Why Good Copywriters Are Broke

36 replies
This is from an outsider looking into
the world of the freelance copywriter.

Why GREAT Copywriters Go Broke | GlennLivingston.com

Best,
Ewen
#broke #copywriters #good
  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Glenn did a lot of copywriting before he got too busy with his agency.

    And him and Terry Dean created a learn-copywriting product together a couple years ago.

    Alex
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    • Profile picture of the author Gogeter
      Good copy writers are not broke.

      If they are good, they will write themselves good sales pages and land some biz for themselves.
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  • Profile picture of the author mpluto
    Because a lot don't have the confidence to use the skill for themselves, especially building a business in non-copywriting, non-IM niche. Imagine he/she writes a copy and it fails?

    It's like a lot of "money making gurus" fail to make a penny besides selling "how to get rich quick" schemes.

    Not talking about all copywriters and Internet marketers here.

    Always have a respect for legitimate people!

    Like Gogester said, good are not usually broke.

    However, another reason can be a lot of personal stuff. I know some people who are very talented but afraid to take self-employment responsibility due to constant personal problems. It's like they need to get away to some island to take a deep breath and unleash themselves.
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  • I agree with much of what he is saying, but what copywriter of reasonable experience doesn't have a marketing funnel in place to consistently generate leads?
    Signature
    Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
    - Jack Trout
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    • Profile picture of the author mpluto
      Originally Posted by KingOfContentMarketing View Post

      I agree with much of what he is saying, but what copywriter of reasonable experience doesn't have a lead generation funnel in place to consistently generate leads?
      You may be surprised how many people automatically put great effort to repel money and business while trying to get money and business...

      Worked with coaches for many years... Usually, this is all what it comes down to - self-sabotage on subconscious level.

      I think there is a book about it, something like "Release Your Breaks" or whatever it is called.

      I've been in that trap myself and still feel I am. Working on it though.
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  • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
    From having worked with a lot of newer copywriters... their #1 biggest
    mistake is... they think they are in the business of writing copy.

    They are not.

    They are in the client-getting business. THAT is your business... getting clients.

    You need to focus just as much on that, if not more, than fine-tuning your craft.

    You can be the greatest copywriter in the world, but without clients... you go broke until you have proven results... then it's a matter of word of mouth.

    Another huge mistake?

    Copywriters don't use the power of leverage. It's usually "one and done" with clients... and so they're on a continuous hamster wheel of trying to land clients.

    So, if you find yourself between clients... focus on creating your own products, or license out some of your winning campaigns, and other ways to use leverage in your business.

    Those who look at using their copy skills to create multiple streams of income... they're usually never broke.
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    The secret to copywriting success is taking a break every 33 minutes--exactly.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
      Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

      The secret to copywriting success is taking a break every 33 minutes--exactly.
      And coffee... lots and lots of coffee.
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      • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
        Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

        And coffee... lots and lots of coffee.
        Haha, that's one thing that Scott Haines mentioned in his webinar last week with Brian... lots and lots of coffee.

        I know I wouldn't be nearly as productive without it.

        It's funny... the quirks that copywriters/marketers/online business folk have.

        For me, some of my best work comes after I go for a run. I have a friend who takes a nap and then gets up and writes ads. Another suggested that I try writing copy after having sex... that the "high" helps him.

        To each his/her own...
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      • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
        Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

        And coffee... lots and lots of coffee.
        [Evil smirk]

        PS: Shawn, google "bulletproof coffee". Friends are all over this.
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        • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
          Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

          [Evil smirk]

          PS: Shawn, google "bulletproof coffee". Friends are all over this.
          A little bird tells me that very soon you'll be buying Upgraded Coffee via some Upgraded Copy... smart folks running the show over there.

          Several close CW friends are absolutely bonkers about this stuff (mostly due to the early and zealous advocacy of one in particular.)

          WRT the OP, and Glenn in particular...

          I thought this was a shockingly honest and raw piece - great advice, really.

          This doesn't surprise me because I've gleaned quite a few really intelligent mind hacks and tweaks from Glenn via Planet Perry over the years. I think he's great but I don't know a whole lot about him.

          Way back in the early aughts - the genesis years of PPC - Glenn taught folks the distinction between searching Google for "Guinea Pig" versus "Guinea PigS". Simply adding that one plural, one letter completely changes the context of the search and the searcher.

          Adding the S, making it plural indicates a search for more information. Like a 4th grader doing a book report on Guinea Pigs. You don't want them clicking your ad.

          In singular form, Guinea Pig has a much better likelihood of being typed by someone ready to BUY a Guinea Pig.

          Simple concept. Tangible result was an incalculable amount of money saved while we were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Adwords clicks back in those years.

          This got long, fast. I just meant to say I dig Glenn and this was a cool link.

          Friggin' writers.

          Brian
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          • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
            Originally Posted by BrianMcLeod View Post

            Way back in the early aughts - the genesis years of PPC - Glenn taught folks the distinction between searching Google for "Guinea Pig" versus "Guinea PigS". Simply adding that one plural, one letter completely changes the context of the search and the searcher.
            I liked his take on how to tell if someone is going to commit suicide.

            - Rick Duris
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
        Originally Posted by KingOfContentMarketing View Post

        I agree with much of what he is saying, but what copywriter of reasonable experience doesn't have a marketing funnel in place to consistently generate leads?
        Answer?

        Most.

        I've seen a few copywriters who know how to execute some outside the box advertising, like keywords piggyback marketing on Adwords... but like I said... very few.

        Any copywriter who has needed to generate new traffic for their own products or JV's will tell you that creating successful funnels is an entirely different monster than putting pen to paper.

        Just having a great sales letter, pimpin' out your own services, isn't enough - if the right eyes aren't seeing it.

        Originally Posted by shawnlebrun View Post


        They are in the client-getting business. THAT is your business... getting clients.

        You need to focus just as much on that, if not more, than fine-tuning your craft.
        No, copywriters are in the business of getting results.

        The clients come - when word-of-mouth gets out. And I don't mean getting tons of testimonials to put all over your website; I mean creating a viral effect around getting consistent results. That's how people in this game go from $2,000, $3,000, $5,000 letters to those diamond $25,000+ gigs.

        Originally Posted by MikeHumphreys View Post

        And coffee... lots and lots of coffee.
        I drink lots of coffee. But I also drink fresh vegetable juices, green smoothies and other great stuff that creates REAL, sustainble energy. Every copywriter should be on this stuff - more than coffee IMO.

        mark
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        • Profile picture of the author svedski
          Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post

          The clients come - when word-of-mouth gets out. And I don't mean getting tons of testimonials to put all over your website; I mean creating a viral effect around getting consistent results. That's how people in this game go from $2,000, $3,000, $5,000 letters to those diamond $25,000+ gigs.
          I don't agree. I think Shawn hit the nail on the head there.

          Pick any of the big-name writers, compare their copy side by side to any of the 100's of really talented and skillful, but yet not so widely known copywriters (like yourself)...and I'll bet you you can't separate the two.

          Back in the 1990's Gary Halbert held a hot-seat seminar and there was a copywriter up on the stage who asked "Hi Gary, I'm a copywriter. What should I do to get more clients?"

          Gary said: "I don't know, because I'm not in the copywriting business. I'm in the self aggrandizement business. Get out of here!"

          Were Gary's results so outstanding? I don't know. I don't think he's ever published any numbers. He wrote great copy but most and foremost, he knew how to market himself as the #1 go-to-guy for copy. I don't believe he was even a bit more skillful than any of the top writers at Agora, Boardroom, Phillips or wherever. The difference was just that he saw the business at a much deeper level than just "copywriting".

          In any freelance business...whatever it is that you do...it's all about positioning and marketing. The skill is secondary.

          If you want evidence to support this theory then take a look at Dr. Phil. The highest paid psychiatrist in the world isn't even a real psychiatrist. That alone should tell you everything you need to know.
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          • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
            Originally Posted by svedski View Post

            I don't agree. I think Shawn hit the nail on the head there.

            Pick any of the big-name writers, compare their copy side by side to any of the 100's of really talented and skillful, but yet not so widely known copywriters (like yourself)...and I'll bet you you can't separate the two.

            Back in the 1990's Gary Halbert held a hot-seat seminar and there was a copywriter up on the stage who asked "Hi Gary, I'm a copywriter. What should I do to get more clients?"

            Gary said: "I don't know, because I'm not in the copywriting business. I'm in the self aggrandizement business. Get out of here!"

            Were Gary's results so outstanding? I don't know. I don't think he's ever published any numbers. He wrote great copy but most and foremost, he knew how to market himself as the #1 go-to-guy for copy. I don't believe he was even a bit more skillful than any of the top writers at Agora, Boardroom, Phillips or wherever. The difference was just that he saw the business at a much deeper level than just "copywriting".

            In any freelance business...whatever it is that you do...it's all about positioning and marketing. The skill is secondary.

            If you want evidence to support this theory then take a look at Dr. Phil. The highest paid psychiatrist in the world isn't even a real psychiatrist. That alone should tell you everything you need to know.
            I don't disagree with anything you said.

            Mark
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            • Profile picture of the author svedski
              Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post

              I don't disagree with anything you said.

              Mark
              Actually I don't disagree with what I said I did disagree with earlier either. Since you quoted shawnlebrun, I automatically thought that you disagreed with what he said in his first post there as well.

              Having an outstanding skill that spreads like wildfire by word of mouth is obviously a great, great thing to have on your side. When it comes to copywriting though, I believe it's harder to get that kind of skill that will make you stand out to an outsider (like a client who hires you).

              While you might write exceptional copy...to someone who is at least somewhat uneducated about copy, your skill probably won't get noticed that much. It's not like if you were a great singer. Anyone can recognize a good voice...but not many people (even great copywriters themselves) can separate great copy from exceptional copy. Actually, someone who practically just starting writing could outperform any of the big-name guys. It's just a matter of doing the research, knowing how to sell and and how to persuade with writing.

              The only thing that matters then are results, and I honestly have a hard time believing that more famous writers like John Carlton or Dan Kennedy will outperform any of you more experienced writers here on the forum. Maybe on a long-term basis (but then again, maybe not)...but if it was just about one or two campaigns, it could go either way.

              So all in all...I think skill will get someone to a high level money-wise...lets say you could get $15,000 a piece just from being extremely talented and by putting yourself out there. But if one wants to make $100,000 per piece, it's not about the skill anymore. It is just about positioning. (I'm pulling these numbers right out of my arse by the way).

              Anyway. You are probably very aware of all this already and I'm coming in here talking a bunch of crap that you probably learned 10 years ago. If I'm bringing up old "common knowledge", be sure to let me know so I can stop commenting and embarrass myself further .
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    • Profile picture of the author Cool Hand Luke
      Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

      The secret to copywriting success is taking a break every 33 minutes--exactly.
      I thought it was 33:33 exactly?
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  • If you need clients on the hurry up...

    Send your chosen audience a flyer or a postcard.

    It really is that simple.

    And there is no need to ever go broke.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author ECTally
    Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

    This is from an outsider looking into
    the world of the freelance copywriter.

    Why GREAT Copywriters Go Broke | GlennLivingston.com

    Best,
    Ewen
    People with exceptional talent usually have glaring shortfalls in other areas of their self. A practical joke by nature, I suppose. An interesting article on the subject.

    Excerpt:
    The heart of the problem for geniuses - people who are 9 or 10 at something - are that they are probably a 2-3 in other areas. Joe Polish is a product marketing genius (9+), especially for items that are novel, fun, or focus on personal development. He charges people $25k to join his "25k club," and people I interviewed from this group report receiving far greater value than they give up when they write that big check. Joe is also stubborn, crass and prone to topic-jump in a way that makes it seem like he's listening to voices we can't hear. His sense of humor alone would make him unemployable in most big companies. So in terms of "playing by the rules," he's a "2" on a good day.

    Joe would be a dangerous hire for a company. Yes, he's a genius in product marketing. But the chance that he'd offend someone in a conservative culture is 100% -- in the first week.
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Was watching a show this morning on Netflix about a member of a rock group that was all the rave a few years ago...then became a crackhead, living on the streets and flat broke.

    Thought maybe that's where this article was gonna go.

    Guess he could have also said good musicians usually end up broke...or high...or dead.

    Too many factors go into each persons career to make a general statement.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by max5ty View Post


      Too many factors go into each persons career to make a general statement.
      I met a copywriter up in Portland just a few days ago that I've never heard of. He writes some mean copy and is a frickin genius with positioning.

      He's working for an obsure little company that gives him just enough money to pay rent, pay bills, buy food and catch a few movies. And that makes him happy.

      I asked him why he never made a play for a bigger career. His answer?

      "Why? I like my small life."

      Stuck in my head.

      Mark
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      • Profile picture of the author max5ty
        Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post

        I met a copywriter up in Portland just a few days ago that I've never heard of. He writes some mean copy and is a frickin genius with positioning.

        He's working for an obsure little company that gives him just enough money to pay rent, pay bills, buy food and catch a few movies. And that makes him happy.

        I asked him why he never made a play for a bigger career. His answer?

        "Why? I like my small life."

        Stuck in my head.

        Mark
        I'll have to admit...back when I started visiting this forum in 2011, I'd never heard of most of the copywriters here, even though I've been involved in the business for well over 20 years...going on 30.

        The copywriting world is very big. Most haven't ever been heard of simply because they're not internet marketers...and most of the internet marketer/copywriters have others write their stuff.

        I personally can't see why any good copywriter would be broke. The very least they could do is sell their own product.

        There are some careers that if you dig deep enough into them, you'll find some dirt...with copywriting it's a wide open field...anyone can jump in and claim their 15 minutes of fame.

        There are some, I can't possibly understand why they're supposedly good. I sometimes think it has more to do with the buddy system.

        99.99% of copywriters never visit this forum for one reason or another.

        I sometimes cruise through the other rooms of the forum and see copywriters selling stuff and making good money...and yet they never stop in this part.

        Guess it's really what floats your boat.
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    • Profile picture of the author BambiFox
      Originally Posted by max5ty View Post


      Too many factors go into each persons career to make a general statement.
      max5ty - I'm glad somebody said it.

      And, define "broke".

      "Broke" for a laid off widow with two kids at home is definitely not the same as "broke" for a single writer living in the woods with a paid-for house and a $1200 monthly "nut", $5K in the bank, but 5 times the work than they could ever want. And maybe a rich daddy somewhere. (I'm actually thinking of someone I know--)

      People who CAN write often live entirely different lives than others, because they can.

      Bambi
      Signature

      “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
      ― Arthur Schopenhauer

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  • ...its not always about the money.

    Of course I wouldn't get out of bed for less than $5,000 (discounts may apply midweek but never on a Monday).

    But you might see a business that you know has real potential - it just needs the right marketing and some stunning Ads.

    And the owners are totally, certainly and without doubt LDH&T*

    But potless.

    You might strike a deal on results and make shedfulls more money than you ever would have done on an upfront fee.


    Steve


    P.S. Yes, LDH&T is an absolute must. Don't ever write for anyone who lacks any of these worthy attributes or you'll end up with a one way ticket (paid by you) to pulookersville.

    With a LDH&T client - they always keep to an agreement, you'll never, ever have to ask, because your money is automatically paid - no ifs, buts or excuses.

    Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful.
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  • Profile picture of the author elmo033057
    So, according to the article, it takes at least 8 years to learn how to write ad copy. Is that a reasonable statement?
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    • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
      Originally Posted by elmo033057 View Post

      So, according to the article, it takes at least 8 years to learn how to write ad copy. Is that a reasonable statement?
      No, it's absurd.

      And so is the 33 minute thing. Just because ES recommended it doesn't make it a good idea.

      Alex
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      • Profile picture of the author elmo033057
        Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

        No, it's absurd.

        And so is the 33 minute thing. Just because ES recommended it doesn't make it a good idea.

        Alex
        Thanks for setting me straight there, Mr. Alex. I was starting to get worried!
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        • Interesting piece.

          Here's my slant why good copywriters are broke.

          Let me preface this by stating I've been a successful offline business owner for over 20 years.

          Interest in Copywriting came later in my life.

          My world has always been about getting a financial result from my efforts, but not just once. Recurring.

          When you come from that business world you are looking through the eyes of an entrepreneur, not the doer of the thing.

          1st question before anything begins is "how can money be made quickly and repeatedly?"

          The task (copywriting) is merely the tools to be used to generate that money.

          I've met many copywriters and most have no clue about business, leveraging their skills, royalties, and get bloated with indignation at the thought of recurring income.

          I've also met some very savvy copywriters who are flush but they don't want you to know that and dress the part of the poor broke copywriter.
          Signature
          SEO Content Marketing Writer
          Online Writing Portfolio
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  • Profile picture of the author Jennie Heckel
    Hi All,

    I have to agree with Bambi Fox.

    SHE WROTE: "People who CAN write often live entirely different lives than others, because they can."

    I TOTALLY AGREE AND I SURE DO!

    The smartest thing I EVER did was quit my full time job as a Real Estate Broker and become a full time copywriter...

    I'm going on 17 years now as a professional copywriter... and I never regret a day of it.

    As a Real Estate Broker I had plenty of money....

    But I did NOT have ANY FREE TIME OR FREEDOM!

    (Real Estate Brokers are notorious for having no life beyond work and for living at the office at all hours, including their weekends too which I used to do.)

    But now as a copywriter I have ALL 3!

    Money, Free time and Freedom.

    My copywriter's life in the Wisconsin back woods is incredible... as long as my high speed Internet works. I am lucky to live not too far from civilization so I do have high speed Internet access which allows me total freedom. With a laptop and the web my office is wherever I want to be.

    That is in of itself -- an incredible freedom!

    For Warriors who would love to be aspiring copywriters...

    And... You are wondering if it is worth your time, the investment to buy products to learn copywriting and years (not just months) of sweat equity to learn copywriting and become GOOD AT IT...

    Just know this:

    If I would have known 17 years ago what I know now I would have made the leap to fulltime copywriting -- a heck of a lot sooner!

    Good luck to all Warriors in living a life you too, can love!

    Jennie Heckel
    Sales Letter Copywriter
    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 tritrain
    It would be really, really interesting to see a competition of everyone above and see who/what works best (at least in the competition).

    Lots of opinions about what is the key to success. Maybe the key really depends on the person...


    Jennie Heckel sold me when I read that she lives in the Wisconsin backwoods (my dream!).
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    Domains for sale - see seopositions.net
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  • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
    Those who make the most money tend to provide the most value to the largest amount of people.

    So, if a copywriter is broke, or remains broke, they may be failing to understand what it takes to make a lot of money.

    Making money is nothing more than the transfer of value. so, whatever you have as a copywriter that is valuable... the more you leverage that and get it in front of more people.... you will make more money.

    And in my experience... the single biggest thing that holds copywriters back... is they tend to think as themselves as copywriters and not business owners.

    If you can use leverage in all you do... and find a way to add value to the largest amount of people you can... you won't remain broke.

    The highest paid copywriters in the world simply add value to millions of people. They write copy that is seen by millions of people... and a percentage of those people buy.

    Start thinking of leverage... adding value to others, and trying to offer that value to the largest amount of people you can... and you will not be broke for long.

    this by itself rules out straight, flat fee projects. If you continue to write copy for clients on a one-time... straight flat fee... you'll have a tough time making money.

    The big guys get rich with royalties and other ways to use leverage and make recurring, passive income. I don't know a single writer who has gotten rich off flat fees.
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
      Originally Posted by shawnlebrun View Post

      Those who make the most money tend to provide the most value to the largest amount of people.
      The problem I've noticed with a lot of copywriters is...

      They get stuck on one repetitive voice. The tonality starts "sounding" the same in everything they write.

      Just like writing for clients...

      Copywriters need to test different messages... and make bigger leaps towards creating contrast in their own sales pitches.

      When I read letters by other copywriters - pimpin' themselves out - I can predict what's coming next - when I get a grasp of thier voice.

      It disappoints me.

      So test out different messages and get the hell out of your comfort zone/wheelhouse. Don't get stuck in portraying yourself the same way. You're a copywriter, right? Invent the persona or personas you want to use to build your value.

      Originally Posted by shawnlebrun View Post

      And in my experience... the single biggest thing that holds copywriters back... is they tend to think as themselves as copywriters and not business owners.
      Get people working for you.

      Just write the copy...

      ...and let full time marketers build your websites, squeeze pages and drive traffic.

      Leverage, leverage, leverage.

      Originally Posted by shawnlebrun View Post

      If you continue to write copy for clients on a one-time... straight flat fee... you'll have a tough time making money.

      The big guys get rich with royalties and other ways to use leverage and make recurring, passive income. I don't know a single writer who has gotten rich off flat fees.
      There's a balance here.

      If you take too little money upfront, you may not have the cash reserves to focus on just THAT project - without needing to attract new clientele - while the funnel gets built out and tested. Because... if the copy needs to be tweaked or even rewritten, you won't be able to commit your full self to it (making it more likely to ultimately fail under your watch.)

      So always make sure you get upfront what you need to feel compensated.

      Just because someone offers you 10% on the backend (of a big potential launch) doesn't mean you don't deserve your $10,000+ upfront to make the magic happen.

      Always demand BOTH.

      Likewise...

      If you're working for someone who is an unknown, taking their word that they know how to drive quality traffic and build a top-notch funnel just isn't good business... no matter how fcuking amazing they turn out to be.

      Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author Make Money Ninja
    Good post, really enjoyed it, thank you
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  • Profile picture of the author Rhino99
    Never stop marketing. And that doesnt mean just blogging once a week but approaching clients directly, whether it's face-to-face networking, cold calling (yes, I know its scary, but it can work because 99% of your competitors don't do it), emailing previous clients or sending letters to companies you want to write for.

    I learned this the hard way after losing a client that contributed nearly 70% of my yearly income when they took someone on inhouse. My income dive bombed but ever since I've been more focused on marketing and growing the client pool.
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    Matt Ambrose Direct Response Copywriter
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