just a few months ago when I was in Hawaii was Dan Ferrari, if you’ve heard of him?
Kim: We were just talking about some new client he was working with, and apparently, he didn’t realize that he should do this even though he’s a super smart guy. I learned things about contracts from him that he shared with me. But one lesson I learned many years ago, another copywriter who will remain unnamed, she wrote one of the most successful promos ever for a major financial publisher. It was a direct mail piece. And this was back when they pretty much only did direct mail. Well, she wrote an agreement. The agreement said it was whatever, let’s say it was three or four cents per name mailed would be her royalty.
Well, then they ended up a couple years later, they’re running this thing and she made a lot of money in direct mail royalties. They adapted it for online use, and then they ran it for several years after that, but they refused to pay her a penny of royalties for that. So, lesson learned and I have always done this ever since. My contracts always include spelling out what the royalty is per piece mailed and spelling out what it is for online news, for any online use. That doesn’t matter if they hire me for a direct mail piece and they say, “Oh, no, we’ll never do it online.” Or they hire me for an online piece, “Oh, we’ll never do direct mail.” It’s going in, it’s going in the agreement. Typically, if let’s say your deal was, say three cents per name mailed, it’s usually 3% of, I always try to go for gross sales. Sometimes they want to make it net sales, which is gross less returns. But yeah, go for gross sales if you can. But yeah, that’s basically what I do. I spell it out.
Another tip is if they hire me to do a sales page, I generally charge a little bit less than I would for a full direct mail promo because direct mail promo has sidebars and front and back covers and other stuff. So I’ll charge a one-time fee to convert it to a direct mail piece if they want to do that. It’s usually, it’s like 25% of whatever the fee is for the sales page, if that makes sense. All that just goes into the agreement so that later on, they’re not just taking your copy and repurposing it and then you’re not getting the royalties. I saw what my friend what she went through with that, and that was just terrible that the client did that. It was very shortsighted, I think. But yeah, you protect yourself, spell it out both ways. That’s what I do in all my agreements.
Rob: Okay, cool. All right. Let’s switch gears just a little bit. Obviously you built a pretty good reputation as a copywriter. You have winning controls, you’re working with big names, you’re beating other copywriters, really well-known in the copywriter world, but maybe a little less known when it was time to create your own courses, get your name out there. Now, over the last couple of years, what have you done to grow your authority and to start to show up as one of the experts in our field, maybe more than what you were doing before?
Kim: Well, certainly has helped being on podcasts like this. I’ve been on dozens of them and you were probably one of the first to have me on, which I really do appreciate.
Rob: Are you saying we launched Kim Schwalm as the coach?
Kim: I’m going to have to give Ben Settle a little bit of credit. I know he’s a controversial guy. Ben and I met at an AWI event and he was really excited to meet me because he had seen me in the Gary Bencivenga event videos, which he actually bought and paid $5,000 for. I was actually at the event. At one point, Gary had called on me to talk about my personal finance control. So Ben always knew who I was, and he really wanted to meet me. Then his whole thing was, why aren’t you teaching? Why aren’t you doing this?
He gave me that first idea in impetus. Then he had me do a Facebook live or something when he used to have a Facebook group. Then you guys had me on. So it’s interesting because he actually has helped propel a lot of women’s careers, which a lot of people would not think sometimes the way he is, but he’s been a big supporter. Brian Kurtz has been a big supporter and mentor, you guys have, Kevin Rogers had me on one of his things. I’ve been on your stage two or three times. I’ve been on the stage with Copy Chief Live when they last had one, gosh, it’s been now about a year and a half, two years ago. I think it’s just been getting myself out there and getting more people on my list. I give a lot of value away. I know you’re probably on my copy insiders list as well.
Rob: I am. Yeah, I am.
Kim: Now I’m starting to do more on LinkedIn and put some posts out there. I guess all those things are ways to build authority if somebody is interested in doing that. It helps when other people can recommend you or refer you or share their audience with you, which is what you’ve been doing and some of these other folks have done for me, whether it’s promoting some of my products to their list or having being on podcasts. So those are all ways to, I think, build authority. But I think the bottom line is you got to know what you’re doing. You got to have things you can share and the experience and the proof.
I feel like I definitely have quite a few controls. I just used to sit there in the background. I’d had my head down, get my… I was totally content for many years. It’s like, “Look, I’m just doing this while my kids are at school. I’m going to just get everything done in seven or eight hours and then I’m mom after this. I’m not interested in flipping around the country speaking at things or giving away my stuff.” But it shifted. My kids got older and I knew I really miss the marketing side. Like I said, it’s just been very gratifying to hopefully give people the leg up they need to succeed in copywriting because it really has been such a great thing for me.
When I think about why I got into it, I needed to get out of the 50 hour work weeks. I felt like I had been mommy tracked when I went back to work after I had my first child. I didn’t want to never seeing my children, but I also wanted a really satisfying career that would use my brain and also allow me to make good money. Yeah, it’s been really good for me. I’ve got to get for what, but no, part of that is I want to help other people really have this lifestyle and that flexibility that still, I think is missing in a lot of workplaces for men and women.
Rob: For sure. As you’ve made the shift in your business and started doing more training, have you also had to shift your mindset in any particular way?
Kim: The biggest thing initially was like, well, who wants to listen to me? Who am I to go out there? You know what I mean? I knew I was good and I knew my stuff. I used to never tell anybody that I beat Jim Rutz or Paris. I was like, oh, I shouldn’t talk about that. Brian Kurtz was like, why don’t you tell people it?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I just wasn’t… So getting used to, I hate to say the word bragging, but that’s just not me. I’m not the kind of person to go around doing that. I think that was a mindset thing. Like you got to write your bio for somebody. I’m like, “Oh God. I guess I have to brag now.” So I think getting comfortable with that.
Rob: Perfect, okay. So what is next for you? What’s the next big thing that you’re tackling in your business?
Kim: I’m really working on getting everything dialed in, getting all my products exactly where I want them, reconfiguring and figuring out my mentoring options for next year. I’m hoping to have a little bit more flexibility for travel. Obviously the last two years, that hasn’t been the case. I have two screenplays I’ve been really wanting to have time to write. So I’m hoping to be able to get over the hump with the things I want to do for my business and maybe step back a little bit and focus on that while I keep getting my mentoring programs going. That’s what I’m hoping to do.
Rob: Okay. Now I want to know, can you give me one line on the screenplays? What’s the plot?
Kim: You want my log line, is that what you want?
Rob: But sure, sure.
Kim: Well, one of them is a historical based on a true historical event involving my great-grandfather, who basically told the truth and was hushed up and it was revealed many years later and yet it led to war. So it’s a real life story about what happens when political interests and other things lead us to bad things like that. I guess that’s the best way. I don’t really want to give it away, but that’s…
Rob: Sure, sure. Okay. Now that’s great. That sounds interesting.
Kim: And it’s a true story. It’s a really cool story. Then the other one is roughly autobiographical.
Rob: It’s a romance?
Kim: No. No, it’s a coming-of-age story in the mid ’70s in a resort area of Florida, Northwest Florida where I actually live. You’re younger than me, maybe. I don’t know.
Rob: Not much.
Kim: Okay. So it’s this crazy sexual revolution going on in the ’70s. I’m the suburban kid plucked out and dropped into this area and there was just a lot of crazy stuff that happened. And it’s just interesting because I don’t know if anybody’s really told there’s haven’t been enough stories, coming of age stories told from the female perspective. It’s always the boys like, “Ooh, how am I going to get a girl and all this?” It’s something along those lines, but from the female perspective and what that was like.
Rob: All right. Next time we have you come back-
Kim: And I still turned out okay. Right?
Rob: Yeah. Next time we have you come back, we’re going to have you actually talking about these screenplays that are now in production.
Kim: Well, I hope so. I really hope that’ll be the case. Yeah.
Matt: So, that’s the end of her interview with Kim Krause Schwalm. Before we go, there were a couple of other things that stood out to us that we wanted to highlight. Kira, I wanted to talk to you about your opinion with what she said about reading copywriting books. She said that a lot of copywriters read too many copywriter books. They get too involved in the world of direct response copy. Other people recommend that, maybe spend less time rereading the same books over and over and over again. What’s your thought on that?
Kira: Wow. Okay. I agree with Kim. I think this is… If this is a profession you choose, which it is for most of us, you’ve got to take it seriously. And this is what does separate the professionals from the amateurs. It’s full circle, going back to what we said about, can everyone write copy, and Kim talking a lot about that in this interview. Maybe everyone thinks they can write, but how many writers are truly a student and a master and continue to learn? Like Kim, read the books every year, revisiting the books multiple times because you know there’s more to learn. I think it’s really important that Kim shared that. I’m so glad she did it. It was a good reminder for me too, that I need to become a better student. Not that I’ve been slacking.
Matt: You’re doing great.
Kira: I’m trying, I’m trying.
Matt: You’re doing great.
Kira: I’m trying my best, but there’s always room to grow. So it’s just a really strong reminder. I also think, there’s no but, but/and we can also study humanity and study people and study life and that’s very Ogilvy way of approaching copywriting as well. You can also read People Magazine and understand pop culture and understand what are the articles that are featured in People Magazine? Because people are buying it and understand, what are people buying and what are those headlines? I think it’s a mix of that mastery. And then also, understanding where is our culture today and what does humanity look like today? The balance is really important.
Matt: That’s why I watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Salt Lake cities because I’m always just trying to study how people are the same and yet different across different demographics. It’s all research or work. I agree with that, I kept thinking about Pablo Picasso. Picasso is known for being really way out there with his art, these representations, his abstract art. But he was actually really good realist as well. He had a mastery of the fundamentals of art. He was able to portray things as they were, and that gave him the creative freedom to still be successful, experimenting in different forms in types of art. I think about what Kim said about knowing your punctuation. Well, what is grammar? Grammar is us communicating deliberately. And by knowing the rules of grammar, knowing the rules of copy, knowing the formulas, knowing all this stuff that we seem to study in a sprint when we first discovered the world of direct response, by knowing it, well, then you can start to play with it.
But you can’t really play with it until you know the rules and until you know what you’re doing. There’s only so much you can play with if all you’re doing is reading the same five or six books over again. I find that I get the most value out of attending things like conferences and doing maybe once a year big trainings, where I refill that jug in my brain, the copywriting jug, maybe that’s a new product I need to launch. But just getting that stuff, refreshing these things, I use them every day, but refreshing the formality of it. I think there’s a lot of value, like Kim was talking about.
Then you’re free to experiment. Then you don’t have to be doing nothing but reading Ogilvy over and over and over again. Or like, Hey, I’m going to read breakthrough advertising again because I’m not an interesting rounded person. Of course, it’s not to say, that’s a good book. Everyone should read it, but you should read more than that. How much are you really going to understand about people if you’re just reading copywriting guides? Like you said, People Magazine represents, I think, the zenith of our culture, and if we’re not reading every single issue, whether then we pay for it at the newsstand, we’re really missing out.
Kira: For the record, I read more than just People Magazine, but that is my vice and I look forward to it when I do get it.
Matt: This is what happens when you move from New York to D.C. You go from reading novels and books to reading People Magazine.
Kira: It happened. It’s my guilty pleasure. I like what you said about grammar. I think this is how you said it, grammar is communicating deliberately. I think that’s well said if grammar is not your strong suit. For me, I have a lot of typos, I make a lot of mistakes. It’s okay to hire an editor too. Anytime I work on a project for a client, I work with an editor because that is not my strength. And that is okay. It doesn’t mean you have to hang your head in with shame. You can be a copywriter and still learn, but it doesn’t mean you have to be the master. If you struggle with it, it’s okay. You can hire people who are better at it than you. I just don’t like when people send me emails and tell me about all the typos on my website, so please stop doing that.
Matt: Everybody makes typos. And that’s the thing. There’s a difference between not knowing a rule and making a typo. Literally everyone makes typos. There’s a 92% chance that if you’re correcting someone else’s grammar, you are committing a typo. It’s just how the universe works. Speaking of hiring people who are better than you at certain things, let’s talk about what Kim said about hiring a lawyer and making sure that your contracts are really buttoned up. I had experienced earlier this year, where I had a project go south. I won’t talk about it too much in public, but I am so glad that I engaged an attorney. And of course, I did everything right. I was meticulously documented, whatever, but knowing that, oh, I can pay 300 bucks and this person will deal with this problem for me and they’re going to do so in a way that gives me legal coverage? I’m so glad I did that.
Kira: Wow. So you invested in an attorney to review your contract to make sure that it was ironclad before the problem situation.
Matt: Well, funny you say before, because it turns out I entered into an agreement with this person. It was a word of mouth agreement, and then we had emails confirming the agreement and I should have gotten a contract and I didn’t. I really, really wish I had. So when Kim was talking about making sure you have your royalty agreements hammered out, are you going to be paid on gross or net revenue? Well, that’s a really important question and you need to have that answered way before you start doing work. Because otherwise, you end up having a lot of weird conversations with your clients. Everybody wants to get the most money they can. So nobody’s super motivated to just give away a significant percentage of other earnings.
There’s this video I love and I recommend everybody who’s in the first five years of their career, watch it. It’s Mike Monteiro, and it’s a creative morning stock and it’s called F You, Pay Me. He talks about the importance of being a creative worker, which as copywriters we are, and making sure you have a clear contract before you start working. Even if it’s small, even if it’s a little gig, you should always do this because if you do, you’re avoiding awkward conversations down the line. Kira, while we’re on air, why don’t you tell me about the most uncomfortable legal situation you’ve ever had in your copywriting business?
Kira: I love it you said we’re on air. It sounds so cool that we’re on air. Yeah, so I’m just going to ignore that question, Matt, and I’m just going to share it to sum it up, that contracts are our friends. It took me a while to learn that as well, just because I didn’t have a contract probably for my first year as a copywriter. Whenever you’re hanging out with other copywriters, instead of talking about, I don’t know, what do copywriters typically talk about when they’re hanging out at the bar, just hanging out socializing?
Matt: I just picture Justin Blackman’s face just smiling at me. You know that smile he gets when he’s three or four drinks in? He’s just like the happiest dude in the world. That’s what I look forward to at these conferences. Those moments when everyone’s just happy to be together. You’re talking about client challenges and stories and times when you maybe butted heads, but it turned out to be awesome and you killed the control or whatever.
Kira: Okay. That’s what copywriters typically talk about when they’re smiling at each other. What I’m saying is, let’s start talking about contracts whenever we hang out with each other. It doesn’t sound very sexy, but let’s talk about, Hey, what do you say in your contract? Or what is your clause? What’s in your clause? I don’t even know the legal mumbo jumbo to even continue here.
Matt: It’s got to be some play off of that.
Kira: I can learn a lot. I’ve learned a lot actually from Rob and I’ve grabbed different parts of his contracts because this can make or break a business, especially with your confidence and how you feel going into a project. So contracts are way more important than I thought, and it’s often not for the reason that we typically think it is. It’s about confidence and feeling competent and professional. So let’s start talking more, like Kim shared with us, about what’s in our contract and where we’ve been burned and how we can improve our contracts. Let’s share that information together always
Matt: Well, and one more quick note on that. Kim told the story about how she wrote a magalog and had a single magalog sample that landed her a really, really nice gig that had some really nice residual payments. The process of having a contract is one of those things that establishes you as a pro and your clients are so much more willing to start working with you even before they have to see samples. I honestly haven’t shared samples for a long time. I’ve got my website that I wrote. Obviously that’s a sample in a form, but what I really sell people on is I’m a professional with a proven process that I have clearly been through before. I know how to talk about it competently and I am going to make sure you don’t feel any risk at the beginning of the project. You’re going to know exactly what comes next.
That starts by signing this statement of work, where it states clearly, here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s what you’re going to do. Here’s how much you’re going to pay me. Here’s when you’re going to be me and all that good stuff. So just having that, it puts clients at ease because at the end of the day, clients are nervous too. They don’t want to waste their money. I’ll be honest, not every project I’ve worked on has been a super-duper winner, but I know that I’ve never regretted going to the effort of going through that process before we start. It’s always worked out in my favor.
Kira: All right. Before we say it’s a wrap here, I wanted to ask you, Matt, about juggling children, raising children and having a satisfying career. But ironically, I have to jump because in order for me to do that right now, I need to go pick up my daughter. But real quick before we wrap, can you just share your viewpoint on how you view that juggle in your own life as a parent of three, young children right now, how do you sum that up in your own life?
Matt: Yeah. As a fellow coastal parent of three, it’s really hard. And it’s been especially hard the last year and a half, because a lot of things that we’ve relied on to help support us in our businesses and our lives while we’re juggling kids, have not been available. But what that’s done is it’s forced everybody to reevaluate what they really want to do. I’m realizing, you know what, there’s a lot of projects I don’t want to take anymore. And there’s a lot of types of clients that someone else can serve them instead. They’re not for me. That’s given me so much more freedom and that makes my work better. Because when I take a step back and I care less about my work, if that makes sense, I actually do a lot better work because I don’t feel pressure. So I feel creatively free to show up, apply everything I’ve spent years and years and years learning, and then deliver the best possible products, services and deliverables for my clients.
Kira: Yeah. And thank you to Kim for also mentioning that too, and how you had a desire, I’m speaking to you, Kim, how you had a desire to have both and to do both. I’m glad that you touched on that in your interview so we can continue that conversation in The Copywriter Club. So, we do want to thank Kim Krause Schwalm for sharing her time with us. If you want to connect with Kim, the best way to do that is to jump on Kim’s list at copyinsiders.com, where you’ll access five different A-list copywriter checklists, you get the whole bundle when you join Kim’s list. We’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode at thecopywriterclub.com.
Matt: That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed what you heard, please visit Apple Podcasts to leave your review of the show. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next week.
Kira: Thank you for joining as my co-host. This was really fun. We’ve got to do it again if we’re allowed to.
Matt: Yeah. We’ll see what Rob says when he gets back, right?
Kira: Thank you. I appreciate it. And if anyone wants to check out your stuff, where should they go?
Matt: Yeah, go to commonpeople.co. We build websites, we do marketing strategy, we do all this stuff that helps you scale your copywriting business. So wherever you are, whether you’re just getting started, whether you want to break that six figure mark, or whether you want to implement systems that help you scale even beyond, let’s chat, maybe it will be a good fit.