You Asked, I Answered! (Part 1)

Issue #74—July 26, 2019

Right now as you read this, I'm at a mastermind near one of the most beautiful beach areas along the European coast. I've been taking in views like this one during this much-needed break (I know, it's rough...isn't it?)

But before I left town, I put out a request for you to ask. me. anything. And ask you did! So in this week's and next week's issues, I'm going to answer as many of your questions as I possibly can. Let's get going, shall we?

Q: How do you compile leads for offering your services?

A: The short answer is, I don't. I think it's because I found out in my early days of starting out as a freelance copywriter that when I reached out to publishers like Soundview or Boardroom and expressed my interest in working for them, I got ignored. It made me look desperate for work, even though I was booked solid with other clients. It wasn't until word got around that I was beating controls written by the likes of Jim Rutz that these clients called ME and wanted me to write for them.

However, I know times have changed. There are ways to reach out and get yourself known. But IMHO it always put you at a disadvantage as far as negotiating when you're seeking them. I think it's much better to identify target client prospects, and then go to where they hang out: ideally, higher-end masterminds, or smaller networking events at bigger industry events. Those in-person meetings are much more likely to produce results for you, as are referrals from others who can vouch for you. Hope that helps.

Q: Where and how can I find direct marketing businesses or publishers that hire direct response copywriters? Do they have organization or association so I can check on their names? Thanks.

A: Check out the Direct Marketing Association ( for information on events where you can meet direct marketing-oriented companies (also check out any local chapters in larger cities near you). Check out SIPA (specialized information publishers association) for events where publishing companies hang out. Visit trade shows like Natural Products Expo East and Expo West, or check out their website to find out who the exhibitors are (though many may be primarily retail-focused).

Q: If you were starting all over again at the very beginning, what and how would you start your business?

A: I would highly recommend if you are just starting out that you consider an in-house copywriter position with a major direct marketing company (no, I'm not getting paid any kickbacks for saying that). Another good option would to be on retainer with a client that will keep the money coming in while you get paid to learn and improve your skills. I'd make sure you're not signing your life away with any non-compete contracts, and take the leap to freelancing when your "stock" goes up enough that you can do so and command high fees and royalties and work with who you want. That's pretty much what I did over 20 years ago (though I worked mostly as a marketing person who could also write copy at Phillips Publishing). I used a 6-month retainer as a bridge to freelance copywriting, and haven't looked back since.

Q: What's the best way to increase urgency in a sales message without using scarcity or deadlines?

A: You can build it into your story. For example, if you're writing a financial promotion you can build the urgency into your story--i.e., a time-sensitive or limited-time opportunity to make money. Or you can tap into emotions like fear (but always give some hope, too, especially in a health or supplement promotion).

Q: I don't like the thought of deadlines. I feel pressured and all the creative juices are sucked outta me. What type of highly paid writing doesn't have deadlines?

A: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Create mini-deadlines for yourself, and link rewards to them. The reward can be as simple as getting a 5-minute Facebook break for writing half a page of copy. Try freeform writing super-rough copy as soon as you've compiled a bunch of research and copy ideas, and you'll have something to start with. (Read Anne Lamott's book "Bird by Bird" and take her advice regarding "shitty first drafts".)

If you're having a sucky writing day, take care of errands or other stuff that's on your mind, or just take a goof-off day, and try again the next day. The reality is, deadlines are a part of this business...even if your client isn't breathing down your neck, chances are your mortgage and credit card bills are. And if you do find out where to find those highly paid writing jobs that don't have deadlines, be sure to let the rest of us know!

Q: Hi Kim, I really need some help writing renewals. Have you written about them in the past or have any resources you could recommend. Thank you.

A: Some of my earliest successes as a freelance copywriter were writing renewal efforts. One time my client, a financial newsletter publisher, asked me to write some renewals and lamented that they were going to have to raise the price.

I let him know what a huge opportunity that was and went on to write a series of 5 "price rise campaign" efforts that became the most successful renewal campaign in the company's history. (I was then asked to duplicate it for other newsletters--financial and B2B). One of the elements, aside from the urgency of renewing before the price went up, that made it successful was positioning the editor or guru as the "hero", fighting against the bean counters to stand up for his subscribers, and adding in some storytelling and even humor ("info-tainment") along the way.

Q: I don't come from a writing background but it's my goal to make copywriting my full time career. In light of your experience, how would you help a writer without much talent?

A: There's a huge difference between lack of talent and lack of experience. If you don't think you have the talent because you haven't had much experience, start getting some experience...even if it's just creating practice promos to write yourself, or hand copying successful promotions over and over until you start to get the hang of it (in addition to studying copywriting courses and reading the classic books).

If you still find you can't write good (that's a joke), maybe being a full-time writer isn't right for you. Not having an innate talent for something is a sure way to spend your life hitting your head against the wall and floundering instead of succeeding. We all have our gifts, so figure out what yours are and focus your efforts there. Read the book "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow" by Marsha Sinetar for inspiration. Good luck!

Q: What's your thought process for narrowing down onto the theme of the promotion (i.e. the big idea)? What trade-offs are you evaluating in your mind? Why does one theme get a preference over another? Given 4 themes, how do you narrow it to one? I'm more interested in the deep thinking you go through to evaluate the choices. And how do you organise or think about the creation of the headline & deck copy.

A: Whatever theme makes me, the copywriter, the most excited is one I like to focus part because what excites me is likely to excite them. Does it sound fresh and different? Does it trigger insatiable curiosity to find out more? Does it stop my in my tracks? Does it have enough support to back it up with proof? Those are all things I consider when deciding on the theme or "big idea" of a promo. I then lead with the most exciting or intriguing or attention-getting part of the theme or big idea, and add extra credibility, support, claims, and/or speed of result to the deck copy.

Q: What has been the most insightful marketing and copywriting lesson you've learned in your whole career? Thanks for the opportunity to pick your brain, love your emails, can't wait to start reading your answers. 

A: Wow, there are so many good lessons I've learned after being in this field for longer than some of you have been alive (-;  But if I had to pick one, it'd be to know your avatar inside and out.

Every marketing communication is a one-to-one communication. And the more you can make that prospect feel like "I'm talking to YOU", and that you know your prospect's deepest wishes, hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations as well as they do, the more likely they are to let you in, read your copy, and trust you enough to buy. This can be more important than all the "proof" in the world, in my opinion.

You get to know these folks by hanging out with them in person (The Money Show, for example, if you write financial copy) or calling up previous repeat buyers and interviewing them on the phone. You need to really know who you are writing to.

Q: What are "preferences"? This question has been bugging me ever since you and Paul Martinez were hinting at them in The Gary Halbert FB group.

A: The game "preferences" was introduced to myself, Paul, and other members of Brian Kurtz's Titans Master Class at an event in Cleveland by the lovable wild and crazy Molly Pearson. We all quickly became addicted, passing hours at a time in the back of the bar at the Ritz-Carlton and learning more about each other than we ever cared to. If I recall, each person writes down 5 things on strips of paper and then the other members of the group decide among themselves how they rank in terms of that person's "preferences". The more risque the "things" are, the better.

That is all. Keep an eye out for next week's issue when I answer more of your pressing questions... And one other thing: it's coming up on the last day to grab your ticket for this year's Copy Chief Live event at the lowest price you're going to see.

This can't-miss event takes place October 28-30 in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. I've been to both of the previous events (and hope to be at this one, too) and I can attest it's always a great group of speakers, copywriters, and potential clients. The price goes up by $400 as of July 29th, so you'll want to act now to save the most.

To give you an extra nudge (and because when you use the above affiliate link I'll get a commission), if you sign up through the aforesaid link and I'm able to confirm you did so, I'll give you a free 30-minute one-on-one coaching session with me. (I rarely do these, and it'd cost you at least a few hundred bucks when I do, so you don't want to miss out on this opportunity. Take advantage of it while you can!)

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. Keep an eye out for next week's issue when I answer the rest of the questions I got from my "Ask me anything" request. And I promise if you run into me in the bar at Copy Chief Live, you can ask me anything there, too (or better yet, during our half-hour one-on-one call!) That link again is here, and if you want to save $400 you better act no later than July 29th. Hope to see you there, and maybe we'll get a group together and play a round of "Preferences" while we're there!

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