Our guest for the 116th episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast is Nabeel Azeez. Kira and Rob talked with Nabeel about getting put in time out in the Facebook club, cultivating controversy as part of your branding strategy, being a “troll” and a lot more. Here are the specifics:
• how Nabeel became a copywriter and what he does today
• becoming “Dubai’s most expensive” copywriter
• why he was put on a “time out” from The Copywriter Club
• how copywriters can stop selling themselves short
• niching—should you do it or not?
• the “Troll Framework” and how it works
• why you might consider being more controversial and why you might not
• attraction versus repulsion marketing and which works better
• what you need to do as a newer copywriter (it’s not set up a website)
• the three reasons he’s writing a book
• what he’s struggling with most in his business
• selling on the phone (and why more copywriters should do it)
• the biggest opportunities for copywriters today
Want to hear it? Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript. Or you can download it to your favorite podcast app.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Ramit Sethi
The Think Tank
Zero to Launch
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
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 more information or to sign up, go to thecopywriterunderground.com.
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 Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 116 as we chat with copywriter and entrepreneur Nabeel Azeez about his claim to be Dubai’s most expensive copywriter, his Troll Framework, investing in himself and his business, what it feels like to get kicked out of The Copywriter Club Facebook group, and what it means to be an alpha Muslim.
Rob: Hey, Nabeel.
Nabeel: Hello. What up? What up? What’s up, Rob and Kira? This is a long time coming. Second time’s a charm. We tried this one time earlier in the year, but I totally sucked, so obviously it wasn’t published.
Rob: I think maybe it had more to do with a bad Internet connection to where you are, which isn’t always easy to get a connection.
Kira: Yeah. Well, we’re glad you’re back, anyway.
Nabeel: Yeah. I’m coming at you from a cave in Dubai somewhere.
Kira: All right, Nabeel. Let’s kick this off with your story. How did you get into copywriting?
Nabeel: Right. I fell into copywriting by accident. I used to volunteer at this community center, and out of the group I had the best command of written English, so generally it fell to me to write the email blasts and marketing collaterals. At the time, I didn’t know that you called this copywriting. Along the way I got exposed, or introduced to Ramit Sethi, and he introduced me to this world of personal development and online business I never knew existed.
And then I ended up getting my first paid gig, also by accident. The community center was organizing a conference. And my friend, who was also a volunteer, he had his own marketing agency, and they commissioned him to brand the event and create all of the marketing. Obviously, he needed a writer, so he sub-contracted that out to me. I ended up writing the entire website, all of the marketing collaterals, a bespoke invitation for VIPs, and even a script for a marketing video. It was total amateur hour, and as I look back on it now, as I look at the website now, I cringe. But that was my first full package.
So now I’m thinking, ‘Yo, I might could do this. I could sell my services as a writer.’ And that’s when Nabeel Azeez, the copywriter, was born.
Rob: Tell us about your business since then, Nabeel. Obviously you’ve moved on to other clients. You’re a partner, I believe, in an ad agency. You’re working on your own projects. Once you decided to be a copywriter, then what?
Nabeel: Right. I have a bunch of things going on right now. Nabeel Azeez is a direct-response copywriter, author, and marketing consultant. Dropkick Copy is my boutique content studio, and I run that with my brother. Becoming the Alpha Muslim is a self-improvement blog for Muslim men, and that’s my side-hustle. I was a partner in a marketing agency. I was helping out a few friends with their content strategy, but I’ve since moved on from that earlier in the year. Now I’m just on my own now.
As a copywriter, I actually haven’t nailed down a core offer yet. I write a bunch of things for a bunch of people, and I kind of like the feeling of being versatile. I’m not really sure I buy into the idea of niche’ing down. I get it, and there’s a strong argument for it, but I’m not fully sold yet. Maybe that’s just me not being willing or not being ready to commit to niche’ing down and going all in on one offer.
But at Dropkick Copy, we sort of recently had an epiphany after launching a podcast for a client. Getting the client to create the content, it actually solves many of the problems we have when businesses outsource their content marketing. So, for now, we’re only selling a done-for-you podcast launching service. Basically what we do is, we plan and build a show with the client, and then we take post-production, distribution, and promotion off their plate. So it’s like a win-win, especially if the client has a high-ticket offer, or their customers go through a measured or thought-through buying process.
Kira: So Nabeel, how did you end up as Dubai’s most expensive copywriter? Where did that come from? What was the catalyst for that?
Nabeel: Right. I generally like to experiment with a bunch of different things, and this tagline is one of them. I wanted to see what effect that would have on my personal brand online. It isn’t false advertising; I do believe that I am the most expensive copywriter in Dubai. If I find someone more expensive, I’ll raise my rates. However, being Dubai’s most expensive copywriter doesn’t mean I’m the world’s most expensive copywriter or even America’s most expensive copywriter, because I just charge US rates while living in Dubai.
Sometimes I get some pushback from prospects, because they are trying to geo-arbitrage, and they think that they might get a cheapo copywriter because they’re in America and we’re over here. But they don’t realize that the work that gets put in is exactly the same, and if they want quality and results, then they’re going to have to pay accordingly.
Rob: So Nabeel, before we go any farther, we should probably note that you are one of the few copywriters that has actually been kicked out of The Copywriter Club Facebook group, at least for several months. Maybe we should talk about why that happened, and what’s happened since.
Nabeel: I would reframe it, and say I was put on a time-out. I just recently sent in a join request, and that was accepted, so I’m back in The Copywriter Club now.
Kira: You’re back in.
Nabeel: Yeah. So I’m going to make a grand entrance as soon as this drops. So to answer Rob’s question, the catalyst for me getting put on a time-out was, basically I had been helping a bunch of female copywriters out. They had been messaging me, and I had been giving them advice on their business, how to package their services, what to charge, et cetera, et cetera. And I found this common theme occurring, and that was highly competent writers who for some reason or other keep selling themselves short. And these were all women. I haven’t actually noticed that with male copywriters that I know.
That gave me an idea for a product and a post. And I was actually testing, or trying to validate the product idea, or the service idea, and I posted in The Copywriter Club. Long story short, all hell broke loose, and Kira, Rob, and Brit had to do a bunch of damage control. To appease the mob’s bloodlust, I had to be sacrificed. I don’t actually regret writing what I did. The only thing I regret is actually putting the two of you and Brit in a difficult position like that. And I do believe I’ve apologized for my part in this fiasco.
Rob: Yeah. The whole thing was kind of interesting, because there was a lot of discussion around cultural differences, and those obviously come into play. There was a lot of discussion around what we’re willing to tolerate for feminists versus racism, and those kinds of things. I think we had some pretty valuable discussion around that in the group at the time. I don’t necessarily want to revisit that, because I think a lot of that ground has been crossed. But it’s fair to say that you, with that post, offended a good number of people in our group. It was, I think, fairly described by some as over the top, and maybe not quite appropriate for what we are trying to accomplish in our group.
Kira: Right. So let’s talk about what you’ve been doing since then. Because I think some good has come out of it for your business, and then also for our group. I think that the hard discussions we were forced to have at the time were hopefully productive for the community, even though it did cause some stress. I had a couple of stressful evenings around that time. But I feel like I see dude copywriters who struggle as well, and sell themselves short. I mean we could argue whether more women sell themselves short. I don’t have those stats.
But how would you say, Nabeel, how can copywriters stop selling themselves short? Because that is something that I feel like you’ve done well, knowing you and your business. Do you have any actual advice that would apply to both men and women in this space? Because this is something that a lot of copywriters struggle with, period.
Nabeel: Right. In The Think Tank Mastermind a couple of months ago, I posted this video. I just recorded a short video going over, basically, how to figure out your effective hourly rate according to the lifestyle that you want to live. For example, if you want to do only 10 hours of client work a week, yeah, and you want to take a profit out for your business and pay yourself a salary, how much do you have to charge? And then, how much does that effective hourly rate change depending on your actual billable hours versus a salary you pay yourself versus your business expenses and things like that?
I’m probably going to post that video in The Copywriter Club Facebook group for people to watch it and try to get it, because it’s very simple. It’s like a five-minute exercise. Then once you know, this is the goal hourly rate that I want to work towards, then you can figure out how to, A, price your services, and then build out the system so that you’re actually, basically, working in a business that you started copywriting for, as opposed to trading one boss for several other bosses.
Kira: Gotcha. Okay, cool. So we’ll share that. And you mentioned that you don’t have a niche and you don’t really see, you haven’t been convinced of the power of niche’ing. But when I look at your business and the way that you show up online, and the content you share, and even what you contribute in online forums and groups like our Facebook group, I feel like you’re always controversial, and you push the limits, right? So I feel like it all connects back to that. Since we kicked you out of the group, and that event occurred, what have you created in your own business around this controversy that can actually help other entrepreneurs and copywriters?
Nabeel: Right. That’s a good jump-off point. A while after I got put on a time-out, Kira, you, Rob, and I were on our check-in call in The Think Tank, and then we were talking about this situation, and I told you that I was thinking of creating a content piece around it, just to talk about some of the social dynamics and the group dynamics that happened when it all kicked off. Then Rob mentioned, ‘Maybe you could give it like an acronym or something, like Troll-something.’ That was sort of a kernel of an idea that we were going to create a piece of content around.
Shortly after that, we had a training with Mel Abraham on frameworks, and how experts can use frameworks in their business to convey concepts to their prospects and clients in a way that it makes it easy for the prospect to understand and builds the expert’s authority. A framework is basically just a visual representation of a complex concept. At its core, the framework is just shapes and text, no big deal. But then the shapes you choose and the terminology that you create, and the way you present those two things combined, they equal more than the sum of their parts.
So I ended up creating, because we were given this exercise in The Think Tank, I ended up creating a framework called the Troll Framework, which is a way that copywriters, consultants, experts, whatever, coaches, can leverage their personal brand, or the way that they show up online, to repel people that aren’t the right fit, and attract the people who are the right fit. It basically entails … And the effectiveness of the framework depends on how much risk you are willing to take in being polarizing.
Rob: So walk us through that.
Nabeel: Right. It’s basically an upside-down pyramid. I think we can drop a link to the actual image, or the framework, in the show notes. It’s an upside-down pyramid. It has five segments, right? From bottom to top, you’re going from increasing levels of … basically from anonymity to infamy, all right? At the bottom, you’re totally anonymous, and at the top you’re infamous, all right? And then the width of each segment denotes how much reach you have. The more famous or infamous you are, the more reach you have, the more influence you have, the greater the effect on the world you have. All right?
The bottom level, which is level one, is Lurker. That’s when the person is totally anonymous; social media is just a pastime to him. He’s just there to entertain himself. The next level up is Public and Passive. You do have a public profile; you’re not anonymous. Your name is on there, but you’re not engaged. Maybe you like posts, you share posts, but you’re not actively engaged.
Public and Active is most people who are using social media for business purposes. However, they are people who will try not to be contrarian or controversial, basically trying to sort of follow the herd, as it were. Okay?
Level four is Thought Leader, okay? Thought Leader will be someone who is public, he’s active, and he’s not afraid to express contrarian opinions or express himself honestly. He’s got haters. He knows he has haters, but he doesn’t mind about that, because he’s got an equal amount of people who love him.
And then the highest level up is Pariah, where, at this point you’re so controversial and so infamous, where your haters are now governments and corporations and institutions. You basically back yourself into a corner, and at the worst end of it you’ll get digitally un-personed.
Levels one and two are basically the majority of people on the Internet. Level three is most of us copywriters who are active in things like Facebook groups. We have an active Twitter, active Instagram. The Thought Leaders are the big names, the people who get attention. If I can think of a copywriter who is not a troll like me, but is applying the troll framework. I can think of somebody like Alaura Weaver who is definitely a thought leader. She has very strong opinions about how business should be done, and she repels people and attracts a lot of people as well. I think that’s a perfect example. On the other end of the spectrum you have somebody like, Mike Cernovich who is also a very controversial figure, and he’s got a lot of haters and a lot of fans as well, but he sort of tows the line of what is acceptable.
And at the level five pariah level, you have people like Alex Jones who got deep platform from everywhere in a coordinated, basically attack. You have people like Milo Yiannopoulos, you have people like Roosh V, nine of his books were banned from Amazon and a bunch of other digital publishers.
So basically the framework is you trying to push the limits of what is possible without getting into pariah status. So you want to be in that level for a situation where you’re a thought leader, and depending on your level of risk tolerance, then you might toe the line towards pariah or you might toe the line towards public and active.
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 it’s 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 that 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 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 are interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and in themselves and try to do more, get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to, thecopywriterunderground.com to learn more. Now back to the program.
Kira: So if I want to be a thought leader then, I would say probably, a good majority of copywriters who want to be the thought leader, then what do I need to do to get there? What are some actual steps?
Nabeel: First thing is, you need to show up and show up consistently, and the second thing is, that you need to express yourself honestly. Too many people are expressing a self-image and not expressing themselves, and this is something Bruce Lee has written about. So you have this idea of the person you want to be perceived as, and that’s your self-image, and that’s the person you try to show up as online. But that is not really you and that’s not going to work.
So what you need to do is, express yourself honestly. As long as you’re expressing yourself honestly, as long as you’re a person who others can see that you have certain principles that you live by and you’re not afraid to express those principles, you are going to get to thought leader status eventually. And by the very nature of being someone of principles, you are going to have haters.
The only difference between a thought leader and a public active person, which is level three and level four, is that level three has haters, but those haters are silently judging them or silently hating them. They haven’t actually said anything worth publicly being, publicly disagreeing over. So it’s like, for example, Kira, like you’re generally not a controversial person. Everybody loves you. But however, I’m sure that-
Kira: Not everybody loves me, for the record.
Nabeel: Not everybody loves you. Okay. Well, maybe Rob then.
Kira: On certain days.
Rob: Not everybody loves me.
Kira: It depends on the day.
Nabeel: All right. As an intellectual sort of exercise, let’s assume that is the case. So Kira, on Kira’s website she has these funny pictures of her in a bear outfit and in a Mad Hatter outfit, and if I’m not Kira’s people and I come to Kira’s website, I’ll be like, what the hell is this? What is this crazy person in a bear outfit? I don’t like her. I don’t like her face.
Nabeel: However, since you’re not generally not want to, say controversial things or be a contrarian on social media, there’ll be silent haters, and they won’t be open public haters. Does that make sense? Are you getting the distinction here?
Kira: Yes. I’m getting the distinction, and I think that’s accurate. I’m not controversial online, but I guess I just want you to convince me like, why do I want to be more controversial and have lots of haters who are sharing openly when, I feel like I’m doing pretty well with the category I’m in, not level three or whatever the whole I’m in.
Like it seems like there’s a level up to go, but can you convince me and the people listening like, it’s worth it to be controversial because you will then get, is it more money, is it more fame? Like what is that? Because it also introduces a lot of, disadvantages too, which you’ve talked about, like what you had to deal with as well.
Nabeel: So first let me say that, it really depends on how much risk you’re willing to take. Now, you might be perfectly comfortable being at level three, and your business might be totally fine, but there are like people have different levels of risk tolerance. Some people are more edgy, some people are less edgy. So it’s really a personal choice you have to make. And the second point is that, it really isn’t about being controversial just for the sake of being controversial.
Do you have strong ideas that you would be willing to live and die by? Are you willing to express those ideas online? You’re not expressing them to offend anyone or upset anyone. And it could, it might not even be related to politics or religion or gender or race or whatever, it could be related to marketing. You might have some strong ideas about marketing that people might disagree with. And when you express those ideas, naturally you’re going to get some pushback.
And the sort of the distinction is, are you willing to, like receive that pushback, in exchange for the ability to polarize your audience and attract people who are resonating with your message. So it’s really just, there’s a spectrum and you can be on one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
Rob: If thickness applies to not just personalities but also to products as well. And maybe products are pretty rare when they go into that pariah status, but there are definitely products that pick a market and go very hard after that market. So, and we’ve even seen somebody has posted on our Facebook group. So at one point somebody posted a label from a barbecue sauce that I think it said something like, barbecue sauce for men.
The copy on the label was, could be described as very manly or at least what’s traditionally been thought of as manly. And in that post, I think there was a lot of criticism for that. But I look at that and say, well that’s a product that is going after a particular market and in a way that is repelling everybody just not in that market. So you call it radical or something, Troll Framework, what the stage in Troll Framework that it meets.
I think it can actually be a really effective device for a lot of products as long as you don’t go over the top and create that pariah status. I think we see a lot of the pariahs like you were saying in religion or in politics or in really controversial areas. But there’s a lot to be said about thinking through, creating rabid fans and a few enemies in marketing.
Nabeel: And I mean, I bet you if the barbecue sauce was an intersectional feminist barbecue sauce, nobody would have bat an eye and they would have been cheers, and, oh my God, this is the best marketing ever.
Rob: I’m not sure that that’s true because there’s a lot of pushback on that kind of thing too. But that’s okay because, if there is a barbecue sauce for, a feminist and if feminists were to actually buy into that market, like that’s. It’s okay for, different groups to have products that resonate with them more than others.
Nabeel: Yes, it is okay. I agree with you. And like, if you think about a product like barbecue sauce, you’re in a commodity market, how do you differentiate yourself? Like the whole idea of man (inaudible) your biz. If I’m in a crowded market of all female business coaches, let’s say I actually launched the idea and went through with it. If I’m in a crowded space of all female business coaches of, a step into your light and you are a soul goddess type of business coaching. How do I differentiate yourself from the market?
Now I can go one angle, and appeal to the masses, or I could go in the opposite direction and attract a specific kind of, female client who, might think of these like the positioning as funny or humorous or entertaining, or doesn’t see a big deal with the positioning.
Kira: Totally. I think that’s the whole part of attracting people who love you, and then really repelling everybody else. So what I like about this framework that you’ve created, is it’s really intentional. So it gives us a chance to have conversations like this and to kind of look at where you and your business and your brand fit into this framework. And I think the question I was asking earlier is like, well, why do I have to jump up?
And the way you answered is, well maybe you don’t have to, but just understand where you kind of fit into it and find out where you’re comfortable. And even maybe the point of it is to think about what you could do to get out of your comfort zone, and that’s different for everyone. So while it may make sense for some people to be in level four and others to be in level two, like just be aware of where you are and understand that, you have to create a plan if you want to jump into a different level.
But I do think an important message is what you shared about, don’t be controversial for the sake of being controversial. If that’s not who you are, then don’t show up that way. Like for you [inaudible] that’s who you are. So it would be strange for you to play in a level two, what is level two called?
Nabeel: Public passive.
Kira: Public, right. Like, if you are a public passive something, I would just say like, what’s wrong with you? Are you sick? What’s going on? This is not you. But there are people out there who it could be okay to be public passive if that’s where you fit in. Just maybe challenge yourself to kind of question why you’re there and what, are you okay being there? Is that going to help you grow your business? So I think just to ask those hard questions, but ultimately like, you need to be who you are.
So I’m not naturally a controversial person if you meet me in person and we’re sitting, we’re out for dinner. So it’s not necessarily a way I want to show up online because it’s not who I am. I’m like the diplomat who wants everybody to be best friends.
But it’s good for me to think about, well, if I want to move into this different level and be a thought leader, are there ways I could write content that maybe is a little bit more risky for me or feels like I’m out of my comfort zone. So I think it’s just a good way to look at the framework and kind of understand how, where you are and where you could go and what your goals are.
Nabeel: And you being closer to level three doesn’t mean that you’re not a thought leader. So you could be, for example, on the lower end of thought leader, or low end of level four and close to level three, which I mean obviously you and Rob are thought leaders in this little copywriter community that we have. So I mean, it’s not a black and white framework, there’s a lot of nuance to it.
It’s just a visual representation and a mental model to help you understand, I’m I taking enough risks in my business? I’m I getting out of my comfort zone? I’m I getting myself out there in a way that I should to grow my business? And then just have an honest assessment of yourself.
Rob: The irony for me Nabeel is that you started out, this interview talking about how you don’t believe in niching, but this is really a tool for identifying a niche that you can resonate with.
Nabeel: That is true.
Kira: That is true.
Rob: So, it comes down to, there’s not very many of us that want to go over the top and offend everybody and, or offend everybody except for the weird niche that we’re in. But, if we can identify the right audiences for our messages, and maybe it’s slightly controversial, maybe in the marketing space, you take issue with something that, a big marketing company is doing, or you push for people to do the opposite of what the crowd is doing, and there’s a lot of smarts around doing that. But it really does come down to identifying who you want to resonate with, and what is it that you have to say or do in order to attract them. And then, either not worry about everybody else or repel everybody else like you were saying.
Nabeel: And then it’s easier to work from a repulsion marketing perspective than an attraction marketing. Because, when you’re doing attraction marketing, you have no idea like who these people in your audience are, and we’re going to talk about this more because, that’s one of the failures that I made in my own marketing where I ended up with an email list that is full of unqualified prospects. So when you’re repelling people, when you come from the frame of reference of repelling people, then the only people who are left are by definition your ideal prospect, because they’re the only ones who are going to hang around.
Kira: So Nabeel I want to ask you, beyond this topic, and I’m showing up in a controversial way or polarizing messages, you’ve been in the Facebook group and you’re around hanging out with a lot of copywriters. What are some other mistakes that you see all copywriters making or the majority of copywriters making that is slightly frustrating because you feel like the solution is easy? What else are you seeing currently?
Nabeel: I think the biggest mistake is, not understanding how much money they need to charge in order to have a viable business. And really this depends on in each individual copywriters needs and lifestyle. So, you need to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want to live and then charge accordingly, rather than charging what you perceive the market is going to be willing to pay. So the biggest mistake is, underpricing their services.
The next mistake is, waiting to be chosen instead of doing free work or underpaid work to, could pay your dues. Like I would love to see more copywriters going out and building niche sites and selling their own products or somebody else’s products, so that way they’ve already got conversion data and actual live examples of their copy is selling product under their belt rather than, doing free work or underpaid work.
And then doing stuff out of sequence. So like if you’re a new copywriter, your number one priority is getting new clients, not building your website, not getting business cards or a logo, not blogging. You need to be booking sales calls and making offers. And then I think the number one mistake and the most, I think that’s the easiest fix is, if you want to be a copywriter, it’s not the same as running a business or-
PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:36:04]
Nabeel: It’s not the same as running a business of copywriting, right? So if you’re new, and your interest is primarily the copywriting aspect, it probably makes a lot more sense for you to go in house and be a copywriter at a marketing agency. Or go work for one of the big publishers like Agora, or Stansbury, or wherever. Because learning the business of copywriting is actually another set of skills that, if you’re also trying to write copy, it’s going to be … it might be too much for you. So it’s better for you to actually go get paid to learn that copywriting, okay, and they pay pretty well. And then they’ll actually turn you into this really rock star copywriter. And maybe you might make a lot of money along the way, yeah? And then if you want to go out on your own, now at least you have mastered the copywriting part of it. So now you can go out, and you already have the street cred as a copywriter, and it will be much easier for you to manage the business of copy.
Kira: Awesome. Okay. So I want to pivot and talk about your book. So I’d love to hear about where you are in the process, I believe you’re still writing it. What was the catalyst for your book, and really the goal behind it.
Nabeel: Right, so the book idea came up for a number of different reasons. I actually needed a hook to differentiate myself from my peers. So someone like Shanti is the quiz funnel queen. Or Paige is the funnel strategies. And Marina is the CMO. Okay? My only thing was direct response copywriter. So even if I said Dubai’s most expensive copywriter, that really doesn’t mean much. It’s not that big of a hook that people would be interested in. So that’s one reason. I wanted to differentiate myself. I wanted to build authority and use the book sort of like my foot in the door to get guest appearances for podcasts, blog posts, whatever, whatever. And the second reason is, I needed something to sell to my list. Because I built the list the wrong way, and it’s full of unqualified prospects.
So I write daily emails, and my CTA is asking the reader to book a strategy call with me. So, I’ll get on the call with them, find out what their needs are, find out if I can help them, and then I make them an offer. Except in a year of daily emails, I’ve got maybe five strategy calls booked, total. So there’s some disconnect there. I enjoy emailing every day, because it makes me a better writer, but I’m not running a charity here. If you keep doing something with no ROI, you eventually lose steam. So I surveyed the list, and they’re mostly early in their entrepreneurship journey, or they’re trying to break into copywriting and marketing. So I decided, okay, they’re not in a position to invest in me, but there’s nothing stopping me from investing in them and creating a product for them. Me writing the book is actually an ROI negative activity because of the amount of work it takes, I could be doing much higher ROI stuff like doing client work, right?
And then the final reason is because I wanted to experiment with and test a bunch of concepts that make up my mental model of marketing. So the idea of creating your minimum viable product, the idea of pre-selling and boot strapping the product creation. The idea of a premium pricing for a product. So the book is going to be premium pricing. The idea of sequentially raising prices and not offering discounts. The idea of personal branding. Essentially, can I sell a product that doesn’t exist yet, on the basis of my personal brand alone? I’m writing the first draft now, and I’ve used the money from the presales. I think we sold well over a hundred copies. We’re using that money to … I used that money to get a professional book cover done, and to hire a copy editor.
And the other thing I learned was, you know when you say the word book, it conjures up this massive project and investment of time and energy. But I mean, what is a book really? It’s twenty to thirty emails or blog posts stapled together with a cover on it. So that’s exactly how I’m writing it. So my first draft is actually an autoresponder. I add an email to the autoresponder, I write the chapter, and then when the email service provider sends the chapter out to the customers. So that is how I’m writing the book. Right?
And then for the marketing, I did a presale. Five days, I just emailed three times a day, and I did list building on social media. And so that grew my list by about, I think, 16%. And I think about 7% of the list bought. When I do the launch, I’m going to do the same thing, but maybe a little bit longer. So emailing three times a day, but I’ll add like, daily live streams and like, exclusive affiliate partnerships where I give 100% commissions. And I’ll probably do a price bump as urgency. And eventually, the goal is to make the book the only way you can get on my email list.
Rob: So can we talk a little bit about … let’s go deeper on the process where you’re sharing out chapters as you write them. Are you getting feedback and making improvements? Tell us how that’s all going.
Nabeel: Right. I have a Facebook group for the customers, and I ask them to, when they read the chapters, to give me feedback on it. And I have my editor, she’s going to be looking through it as well. Basically, the first draft is really rough. It’s like your shitty first draft in any kind of copywriting project, and then I’m going to improve it as I go along. Because it’s digital, I can keep updating the material. So, like if there’s new information that I want to add, I’ll probably do that as well. So it’s just an iterative process. As soon as the first draft is done, we’ll probably add. It’s probably going to change a lot. Because I think once the editor gets ahold of it, she’s just going to expose me for the hack writer that I am.
Kira: Alright, Nabeel. So, you know, you show up online with confidence. I want to hear about what you’re actually struggling with in your business. What are you struggling with today, or what have you struggled with over the last year, and how did you overcome it if you actually did overcome it?
Nabeel: Right, so I think the hardest thing, and possibly many copywriters struggle with it, is the ability to generate leads at will consistently. So, you need to have like, a lead gen pipeline. And then solving a big enough problem that you can charge a hefty sum of money for. And then finally, the ability to sell on the phone. I think a lot of copywriters are missing out there. So, I still haven’t perfected any of those things. However, last year, I paid a coach, or coaches, to teach me that stuff. So I learned how to create a feeder funnel to get leads into my business. I learned how to package a high ticket offer, and I also learned how to sell on the phone. So I think paying the money to sort of level up the way you manage your business, I think that’s a worthwhile investment. I think more copywriters should do that instead of trying to figure out stuff on their own for years and years.
Rob: So I’m actually really intrigued with this whole idea of selling on the phone. I’m not sure that I’m very good at it, although I tend to be able to close the projects that I want to. What does that involve? We’re getting the client on the phone, and then what? What’s that discussion?
Nabeel: So, when you get them on the phone, it’s you showing up as a leader. Like, your only objective when you get a prospect on the phone is to guide them to the decision that is in their best interests. It’s not to get them to work with you. It’s not to get them to buy copywriting services. It’s not to sell them a particular offer. Your only intention is to help them make the decision that is in their best interest.
Now, pretty often, in fact all of the time, the decision that’s in their best interest is outside of their comfort zone. Because if it was in their comfort zone, they would have already done it. And your job is to get them to realize that, and then guide them to that decision over the course of the call. Whether that’s working with you, whether that’s not working with you, it really depends on the conversation that’s going on. And ultimately, you’re just going through any process of strategizing with them, finding out what their goals are, finding out where their business is right now, finding out what are they doing right now to get to their goals. Painting a picture, if they achieve their goals, what will their world look like? If they don’t achieve their goals, what will it look like?
And then finally, if it’s a good fit, and if you do have the ability to help them, then you say, listen. I can help you. Would you like me to tell you about what I can do for you? And if they say yes, then you give them the offer, and then you quote the price, and then you shut up. And then whoever talks first loses.
Kira: That’s the hard part. Alright, so Nabeel, I want to hear about why you’re most excited to be a copywriter. What do you see as the biggest opportunity for copywriters today?
Nabeel: So I’m really hesitant to make any predictions about this. However, I have been following this discussion about ad tech that’s been going on for the past, I guess year or so. With this privacy concerns, with ad fraud, and all of those things. And then I’ve taken an interest in this Brave browser, which is this new browser that’s out that blocks all tracking scripts. Recently, they actually filed a lawsuit against Google. And I think as people are being more and more woke to privacy, you’re going to find the digital marketing landscape change a lot.
Now, don’t get me wrong, media buyers are always going to find ways to get clicks. And media buyers are always going to need copywriters. That’s not going to change. Whatever happens, they’re going to find a way to drive traffic, right? But I think you’re going to find a melding of branding and direct response. A melding of content and, you know, sales copy. And it’s going to be more about how you can tell stories, to build, to get attention. To create, to build a community around you. To create an audience. To build an audience. And then, how you are able to turn that attention into, you know, money basically. So, you know, with that sort of hypothesis in mind, I actually bought the domain directresponsebranding.com. And I’ll figure out what to do with it eventually.
Rob: Right on. So Nabeel, talking sort of about how you pull all of that stuff to work in your own businesses, and also going back to niche’ing, you have a program, or at least it’s an email list, called The Alpha Muslim. Tell us a little bit about what that project is, and how you use what we’ve been talking about for the last 45 minutes, how you apply that in that business.
Nabeel: That was actually supposed to be my main business. Because I started it when I took Ramit’s Zero to Launch course. But then I got more into the copywriting and digital marketing stuff, and that, you know, sort of took off faster than Becoming The Alpha Muslim. I still maintain it. Becoming the Alpha Muslim is a self-improvement blog, and it’s my lab. That’s where I experiment with a lot of the things that I learn. And I think most copywriters would benefit a lot from this, because you’re able to … like, you should be running your own marketing experiments.
I’m running marketing experiments all the time. Like, earlier this year, there’s a conference or convention called Dubai Links for all of the ad people in the region, and creatives in the region. So I actually trolled them with Facebook ads and Twitter ads. Talking about how ad guys don’t care about sales, and like, if you want real results then you should hire real digital marketers, whatever whatever. So we recorded a bunch of videos, and we targeted them, and we showed them those ads. Now the experiment and stuff was a fail, but it was a fun exercise to do. Right? And me selling this book is also, the Dragon Energy book, is also a marketing experiment. And I’ll be talking about that when it’s all said and done. So, Becoming the Alpha Muslim is like my lab where I test out a lot of … where I was testing out a lot of the stuff I learned as a copywriter early on. And I think when you have, like, your own little lab for these experiments, I think it’s better for you, and it’s better for your clients as well. Because you’re not learning on their dime.
Kira: Yeah. I love that. I think the idea of having a lab, that’s how I got started before copywriting too. I had my own podcast called Bridal Rebellion, because I hated the wedding planning process. So I think it helps to always have something like that, so you can test. And even for us, with the copywriter crowd, we test a lot of marketing messages and our own copywriting, stuff we can’t write about for our clients, but we get to test within this platform. So I think that makes a lot of sense. And you could add more value to your clients when you have your own thing and you’re constantly learning. So I think it all works together really nicely, and you’ve proven that. So, Nabeel, we’re about to wrap, but if anyone listening wants to reach out to you, learn more about the framework, we’ll share the framework on our website, but how can they reach you?
Nabeel: Right, you can friend me on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter. My handle is nabeelazeezdxb. That’s N-A-B-E-E-L-A-Z-E-E-Z-D-X-B. And also if you want to check out the Dragon Energy Down of Personal Branding book, you can go to dragonenergy.me.
Kira: Awesome. Alright. Thank you, Nabeel, for this second interview, and for being a part of the community, coming back into the community after your time out. Appreciate this.
Rob: Thanks Nabeel.
Nabeel: Yeah, this is great. We should do this again sometime.
Kira: Let’s do this all the time. Right. Thanks Nabeel.
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 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 thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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