Raven Douglas is our guest for the 302nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Raven is a Conversion Copywriter who focuses on the user experience for her clients’ businesses. In this episode, we walk through Raven’s beginning stages as a copywriter and the moves she made to go from $55 dollar projects to $37k.
Here’s how the conversation goes:
- How Raven became the go-to writer for her peers and how it paved the way for her copywriting career.
- Her cold pitch method and why she took on free work.
- Educating business owners on copy and how it helps their business.
- First website prices… You gotta start somewhere.
- Getting a feel for different niches and playing around with different writing styles.
- How a 28 hour bus ride to TCCIRL in NYC was the pivotal moment that turned Raven’s dream into a reality.
- The sales script Raven uses to quote prices and close sales calls.
- How Raven negotiated a $37 project without diminishing her value.
- The guarantee Raven used in the beginning of her career and how it helped her close more clients and boost her confidence.
- The intake and vetting process Raven uses to find out the nitty gritty details of client results.
- Ethical selling – How Raven declines projects and shifts gears into consultation calls.
- How to set a consultation call and how to set expectations.
- Money mindset and pitching high-ticket services.
- Humanizing CEOs – Why we need to reframe our perception of CEOs.
- Living the digital nomad life – How’s it possible as a copywriter?
Tune into the episode or read the transcript below.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
How to Find Clients Workshop
The Accelerator Waitlist
The Copywriter Think Tank
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Free month of Brain.FM
Rob Marsh: From time to time, on this podcast, we’ve interviewed copywriters who seem to have a golden touch. They connect with the right clients, they start out charging more than what beginners charge, their niche, their brand, their work, it all just seems to work out. And then there are copywriters who work really hard to make things come together. They take chances that may not pay off, they struggle with low-paying projects, knowing that it’s just the first step on a long journey. Today’s guest on The Copywriter Club Podcast has more in common with that second group of copywriters than she does with the first. Copywriter brand strategist and direct response expert Raven Douglas has put in the hours, made the sacrifices and grown a business that might make a lot of other copywriters drool in envy. We first met her five years ago in Manhattan. So, this excellent interview has been a long time in coming and we think you’re not going to want to miss it.
Kira Hug: But before we get to our interview with Raven, we have an ask for you if you listen to the show regularly, or actually, if this is your first time listening and you enjoy this episode, we would love for you to leave a review for the show. If you do review the show, we will share your review in an upcoming episode.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. We like to share those reviews at the end of the show. Maybe you’ve stuck around long enough to hear a couple of them, but we’d love hearing what you think about the podcast and what our guests share. So, if you would just hop over to Apple Podcasts and click four or five stars, whatever you feel like it deserves, and then just leave a couple of words, your thoughts about your experience with the podcast, we would really appreciate it.
Kira Hug: Yeah. I like how you did not give them the option of giving us a three-star or below.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Well, I mean, if they want to give us a one or two-star review, we could read those, too, but-
Kira Hug: No, I don’t want to read those.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. We’ll see what we get in.
Kira Hug: Okay.
Rob Marsh: All right. So, let’s get to our interview with Raven.
Raven Douglas: I swindled my way in, I was an enterprising young college student and you had to do a year in the writing lab as an English major, anybody listening and who is writing copy will know that you don’t actually really need a degree to write copy. I chose English because I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I was always really good at English. I did my year in the writing lab. I was out with several people being college students be like, “Hey, can you still help me?” And what they really meant is, “Can you write it for me?” And then I said yes. And several of those people went on to graduate. I can now say that I have my degree safely, so they can’t take it from me. I wrote a lot of their papers, but they opened businesses. Then they came back to me and said, “Hey, could you write my brochure for my business? Could you write my website?” And I said yes, and hit the library to figure out how to do it on the back-end.
I found an old copy book by Bob Bly and I went, “Oh, I know what this is.” I was taking marketing 101 and we had just started talking about P.T. Barnum. And I said, “Oh, I know what this is.” And I wrote what I can now say is very bad copy a little over 10 years ago and I turned it into those first clients and they went, “Great, how much do we owe you?” And I got on Google. I said, “Oh, you can charge for this. Oh, you can really charge for this.” So, I did. And I figured, “Well, if I could do this for business owners that I know, I could probably go around and ask business owners that I don’t know if I could also do this for them.” So, I started developing that cold pitching muscle live. Then I figured out that there were these things called marketing agencies and they actually had them in small town Jackson, Mississippi. So, I started pitching them too and was like, “Hey, y’all got a little bit of that overflow. I work for free.” Yeah, that’s how I got started.
Rob Marsh: I’d love to hear more about that pitching process that you built out. Obviously, the first couple of referrals come in, that’s where a lot of copywriters start. We know a few people, we do that work, but at some point we have to start building a pipeline of clients, right? How did you reach out to them? Do you even remember that first pitch that you would make and what were you asking for? What problem were you solving? How did that all come together?
Raven Douglas: That’s a great question. My memory’s kind of poor, I’m not going to lie. I think my first pitch was something along the lines of like, “Hey, would you like to have somebody write things for your business?” Because I didn’t quite connect yet that copy could bring businesses more sales, that was my purview. I was just like, “Hey, do you need things written for your business? Do you need a brochure written? Do you need your website updated? Do you even have a website?” And a lot of businesses at the time didn’t have websites or they didn’t have great ones. So, I just asked them, “I’ll write it and I’ll write it for free. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay me. Could you just tell me what you think of it?” Several of them of course said yes, because that was a great deal for them.
Interestingly enough, a lot of people were either very honest or just very kind, because most people did pay me. But that was the first pitch for those businesses. Then a few businesses introduced me to other forms of copy. I got into direct mail that way, because they went, “Hey, we sent out these mailers and we were thinking of creating a new one. Would you want to give it a try?” And I said yes and I still had no idea what I was doing, but it was really interesting to cut my teeth with those pitches, because there were some people that just straight told me no, because I didn’t know how to sell it. I had no idea, again, what the value was, but it taught me very quickly to be like, “Oh, they need to say yes to me and I need to be able to articulate to them what this is going to do for them.”
So, once I figured that out based on what some other businesses graciously told me in feedback, it’s like, “Oh yeah, we got so many customers. They said they saw our direct mail ad. They loved it. These people visited our website and they wrote us to tell us how much they loved it.” So, that helped me understand like, “Oh, this is valuable and it brings customers in.” So, then I could sell it properly or at least better.
Kira Hug: Okay. So, I want to get granular real quick. Because we talk frequently with copywriters about whether or not to sell for free or whether or not to give copy away for free, can you just speak to that and how it worked for you in more detail? How did you phrase it? How did it play out for you? Why it was worthwhile? Why maybe it didn’t work in some situations? For other copywriters who are just getting started and want to try that process out.
Raven Douglas: Sure. How I phrased it was, because, again, I was still an enterprising young college student. So, this phrasing is probably going to be pretty rough, but how I phrased it was like, “Hey, I want to write for you. Do you have things for your business that you need written? That could be brochures, that could be websites, that could be anything that you need written. Even if it’s a letter to your customers, I will write it. And what’s best is I’ll do it for free. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay me. All I ask is that you give it a try and that you tell me what you think about it.” So, that was essentially my pitch, because the only thing I could think of at the time was that, “Oh, I have no idea what I’m doing. And if it’s going to cost them something, then they’ll probably say no.”
I also had no idea of pricing really at the time. So, I probably wouldn’t have even known what to really ask for. I should also say that when those people did pay me, they often asked on the backend, not on the front-end, “How much do you want?” So, there was very much a trust there, because for a lot of those local businesses, they also didn’t really know what copy was. A lot of them weren’t using marketing agencies. So, it was really great in that way. Obviously, we’re living in a bit of a different time, but there are still a lot of business owners that don’t know anything about copy. So, I think you can really position it, if you do decide to go the free route, to say like, “Oh, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay me. This is what I usually charge for this. But if you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay me.” I do think that’s still viable, especially for a lot of small businesses when you start cutting your teeth.
As for me, when I look back on it, I think it was the right choice for what I wanted to do, because I was brand spanking new and even I didn’t really have an understanding of what copywriting was, that you could really make a business out of it. I had never been introduced to a freelancer in my life. I had only ever known like, oh, you go to college and then you apply for a job. Like you go work for someone else in these big, anonymous figures-owned companies. And like, “I’ll never be able to do that.” And I didn’t know that until I met business owners who specifically approached me and then it clicked in my head maybe a year or so later, “Oh, if they could do that, then I could also run a business.”
If I had tried to start a business without pitching for free, I wouldn’t have known what to do and I would’ve run into the ground very quickly and I probably would’ve never gone back. I would’ve just gone to work for someone straight out, because, again, I didn’t know anything about pricing. I didn’t know much about marketing. I was barely getting into cold pitching. I had no idea how to sell myself and I had to learn those things. Since I had to learn those things and learn copy skills at the same time, free pitching was the best option for me.
Rob Marsh: So, one more question about that, as they came back to you at the end and said, “Okay, yeah, how much should we pay you?” Or whatever. I know you didn’t have a great idea of how much to ask for, but just so I have a baseline, what were those projects? What did they involve and about how much were you getting for those first few projects? Was it just a few hundred dollars? Was it more than that?
Raven Douglas: Sure. Actually, in one case, it was less than that. I am very unashamed to say. I think the very first project I charged something like $55, because it was a brochure. I was just like, “Oh, it’s just a piece of paper.” It’s one of those threefold brochures that they were handing out to people. And I had no idea like, “Oh, this person’s going to print a bunch of them and hand them out to a bunch of people and that’s really valuable.” So, they were like, “Yeah, what are you charging?” And I was like, “Oh, just 50 something.” And then the website, when the next client asked me, “What do I owe you for the website?” That’s when I got on Google and I think I saw at the time it was maybe three or $4,000 was the first thing I came across. And I was like, “I can’t charge that much. There’s no way I could charge that much.” So, I charged them $700 for their website.
Kira Hug: That is how much I charge for my first website, $700.
Raven Douglas: My world.
Kira Hug: Okay. So, can you catch us up from when you’re just getting started out to now? I mean, doesn’t have to be all the details, but just, I want to understand the context of where you are today.
Raven Douglas: So, to begin with, I will say that this is probably controversial for a lot of copywriters. I did not niche down. I did not for a long time. And when I say a long time, June made 10 years that I’ve been doing this and I can’t believe it’s been that long. And I didn’t niche down for maybe seven of those 10 years. So, I really pitched to everybody that I could find, took every single project, scoured the internet. The way that I did some cold pitching. It was a bit of a dance because I was pitching people who were already looking for copywriters. I would get on the job postings and I went, “Oh, they’re looking for a copywriter for a job. I don’t know if I can do this job for real yet, but they probably could just take me for some contract work, that’ll work.”
So, I wrote for everything from HVAC systems to crawl spaces, which are really gross by the way. I wrote for a lot of retail, because I was a store manager at the time. Then I started writing for education, because I was a teacher. And I just took all of those things and I never said no to anything. I found a niche in the beauty space many, many years later, especially in the natural hair and skincare spaces. They were great to me. I loved them. I did that for a number of years before I swapped into personal development and then eventually tech and eCommerce.
So, within that, I did just about top to bottom of funnel for direct response. I’d also done some brand copy, because of course I’d always ask agencies for work and there were a lot of brand agencies who were cranking out, because we know the grind. So, they always needed help. I wrote so many different types of copy until one day I sat down and went like, “All right, I think I could really make a business out of this. How do I do that in a way that I actually enjoy it?” Actually, TCC In Real Life was a big part of helping me do that.
Rob Marsh: I’m curious, as you were jumping from niche to niche, occasionally, as you do the work, you’re like, “Ah, I don’t love the niche. Let me try something else.” Or was it just this, “Hey, work is coming in. I want to play with everything.” And then when you did decide to niche down, what was the thing that made you say, “I’m going to give up the other stuff and lean into this?”
Raven Douglas: It was a little bit of both. So, some of the things were, hey, I don’t love the work. Particularly when it came to the personal growth and development space, I’m forever closed to the personal growth and development space as of this stage, in my copy career. Shout out to everybody who loves it. For me, I really found on the other side of it that I didn’t like the niche at all. It felt very, for me, the direct response and personal growth development felt very intangible. What’s interesting is I usually say like, “As long as I can understand something, I don’t have to necessarily believe in it or agree with it. But as long as it’s not ethically or morally against what I believe, as long as we’re not lying to people, as long as we’re not falsely advertising. And I understand it, even the audience, I can write it, even if I don’t agree with it.”
But personal growth and development was the first time that I was like, “Yeah, no, this is not going to work for me long term.” There were other things, like HVAC systems, that I said, “Oh, this isn’t interesting to me.” I could keep writing it. I just don’t really enjoy it. It’s kind of boring. Then there were other things that, like when I got into the beauty space, I was like, “Wow, this is so easy, because these are things that I already do. I really enjoy this.” When I got into the tech space, ironically enough, it wasn’t just because it was so easy, it was because I was like, “Wow, tech is really boring. It sounds very boring. I would like to change that. I wonder if tech could not be boring, because people, humans are using technology, but they sound like these big, giant corporations that no one can really connect to.”
Then eCommerce, it’s a gauntlet, it was and still is a gauntlet because there are so many sales that come up for the holidays. So, there are these huge campaigns, email sequence after email sequence and offer after offer and then all the updates for the websites. But I found joy in that probably because I’m a shopaholic. So, I said like, “Okay, I don’t like these things and I do like these things and this is how it gets started.” Like I said, beauty caught my eye, because I was like, “Wow, this is so easy. I love it. I could do this in my sleep.” A couple of days I did do it very sleep-deprived. So, yeah.
Kira Hug: I’m wondering when you felt like you figured this out as a business owner, because we’re talking about the beginning of your journey and pitching, but was there a moment or even just a specific year where you’re like, “Okay, I can do this. I can do this long term. I understand what goes into running a business now.”
Raven Douglas: Yes. So, I was a teacher. Back in 2017, it was my last year teaching. I was starting to get more work than I could handle while I was also teaching because teaching is a job and a half. Truly, I don’t know how people who teach and have kids do both, because it’s just the job never stops. There’s all the lesson planning and all the grading and all the remediation and tutoring lessons that you have to have. So, you don’t actually get a planning period. Then all the calling parents that can’t happen during the school day. So, it has to happen after the school day. Just it’s a never-ending thing. I remember coming home so exhausted every single day. At that time, I technically, it’s going to sound really grueling, had four jobs.
So, when I first started teaching, I was a pizza delivery driver, a delivery driver for Domino’s, and I was still running something like a business and I was teaching. Then I stopped driving for Domino’s after a year. Have so many stories about that, most of them are not good. And I started tutoring for Sylvan Learning Center. One year, I was also a STEM competition coach, helping kids build robots. And I was still teaching and I was still writing. After a year, I stopped coaching STEM, because it was a program where you had to rotate out, but I was still tutoring and I was still teaching. Tutoring didn’t take up that much time. But teaching did. I started having to turn down more work and I thought to myself like, “Actually, it’s not that bad and I think I could make more money doing this than I could teach it,” because I was teaching in Mississippi, where teachers already get paid the pits. They get paid below the pits, somewhere near the pits of hell if you’re teaching in Mississippi.
When I did the math, I think after taxes, I was bringing home, if I didn’t count my writing income, I was bringing home less than $25,000 a year, even working all that time. I was like, “This is literally below the poverty line and I’m having to turn down work now.” If I do it this way, I could probably decide what I want to do, when I want to do it. I think I’m going to make this a full-time thing, so I did. The caveat is I had no idea how to make it a full-time thing. So, it was a real struggle from June, let’s see, the euphoria wore off maybe toward the end of June 2017 until January 2018 is when things were pretty dire. I was like, “All right, you got to make something shake.” And I had been researching TCC and I chose TCC.
Rob Marsh: Well, I guess it was right after that we met you, because you came to New York and… I think there’s a story here, we’ve talked a little bit about this, how you got there. You just mentioned that TCC and the IRL, the actual in-person event that we held, was a part of this change. But tell us about that struggle to get to the event and then just connecting with other copywriters there, the people who were there, what was that impact on your business?
Raven Douglas: Struggle was correct and the impact was immense. So, actually, that’s when I had just started to really think about niching down into beauty. I had a client for whom, and this is the first time I got the most polite FU feedback ever. The very first draft that I turned in, the client said, “Oh, Raven, I realized, I forgot to ask if you’d ever done this kind of work before.”
Rob Marsh: This is such great feedback.
Kira Hug: Oh wow.
Raven Douglas: Such great feedback. I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So, that was a really rusty project and it was like very rocky, really struggled out way through, we made it. But the client, I think, was not super impressed with the journey to get there. They didn’t pay me for over a month. In a last ditch effort, I sent an invoice because I’d seen TCCIRL’s tickets and I knew that I wanted to go. I was also in my last month at my apartment, because I was getting ready to move in with my friend, whose husband was being deployed. They positioned it in such a way to try and give me the grace to save face like, “Oh, I don’t want her in this big house alone.” But the truth is, I didn’t know how to run a business, so I didn’t have steady business coming in. So I was not going to be able to afford my rent, which was only $600, by the way.
So, when that client paid that invoice, which, I was shocked, because it was probably the fourth or fifth time that I had sent it. I bought my TCCIRL ticket before I paid my rent and then I paid my rent and then I figured, “Oh no, how am I going to get from Jackson, Mississippi to New York City during Valentine’s Day weekend?” And the plane ticket was 900 bucks. I didn’t have that.
Kira Hug: Oh my gosh. Geez.
Raven Douglas: Yeah. Yeah. The plane ticket was 900 bucks round trip. I didn’t have that. So, I took a Greyhound bus, 28 hours, and I wore three layers of clothes. Then, because I didn’t really, really know how to work the New York Subway, I actually had a meeting with a potential client that did turn into a client later just before the conference started. But I got off at Port Authority and I walked 14 blocks and then I changed into heels just outside of their door and had that first meeting. But I got there and I slept on a friend of a friend’s couch, because I also could not afford the hotel Bowery, which was a wonderful boutique hotel, which is too expensive for me. So, literally a friend from high school that I hadn’t spoken to in years, her best friend let me sleep on their couch in Brooklyn. So, I took the train over every day to the conference.
But when I got there, I got into this room of people and I was like, “Oh my gosh, there are all these people that are just like me, but they are so much better at this thing than me. They actually make real living from this. This is where I’m supposed to be.” So, in terms of the people that I met there, amazing folks, obviously some of the heavyweights that most people listening to this will probably know, Kevin Rogers, Marcella Allen, Kim Krause Schwalm, Amy Posner. Many of whom I saw at the last TCCIRL this year. Obviously, I also met you all. I met Hillary Weiss, who is still a hoot, I’m on her email list. Laura Belgray. There were so many people that I was like, “Oh wow, this is amazing. And I need to figure out how to do what they do.”
The conference was exactly that, bless you both, it was the art of running a copy business really and not just writing copy, because I think you all have really honed in on that niche of like, there are so many programs that teach you how to write copy, running a business is where a lot of copywriters fail. Because the number one question for so many of us is still like, “Oh, how do I get clients?” It’s, “Do you have any more of those? Could I get a couple?” So, yeah, TCC taught me how to do that and it was Amy Posner’s sales script, actually, that is the same version of that script that I used today that helped me land my biggest deal at the time, which was $5,000 about two weeks after TCC. After that, my trajectory was straight up, my close rate shot up to something like 83%. After that, my business just grew and it almost outgrew me. So, thank you both for that.
Kira Hug: Yeah. And because you teased it, I was going to ask, which talks really helped you the most. Because there were so many great ones, because you mentioned Amy, can you share just a highlight of the script, since you’re using it today, it worked for you, someone listening is like, “That sounds great. I want to use that. I want to do what Raven’s doing and Amy shared.”
Raven Douglas: Yes. So, interestingly enough, I think it’s a lot like a sales letter in that respect. There’s the intro and when you get to the problem, for example, you let them tell you the problem. Then you give a bit of expository about you. So, you’re just like, “Okay, so tell me a bit more about your project.” They do, because people love to talk about problems. We love to complain. So, they’ll tell you exactly what’s wrong and why they need it. Now, if someone’s very, very savvy and they’ve worked with a bunch of copywriters before, then, of course, make sure you’re paying attention, take copious notes if you can listen and write at the same time, because they’ll really expect you to know. But especially if you’re getting started with smaller businesses or startups, a lot of times they’ve not worked with copywriters and that really works to your advantage.
A lot of people are probably thinking, “Well, no, I want to work with people who are educated and not.” And it depends on the kind of clients that you want to take. For me, in where I was at the time, people who had never worked with copywriters was easy. Because that way all I had to do was introduce copy as a solution, because I already knew copy was great and they already had an inkling that it might be, but they weren’t really sure. And that was why they were on the call with me. At least that’s how I framed it in my head. So, you start with the problem, then you give a bit of an intro of who you are and you intro what the solution can be through who you are. You tell them about your story in brief, and then you use their problems to actively build the solution as you’re talking to them.
Now, that piece is a bit more difficult and does take time to hone that skill. I personally recommend practicing with your friends and family, anybody who listens to you, even hopping on Zoom and recording yourself with that script to say like, “Okay, so here’s what I heard about your problem. You are looking for this, this and this. I would suggest.” And then you start building out your deliverables from there and you explain to them what those deliverables are. “I would suggest this deliverable to address this and here’s why. I would suggest this to address this and here’s why.” And you don’t get to pricing until the very end of the call, because I know that a lot of people think like, “Oh, what are they going to do?” And freak about pricing. But you structure it that way because you’ve already given them a chance to describe their problem.
You’ve told who you are and introduced the solution. Your solution, as you go in depth, nails bit by bit exactly how you are going to solve their problem. This is why this is the solution. So, by the time it’s over, you ask them like, “Okay, this is the part of the call where I really like to discuss what a lot of people consider the elephant in the room. I want to talk about price, because I don’t believe in people getting things that they don’t like and paying for them. I also don’t believe in pricing being a surprise. I love to build custom packages. So, let’s talk quotes.” If you’re unable to do that on the call, because I know that pricing is still a very intimidating thing for copywriters. You say like, “Okay, now that we’ve gotten through this, I would love to take a day or two to write up a proposal.” And you give a quote range, no matter what you do, if you’re able to absolutely think of a number for that price in your head on the call or if you’re not, you still give a quote range.
So, that way it doesn’t lock you in. You give the bottom of your quote range, and this is definitely what I learned from Amy, the bottom of your quote range being what you absolutely would feel comfortable with to do the work. The top of your quote range is whatever your dream pricing would be. Usually, when you sit down to do the proposal, it falls somewhere within that range. So, when they get the proposal, the prospect doesn’t feel surprised, because you already told them it was going to fall within there. And as long as it’s not at the very max, they usually feel like they’ve gotten a deal, so that you’ve got some psychology working there for you, too.
Raven Douglas: You also don’t feel gypped. You haven’t undercut yourself because you’ve done the work, but you didn’t lock yourself into a price upfront, so you had a chance to explore it. Then you asked them if they have any other follow-up questions, so they feel good about it. For those people who are fact-finders, they have a chance to ask you more questions while you’re on the call and you tell them the deadline when you’ll send the proposal. You’ve usually gotten a yes on the call, so it’s just a matter of them going through the proposal and signing it. That’s the method that has worked for me until this day.
Kira Hug: All right. So, Rob, I want to dig into this part of the conversation with you, but before we do that, I’m just curious, did you ever write papers for your classmates like Raven?
Rob Marsh: No. No, I didn’t. And it’s funny, when she’s talking about that, I used to work in a business where we created logos for different small businesses and there was a competitor or two who were doing the same thing and they were charging nothing or whatever. And I kind of got the sense that it was actually a paper mill and they were using this logo business as a front to make the business look kosher and real, whatever, and it was actually doing all this illegal plagiarizing. Anyway, No shame that Raven was the one that everybody called on to help with those papers. But nobody ever saw my writing in college worth hiring me to do it for them.
Kira Hug: I know, I feel bummed that no one asked me to write their paper for them. I feel like I wasn’t as impressive as I should have been, I wish people would’ve asked me to do it.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. It’s one of those things, right? One of the things that I want to point out from this interview, and we talked a little bit about this, but Raven talked about how she started taking on free work at the beginning of her business. I know there are a lot of copywriters who say, “You should never do this, never give away your work for free.” I think there’s definitely an idea there that’s worth thinking about. Yeah, of course, we create value. So, of course, we want to make sure that we’re getting paid for what we do. However, and we’ve mentioned this in a few places, cash is not the only way that you can get paid. Sometimes the experience of working with a client, sometimes a testimonial or a case study, or the opportunity to leverage what you’re doing for a client for free into the next paying job is actually worth taking that opportunity.
So, if you’re listening and you’re thinking, “I’m a beginning copywriter, I don’t even know where to get started. I don’t know how to charge. I’m not sure about any of that stuff, but I know I could do something for free for somebody.” If you can get one of those other things out of it, testimonial, case study, opportunity for more work, experience. That’s okay. And you can take that project. I think you want to make sure that you don’t do free work more than just a couple of times though, before you’re really taking advantage of the things that you’re getting for that. So, worth pointing out. Obviously, Raven did that in her business and look where it’s gotten her.
Kira Hug: Yeah, there is no right way to get started. I mean, we’ve interviewed hundreds of copywriters now and everyone has a different way in, and I think my takeaway from all of it and hearing Raven talk about it is just like, there is no one way. I love that she had this guarantee. I mean, it’s really just a strong guarantee that Raven created to get started that she’d give her copy away for free if they don’t like it. It was a brilliant approach to getting started and, as she talked about it, I mean, it’s not like Raven has regrets about giving anything away for free. It propelled her and helped her move forward. So, I think it’s a smart way to opt-in if it clicks for you.
Rob Marsh: I think there can occasionally be an upside to that, too, when you leave it up to your client to say what the value of your copy was. Occasionally, not always, but occasionally they’ll come back and pay you more than you might have even asked for, especially when you’re just starting out. So, if you’re willing to try it out, go for it, but obviously, if you can get a client to pay even $50, $55 for a first project, whatever that ends up being, take the money, for sure.
Kira Hug: Yeah. Raven sold her first package for $55. It was the brochure. I like the way she talked about it, she said she only sold it for $55 because she thought it was just a piece of paper. Now, she realizes that it’s not just a piece of paper, it’s a sales tool and it could reach thousands of people over time and create thousands of dollars, maybe more value for the client. So, I know a lot of this conversation was around articulating the value and I think it’s okay to borrow, borrow that messaging from other copywriters.
I mean, that’s why we created this podcast, so we could have these conversations and talk about the value of what we all create as copywriters, because sometimes we need to borrow that language from someone who has a little bit more experience in order to articulate the value, especially if we still aren’t sure and we’re figuring it out, and that’s okay. You’re not stealing someone else’s promise. You’re just talking about what value there is in what we do as copywriters. You can start doing that at any stage. You don’t have to wait until you have 10 clients that you’ve worked with.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I agree. So, Kira, what did you think about Raven’s hesitancy to choose a niche? Obviously, we talk a lot about the power of niching and how helpful it can be in connecting with the right clients, in charging more for your work, but clearly it’s not the right path for everyone.
Kira Hug: Well, I mean, she did end up choosing a niche and then she pivoted four times maybe, and I’m sure she will continue to pivot. That’s what we all do. So, I think for me, it was just more a reminder of we’re never stuck with a niche and I think that takes some pressure off. I feel like a lot of the pushback against niching down is because it’s like, “Oh, I don’t want to be stuck with one thing forever.” But it’s a long journey and there’s going to be many different pivots. I think the pivots are coming faster and faster in our career path. So, I just remind myself of that when I feel a little bit stuck that it’s okay and I’m probably going to pivot three or four more times over the next 10 years and that’s just part of the process.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. It makes me wonder what is the next pivot? What’s the business that’s going to be the next thing that you or I lean into in our own businesses?
Kira Hug: Oh, well, I wonder what that would be?
Rob Marsh: That’s a good question. Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s out there. Maybe waste management. Maybe… No, I have no idea. I have no idea.
Raven Douglas: I’ll do me, you do you. I think the pivoting is the exciting part. So, I’m glad that Raven shared that. To me, that’s what makes what we do as business owners and entrepreneurs really exciting. It’s not just finding a path and sticking to one path. It’s the evolution. It’s that the market’s changing, the world’s changing and the people, the business owners I admire the most and are the ones who can pivot and just swerve and they’re more resilient and they can bounce back. And they pay attention to the market. They pay attention to what’s happening with their clients. Those are the entrepreneurs I want to be more like, because those are the ones that last. So, that’s Raven. That’s Raven.
Rob Marsh: This is something that we see happening all the time in the Think Tank, The Accelerator, In our programs, copywriters lean into some of the things that they’re focused on, they want to work on and then sometimes they discover, “Oh, this isn’t the best fit. Let’s lean out and figure out what is the next thing?” And it is a process that hopefully lasts for our entire careers and keeps everything interesting.
Kira Hug: Yep, exactly. I just really loved Raven’s story. I’m glad that she shared her IRL story for our first big event in 2018. It was so fun to meet Raven there. I didn’t know her back story and that she traveled from Mississippi, because we met her for the first time. So, to hear the story of how much time she put into traveling and making that trip, how much effort, energy, to be there and be in the room. So, it’s just one of my favorite IRL stories. It’s just really inspiring. It also shows you what Raven was willing to invest in her business and career, and I’m glad that it paid off. That was a contributor to what she’s done in her business.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. I agree. I didn’t know that that was going on in the background that first time that we met Raven either. The takeaway for me from that story, as I think about my own situation, is what am I willing to do? What lengths am I willing to go to in order to realize my dreams? Whatever that goal is, whether it’s a personal goal, whether it’s a business goal, whether it’s something else, it’s like, “Am I willing to take the risk, hop on the bus, not knowing what the exact sleeping arrangements would be, or having to wear four outfits, so that I’ve got something to wear each day at the conference?” It’s such an amazing willingness to invest in herself and just that confidence that she was going to make it work. I really admire that about Raven. And I think there are probably hundreds of people listening, talking who may ask themselves the same question, “What am I willing to invest? What risks am I willing to take in order to realize my dreams?” That’s a good question.
Kira Hug: Yeah. I like that way of looking at it. It’s the risk, what risk am I willing to take? And then also, yeah, what am I willing to sacrifice? For Raven, it was time, it was comfort. It could be many different things. So, at every stage in the business, there’s always a sacrifice of some sort and just thinking through what is that for me today? And am I willing to make that sacrifice? Is it worth it? And being intentional about it? I really like that approach.
Rob Marsh: I agree. Let’s get back to our interview with Raven and find out a little bit more about what she’s charging for her copy projects, as well as talk about some of the sales process stuff. As we’re talking about pricing, I’d love to add another bookend to your pricing. We know at one point you charge $55 for a project, as you’ve used this script, what are the larger projects that you’ve booked, maybe even the largest project that you’ve booked, what are you charging for those?
Raven Douglas: All right. Largest project that I’ve booked has been $37,000. I could not believe that I charged that much. And if you can believe it was only for email sequences and one landing page, I think, it is for a couple email sequences and one landing page.
Rob Marsh: Okay. So, explain that a little bit, because that sounds like a dream for a lot of people’s like, “Wait a second.”
Kira Hug: But how many emails? How many emails for that?
Rob Marsh: “There’s got to be a little bit more to that.”
Kira Hug: 200 emails?
Raven Douglas: So, there are several emails. I believe it was five email sequences. The lowest amount of emails in the sequences was three, and the highest amount of emails in the sequence was 12. The landing page is, I should also mention it, it was one landing page, but it had three iterations, because of the segmentation that we were doing with the audiences. So, it wasn’t like it was just this completely light lift. But I charged that, because we were doing high ticket funnel sales and I was like, “Okay, we could either do…” Because I was trying to explore revenue sharing. They weren’t open to that. I was like, “Okay, we could do this, this way. Or we could also do this, this way.” And they were trying to give me a bit of pushback to get me to sign an NDA. I was like, “Well, if you get me to sign an NDA, the price is going to double, because this hinders my ability to do the work and you need this on a bit of a tighter timeline. So, we’re already looking at a little bit of a rush fee here.”
And they went like, “Oh no, I’m not paying double for this.” So, we settled on the happy medium of 37K. That one took some negotiating, obviously because we went back and forth on it and they were like, “Well, I think this deliverable should be this.” And I’m like, “Okay, we can do that. But then we’re going to take these deliverables off. If you want to bring the price down, we’re going to take these deliverables off.” Because at first it had more of a full-funnel feel, there were ads to it, there were sales page and then they went, “Oh, I think we could maybe reuse some of those materials since they’re all going to drive to the same place. These are the things that critically need changing.” So yeah, I went from $55, I know it sounds really unbelievable, to 37K and these days my projects are usually around the 20 to 25K range on average.
Kira Hug: Okay. So, many questions. Just answer the one you want to answer because I have so many. I want to hear about how you positioned it with the value, because, I mean, clearly you are positioning it as 37,000 because there’s so much value and they can use the copy over and over again and blah, blah, blah, all the things we know. But how did you talk about it so that they got the value as you were selling it for that high ticket price?
Raven Douglas: Yeah. Okay. So, to start, I asked them, and this was a thing that I did learn at TCCIRL as well, when you’re working with clients who have already worked with copywriters, definitely ask, in your intake survey, about their past results, ask them to see their past marketing information, everything, but you really want their results, if you can get that, because that gives you an idea of what copy can do for what they have working already. So, that gives you an idea of the ROI that they are currently seeing. If you know that you can meet or exceed that ROI, then you’ve got that in the bag to be able to say that, especially if you already have results. Thankfully, I did.
So, I positioned it to say like, “Okay, well, with this kind of funnel that you have working, here’s the results that you’ve consistently seen. I think that we can raise this two percentage points or five percentage points or whatever. For here, this is going to amount to about X amount in ROI for you. If you sell just one of these packages, then you have already returned the money on your investment with me, and you just need one and you are looking to take 10 people into this program. You normally get four people in this program at a time and we are shooting for 10. I know that I can get you more than four and somewhere around your goal of 10. If you’ve just sold one of these packages. And you usually get four, if you can get more, doesn’t that sound like a crazy return on your investment?” They went, “I mean, I think I’m willing to give it a shot. Do you offer a money-back guarantee?”
I said, “No, I don’t offer a money-back guarantee, but I do offer a, if we miss the mark, then we can offer additional promo and I will do additional work guarantee.” I learned that one from Mark Pescetti, who was not at TCCIRL, but was a part of the TCC community and I met through there. I learned that one through there. These days I don’t do that now, because I definitely have a lot more results to back up to say like, “These are the kind of results that we get.” I know that copy is one part to a whole, so if it didn’t perform, it’s not solely blamed on copy.
But at the time, I didn’t have quite as many results. I also just wasn’t comfortable asking for money at that magnitude, because it was more money than I’d ever seen at one time. I used to make less than 25 grand a year. So, 37 came in one project, which was crazy for me. So, I went like, “Okay, I’m willing to work on the email sequences, work on the landing page until they convert.” Thankfully we didn’t have to do too many iterations, but that was how I got them to say yes.
Rob Marsh: I love that. As I’m thinking about the process in doing this, it strikes me that to even have that conversation with your client, you’ve got to be really good at asking questions on the front-end about their business, how they make money, where customers are coming from, so that you can actually have that impact. Will you talk a little bit about that vetting process that you go through, so that you can actually discover that information that leads to that final conversation about money.
Raven Douglas: Sure. So, I have an introductory intake form where they just answer and obviously, since they’re new to me, even if they’re a referral, because these days, most of my work comes from referrals, because I am a little bit in less in direct response and more into UX writing now, and that field is even smaller. But I do a short seven-question intake form to ask them, what kind of business do they run? What industry is it in? What kind of marketing do they use? What is their annual revenue? What number would they love to see in their annual revenue? And have they ever worked with a copywriter before? Those are the baseline questions that I ask.
Then, when I get on the call, part of them telling me about their problem, if I can tell that they’re not answering some of those questions, because maybe they’re not quite as experienced and they haven’t worked with a copywriter before, then I will ask that before I do my intro, I’ll get very in-depth and be like, “Okay, tell me about your last launch? How many deliverables did you have in your last launch? What does your email list look like? What would you like to see most in your email list? What’s the biggest failure that you’ve seen in your marketing? And why do you think it failed?” Those are some of the introductory questions that I’ll ask.
I’ll even ask them like, “What do you think about info funnels? If you have product funnels, what do you think about product funnels? What’s the product funnel that you most often use? Have you ever taken any training for funnels? How did you get into your business?” Because asking them their story as well will give you usually an idea of whether they have used The ASK Method or whether they used the PLF formula or whether they learned because they started working inside of a marketing organization. If they’re not able to answer any of those questions, then I start to get a little bit more granular and say like, “All right, I want to pause this real quick and ask very baseline, for the product that you are trying to sell, how do you envision selling it? Can you walk me through the start to finish of the buyer’s journey?”
I pick apart each stage of that journey and I say, “Okay, well, so they enter your journey here. So they enter your journey through cold search. It sounds like they’re very problem-ware, they’re not very solution-ware. Huh, okay. That’s really good to know.” And I’m taking notes that entire time. I’m also recording the call so that I can go back on it. But that gives me a good idea as to whether or not I even want to pitch them as we continue through the call.
Because if I hear too many red flags for me, then I say, “Okay, I think that we’re at a stage where we should take a pause. I firmly believe in ethical selling. Especially in my own business, I already told you, I don’t believe in people paying for a thing that they don’t like and I definitely don’t believe in selling people a thing that I don’t think can help them. I could take your money, but I see some issues in your funnel right now and I think you might want to start here and address these issues in your funnel. I am not a funnel strategist, though, I can offer you some consultation. That would be a different conversation. And if you want to switch gears with that, we can do that now. But we can’t get to any execution on copy. If you want to talk to a funnel strategist, I know some that I might be able to recommend to you and get on their books and see if you’re open.”
And I’ve had people push back a couple times to say, “Oh no, I just need copy.” And I say, “I am unable to help you at present, because I truly do not believe in selling people a product that they can’t use. And right now I see a break in your funnel. I know that copy is not going to make the difference for you, because you have to address this issue in your funnel.” A lot of times that issue for anybody wondering is targeting. A lot of times they think they’re targeting one person and they’re actually targeting someone else.
Kira Hug: Okay. Let’s say the conversation, you mentioned the consultation option, and they go for that option. What happens then? You’re booking another call? And how much do you charge for that? How do you run that call? Because I like that plan and that approach.
Raven Douglas: Yes. So, we are booking another call. They have another survey that they have to fill out pre-consultation, which has some of the questions that we covered as well as more in-depth questions. I always like to ask what do they look to get out of the call? Because that gives me an idea of where their expectations are. So that the first thing that I do when I get on the call is set expectations for what we can achieve during that consultation hour. Because a lot of people will think like, “Oh my goodness, I’m going to have a copy written in an hour.”
No, you are going to have a strategy defined that you can then take to have anyone execute in an hour. I also do a bit of prep work with the emails that they get, not just the intake email, but I also do a, what to expect after they’ve filled out that prep call, I will edit it if I think somebody has some extra, but it’s a templatized email that spells out what the agenda is going to be, roughly what it’s going to look like and it’s very plug and play, so that you can in insert those pieces for whoever it is that you’re consulting.
Then we get on the call, like I said, I start with expectations first and we go through the agenda. Like I said, usually, the issue is targeted most often. So, I’ve actually done some backend work before we even get on the call to research a bit more of their audience and say like, “Okay, here’s who you’re targeting at present, because I have your target audience doc. Here’s what I have found online through this source, this source, this source. I want to go through and highlight the differences and how they matter for your product or service, why does this matter? Look at what these people are saying. Look at what these people are saying. Look at what these people are saying. Do you see how this doesn’t match up to your target audience?” And they go, “Yes. Well, how do I build that back?” And it’s, “This is what we are going to do in this call.” So, we’re going to start with their basics of demographic. Where are they? Who are they? What do they care about? And we go through each stage of the consultation call like that.
Rob Marsh: Cindy talk about this stuff, Raven, again, going back to that first IRL, when we met you, it’s just amazing how much your business has grown, how much your knowledge of marketing has grown since that first day. Obviously, we see that because we invited you to come and speak at the last IRL in Nashville and you killed it on stage. Did you ever imagine, when you were sitting there in the front row at the first one, did you ever think, “Hey, I’m going to be on that stage or I’m going to be at this place in my business where I’m going to be showing up as the expert.” Or is it like total serendipity, unexpected, what were you thinking?
Raven Douglas: It was really unexpected. I did not at all imagine it. I just thought to myself, “These people are experts. They’ve been doing this and they really know what they’re doing. They’re charging the big bucks. They’re charging the money that I wish I could charge. I bet they’re staying in the hotel Bowery. They’re not sleeping on a friend of a friend’s couch and they don’t have to take a 32-hour bus ride back in the snow.” So, no, I didn’t think about it. Even when you all asked me to just facilitate a workshop for a TCCIRL, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is great. I applied not thinking that I would get a yes, because who am I?” And then when you all asked me to speak this year, I was just like, “This is great.”
Even every time somebody asked me to do a podcast, I’m like, “Are you sure you want to hear from me?” I mean, I’m just figuring this out as I go. But I mean, I just did a podcast for somebody who runs a podcast for people who are new to the tech industry and they were asking about UX writing and how you could get started. And so many people wrote me after that podcast interview to say, “This is amazing, thank you so much.” And I’m always in awe anytime. Because I didn’t dream it at all. To this day, I don’t market myself. A large part of my business is from referrals. And before that, my business largely came from cold pitching. So, it’s always interesting when someone’s like, “Me? Little, little me? Are you sure? Are you sure you’re… Have you thought this through?” So, yeah, but it’s been a great experience because I do really love being able to share and to connect with other copywriters, to connect with other people who are thinking about being copywriters and at least try and pay it forward, because somebody did it for me.
Kira Hug: Okay. So, before we wrap the conversation around money, I know we’ve ended up talking about money a lot today and as I’m listening to you speak about selling a 37K project and how far you’ve come from that original one. I’m just wondering, are there any money mindset practices or anything that you’ve worked on over the years to help you be able to sit on a call and throw out and negotiate these big numbers with confidence? I know part of it’s practice and repetition and then just time, doing it over and over again. What else has helped you that may help other copywriters who are struggling to throw out a big number?
Raven Douglas: Sure. So, a couple things that have helped me, because one actually came from an SVP at Salesforce. I asked her, “As you started climbing the ladder,” as it will, “As you started your leadership journey, what’s the most surprising or shocking thing that you would not have known on the side of being an individual contributor, before you started becoming a leader that you would’ve never guessed in your wildest dreams?” She said that, “The people at the top don’t know a whole lot more than you do.” I went, “Are you serious?” And she’s like, “I sit in meetings with CEOs all day and they don’t know a whole lot more than you do.”
Rob Marsh: In fact, sometimes they know less.
Raven Douglas: Yeah.
Kira Hug: I believe that. I believe that.
Raven Douglas: Yeah. That piece helped me not just to humanize a CEO, because when I’m sitting on with the head of marketing for a tech company or something, it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this company does millions of dollars a year and they’re still not profitable. But they definitely do millions more than I’ve seen in a year.” And when I’m sitting on those calls, I go like, “You know what, this person probably doesn’t know a whole lot more than I do and more than anything, they’re coming to me because they believe that I could be an expert at what I do.” What I do is valuable. I have literally seen the numbers to see the results. And before I had the results, I literally saw that other people could do it.
If I didn’t know how to do it and people would go like, “Oh, well, why me?” No, I was going to get somebody to teach me how to do it, because it wasn’t that I couldn’t learn. I knew that I was at least capable to try. I also honestly just got tired of being broke. I had a real talk with myself to be like, “I mean, you could keep shopping at Dollar Tree for groceries, or you could start asking for these numbers that you’ve seen other people do and you could do the things that scare you.” Because if you’re scared, then you’re usually in the right place. Fear is a thing that intentionally tries to hold you back. Because if you hold yourself back, nothing else has to do any of that work. You do it yourself. I went, “Okay, all right. I could ask what’s the worst that could happen?” I started playing a worst-case scenario, like if anybody’s ever watched This Is Us and Beth and Randall did like, “Can we do worst case?”
I’m like, “Okay, worst case is they could tell me I’m absolutely insane, that I’m nuts. Laugh in my face. Maybe curse me out. And hop off the call. How does that feel?” And I went like, “Ah, I could deal with that. Okay. We could do it.” Other money mindsets really had to do around paying myself first, which I know a lot of copywriters had said, but paying myself first in such a way that I, one, wasn’t overpaying myself, because that’s also a thing. I think a lot of people don’t talk about that, that you do still need money to make money. If you’re running a business, you need to be able to allocate and you have to be able to discipline yourself well enough to understand how to pay yourself as an employee and not just spend all of your money. Because me, I have a spender relationship with money. So, I really had to learn that.
The other piece of mind that I had to learn to be able to just handle this much money coming in and coming out and then also to be able to ask for it was my mom used to say this to me all the time, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” If I don’t ask, I am always going to be this level of broke. And I know that this level of broke doesn’t work for the life I want. So, I’m going to ask and I’m going to be bold, because if all these other people can do it, again, I can do it. And the worst that can happen is they tell me no.
Rob Marsh: I love that. Not to wrap up, but to change the topic just a little bit. I’m totally into travel, working while you travel. You had an experience where you left the country, worked in Asia for a while. Tell us about just the experience of working from another place. I know we’ve got people around the world listening to the podcast. So, for us, what another place is, is maybe home for them. But having that travel experience, experiencing a different culture, wherever it is or wherever you go. Just tell us a little bit about that. And did that have an impact on your business?
Raven Douglas: Yes. Okay. I’ll start with the did it have an impact on my business part first? Because I think that could be really valuable for a lot of people who are thinking about becoming digital nomads, essentially. No, it did not. But also because I learned very early on that people do discriminate by location. A lot of times they will discriminate and say like, “Oh, well, you can’t work the hours,” or anything like that. As long as I was willing to make the time for wherever my clients were, I never saw an issue in telling them like, “Oh, where are you located right now?” If they asked me, then I told them, but it wasn’t something that I lived with, because I quickly did learn even from hearing stories of others, not other copywriters who were digital nomads, but also other copywriters were just in these other countries that they were heavily discriminated against.
I was like, “All right, well, we just won’t mention where we’re at.” I had some experience with that being a southerner, because there were people who discriminated and just thinking like, “Oh the South is this little backwards place.” It’s like, “No, there’re actually people who live there and they can do the job, too.” So, no. I did let my existing clients know that I was making the move and obviously they had some questions. I made sure in my intro emails that they were able to book time with me if they had additional questions outside of the email that I sent them, that let them know, a few people did book time with me. But thankfully I didn’t lose any business in that, because we had been working together long enough at that point that they trusted me to say like, “Okay, Raven’s got it. We trust that like she’ll do us right.” So no, it did not affect my business. It did not affect my ability to win new business.
It did mean sometimes that I had some late night and some very early morning calls for people who are on the other side of the world, in the West. But it also, interestingly, gave me an entirely new realm of business for people who were in Australia, for example, because it was a lot easier to make those calls while I was living in Southeast Asia, those call times. So, that was really nice. In terms of what it was like, first, Southeast Asia was hot. So, let’s start there. Malaysia is on the Equator. So, there is no such thing as seasons. There’s hot and then there’s hot and rainy.
Next, the language barrier was not really a language barrier at all. Just about everybody in Kuala Lumpur, which is the city I was in, most often spoke English. That was pretty cool. If on the off chance they didn’t, I knew enough Mandarin Chinese to get by. So, I would slip into Mandarin if they didn’t speak English and it worked out, because there were a lot of Malaysian Chinese people in the country. Did not and still do not speak any Malay, however, unfortunately. After that, we used Google Translate.
In terms of working in different places. If I wanted to go to a coffee shop or something like that, it was actually a lot easier to do there than it was to do in the US, because the US is swindling us with how they don’t have free wifi everywhere. Kuala Lumpur had free wifi at every building. No matter where you went, you were always connected. And it was actually pretty reliable wifi, too. So, that was really easy to be able to do, even if I wanted to travel and take trips, it was also really great if I needed to do that sometimes and I had Western clients, because I would be traveling during the day and some of the calls would be later at night. So, that really worked out.
And being able to immerse myself in another experience and go like, “Oh, if I wanted to do this, if I wanted to make this permanent, I could do that and it would not be an issue at all.” Also, earning USD while you go to a country that definitely does not charge in USD really helped, really helped as well. It helped me save immensely. It helped me live like a king. I had a three-bedroom condo with two baths and a resort-style pool, no kidding.
Kira Hug: Oh wow.
Raven Douglas: It was also 600 bucks and that was what I was paying for my little tiny two-bedroom when I lived in Mississippi. So yeah, I would recommend trying it if anybody is interested and hasn’t, just make sure that you have the conversation with your clients first, especially if you have regular cadences or touch points with them.
Rob Marsh: Lots of upside, but a couple of potential pitfalls, it sounds like.
Raven Douglas: Yep.
Kira Hug: All right. I have some lightning round questions for you. Because I’m the worst at lightning round, just try to respond with a sentence or two, I usually respond within five minutes.
Rob Marsh: Paragraphs. Yeah.
Kira Hug: But I’m sure you’ll be better at this. Rob, feel free to jump in if questions pop up, but okay. So, advice on client boundaries in a sentence or two.
Raven Douglas: Get to know what you like and you dislike, create your boundaries from that, and make sure that you enforce your boundaries when clients break them, because they will.
Kira Hug: What have you learned about business from your obsession with anime?
Raven Douglas: That it should be fun. That it should absolutely be fun and whimsical and that I get to decide it.
Kira Hug: Why Hufflepuff?
Raven Douglas: I have very strong worlds and values about being honest and integrous. So, I’m a goody two shoes.
Kira Hug: Okay. Last one, unless Rob, you have other lighting round questions.
Rob Marsh: I’ll have one.
Kira Hug: What is your best advice for someone who is new to copy chiefing? Again, I know this could be an entire presentation, but in a sentence or two.
Raven Douglas: Best advice. Go into it with a space of humility. Just because you are reviewing someone’s work does not give you the end-all, be-all authority. And it does not mean you’re smarter than them. They just need your help to make it great. You’re there to support.
Rob Marsh: My only lightning-round question, Raven, is who is your favorite TCC podcast host? And why is it Rob? I’m kidding, obviously. I’m kidding. I just want to…
Kira Hug: Do you have a real one, Rob? Do you have a real one Rob?
Rob Marsh: No, no, no, that’s my only question. Yeah.
Kira Hug: Okay. All right. That’s what you’re adding. Okay.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, exactly. So, I do want to thank you though, Raven, for coming on and just presenting a masterclass about client relationships and finding clients, walking through the sales process. I think what you’ve shared is amazing. Having watched your progress over the last five or six years is also amazing and really gratifying that we’ve been able to play at least a small part in that growth and just seeing where you’ve come from and where I think you’re headed. You have an amazing business and I just appreciate your willingness to come and talk about it for the fourth time on the podcast, which we didn’t even talk about how many times we’ve done this and lost this interview, but this one for sure, the best, and we’re keeping it.
Kira Hug: They just get better every time. Raven.
Raven Douglas: Thank you. And thank you both. Thank you both for allowing me, trusting me even, to be on your platform. It has been such a joy and I’m so happy to be a part of the TCC community.
Kira Hug: Where can our listeners go to find you, to connect with you, to jump into your world?
Raven Douglas: Sure. So, if you want to get the very funny version of me, you can go to bit.ly\anti-site. So, that’s bit.ly\anti, A-N-T-I, -site, S-I-T-E. It is what I affectionately called my anti-site and there’s a big warning label at the top for you to be able to go through and read. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I am notoriously not on social media very much, but I do answer all of my messages. So, you can find me at my name, Raven Douglas, you can also search The Douglas Draft and I should pop right up.
Rob Marsh: Awesome. Thanks, Raven, again, for the time for just being in our community, we are lucky to know you.
Kira Hug: Thank you, Raven.
Raven Douglas: Thank you. The feeling’s definitely mutual.
Kira Hug: Rob, Raven and I both charged $700 for our first websites. I’m just curious, you didn’t share as we were chatting about it, but what did you charge for your first website package?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I wish I could remember my first website package. I’m guessing that it was probably somewhere around 700 to $1,000. My very first project that I ever worked on was $350 and it was a project, it was a freelance article. I can’t even remember what the topic was. But it was for an MLM company that’s now out of business and that got me started, but I worked in-house really for like the next four years. I did occasional freelance projects during that time, but I really spent my time learning how to be a copywriter in house. So, I was getting a salary and benefits at that point in time. So, that was a little bit different for me. So, I mean, I had several years of experience really before I started doing freelancing in any kind of serious way. But yeah, I’m thinking it was probably around $1,000. It might have been $1,200 somewhere in that area.
Kira Hug: Yeah. When I think, I’m like, “How did I come up with $700? What was my breakdown like?
Rob Marsh: That’s the starting website price number that everybody has in the back of their head.
Kira Hug: Right. I’m just wondering how Raven and I both came to that conclusion. But I like this part of the conversation with Raven because we talked a lot about sales calls and that conversation with a prospect. So, I think there was a lot of great advice here. What stood out to me as far as what we can implement in our sales calls is just understanding the level of awareness of your prospect and understanding, for Raven, she talked about she just needed to sell copy. Because a lot of her clients early on, her ideal clients, just didn’t really understand copy, they didn’t understand what it could do, how it could help them. So, if she could just sell them on the power of copywriting, she knew she could get in the door.
For other prospects, who are more savvy and do understand copywriting, the way that you present yourself in your own marketing and on a sales call will be different. It might just be like selling the solution to the problem, or maybe it’s selling you as the solution, because they’re already aware of the solution and they’re talking to other copywriters. So, how are you going to sell your solution as the best option when they’re jumping on five other sales calls with other copywriters who all offer the same solution? That’s where you can really lean into your unique mechanism, how you do what you do, all the ingredients that make your signature package so amazing and so much better than all the other options out there, because of your unique mechanism and how you do what you do. So, I think that’s just such a great way to think about your sales calls and just understand where your prospect is entering into this conversation with you, because it will change the way that you approach the sale.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. I think anybody who’s listening, who struggles with the sales call, ought to bookmark this episode of the podcast and go back and listen to how Raven walked through some of those scripts that she uses in talking with clients, communicating the value, like what you’re saying, how she covers pricing, because this stuff, it matters. If you get it right, you close a lot more projects. So, there’s some really good advice that, again, bookmark it, go back, revisit it, maybe even copy it out of the transcript, paste it into a document that you’ve got there. When you’re on your sales call and you can actually use it almost word for word the way Raven does it. She mentioned she got it from other copywriters as well. So, yeah, let’s use it and be better at closing more sales.
Kira Hug: Also talking about money, Raven gave a lot of advice about how to talk about that in a way that feels comfortable. The biggest takeaway is that you can just talk about it casually, to just make it comfortable for the person sitting across from you to even say something like, “Hey, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Let’s talk money, so there are no surprises.” The whole no surprise concept really resonates with me because that’s ultimately what can blow an entire sales conversation. It’s if someone is surprised along the way. Not in a good way, not in the delight way, but surprised and maybe even a little offended, because they didn’t see that price tag coming. So, I think that’s if you can just avoid any negative surprises throughout your sales process and in the proposal, that’s the best way to get in the door with a new client.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Not even just in sales calls, in my personal life, the only conflicts I really ever have with my wife, it’s always surprise-based. We have that conversation on Saturday morning, “Hey, what’s your plan for the day? Hey, what’s my plan for the day.” And we set those expectations. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to do, I’m going to mow the lawn. I’m going to get the garage swept out.” And then yet we say, “Oh, okay, good.” Then four hours later, “Hey, here’s five more things for you to do.” And I’m just like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, we already set the expectations, no surprises.” Yeah. Surprises are bad, maybe with partners, but certainly with clients.
Kira Hug: And that’s why it resonated with me, because Ezra, my husband, is building a house right now and he’s like, he’s building it with the team. We talk about this nonstop, because his whole deal with his contractors, building the house with him is like, “No surprises. No surprises with this house. We’ve got to communicate clearly. I need to know what’s happening, how much is going to cost.” And there are a lot of surprises that have popped up with the build of the house. So, it’s part of our conversation as partners. It’s like, we can’t surprise each other either. So, let’s take that into business. It works in business well, too, no surprises.
Rob Marsh: Setting accurate expectations and then meeting them is a key to just being, I mean, it’s one of the basic table stakes kinds of things that you bring to business. It’s like, if you can’t meet the expectations that you set, you’re going to have trouble working with clients. So, yeah, Raven does it really well. It’s great advice.
Kira Hug: Okay. So, also with sales conversations, like you said, you could just bookmark this episode because Raven just rattled off a bunch of questions that she asks on her sales calls and then in the intake form, before she jumps on the sales call. I was just writing all the questions down because a handful of the questions I could pull into my process, too. So, what I really liked is the question where Raven asks about past results, the return on investment from past projects, past launches, because if you can pull on those numbers, then you can start to make some assumptions around what you could possibly deliver to your clients as far as the value.
It also can help you assess where your client sits financially, what that looks like. If that will help you with your proposal and your pricing. It also helps you look strategic and look like you know what you’re doing and look like a professional and really impress your client on the call, the sales call, because you’re asking such a smart question that shows that you’re interested in giving them a return on their investment. So, that was a powerful question that stood out to me.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, lots of really good questions. The other thing that I loved was her guarantee or the idea of the until we get it right guarantee. As opposed to money back or all of the other things that we can do in our business to engender trust with our clients, being there for them until we reach a particular goal, until we do something that kind of a guarantee on a sales call or as part of your pitch can go a long way to building that trust that you want. It’s not going to work for every copywriter. There’s certainly some clients that would take advantage of that kind of a guarantee to get you to keep rewriting and reworking and redoing things. But with the right client and the right copywriter, their business philosophy and approach, it could be a really good way to build that same trust on one of the sales calls that you have.
Kira Hug: Yes. We did touch on copy chiefing just briefly in the lightning round, the spontaneous lightning round, we’ve talked with Raven about copy chiefing. She actually, she’s taught workshops on copy chiefing. There’s a lot more to add there. But in a sentence or two, I think she offered great advice around humility as a copy chief. Just a reminder that, as a copy chief, you are not better than the copywriters working with you, but your role is really to support and to get the project across the finish line, to act as a guide. So, that was a great reminder for me because I do a lot of copy chiefing and so I appreciated that advice.
Rob Marsh: It is really good advice. I don’t do a lot of copy chiefing, because I think I’m really bad at this. I end up rewriting, reworking-
Kira Hug: But are you like, “I am better. I am better.”
Rob Marsh: No, it’s not necessarily because I’m better, but oftentimes it’s like, “Wait a second. That’s doesn’t sound quite right in my ear.” Or whatever. So, I know that I’ve had that impact on a couple of copywriters when I’ve gone back and rewritten things that were probably good enough, but for whatever reason, I just needed to hear it in my voice. So, a really good reminder, something for me to remember. I’m going to copy that and put it on a post-it note on my monitor here so I can not offend and not cause unnecessary work for the copywriters who write for me?
Kira Hug: Well, you copy chief me frequently, because we copy chief each other. I think you do that with humility and you do point out things that I miss. So, you’ve never brought me down as a copywriter, but you have helped me. So, I think you actually are a good copy chief and you’re being too hard on yourself.
Rob Marsh: Maybe I’m getting better. Maybe there are a few copywriters who might argue.
Kira Hug: Yes.
Rob Marsh: We want to thank Raven Douglas for joining us for an incredible interview. You don’t know how long this has been coming. Obviously, we met Raven almost five years ago. We’ve tried to connect with her on the podcast several other times. So, we’re glad to finally get it done. If you want to connect with Raven, we’ll link to her website in the show notes.
Kira Hug: If you want more resources about increasing your prices and pitching clients, listen to episode nine with Tarzan Kay about how she quickly grew her copywriting career. We also recommend episode 157 with Laura Lopuch about cold pitching.
Rob Marsh: I just recently re-listened to that episode, it’s a good one. That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter, Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter, David Muntner. If you like what you heard, take a screenshot of the episode with your favorite takeaway and tag us on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. We love to see when you do that. Or leave a review in iTunes as we asked at the top of the show. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.