Help Me Understand the Copywriting Biz: From Zero to Money

14 replies
Hey Guys,

I'm a budding information marketer, and have recently become interested in copywriting while putting together the pieces of the puzzle. I'd rather learn to do the copywriting myself than pay someone else, and have become interested in possibly pursuing it as a career while I work on my info product. I think I could be potentially very good at it. LOL you should see me lose sleep over the perfect wording for a facebook post :p Plus I have a fairly deep sales and marketing background, so I get a lot of the psychology behind the writing.

Anyways, after reading some reviews on the boards here, I was able to land my greasy paws on John Carlton's Simple Writing System and Makepeace's Desktop Copy Coach. Plus I've already made my way through several Dan Kennedy products. I figure that should be more than enough to get me started in the right direction. I'm quite the researcher when I get bitten by the bug, and copywriting has been my latest infatuation.

But my problem isn't finding resources to learn, it's understanding how to turn it into a business.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to find enough work as a freelance copywriter to replace my current daytime job income ($3,000 / month) and I really can't visualize it because I don't know the steps, and haven't been able to find any really solid info on going from zero to money. I have some rough ideas, but it'd be a lot easier for me if I had some of the following questions answered:

1. Once I work my may through the programs by writing for my own info product, what are some good sources for practice copywriting in general? Just pick some product and pretending I'm writing for it? Or should I go straight for freelance market?

2. How easy is it to find freelance work online? I know of Elance (if you could name some more sites, that'd be great) and you can find some work there, but how stiff is the competition? Is there a boat load of work out there just waiting for a good copywriter to come along? What kind of money can I expect to make there while I sharpen my skills? How big / long are the projects? What time investment per letter / sales page?

3. What about once I feel I'm ready to fry bigger fish? I guess I should make a portfolio at that point, post it online, and hope to get traffic? Does a lot of work come from referral? Or repeat clients?

4. How easy is it to market locally? Is there anyone that does this? How successful has it been?

5. What about pursuing gigs online? How do I go about doing that?

6. After going through the programs, assuming I'm a little better than good at that point, how soon do you think I could replace my currently monthly income ($3,000) and be able to leave my job?

7. What does the average freelancer make doing it full time (40 hours / week)? You don't have to share personals, I'd just like to KNOW someone is doing well. Mostly I just hear the outrageous $350,000 per month marks. I'd be happy as a clam making $10,000 per month, frankly even that amount would blow my mind.

8. I'm guessing at that point, either someone hires you to write full time for them or you start getting equity in the company's and products you write for, and that's when the big bucks come along, right? At least that's what I've been told.

9. Any other advice or info on copywriting (the beginning business side) would be much appreciated.
#biz #copywriting #money #understand
  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    You ask way to many questions to be able to answer in a post.
    It's also your first post so people can't even pm you.
    I would suggest that you read some of the threads in here about copywriting.
    If you want to email me at laurence @ laurencewins (dot) com maybe I can help you.
    Delete the spaces in the email address too.
    Signature

    Cheers, Laurence. Read my Warriors for Hire ad.
    Writer/Editor/Proofreader. Place orders.

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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Copywriting is not something you can learn by reading a bunch of books on technique.

    No one can tell you how easy or difficult it will be for you to get clients, nor how much money you will make. That has to do with YOU...what actions you take and what level you choose to charge at. And, of course, your results.

    Copywriting is not Internet Marketing.

    Copywriting is a skill built upon a latent talent, used to promote and sell.

    Copywriting can sell IM products.

    If you post a portfolio online, you're likely to get ripped off...ie. losers will swipe your copy and claim it as their own when they repurpose it for profit. That's why none of the great copywriters on this forum have portfolios.

    This is not a business to get into with the idea of "testing the waters."

    I appreciate that you asked all of these questions, and using the Search function will find you some of the answers. The rest will come from your own talent and experience.
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    • Well, perhaps some origin stories of how some of you got started, where you learned, first few jobs, and how you got where you are today would help.
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      • Profile picture of the author videolover7
        Originally Posted by Tim Clay Marketing View Post

        Well, perhaps some origin stories of how some of you got started, where you learned, first few jobs, and how you got where you are today would help.
        Tim,

        You're studying the right guys, so that's a good start.

        To be a successful freelance copywriter, the first two things you should concern yourself with are...

        1. Obtaining the necessary skills, and
        2. Positioning yourself in the marketplace

        One proven way to do this is to create a product and write your own copy to sell it. That's a great way to take the lessons you're learning and put them into practice.

        And then, once your sales copy is converting well, you'll have a result you can point to.

        Next...

        3. Get clients

        One proven way to get clients is to write a sales letter advertising your services. And then drive targeted traffic to it.

        VL
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    I've been doing this for 15 years. Every job I've had, people have relied on me to write. Manuals, articles, cut sheets, promo lit...and copy.

    Whether it was in my job description or not.

    Later, when I became a consultant for turnaround situations,, I found that in order to get paid I had to ensure that my client made and collected the money. That lead me into having to write copy that sold, NOW. Or I wouldn't collect.

    After that, I learned how to qualify my prospects so that I would only end up with clients who would pay up front.

    Starting in about 1994, when I was finishing up college, I started reading everything I could get my hands on: Ogilvy, Caples, Kennedy...

    ...and I still have a lot to learn.

    My writing converts and I bill well, but there are always fresh tips and even NEW categories of writing (like WSOs). Copywriting is not something about which you're going to learn everything there is to know, go out and find clients, and succeed in over a few months.

    Yes, you may learn techniques and yes, you may get clients. But getting results, which means conversions and sales for your clients, is another matter.

    Have a look at my responses in this thread.

    Like a career in Sales, the Copywriting path requires Commitment.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    I started by writing copy for my own products. When I
    started writing for others I launched a WSO which helped
    me to get some testimonials. Then I hung my shingles
    out through forums, PPC and article writing.

    You really don't need anyone's permission to get started
    but your own. The market will correct you quickly so
    you know how good you really are. Clients are not shy
    to let you know what they feel about your copy.

    Once you get results for your clients then this will
    give you confidence to charge what you are worth.

    -Ray Edwards
    Signature
    The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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    • Hi Tim,

      The first thing to do is forget about writing (Ok - you can practice a bit..)

      But read some good books on selling.

      Go to amazon, look at the top rated ones - read the reviews and choose a couple that resonate with you.

      Once you know how to sell - copywriting becomes 100 times easier.

      Hope this helps a bit.

      Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author DougBarger
    Some good advice given here Tim. I still remember what it was like when I wanted to get my foot in the door, so I'll answer each one of your questions in the ways I believe will best serve you and the way I'd wished someone would have answered me back in '06.

    Hello Tim,

    I'll will answer your questions. I must warn you some of the answers may sound "blunt" or "too direct" but it is only for your own good, so don't take any as insults, because it's what I'd tell my own brothers.

    Many of the questions you numbered with only one number, actually were 3 questions. That may be why some others didn't bother to respond in as much detail yet.

    My answers will be italicized to make it easier to read who's who. If you can agree to that, then read on...

    1. Once I work my may through the programs by writing for my own info product, what are some good sources for practice copywriting in general?

    That's a great place to start. I insist you set up tracking your results. Google website optimizer is a quick, easy and free way to set up tracking you may already know.

    Also use the free google analytics they offer.

    Begin to test different elements of your ad. See which versions converts into more sales for you.

    Test everything. Some good, simple ways to start is to test 2 different headline versions. Test different parts of your offer which will create new offers to test against the current bestseller. The winning version is called "the control."

    Test pricing. Test different closes.

    Test different lead sentences. Test different guarantees. Test different ps's.
    Test different stories. Test different testimonial placements.

    You get the idea here. It's not so much what exactly you're testing as it is the overall practical mindset to test everything so you can improve each element and each process.

    There are many other things you can test and it's profitable to do so, but some of them are outside the scope of what you'd call "copy" and are more into "conversion optimization" which I believe it pays well for every professional copywriter to specialize in as well.

    Although the two work hand in hand, they are different.

    The ones I mentioned earlier are elements of your copy.

    Other tests could be different colors, backgrounds, images, where you place your signature, your photo, how much white space between paragraphs and sentences, whether you use a graphic header vs. without one. Whether you put the code for inserting the current date or not. Things like that.

    Now the beautiful part of this Tim, is you will be getting the most valuable and really, only kind of "practice" you could hope for... real-time feedback from real results.


    Just pick some product and pretending I'm writing for it?

    No! With all respect, Copywriting isn't a game. There is no "playtime" or "pretending". I don't blame you for that mindset, because too many amateurs around here are responsible for only "guessing" what they think the profession requires and those are who I fault for that kind of mindset being passed on to those sincerely trying to learn the trade.

    Or should I go straight for freelance market?

    There will be no better experience than what you learn from writing for your own product.

    This way, you actually are forced to make your copy work. If you don't, you don't get paid. If you do, you can cash in big. And yes. When you write copy for your own stuff, there's no limit to how much you can make.

    Don't let someone else's business be the "guinea pig" for you to hone your skills. It's not fair to them and you deserve the rewards you'll earn as you experience writing for your own stuff first.

    2. How easy is it to find freelance work online?

    Easier than most would think. There's always going to be businesses who need to make sales and so if you can market yourself, you should have no trouble finding consistent work.

    I know of Elance (if you could name some more sites, that'd be great) and you can find some work there, but how stiff is the competition?

    That may be a way to get your foot in the door and build up your portfolio, experience and get some testimonials which you can use to market your services later.

    Is there a boat load of work out there just waiting for a good copywriter to come along?

    For a copywriter with at least five years of proven experience, yes.
    For someone new to the industry, not so much, but still there's work available. This isn't to say some companies may be willing to risk using a newer copywriter if they think it will help them save money. However, the truth is, using newer copywriters actually costs the company more money because of the effects the lack of experience levy on the end results.

    What kind of money can I expect to make there while I sharpen my skills?

    It's not so much about having someone else dictate to you what you should or could expect.

    Each copywriter is unique. You can't let someone else do your thinking for you when it comes to that or you'll have to settle for whatever they came up with for you.

    It's all in how successfully you're able to present the unique value of the services you offer, how you offer them and what your client will get as the results.

    How big / long are the projects? What time investment per letter / sales page?

    Again, there's as many different kinds of projects as there are literally millions of businesses out there who need copy for them.

    3. What about once I feel I'm ready to fry bigger fish?

    When you truly are ready for bigger fish, they will come to you.

    I guess I should make a portfolio at that point, post it online, and hope to get traffic?

    No. Throw "hope" out the window. Hope isn't the friend of the entrepreneur or freelancer. Now for other parts of life such as spiritually, etc. hope is a great asset.
    For the successful copywriter, "hope" has no place.

    With the business of copy, it's not about traffic. It's about the unique relationship
    you have with the client who already knows the value of good copywriting for their business.

    You should keep a portfolio, but only to send to prospects who have already expressed an interest. Don't just spill all your candy in the lobby before they've even responded in some way first.

    Does a lot of work come from referral?

    YES! Now you're talkin'. Last year, within a couple of months, I had 3 clients who each paid me four figure retainers come from the same referrer. I had no problem getting the 10% royalties of gross sales on top of the retainers. And they had no problem getting copy that added an extra digit to their revenues as the results.

    Or repeat clients?

    YES! You're on top of it here now. In fact, you could camp out on just referrals and repeat clients and earn the living you want.

    Produce results for your client. Continue to work with them to constantly improve their conversions. Then as the needs present themselves, suggest more of your services to help them more. They will appreciate the fact you are in this to help them and once you've proven yourself, it's not so much about a "sale" as it is just getting it done for them. Just like it's easier for you to get more work from your existing client, it's also easier for them to just have you do it from now on without the hassle of going back out to meet a new cw and take risks all over again.

    4. How easy is it to market locally?

    Easier than you think. I took a mini-vacation last year for a couple of months to just "get away from it all" and recharge my batteries.

    I spent quite a bit of time at the local gym getting my swole on.

    Although I was in essence, doing what it took for me to avoid burnout and get away from the computer and my office desk for awhile, one of the members of the gym
    asked me what I did for a living.

    I explained to him. He then immediately responded, "So you could probably get my phone ringing for me then?"

    He went on to explain how he owned a local business. I told him to bring his computer with them the next day he came to the gym.

    He did the next day and I showed him all the areas where my copywriting services
    could improve his results online and offline.

    After I worked with him for a couple of months, he now earns six figures his second year in Nashville and has seized quite a bit of marketshare. You can check out some of the highlights of this on my LinkedIn profile along with recommendations from several other companies.

    So yes, it's easier than you think to get local work when you see I had tried to escape the work and it still came to me.

    Is there anyone that does this?
    Yes. Yours truly.

    How successful has it been?

    As successful as I wanted it to be to answer it matter of factly. I pretty much set the terms of what I was willing to do and what the results would be, then made it happen. To this day, he still attributes the company's success to what I did.

    5. What about pursuing gigs online?

    Oh no. This sounds like it's falling into the mindset trap of not treating your business like a business. I dare wager you $100,000 you won't find a single cardiologist within a thousand miles looking to "pursue" a "heart surgery gig". Please understand this now! For the love of all that's holy...copywriting is a respected profession. I can only imagine what you have been thinking it is from this talk of gigs. LOL. Come on man.
    I'm most assuredly not insulting you and I don't believe you've intended to insult professional copywriters, but gigs? Sounds more like a teenage rock band looking for a show somewhere on friday night. Get you a business license!

    Well, you don't want "gigs." And you don't want to "pursue" them. What you want is positioning.

    First, get some results however you can. I recommend you test and track the results of the copy you write for your infoproduct.

    This will force you to get better fast.

    Create complementary offers for your infoproduct and write the copy for them. That will give you more for your portfolio
    and more results to test.

    Create email conversion series for your product and promos for your affiliates. Create marketing pieces to recruit your affiliates.

    Track all the results. Tweak them based on your test results and strive to improve the results of your copy at every turn.

    This way, you're building up assets to work for you and keep your income growing.
    Eventually you'll be able to share your results as a natural reason for others to trust their business to your copy too. There's not going to be any B comes before A type shortcut that's worth anything. Get the results for yourself then branch out to offer your *proven* results to others. It's the best way of integrity and ensures all the bases are covered.


    How do I go about doing that?
    See above.

    6. After going through the programs, assuming I'm a little better than good at that point, how soon do you think I could replace my currently monthly income ($3,000) and be able to leave my job?

    No program will make you good. Your results from writing copy and actual sales is what will give you the experience and the income to replace your current one.

    7. What does the average freelancer make doing it full time (40 hours / week)?

    If you work hard enough to create results and market your services, are unafraid to first prove then ask what you're worth and get it and structure gross sales royalties on top of the retainer in every deal, you can make mid-five five figures your first year. But leave even one of those ingredients out and you've sabotaged yourself to not even replace your current income. So yes, it's that important that you include it in every deal that warrants it in my opinion. Now as far as something like just writing a squeeze page or something, you won't ask for royalties there, but you can certainly suggest the email series that the subscribers will get after they optin to the squeeze page, the sales letter for products they'll be pitched after they're in the conversion series, write the copy for the upsells, write the copy for the backend offers and for recruiting affiliates, tools they'll use and any other services you'd like to offer so that you turn each new project into something worth your while. Do you see how this works?

    Again, it's more about adopting the mindset of structuring the systems so it's automatically a part of your process on each touch with a prospect and client.

    You don't have to share personals, I'd just like to KNOW someone is doing well. Mostly I just hear the outrageous $350,000 per month marks. I'd be happy as a clam making $10,000 per month, frankly even that amount would blow my mind.

    Stay consistent with the marketing strategies of your new copywriting business prescribed above and I'd be surprised if you didn't generate enough referrals and repeat business to clear six figures any later than your fifth year writing copy professionally.

    8. I'm guessing at that point, either someone hires you to write full time for them or you start getting equity in the company's and products you write for, and that's when the big bucks come along, right?

    Oh no. This one sounds a lot like the question where you used the word "hope" and bordering on gigs again. Kidding, partly.
    Do not "guess" either. :-)

    Again, you can't rely on someone else to do the thinking for you on this stuff.

    If the big bucks are going to roll in for you at that point, I can 100% guarantee you it's not because you "guessed", "hoped" or "landed a sweet gig". Gigs don't exist in this business.

    It's because you followed my suggestion to consistently structure the deals in every project and also suggested additional services consistently with every deal.

    If you really want the referrals you need, then you must also structure the system for getting them and then consistently set it up with each client. And yes, it really and truly is that important to be consistent. And no, don't let yourself off the hook for even one project no matter how "but this case is different" it seems at the time.
    Those are just cushions to keep you in the comfort zone of mediocrity and you need to dictate the terms from the beginning or risk having life dictate your income to you.

    This all goes back to the mindset of why you can't rely on someone else to do your thinking for you, why you can't just trust in the good of human nature to make sure you get what you deserve because it won't happen and why you must proactively structure, incentivize and consistently market additional services and the establishing of your referral culture and referral systems into every client's project from the beginning. If you find yourself wanting to ask "what can I offer as incentives" at this point, then you are failing and falling back into the "hope/guess/what can I expect to happen naturally" trap.

    At least that's what I've been told.

    9. Any other advice or info on copywriting (the beginning business side) would be much appreciated.

    More than the specific six years of writing copy online experience-informed suggestions I gave you here in this reply, it is my desire you take away more of the business "mindset" of the successful copywriter more than any specific strategy or tactic. If you have, then my time was not wasted. Best wishes on what can be the most fulfilling work of your professional life!

    Yes. Don't waste even a single thought looking for a shortcut. Instead, invest that energy into building your business on a solid foundation from the ground up and you'll be glad you did a few years down the road in ways those who sought shortcuts may never understand.
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    • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
      Just bumpin' so more people can read Doug's great answers above.

      --- Ross
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    • Profile picture of the author rolltap38
      This is excellent advice, thank you for taking the time to write this post Doug
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  • Profile picture of the author Jennie Heckel
    Originally Posted by Tim Clay Marketing View Post

    Hi Tim,

    I remember 14 years ago when I was a recently graduated graphic designer, and just learning how to write copy.... WOW makes me feel so old when I write that!

    Anyway...

    >>> TO MAKE THIS EASIER I WILL PUT MY ANSWERS IN ARROW BRACKETS FOR YOU right under your questions >>>

    Ideally, I'd like to be able to find enough work as a freelance copywriter to replace my current daytime job income ($3,000 / month) and I really can't visualize it because I don't know the steps, and haven't been able to find any really solid info on going from zero to money. I have some rough ideas, but it'd be a lot easier for me if I had some of the following questions answered:

    1. Once I work my may through the programs by writing for my own info product, what are some good sources for practice copywriting in general? Just pick some product and pretending I'm writing for it? Or should I go straight for freelance market?

    >>>> CLICKBANK.COM COMMISSION JUNCTION.COM PAYDOT.COM FOR IM SALES LETTERS >>>>

    2. How easy is it to find freelance work online? I know of Elance (if you could name some more sites, that'd be great) and you can find some work there, but how stiff is the competition? Is there a boat load of work out there just waiting for a good copywriter to come along? What kind of money can I expect to make there while I sharpen my skills? How big / long are the projects? What time investment per letter / sales page?

    >>>> I Started using ELANCE FOUR YEARS AGO - I AM # 5 THERE NOW UNDER COPYWRITERS OUT OF ALMOST (5 out of 18,124 results) but that is a small part of my copywriting business now. (I have been hired to do lots of product launches and once you get a big hit, then the bigger marketers get to know your name and it is more "word of mouth" hiring. Most of my high end clients come from my website) On elance, competiton is fierce there... I would suggest other freelance sites, ifreelance.com etc, warrior forum here too >>>>

    3. What about once I feel I'm ready to fry bigger fish? I guess I should make a portfolio at that point, post it online, and hope to get traffic? Does a lot of work come from referral? Or repeat clients?

    >>> YES, You need a website for SELF PROMOTION and your copywriting porfolio online. Be sure to get a good SEO'D KEYWORD FILLED DOMAIN NAME to make SEO easier. Once you have built your business you want to build your brand around your own name. Be sure to buy "YOUR OWN NAME.COM" DOMAIN NAME so you can get it if you have a fairly common name. You would want at least 10 or more testimonials from clients with stats to try to land the bigger fish. >>>>

    4. How easy is it to market locally? Is there anyone that does this? How successful has it been?

    >>> Yes, easier than to market globally, mostly best to do brochure style mailers to local businesses who you feel comfortable writing for. >>>>

    5. What about pursuing gigs online? How do I go about doing that?

    >>> You need samples to show people online to have a proof of your writing skill, the more the better! You might want to focus on a niche you love writing for after you are estabished to target more high end clients in those niches. >>>>

    6. After going through the programs, assuming I'm a little better than good at that point, how soon do you think I could replace my currently monthly income ($3,000) and be able to leave my job?

    >>> When you are doing at least 4 to 5 rate of $750 or more each, copy jobs a month. 4 X $759 = $3,000. And you have a steady source of clients and work to make sure you can keep making that amount each month. When you are working a full time job, that will be hard to do. But if you make at least $1,500 per month part-time and know you can do more work if you were working fulltime. >>>>

    7. What does the average freelancer make doing it full time (40 hours / week)? You don't have to share personals, I'd just like to KNOW someone is doing well. Mostly I just hear the outrageous $350,000 per month marks. I'd be happy as a clam making $10,000 per month, frankly even that amount would blow my mind.

    >>> Most copywriters don't disclose amounts, even on elance you can check stats for gross sales, but providers and clients can make the amounts and the projects private. Just check out some of the higher earners on freelance sites. On elance they can't adjust the amounts of the projects they are awarded. Same on the other freelance writer sites as far as I know. >>>>

    8. I'm guessing at that point, either someone hires you to write full time for them or you start getting equity in the company's and products you write for, and that's when the big bucks come along, right? At least that's what I've been told.

    >>> Yes, you are correct... or better yet, you write for your own products and keep ALL the money!>>>

    9. Any other advice or info on copywriting (the beginning business side) would be much appreciated.

    >>> Just be sure to get a good questionaire to send to clients before you start. You will also need NDA, etc and related documents. Email me from my website link below and I can send you some samples you can edit to make your own. >>>>
    Good luck with your new copywriting business!

    Jennie
    Signature
    ******* WSO & JV ZOO COPYWRITER -- VLS & SALES LETTERS PROVEN TO CONVERT ******* Get Higher Profits From Launches That SELL! Proven Copywriter with 17 Years of Copywriting Experience. Contact Me Via Skype: seoexpertconsulting Copywriting Website: http://www.VideoScriptCopywriter.com

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  • Profile picture of the author Loren Woirhaye
    Get this book and read it:

    "The Well-Fed Writer"

    It has been updated in the last year or two to cover
    online writing and client-getting in addition to the
    older methods of self-promotion it covers.
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    • Profile picture of the author OutOfThisWord
      The fastest way for you to learn and earn is in the small biz space.

      Right now, in your town, some small biz has bitten on a can't refuse rate reduction, act now, offer from the local newspaper, radio or TV station for some 'unsold' ad space or airtime.

      Problem is, they are too busy running their biz to write anything and if they do it's about them, not the prospect.

      And that same biz needs a Facebook page, a better website and even if they have a website, it's probably not optimized for mobile.

      So approach a small biz in your town and you probably even know some of them personally.

      Your dry cleaner, dentist, chiropractor, spa, lawyer, contractor, you name it...

      ...they all want sales leads.

      And many of them use the money-mailer, Red Plum, (see the post office commercials for local direct mail) etc., yet haven't a clue how to write an ad or construct an offer.

      GOOD LUCK!
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      • Profile picture of the author staceythewriter
        Hey Tim:

        You received a lot of useful responses up there. I re-learned some stuff just reading many of them. But, I just wanted say, as to learning how to sell, don't take the term "sell" so literally. With today's consumers, it's more about engaging the prospect than it is about "selling" stuff to them. I'm not saying that you shouldn't read the books that were recommended. However, as you read them, simply keep in mind that we live in a more consumer controlled era. Just like it sounds, our target audiences are in control of what they consume and are no longer interested in being sold to. Consumers control brands, time, exposure, etc. They are producers, critics and creatives. Times have changed. Selling is fading out, engagement is in. Good luck!
        Signature

        Stacey Mathis
        Stacey Mathis Copywriting
        The Copywriter's Highway to Success
        http://www.staceythewriter.com
        Twitter: @staceythewriter

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