Copywriter and hypnotist Jesse Gernigin joins The Copywriter Club Podcast to talk with Kira and Rob about his freelance business, creating an online summit, and how knowing how to hypnotize people helps him know how to attract customers and sell more products. In this interview, we talk about:
• how Jesse went from magician to hypnotist to copywriter
• what it takes to bee a hypnotist
• the #1 thing he did that made him a successful hypnotist
• what he sent potential clients when he was cold contacting
• how often he succeeded (and failed) when he was cold emailing and how he increased his chances of success
• how Jesse works with clients to get them what they need (not just what they want)
• what he did on Upwork to succeed
• acting as a strategist in addition to working as a copywriter
• what it takes to assemble an online summit and what has surprised him the most from putting on a summit
And while talking about his summit, Jesse let us in on the tools he used to get his summit online and we asked him about the two best speakers he included in his summit. Finally Jesse told us what he thinks will happen to copywriting in the future. To get this one… click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
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The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Sponsor: The Copywriter Club In Real Life
The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
Entrepreneur on Fire
Live Gold Rich
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 71 as we chat with copywriter, marketing consultant, and hypnotist Jesse Gernigin about trading his magic act for high paying copywriting gigs, how he finds and lands freelance clients, what goes on behind the scenes of an online summit, and how hypnotism helps him become a better copywriter!
Kira: Welcome, Jesse!
Jesse: Thank you guys so much for having me! It’s great to be here.
Rob: It’s great to have you.
Jesse: Yeah, it’s cool to talk with you guys on this end after having you both on my summit, so this is great!
Kira: Yeah! So we’re going to talk about your summit in a bit; you’re a first hypnotist on the show!
Jesse: Okay! Yeah.
Rob: Yeah, we’re waiting for you to say something like “look into my eyes”—follow the watch…
Kira: I’m actually a little nervous now! I feel like you might hypnotize us and make us say something ridiculous. I don’t know.
Jesse: No, no, no. (laughs)
Kira: All right, Jesse, a good place to start is just with your story. You know, who are you? How did you get into copywriting? Especially with the magic background? Tell us a little more about your story.
Jesse: Oh, this is funny. So we’re going to go back to the days of copywriting books—Dan Kennedy’s, I think 1993 book—The Ultimate Sales Letter. So, I graduated college in 2007, so I came out right at the heart of the recession, and nobody was hiring for anything I had a degree in. And I’d been a magician and a hypnotist, and I’d work, you know, shows and make five or six thousand dollars a year just doing it on the side. And my buddy told me, you should just do this full time until a job opens up! So I went out, found an agent, and I was a really great performer.
I don’t like to toot my own horn, because I wasn’t necessarily more talented than anybody else, but I have a great personality, which is big as a freelancer, big as an entertainer. It makes up for a lot of shortcomings. So I got on with a couple agents and my whole process exploded! And I was making an extra fifteen thousand dollars or so a year, and since I had scholarships for college I didn’t have any debt. I didn’t live very well; I was getting by on maybe twenty two, twenty five thousand dollars a year, but because I had little debt, and I spent most of my time traveling for shows, I lived pretty well. I realized I wanted to grow my business and there was this big opportunity to become a successful entertainer because the market was just not served by quality entertainers. So I decided to market myself.
I had a really great mentor—his name was Geoff Ronning, and he was this amazing stage hypnotist marketer. Which was funny, because he actually left the business too and he runs an online group, I think called Stealth Seminar? But at the time, Jeff was really big on direct response copywriting. And he mentored me to study Dan Kennedy. He told me, “Look. Right now, everyone is moving everything online. And this is the biggest time for you to go into direct mail.” So I actually got my start copywriting, writing for myself, doing direct mail. And so I did postcards, I did—I think they’re called puffy mailers? Where you would send like things in envelopes so people would open them. I would send these massive, massive press kits with all kinds of stuff in it. White paper, reasons you should hire me, and it worked!
And as my business grew, I started experimenting with different types of copywriting, different types of sales letters. I moved into corporate speaking, so I transitioned all the clients I had from hypnosis into relaxation therapy, which I did through NPI. I became NPI’s co-chair of communication, so I access to this huge network of people, and I just had this great business! I was hitting between 85 and 105k and that gross, not net. And I was living a great life. But I’d also kind of hit the ceiling. And that’s when I transitioned to copywriting full time.
Rob: So I want to ask about the copywriting, but before that, you know, I remember as a kid I remember going to see the Amazing Vandermiede—the magician, or the hypnotist, and seeing that show, and I even bought the book that he sold at the time, you know? Learn How to Hypnotize People. Maybe I thought that I would get my little sister to cluck like a chicken—I don’t know what I was thinking. But, Jesse, how does one become a hypnotist?
Jesse: So, now, it’s really not as safe as it was when I started. I actually took three years of training and I became a certified hypnotherapist. So I took two years of training, and then I did a year of mentoring under another expert. So although I never did any hypnotherapy, I could. I could do everything from smoking sensation, weight loss, to this really interesting thing called hypno-birthing, where the woman’s hypnotized for a couple of months before she has the child, and then has the child under hypnosis with no pain medication.
Kira: Sign me up.
Jesse: Yeah, you say that, but it’s an expensive process because you have to see the hypnotist twenty, thirty times, if you figure you’re paying them 125 dollars, 150 bucks a session…
Kira: Oh my goodness.
Jesse: …but yeah. I started out taking a couple years of classes. Now, I’d hypnotized people before I took the classes—I learned to do it in high school just by reading a couple books. But I realized if I was going to do it for a living, I had to get insurance, I had to be certified. So I became a certified hypnotist, I took the training, I got all the certificates, and now you don’t have to, which is scary. I’m not a big fan of it. That’s one of the reasons I transitioned out of the business, too.
Kira: Wow. Okay. So, can you still hypnotize people?
Jesse: Yeah, actually, I’ll give you guys a cool tidbit. If you’ve seen a stage hypnosis show, you’ve seen like the hypnotist will invite people on stage, he goes through the process of hypnotizing them, and then he touches them on the head and says, Sleep! And then they go like a ragdoll. The reality is, the people that are going to be hypnotized on stage are hypnotized the second they walk on stage. The hypnotist could sit everybody down, walk down that line of people, touch each of them on the head, and say sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, and everybody that’s going to be hypnotized would go out like that. The reality is, the audience can’t believe that because they don’t have the knowledge to understand how it works. So you actually have to put on the theater of hypnotizing somebody for the audience to believe that the people are hypnotized.
Rob: I’m one of those guys that’s not believing that.
Kira: I know—yeah. (laughs)
Rob: I need to understand the why behind that. Tell us more!
Jesse: So, hypnosis is really an instant state. We go in and out of hypnotic states all day. You just kind of get in this pattern, we get in this focus. And what’s really great about the internet is, especially when I was coming to the fro, it was really easy for people to use YouTube to see hypnosis shows. So before, when I started, not a lot of people had actually seen a hypnotist. They might’ve seen them at the comedy club, or at a state fair, but most people didn’t know what happened. So less people than normal would get hypnotized. But when I started doing shows, YouTube was popular, so people would look up hypnotists before I did these shows, so by the time I showed up to do the show, they’d already been programmed to know what to expect and what to react. So when I would go onstage, I didn’t have to explain it to them. They understood, they could read about it, they could listen to lectures, so they had done a lot of what we call “priming”. We had primed their mind to react to the stimulus. And when I showed up, it was already all done. All I had to do was do the show.
Rob: Okay, so let’s take this back to copywriting. You know, when you mention things like priming, this is obviously a tactic that we can use with clients, or with our client’s customers. Tell me more about how the two interrelate and what you take from hypnotism that makes you a better copywriter.
Jesse: So the one thing that made me a great and successful hypnotist and able to hypnotize a lot of people was that I constantly read the audience. One of the biggest mistakes hypnotists make when they would have a whole group of people and maybe have one person hypnotized, was that they stuck to this specific script that they had memorized and they wouldn’t read the audience. If I’m hypnotizing people and I see in the first two minutes of my ten minute hypnotizing process that everybody’s already hypnotized, I would just go straight into the show, because I was adaptable.
And the same thing was true if people weren’t responding to what I was doing—I would change tactics to get people hypnotized. And using that skill, reading what people needed to hear, and meeting them where they needed to be met, made me a great copywriter. I discovered that although templates are helpful, and outlines and certain standards do work, it’s being able to understand them and then interpret them person-to-person or audience-to-audience that really helped me increase my copywriting ability. Whether it’s writing for a niche audience to get a corporation to hire me or I’m getting ready to finish out my second $100,000 KickStarter launch where we sold Analogue watches that were smart watches, it was all about being able to interpret the standard and then match the need to the market.
Kira: Okay, so I know we should be talking about copywriting, but I still have a couple more questions.
Jesse: I’m happy to answer everything, don’t worry!
Kira: Okay, how could you see and tell that they were hypnotized when you walked onto the stage like you said? Was it just a look in their eye?
Jesse: The big answer is experience, right? I did it full time for ten years, so you just start to spot rhythms and patterns. You know how people look. You know how people move. You would know how people would breathe. A lot of things like that. But when people would come on stage, this is part of the old magician showman in me, every person who came on stage, whether it was an adult or a kid, I would meet them at the foot of the stairs, shake their hand, look them in the hand, and introduce myself. Like, “Hi, I’m Jesse Gernigin, what’s your name?” And it would slow the show down a little bit but it really created a sense of comfort because now, you’re not just randomly on stage with this guy, like, he introduced himself! It’s kind of comfortable. But when I shook their hands, I could feel how relaxed they were. Like, most people don’t think about this but when you shake somebody’s hand, you can feel the tension they carry in their body. So if you grab their hand and then you reach your other hand up and grab their forearm, you can feel where their tension is, if they’re relaxed, etc. And the people that were already hypnotized had this inherit looseness to their muscles. And I would know where to sit them, how to engage with them, and what to expect. Does that kind of answer your question?
Kira: That does. So, then, for us, as copywriters, do we need to become hypnotists and get certified to use this in our copywriting? Is there a shortcut that we can use to take something from your experience and really write better copy? And understand the needs of our market?
Jesse: Yeah, I think the thing that translates well is the adaptability of persuasiveness. Hypnosis is the art of persuasion. But to be persuasive, you have to adapt to what the market is. And of course as copywriters, we all already know to do this. You research your market, you come up with interview questions, you take notes, you create profiles. Hypnotists do the same thing, but they already enter the stage with that on their mind. The big difference is, hypnosis is done live, copywriting is done behind the scenes. And I feel if you can transfer the skills of remaining adaptable and not fixed, it’d be really helpful. I feel a lot of copywriting that I end up getting paid to rewrite from other copywriters is bad because people came into it with this idea in mind instead of letting it guide them where they needed to be. And i think that’s the biggest translatable skill—the adaptability of persuasiveness.
Rob: Jesse, I want to jump back to when you were talking about how you became a copywriter. You mentioned a package that you would send out to people. And I know Dan Kennedy talks about the Shock and Awe package and it sounds like that’s what you were sending out—something that just includes tons of stuff! Will you tell us a little bit more about the thinking behind it, what you included in it, what the letter said that worked so well?
Jesse: Okay, so the Shock and Awe package for me worked mainly because I was the only person they were getting mail from. So my packages, I think they weight like four or five pounds. You got to remember YouTube was just now coming out when I started doing this, so it was still kind of normal to send a DVD or two of your show. So when they got my shock and awe package, they would get two DVDs of two different shows, and two different audio-recorded sessions of me doing hypnotherapy. So right away, four CDs come in. That’s four packages, four jewels for people that remember the cases that they went in. And then with that, I would have my promo pack and bio, and so there’s another 8 pages and 14 pages, so now you’ve got 22 pages. I would have the sales letter and I would have a three-page proposal—the proposal mainly had the show, but then had extra options, whether they wanted to buy like, recordings or have me do private sessions. And most of them never booked it, but it makes you look professional.
The thing that really made the sales letter work was although I had a template sales letter, I would go in and personalize a couple details. I would personalize it to the size of their audience, I would personalize it to the type of speaker and where I’d be performing, and I feel that had a really powerful impact, because people would go and they’d read it, and they’d say, okay, this kid took ten minutes at least and made this fit to our needs. And I’m sure there were people that thought I’d handwritten it for them every time, but they at least saw that I went to the trouble of fitting what they wanted to their circumstance. And I feel for me, that was the most powerful point of the sales letter. But getting back before the shock and awe package, and kind of to the whole heart of copywriting and getting work, the thing that really sold me, was I was good on the phone.
So by the time they’d asked me for a package, in my mind, I’d already succeeded. The package was merely the confirmation for the sales call.
Rob: So you were hypnotizing people on the phone.
Jesse: Mmm hum.
Rob: I can imagine that a lot of copywriters listening, though, would think well, that’s easy because Jesse’s a hypnotist or he can send some of his magic shows on a disc—I don’t have that, so my package wouldn’t be successful. What would you say that they should include instead?
Jesse: Okay, so if you’re actually going to mail a package to somebody and you’re not going to cold email it, you have two different situations. You have a cold situation, you have a warm situation. Let’s talk about warm situations, because that’s like, congruent to what we’re talking about now.
So client, for some reason, wants a direct response package from you through the mail. Okay. What I do is a couple things. First, is I would break down your projects that you’re most proud of and print them out in a way that’s congruent with them being able to read it. And obviously, this’ll be confusing because how it appears on a website or a sales page will be different than how it appears in a Google Doc, but that’s to your favor, because you can format that doc, then take that information, highlight the points that are relevant to them—because when you’re sending people stuff, you don’t want to convince them to hire you off your copy, you want to convince them to hire you because you can employ strategy for any type of project. That’s the key, I feel—making the strategy congruent to what they want to accomplish. So you would include a couple projects like that, you would highlight it, and then you would have a separate piece where you numbered these highlighted points and explain, this is the strategy I used here, and I feel that it’s important for what you’re trying to accomplish. We could do something similar by applying this type of thinking to your project in this way. So you’re showing that you’ve actually thought about their project, you’re showing that you’ve thought about how to employ strategy, and you’re showing that you can think laterally, which are important skills that employers look for.
Kira: Okay, Jesse, I really love the point that people are going to hire you for strategy, for your ideas, for your brain, rather than just the actual copy. That’s a really good point. What would you say it takes for the cold contacts? Cold emails? Because we have a lot of copywriters in our accelerator program who are in the process of doing that and it’s frustrating! A lot of them are cold emailing, not necessarily sending these shock and awe packages, but can you just share a little bit about like, what it really takes, how much rejection, do you have any stats on like, it takes a hundred emails and maybe you’ll hear back from five people? That might be helpful.
Jesse: Yeah, so there’s two ways to do cold emails. There’s a direct cold, where you’re just picking out people that you’d be interested in working with and sending them packages, and then there’s what I call referral cold, where they might not’ve worked with you but you’re kind of in the same areas online and so they might not know you but they would recognize your name if it showed up. For me, I don’t do that much cold emailing anymore just because—and I’m sure a lot of your guests have said the same thing—once you have business, business propagates business. But when I was doing the cold emailing, I would get I would say like, a 2 percent response, right? But I was also really targeted. I didn’t send out hundreds of proposals or emails a day; I only wrote people that I was really interested in working with and who I could bring the best possible results.
And I use a different approach. I would just send them a question email first. Everybody else is writing these long, elaborate emails. I wouldn’t waste people’s time—I would just see if I could start the conversation. And that goes back to like, I believe we’re in a conversation economy, but I feel when you send people very large emails with all these different things, explaining I can do this, this is what your website needs, I specialize in this, you’re giving them a very easy reason to say no. So when they—it’s easy for them to say no, they’re going to say no.
When I’ve sent these short emails, I’ve certainly lowered my opportunity of getting responses, but I made it easier for people to respond, for people that I would work with. So it’d just be something simple like, hey, I saw your website has these features to it, I actually specialize in optimizing these features, and there’s a couple things we could do to make it better. If you’re interested in making your website convert more, or getting more qualified leads, not necessarily more leads in general, why don’t you give me a call? We can talk about it and I can send you some examples. And I know like, all the cold emailing people are going to freak out that, oh, you shouldn’t do that! It worked for me, though! I got a ton of clients doing this and I saved a lot of time. But I was also really specific. So I wasn’t going out and sending like, I said, 100 emails a day. I’d spend ten times as much time researching people to help than I would sending emails. So that’s kind of like the big thing that I did that worked well for me. But yeah, I’d say I had a 2% response rate.
Rob: Yeah, I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when cold emailing or cold snail mailing is they ask for something that’s difficult, and like you’re saying…
Rob: …if you can say something as simple as, can I send you a few ideas? It’s very easy for somebody to say yes—there’s no skin in the game. You can at least start that conversation to the point where you can build trust and create a project.
Jesse: And one thing I would add to that, which is a really great strategy, is keep is short, keep it simple, to get that first response. Get their permission to respond to them, and then that next email, don’t actually send them anything related to what you say—find a way to connect with them on a personal level really quickly. Even if it’s something generic. And send it to them before you send the ideas. Because this is really an interesting idea that I love. But when you make yourself a human, you all of a sudden identify and you stand out.
These businesses get hundreds of emails every day, these people get hundreds of emails, so you just kind of get lost in the glut. If you can do something that makes you a human and something they relate to on an emotional or mental level, every time they see your name, it’s going to trigger something. And they might not open it—they might ignore you—but you’ve increased the opportunity to get yes. So what I would do is if I couldn’t find something related to their state, which I usually could because I’ve traveled the country, I would pick the nearest national park to them and say hey, you’re really close to X national park! I’m a huge national park guy—I’ve been wanting to get that pin. Have you been? And I know it seems unprofessional, but that’s the idea. You’re trying to remove them from the professional, I’m a boss, I have a mindset, I have to filter everything this way, and make them a human. Because when you’re a human-to-human communicating, it becomes easier to make suggestions and people are more responsive to ideas.
Kira: That is a great, great suggestion. So you mentioned a conversation economy—I would love to hear more about that. What is that to you and how do we need to think about that as copywriters?
Jesse: Okay, so long pitch made short, Seth Godin said that we’re in a gig economy. And I don’t entirely agree. I think we’re in a conversation economy. My belief is that people that can start and hold the best conversations are going to get the biggest contracts and the best clients. And the reason for that is, all of the way people approach job courts today makes the whole freelancing experience transactional, which is a huge mistake. Freelancing is not transactional. It is service-related. We are in a service business. We are not in a transactional business. We aren’t fixing tires, we aren’t providing a doodad or a widget. We are providing an experience and part of that experience is a conversation.
I learned a long time ago, when I was doing these sales calls, the thing that got me sold wasn’t my exemplary service or my 100 testimonials or my best price. What got me sold was, especially when I was doing say, after or project grads, which are events that parents would book for kids at the end of their high school year. It was always moms, and the thing that got me booked was, and this was knowing how to have a conversation with them, was when they called, I’d say this, I’d go, “Oh my gosh. Is this your first graduation? Are your kids leaving the house?”
Jesse: And it’s funny—notice that Kira laughed, but not Rob—because every woman recognizes that and they’re going to want to talk about their kid! So right away, people are like, talking about their kid and they’re relating to me, and we haven’t even talked about the show. But because I started that conversation, I took control of the element—I took control of the relationship.
Kira: I was just laughing because I was thinking, wow, you really work it! That’s good!
Rob: I’m laughing inside. (snickers)
Kira: Rob doesn’t laugh.
Jesse: Yeah, so when you can control the conversation or you move in a direction that makes you relatable, you can shift how people perceive you. You can lift the barriers that people have. And does this work all the time? Obviously not. It’s still a number’s game. And I think that’s the biggest issue people have with this freelancing—it’s just numbers. You have to be good. You have to have the systems in place. You have to create a business like a business and all the common sense stuff, but it’s hard! It’s a numbers game. It’s what I liken to a supermarket. When you go to the supermarket, there’s 10,000 items. You leave with 50. Does that mean the other 9,950 items are bad and not worth it? No! They’re just relevant to you. And if you can take that mindset and apply it to your freelancing business, you’ll never get upset or worried because you’re just going to understand that you’re not right for those people at that right moment.
Rob: Yeah there’s a huge difference between refusal, and rejection.
Jesse: Mmm hmm.
Rob: And, a lot of times, people refuse to work with us because either they don’t understand the value of what we’re offering, or the time isn’t right, and too many of us as freelancers respond to a refusal as if it’s rejection…
Jesse: Ahh, yeah.
Rob: …as if it’s personal and people don’t like us or don’t want to work with us, and if so, why would we ever want to reach out to them again?
Jesse: One thing that really drives me crazy is people don’t understand too, it’s like, you can be a great copywriter, but it doesn’t mean your tone and style is a fit for a project. And that’s one thing that has increased responses to my proposals, is I’ll write to people like, “Hey, let’s talk!” Like, just because we talk doesn’t mean we’re going to work together, because I understand that I’m a great copywriter, but I might not be a great copywriter for your project, and the easiest way for us to figure that out quickly is just for us to talk. And people are like right away like, okay, boom—no pressure sales, I’m in.
Kira: I like that, and now that you mentioned sales and your process, I’m really interested in hearing how you are selling them. Like, let’s talk about your first conversation with them. Is it really laid back? Do you have certain questions you’re asking? Or… what does that look like, so that it is laid back, and then you can also lead them into a proposal…
Jesse: Mmm hmm.
Kira: …and make sure you’re going to land that proposal; it’s not totally off, or out of budget.
Kira: So, on our first phone call, I usually like to figure out what their project is. So I have a lot of notes before I enter into it, and I have an idea of what they want to accomplish; I kind of have an idea of how they can accomplish it, and I have different layers that we can accomplish it at different time frames depending on how much they want to spend. So they get on the phone; the first thing we do is just spend the first minute, minute and a half, talking, you know: “Oh hey, how are you?” “Oh, we’re doing great. How’s life been on your side?” “Great.” “Yeah, it’s been crazy here…” and you know, find something to relate to. So, that way you just ease them into conversation. And it sounds so simple and people are like, “Why are you saying this?” But this probably the most important part, because you’re not starting people cold.
People do this all the time; they go directly into the sales pitch or directly into the call, and it’s really uncomfortable, and people have a hard time getting their footing. So if you transition people naturally from a conversation into the proposal talk as far as the call is concerned, it makes it easier for the person to be more responsive, because they’re relaxed. So once I’ve done that, I have a questionnaire, and the questionnaire is essentially—it’s the same in the sense that I need the same information every time from the client, but it’s personalize to their project. So I just got done pitching—I don’t want to give you his name but—he’s a really big sales consultant for building materials and sales, and he’s brought me on as his full-time copywriter, essentially, and I’m kind of like his best friend now, as far as his freelancer.
But when we got on our first call, I figured out low, okay—what does he actually want to accomplish? Like, does he want more clients? Or, does he want to make more money? If he wants to make more money, does he want to funnel people to the thing that’s making them money, or get them into the tip of the funnel as speakers? And so I figured out what he wants to accomplish based on our first contact. And then when I get on the phone, I started asking him these really targeted questions about, you know, what are you specifically trying to accomplish here? Do you have a long-term goal, or is this something that you want to solve right now? If this is something that you want to solve right now, what’s been the problem that hasn’t, you know, let you solve this yet? And so, but the time we got off the phone, I had already asked him all these super-relative questions to what he’s doing, and I showed that I thought about his project and his issue from a lot of different perspectives. Now, I didn’t come up with this on my own. Pretty much everything that I do is a high-bred that I built up over the years from Ramit Sethi—a pre-talk he did with Paul Jarvis on Creative Live. He calls this method the briefcase technique, and the whole idea is just showing up more prepared than they are.
Rob: Yeah, this is a really big idea. I think a lot of copywriters, you know, hear “Hey, I need website copy”, and so, they immediately are thinking “Okay, to deliver his website copy, I need to work on that”, rather than take a step back and say, why do you need website copy? What is the business challenge that we’re trying to solve with website copy? Because…
Rob: …in the end, it may actually not be website copy that they need to actually solve the problem. Maybe they need to take a step back and look at the channels where traffic is coming from, or maybe it’s even a step father down the funnel to the sales process and working with the internal team. That’s not necessarily something that most copywriters want to do, but thinking about businesses strategically, is a huge mind-shift for a lot of—a lot of writers.
Jesse: Mmm hmm. Plus, you’re doing a level of responsibility to the client that makes you stand out. Everybody else would be going for the sell, but if you’re going for the solution, people will remember that. They may not hire you right then because your solution won’t be congruent to what they really need, or as far as the copy is concerned, but when copy does come back up right away, they’re going to be like, “I need to that person because they were on-spot, they knew the solu—they’re going to have the solution I want.”
Rob: Yeah, so all this stuff relates to, some of the success that you’ve had on Upwork. We’ve talked to a few copywriters on the podcast who have used Upwork successfully, although I think, the general sense with most copywriters is that it’s really hard to do well. So, people like Paige Poutiainen, who we interviewed recently—we’ve talked to Danny Margulies, they talk about how to have success. You’ve had some of that success; what did you do differently that most people don’t?
Jesse: First off, I want to say like, I really love Upwork. I don’t really use it as my main income source anymore; it was a great place to start. I mostly do Upwork now so my audience had a forward-facing evidence of what I do, so they can see that I—you know, like, I’m actually freelancing and I’m not just doing everything privately. But, for me the thing that really made Upwork resonate is—I have three things that work. One, I have a profile that is relevant to a very specific thing. And if you guys go to my profile, you can see exactly what I have written, and exactly who I serve. So when people see my profile, right away they’re going to know I’m for them, or I’m not for them. And this is important because it saves me time. A lot of people are going to hear that and go, “Oh, I don’t want to turn people away…” Yes you do. You want to turn away 95% of people that come your way simply because you don’t want to waste your time with people that you can’t get the best possible results for. And I forget who wrote it on CopyBlogger, but they said this really great thing that I love: they said if you are getting 50% or more “yes”s on your project proposals, you’re either trying to help too many people, or you’re not charging enough. And I agree with that completely.
You should hear “no” a lot because your price should be right at the people’s comfort limits, and you should be right at the, like limit of their solutions too, which is really important, so my profile solves that for me. The second thing is proposals. And I still do this today—when I send a proposal, I look for somebody, a) that has a project that I would want to work on that’s large. I’m not getting on projects and doing things for $100 here or $200 there. Or, if I am, I’m taking a gamble because I recognize that it could transition into a larger project, but that comes from being able to read social cues, understand the nature of those businesses, etc. So when I send a proposal, I’ve identified that, okay, you know—it’s going to be $2000, it’s going to be $5000, it’s going to be a week’s worth of work because they’re going to need x, they’re going to need y, they’re going to need z. So I send the proposal and I say “Hey, you know”…and this is where we get back to the conversation economy thing, is I send a proposal to open a conversation. I don’t tell them I’m going to do this, this, and this, and it’ll cost you this. I think that’s a waste of time.
What I do is tell them “Look: I’m an expert in this thing that you want. I’ve accomplished this, I did this way. I think this would work for what you’re trying to accomplish. Why don’t we talk? I’d like to review your project more, see if what I do would resonate with want you want to accomplish, and in doing so, we can see if I can make what you want to happen, happen. And that’s it. I’ll send a testimonial or two, and I’ll clarify the results they want, but other than that, that’s all I send. And, people right away, they’re—boom. They want to talk to you. And, I’m usually…I’d say ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I am the most expensive copywriter they’ll hire, and I’m usually the most expensive copywriter they’ll hire by at least a 200% price hike. So most people average out in between $50 and $65; I’m at $125. In January I’m going up to $250 an hour.
So, people when they respond to me, they know what to expect, they understand the limitations, and they also know I’m not trying to sell them; I’m just trying to see if I can bring them the results they want, and so it makes it easy for them to respond to me. And then the third thing that really works for my on Upwork is when they do respond to me, I really take the time to see if I can help them. And, I know it sounds kind of holistic, but it’s really important to only work with people that you can help. And you would be surprised at how—and this is a weird thing—you’d be surprised how upset people get when they’ve responded to you, and you tell them that you’re not the right fit. Because, if they respond to you, they’re emotionally, mentally, and physically invested time in you, and there’s a good chance they’re going to hire you. But you when tell them “Hey, you know, I honestly just don’t think that what you would be paying me would be worth the outcome I can create for you.” And, doing those three things has lead me to booking tons of ongoing projects, getting a couple people that move with me off of work to become very large ongoing projects, and I even booked a—when I first turned down a $6000 project as the least qualified and most expensive freelancer they had talked to, simply because I use this process.
Kira: Okay, I want to say that you know, whether or not you’re a fan of Upwork, because again, it could be great for a lot of copywriters, maybe not so great for other copywriters, I don’t have experience in Upwork. I think what stands out to me, and what you show, is that it’s this portfolio piece that you really—I mean, you have your score. I think you’re a 90% rating; you’re one of the top rated professionals on Upwork. It shows how much you’ve earned on Upwork: 40K…
Jesse: Which is weird, because I’ve actually earned like—I think like 95K, but it just doesn’t update.
Kira: (Laughs.) Yeah, but even so, 40K is really impressive, so when I look at that, if I didn’t know you at all Jesse, and I just saw that, I’d say “Wow, this is someone who really knows what he’s doing, and I want to hire him, even if I want to hire you beyond the walls of Upwork.” So, as far as a portfolio piece, I think it’s outstanding.
Jesse: Mmm hmm.
Kira: If someone’s listening who is new to copywriting, and they’re just trying to get their first new clients, what advice would you give them for navigating Upwork, and those early days so that it works for them—they can be one of the success stories like you?
Jesse: I would think it goes back to lateral strategy implementation. And what I mean by that is, when you talk to a client, and you don’t have, say, a specific portfolio piece because you’re starting out or you’re transitioning into something new, or it’s a stretch beyond what you normally do, what you do it, you include a portfolio piece that you do have, and you explain why that project—although it isn’t directly related to what they want for their project—still applies. Because the strategies that you used to make that successful would apply in their project, and then you explain why that strategy would work.
You’re doing two things when you do this: first, you’re increasing all the value out of your existing portfolio without having to take on a bunch of extra cheap work to, like, fluff it. But the other side if, you’re showing the client that you can think outside of just writing copy. You’re showing that you’re a strategist; you’re a consultant; you’re a thought-reader; that you understand implementation. And those are really powerful, because here’s the truth: like, anybody can write copy. But very few people can implore strategy. And people really want strategy. They don’t want copy.
Rob: Jesse, I want to change directions a little bit: you’ve been working on, or you—or you recently had an online summit.
Jesse: Mmm hmm.
Rob: And I’m curious really about what goes into creating it. Everything from, you know, the tools you used, to setting up interviews, to the launch plan. Can you walk us through what you’re doing, and how you’re getting it done?
Jesse: Okay. First thing I want to say is everybody should do a summit. Even if you don’t have an audience, or you’re not going to make money on it. It is the easiest way to expand your professional network, and do so in a way that provides value to people that you want to grow with. Perfect example is this podcast. Both you guys were on my summit. And because of that, we developed a deeper relationship than we had on the Facebook group. Same thing’s true with a bunch of other people that are on the summit. So, even if you don’t have an audience or you don’t want to make money with it, you guys should do it. With that said, the process I used was, I decided first what I wanted to accomplish. Now, I have a blog, and I wanted to draw more readers to the blog; I wanted to have more subscribers. So I took my existing blog concept, and I expanded it to fit one particular niche. It’s the idea of writing proposals to get your booked, so you can book your schedule full. And, I started searching out for, like, successful freelancers online and specifically, the summit really covers either social media marketers or people in the freelance writing world whether it’s SEO, content, copywriting, because that was something I really have a lot of experience in, and I can speak to.
So, I reached a bunch of people; I came up with a list of about a 150 people. And once I had that list, I researched everybody on the list to see who was actually doing it, and that goes back to what I was talking about earlier with Upwork. Just because you have a forward-facing website that says you’re successful doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. I have to be able to go in and say, “Okay, you know, are you doing work? You have projects? Like if I speak to you, are you actually going to be saying things that like resonate from experience, or are you just rehashing what you’ve read on other articles on like CopyHackers, which although it’s a great website, I don’t necessarily somebody to tell me what Joanna Wiebe said pretending that they were the ones to say it first. And once I had a list of people narrowed from 150 down to about 40, I just starting contacting them, and what I did specifically was, I started from a place of power. I’ve been blogging for three years; I have a pretty good audience, I have some networks. And, I reached out to the people in the networks first. Some people I didn’t reach out to to get them to get them to talk with me, but I reached out with them to do conversational gambits for us. So I’d say “Hey, I’m doing this really cool summit. I know this isn’t what you’re doing, but you’ve talked to these other people—could you give me some introductions?”
Now, I’ve cold emailed some people too; great example that is James Johnson. He is a really cool guy, and he happened to catch me at a certain time and we got together. Another person that I got on the summit that I absolutely just fell in love with was Natalie McGuire; I caught her randomly, and what’s really funny is I caught her because, for like a week or two, so tried one of those chat features on her website, and I spoke to her directly through it, but that’s a random aside. So, I started building up the list of speakers. I originally had 30, but people fell off because of personal things or schedule conflicts—so once I had that secured, I then built up the site. I used Thrive Architect, because I used Rainmaker, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with WordPress; I didn’t want to spend a lot of time learning it. Thrive Architect really cut my time down, and they have a lot of things that I would use as far as either widgets or social implications, like they’ve got countdown timers, they’ve got great landing pages, it integrates easily with ConvertKit, Mailchimp, and all the other integrations to like Thrive Cart Teachable, etc. For my private site, I’m using Teachable; Teachable’s super easy to use.
I bought a more expensive version because I got a little bit of an affiliate deal from somebody. So instead of paying for a full year, I’m paying for a part of the year and so it makes up the difference for the cost. I’m hosting my videos on Vimeo because it allows me to make them private. I learned that; I learned Teachable; I learned WordPress; I learned Thrive Architect; I learned Thrive Cart. And, these are the things that allowed me to create an integrative process that’s seamless for the user. Now, I did this for two reasons. The first reason I told you. I’m going to build my audience. I’m going to be selling online courses and training and coaching, and I wanted to have a larger audience so I can start engaging and getting information about what they want specifically, create courses to create a side income that’ll allow me to have something that’s in perpetuity. But the other thing that I wanted to do was be able to take something very high ticket to copywriting customers so I can say to them hey, I know how to launch a summit because I’ve done product launches, I’ve done Kickstarter launches, I’ve done live event launches. But this is something different entirely because it is a huge, all-inclusive package. You need copy, you need outreach, you need strategy, you need market growth, and I have it all now because I’ve done this. So I can go to a client and say hey, we should do a summit. It might take four months and it might cost you $25,000 or $45,000, but this is what you can accomplish. This is what I’ve accomplished. This is what I did. Here’s my data. And all of a sudden it’s like woah. So that’s kind of the reason, two fold, why I put together the summit. Those are the systems I use. That’s the reason I use the systems.
Kira: I want to know you know, the nitty-gritty real-talk—what has surprised you the most you know, or even aggravated you the most—it can be positive and negative—about the whole experience… what it really takes to put on a summit, because clearly it’s a lot of work.
Jesse: Oh my God. So I did a blog post on my blog—it was a big 2,000 word piece and it was all about how, for the last 14 weeks, I’ve worked seventy hours a week, every week, because I was doing the summit and my copywriting job at the same time. And I want to make a point before I get into this: I didn’t go into this not knowing that was going to happen. I had planned for this and I had built things in, so it wasn’t just this random like, oh, Jesse’s just going to go and work until his fingers fall off. Like I had planned this all out.
But to me, the two biggest issues is WordPress, like—I know a lot of people love WordPress. As a guy that’s used to having packages that are complete where you don’t have to seek things out and integrate and Zap them, it’s childish to me how unstructured it is. And I use it and it’s fine, but it’s incredibly frustrating because there’s so many small details and unless you’re really dug into it, a normal person can’t do well without help. And I feel that’s bad design. It’s the same thing with cars, or anything like—if I can’t go in as a normal person and make things work on average, it’s not built well. It’s too complicated. And I feel that way about WordPress. So I was really thankful to get Thrive Architect. But one thing that really frustrated me was, I forget was Thrive was, I think it was Thrive Builder? But I had Thrive Builder, and then they transitioned to Thrive Architect. So literally, my whole site, I build it all, paid for these templates, and boom. It exploded. Nothing worked. So I had to go back in and do it all again and to me, that was the most frustrating thing.
But yeah, it’s a lot of work, just the normal details. If you were to look at my entire swipe copy file, I figure I’ve probably written 25—30 thousand words of copy, whether it’s sales pages, emails, blog posts, guest posts, promotions, ads; and that doesn’t even count for like, I wrote a 10,000 word Profit Playbook for people to buy the all-access pass—I wrote five bonus e-books that probably come out to another 15,000 worth of words that you get when you have the all-access pass so it was just, it was a slop. It was a ton of work. It was working every morning, I would get up at 530, and I would work till probably 700 at night. And it was hard, but it was worth it. The other thing that upset me that I was very cool about was people constantly rescheduling times.
Kira: (laughs) I think I did that, didn’t I?
Jesse: Yeah, but at least you like, called me ahead of time. A lot of people did it the day of. And that really sucked, but at the same time, I couldn’t complain because people who are very high-ticket people—Ryan Robertson, Lianna Patch, Natalie MacGuire—people that are making a quarter of a million dollars a year were giving me their time for free, so I understood and I was very calm about it and I didn’t let it get to me. but it was upsetting, because you have to set aside time, so although I have like an hour and fifteen minutes set aside for podcasts, I obviously had more time set aside for that because I had to show up early, I had to set everything up, and that was kind of the other thing that really was troublesome—just the amount of time it took to do the interviews. I have 23 interviews, which comes out to a little under 23 hours of time, and whew! Man. That’s just a lot of time.
Kira: Yeah, that’s a lot. So how are you packaging it as far as, what are you charging and what do people get? I’m asking because someone may want to package their summit a similar way.
Jesse: The one I did for my summit was, I wanted to have a minimum of 20 hours of video and when I say video, like, it’s pretty much just a conversation that was an interview, where you come in, you have a couple of really great ideas that you would like that person you’re talking with to share; along with that, I had e-books and a Profit Playbook and I’m doing a mastermind Facebook group. So I have kind of like a quadruple hit.
They have the 20 hours of content, and along with the 20 hours of content, they get a Profit Playbook where you recap all that content and you take the “best of” and it’s kind of like giving minutes—so if somebody doesn’t want to sit through all 20 hours because it might not all be relevant to them, they can use the Profit Playbook and say, okay, I want to listen to these four talks. Perfect. And then the same thing with the e-books. I have e-books that touch on every level of skillset, whether people are just beginning—maybe they don’t know the right way to ask for testimonials, to people that want to know the exact tactics and outlines to use when I create six figure sales letters and I’ve created multiple ones that I’ve given as examples. And then along with that, I have a Facebook group.
The reason I have a Facebook group, and this is more for personal, but it’d be something to consider—I want to funnel people into a coaching system, take the information from my coaching and then build an online course so they can sell in evergreen format. Because of that, the Facebook group—which I’m going to get the masses to—allows me to do four coaching calls with interested people. I can record their questions and then do a whole bunch of follow-up with them by helping them and in that follow-up, figure out exactly what they’re trying to accomplish, just like you try to figure out exactly what a client wants, and then I can build out the coaching service like that. So that’s kind of the main outline.
As far as delivery goes, the summit happens two ways. Live attendance is free, so you schedule your WordPress with—I have a redirector that I can’t remember the name of off the top of my head—but each talk opens up 10 minutes before its scheduled time. So you can go on the page and you can watch it 10 minutes before, and then at the end of that talk, at that period of time, you can’t see it anymore and the next talk opens. And then that’s it. The free thing only happens once. So it’s not up for a week and they can watch it all. They’ve got one period to catch it and then if they don’t, they have to buy the all access pass. And that’s kind of the idea—you want people to buy the all access pass because you’re funneling out people that are going to be specific customers going forward. And then when they buy the all access pass, everything is parked indefinitely for an entire year on Teachable, along with all the bonuses that I just told about.
Rob: Jesse, I’m curious—and you might want to be very careful in answering this question—who were the two best speakers that you interviewed?
Jesse: Oh man…
Kira: (laughs) I was going to ask the same question but I was going to say, “Who was the BEST one?” (laughs)
Rob: Yeah, there’s a couple of really good ones I know about…
Jesse: Well, what’s great is that everybody that you guys suggested was amazing. I’ll say this—the funniest one for me was Natalie McGuire. I had no idea about Natalie before we started, and really, our first conversation in person was about 10 minutes before the summit talk and like, during the summit talk I was just blown away! We have the exact same like, mental philosophy when talking with clients, when teaching people, and pretty much the whole conversation is us agreeing with each other, which I thought was hilarious. Me and yours talk was great because we got to talk about Steve Martin, which is, you know, it was great finding out that you’re a big fan of him and we got to talk about that but we also got to relate a couple of really cool things from the summit about Steve Martin’s career and his approach to copywriting.
Kira, it was great because you dug into my experience as a hypnotist, so we were not only able to talk about something really unique, but were able to take those strategies and apply them. Everybody had something kind of unique. Like, you know, for instance, Justin Blackman. Justin was really cool because we got to talk about deliberate practice, which is something I’m a huge fan of but a lot of people don’t know about, with his headline project. When I talked with Hilary Weiss, she had one of my favorite quotes from the entire summit and I think she lifted this from Joanna, but I still loved it.
Jesse: Yeah, it was a while ago so I’m not 100% on it… she said, “Don’t charge what you can afford. Charge what it’s worth.” And I remember—like, I still get tingles when I hear it like, it’s so good! You know? Like, you know it, but to hear it put so succinctly… it’s like that Mark Twain quote: “The difference between a good word and the right word is the difference between a lightning but and lightning.” Right? And that was one of those moments where it’s like, it gave me the chills. So everybody had something that I really was a favorite of, and I can talk about every single person because it was unique. I made sure we developed the personality and rapport—it wasn’t just me peppering them with the same questions.
And that’s one thing I should say, too; I didn’t mention this: every single person I talked with, although we talked about the same strategies and ideas, each person’s questions were unique. And that was like, a mistake I feel a lot of summits make, is they go in and everybody answers the same questions. And this is kind of why I have a problem with John Lee Dumas’ Entrepreneur on Fire—because, after a while, like, the answers are all the same. And they might have like, one or two shades different, but by tailoring questions that talked about the same strategies but were different and unique to the person, you’re able to supply a unique perspective for multiple people for multiple disciplines. And that was something I was really proud of myself for.
Kira: And you did a great job making us all feel special. I felt special when I was chatting with you, so it was enjoyable on our end. Jesse, I want to wrap up with final question: and so, you know, you have a really interesting background, again—the first hypnotist, magician on our show who spent a lot of time in direct response. So, to you, does the future of copywriting look like?
Jesse: I see the future of copywriting for the market growing. As more and more people move businesses online, they’re moving them online with an understanding of the expectations it’s going to take for their business to grow, and they’re doing it with more revenue. It might not necessarily be money that they have saved, but it’s money they’re willing to spend. So the people that are going to succeed, the people that are going to be getting a hold of this money, that’ll be growing with the market—there are going to be people that recognize that at its heart, copywriting’s about providing a service.
One thing that I talk about to a lot of people on the summit is, I don’t work for people. I work with people. When you’re hiring me, you’re not hiring me as an employee. You’re bringing me on as a partner. Your concerns are my concerns. And I feel, with how small business is becoming online, where it’s like 1 or 2 people businesses because of automation, or integration of apps or plug-ins, they’re able to provide very large services to a lot of people. People are going to need consultants. They’re going to need guidance. And as copywriters, you don’t just know how to sell things. You understand implementation, you understand strategy. And I feel like that’s where copywriting will go as this big business, small user kind of market grows. They’re going to need somebody like, with that J. Abraham perspective, like, “I’m a trusted adviser.” I’m not just the person that writes your emails—I am the person that shows up with you once a week and we discuss strategy. We look for market growth. We take chances together. I think that will be ultimately where the market goes. For me, I’m going to become more of a thought-provider. A thought-leader and a consultant, and less the guy sitting there actually writing out the copy at some point. Because I understand—my time and my skills make me more valuable for these. And I’d rather sell something that I can get more results for. And it’s a selfish reason! The more results I create, the better I look. The better I look, the more I can charge, the more results I can create going onward. So I’m ultimately going to position myself and I think this is how the market will go, to be an adviser, to be somebody that clients turn to for results, and not for just, a one-off project.
Rob: Good stuff. Yeah, really good stuff!
Kira: That was a great answer.
Jesse: Thank you.
Kira: (laughs) Finishing strong!
Rob: Jesse, if people are looking to connect with you, the summit is over but if they want to see the replay or to, again, connect with you, where would they be looking?
Jesse: So you guys should check out my blog—it is Live Gold Rich—I know it’s a goofy name but it’s a solid idea. And you can find me there. I have a great mailing list, check it out—it’ll be right at the top. I have this awesome email sequence. If you want to get access to the summit and it’s not open and you’ve listened to this, just shoot me an email! I’ll open up access, I can open a space for you in Teachable if it’s something you’re interested in. And it’s a pretty great mailing list. I write once or twice a week—I pretty much just share really interesting ideas and strategies for socializing yourself to get more gigs, find better clients, and book larger contracts.
Rob: Very cool.
Kira: Awesome. Thank you, Jesse, for including us in your summit and also being a part of OUR show!
Jesse: Yeah, thank you for coming on and thank you so much for making contacts for me so I can bring on people I didn’t even know existed! I feel it not only enriched my network, but it really brought a lot of value to everybody that’s going to attend.
Rob: Excellent, thanks, Jesse!
Jesse: All right, you guys have a good afternoon!