In Episode 2 of The Copywriter Club Podcast, Kira and Rob interview “Copywriter to the Stars” Ry Schwartz about becoming a copywriter (a funny story that shows how long he’s come), how he landed gigs writing for people like Amy Porterfield, his process for working with clients and understanding customers and much more. Ry even drops his phone number on the show, so listen to the end if you want to chat with him in person. British accent required (you have to listen).
Ry is a genuinely nice guy and easy to talk to—which is why this show runs a little long. But the advice he drops is worth the extra time. Check it out by clicking the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Email | RSS
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
Danny Iny (Mirasee, formerly Firepole Marketing)
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel
Clip-on Man Buns
Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Intensive
Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method Masterclass
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
KH: What if you could hang out with really talented copywriters and other experts, 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 Rob and I try to do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
RM: You’re invited to join the club for episode two as we chat with copywriter to the stars Ry Schwartz about writing for big-name clients, being un-Googlelable and his process for putting himself in the shoes of the people he writes to and for.
KH: Hey, Rob and Ry.
RM: Hey, Kira, Ry.
RS: Copywriter to the stars, like how much do I owe you for that new branding slogan?
RM: I wondered what you would think about that, Ry.
KH: That was incredible.
RS: It’s so good.
RM: So true. Hey Ry, maybe other than the introduction that I’ve given, you’re sort of this hidden-away copywriter nobody can find. Maybe talk about that in a minute, but I would love to hear the Ry story. How you became a copywriter? Because I’m imagining that when you’re seven years old you weren’t thinking, “I am going to be a copywriter. I’m going to write emails for a living.” Right? What’s the story?
RS: Yeah. I had it coming. No, I am not related to Gene Schwartz. Sometimes I referred to him as my uncle just for fun. I actually got started pretty late-ish, I guess. I do have a business-ish background. I did my undergrad in marketing for whatever that was worth which turned out to be pretty much nothing. Right out of college got a corporate job, the typical cubicle hell kind of thing and for those two years it was all about us keeping that. Literally, I used to refer to that as ‘Shawshank,” I was digging my way out with the plastic spoon every day. This right around 2007-2008 which was a perfect time to jump ship, if you weren’t being forced off the ship.
RS: I remember I wasn’t being forced off the ship which is really alarming and people are getting laid off every day and people are disappearing. I remember like, “This is my perfect opportunity to try to get laid off and try to at least make an exit with a bit of a severance package.”
RS: Ultimately I didn’t get laid off, but I ended up having to quit and then from there, I actually pursued screenwriting full-time for about the three years and really flirted with success right out of the gates, which is both an amazing thing and a bit of a curse. Because it just strung me along long enough for literally three years, thinking that that break is coming. I had projects that got attraction and picked up and various people attached. It was promising and promising enough to make me remain in there without being deluded or at least thinking that I was being deluded. That’s an interesting process but meanwhile, money wasn’t coming in. It was really hard on some relationships at the time and also just my personal self-esteem, like how much longer can I convince myself that that big break and big paycheck is around the corner.
RS: I was taking all sorts of odd jobs around there. I was the guy cutting grass in the summer, if you now kind of wondering like, “He must have dropped out of high school.” Stuff like flooring and all sorts of stuff that you really don’t feel like you should be doing. It was really depressing at that age. At that point, I was already in my mid-20s and just not feeling good about that. I started looking for jobs on Craigslist and copywriter kept coming up and a lot of those. I had no idea what that was, all I knew is that it had the word ‘writer’ in it and that was something that I was doing with relative success for the last few years. I applied to one of them, got an interview, still didn’t know what a copywriter was just BS my way through the hiring process and got the job.
RS: I got the job. I got hired in an agency as a copywriter, not knowing what it was. I come in the first day, the first day I come in about an hour early. I realized I see that they actually gave me a really nice big office and I’m like, “Holy crap, this gig might be more important than I thought it was.” I locked myself in there and I remember turning on the computer, really anxious, waiting for it to load, I think it was an old OS and it was just taking longer than it should have. It finally came up, I opened up Internet Explorer, Google popped up and I typed in, “What is copywriting?” That certainly where the journey began it is actually…
RM: There’s got to be so many people listening to this thinking, “Oh my gosh, are you kidding me?”
RS: Yeah. That’s how it started. Copy Hackers, Joanna had some serious SCO game because she owned that term, that popped up. Literally I learned enough to get by through the first day and then every day I kept returning and learning enough to get through the next day. Literally when you’re in their trial-by-fire and you have to really absorb enough to really survive, it just happens really fast. I picked it up, thankfully it was something that came very naturally to. It wasn’t so much of a struggle to really get into the swing of it and I was already a confident writer, so it was really about reapplying it within the context of persuasion and writing copy, that converts.
RS: I was lucky in that sense, but it was stressful, that first week. When you talk about imposter syndrome, I was literally the imposter. It was not a syndrome, it was not a mindset thing. I did not need a mindset code to needed a copywriting education and I needed one really freaking fast. That’s really how it got started. I was in that gig for about a year and then went more freelance. I probably went freelance a little premature, got a lot of local jobs, yoga studios and I think my favorite one was a mattress company, like most poor copy job possible. Where I literally paid more in gas money to drive to their head office than I did make on what I wrote, that I was this happy for any client. Then I really got my start in the online world through, at the time it was called ‘Firepool Marketing’ owned by Danny Iny who some of our listeners may know. I was listening to one of his webinars, he was talking all about starting an audience business and that was the thing that was really intriguing to me at the time.
RS: At the beginning of the webinar, they do the whole. “Where you guys calling in from?” Of course, being a newbie I thought that people actually cared when they said that. I wrote in Montreal and he happened to be there to and that blew my mind and he mentioned it. I go on his site and it turned out, not only were we in the same city, but we were around the block which just felt like a sign from the universe. We connected, ended up really being mentored and came into his business in-house and that was really my deep-dive education into direct response and email and online marketing and all the things that have really served me over the last three years. Then the real basis for what I do now. That is the condensed story.
KH: Wow. I love that story, it’s the second time I heard that story and I think I love it even more this time. Ry, I think you came to Sonoma when Rob and I were there with the Copy Hackers Mastermind and that’s where we met in person. I was just looking at notes before jumping on this call, I had taken so many from your workshop. I didn’t realize and how that workshop and the content you shared with us, how it’s already impacted my work until I [look 00:09:56] back at those notes. A big part of that is around forgiveness and what you taught us about forgiving the reader. I think that stood out to me the most and I’ve talked about it with people since then, too. I think that could be a really powerful lesson to share with our community. I know it’s huge and we can’t cover all of it, but if you could give an overview of the role that forgiveness can play in copywriting today.
RM: Forgive us for not having time to cover it, as well as it should be.
RS: I will forgive all … I mean, you guys have to forgive all blunders here and try to condense this. Essentially, it really all starts with drilling down into pain. We speak so much about pain points as copywriters, but pain is a pretty broad sweeping thing that really deserves fully zooming into the various shades of it. Then when you look at the various shades, you see some guilt, you see some shame, you see sort of regret and that’s really where a lot of the juice comes in. Where there’s a lot of opportunity to give value to your reader, to give value to your prospect and have them heal a wound that simultaneously allows them to have the opportunity to be a buyer. I speak a lot about coaching the conversion. Conversion buying is a behavior, it’s an action, it’s a new state where they believe things they didn’t believe before and they forgive or release themselves from previous patterns that would obstruct them from being able to do that.
RS: I always do like … We might talk a little bit more about my process but with every project, they usually have a set of about 21 questions that I really fill out myself that allow me to drill deeper onto these points and one of them is, what does the reader need forgive themself for in order to buy? A lot of it has to do with past decisions they’ve made that they may not be proud of as it relates to that product. Sometimes it’s about what they deem to be procrastination and feeling like they failed and they let people down and we carry a lot of guilt and shame around that as well. One example I think I’ve given was when writing for … It was a natural dietary treatment or a holistic treatment for anti-depression and a lot of people carry regret around their decision to get on medication. It could have been 10 years ago and it could’ve been impulsive and they did it for that immediate relief, knowing that there could be some long-term consequences. That it was the short-term fix, but that short term fix became a long-term destabilizing thing that they really regret.
RS: Part of that campaign was about recognizing that, recognizing that built-in bias they have. Because buying the product, buying the natural product would, in turn, mean admitting that they’ve made a bad decision in the past. That’s not saying that a lot of people want to confront. You really have to give them that opportunity. Really, one resource that I talk a lot about was Victor Frankel’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.’ I have a little twist on that market search for meaning. What previous supposedly negative events can we reframe and really get them to know, that was probably the best thing they could do at the time, but now, so we validate that decision and we create that meaning loop. We give meaning to that but in order to close it, they need to stay consistent with this positive decision-making and go to that next thing.
RS: It’s like one of those, “It’s not your fault until it is.” It wasn’t your fault then because you made the best and maybe only decision you had at the time. Now that you’re presented with a better opportunity, it is on you and there is a certain accountability to really act on it. That’s really what I mean by the giving the prospects a chance to forgive themselves, inviting them to do that. It comes down to really knowing that story, knowing their story around what you’re selling. It seems to really … They experienced it as those oh-my-God-they-get-me moments. That’s what the reader really perceives it as, is they feel so hurt and so seen and so empathized with and invited to really release that guilt that they may not have even had the emotional awareness to know was there.
RS: That becomes powerful when you could reveal something in them and active in them that they really didn’t have a chance to address before and that trust. To me, that is the trust you’re looking to generate in a campaign. We talked about trust as one of Cialdini’s triggers we tend to really address that by having guarantees and testimonials and influences and all that. To me, trust in its most powerful form is really just their trust in your ability to solve their problem in a powerful way. That comes from them really truly believing that you understand everything about their context and their pain and how it arose, so that answers it.
KH: No, it does. I know we want to get into your process and how you even understand their pain before you can coach them to the conversion. Just to wrap this up with forgiveness, do you feel like this is where a lot of copywriters missed out on an opportunity to convert and to really move someone to take action? Because I feel like I read a lot of copy as trying to learn, and I don’t see the forgiveness aspect often. I definitely always see it in your copy, but do you feel like that’s an opportunity to improve our copy overall?
RS: Yeah. I feel it is. I feel like at the most basic level, it is a way of showing them that we understand their complete context. I think there’s a lot of missed opportunities when we take our data, survey responses, all that stuff at phase level without sitting with it long enough and really dissecting and really … I treat data and survey responses as the tip of the iceberg. I don’t just take it wholesale and reflect that back. If I see a meaty piece of data in whatever form it comes, I always try to sit with that long enough to see everything underneath it, what led them to say that.
RS: That’s where it becomes really, really telling and it could be time-consuming. It could be time-consuming to really mull over that sort of stuff and really empathize with it, but as maybe you [spend 00:17:02] in Sonoma, like it doesn’t have to take so long.
RS: You don’t have to do it over every piece of data that comes in to your hands. Because know because there so much overlap between those customer stories and you should be treating it as that one customer anyway. Just sit with it long enough to pierce below that surface. Don’t take survey responses at phase level, see what is the story that led them to think that. I’m going over some of it right now actually. We have a bunch of survey responses about people who went to this live business growth event and a lot of people are saying saying they were really happy that it was intimate and they got to really meet people firsthand and they really got to get some focused attention. I could easily write the copy and take some of that and say, “You get more individual, one-on-one attention than any other event.”
RS: I could go deeper and say, “Okay, so if they’re saying that this feels more intimate, what have they experienced in the past that wasn’t so great?” Maybe they didn’t want to be the person in the corner looking at their Facebook newsfeed while everyone else mingles because their introverted. Maybe they’ve gone back on the plane home trying to convince themselves that it was money well spent when secretly they know they have a few notes that they’ll never look back on and no relationships that are going to be meaningful. They’ve just tried to convince themselves that it was worth their while. Yeah, just things like that. I’m not saying those are perfect examples, but it’s just a way to orient your thinking to really drill deeper. Whenever you have something, just go one level deeper and see what was the precursor to that feeling or that event or emotion. That’s where you really get to stand out and where you get to…
RS: I think one of my clients said it in a way that I love best. It’s like, “Your third eye has been activated.” There’s nothing mystical about, it’s that patience to really savor the process instead of this mechanical rigid, I need to churn out X amount of work per day because I have all these other clients on backlog. It’s really when you just allow yourself to sit in the process instead of just thinking purely from a productivity standpoint. I think you just open yourself up to those insights which in turn make it more productive in the long run. Because the writing becomes easier, the results become better and ultimately, those clients become lifelong clients and you don’t have to do all the other things that spin from having to find new clients all the time.
RM: Seems like a really powerful tool for a writer to have in their toolbox to be able to go through that. I want to unpack that just a little bit, Ry. You’ve mentioned a few things, story, you talked a little bit about your process. I’ve noticed in reading some of the emails that you’ve done for Amy Porterfield and the work that you’ve done with Joanna and some others that your emails seem to really focus on a really emotional story. It really hits home when you’re reading this. You really identity with what you’re saying. Yeah, this is really talking to me, and so I’m curious about, in addition the steps for identifying the things that you need to forgive. What is your process look like and where do you come up with the story that you then translate into an email sequence?
RS: That’s a great question. My process is probably the thing I’m most insecure about as a copywriter. I wish I have this A to Z process of, okay, client intake and then I do this, this this, this and this. I wish I had that and I’ve tried many times to really solidify that you. I know how being able to surrender to that could take out a lot of guesswork and make sure that no loose ends are missed. I’m constantly reinventing it. I’d say that the only real constants I have are, I have that list of questions that I journal on. It’s like journaling for your business, journaling for your market and that’s really my first major step is answering this list of questions like the one we spoke about before, what do they need to forgive themselves for.
RS: Usually those are going to be really, really telling and those are really going to show me where I might be a little bit in the dark around the market and where I need to have more conversations with the client or we need to get more data or whatever. I really do start from a from a question answering thing, me personally. Usually once I’ve cultivated that and have really steeped in who this audience is and I say this in a much different way than just writing a two-dimensional avatar on a page. I really do try to embody that. Once I’ve written in journal, [inaudible 00:22:27] I try to steepen it for the duration of that project and reflect that back to my client. I’ll do a little role play with them and try to talk to them as if I’m their client. Sometimes I’ll reverse it and give them a chance to do it as well, so that we could get a more complete picture of it.
RS: It sounds more like a softer, more qualitative process and to a certain degree, it is. I feel like that’s where there’s the biggest chance really get those key insights and stand out, because the heart that is easier and easier to get, that’s becoming more the norm. That’s not the hard stuff to really find right now, it’s really tapping deeper into it and really making it more holistic process and from there, really, the stories and the angles I choose. This is where I’m going to be a little more vague and just say that when you are steeped in it, the inspiration comes from just about anywhere. When you’ve pinpointed what your prospect needs to believe in order to become a buyer, the hooks will come from your Facebook newsfeed. Some of my most successful emails were coming from placer where, “Okay, my prospect needs to believe that shortcuts aren’t worth it,” and then I’m scrolling and clip-on on buns comes on. I’m like, “That’s a pretty ridiculous thing that happens when you take shortcuts.” Then that actually became the main hook in one of the stories.
RM: I’m throwing away my clip-on man bun right now.
RS: You wear it so well, Rob. I had no idea it was a fake one, I mean, it look natural. I’d never really sit down and really try to generate stories on demand, those are really just naturally emerging of really [one type 00:24:34] steeped and the beliefs I need them to have by the time this campaign is done. The truth is, there are thousands if not countless millions of ways to illustrate those points. One thing I will do usually with new clients is really have a what I call a ‘first date call’ where I’ll pretend we just both swipe right on Tinder and we’ll just talk and I’ll find out more about their personal live. Really be able to bring that into the fold which I feel is it’s not easy to do at first when you when obviously, we are copywriters and we write in other people’s names which is pretty much the most intimate thing you could do in business with your pants still on.
RS: I think that’s something that felt very natural when I started working with clients, but seemed to really blow their mind is like, “Why is this person really making this effort to get to know me on such a personal level and on such an intimate level?” To me, that just felt like a prerequisite. If I’m going to be writing in this person’s name and making that feel authentic and real and bringing their stories into the fold, I need to be friends with this person. There’s no other way around it. I can even spend a few minutes embodying someone I dislike. It’s an intimate job and I feel that it’s an intimate job from the perspective of our clients and it’s an intimate job with our prospect. I think that the only way to really thrive is to develop those, not just develop but allow those empathetic talks to surface instead of making it so mechanical.
RS: That’s a big part of my process, just really journaling on these questions for myself, allowing insights to emerge, taking enough showers for the story hooks to just of pop-up through there. Really having as many conversations as I need with my clients, a lot of personal conversations with the, first date type stuff, role-playing based on those insights and just reflecting it back. Then of course, I will get into the more technical aspects of writing. I will create outlines for my emails. I will outline the whole sequence and what each part of it is trying to achieve what each email is selling, so I will get more technical there. Really, for me, I think when I really look at how much time I spend on anything, it’s really about 70% that deeper more qualitative work and 30% the actual writing. It’s just comes so much quicker once I’ve done all that stuff in advance.
KH: Ry, I like the way that you describe, but it’s really an intimate experience for both of you when you’re working together. I think it’s easy to forget that especially if you are taking on more clients than you can handle in a month. You don’t take the time needed to really get to know them, and so I know that resonated with me and has already changed the way that I speak to my clients and spend time with them and really get to know them. I’d love to know, if you don’t mind sharing, some of the questions you may ask them during that initial call or early on in the process. I know you have some great questions that really pull out some of their stories and personal information that other copywriters may not ask. Maybe even feels like, “Oh, I shouldn’t ask that,” but I know you go there and you use it and you use it in such a powerful way.
RS: Yeah. You know what? I don’t have a list of specific questions that I asked my clients. I tend to embody my inner Oprah and just go to the places it takes. Yeah, not being afraid to ask questions, like where do they feel most insecure in their business. I really like pointing things out that draw out, that vulnerability as well. I think that’s where get a lot of juicy [deton 00:28:49]. Not every client is willing to go there. It gets awkward when they’re like, “I wanted a copywriter, not a life coach.”
RM: Yeah. I could imagine.
RS: It sometimes goes there but ultimately, I’m ready adamant about continuing that process just because I know that I’ll do my best work when I have access to those insights. That’s actually the relationship that is most fulfilling for me from a client copywriter perspective. I need to really enjoy that process and it’s okay to have your list of qualities you seek in a partner.
RS: What do I ask? I’ll start off really getting to know what brought them into that business. What really excites them most about it? What they were doing before? What was that trigger point or that catalyst that got them into that line of work? What they admire most about their market? What has touched them most as a business owner? What is their long-term plan what breaks their heart most about that market you know and the struggles of that market? That’s usually the one that actually draws a lot of insights, what breaks your heart most out of the market you serve? Rears have been shed over that one. I mean, that’s a question I asked myself all the time. What really breaks my heart about this market? That’s where you go from just these two-dimensional benign pain points to, “Holy crap, this is a living experience with the real people who are in real despair and there’s some emotional weight there.”
RS: I think I said this in Sonoma, but it’s worth saying again. I don’t write until I feel like crap, until like I almost want to puke, until I have this guttural visceral reaction that this world is not okay and unless…
RM: It’s a very Hemingway of you, I think.
RS: That’s why I only take one job per year and then just go out into the forest and drink gallons gallons of whiskey. I say that as I look at this like old antique typewriter at my desk and I’m, “I’m not …” yeah, I’m a [inaudible]. That’s really it. Really feeling deeply into my client’s experience of the market and how they’re serving it which becomes really, really telling and also empathy on the other end of the spectrum. Yeah, tapping into that audience and going beyond pains. What does the experience of the pain beyond the label of it?
RM: Ry, if I could shift gears for a minute, at the top of the shell, I introduced you as a copywriter to the stars. I was sort of trying to be a little bit funny but the fact of the matter is, that you write a lot of copy for some pretty big names in the Internet space. Amy Porterfield has I think mentioned that you are one of the secrets to her success, two or three different times on her podcast. I know you’ve done a successful launch with Jonna at Copy Hackers. You’ve worked with several other big names, people doing really remarkable things online, million dollar launches kind of stuff. I’m curious, how did you get there? How did you get to be the writer for someone like Amy Porterfield? What does that take? Where does it start and what are the steps to get there?
RS: That’s a really, really good question, Rob. I’d say three years ago or maybe two to three years ago when I really started getting those bigger names, if you will. I never really had a strategic step-by-step plan for doing it and I know that’s not helpful so I am going to try to elaborate a little more on maybe even reverse engineer how some of those names came to be clients. I feel the experience of working with a copywriter is generally not an enjoyable one, especially for business owners who are running successful companies who are really busy. It’s something that they just don’t even expect to enjoy. When you do deliver that experience, really acknowledging and honoring the intimacy of that relationship, getting to know them as more than people who sign your checks. It really becomes a buzz-worthy experience, especially if you’re getting results for them.
RS: The way our online world is becoming more and more connected, not online but how these business owners are craving more and more in-person connection. You see that with the growth of Masterminds which have exploded over the past two years. Everyone is connecting and jumping on planes and meeting four times a year and those experiences get spoken about and often. That’s how I really managed to get by without any kind of online presence, is there’s even the joy in the discovery and having your name whispered about and then they try to track you down and it feels very exclusive that way. It wasn’t something I cultivated, but it was a happy byproduct of me having no WordPress skills more than anything.
RS: It’s really been a process of, yes, I probably was lucky to get my first big name but that came through persistence. The first big client I guess you could say was my in-house job with our Firepool Marketing and they were doing really, really well at the time. Danny was super hyper connected in that space. That came from me being on the webinar, me getting on that radar continuing the conversation after the webinar. It could probably been expedited if I was a customer of that product. I’m not afraid to just like pay to play a little bit there and then just getting on that radar. The truth is people need good copywriters and it’s fascinating and it keeps blowing my mind how underserved our markets really are and it doesn’t matter what space you’re in.
RS: The need for skilled, talented, fun and easy to work with copywriters who will actually deliver on what they say is so huge. As long as you’re giving people that experience, you are going to get spoken about. They may be reluctant to speak about you, because there’s secret weapon and they don’t want your bandwidth going elsewhere. I mean, it started with one big client and the rest was just really referral-based. I think a lot of people talking about me in their Masterminds, in their private little inner circles, that’s really how it grew. If I were to start over today, and this could be a really meaty solution for anyone really trying to build their roster of clients in a fast way, is look at maybe two or three events that business owners attend especially in your market. The way I would frame it is like not events of other copywriters, but events where people are being sold on going to the goldmine without the shovel. In my market, that might be in a Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Intensive or Ryan Levesque’s Ask Masterclass or whatever.
RS: You’re literally getting hundreds and hundreds of business owners who are being told to build these crazy intricate online funnels and then they’re so enchanted by that. Then they get there and then by day two their like, “Holy crap, I need to write 16 [notes now]. I don’t know how to do that.” Their faces just sink and they panic and that’s where you’re literally the rockstar of the event. I’ve been to a few events this past year where like … I’m pretty introverted. I don’t go in there. I never brought a business card to an event, but the second someone hears that you’re a copywriter, people will flock. Especially if you’re at one of those events that’s not for a copywriter specifically but for business owners in the industry you served who have just become enlightened to how much copy they need and how crucial it is for the success of what they’re doing. That’s what I would do if I was really trying to build that roster out today. That’s the thing.
RS: The need is higher than ever, really. People are really looking to build more and more intricate funnels with all sorts of segmentation built in, and different tracks, and different automations. They just don’t have the bandwidth to do it, they don’t even know how to hire it out. If you’re just available to them you know either through those in-person meetings or just you work with people on their circle …
RM: Right place, right time kind of a thing?
RS: Right place, right time but that right place is getting bigger than ever and the right time is becoming pretty much 24/7. It’s not so hard to find that mark and then it’s just really about delivering that stellar experience, both from how you deliver professionally and also just the experience of hiring a copywriter. That’s part of really what you’re selling. You’re selling the experience of feeling confident that this major aspect of their business is going to be taken care of and they’re going to feel taken care of. Yeah, that’s really about it. I don’t have any other lead generation method other than that right now.
KH: I’m curious, Ry. I mean, you’re going to these events, you have big name clients. A lot of people want to work with you at this point in your business.
RS: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
KH: I would love to know how you structure a business so that you have the space to really do the type of powerful work that you’ve been talking about, take the time to really become your avatar. That all takes time and energy and if a lot of people want your services, how are you structuring your business so that you’re only taking on a couple clients at a time? I guess I just want to know what that looks like for you, assuming that it’s working for you. Because I know that’s what I feel overwhelmed as I plan out my calendar. I usually pack in more than I can handle. Any advice you have there is I’m grateful.
RS: It’s a bit of a weak point for me as well. If there’s one area that I’d say I could do a lot better on is estimating my bandwidth better, spacing out projects better more effectively. That’s one place I think that is kind of a … I mean, you become a victim of your own success at some point. What I do try to do however is only really try to book 65 to 65% of my capacity, like no more than that. No more than one major project per month. If it only takes two weeks then all of a sudden, I’m able reach out to other people I put on the back burner and say, “The slot just opened. I have a few days right now, do you want to work together?”
RS: The other thing, if I do know that I am going to be lining up a job more than three months out, that’s where I could really engage the client in a lot more of the preliminary legwork. I’ll give them a chance to participate in those questions that I’d be journaling about. I’ll have some more frequent conversations with them and really dove even deeper. I do get to do a lot of that groundwork in the meantime until the physical writing actually does happen.
RS: Granted, you’re not going to close all those clients who need you now and you’re not available. Ultimately, you know what? I’ve met a lot of copywriters and I am included in this bunch that just really want to please. It’s so hard to not just say no, but to leave somebody hanging and especially because we’ve all started from a place where we weren’t booked up. We were grateful for any gig and opportunity that fell on our table, and that script is still active. I have trouble saying, “No, I’m not available for a contract that I know could be five figures a year,” like that’s scary still. Ultimately you just have to really be honest with yourself and the lifestyle you want to live and the service you want to be able to give. For me, that’s really max, like one big project per month, really embody. At that point, you’re giving a lot of value and you obviously should be charging accordingly for that to the point where if that’s the only gig of that month, that’s still a good month.
RS: You don’t need to fill your calendar and counter and jam-packed it with eight other clients in order to hit your financial goals. That’s an important thing to reverse engineer, too. The more intimate and deeper work you give and the more value provide and the more revenue you help someone generate, just really make sure that you’re charging accordingly to make that relationship and balance and to make it so that you don’t have to work 80-hour workweeks to hit your targets. I would say that these structures will definitely builds into giving yourself that space, to honor your current clients.
RS: Then the other thing is be truthful with yourself, like do you want any more clients? It’s tough to say no because for the majority of your career up to now it’s been, “Yes, I do want more clients.” Is there anything really to be gained in going from five to 10 clients or 10 to 15 clients? What is the opportunity to double down on the ones you already have give more value and earn more through that possible? If by adding new clients and on boarding more clients, that’s good to take you away from growing in the intimacy and the relationship with your current ones, is that really worth it to pursue? I wish I had a more elegant solution, I really don’t. It’s still pretty much guerrilla warfare. [inaudible 00:44:06] for me when it comes to spacing it out, but I just try to create as much time and space and flexibility between gigs as possible and always overestimate. I’ve learned to overestimate the time it would take to deliver and allow a little more cushion.
RM: Sure, the battle we’re all fighting, I think.
RM: We’re sort of running low on time, but I want to ask what I feel is a really important question, as concise as we can answer this. What does a typical project look like for you and how do you price that for your clients? If I have a course that I want to launch and I know I want to do something like the Product Launch Formula, how do you outline and and what is that proposal look that you send back to your client?
RS: My proposals are really informal. They’re literally just an email exchange. We will get on the phone at the beginning when they reach out to me however they’ve discovered me, so we will have a call I really get to field them out, they get feel me out. It’s not straight about the project. I will spend at least 20 minutes, if not the whole call, just getting to know them more personally and then booking another call to talk more about the project. There is that mutual vetting and maybe this is unique because of the way people come to my ecosystem, it’s kind of whispered about and they don’t even really know who I am and that’s kind of… I mean, for some people, it’s alarming, that they have no idea what they’re getting into.
RS: It’s really kind of that mutual vetting than really kind of talking about the project, being walked through it. At this point, a lot of the clients I worked with are, I mean, the projects are fairly similar. There are some Product Launch Formula type online launches, some Evergreen webinar type launches. Some ask method type launches. You really start understanding the ecosystem of that type of project and asking questions that they tried and even think about before like, “How many segments are going to be writing for?” Just gathering those essential details, when they like launch by, how many partners they have. Just really helping them shape out their needs.
RS: Don’t assume that your client knows what they need. They might know what they want. They know what they want as an outcome but as a copywriter or a launch strategies or marketing consultant or whatever you’re bringing to the table, it’s really up to us to take that leadership stance and help draw that bridge for them between where they’re at and the outcome they’re trying to generate and the outcome you even see them capable of generating. I really start with that outcome they’re striving for and then really reverse engineer it for them and that’s what’s really going to be … That’s really going to be what shapes the belief and the deliverables. That’s rarely something that…
RS: Some clients know exactly what they want. Amy is obviously really good at what she does and she knows exactly what she wants, but I’ve say that most clients, it’s really up to us to really kind of what they need and draw that up. Then cross it out according to yes, I mean, value-based costing knowing that they’re going to be working towards a certain financial outcome and you could pretty gauge the possibility of that. It really really is important to also gather their capacity for generating that. Knowing how many people on their email list, knowing how many partners are involved and what partners those may be, knowing if they have Facebook ad specialist on the team. Knowing what internal resources they have to really pull it off. If you doubt that they could even really come close to those protections, that’s where it really becomes becomes a bit dicey.
RS: You have to really either take a step back and really know that, “Okay, for what it would take for me to write this project?” It’s probably going to be too high relative to what they’re going to be able to generate but once again, that’s your problem.
RM: Yeah. You’re saying, like if I’m selling $10 e-book for you to put together a 30-piece email sequence, I don’t know how much you charge for that let’s just say $15000 or something like that, there’s no way I’m ever going to make that investment back.
RS: Right. That’s the point.
RM: If I’m selling a $2,000 course, the kind of thing that maybe Amy Porterfield is doing, at that point, now I only need to sell seven or eight and I’ve covered the cost.
RS: Exactly. Those are rally the ones you want to work on where you could charge your 15 or $20,000 and feel great because they’re making one to two million. Those are really the ones where you get rewarded really well and feel like you’ve given amazing value. Maybe you can charge $50,000 and it’s still have been extremely worth their while by. Yeah. Really kind of the biggest thing is taking the leadership role in that process ,really mapping out their needs with them. Because ultimately we have to take ownership of what we’re great at and what we deliver an offer.
RS: We are strategists. Yes, we might be hiring, being hired or they’re only trying to hire out for the mechanics of writing. I think the way you give more value and the way you really grow as a copywriter and more than a copywriter is in your willingness and your confidence to lead that process. Maybe that comes with experience, but I think it’s something that a lot of us could do a much, much better job and is just being willing to take the lead on that and really help fill out what they’re going to need to get the result they want.
KH: Ry, thank you so much. We’re at the hour. I know we need to jump, but I think that we would like to have you back every month or every quarter if you’re game.
RM: No kidding.
KH: Can you just talk to us all the time?
RS: Let’s do it. Let’s just set up daily.
RM: We have to add Ry as a third partner to the podcast.
RM: Hey Ry, we usually end with telling people where they can find you but for you, that’s a little bit of a problem because you’re not out there. You’re un-Googleable.
KH: Your phone number.
RS: Should I drop it? I’m actually going to drop it. 151-4947-4395, seriously…
KH: Ooh, he did it.
RS: I did it. Wow, I did it.
RM: Wow. Serious inquiries only. Right?
RS: Yeah. I mean, the thing is if you’re calling, the code for me to actually entertain the conversations, you need to come in with an Australian or British accent. That’s my link tracking actually. That’s my link tracking is accent.
KH: Oh my gosh.
RM: Yeah. That’s too funny. Seriously, you’re not on Twitter, you don’t have a website.
RS: No. I do have a website that’s being built right now, depending on when this goes live.
RS: Yeah. I know. Crazy, right? I mean, I could talk all about what inspired that but that could be a whole other conversation.
KH: Next time.
RM: We definitely need to talk about that.
RS: That’s going to be ryschwartz.me. Yeah, it should be live by right before Christmas, so depending on when you’re listening to this. Christmas 2016, because I know this is going to have an eight season run and…
RM: Yeah. Absolutely. Everybody’s going to be listening for decades.
RS: Yeah. I’m going to be sharing this with my grandkids and Rob’s great grand kids.
RM: Thank you so much for you time, Ry. We really appreciate it.
KH: Thank you, Ry.
RS: Thanks guys. Really, really appreciate it.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes and full transcript and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.