For the 58th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira Hug and Rob Marsh sit down to talk with financial copywriter, Jake Hoffberg about all kinds of things related to writing copy in the financial niche, including:
• his first exposure to direct response and how he got into internet marketing
• how he was rejected by every division of Agora but one before he landed his first project
• the terrible cold email pitch template he used (we share it, don’t use it)
• his contrarian “I want to make money” path to copywriting
• the kinds of projects he willingly took on just to get started
• how he leveraged his new relationships into more jobs and more clients
• the real value that copywriters provide their clients (it’s not writing copy)
• the process for pitching new ideas and getting the next project, and
• how to double your income in 6 months
Plus we also asked for his thoughts about getting royalties, which clients will pay them, and how to structure royalties the right way and he shared the advice he give other writers about how to get into financial copywriting… hint: don’t think you should start at the top. All that and more is in this money-packed episode (not literally). To hear it all, click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Sale of a Lifetime
Freelance Financial Copywriter Group
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.
Rob: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes, and their habits, then steal and idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I do every week at the Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the Club for episode 58, as we chat with financial copywriter Jake Hoffberg about his path to becoming a copywriter and choosing the financial niche, writing long-form sales pages and VSLs, what a new writer should do today to break into financial copywriting, and advertising to the affluent.
Rob: Welcome, Jake!
Jake: Thank you for having me!
Kira: Yeah, it’s great to have you here.
Rob: We’re excited to learn a little bit more about you and your niche and how it all came about, which is probably a good place to start. Let’s talk about your story and how you became a copywriter.
Jake: Sure. So, I guess the story probably actually starts in 2008… 2009… and I had a copy of Eban Pagan’s Get Altitude Training—I forget how I got it, but I did—and that was really my first exposure to direct response. This whole world of people that were making money on the internet and running these virtual businesses and putting boards together and getting paid and I just—I thought that was fascinating. I was in direct sales at the time and I was knocking on doors and doing it the hard way and man, it was just so awesome sounding. So I probably spent the next five, six, seven years on and off trying to get into internet marketing and figure out how to run an info-product business and kinda went down that rabbit hole for a long time and tried a lot of things that did not work over the years.
This is all while I was doing sales, and switched sales jobs a couple times, and think it was two years ago—something like that—it was July of 2015—I was running a consulting business and I had that moment that everyone has at some point in their life where they’re just like, F it! I’m done with this! I’m tired of this crap! And I had a not so friendly conversation with my boss, who was my only client at the time and I was making good money and I basically fired myself after that conversation. I had some cash saved away and I was like, all right! I’ll figure something out and I don’t want to go back and do sales; I don’t want to get a 9-5 job or do any of that stuff so I just need to figure this stuff out.
I knew firsthand how hard it was just to run a business and how hard it was to try and build websites and all this other stuff, and so somewhere along the way it just clicked where, okay… I can sell, and it’s made me basically employable for every company ever because I can do that, so if I can just figure out just the sales part on the internet, and I can just learn that, I can just get paid to do that, and I don’t have to mess around with all this website building or any of this nonsense. I can just start there. That was how I figured out that copywriting was a real thing. That there are people that make lots of money and all they do is write copy and they don’t do anything else. I thought, that sounds really good! Let’s try that!
You know, I bought all the courses and read all the books and did all the things and after a couple of months of doing that… I was like all right. I just want to make money! So where is that? And it was financial. That’s where everyone said it was—in the financial niche. And so I was like, all right! I’m just gonna do that. It was SUPER duper hard getting started—I knew nothing about finance. I could work an excel spreadsheet kind of okay and that was about as good as my finance skills were.
But I was determined to make this happen! There wasn’t really another option for me at this point. So, I got a bunch of books on investing and started reading the financial news and was going through whatever swipe files of things and I kept seeing these sales letters from Agora and all these other big financial publishers and so at one point I was like, I wonder if they’re hiring copywriters? They probably are. I kept hearing about how much money these people were making and so I basically just cold called Agora—like all the franchises inside of Agora, there’s probably about twenty of them, Motley Fool, all the big names, with no experience, no portfolio, I had never written copy. I think I had had like, one other fifty dollar job I got off of a job board, it was something like that, right?
And I went from that to somehow managing to convince Agora to hire me, freelance, and remote, which is apparently not a thing that happens ever…
Rob: So wait so wait. You had not written any other copy and you got hired by Agora just from a cold pitch.
Rob: Wow, crazy.
Jake: So, that’s what happened. Essentially what wound up happening was I asked if they needed speck work and basically everyone said no and one person was like, yeah! We could use some stuff so they said, can you write advertorials? And I was like, yeah! I totally can! No… never written one. So I said, can you send me an example? So they sent me one; I wrote I think four things and they liked some of them and they were like yeah, we see some potential, and I basically just bugged them and sent them new ideas and like, copyedited pages and found spelling errors and I just was like a dog with a bone. I just wouldn’t let it go. And I think I just wore them down.
Kira: They’re like, this guy Jake! Gosh! Just say yes!
Jake: After two months of basically just like working for free and sending them all kinds of stuff, they were like alright, I’ll pay you for real. And then I got a contract and that was literally how I started freelancing. I just didn’t give up and I was super persistent and that was how I got hired.
Kira: There’s a lot here; I know we both want to unpack everything you just said. So, for specifics, when did you start pitching Agora? You said two years ago? Or is this already a year ago?
Jake: So, it would’ve been like, December 2015—that was when I was like, alright, I’m gonna do financial. And then I started to cold email and cold call—just doing whatever I could do to talk to someone and then in January was when it kinda took about 30 days for them to go from, yeah we could use some stuff! Because you know how that is, right? They’re super busy and it’s not personal, they just don’t get back to you because they have other stuff to do.
Rob: Right, I mean, you’re not even on their radar; I mean, you’re barely there, right?
Jake: Right. So January or February was just comprised of me trying to hustle and stuff and then March was when I started to actually get checks in the mail from Agora.
Kira: Okay, so once you realized, “I want to go into financial”, and you find Agora and you know you want to work with Agora, what did it look like when you jumped into this pitching process? To even get the right list of names? What did you have to do behind the scenes to make this happen? There are so many questions! What did you say in that pitch email? I have like five other questions, so that’s it for now.
Jake: it’s gonna be really dumb and really simple, what I’m going to say, which is why most people just won’t do it… so, what I do because that’s how I did well in sales. I typed in Agora or whatever, and if you work hard enough you kinda know who’s got a publishing company- you just kinda search for them. And I looked up like, publisher, marketing director, anything that looks like that. I also reached out to people that were copywriters at those franchises as well, just to try and you know, work it that way. I think this was the email:
I’m a direct response copywriter. Do you hire freelancers?
And that was the email.
Rob: It hardly even feels like a pitch!
Jake: Some people responded and I got the, “We don’t really but if you’re super good” kind of thing. “We only hire in-house”—which is really code word for, we’d like to hire in-house but we’ll take it where we can get it… which I didn’t realize until later. Some people would respond and say yes, kind of, but you need to be good, but just one person was like yeah, we do, and then I was like, great, can I do some stuff on set for you so you can try me out? And then they were like sure! Or, no! We’re not interested in that.
That’s it! That’s really all there was to it. Oh, and then lots of rejection in the middle.
Kira: How much rejection?
Jake: I’m not exaggerating when I say I called every single franchise. All of them. And one said yes. And that was just in Agora. I tried calling the VIP hotline numbers from the order forms to see if I could get someone on the phone that way, I emailed them several times; yeah, it took some effort!
Rob: I think that’s actually really important, though, because a lot of times we talk about hey, you need to go out and cold pitch the clients that you want, so we’ll send an email and when we don’t hear back, maybe we send a second email, but there’s no follow up, you know, or keep going; you move on to the next person, right? And here you’re saying, look, I want to work for Agora, and you tried every single person and you’re going after it for what sounds like a month, maybe even longer, just hammering them. I want to work for you, I want to work for you; whatever that is.
Kira: And there was a little bit of like, fake it till you make it, right? In here? When they’re like have you done this? And you said, sure I’ve done this. So basically you created copy to show them that you have some skills and then they allowed you to take on more and more until finally, you were in the door. That’s what it sounds like, right?
Jake: Yeah, basically. This isn’t really all that complicated, it just takes work.
Kira: Yeah, it’s the key ingredient.
Jake: Yes. That one thing people don’t want to hear. It takes work. But it’s true.
Rob: So when you were talking about your career before you became a copywriter and the focus on door to door sales and selling, how much of that translates to what you do today as a copywriter? How much does that impact what you write? Are you using the same tricks, whatever that is in your copy?
Jake: Sure. I think it’s impossible for me to give any sort of real, quantitative “how much did this really help me”. The only thing I can really say is I don’t care what you’re doing: you need to learn how to sell. Did it help me have confidence that I can go win jobs? 100%. I just had so much experience being in front of people and asking them for money—I’m just cool with that part. I feel like I did the opposite of most people who want to write for a living did, where they’re like “I want to be a writer!” and then they have to do the whole business thing. I’m just like, “I want to make money! Maybe you can do that with writing!”
I started on the other side. I came in a as a salesman, for years, it’s just what I did, so I was very, very comfortable with the deal-making side of this and understanding that you have to think about long-term client value and relationship. And there’s a lot of stuff I did in my other career where you know, didn’t really make a lot of money on the front end, but I made a lot of money on the back. I just understood how that worked. And yeah, it did also help that if you sold stuff to people face to face, you kinda understood how persuasion works, totally! But there’s just no getting around learning how to structure it in writing, because there are a lot of things you can’t do in writing that you can do face to face that are easier.
Kira: I would like to jump back into the contract you had with Agora and that first contract. What did that look like or include, for people who are curious about that?
Jake: This is going to sound completely backwards, as well. How I pitched it, which again isn’t what people were thinking—and also keep in mind that I had money saved away and my wife was working, so I didn’t need to make money right now so I could afford to take my time—when I pitched them, I was pretty up front that I was a new writer but I understood a lot of stuff. Mostly what I really was looking for was less about making money on the front end and it was really more about having mentorship and training and so I was willing to trade on the front. It was kind of like, I don’t really care what you pay me—I mean, pay me, but what I care about is whether someone will be here to teach me how to write and how to do well for you. So that’s kind of where it started. It was focused on knowing I wanted to be there for a while and I wanted to learn how to do that. Did that help? I have no idea; I think it did. And strangely enough, originally they offered me a $2,000/month retainer to basically work like 20 hours a week and I actually ended up turning that down and I said, just pay me for the work that I do, instead.
Rob: So what did that look like? Was that hourly or by project? How much?
Jake: We came up with a price grid. I can’t tell you how much I got paid but it wasn’t a lot. It wasn’t a lot but it was emails, advertorials; we’re talking like one hundred would be generous. So I wasn’t getting paid a lot, but you know, there were opportunities for royalties in some of these things, and there were some other bigger projects that I wound up getting to do, but I just started on some emails, which were horrible when I started. I got okay with those. And then did some other advertorials as well, did some space ads, and then my first exciting project was a renewal letter, which was a three email sequence, and then I did a two page print renewal letter after that. I was making a couple grand per month, maybe, I think my first month I made probably $300, and then kind of got bigger after that. By month three, I got to do a free book plus shipping offer and that was a several thousand dollar job that they paid me for, generously. I was just kind of like, what are you going to pay me for it? And they said, we’ll pay you this much! And I was like that’s way more than I thought, so sweet! I’ll take it! And then it just went on from there. I got some royalty checks coming in after that. I started getting paid $0, initially, and then maybe a couple hundred, and then six months down the road, I was making $10,000 a month.
Rob: Wow, so how did you leverage that relationship then, with Agora, into more jobs and more clients?
Jake: Sure, so the nice part about the way that I did it is that I specifically did it this way because in sales, having power names is super important, then once you have that customer on your sheet, you can say well, who else does business with you? Oh, this guy does. Alright! That sounds good! So, as soon as I tell people they’re like, yeah great, but who else do you work with? “Agora.” Oh okay!
Kira: No big deal.
Jake: You can write with us now. We’ll try you out. And that really, it just sounds so simple, but I really don’t even have to sell people anything. They just sorta take it at face value that I know what I’m doing, even if I don’t! Which is, you know, whatever. Interestingly enough, though, I’ve actually gone in the other direction. So, I did take some other clients, I work with Modern Economics. Highland—that one I actually just went to their investment conference and just met them in person and just pitched them at the conference and they hired me. I think copywriters eventually come to this realization, that it’s way easier just to get paid a lot more money from one or two clients and just get royalties attached to it so that you have a high upside than it is to go have like, four, five, six clients and constantly having to relearn new things from new projects. So, I thought I was gonna like go with this massive agency or whatever, and then I started picking up new clients and I was like, this is awful! These people are terrible! I hate these clients. I didn’t realize how good I had it over here with Dent Research, so I kind of humbly came back and I was like, so! How about I just work for you? You’re my one client and all… I’ll do my other side gig. I’d train copywriters and do that. Just do my one client, pay attention to, and just set this up.
That was actually how that wound up happening after my first year and I realized that more clients is more problems.
Kira: We have to back up a bit because you said you went from $0 and then you kind of skipped over some parts and then you said I got to $10k per month… I don’t know how many months it took you to get there; I imagine not many. So, I’m wondering, how did you jump so quickly? I mean, granted, yes. You’re in financial copywriting, we know it pays well, but it seems like you were taking whatever they were giving you and then you made your way up. Is it just that they started to see your value, you were improving, and then Agora started paying you more? What did that look like in that in between stage?
Jake: A couple things happened. So, once I did that first free book push and offer, and that meant I was doing—it was a ten page sales letter and order form—I started to get a couple more of those, that type of format, I had some other clients that I wound up pitching some jobs to so that kind of supplemented some of that. Royalties started showing up, so that helped a lot.
I think what freelancers miss is that your real value that you have to pitch your client some ideas and jobs at some point. We do it all the time, especially in finance. I think most writers have this fantasy that they’re just going to get told what to do, that they’re just going to be like an employee, that their job’s going to be super easy, when really, it’s like my job is to come up with new ideas. All the time. And most of them aren’t good or don’t work—that’s how that goes. I think at one point, on a weekly basis I was pitching them on new ideas, all the time. And a bunch of those ideas didn’t work, some of them weren’t either writers, which was fine, and really it was just that like, constant, constant pitching of I want to make you guys more money, here’s some ideas. Let’s do something. That’s really what happened. Are there some specifics? Sure, like I got flown out to Baltimore and I was part of some meetings and there were some retainer things, I was part of some projects, but it really just came down to that. I just pitched them all the time. I still do!
And I just pitched them all the time on, here’s some ideas and give it a shot and they were like, alright sweet! let’s do that! And then I got paid.
Rob: So the idea of pitching… is this informal or like, you have an idea so you just send off an email or is there a call set up? How do you pitch the ideas to your clients?
Jake: It works a little bit differently now that I’m more part of the copy team, but yeah in the beginning… I think most people don’t appreciate just how much effort goes into like, staying at the top of your game. And really in any niche, but especially financial. So, I’m always spending you know, 20 hours a week just reading stuff. And then, yeah! I’d send them off an email and be like hey, this was in the news, here’s an idea for a new advertorial. Do you want to do it? And they’d be like yeah, write it! Or I’d be like hey I got an idea for this—do you need more space ads for this thing? Hey, here—I’ve got this new idea—do you want to do it?
Make it easy. It’s a lot easier than saying, hey do you have work you need done? And the answer is, yeah, they do, but that’s a different story. It’s a whole different thing when you come to them and you say, here’s new fresh ideas—do you like them or do you not like them? And then the publisher or copy chief can just say yes. Do that.
Rob: Right. So again, let’s back up just a little bit. You’ve mentioned royalties a few times and I think for a lot of copywriters, royalties are sort of this you know, golden—bucket of gold at the end of the rainbow or the golden chalice that we get for having a great career and eventually you get there, but obviously you started with royalties very early in your career. How is the typical royalty structured for you, and what you do? And just tell us about what that looks like?
Jake: So, again, I can’t use specific numbers but I can give you some ideas as to how this works, at least the financial industry. Basically, we just gotta realize that if you’re making your client money, you should be entitled to the upside. Maybe that’s just me being a salesperson. But, that’s how I feel about it.
Rob: Yeah, I’m not gonna argue.
Jake: I think that’s a key mentality here, where it’s like, you know, again—I’m not pitching people on writing blog posts, or content marketing, or any of these other kind of floppy things and not to downplay or diminish any one’s kind of writing style they do, but you know, if you want to make real money as a copywriter, you need to understand that you can’t get paid more than the value that you create for your clients. That math doesn’t work for anyone. You make your clients more money, you can always structure that deal. I think people are short-sighted in that they opt for short term guaranteed pay over long-term speculative pay, which can be a bad move depending on who your client is. You know, you got a company like Agora, who’s got a 30+ track record of paying out royalties and paying well for a copywriter, it’s a pretty safe bet. So number one—if you want royalties, it’s substantially easier just go to right for a company who’s already used to paying royalties. There’s no haggling. Well, you’ll haggle about the price—how much you’re gonna get, but it’s super, super hard to pitch a small business owner on the idea of giving you royalties. They’re just not going to do it.
Jake: More importantly, for you to make that worth it for either of you, the level of good you have to be is substantial. Right? Let’s say you’ve got a real solid media buyer—they really understand how to scale and paying—they have a gigantic email list, it’s just not happening. They don’t have the cash flow to make that work. I think where people get caught up is trying to squeeze blood from stone, they’re hoping that somehow this small seven figure business owner is going to somehow decide that yeah, you know what? We’re gonna give you a 10% royalty on this and you’ll make a million dollars off this next thing. It’s just not going to happen. So part of that is just getting in front of bigger clients, which we could talk the whole podcast about. The other thing is just asking for them. And I think this is really where sales ability, and more specifically, confidence. You have to ask! And if you’re not asking for them, you’re probably not going to get them. So the only thing I do not get paid royalty on is emails. If we’re just sending rif letters—by the way, if people don’t know what rif letters are, we’ll send out our daily editorial stuff, so all the editors will send out their commentary on financial market and whatever, and then we’ll have specific marketing driven emails. It’ll be 200-300 words, where we just want them to click and then go over to the via sales letter, so that is the only thing I do not make a royalty off of. But it’s a renewal, which is basically, we want someone who is subscribed to one of our products to re-up their subscription, if it’s front-end acquisition, for driving cold traffic, if they’re buying something I get paid off that, if it’s a backend product, so one of our more expensive stuff, and I write a commercial for that, I get paid off that; I’ll get paid off the advertorial, for how well that converts. I see these people are like, yeah, we charge like a thousand dollars for an advertorial, I think that’s crazy! Like, good for you for getting paid that, but I get paid way less than that up front but I have royalties attached to all those advertorials because one really, really good page could get you a lot more than that in royalties.
Kira: I know you can’t share exact numbers, but in general, what is a good structure for a royalty? What should we be looking for, especially if we’re approaching a royalty agreement for the first time, what is a good structure to start with?
Jake: Sure, so here’s a framework that’s helpful, that’ll make you sound like you know what you’re doing…
Kira: Yeah, that’s what we want.
Jake: So, typically how we want to think about our royalty deals is front-end versus back-end. So front-end is going to be acquiring a new customer, which is where, typically, the best royalties are going to come from, because if you can bring in new customers to a business, you have a lot of value to your customer. And then the back-end is going to be, so what happens when they buy that first thing? We want them to buy a second, third, and fourth thing and you want to get paid on that. So with a big direct-response marketing company, like Agora, who really understands how to monetize those things, they are able to pay you more for all this stuff because they know what they’re doing. So what’ll typically happen is, for me, I get paid a fixed dollar per new lead that comes into the file. So when you hear about these campaigns—let’s say I write a package and you know, we run it and we bring in 10,000 new subscribers—paid subscribers—into the file. So it doesn’t matter if that product is $49, $79, $129—whatever—we’re going to price that product so that it’s easier to get a new subscriber. And, we’re typically going to do it at a loss, by the way. We’re typically going to bring in new customers at 80%, so for every $100 that we spend on traffic, we’ll get $80 in front-end revenue. And I don’t want to get too into leads on here, but you need to understand that we lose money on the front to acquire the subscriber, and then make it up on the back.
Rob: Right, that’s because the funnels are all engineered to sell a second and third product and that’s really where the money’s made.
Jake: Yeah, exactly. So what’ll happen is I’ll get paid $1 per name that comes in, so let’s just do the math. Let’s say it’s bringing in 10,000 names, so if I’m getting paid a dollar per name, that’s $10,000. If you’re getting paid $2, that’s $20,000. Do the math. It gets pretty big, depending on what your thing is. And then with the advertorial—let’s say someone else writes the thing and I’m running the advertorial—I’ll get paid not nearly as much but I will get paid in some amount per name that comes through that advertorial. So, that’s how I would structure that there, just a flat fee for every new name that comes in from the top. And then it’ll be a percentage on the back. 3-5% is pretty normal for the backend, because again, we’re spending a lot of money on the acquisition, but you know when you have a multi-thousand dollar product, 3-5% adds up pretty quickly.
Kira: And you aren’t taking anything on the front end, just as the base, just like hey, $5,000 just to start for your time, and then royalty, or is it $0 up front and then just purely royalty?
Jake: Yeah, so at this point, my deal is different. I just have a retainer, so it just made that easier, but for a while yeah… well, I actually did it strangely. So, I didn’t ever mess around with this half up front half afterward—it just seemed like too much counting, so what I did was I just sent them an invoice at the end of the month and they just paid me in full for whatever I did. And that worked out well for me. I don’t know if I’d recommend that, it’s probably not the best strategy, but I figured this is a legit company and they won’t fail to pay me, but yeah. I have a writing fee, so at the end of the month it’s here’s the work I did, here’s the fee, and they just pay it for me, and then at that point it was 2x per year that I would get royalties for everything and now I’m quarterly.
Rob: Okay, so let’s change directions just a little bit and talk about some of the work that you’ve done that you’re most proud of and why it was so successful and what you did to make it so successful.
Jake: Alright, so I’ll say something that’s going to be slightly surprising. Well, maybe not, but I found it’s best. I had never written a via sales letter, some 45 minute thing, I’ve never done a fifty page package, I’ve never done really long format stuff. I’ve done a webinar funnel for like an internet marketing person before but I don’t think that really counts because it’s not real sales edit, but I just want to put this on the table that I made $145,000 in my first year as a copywriter not writing any long-form copy. So, the longest thing that I wrote were offers, and that was a 10-pager. And really, the reason why I did well was because of royalties and I wrote stuff that worked. And I think the thing that I was the most proud of and the thing that worked the best, was, so I write for Dent Research, so Harry Dent is our guy—a relatively well known person in the financial space. He’s been around. His first book was like in 1989; he was very popular for several decades. So, he had a new book that came out last year called Sale of a Lifetime and I wrote the book promo for that and probably wrote it in two weeks, front to back, and we still run it today. And that one promotion that I’ve done, that was ten pages long, has been the most successful. I’d say we brought in somewhere in the multiple tens of thousands of millions to the list with that one promotion and this one is still repurposed and we use it for some other stuff. So, that’s been cool. I’ve enjoyed that. That’s pretty cool, I think. The other coolest part is getting to be part of a copy team now, it’s really cool, and getting to go up to Baltimore—we go every two months now, something like that, for creative meetings, and to go to the franchise meetings, hang out with the team unit and editors, and, I don’t know. It just… it feels cool. It feels fun to…to feel like I’m part of like a really, like, legit marketing team, with super-sharp people and all that. So that’s fun, yeah.
Kira: I’d love to hear, you mentioned that you had no background in finance; I believe that’s what you said. And, for someone who might be listening who, you know, like me who does not have a background in finance, but is curious and has wondered, “well maybe I can do this too”, and likes a challenge…what would you say to someone who wants to jump into it or just test it and see if it’s a good fit?
Jake: Sure. So, we’ll have like a “hashtag” no plug here: I do run a mastermind program and this is the strategy that I teach: I just tell people to do it the way I did it, through short-form copy. And again, I think that it’s unfortunate how much weight people put on packages in the copywriting world. And yeah, right, do long-form promos and BSLs and all those things—are—do those bring in a lot of money? They totally do, but, I just think it’s so unrealistic for a new writer to go from “I’m not all that experienced”, to writing like a forty-five page package. It just seems like you’re setting yourself up for failure. I just don’t get franchises that, like really, that’s what they want: they want people to write packages when there’s just so much other work in the funnel that needs to get done, that would be substantially lower-risk for the client to try out on, then to give you ten, twenty thousand dollars to write some package at tops and then spend, you know, a hundred thousand dollars to bring traffic to it.
So, it’s just so much easier just like, to write emails, or write editorials—right?—some space ads. Just get familiar with kind of the tone and style of the franchise, and get some repetitions at just trying out new ideas, and hooks, and angles. Just really kinda getting your feet wet with the reality, which is, most of this job is research and knowing, like, what’s happening right now.
The writing part is actually kinda easy—which I don’t know if that’s like a sacred cow or anything like that—but the hard part is nailing your idea. It’s having a really compelling and exciting idea. And, it’s really, it’s getting your headline and lead. I’d say probably 80% of it is probably like your first five sentences of the sales letter. Nailing your headline, with having this exciting idea, and getting just that opening lead portion down. And, you know, if you can’t do that, it doesn’t really matter, but if you can, the rest of—like, it doesn’t matter what you’re writing, it kind of writes itself. And, really the way that you get, you know, repetitious doing that is ad-copy. Like that’s where you get good at writing: alright, I got three hundred characters to write something exciting, what do I do? Or, you know I need to do this in two hundred words. How do I move this along really fast? And get the pacing and tone right, and that’s how I think. It’s the easiest way to start in really any niche is, you just do that. So hopefully that answers your question.
Kira: Yeah, you know, it does, yeah.
Rob: So Jake, on your website, which we’ll link to in the show notes, you make a promise that, you know, readers are only six months away from doubling their income. If I want to double my income, what are the steps I need to be taking in order to do that?
Jake: I feel, like, embarrassed. It’s like “The Cobbler”: children have no shoes. Like, I don’t think I’ve touched that in, I don’t know, since I started. I actually built that website as a way to, like, quote position myself, way way back when. And, now I like barely have time to, you know, email people, but anyway—but it’s true. Doubling your income. Whenever you’re in a sales-oriented position where you know you can get paid for the value you create for someone, it’s really really easy to make more money. And, I think what’s challenging for most people is that, unless you came from straight-commission sales, and you know, you’ve had that experience where really like what’s holding you back from you know, making, you know, or going from one thousand months to ten thousand dollar months really comes down to your attitude, your confidence level, your belief in yourself. And yet yeah, like some work habits. And there is some technical stuff that’s in there, but how do you double your income? Number one is go after bigger clients with more money, that’s step one. So, if you’re not making six figures right now? I mean, I do it with one client. Consistently. It’s just not that hard which, you know, I don’t want to belittle anyone having trouble doing that, making six figures just isn’t that complicated. A huge portion of it is just people’s belief about how much they’re worth, how much they can make, and they don’t want to like, negotiate with people for better deals.
Kira: Okay, so two parts to this. What is the mindset they need? Yes, they need confidence, but what does that mindset shift, that you experienced—again, on your website you said you’ve had 80,000 sales calls—you’ve done the work and somewhere in there you had a mindset shift. What does that look like for copywriters? And then I have a second part to that question.
Jake: So, one of the big challenges for me going from sales to selling professional services is that when I was in sales, I was selling the product, right? So it could be a good product, it could be whatever—but if I had a lot of confidence that product was good, that it was gonna help the customer, and that they should buy it, it really wasn’t too hard to pitch that yeah, you should buy this; it’s good. You’ll like it.
Once I saw that product I kinda had to pitch it now so that if something goes wrong, it’s the product’s fault. So what was really challenging was going into professional services where now you’re selling someone really on you, your ability to deliver some kind of work. And this is where you know, impostor syndrome and fraud—yes, I’ve dealt with all those things… and what this comes down to is when you take the focus off of yourself, which is why most people have kinda like in italiacs, what can my client do for me, how can I get paid more, it’s kind of very self centered, like how do I jack more money out of these people?
And you really just shift your thinking to, “How can I create more value? How can I deliver more results? How can i make this easy for this person to compensate me for what I do?” And some of those things are kind of like the intangibles—where it’s like you know, hitting deadlines, being easy and pleasant to work with, do you come up with good ideas? Do you write at least decent copy? That’d be awesome. Just, is it good? Is it good enough? And also just really understanding that there’s gonna be some types of clients in some niches that are really gonna be a good fit for you. Long-term. And I think it really takes about 90 days to where if you just make a commitment where, I’m just gonna learn everything about this, and I’m gonna read all the competition stuff, I’m gonna read all this client stuff, and really just understand what’s going on in this person’s business, it’s not difficult to see ways that you can add a lot of value to the client.
Again, that takes a lot of work, most people don’t like to hear that, but it’s not difficult to, if you want to get paid $10,000 a month, you gotta just do some math. How much money would you need to make that client? Well, probably about five or ten times what you charge. Well, you know, they’ve got a big list that they’re not mailing every day and if you come in and you’re like great, I’ll just mail your list for you every single day, it’s just not that hard to make that guy an extra $50,000-$100,000 a month, just taking over the emails.
But if you don’t dig into it, and you don’t understand how this business owner is running their business and like, where the problem is and how can you come in and like, open stuff up or take stuff off that person’s plate so they can move on to other higher dollar per hour activities, if you don’t understand how the business is run, it’s very challenging for you sell yourself on, yeah. I can create a hundred thousand dollar a month value for you because I’m gonna do this this and this, and I’m gonna get you these results because of that.
Kira: I love that and I think the second part to that question is on your website you also mentioned the secret to getting more millionaire clients and most of copywriters we’ve worked with in our Accelerator program and in our Facebook group often ask, okay, well where do I find these clients? I know my copywriting is improving, I’m getting more confidence, I can pitch myself, but where are these clients who can pay more and can move me to this next level? You did it—you found Agora and you did it early on, which isn’t as typical for most copywriters. So what can the copywriter listening do right now to find these clients who maybe have millions and can be that next tier for them?
Jake: Sure. So this is also really, really counterintuitive, which is why most people don’t do it—it’s actually easier to get top-end clients. In any sales job I’ve ever done, it’s substantially easier to go sell stuff to people with more money. And there’s two reasons. One is typically bigger businesses and more successful people—they just have more experience hiring consultants and outside people. They’re used to this transaction. They’re more willing to do it. They’re also a lot busier, so the money value of the time is very very high, and so it intuitively makes sense for those business owners to hire other people and find good talent. So they’re already at that level, whereas a lot of times small business owners, solo entrepreneurs, they’re like most business owners who are complete control freaks, they’re not willing to let go of things, they’re not there.
But where people get hung up is that they don’t know this, number one, they just never considered that it’d be easier, but then they also just have confidence of like oh, I’m not good enough. They have all this bad self talk about that so really, part of this is going back to what we just talked about: you really focus on becoming an expert inside whatever industry that you want to work in. You know who all the players are, you know what’s going on, pretty quickly you realize that you’re probably the smartest person in the room, which doesn’t take that long and I think that builds a lot of confidence in people, where when I was entering a new market and I didn’t know what I was doing, I just read a lot of stuff and I started talking to other people, and I was like wow! You’re not actually smarter than I am. You don’t know more about this. There’s no actual reason why you’re making more money than me, so why am I not? And it’s just that the answer is because I didn’t try and didn’t ask.
So, from a tactical perspective, like how do you go find these people? Well, make a list of who is mailing stuff, who the biggest people are in your niche, who is running ads. If you have Facebook, who is running ads? Look at those people because they’re running ads, they’re spending money on traffic, they’re surfing the web and you see those ads to health supplements or financial promos or whatever; those are people that are spending money growing their business. Look for those people. And aim high, right from the beginning. It wasn’t harder for me to get Agora as a client, it was just different. The steps were not that complicated.
Yeah, it took a little bit of persistence, but I just don’t think most people realize that like, everyone in our industry is desperate for copywriters. All of us. We’re all looking for copywriters. All the time. And that’s true for any big publisher, right? And Again I think a lot of this comes back to the fact that a lot of people don’t understand what’s going on inside of an eight figure, nine figure business. And like, the reality is that all of those businesses have this beast that just constantly needs to be fed more copy and they’re desperate for new writers that can help do that. And they’re willing to take a chance on younger writers who maybe don’t have the best skill but are willing to stick it out and stay there long term because no one makes money turning over copywriters, or you know, revenue producing people. They need people to stay long-term. So when you realize that hey, you want to right for Eban Pagan, or Jeff Walker, or any of these people, really it just comes down to starting the conversation with these people, like communicating that I want to write for you and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to do that and it’ll probably take you one or two months to make that happen if you don’t have a serious track record, but they need you. More than you need them, as weird as that sounds. But it’s true.
Rob: And that’s a total mind shift. Copywriters think the other way around—there’s way too many of us and not enough of them.
Kira: Yeah. Jake, before we wrap, I want to ask one final question and you know, I love this conversation because you’ve approached everything from a totally different way than the majority of copywriters and it’s been effective; it’s worked. So I wonder what you think you know, kind of like the copywriter’s dream life, you know, what that looks like for you? Have you already reached it, where like you’re in with Agora and you have your side mastermind and other programs? I want you to help us all think bigger because you already think big and a lot of people don’t, so how can we all think bigger about what we are all capable of as copywriters?
Jake: Alright. So this is always a fun conversation for me to have and I’ll just preface this: the choices that I’ve made are very, very different than the choices that other people want to make and I totally respect that. For me, I think the most important thing that people need to let go of is the internet marketing lie that all of us have been sold for years. That we’re gonna wake up and piles of money are gonna hit your bank account in this all made in money machine that we’ve created and like, you know, six figure royalty checks, like all of this—everything that basically comes down to easy, innocent riches, and you’ll have no more responsibilities ever again. Like, that just isn’t real, I’m sorry. It’s just not and the sooner that you accept that, that that’s just not real, the faster you’ll make a lot of progress in your life. So, with that being said, for me, I have made plenty of money in my life, had all kinds of fun stuff, I’m definitely like a high-achieving, oriented person, and like, the idea of sitting on a beach doing nothing drives me crazy.
I don’t think i could do that for longer than a week. I just need something to do. And not everyone’s like that. And so for me, what I decided and why I went into copywriting is that I wanted to put myself in a position where I could do work that was fun and enjoyable for me. So like, I wanted to do something that I would do even if I didn’t get paid, and I happen to love marketing and direct response and I’m a very analytical person, like I like puzzles and so it’s really enjoyable to have a work where I can spend a lot of time by myself and reading, being very introspective and then I can write and go over it and build stuff; that type of stuff is fun and fulfilling for me. So, by the way, if you’re a copywriter and you don’t like to write or do your research, you really need to reconsider your choices here. Just by the way. I really wanted to put myself on a career path of mastery where I can continue to get into flow states and get better and challenge myself and compete and kind of continue to move forward, and yeah.
I do want to get compensated really well and it’s super sweet that I can take my work anywhere I want to and do fun things, but like a high percentage of my day ever day goes into thinking about how I can get better at writing copy and coming up with new ideas and that in itself is enjoyable for me. Right? I think that’s like the key thing that you really gotta understand is that, if you’re focused on the money—like the end of the rainbow pitcher where you’re going to be this part-time A-lister who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars, you’re never going to put in the work it takes to get to that level of good where you can do that and I think that it’s destructive.
But if you focus on how can I build a career that I find inherently enjoyable for me and copywriting fits the bill and you find the right clients and partners where it’s fun to go to work, I think that’s what creates an enjoyable life. It might be that’s a small client, and you might love making whatever that she makes, or it’s super enjoyable writing for non-profits, and that’s really what is fulfilling for you, I don’t want to take that away from anyone. For me, I love financial because this is where all the best writers come to play so I’m competing against Mark Ford and Clayton Makepeace, and like, every name that you’ve ever heard of, they’re all writing in financial. David Deutch. These are all where they are. I think that’s fun. I think it’s exciting.
Rob: That’s probably a good place to stop, we’re out of time. Jake, if people want to connect with you, learn more about you, where would they find you online?
Jake: So I like to joke that I’m on the internet, so Facebook is probably the easiest thing. I run a little Facebook group called the Freelance Financial Copywriter, if any of you guys are interested in being super nerdy and looking at marketing campaigns. Otherwise, website’s jakehoffberg.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yeah. I think I’ve got a LinkedIn profile still, probably.
Kira: Great. Thank you Jake, this has been really, really enjoyable.
Jake: Thanks for having me!