What does a freelance copywriter/writer need most in order to thrive and prosper?
The late, great copywriter Gary Halbert used to pose a similar question to business owners and marketers as an intellectual exercise: if plunked into the fast food business and gifted but one advantage, what would you want?
Most answered with secret sauce, fabulous burgers, a famous clown, a ton of capital. Some got close with: good location.
Halbert said the correct answer is: a starving crowd. Proven true, by the way, by the "roach coach" food trucks that come to factory parking lots in industrial parks and sell mediocre food at high prices with no trouble at all.
What the copywriter most needs is at least an eager crowd – a 'location' populated by lots of clients who need and repetitively, if not constantly, consume large quantities of copywriting and content writing … A-level, B-level, and C-level writing … and are eager to find and form relationships with writers of varying experience and capability and affordability who can meet their needs.
What you need to support yourself as a professional writer is a cadre of such clients who "consume" a lot of writing repeatedly, month in, month out. Clients you can "live with." Clients who provide you with certainty and security and a steady flow of assignments. You can escape the need for an endless number of new clients; you can live well with a small cadre of clients with endless needs.
I began as most do – writing for anyone who would pay. It didn't take me long to begin figuring out a few key factors related to high income vs. low income, being in demand vs. being hungry and endlessly hunting for the next job, and having really good clients with good opportunities where I could shine vs. clients who weren't very smart, weren't very capable, had very limited opportunities, and did not provide projects where I could score wins.
It's my observation that most copywriters never figure these things out. Their talent may mature, their skills may grow and strengthen, yet their income does not rise or their difficulty of staying busy ease.
For considerably longer than a decade, I've earned a 7-figure yearly income from copywriting part-time, with 85% of clients repeatedly returning or in ongoing relationships. This has occurred principally because I dedicated myself to making those few key factors work for me.
At different times in different places, I've talked with AWAI members about all these factors.
Here, I'd like to emphasize just one: the 'place' you plant yourself. The type of client you make yourself available for. And let me say once more: if you get this right, you can escape the need for an endless number of new clients; you can live well with a small cadre of clients with endless needs.
It is midyear 2011, and I have banked about $300,000 in copywriting fees and royalties, and have again that much due for work in progress, all from fewer than 10 clients, 8 of whom are repeat or ongoing clients.
Over 50%, and most years over 70%, of my copywriting work comes from a single, fragmented, misunderstood, somewhat unseen industry that, in toto, has an almost insatiable appetite for copywriters and writers: the information marketing industry. Information marketers' businesses use up more writing than any other, yet, ironically, many owners of these businesses are not good writers themselves or can do it but don't want to. And the quantity they need precludes them from doing it all.
You may instantly think about newsletter publishers, but they are but a small part of this 'hidden industry' … thousands of complex, multi-product publishers, seminar companies, coaching organizations, and membership associations make up the info-marketing world.
Many are mom 'n pops, with low to mid to high 6-figure incomes, many of these operated by their owners from their homes.
Others are bigger million and multi-million dollar enterprises. Some focus on one aspect of information marketing: the person may be a speaker, business consultant, or coach, life coach, trainer, workshop leader.
Others are single product dominated – say, a business all about publishing newsletters. Many are multifaceted and incorporate many different things (all of which require an endless stream of ads, sales letters, websites, scripted webinars, etc. to sell them).
Most not only consume vast quantities of sales copy, but also content copy – for books, courses, newsletters, blogs, and more.
Many use A-, B-, and C-level copywriters and writers for different purposes. I certainly have information-marketer clients hiring me, say, once a year at my large fees and royalties to write all the marketing for their big annual conference or for their biggest product launch of the year, but also throughout the year, hiring several other less celebrated, less experienced, and less costly copywriters to work on catalogs, product promotions, newsletter inserts, web content.
Even Glazer-Kennedy Insider's Circle, the publisher of all but two of my own newsletters and most of my info products, has me doing some copywriting, a staff writer doing a lot, and several different outside freelancers also writing copy. As I said, the needs of such clients are insatiable and expandable; success with one thing breeds opportunity for the next.
This is a world very welcoming of copywriters as well as content writers willing to learn the ways of this world and able to meet its needs. I am happy to help writers enter.
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