How to Prosper in the Copywriting Revolution

Copywriting has changed. A lot. The buzz around the industry is how serious these changes are and how those copywriters who understand them will be able to profit from them.

And those who don’t understand them … well, there’ll still be plenty of jobs out there, but not the ones that’ll quickly get you to your 6-figure career goal.

We know of nobody better prepared to discuss these changes – and how you can use them to strengthen your career – than Bob Bly. So we spoke with him at his office in New Jersey and asked him the questions you need to know the answers to.

TGT: You recently said copywriting has undergone a revolutionary change. What sort of change – and how will it affect new and existing copywriters?

BOB: When I started in 1979, freelancing copywriting was a little-known profession. I’d get calls from clients who had no idea what copywriting was. They simply needed someone to write for them, and didn’t want to pay the big bucks ad agencies were asking.

There weren’t many of us writing copy back then. I sometimes felt I was an “only resource.” And I really was for the clients who sought me out. There was very little competition.

But in the past few years, the freelance copywriting marketplace has undergone nothing short of a revolutionary change – thanks, in large part, to the Internet.

Copywriting has turned from strictly a profession into a business opportunity. This means there are many new copywriters today … most of whom (those who haven’t discovered AWAI) just have a superficial understanding of copywriting.

In addition to that, clients now are well aware of copywriting and its potential for increasing their profits. To attract these clients, it’s critical that you learn how to distinguish yourself from the pack they can now so easily find just by searching “freelance copywriter” on Google.

Bottom line: What worked in copy a few years ago … doesn’t work so well today.

And what worked in promoting yourself as a freelance copywriter a few years ago … also doesn’t work so well today.

TGT: With all these changes, is copywriting still going to be the lucrative, exciting gig you’ve experienced? Or are the opportunities drying up?

BOB: Yes, it is going to remain highly lucrative … for those who understand the changes and can harness the differences for their benefit.

Chris Marlow is a master copywriter, but she’s also an expert on the business of copywriting. She recently did a survey that showed 22% of copywriters currently make a 6-figure income. That’s 22% out of a base number that’s much higher than it was just 5 years ago. This shows that 6 figures is attainable if you know how to navigate and play in this market. It’s still a great career … and it’s not going away.

TGT: That doesn’t sound bleak at all. Just different. Can you tell our readers about one of the differences that might have a big impact on their copywriting careers?

BOB: The obvious question in every new copywriter’s mind is “Why should someone pick me instead of one of someone else?”

The answer is fairly simple: specialize. But specialize in new ways that go beyond just picking your niche. Let me give you an example.

In an AWAI teleconference last year, we featured Michael Stelsner on writing white papers – a special type of advertorial copy. But Michael not only writes white papers, he calls himself “The White Paper Guy.” This degree of specialization gives him a huge advantage.

Another example: I recently ran into a copywriter who specializes in writing copy for small- to medium-sized businesses that make between $3 million and $5 million in sales.

TGT: You and other top copywriters talk a lot about the importance of writing for the Internet. Does this mean print direct marketing is dying?

BOB: Not at all! Anyone who tells you that hasn’t looked at the DMA statistics. Print direct marketing is still very active … and still growing. It’s not growing as fast as online marketing, but it’s still a very lucrative way to make money.

But with the Internet growing so rapidly as a medium for direct marketing, if you don’t write online copy, you’re at a huge disadvantage. And in writing online copy, it’s important to understand the differences and the similarities between these two types of copy.

The key point for AWAIers is that they should not depend solely on print or online DM. Do both.

TGT: Most freelancers I know aren’t exactly spring chickens. How does this “revolution in copywriting” impact our retirement possibilities?

In fact, this revolution offers a great opportunity for establishing passive income that will fund your retirement – regardless of how old you are. It’s what I call the “Internet Marketing Retirement Plan.” Here’s how it works …

When you’re freelancing, you trade hours for dollars. Dentists have a saying: “Unless you’re drilling and filling, you’re not billing.” The same with freelance copywriting. If all I do is write copy and I decide to take a week’s vacation, I earn nothing for that week.

But the “Internet Marketing Retirement Plan” offers a second income stream. It involves writing or producing products to sell on the Internet, products that provide you with passive income whether you’re writing or not.

For example, I recently went on vacation and earned $0 in copywriting. But I made $6,240 that week in passive income using this plan.

This is a huge new opportunity that other copywriters can take advantage of too.

TGT: Any last words for our readers?

BOB: This is the most exciting era in copywriting. But it can also be the scariest if you don’t know how the market has changed and how to benefit from those changes.

Prepare yourself with knowledge … and you will prosper from this revolution.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: December 3, 2007

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