Eman Ismail is our guest for the 245th episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. Eman is an email copywriter who has quickly become a go-to expert for all things email copy. Eman made the transition from feast or famine freelancer to CEO by implementing VIP days into her business. If you want to make the switch to VIP days and day rates, don’t miss this episode.
Here is what else we cover:
- Going from charity worker to charity freelancer.
- The difficulties of being a mom and owning a business.
- How to let your network know what you do in a way that’s not uncomfortable.
- Shifting niches and how to attract your ideal customer.
- The fastest way to level up your freelance business.
- When being booked out doesn’t mean paying the bills.
- Hitting the first 5k month and shifting your mindset to get out of feast or famine mode.
- How niching down can be terrifying but bring in more clients than ever before.
- When to increase your prices and invest in yourself.
- The secret to making the most out of your investments.
- The number one way to maximize all of the coaching and courses you go through.
- How to shift from a project-based model to a VIP day model.
- The better way to structure VIP days to allow for maximum results.
- Why you should hire someone for the service you provide.
- Perfecting your systems and processes and learning from others.
- Finding your ideal work schedule and allowing enough time for research.
- Selecting an online platform where you can find your ideal clients.
- The importance of a marketing plan.
Whether your a new copywriter or you’ve been in the copywriting space for awhile, you’ll get actionable advice on building your business.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Copywriting resource guide
Rob: There’s no doubt that you’ve heard the phrase overnight success, and usually when people talk about this you’re saying that there’s no such thing. Success takes time, and finding it overnight is incredibly rare, if it happens at all. Today’s guest for The Copywriter Club Podcast is Eman Ismail, and Eman recently gave a talk at TCC(N)IRL, that’s our event, about how she went from being completely unknown to being the name on everyone’s lips in less than a year, and during a year when we had a pandemic. It wasn’t overnight, but it happened incredibly fast, and she shared what she did to make that happen, partly in this interview and also in that presentation, available with the IRL recordings.
But before we talk to Eman, let’s talk to you just a little bit about the Copywriter Think Tank, that’s our mastermind for copywriters and other marketers who want to do more in their business and their work, whether you want to build a more robust copywriting business with better clients and better projects, and of course better way, whether you want to add on something like a podcast, or a course, or something like that, or even if you want to build a mini agency or some other kind of business model that you’ve been thinking about. Those are the kinds of things that the people in the Copywriter Think Tank are doing all the time. If you’re ready to surround yourself with people who are thinking bigger about their business, then you should visit copywriterthinktank.com. Sign up for a quick information session. There’s no hard pitch, I promise, and maybe you can join this group of extraordinary business owners too.
Now, before we jump into our conversation with Eman, you’ll notice that Kira is not here, and that’s because Kira is actually having a baby today. So, we unfortunately aren’t going to have Kira for the next couple of weeks as we talk about the things on the podcast, but I am going to bring in other people on our team, other copywriters that we know and want to be able to share some of their thoughts about the interviews. So, while it’s just me, Rob, today, starting next week we’ll introduce you to other copywriters as we talk about the things that our guests share on the podcast.
So, having said that, let’s jump into our conversation with Eman and ask about her story and how she became a copywriter.
Eman: I was managing the communications department for a local charity, and I was copywriting, I was doing a lot of marketing, creating their videos, and running their social media, which I hated but was part of the job description. As I was kind of doing this job, I realized that it was the copywriting side of this that I really loved, but didn’t know that you could get paid to do it. So, I kind of discovered that people will pay you to write their websites and write their emails. I also got really hooked on the idea of, because it was a charity, I send out an email and then money just floods in in response to this email, and that feeling was really addictive. I asked my manager back then if I could do more courses and learn more around copywriting, because I was really passionate about it, and it was always kind of like, “Yeah, we’ll talk about this in a few months. Yeah, maybe.” Meaning no.
So, with that, and then on top of that I had to do a commute to work every day. My son back then was two, so it meant that I wasn’t seeing him very much. I was leaving my house at … Oh gosh, I was waking up at 5:00 AM, leaving my house with him at 8:00, dropping him off at nursery. I was on the motorway really early, or highway, really early on in the morning and I wouldn’t get home till about 8:00 PM. By the time I got home, so he’d already been picked up by a childminder, he’d be asleep on the couch waiting for me to come home. Yeah, he’d refuse to go to bed until I got home, and he’d do his best to stay awake and could never stay awake for me.
So, I’d come home every day and he’d be asleep on the couch, and it was I fell into a depression. I just kind of spiraled, and I was really unhappy with the way things were working out. I was in this job where I was being, I was working all day, and then I was being messages all day and night on WhatsApp and weekends, and I was expected to do additional work on weekends, and on holidays and things like that, and it was just not where I wanted to be.
I remember thinking I took this job so that I could create a better life for me and my son, and yeah, it’s great having a bit more money, and it wasn’t a lot more, honestly, because I didn’t get paid that much either, but I wasn’t seeing him anymore, and it just felt like this is not worth it. This isn’t what I signed up for. So, I did speak to my manager and asked him about working from home more, he said no, asked him for a pay rise as well, to which he said not that figure. He wasn’t happy with the figure that I asked for, and he said, “I don’t quite think you’re there yet.” Was his actual answer, and I remember just in that moment thinking, “Well, I actually think I’m far beyond that. I was being nice with the figure that I asked you for.” And so yeah, I realized that it was time to go. It was time to go.
So, I resigned. I had a month’s notice to work, so I worked that month. I told people on LinkedIn that I was going to be a freelance copywriter, because at that point I had no savings, I had no other job lined up. I’d already tried to set up a copywriting business a couple of times and it had failed, so this was actually my third attempt, and I just remember thinking like, “This has to work. I have a son now, it has to work.” And I had a lot more motivation for it to work, like I had to get it right because now it was about creating a lifestyle for me and my son, it wasn’t just about money anymore.
So yeah, I told people on LinkedIn that I was going to be a freelance copywriter. Is anyone looking for one? I actually got quite a few responses and found my very first client on there. The day that I resigned, the day that I actually finished working for that charity, the CEO messaged me a couple of hours later asking if he could hire me as a freelancer, so that was great. So, that charity also ended up being one of my very first clients. By Monday I had another client that in was working with, and then it just kind of snowballed.
So, initially I found myself working with a bunch of small charities, which wasn’t the plan, but because of my network it just happened really naturally, and I was just grateful to kind of have clients at that point, but I knew that I wanted to expand and didn’t want to stay in that small kind of charity world. So, that took some time, but it was great that things started moving pretty quickly.
Rob: So Eman, when you compare the previous times that you had tried to start a copywriting business where you had failed, and this time where you succeeded, what was the difference? What made it so that this time wasn’t another failure?
Eman: I think firstly I had people to look up to. So, I’d started listening to Belinda and Kate’s podcast, Hot Copy Podcast, and just knowing that it was possible, that there really were people out there who were copywriters and who were making a good amount of money made it feel like it was really possible. Around that time I also started listening to this podcast, so this is a few years ago now. I just listened to this podcast and listened to the interviews and realizing that this can happen. Why can’t it happen for me? That was a big game changer. The Hot Copy Podcast was a big part of it because they were really great in sharing tips and strategies around how to actually get started and they really demystified the whole thing for me and it became a case of okay, I think I can actually do this, I can see how this would work, and now I just need to execute.
So, on top of being way more motivated than I’ve ever been to make it work, it was also a case of I’m inspired by a whole bunch of people. I can see that it’s possible, and I can actually see a way to do this now.
Kira: And just to give us a time reference, when did you make that jump? What month, year?
Eman: Yeah, this was September, 2018.
Kira: Okay, all right. You mentioned that LinkedIn post. So, it sounds like this was your first post to your network to say, “Here’s what I’m doing. Anybody know of anyone?” Which I think is such a smart move, and we were just talking to a copywriter about that yesterday, how first tap your network, right? Let them know what you do, ask for help. What advice would you give as far as how to word that or the right way to do that so it doesn’t seem desperate, so it seems exciting, so it actually works and you get leads, like you did? Because sometimes those messages can also fall flat.
Eman: Yeah. I think the key is to actually be a LinkedIn user before you start needing clients. So, I was actually already using LinkedIn, and it’s funny because it was my manager that kind of forced me into it because he kind of made this blanket rule that everyone in the office had to be on LinkedIn, had to use LinkedIn, had to share the charity’s vision and what we were up to kind of thing. So, I was actually sharing a lot of things because I was kind of forced to, but it meant that I ended up sharing a lot of the writing stuff that I’d done. So, a lot of the writing that I’d done I had posted on there. People were engaging with me. I was talking to people, but I didn’t know that people were actually taking notice. I didn’t know that people were actually reading the posts that I put out, and it turns out they were. I think often we think too hard about getting something, doing something perfectly, I think that if you are just yourself, that will connect with people.
So, my post was a really informal post, and it was really an update. It was like I think I said something like, “I’m really excited to be starting my own freelance copywriting business. I’ll be starting at the end of this month, so if anyone needs any help with copy, drop me a message.” It was as simple as that, and people did, and it turns out that they had watched this charity’s progression and were interested in the writer behind the charity, because they had seen that things had improved dramatically from a comms perspective. So, it really worked in that sense.
I don’t really utilize LinkedIn very much anymore, I really did at the beginning and it was a really great platform for me, but I’ve always used it really, I want to say casually. Casually is not the right word. I was never concerned about being professional. It was really about being myself and mixing that in with business, and related content to what I’m actually doing, so people know not just who I am but also what I do, who I help, and also what kind of person I am so that they feel connected to me as a person, because that’s huge as well I think, just people connecting with your personality. So, I think that’s what made LinkedIn work really well for me.
Rob: So, you launch with these first two clients, the client who you had been working for and this other, but then you also mentioned that you were shifting away from this nonprofit world. Tell us about that process. How did you change your, I guess niche is the wrong word, but change your focus so that you started working with the different kinds of clients that you wanted to work with?
Eman: Yeah. Oh, it felt impossible at first because it felt like such a huge shift to make from charities to businesses, and to business owners. But what I did was I actually just stopped talking about the charities that I was working with. I stopped sharing the logos of the charities that I was working with. I stopped sharing the work that I did for those charities and started talking more about what I could do for business owners and how I could help business owners. I think the first client that kind of helped me transition into solely working with business owners was an agency actually. They were an email marketing agency, so they hired me to start writing emails for their clients, and that worked really well, and it meant that I had some writing samples that weren’t necessarily charity related that I could then show others.
I think I got more confident just around creating content. This would’ve been around the time that I got more confident showing my face, of being on video, and experimenting with different types of content rather than just kind of text posts. People were just more interested in what I had to say, and it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be to convince business owners to hire me. My rates weren’t crazy as well at that point. I was still working on getting to a point where my rates were good rates for me.
So, there were businesses who were willing to just give me a try, which was great, and that’s all I needed. You just need one or two to give you a try and then you can kind of, you can fire from there.
Kira: So, let’s talk a little bit more about what you shared, that it was easy to convince some of them to work with you. I think there could be copywriters who are listening who feel like oh my gosh, I wish that were true, but it doesn’t feel easy to convince anyone to work with me. So, what could we be doing differently so that it does feel easy, or we’re saying the right things to land the jobs?
Eman: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, just to clarify, I don’t think it was easy, but it was definitely easier than I thought it was going to be, because in my mind I had turned it into this huge barrier, and I’d convinced myself that this was a bridge I couldn’t cross. I didn’t quite know how to cross it, but once I actually did I remember thinking, “Oh, okay, that was a little easier than I thought it was going to be.” It wasn’t impossible.
So, I think one really great thing that worked for me was testimonials and word of mouth referrals, which have always been a huge source of clients for me. Asking my network, again, tapping back into my network and asking them if they know anyone, if they know any business owners specifically who do X, Y or Z who may need a copywriter. Can you refer me? Will you refer me? Will you write a testimonial for me? And even the testimonials that I did have that were related to charity work that I did, I edited them so that it wasn’t talking about the work that I didn’t want to highlight anymore. So, if they specifically mentioned that I did a charity report for them, I would just remove the mention of a charity report and leave obviously, I’m not tampering with the testimonial, I’d leave the rest of it the way that it was, but I didn’t want to highlight that this was for charity work specifically, because these were all skills that mattered whether it was for charity that I was doing it for or a business. So, just making those small shifts really helped.
Again, tapping into my network, asking for referrals really helped, and talking more about who I wanted to work with and the type of projects that I wanted to work on and I could help with was a big game changer as well. I think sometimes we forget to be specific around how we can help, and the type of projects we’re looking for. I often find that you attract what you talk about. So, if I am telling people that I do email, which is what I do now, people will come to you for email, and that doesn’t mean that other people won’t come to you for other things, which is also great because it means you can pick and choose what you actually work on, but you will attract more of what you talk about.
Rob: So Eman, you mentioned getting your pricing to the point where you felt really good about it. You started kind of low, it took a little bit of time. Will you talk about that? What were you charging for those initial projects and how did you level up to the point where you got to a price point that you’re really comfortable with?
Eman: So, the very first person that ever hired me paid me 20 pounds per blog post. I remember thinking at that point like, “This does not feel right because this thing has taken me five hours to write, and I’m getting paid 20 pounds.” Which is not even minimum wage in the UK, and I’m thinking, “Either there’s something wrong with me or there’s something that I’m not understanding.” So, I really needed a coach at that point and I knew immediately when I started the business that I needed a coach, which is another thing that I did differently. I actually got the help that I needed and was kind of willing to invest in getting that help. That was a huge difference as well that I forgot to mention a little earlier on.
So, I ended up in Belinda Weaver’s Confident Copywriting Community, which was brill for me at that stage, and when I first went into that I was charging 15 pounds an hour. It’s funny because looking back, having clients or getting clients wasn’t the issue, wasn’t my issue. I had loads of clients. My month was booked up, but I was making very little money, and I remember sending these invoices out and thinking, “I don’t know how I’m going to live on this, and this can’t continue, and if it does continue, I’m not going to have a business for very long.” So, the biggest thing that I worked on was raising those rates. So, in September they started out at, I actually think they started at 10 pounds an hour, and then they went up to 15 pounds an hour, and then they went up to 25 pounds an hour.
So it really kind of went up very gradually because I wasn’t very confident and I needed to just go really slowly to give myself that permission. I also had this weird belief that I was a complete newbie, like I was completely new and needed to charge really low prices, and that wasn’t true. I had years of experience when it came to writing, and I had been in that comms role for a year, and I still don’t know why I thought I had no experience when it came to copywriting, because I did. But eventually, I think it was probably by February, I was charging 40 pounds an hour, and then it just kind of kept going up. I remember by March I had a 4.5K month in pounds, so that’s probably just over kind of $5,000 and thinking, “Okay wow, this actually can work. This can work if I can make $5,000, why can’t I make a whole lot more?” But then I was really stuck in feast and famine mode.
So, that was a great month. I went to Spain and took my family to Spain that month, we had a great time. Then the next month my income just dipped really low again, and I just thought, “Okay, so now I have to sort this out. I have to find a way to make this income consistent.” Because it’s really hard when you’re in that feast and famine stage. You can’t plan long-term, and you’re still not sure if it’s going to work. So, it’s really hard to commit to your business when you’re constantly thinking, “Am I going to fail? Is this going to work? Is this my last month in business?”
Kira: So, what did you do tactically, or maybe what are some of the mindset shifts that helped you get out of the feast or famine cycle so that you made it to the other side of it? Which again, like you said, is so hard. So many of us get caught in it, or sometimes we get out of it, then we get brought back into that cycle.
Eman: Interestingly, it was investing in myself more than I ever had. So, I started doing more courses than I ever have, and I joined copy school. I joined Belinda Weaver’s course first, I joined Copy School. I joined Samar Owais’s email e-commerce bootcamp. At that point I decided to specialize in email, which seemed crazy to me because at the time I was thinking, “What if I never get a client again because I am reducing the number of people that I can work with?” And that was terrifying to me, but I was really attracted to email. I had found that that was really what I loved doing.
So, I decided on that, and then I just really invested in myself, and I spent more than I’ve ever spent. I actually just did my taxes and I looked at the expenses, and it was astronomical in comparison to what I’d spent in the previous year, but it was amazing to me that I’d spent so much on investing in myself, and this was the year that I’ve made the most I’ve ever made in my entire life, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. So, really just learning and taking time out to learn the craft, and promising myself that I was going to focus on getting better as a copywriter. When I do something, I really want to be the absolute best that I can be, and I knew that I wasn’t in terms of copywriting. I was okay, but I didn’t want to be okay, I wanted to be great at copywriting. So, I really focused on that, and that was a huge turning point.
I also won access to Jo Wiebe’s 10X FC, her mini mastermind, and that completely changed my mindset again when it came to investing, because at the time, I can’t remember exactly what the investment was, but I did not have the money to invest in the Copyhackers’s mini mastermind at that point, and winning access to it for a year just opened up this new world that I did not know about, where it matters who you’re in a room with, and it matters that you’re around people who are much further ahead of you.
Just being in that same room with them and listening to them, and learning from them, and understanding the struggles they have, and getting advice from people who are a year ahead of you to 10 years ahead of you, even 20 years ahead of you. It was game-changing, so I think what shifted was my mindset around investing in myself firstly, and then also my commitment to learning and being the absolute best copywriter that I can be. Then with that came the confidence to charge more, because as I kind of learned more I also realized there’s a whole bunch that I don’t know that I really need to know. So, there was that aspect, but there was also okay, I know a lot more than I’ve ever known before, and I started appreciating my own skills and valuing my own abilities, and that made it so much easier to approach clients and say these are my rates, knowing that they would be getting good value for what they paid.
Kira: Let’s dive deeper into what you’re sharing around the learning portion. I think that’s so important and that you did invest in yourself. You signed up for multiple courses, memberships, masterminds. Can you share how you got the most out of every investment you made? Because I do think many of us tend to sign up and pay for courses. We know this is a problem, right? We sign up to be in memberships, and then we don’t fully participate or fully work through the course content. You signed up for a lot of different ones, so how did you fit that into your schedule? How do you maximize it, if you do, so that it’s worthwhile and it does pay off?
Eman: That’s a really good question, and I wasn’t sure until I heard these course creators talking about me. I think the answer to that is that, it’s going to sound so simple, but I schedule time for them. I really schedule time for them, and I blocked out time in my calendar to learn. I also just want to make it clear that I did not have a lot of money back then. So, I say I was investing in all these things, this wasn’t because I had the money, it was because I needed to make more money and I really believed that investing in myself was the way to do that. So, I was going into my savings and paying through a six month payment plan so that I could do these courses.
When you have such little money, investing that money that you have means so much that you do the damn thing, you do it, and you finish it, because that could’ve been money that went to my son, or that went to my family in some other way. So, it needed to work. I found something that Belinda Weaver I’ve heard say about me, Samar Owais say about me is that I’m an implementer, that I’m one of the best implementers that they’ve come across in that I do the learning, and then I actually find ways to implement it, to put it into action. When Jo Wiebe at Copyhackers hired me to write an email for a sales email for the mini mastermind, she had this spreadsheet and from what I could tell she had everyone’s names, and then almost like why she had asked them to do the email, which I was really interested in because I didn’t even know Jo knew that I existed at that point. Yeah, I’d asked the questions, but how many people ask Jo questions, right? And it said near my name, does the work. I just felt like that was so huge.
Firstly, to know that she thinks that about me, but to see that that is recognized and to realize that people see that, and people recognize it, and people notice when you do the work, and it really is about firstly just making time for it and putting that time in my calendar, and then doing it. I feel like I want to give people a strategy to just do it, but it really is just do it.
Rob: Okay, let’s take a minute and break some of this down. So, early on, Eman mentioned a couple of things that I think are worth just calling out. First, she’s talking about learning copywriting, and I think it probably is useful to point out the places that I have or others go to learn copywriting. We’ve put together a killer resource of books, free resources online that is available on our website. It’s the ultimate copywriting resource, and it lists out a bunch of beginner, intermediate books, books about persuasion. It connects you to certain places online where you can find free education from amazing copywriters, Gary Bencivenga, and Gary Halbert, and others. It links to a few blogs that you might want to check out and other people that you can follow. So, look for that in the show notes of this episode or you can go to our website and in the navigation just click on the ultimate resource guide.
Eman is also talking about engaging on LinkedIn, and we’ve talked a lot about LinkedIn over the last little while. One of the things that I think we’ve repeated a couple of times, but it’s worth pointing out again, is not being desperate. Just, as Eman pointed out, being on LinkedIn before you need to be there. So, you’re not jumping in because you suddenly need clients, but you’re there engaging, creating those relationships, doing the things that we do on social media, not desperate, not, again, chasing clients, pitching people, but creating those relationships and connections so that when you do need the work and you make a pitch, you already have a preexisting relationship.
So, if you’re not on LinkedIn now, and this is applicable to any social media, if you’re not on Instagram, if you’re not going this on Facebook, or wherever it is appropriate to do it with the clients that you’re chasing, get on there now and just start connecting, just start making friendships, creating those relationships so that when you need the work, it’s ready for you.
Eman also talked about how she stopped sharing the work that she didn’t want to do, and this is such an underrated idea. We all have these portfolios that are filled with the work that we’ve done in the past, but that’s not always the work that we want to do moving into the future. If you’ve got an ideal client that needs a different kind of work, or you want to move say from writing blog posts to writing sales copy, or maybe the other way, maybe you’re tired of the sales message stuff and you want to create killer content, case studies, and whitepapers and other things, what you want to put in your portfolio, what you want to feature on your website, what you talk about on social media to share on LinkedIn is the stuff that you want to be doing, not the stuff that you’ve been doing in the past. If you post things about blog posts, that’s what you’re going to get hired for. If you post things about sales pages, that’s what you’re going to get hired for. So, share the work that you do want to do in order to attract the clients that you want to be working with.
Eman several times also pointed out that working with a coach was a huge thing in helping her move forward. Of course, we couldn’t agree more. We talk a lot about this. We do a lot of coaching in the copywriter think tank. There is some group coaching that happens in the copywriter underground with the calls that we have there. If you do not have a coach now, if you’re not working with a coach, find one. Of course, we’ve got resources for that, but if we’re not the right resource for you, find a coach that can help you get the feedback that you need, whether it’s critiques on your copy, or whether it’s ideas for your business, a coach can help save you so much time, and this is one of the things that I know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but things that I wish I had done sooner is invested in my business in a way that I could get that outside perspective, whether that’s masterminds, whether that’s a coach, whatever, but I think Eman knocks it out of the park when she talks about the help that she got from the people that she hired.
One or two other things that I think are worth mentioning. Eman is talking about as a new copywriter how she struggled with the pricing or the kinds of projects that she was taking on, but I think it’s important to remember that just because we’re new to copywriting doesn’t mean that we’re new to business, or to marketing, or to understanding how to solve problems.
So many of us come from other vocations, other jobs, career tracks, and maybe we’ve been working in them for 10, 20 years. We know how to get things done, to solve problems. You’ve been doing that in other capacities, and just because you’re taking on copywriting it doesn’t mean that you’re a complete and total beginner. So, that also means that you don’t necessarily have to price yourself as a beginner or take on beginning projects, or work with beginning clients.
Assuming that you know how to solve problems, that translates really quickly into copywriting. So, as Eman switched from her work as a marketer who was doing some copywriting into complete copywriting. She wasn’t a newbie, even though she was new to copywriting. So again, I’m starting to repeat myself here, but think about the way that you get started doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to start at the bottom of the ladder. Sometimes we’re in the middle or near to the top, and that’s worth considering.
Finally, learning versus implementation. Eman is an implementer. She’s somebody who gets stuff done, and oftentimes we get stuck thinking, “Oh, I’ve got to take this course, or I’ve got to do this thing before I can get started.” And I recently read a short post online that was about learning how to fish, and do you need to grab all of the books about fishing and have lessons on which kinds of flies, or do you just grab a reel and some worms and start fishing, you figure it out. I think that that kind of an approach is so important for learning how to do copywriting. We need to start doing and implementing, solving problems and not get stuck learning. Of course, take the course, read the books, check out the resources that I was talking about earlier, but after you’ve done that for a little while, after you’ve read two or three books, after you’ve taken a course or two, you know a lot, you know certainly enough to get started, and it’s better to learn while doing than to learn and then do. So, be an implementer like Eman.
All right, so let’s go back to the second half of our interview with Eman and learn how she prices her services and what she does for her VIP days.
So, let’s talk about where your business is today. What’s the typical project look like? How much are you charging? How much time does it take? Give us all the details.
Eman: Okay. So, since January, I have … So, we’re recording this in … What are we in? Are we in June? No, May. We’re in May. So, since January I have been working on transitioning from a projects based business, quite standard copywriting business, to a VIP day model. I am an email specialist now, so I only work on email strategy and copy. The projects that I deliver are always through either VIP days or an email audit. So, the email audit is like the tester kind of project and it’s often the service that people go to when they want to work with me, but they can’t hire me because they don’t have the budget. So, I can’t write their emails because they don’t have the budget, so they’ll go for the email audit. But the VIP day is at the moment my rate is 3250, that’s pounds. So, that is around $4,000. I had to really think about how to deliver this day, because I work well under pressure, but I don’t actually enjoy working under pressure, and it took me a long time to realize that, and it took me a long time to realize that when I am under pressure, everyone around me suffers as well, and I bring that stress home, which is not something I wanted to do anymore.
So, I had to kind of get creative and think about how I could make this VIP day work for me, and still make it worthwhile for my clients. So, what I do now is I offer this VIP day where the client hires me for eight hours, and this is always on a Tuesday. So, they hire me for the Tuesday but I don’t deliver the work at the end of the day on the Tuesday. I deliver it within five working days, so that usually ends up being the following Tuesday. So, I have like a full week to work on this project.
Now, when I position that to the client it’s I say, “Because of the type of person that I am, because I really want to make sure that I’m 100% happy with the work that I’ve produced, I’m not going to deliver this to you at the end of the day, I give myself an extra five working days so that I can go back and edit it, so that I can sleep on it, make sure I’m 100% happy with the strategy, with the copy so that you get the absolute best of me, and I’ll deliver that on Tuesday.” The client always feels really happy because they feel like, number one, they’re getting the best of me. Number two, they’re paying for a day but actually they’re getting a full week. Then on my side, from the backend, it’s amazing because I don’t need to actually sit down at my desk on a Tuesday for eight hours. I know that realistically I’m probably spending about four hours on the work that Tuesday, and then another four hours, or three hours the next day, on the Wednesday.
Now, it can be difficult because I am trying to not make this spread over the entire week because I don’t want it to last all week. However, yeah, I just need to be really strict with myself. So, I’m timing myself, I’m making sure that I’m not spending too much time over what I’ve said I will. Yeah, and then the client receives the work the following Tuesday. So, not a typical VIP day but it really works for me because as a parent, I don’t know when I’m going to get a call that is like hey, you need to pick up your son from school, or your son is sick, or I’m expecting a baby right now, so maybe I’m sick, and I’m tired, and I need to rest. So, it’s really great because it allows me to be flexible.
Rob: Are you calling it a VIP day even though you’re taking the week to deliver or do you have a special name for this?
Eman: It’s called a VIP day. Now, this is something I’ve been thinking about. It’s called a VIP day at the moment, and the reason is because my clients value the fast turnaround. So, the day aspect of that really appeals to them. However, I have recently been thinking okay, maybe, I feel like I could raise the price if the positioning changed slightly and I change it to VIP week. So, that’s something that I’ve been thinking about too. However, at the moment I feel like I’m just trying to survive pregnancy and not running a business, so that’s something I’m going to come back to.
Kira: Okay, so just because you know we love to talk about day rates on the podcast, and this is so popular among copywriters. So, you’re charging roughly 4K currently for the day rate. Okay. How many do you typically do per month?
Eman: Max three.
Kira: Okay. And can you give us any tips around how you do sell it? I know you mentioned the speed, like calling it a day actually helps because that quick turnaround is very appealing to your clients. Any other messages for someone who may be struggling to sell similar packages, what they could highlight, what’s worked for you?
Eman: I think really comparing, making a comparison to what my service used to be helps position that and anchor that timeframe. So, I always take the time to explain that what I used to do was work with clients for months and months, and the project, it would take two to three months for me to deliver the same type of project, but now I want to get you this project as quickly as possible, and so it takes a week. Having that kind of framing and that positioning I think wows them into being like, “Okay, yeah, no. I don’t want this to take months and months, let’s just do this in a day.”
Often it really appeals to clients who have been thinking about getting their emails done for a long time, and email has been on their to-do list for a long time. They appreciate the importance of email, they know that this could be a game changer for their business. They’ve just not found the right person or they just not have the time, or the energy to figure out how they’re going to get this done. So, I kind of come in as a relief for them. Like okay, this person is just going to do it, they’re going to take it off my list and it’s going to get done, and by this time next week, I will have it done.
I think also I’m really clear about my expectations in terms of what I need from them and how much time that will take. So, I am really clear about the fact that I’m going to send them a briefing questionnaire that they will need to spend about an hour working through, so they can plan this in advanced, so they know that time expectation. Then I also let them know we’ll have a briefing call that is an hour long as well a few days before the VIP day, again, so they know how much they need to commit to this. But then I let them know after that point they don’t need to do a thing. So, it’s me doing all the work.
Now, I’ve hired people to do VIP days. I would really recommend that copywriters do this if they can. If you offer a VIP day, hire someone else who does a VIP day because it’s so interesting to go through those feelings that your clients go through in terms of the relief of just knowing that someone else is dealing with that thing you really need doing. That is valuable, and you only realize how valuable it is when someone else is doing it for you. On top of that, it’s great to see what they do well and what they don’t do well.
So, small example, but something I think is really important. I hired someone to do a VIP day for me, like it was a sales page design. So, not copywriting, but super interesting to go through that process.
Kira: Recently too. Didn’t you do that recently?
Eman: Yeah, actually this was back in March, but I hired this person again because she was great. But one thing that I found really interesting was it took her a while to ask for a testimonial after the VIP day, at which point I’d lost the whole momentum of the project. I’d lost the excitement even, and also I was busy. I was busy wrapped up in the launch for the thing that she designed for this launch. So, that was really interesting, just because there was a lot of resistance for me around getting that testimonial to her. It actually took me months. Finally got it to her, but just small things like that are really important, because it shows you what the people are doing well and what the people are not doing so well. So, you can already start to differentiate your service. Things like me sending a gift to them when they first sign up. There might be a bit of a wait essentially when they first pay for a project. So, in that timeframe I’m very aware that there’s a wait, and I don’t want them to lose that excitement around working with me. So, I send them a gift at that stage so they can get excited about the gift that they didn’t expect.
So, there’s that, and then small things like adding a 30 minute Q&A call at the end of the project. So, after I’ve delivered the VIP day I walk them through my copy in a Loom video, really detailed. One will usually last between kind of 20 and 30 minutes, kind of explaining my strategy and really just showing them that a lot of thought went into this, in case they’re wondering anything else, because it was done in a day type of thing/week.
So, there’s that, but then after that what I found was it kind of felt like I was handing this thing in and then running, and it didn’t work well for me because it felt like there were some loose ends. So, to tie up those loose ends I offer a 30 minute Q&A call, which is completely optional. They don’t have to jump on the call if they don’t want to, but they always do. Then they get to ask me final questions that they have, because they don’t get any edits. So there are no revision cycles for this, and I found that clients really like just that nice kind of ending to a project, and it’s also an amazing opportunity for me to then say okay, we’ve done this, here’s what you need now, and sell them on the next project.
Kira: The part about if you offer something, hire someone else to do the thing that you offer, especially with VIP days, because you’re right. You get to experience the benefits of it, so you can speak to the benefits more clearly, but you also get to experience the hesitations and some of the fear around it, and even the objections where it’s like oh my gosh, can you really do it well in a day? When I’ve hired people to do it in a day I’ve had great work and I’ve had also not so great work sometimes. So, I can more accurately speak to all those concerns and overcome them because you’ve hired someone to do it. So, I think that’s such a great takeaway for all of us, to make sure we’re hiring people to do the things that we offer so we can learn and improve.
So, this is kind of like two questions combined into one, but I would love to hear what is happening behind the scenes as you’re doing this day, which is really a week, and how you kind of lay it out. What’s happening that nobody sees behind the scenes as you move through this type of package?
Eman: Okay. So, when I was kind of coming up with this VIP day, firstly, I did it and then found that some things didn’t work, so I kind of had to change a few things. So, the first thing is I think people should be really open to just changing whatever doesn’t work and being open to experimenting, because people talk about VIP days and often the conversation is you should keep it all in one day. If you have a briefing call, it should be at the beginning of the day. Or even there’s different types of VIP days where the client has access to your Google Doc all day long. That is just my worst nightmare. That is not something I could ever, ever allow myself to do. So, I know that’s not going to work for me. The VIP kind of briefing call at the beginning of the day wouldn’t work for me because I am someone who needs to think, and ideas come to me the longer I give myself to think, which feels like that should not work for a VIP day, but you can if you create a service that works for you.
So, I intentionally have the VIP day briefing call a few days before the VIP day so that I go through all the questions that I have. At that point I’ve already gone through the questionnaire, so they filled it in. Often they fill it in really well actually. Sometimes the client doesn’t fill it in so well, so I have lots of questions to ask by the time we get on the briefing call. Once we get off that briefing call I now have a few days to think about what the sequence is going to look like, the strategy behind it, and why I might do something. So, even though I’m not generally working on weekends, I give myself the weekend because it’s kind of happening in my brain without me really trying to think about it too much.
Then by Monday, I usually spend Mondays just on business stuff. Maybe finishing off, handing off the delivery of another VIP day from the week before, and then Tuesday is a brand-new VIP day. So, I spend the first few hours just researching. So, the first two to three hours, sometimes even four hours, I’m spending just researching, just doing strategy. Going through all the research that the client has sent across, going through interviews that the client has done.
It was really great actually. One of the last clients I worked with was Interact, the quiz platform, and they did a really good job of having customer interviews. So, I could just go through those recordings and do my own kind of data mining from the recordings they’d already done, so they saved me a huge job, and then spending a couple more hours mining all that stuff and then actually creating the strategy.
I found actually the more time I spend on research, and strategy, and mapping the email sequence, the less time I spend writing. So, it doesn’t take me that long to write emails, especially when I know what I’m doing. So, as long as I know what I’m doing and I’ve got a plan, the writing aspect is a lot faster. So, I like spending the Tuesday on research and strategy because my brain kind of tends to switch off mid afternoon. I just stop at that point and then come back to the writing the next day. So, I’ll do the writing on the Wednesday usually and my brain works really well in the morning, so I just do that spit draft where I get everything out on the page, and then if I feel great about it I’ll edit even on that day. I might edit on the Thursday instead, so I’m really dividing these eight hours across the week.
Then yeah, I’ll send it to my proofreader. She proofs it usually over the weekend and in Monday she’ll get it back to me either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, at which point I’m kind of just packaging everything up. I’m recording the Loom video that is going through all the strategy and the work that I’ve done so the client understands what I’ve done. I am getting the emails ready so that when the proofreaders sends me the proofread work I can just link to the Google Doc and I can hit send.
Kira: What a great process. I think should I ever adopt the VIP day model, I’m going to take the whole, yeah, the whole weekly process. I think it’s awesome. So, Eman, I have some questions about how you are connecting with clients today. Do people just find you because you’re so well known now or are you doing any kind of strategic networking, reaching out to clients? What does that look like?
Eman: No, I do a whole load of marketing. So, I am definitely … I still don’t feel like I feel confident enough to kind of just sit back and have people come to me. I’m very much kind of focused on marketing. So, a few months ago I hired a social media manager to help me with my Instagram, because I think I landed like a 6,000 pound project on Instagram. I remember thinking okay, well, I did that with no strategy and no kind of real thought around how I’m doing this whole Instagram, so maybe I need to hire someone to help me figure this out, because what could I do if I actually had a strategy? So, that really helped me hire someone.
So, she now is great because she comes up. We have a strategy call at the beginning of every month. I tell her what my kind of priorities are, what I want to sell this month, what I want to focus on, and then she comes up with a strategy. So, she tries to write some of the posts but she’s still not quite got my voice. So, I tend to write most of the posts and then she does all the designs and stuff and then schedules and posts. So, Instagram is a big platform for me that I work really hard on because a lot of my ideal clients are there.
Also, other copywriters who want to learn from me and buy some kind of product for me. So, I have a beginner online copywriting course called Be Your Own Copywriter that I actually created for business owners, but copywriters ended up buying, which was not something that I saw coming but is also great, and I’ve got a few kind of digital products in the works for copywriters because I have a big following of copywriters on Instagram. I spend a lot of time on my Instagram stories, so I just have a lot of fun there where I think people really kind of get to know me and see the behind the scenes of my life and business, which I think people enjoy.
So, Instagram is big for me, and I moved kind of from LinkedIn to Instagram. Once I looked at the data, because I realized LinkedIn wasn’t working as well as I thought it was. I would get so many inquiries from LinkedIn. When I actually looked at the data to see how many of those turned into paying clients, it wasn’t a lot. So, it felt like a time suck, and I know LinkedIn is great and it can work for a lot of people, but it wasn’t working in the way that I wanted it to work for me. So, I moved to Instagram.
Instagram has also been great for getting me on podcasts and invited to speaker online summits. So, in just this year, from kind of January to now, I’ve been invited to speak at six summits. I said yes to four, no to two, and I’ve been on more podcasts than I can even count at this point just this year, to the point where it’s kind of like okay, I probably just need to be a bit more strategic now around the podcasts that I say yes to. So, there is a lot of marketing work there going on, but the majority of my clients still come from word of mouth referrals, which is brilliant. So, I focus a lot on getting testimonials from my clients, written testimonials and video testimonials as well, asking for referrals, and also I work really hard on just being the strategist in their project and not relying on them to tell me what they might need, but me telling them what they need.
So, I just finished working on an email campaign with one client. Actually, I was doing a bunch of welcome sequences for her, and I saw because of the industry that she’s in that she really should have an email campaign for this holiday that was coming up. So, I pitched her the email campaign for the holiday and she said, “Yeah, let’s work on that right now.” So, we actually paused the welcome sequence project. We did the email campaign project for this holiday. I delivered that, finished the welcome sequence project, delivered that, and then also had a bunch of recommendations for her other campaigns that she now needs. So, we’ve got a call tomorrow about these four more promo campaigns that she really does need and now it’s just about seeing which ones hopefully she’ll hire me to do.
Kira: And will you fit that type of project into the day rate package? Is that how-
Eman: So, this is an interesting one, because back in December is when this particular client agreed to work with me on these welcome sequences, right? So, I wasn’t doing VIP days then. I had no intention of doing VIP days. This was something that just kind of came to me and felt really right, and so I’ve been working on it since January. But in December I had booked myself out until the end of April with these kind of long-term projects that I really didn’t love. So, what was interesting was that I had to go back and say to this client, “Hey, I don’t work like this anymore. I now do VIP days, and this is how they work.” But actually she was really interested because she’d been in that process of having to wait for me to finish up all the projects with another client before I could even start working on hers, and then hers taking a couple months as well. So, she was really attracted to the idea of just getting the project done really quickly. She loves VIP days, and so hopefully she’ll hire me for a good few more.
Kira: And I don’t think we asked you, but how many emails can you fit into that VIP package? Is there a certain number you promise or do you not promise a number?
Eman: Good question. I don’t promise a number anymore because I found when I was promising a number, which was generally kind of five to seven, I would spend my time trying to make sure that I hit that number instead of just doing what the sequence needed me to do. So, the thought process became oh no, I promised the client this number of emails, I need to do it, as opposed to we really need this number of emails, or we don’t need so many emails.
So, now I always say to the client before they can ask me, “How many emails will I get?” I let them know I don’t promise a number of emails because I will write as many emails as you need. So, you’ll get exactly what the sequence requires, and I’ll always walk you through that and explain why the sequence needed X number of emails. But just so that the copywriters listening know, I think the most I’ve written is … Was it nine or 10? To be honest, it took me a little bit longer than I wanted it to, so that was a good lesson in me just being really aware of the amount of time that I have. If a client comes to me and it’s a more complicated sequence, like often if it’s an onboarding sequence there is more work that needs to go into it. I’m also open to raising my rates a little bit for that particular client and saying okay, this is what I’m willing to do it for.
Kira: Okay. We’re talking about your packages, and the audit, and this VIP day/week. There is definitely a cap to it, right? How many you can fit into your schedule before you just tap out. How are you looking at growing your business, scaling your business? What is that strategy that you’re thinking about as you think about growth? I know you’ve mentioned a couple products that you’ve created or you’re creating. Yeah, just how are you approaching growth at this stage in your business?
Eman: So yeah, the first one is the copywriting course that is really for beginners and business owners who want to learn how to write their own copy because they don’t have the budget to hire a copywriter. So that’s called Be Your Own Copywriter, and again, the accidental result of that was 50% of the people that join tend to be beginner copywriters, which was amazing to see, but I just didn’t expect that to happen. That’s been a real process because I definitely created and released that course earlier than I should have looking back now, but I was really ambitious when I first started. So, I think like a year in I’d started doing face-to-face workshops for Lloyds Bank, which is a big bank here in the UK, and people started asking me for an online version because they couldn’t make it to the face-to-face workshop at Lloyds Bank. So, I created one, and that felt like, when I look back I think, oh, I had a lot of confidence to create an online course when I hadn’t actually had that much copywriting experience at that point. But I think it was the fact that people were asking for it, which made me feel like okay, well, they want it. But I remember my first launch I did not make very much at all, very little. I think a handful of people signed up.
Then I launched it again a year later, more people joined. So, that kind of gave me the confidence to launch it a bit more frequently, because I realized that I’ve been in business for a couple years now and I do marketing very differently as well. So, I feel like maybe this could go better if I actually just launch it a few more times a year. So, I launched it again in March and made five figures from it, which is amazing. I have quite a small email list as well. So, my email list at that point was just under a 1,000 and I really targeted it, I really launched it at my list and also my Instagram. So, I was really happy with that result.
Now what I’m doing is really focusing on how I can help other copywriters. So, what can I do to support other copywriters? That started off with borrow my brain phone calls, like 30 minute to 60 minute phone calls, which was really great and amazing because I got to speak so closely to the copywriters that would probably buy something from me and figure out what their struggles are and where they want to be. Now actually I am just about to launch a 10 week mastermind for copywriters who want to learn more about going from order taker freelancer to strategist, business boss, and really someone who is on top of their copywriting business and has a kind of strategic brain and a very business focused kind of outlook than freelancer who is just trying to find the next job.
So, by the time this launches, the mastermind will have launched, so that’s exciting. It launches in about … I want to do a soft launch in about a week from now where I send personal invites to people that I have spoken to directly or who’ve shown a real interest in it, and then I’ll do a more public launch a week later. Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I’m keeping it really small, so it’ll be hopefully 15 copywriters, and they’ll go through a live experience with me where it includes a Slack channel, coaching, ask me anything biweekly calls. So, really like a community where we can really get to know each other and support one another on top of core trainings that I release every two weeks.
There’ll also be a lower tier as well. That offers the core training and one bonus training where people who don’t have the budget to join the live experience can join that recorded experience and still get those trainings. This has been a big thing that’s been on my mind, because I’m going on maternity leave in a couple of months, in a few months. So, I really had to think about how I am going to make money while I am away.
So, I mean, I love email, but I think I love being a business owner even more. So, just having the opportunity to create things and to get really creative, and to try things, and for it to not work, and then to optimize it and then for it to work. It’s just been so fun, and so I’m sure I’ll have a lot of lessons to come back to you with after this mastermind launch, but I’m really excited to see, yeah, who it appeals to, and who joins, and how it goes. Then turn it into an evergreen product while I’m away on maternity.
Rob: So, this is just a quick question, and maybe this is changing as your business changes, but what percentage of your income has come from the course versus the one-on-one work with clients? Obviously as you launch your mastermind that’s going to change as well, but how does that break down for your business right now?
Eman: Probably about 10% has come from course launches. So, a smallish figure. Most of my income comes from one-to-one client work, but I’m hoping that with the launch of this mastermind yeah, that will hopefully change, and with me moving more to having really intentional digital products that are available evergreen as well, I’m hoping that’ll increase.
Kira: All right. So, I know we’re at the end of our time together. I think we could just continue chatting, but we will have to bring you back once you have more lessons to share from launching the mastermind and your other evergreen products. Thank you so much for sharing and giving us your time, and really diving deep into day rates too, which is what we receive so many questions about. We really appreciate you speaking at our event this year and also being on the podcast.
Eman: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Rob: Okay, so let’s wrap up with just a couple more things that jumped out to me as I’m listening to Eman talk about her business. First, she went way in depth on her VIP days, or really what she’s doing is a VIP week, taking a lot of time to think through the process. One of the things that I really dislike about VIP days is it’s the timeframe is so compressed that to me it feels like you don’t get the deep level strategic thinking. You’re focused on delivering a lot of stuff, so that the client feels like they’re getting value out of the six hours or the eight hours that you’re selling them, but Eman’s approach to this, by taking an entire week with a kickoff call and then sprinkling some of those VIP hours over a couple of days gives her more time to, again, think about the project, bring strategy into what she’s doing, and I really like that approach. If you’re doing VIP days, it might be worth considering mimicking a little of the stuff that Eman is doing, as you set up your own VIP days or VIP weeks, as it is.
Then, as she does these VIP days, she’s coming in to solve problems for her clients. We hinted at that earlier. She’s talking about this all through the interview, but looking for opportunities that your client doesn’t necessarily see in their business, whether that’s on the first project that you’re working with them on, or as you continue working with them. Are there other things that should be done that they simply can’t see or they maybe even they know they have this need, but they can’t get it done because they don’t have time, they don’t have the money, they don’t have the resources to get it done, and if you can come in and help them, come in as the relief for that problem, it just changes that client relationship and makes you so much more useful as a resource for them. You become a partner, you become part of the team rather than a vendor or a copywriter that they’re just hiring for some web copy, or for some emails or whatever, because again, you’re looking for the problems in their business that they can’t solve themselves and you’re figuring out how to do that for them. That’s really what the role of the copywriter is, and the more we do that was copywriters, the more valuable we become for our clients.
Okay, so I want to thank Eman Ismail for joining Kira and I to talk about her business, opening up about how she structures her work and her prices. If you want to connect with Eman or find out more about working with her go to inkhouse.org.uk. That’s InkHouse, I-N-K-H-O-U-S-E.O-R-G.uk. And if you want to hear what Eman shared at TCC(N)IRL, about how she went from being completely unknown to being a copywriter who the prospects are talking about her all the time, check out the link in the show notes where you can get access to Eman’s presentation.
That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. Our intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter David Muntner. If you enjoyed what you’re heard, please visit Apple Podcasts, leave a review of the show. We love hearing what you think about the show, and every time I see a new review get posted, yeah, it’s a little bit nice for the ego, but it’s also nice to hear what you like about what Kira and I bring to you every day. So, if you have a moment and can do that today, or some time this week, let us know. And if you’re ready to invest in yourself and your copywriting business, finally start achieving your goals or put your business on steroids and grow faster than you have before, visit copywriterthinktank.com. We’re adding a few new members each month, and this month it might be you. So, if you visit copywriterthinktank.com you can find out more there. Thanks for listening. We will see you next week.