TCC Podcast #144: Using Copy to Set the Stage with Jeff Kimes - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #144: Using Copy to Set the Stage with Jeff Kimes

Copywriter Jeff Kimes is our guest for the 144th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Jeff is a former scientist and musician (or rather, he’s currently a musician making his living writing copy for clients). We asked Jeff about his path into copywriting and a bunch of other topics including…
•  Jeff’s journey from scientist to copywriter
•  the “copywriting” lessons he learned as a musician
•  how he creates connection with his readers
•  the importance of setting the stage to create a better experience
•  what he’s doing today as a copywriter (and where he is living)
•  the challenges of writing for a single client and learning their voice
•  the benefits of working with a single client
•  how we can optimize for learning throughout our careers
•  what Jeff is doing to build his authority today

Jeff also shared a few thoughts about the ethics of copywriting and why thinking about how your copy serves your customers matters. Click the play button below, find it on your favorite podcast app, or scroll down for a full transcript.


The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Jeff’s music
Joshua Bell in the Subway Video
Brian Clark (Copyblogger)
Brian Kurtz
Scott Adams
Jeff’s website
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Outro: Gravity


Full Transcript:

Rob:   This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.

Kira:   It’s our new membership designed for you to help you attract more clients and hit 10K a month consistently.

Rob:   For information or to sign up go to

Kira:   What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.

Rob:   You’re invited to join the club for episode number 144 as we chat with copywriter Jeff Kimes about how science, music and travel combined to make him a more effective copywriter. His research and writing process, seeking out experiences that grow his career. And we might even talk a little bit about the ethics of copy.

Kira:   All right, welcome Jeff.

Rob:   Hey Jeff.

Jeff:    Hello.

Kira:   I want to say welcome back because we already did interview months ago, but we just lost the file. It just didn’t work out. So welcome back. We never got to publish that conversation, but I know this one will be even more insightful. So Jeff why don’t we start this off just with the basics of how you got into copywriting and then we’ll go from there.

Jeff:    So as far as my own journey into copywriting, I’ve lived a couple different phases of life, which I think is pretty normal at this point in society. I started out in science. I was working in a psychoneuroimmunology lab. After school I was doing, working in vaccine development. I worked in neuroscience labs and stuff like that. And after a while I got really sick of the lab life and was really hungering for more. And I always had a real big travel bug inside of me. And so went on a, found jobs that facilitated that lifestyle. I worked at sea a lot in marine biology and used that to fund eight years of world travel that was very musically inspired. I’m also a musician and I’d go to a lot of countries where I was really inspired by their musical traditions and learned to teach over there. And then I would take what I learned and incorporate it into music that I was making back here in the U.S. and used that to launch a music project that I played with for several years. It was really fun, enormously fun. Not terribly profitable, but just a really, really beautiful life experience.

And in that process of growing a band and trying to make music my life and make that my living started to really come into contact with the necessity of marketing. And you have to get your message out there. You have, it doesn’t matter how good what you do is. No one really cares how good what you do, unfortunately, if they don’t know about it. If you can’t tell your story, if you can’t tell people how awesome you are, if you can’t find ways to connect with audiences and draw them into whatever it is that you’re creating, it’s almost a lost cause. I mean I’ve met lots of incredible musicians, just like really inspired artists, amazing people who are all really struggling. No one’s ever heard of them because they don’t know how to promote themselves.

And so my first real exposure to copywriting was doing Kickstarter campaigns and running copy for our Kickstarter launch and helped script out the video. I mean it was a team effort, for sure, and a lot of outreach and all that. That was the first time I was like, okay, if you want people to give you money you have to write all these words. What do you write? How do you write? That’s what I started investigating and doing research online and one thing leads to another. And then as the band grew it was, we got relatively successful. We were playing on large stages at festivals up on the West Coast and having a great time, really great connections with our audiences and everything like that. But even then, you know, life as a touring musician, awesome in a lot of ways, but it’s also really grueling and I started looking for other ways to really supplement my income that would allow me to continue this lifestyle of travel, music, art and all these other things I was really passionate about.

And freelance, I looked into a lot of different kinds of things. And it was like, okay, what could I do that I am already kind of good at, that is going to make me a better person that is going to be adding valuable skill to my skillset even if I don’t do it for very long. So even if I only do this thing for say two, three, four or five years, whatever, I’m going to be way better off because I did that. And so I’m not a designer. I’m not really visually arts inclined. I’m not a programmer. I tried that once. But really it came down to writing. I was like, okay, I know that I can write. I know that I can communicate. It’s still creative. And I can start connecting with other businesses and their marketing, which was clearly valuable. And so that kind of kicked me off in this whole journey into copywriting.

And after that project I was working with, that relationship ended and stepped out of that. And copywriting really took over. And that’s kind of how I ended up where I am now in the short version.

Rob:   Cool. So first question. What was the band name?

Jeff:    Band name was Yima. It was kind of a-

Rob:   Yima.

Jeff:    -down tempo kind of organic electronic hybrid thing. They’re still playing. Yeah, I’m not playing.

Rob:   All right. Well I guess let’s check them out on iTunes or wherever people get their music. We’ll look for that. But, so you mentioned having to learn how to promote as part of your musical experience and also connect you with the audience. So there are other lessons that you pulled from being a musician that apply directly to what you do in copywriting today.

Jeff:    So before the band even, well kind of at the same time, I also spent time as a busker, like a street musician. And it’s a similar kind of thing in street music where you see these people, like they can be really amazing street musicians who don’t make a lot of money because they’re kind of inwardly focused. They’re so into their music that they’re not really showing it. So kind of showmanship and really connecting with people and giving, to a certain extent, giving people what they want. Giving people something really interesting and engaging to look at. And when it comes to copy it’s like yeah, you as a business, you probably have a lot of really wonderful things you want to say, but is that engaging for anyone else? Is this enjoyable to read? Are you really connecting on what they want to hear and feel?

And that sort of empathic, like putting yourself into someone else’s shoes I think is really important no matter what. It’s like you can be a great musician, but if you’re not also entertaining to some degree you’re not going to rise to the levels that you would like to be at.

There’s this really famous YouTube video of one of the top violin players from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra or something like that playing in the New York Subway and making like $25 in an hour when really he gets paid like $10,000 for a single performance.

And so you know, the contacts that you surround with whatever creative act that you’re doing is really important. The showmanship you put around that and so with copy the contacts that you build around your offer through email, through the supporting copy to build it into this thing that gives them something to really latch onto. One of my friends, one of the biggest assets as a performer is a stage. Having a really good stage, a big stage with lights cells and other stuff, dramatically improves your perception in the eyes of the people watching.

Kira:   So I love this idea of figuring out if you’re connecting as a musician and caring that through to copywriting. How can copywriters know if they are building that connection while they’re actually writing and still doing the work. You know after you launch something you know if it converts or not, but while you’re doing it and pulling it together are there any questions that you ask yourself to make sure that it is engaging?

Jeff:    Reading out loud, I think, is really helpful. It gives that insight. If I’m reading this out loud and I’m bored reading it out loud no one else is going to enjoy this either. I think your, the emotional state from which you write is also really important because ultimately, like with music there is a real direct expression of whatever it is you’re doing that’s being transmitted through the act of the music that you’re playing. There’s a real, you can, you have an advantage in music because usually you can see the people that you’re, you can see the people’s reactions and stuff like that. But ultimately it really comes into tapping into your own inner resources of emotional depths. And you’re communicating that in the act of creation, in the act of whatever it is you’re doing whether it’s writing, whether it’s playing music, whether it’s making a painting. You’re transmitting a certain emotional state through your act of creation.

And as a writer it’s really important to kind of get that and put yourself in the right mindset, put yourself in the right emotional state. If this is something that needs to be exciting get yourself excited when you’re writing, you know? If you’re writing, if you’re trying to pull on some emotional heartstrings, put yourself in that state. If you’re writing about, like a difficult situation like, you know I and a client while back they do a big database for online counseling. And so they’re dealing with a lot of people with depression and anxiety. And so when I was doing that it was really like okay, if I’m depressed, like really putting yourself into that state of like I’m depressed. I don’t know what to do. I can’t even talk to people. I feel lost. I feel confused. My chest is collapsing and all this other stuff and really getting deep in that emotional state, what do I need to hear right now? How do I reach this person? How do I really connect on that emotional level in a way that’s going to resonant with them and make them feel understood seem, and putting yourself into that emotional state that you need to connect with that audience I think is really, really critical.

Rob:   Yeah, I really like the idea that you mentioned too of the contacts and the stage that you put yourself in and the difference of being sort of the busker street musician versus on a larger festival stage and how that impacts the experience of the customer for music. I can totally see that applying in copywriting as well. There are people who, the way they set their stage, they are just the guy sitting on the street corner and there’s nothing magical about it versus other copywriters who step out onto this enormous stage with the lights and the smoke and all the special effects. And I’m curious, as you do that in your business what are the things you do to set the stage for your clients so it’s not just a plain street musician experience, but that it’s something special?

Jeff:    Well I mean it really depends on the audience that you’re talking to. So every audience is going to have kind of different core desires. And every business is solving different fundamental problems. One of the things we talked about in the lost conversation, the lost podcast that we did earlier, was this docu-series that I worked on. And so it was a documentary series for herbal medicine, which is something I personally care about. But deep down all these people that are re=ally interested in herbal medicine, there’s kind of a couple different things going on. One, is yeah, they have these core health desires like they’re suffering with chronic illness. They’re being failed by pharmaceutical medicine. There’s a lot of confusion. They know that like if they sit down and talk with their doctor the doctor’s there for less than 10 minutes. Asks them like four questions and then leaves and gives them a prescription for some pills and they don’t seem seen or heard. They don’t feel like the doctor’s given them any real attention.

So there’s that kind of disappointment, but there’s also within the kinds of people that are really into herbal medicine there’s also a sense of doing something greater for the planet. There’s also a sense of like natural medicine, going back to the earth. Going back to our roots as humans. What did our ancestors do? How did they stay healthy? What were the kinds of medicines that they used that didn’t make them sick? So one of the things that made that really successful, I mean it was a very, very successful launch we did. It ran in 10 days. And totally blew away all expectations of what we were trying to do. And that was awesome. But what it really was for me was tapping into this deeper desire for a bigger mission. This is greater than me and my health problems. This is something epic.

And by participating in this event, by participating in this docu-series I am participating in the health revolution. I’m participating in this amazing thing. This is a vehicle for me to connect with other like-minded people and be on this cutting edge of the change that needs to happen in the world because we’re poisoning ourselves and poisoning our planet. And like all of a sudden, this little docu-series of watching some videos, which ultimately has the same information you could probably YouTube in a couple hours, but creating this thing like no, this is a thing. You are a part of something huge. And people have a real lack of that sense of meaning, that sense of purpose. And so when you can tap these really deep things that are not served to people by our society because we live in a largely disconnected society, that I think made a big difference in how we were able to do that. So being able to connect what we’re doing to not just their deeper core desires as humans, as like the problem they’re trying to solve.

But I think there’s different layers of how you’re doing that. And the more you can blow this little problem they’re trying to solve and connect it to much, much bigger things, it’s like oh, by doing this thing, by engaging with this business owner, with this product, with this server or whatever it is I’m not just serving myself. This is the turning point for a massive cascade of amazing benefits and positivity that is going to impact my life, the lives of people close to me. The lives of the community of which I’m a part of and all these other things. And the more you can paint that picture, and so that’s what I’m talking about when setting the stage, this isn’t just like someone on the street corner doodling on their guitar. This is epic! This is huge! This is bright lights and explosions! We are changing the world!

I work in, a lot of the clients that I work with that are in this kind of mindset of changing the planet and solving bigger issues through their business and that something that I personally particularly resonate with. But even for other people, you know? If you’re just selling a productivity course or you’re selling, I don’t know. Whatever it happens to be, marketing for this person, this person starts a business because they have a vision. Because they want to create something. They want not just a business that’s successful, but they’re starting it. Why are they starting a business? They’re starting a business because they want a certain level of freedom. They want a certain level of autonomy. They want this certain lifestyle that’s going to not only give them the financial freedom to pursue their dreams, but also the time, the flexibility and all these things. And that starts connecting to their relationships and their family and these other possibilities and these untapped reservoirs of potential that they’ll suddenly have access to once they have these resources of time and money. And all of a sudden the benefits explode out into this much larger stage. And I think that’s one way to really think about it. It’s not like just go deeper, deeper, deeper into the real benefits and the real core desires that people are trying to address consciously or unconsciously.

Kira:   All right, so Jeff, I want to continue with this story about, and figure out where you are today. Because even since we chatted last I know that you’ve moved and you’re in a different place even in your career. So can you just catch us up over, in the last few months and the changes that you’ve had geographically and also with your business and career?

Jeff:    Yeah. So about six months ago I moved from the wonderful, beautiful city of Seattle to the also wonderful and beautiful city of Heidelberg, Germany. My wife is German and she wanted to go back to school and it just made more sense to do that in Germany. And so yeah, we moved there to support my wife and her growth and her career. And it’s great. One of the beautiful things about these kinds of jobs, this kind of digital nomad, in a sense, I’m not traveling so much and doing it on the road but, the feel, I didn’t really miss a step in that move. Yeah, there were some transition things and all that, that were tricky to navigate and figuring out my new work [inaudible 00:17:28] and what’s in there, but I got to keep my clients. I got to [inaudible 00:17:32] stuff and all I needed was my laptop. All I need is an Internet connection. It makes so many things simple. I don’t have to worry about finding a job in a foreign country. I don’t have to worry about all these other things. And it’s been really good.

Heidelberg’s really beautiful. It’s an old, kind of intellectual, philosophical town. It’s got the oldest university in Germany. Started like 1318, something like that. A lot of beautiful old buildings. It’s on the river. It’s very picturesque. It’s also really inspiring. Inspiring place to be as a writer. And so after I did that I did have a little bit of a hiccup where, right after I moved, I had, I was booked out for three months when I moved and I was like yes! Okay, cool. I don’t even have to worry about it. And then right after I moved my, two of the big projects that were coming up kind of dropped for different reasons. Like oh! All this work I had lined up is no longer there. That’s not what I was expecting. But even then, just keep going at it. Keeping marketing yourself. Find ways to reconnect with past clients and do other stuff.

So when I was in that class instead of trying to find a business someone reached out to me on LinkedIn, of all places, and that turned into a new full-time gig. So I had gone full-time with a single entrepreneur, which was something I really never thought I would ever do. Brian Clark of Copyblogger has this idea of being unemployable, which is something I can kind of slight resonate with. I really appreciate my autonomy and my independence. So the idea of being a full time employee for someone was really something that was just not on my radar. It wasn’t something that I ever wanted to do. But when it comes down to it I look at the real goals that I have for myself. The real goals of where I want to be, how I want to grow, the skills that I want to acquire, the opportunity that came through with this full-time position was just amazing. And I’m really, really happy at it. Way happier than I expected to be. And a lot of that comes down to we resonate on a mission level. We both want to see the same changes in the world. We both want to serve people in the same way in personal involvement, in business, building space, which is a new space for me. But it’s awesome. It’s really, really fun. And learning a whole new market, learning with new people.

One of the really cool things about this, you know I’ve had a lot of clients that were great people and had great businesses, but they weren’t necessarily in the right stage of their business to make the best use of my skills. It’s like they were a little disorganized or maybe they were kind of engaging in some shiny object syndrome or were trying to do the same. But they’re like, ‘No, now we’re going to do this. And now we’re going to do this.’ Or they would like hire my services, but then they would also contract this external marketing agency to do this other thing. But the tone of the marketing materials this external organization was producing were really totally different and out of voice from what I was doing. So there’s a lot of confusion there from people just trying to do too many things.

And so with this guy, he’s already built a successful business. And he’s at this really powerful inflection point where, he’s at point where I can come in and really make a big difference for their business. They built a multi-million dollar business without copy. They’ve done most of their business building online so now they’re trying to take it and scale it online. This is where a copywriter can really shine. This is where powerful communication really makes a big difference. It’s like the offer is core and the audience, the offer and audience are really the two biggest pieces. And until you have those two things dialed in, the copy’s not going to do as much as it could. So, I’m working with someone who has their offer styled. They have their audience really nailed. And so, I can come in and just do my thing and have it be extraordinarily effective because they have all the resources and the infrastructure to really make it happen. And I’m working with really excellent people. It’s really the, it’s a dream client in a lot of ways. It wasn’t the dream client that had original vision. I was more in like the health space and other stuff. But this is just a perfect opportunity. It’s really kind of like an optimized for learning experience.

I really appreciate this guy’s, his name is David Bard if anyone wants to check him out. I think he’s awesome. But there is a certain mentorship that comes with it of really working closely with someone and really adopting their voice and learning this guy, what this guy has to teach. It’s just a fantastic opportunity for me and to really grow into a deep and … With any new business there’s a certain learning curve to kind of get the bead on their voice and really understand their, who their audience is or what they really do and what really makes them standout. And learning all the little nuance language that kind of comes along with it. And with a team there’s a certain learning phase of learning the relationships and kind of syncing up so you’re all on the same page. You’re all working together. And that takes time, but once you get that working, like wow! You can crank out amazing stuff in a lot less time than trying to work with a new client and then another new client a couple weeks later and another new client a couple weeks later. That’s interesting, but it also comes with cost. And so in terms of how can I be of the greatest service to the most people? How can I make, how can I write an amazing copy that makes a real difference in the world for these people?

Going deep with fewer clients, I think, maximizes my potential to do good work in the world and do better work for the people that I’m working with.

Kira:   Hey, we’re just jumping into the show today to tell you a little bit more about The Copywriter Underground. Rob, what do you like best about this membership?

Rob:   So this membership community is full of copywriters that are investing in their businesses and taking what they do seriously. Everything is focused around three ideas: copywriting and getting better at the craft that we all do, marketing and getting in front of the right customers so that you can charge more and earn more, and also mindset so you can get out of your head and focus on the things that will help you be successful at what we do. There’s a private Facebook group for the members of the community. And we also send out a monthly newsletter that’s full of advice, again, on those three areas. Copywriting, marketing and mindset. Things that you can mark up and tear out, put them in your file, save them for whatever. And it’s not going to get lost in your email inbox. Kira, what do you like about The Copywriter Underground?

Kira:   So, I, I love the monthly hot seat calls where our members have a chance to sit in the hot seat and ask a big question or get ideas or talk through a challenge in their business because we all learn from those situations. And then I also feel like the templates we include in the membership are valuable because who wants to reinvent the wheel? And Rob and I end up sharing a lot of the templates and resources we use in our own businesses. So, I would definitely want to grab those.

Rob:   So, if you were interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and themselves and trying to do more, get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to to learn more. Now back to the program.

You know more than a year ago one of our mentors, Brian Kurtz started publishing about what the future for copywriting held and he talked a lot about the possibilities of a lot of copywriters joining up not necessarily stopping working as contract workers, but working exclusively with one company on contract so that you become effectively, the copy resource almost like you’re an employee of the company, but you’re not. And he says that it’s a great opportunity because you get to learn the company, the product and you just get so much more involved in the business so you can be much more effective as a copywriter for that business. And he sees the entire industry of copywriting going, at least in some way, that way. And it feels like you kind of made that happen in your own business.

Jeff:    Yeah, I definitely agree with that. One of the big pain points for most business owners is voice. It’s like, okay, yeah I found this copywriter and they’re saying some stuff. Maybe they’ve had some success and all that, but can they really write for me? Can they really adopt my world view? Can they really adopt my language? Can they make the communication sound authentic while still being very effective? I think that’s a huge pain point. And so this is something like you see in Agora. Agora is mostly internal teams now. And if that’s what they’re doing there’s probably very good reasons. They test just about everything. If that’s what they found to be the most efficient for the business I think a lot, now that they’re being more public about that, I think you’re going to see a lot more people looking at the model and ooh, maybe that’s a really bad idea.

Any relationship takes time. Any relationship goes through these phases of okay, I’m getting to know you, working out our differences, working out how we best work together. And that’s kind of like a sum cost. You have to pay that cost in relationship time no matter who you’re working with. And so the longer you work with one client that sub-cost gets spread out. It’s like, okay, we have to pay that fixed fee and now, of time and energy, and now everything else on top of that is getting easier and more streamlined and more efficient and more effective. And it also puts you, as copywriter, more in a strategic position because the more you become involved the more you’re integrated with coming up with ideas, with fine tuning the offers, and all these other things. And so as a growth opportunity for you as a copywriter you start taking on not just the, you’re not a commodity, right? You’re not just giving them some words. You’re becoming a partner in their business and you’re adopting more of a strategic mindset because you’re playing the long game with this person. And the more you take that strategic mindset into working with another business the more valuable you are.

And however long you work with that person that’s something you take from every other client you take from then on because you’re not just a copywriter, you’re marketing strategist, you’re a content strategist. You’re working at a higher level because you’ve been able to go deep with someone and understand how that plays out over multiple assets over multiple offers or different funnels or different parts of their business and how that all connects. And that higher level view is a very valuable skillset.

Kira:   Yeah, I think this is such an important conversation because I feel like for many of us our egos get in the way where we’re like, you know we taste the freedom of being a freelancer and just like I will never again work for someone else. But it’s silly and I think that was my reaction when Brian Kurtz said that at our event last year. Never! It’s not going to happen. But it doesn’t make sense because these opportunities can help you further your career and learn. So can we just dig into it more and talk about the pros and cons from your experience so far? Like when, any copywriter who’s considering going in house, what should they be thinking about? What questions should they be asking to make sure it is the right move for them and their career?

Jeff:    I totally agree. I have that same thing of that initial kind of rebel streak of like screw you! You don’t own me! I’m my own person! I totally get it.

Kira:   It’s ridiculous, but it’s there.

Jeff:    That’s why I started my own business. That’s why I went freelance so I could have control over my own destiny, you know? But there’s a certain immaturity to that. There’s a certain kind of teenage angst that kind of comes along with that.

Kira:   I am a very immature person so this all makes sense.

Jeff:    To me too, you know? But like, okay, taking the long view, so one thing that I think is really valuable to consider here, and this is another lesson through music is, you are entering into a very deep relationship with this person. Not just as employee/employer or long term contractor, but you’re going to be working very closely with this person especially as a copywriter where you are speaking as another person. Especially if it’s a business with a figurehead, like where there’s this person who is the face and voice of the business and you are kind of, I don’t know, method acting as this person. That’s a very close relationship. You have to have a lot of conversations with them, really understand them as who they are and what they stand for and what they’re really putting out in the world.

And so when you’re considering that, is that someone you want to be in that kind of a relationship with? This is a very close, intimate relationship. In music, it’s kind of like if you’re in a three person band it’s sort of like a three way marriage. Or this is a deep creative partnership. You need to kind of take the same filtering/screening process that you would with any other close relationship. Is this person Hannibal Lecter? Do you really want to be getting to know this person on a deep level? I don’t know. Is this someone you really want to be talking to all the time? Or is this something that you’re only doing because you think it’s going to make you money?

Rob:   Sounds a little bit like a marriage.

Jeff:    Yeah, absolutely. This is, absolutely the way I would think people should think about it because if you’re going to be writing assets you’re going to be working with this person and you want this … Ideally this is a mutually beneficial relationship. You are helping this person. They are helping you. And together you’re creating something greater than either of you could create alone. They need you and you need them. Not like desperate need, but like we are helping each other to create synergy and to create something even bigger than both of us.

Rob:   Yeah, it sounds like, if you think about this kind of relationship too, that on the copywriter’s side you want to make sure that you’re getting a piece of the growth of the business not just a paycheck or a per project rate or per whatever rate. To really be invested and to really make this worthwhile there should be a deeper business relationship and compensation for that.

Jeff:    That is a very excellent thing to shoot for. I think that is difficult to negotiate unless you’re at a high level. Not a lot of, certain businesses are open to that. Certain entrepreneurs are really not. And so it really depends on that relationship, but negotiate to the best of your ability. Absolutely try and work out and I think if not a, kind of like a royalty. Is the action or partnership, in that sense, at the very least like a bonus structure or quarterly reviews. If I do something and we blow away our expectations it’s totally reasonable that I should get some sort of compensation or bonus because of that. And so just being clear about that from the very beginning, but at the same time don’t get too hung up on that because you have to look at … The exchange happens on multiple levels. It’s not just monetary. I mean yeah, we’re in this because we want to make money. We need to create an income. And why have to create income? We want to live these amazing lives of prosperity and freedom and abundance [inaudible 00:33:04], like absolutely.

And keep in mind the deeper benefits that also come along with it. The learning. If you’re working with a really seasoned business person who has a very good grasp of sales, who has a very good grasp of overall marketing and messaging, positioning and all these things, these are things you’re going to absorb and learn. And the learning experience is something to not, just like poo, poo away. This is also a really important part and this is one of the big benefits that I’m taking from my current position where I’m at with this business that I’m working with. It’s like the intangible benefits and growth opportunities are just massive. I’m really excited about the doors that this is going to open for me. And so one of the things that also worked out for me and my situation in particular, is that I’m going to be working with some of the private clients that he has in this high level mastermind and working with them individually and reviewing their copy. And so it’s honing my copy coaching skills. It’s honing my teaching skills. I’m going to be doing some presentations and talks. And so it’s like okay, well this is someone whose given me opportunity to hone my expertise and my voice of authority and my teaching abilities. And that’s huge. You can do it on your own, but when you have external deadlines that really makes things happen.

So, there’s a lot of other things to consider besides just the monetary thing. There’s also benefits. There’s also networking opportunities. There’s also like who is this person connected to and how does that benefit you on a junior level? Looking at the long game for how this is going, this could potentially open doors for you further down the line whenever you potentially stop working with this person. The relationships that you build ideally will serve you for the rest of your career. And the knowledge that you gain will hopefully serve your development and your growth in business and in life for the rest of your life. And so taking this really long term view and optimize for learning and growth, I think, is a way to really, even if you take less money, I’ll be totally upfront where I took a little bit of a pay cut on my absolute, like the absolute value of my earning potential is somewhat less than a full time position. But I gained stability. I gained regularity. I don’t have to market myself to get a paycheck.

There’s this training ops that you really want to look at. So this situation when I moved and suddenly these projects dropped out from under me and I was kind of like scrambling to pick up the slack, that’s not something that I have to deal with anymore, which is great. It provides a lot of piece of mind especially when I experience a little instability because I’m transitioning into a new city, into new cultures, new language and all these other things. It’s like, okay that stability is something I value more than I did when I was living here in Seattle and I already had all my networks. I already had all this other stuff going for me. I’m in a different situation so my priorities shift as my situation shifted.

Kira:   Yeah, no, that makes complete sense. And even if you’re thinking about the hours you could be spending, that you would be marketing your business, I mean those hours are worth money too. So they have a value. And now you don’t have to spend time doing that. Maybe this is getting into the weeds, but just so confirm, so are you full-time with full benefits and paycheck or are you a full-time contractor or what?

Jeff:    I’m a full-time employee. I’m a W-2 employee.

Kira:   Okay, cool. I would love to hear you just dig in a little bit more into the optimization for learning and how, because I love that you look at the long term growth, long term growth for you and the learning and where this will take you 10, 20 years from now. Whereas, it’s really just to look at what’s right in front of us. So how do you approach, I guess how do you approach the career and what advice would you give to other copywriters who maybe are, have a harder time thinking about the long term path because they’re just thinking about getting, making money and getting some clients in for tomorrow. How should we be thinking about the next 20 years, the next 30 years and away so that we can optimize for learning?

Jeff:    So this is, it’s originally an idea that I got from Scott Adams. I think this is something I inherently think about away because I’m pretty clear on what I really care about. And so that was already kind of set for me. I spent a lot of time introspectively looking at what, especially before I got into copywriting it was like, okay, I have certain core values. And how do I, especially in terms of music, how do I keep that alignment with my core values of what I care about most in the world while building a business and while engaging in some sort of entrepreneurial activity and working with businesses?

When I first got into copywriting I was really scared because as a musician it’s fairly easy to be idealistic. And a lot of my resistance to working in a corporate situation or working for a company was I don’t want to have this not so nice corporate culture run off on my idealistic artistic tendencies. And building it from a place of values from the very beginning, I think got me a lot of clarity.

And so to bring it back to Scott Adams, so Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert and he is an engineer. And he continued working as an engineer even while he was a wildly successful comic book creator, or comic strip creator. And it’s be he was optimizing for learning because there were skills that he was learning in the engineering world that he wanted to take forward. It’s just an idea that really, really stuck with me. And so getting into this thing as a copywriter is like okay, well what are your deeper goals not just for the life you want to create, not like the money you want to make, but what kind of life do you want to live? What do you really care about? And getting clear on those things and then looking for opportunities that are going to align up with that. There’s all kinds of businesses out there.

If you really just want to do this for money and just become the most dialed in super high converting bad ass copywriter you could ever be you can totally go the Agora path. Ultimately, I found that their values weren’t really, they weren’t serving in a way that I really wanted to contribute to the world. And so I kind of steered myself away from that direction after a while. I was like this just seems, this isn’t where I really want to go. And so that clarity of what I care about helped me make the choices for the opportunities that I was seeing available. Because there’s so many ways you can go. If you really care about I want a life of freedom. Okay, I want to work roughly this many hours per week because I have a kid and I want to be able to travel this much and all these other things you kind of have to reverse engineer it like that. And so for me, I don’t know. It’s a little hard to articulate, I guess, because these are kind of like natural ways that I think about it. But just building it from the ground up, you know, of what really matters. What do you really care about? And then going from there like ideal clients. Who really resonates with that? Who’s in alignment like that? Who cares about the same things? Who’s trying to see the same changes?

Okay, like for me with a background in science my early clients were in the health space because I could easily write about science and nutrition and stuff like that. But I didn’t want to just write for behemoth supplement companies. It didn’t feel right in the same way I didn’t want to work for big pharma companies when I graduated from the university. That didn’t feel right either. And understanding that helps me make choices that were aligned with who, the person that I want to become and the life that I want to lead. And that’s a very personal decision for everyone. And that gives you clarity on your dream clients. And when you start defining your dream clients that’s when you start noticing opportunities and noticing the people who are in alignment with that. If you really care about fashion, that’s your jam, okay, well start looking around the Internet. There’s a lot of people selling amazing clothes. What kinds of people would really be good for that? It’s like okay, there’s independent designers who do really great stuff but they’re just kind of like in random postings. It doesn’t seem like it’s really effective.

What if I could help them create kind of like a Facebook type funnel that would help them reach all their audience and do that. And I get to help these really cool designers who are really awesome people and kind of that kind of thinking. But in the long run the people making the most money are the people who think the deepest about business. Who understand strategy. Who understand the higher level pieces and aren’t just a service provider. And so looking around at that is also a really helpful lens to view the skills that you’re developing and the people that you’re working with.

Rob:   So Jeff, I know you’re kind of talking about optimizing for learning. As I think about your career you’re starting out in science. And the music career that you had. And the travel that you’ve done. As you look for opportunities how do you look at them and say yeah, this is the right one for me because the learning is going to be there. Or I don’t want to do that kind of a project because it’s not going to move me forward. What’s your process for thinking that through?

Jeff:    Okay, so as a service provider the, there are sort of like steps. First, you get good at your craft and that pursuing that mastery. So it’s opportunities that are going to give you the opportunities to master it through let’s say get really good results for people, the refine your writing process. Or be put in a position where someone has an email list that they, like in their emails are terrible. Okay, well that’s a real easy place for me to come in and be of service and get paid to get better. And then there, the next level is really kind of building your authority. There’s certain limit on how much you can do in terms of your working hours because as a service provider there’s a certain of money for time.

And so the way you overcome for that is by developing your authority and eventually creating product high services or developing other offers of like here, I’ll teach you to do it through this program. And you can see a lot of people doing this. So it’s like okay, if that’s the path forward for continuing to build, to build your authority, to be able to increase your rates, to be able to create a passive income streams, all of that kind of stuff. It’s like okay, what are the things that are going to help me develop that? And so how do I teach? What are opportunities for me to refine my teaching? What are opportunities for me to work with laying out educational structure? What are opportunities for me to speak? What are opportunities for me to work with people one on one? And when you start asking yourself these other questions of like, okay how could, doing with what I’m doing how could I start to create passive income? I don’t know. How would that work for what I’m doing? You start looking around. So it really just starts with asking yourself questions.

And I think having a clear idea from the get go of where it is that you want to go. You have to kind of have some sort of idea of where you want to go. And in the beginning the idea of where you want to go is really going to be get better. Get better at copywriting. That’s your first step. It’s like as you get better it’s like okay, I’m in a good groove now. This is feeling solid. I want to keep getting to the next level, the next level. Okay I really need to start building my authority. I need to start learning how to teach. I need to, like there’s kind of a sequencing that I think is also really important to take into consideration. But asking yourself questions that stimulate these kinds of thoughts, I think, is a really good practice.

Kira:   All right. So you’ve alluded to this already in talking about your values and your path. I want to hear a little bit from you about the ethics of copywriting. I guess specifically if you could just step on your soapbox and for a couple minutes before we wrap and just talk about why what we do as marketers, as copywriters is really important to, to our communities and to the world and why it does matter. Yeah, let’s just see what comes out of you from that.

Jeff:    Yeah, so earlier, kind of like at the end of last year Facebook changed a lot of things about what you’re allowed to post and the kinds of language you’re allowed to use in ads. And so you’re kind of, you’re not allowed to use shaming language. You’re not allowed to be a fear mongerer. And a lot of marketing people and copywriting authorities out there started crying going, ‘No, no! Our businesses are going to collapse. We can’t use fear and shame and all these things that we used to push people’s buttons and manipulate them into buying.’ And look around. Look at our society. Look the what’s going on. People are having a very difficult time feeling connected. People are having a very difficult time having reasonable discourse. The political situation in the United States is tense. The political situation in the world is tense.

And so as copywriters our job is to dig into people’s psyche and really understand what makes them tick, really understand what they care about. Not the things that, the service, the whole thing, the service the whole problems that they’re trying to address or whatever product or service, but what do they really care about? What really motivates them? What are the real buttons that motivate this person to do anything? What are the deeper needs that need to be serviced here that needs speaking to? What are the deeper pains that need to be witnessed and called out or spoken to? And this is a very, this is a very powerful position. I really believe that copywriting and persuasive communication is one of the most powerful skills you can develop as a person in a digital world because so much is mediated by the written word and the messages that we put out there.

And so if we look at the state of the world and impending climate collapse and the collapse of the ecosystems, the million species on the verge of extinction. And if you really understand the interconnectedness in biology it’s like these species aren’t there just because it’s nice. They’re there because they serve functions in society, in the ecosystem, in the whole planet and the more we take these out it’s like taking threads out of cloth. And at some point this cloth is just going to hold any weight. It’s going to get, it’s just going to fall apart.

And so as copywriters we’re in this position, okay, so I’m being paid to put out communication and messaging out there. How can I use this skill and this knowledge and this deeper psychological insight into people to actually help bridge these gaps of communication? To help create positive change? And to, like look at the bigger picture here. If you’re putting all the stuff that exacerbates the [inaudible 00:48:36] and that makes people more afraid, that makes people more paranoid, that makes people, it’s just really sad when I see the breakdown of communication. The breakdown of reasonable discourse. And we’re at a place where we can actually help that. We could actually make some change. We can actually put out marketing that doesn’t inflame these things and make the situation worse. And there’s a lot of copy out there that I believe is making the situation worse. There’s copy out there like, there’s one particular promo that I’m thinking about that’s just ramping on this Hillary Clinton is trying to steal your babies. It doesn’t say that exactly, but it’s kind of like what it means. It’s just like inflaming political divisiveness for the purposes of profit. I don’t find that to be terribly ethical. I don’t think that’s very helpful for anyone. I think it’s generally making the world a less place. It’s sort of the equivalent of communication pollution.

And so if you’re putting stuff out there that enlivens people, that makes them see the possibility of a better future, of a better version of themselves, then that’s where I think we need to be going here because it’s not just the problems that we’re solving for these businesses. We’re also participating in a much larger culture. And I think it’s important to recognize that in the same way that it’s important for us to recognize that our choices in consumerism are choices of the things that we buy. The food that we eat. All these things have much wider ramifications. And we’re, this is an awareness that’s slowly coming into the fore. That people are slowly beginning to understand. Like okay, everything’s connected here. My actions have a consequence beyond the immediate thing that I’m looking at.

I mean if you look at the fossil fuel industry and you took away all the subsidies from the government and you took into account all the collateral damage environmentally and all the health damage it would be losing trillions of dollars a year, but only because you look at profit in this very narrow window. It gives the illusion of being profitable. But if you widen the lens out it’s really, really, really, really, really not profitable. Their business comes at a massive global cost. And I think it’s kind of the same thing with copywriting or with any sort of messaging. There’s a wider cost to what you’re doing and you’re putting out there. And are you helping? Is what you’re doing making the world a better place? Are you genuinely helping people? And I think this is just something that you check in with yourself. You don’t have to adopt my guidance, you know, we all have neighbors. We all have communities that we’re a part of. And we need to acknowledge that.

Rob:   And I think the question is my copy making the world a better place is a great question to ask. And maybe a good place to end. Jeff, if people want to connect with you, where can they find you?

Jeff:    On Facebook, you can find me on my website, I have a little email list. I email every now and again. Yeah, and I don’t want to be too rambly, ranty-

Kira:   Hey, we asked you to do it, sorry.

Jeff:    Yeah, so I just want to be clear I’m not making anyone, I don’t want to force my belief systems on anyone.

Kira:   Like you said and Rob said, it’s important to ask these questions and understand the broader picture in our communities and that the words that we’re using do matter. And as copywriters we know that, but it’s easy for all of us to forget. So I think it’s a really important reminder. And thanks Jeff for jumping in here a second time with us. We really appreciate your time.

Rob:   Cool. Thanks Jeff.

Jeff:    Awesome! Well thank you so much. Thanks for having me back. Great to talk to you guys.

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 The Whitest Boy Alive available on 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, a full transcript and links to our free Facebook community visit We’ll see you next episode.



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