Make a Lot More Money—and Do Less Work

Every six months, I add up our copywriter royalties.

And when I was adding up the totals for the first half of 2008, there were some surprises. Some of the very talented copywriters in our group make A LOT in royalties. Others don’t make much at all. Why?

Well, the answer basically comes down to one thing …

To make more money as a copywriter … you simply have to turn out more copy.

No big surprise there. But how do you do that?

Well, here’s the thing …

Believe it or not, you don’t have to work any harder or longer than you are right now to make more money. You can probably even work less. The secret is simply to become more efficient.

In the copywriting world, efficiency = money.

One of our copywriters, for example, has been the model of efficiency in the first half of this year. She’s knocked out three blockbuster packages for our $1,000+ trading services, a promotion for an introductory $99 newsletter, a special renewal offer, a promotion for a software program, a “welcome series” for one of our introductory letters (including upsell letters), and a Google pay-per-click campaign.

And keep in mind, none of this work was rushed out the door, in fact, one of the $1,000+ trading service promotions she produced became our #1 seller of all-time.

As a result, she got a big, fat (and well-deserved) royalty check. (I almost forgot to mention that this woman also commutes from Virginia, 90 minutes each way, three days a week.)

So the two of us were having a conversation the other day, about what she’s done differently this year.

It turns out that she’s adapted three of the things I believe are secrets of becoming a rich and efficient copywriter.

If you can simply adopt these habits, you will probably be able to make all the money you will ever need, working just a few hours per day.

Here’s what to do …

Secret #1: Turn off your email.

If you’re checking email first thing in the morning – and again a dozen times throughout the day – you’re wasting an enormous amount of time. I recommend you take a quick peek in the morning, just to make sure there’s nothing that needs urgent attention (spend five minutes or less). Then, turn it off till lunch … then turn it off again till an hour or so before you leave the office. Email is the biggest distraction and time-waster in the world. None of us needs to be checking email more than 2-3 times a day.

Surfing the internet is almost as bad. Besides the normal research you do, I strongly recommend limiting yourself to 30-60 minutes each day to get your internet fix … reading the news … checking the markets, etc.

Secret #2: Write first thing in the morning without distraction.

I used to think I wasn’t a morning person. Now, I know that mornings are by far the best time to write and think. I believe everyone would be more efficient if they learned to work first thing in the morning, before hundreds of distractions appear in your day.

I promise that if you can turn yourself into a “morning person” and can drag yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn, you will make more money. Those first 2-3 hours are golden. Your mind is clear. It’s quiet. Even if the rest of the day is a complete waste, you’ve still gotten something significant done. (This doesn’t mean you have to work more hours … it’s just a matter of shifting your schedule around. Work first, then do other things in the afternoon.)

I never schedule a meeting or appointment until the afternoon. Mornings should be your time to write and think and edit. Afternoons are for reading, research, meetings, running errands, working out, doctors’ appointments, making phone calls, etc.

(By the way, I learned last week that Gary Bencivenga—one of the best copywriters of the past 20 years—still does this. He calls it his “Power Hour” and writes for one hour every day of the week … even weekends and holidays.)

Secret #3: Use the Gene Schwartz 33-minute trick.

I thought this idea was ridiculous when I first heard it, but I’ve been using it for about three years, and I’ve found that it’s by far the best way for me to get a lot of writing done, very quickly.

If you don’t know about Gene’s trick, here’s how it works …

Set a timer for 33 minutes. (There’s nothing magical about the number 33 … sometimes I do 40 … but never more than that.) Start the timer. During that 33-minute period, you can do nothing but write or edit the copy you’re working on. You can’t check email. You can’t answer the phone. You can’t look something up on the internet.

That’s the only rule—you can’t get up from your chair … the only thing you can do is write or edit what you’re working on.

Sometimes you’ll sit there for a few minutes and not know what to do. But since you’ve got to be there for the next 33 minutes, eventually you’ll start tinkering with your writing … and before you know it, your timer will beep, and 33 minutes will have passed.

At this point, stop what you’re doing, even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Take at least a five-minute break. Then, do it again.

(The one thing to remember about this technique is that it only makes sense for writing and editing your work, not research, which doesn’t require nearly as much brainpower or concentration.)

If you can do six of these 33-minute sessions a day (that’s just three hours), you will produce an incredible amount of copy. It’s an extremely efficient way to get your writing in. Very few copywriters get in three hours of completely undistracted writing per day.

There you have it: Three ways to be more efficient, work fewer hours, and make more money. I didn’t invent any of these techniques, but I’ve been using them for years, and I can tell you they will change your life if you’ll give them a try.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: September 1, 2008

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