Mine Is an Odd Way of Making a Living

Recently, I spent most of a day in a room with a small group, leading a discussion about options for re-invigorating the substantial but stagnant, leveled off sales of America’s #1 acne treatment products.

Another day that same week, I spent from 7:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. in complete isolation, in my work-cave, at my computer or occasionally pacing around, once half-napping in the recliner in front of the fireplace, creating copy for a collection of sales letters, e-mails and web sites tasked with selling a very pricey home-study course to investors.

Over two days, same week, I wrote about half of a book about the marketing strategies used by an infamous, turn-of-the-century doctor who promoted and delivered surgical transplants of goat glands to men’s privates, to achieve what Viagra® now promises.

Finally, I had a lengthy discussion about the launch of a new ‘super-food’ nutritional product with a possible new client.

When some civilian innocently asks me what I do, how am I supposed to accurately answer? I gave up trying years ago, but I know this troubles many people in my field, whatever my field is – the inability to answer the ‘what do you do?’ question in a satisfactory way.

James Cameron can say: I make movies – and point to Avatar. Your accountant, dentist, local tavern owner, even Kim Kardashian … have an easier time of this than you or I do. You can come up with a cocktail party answer, but you know it’s woefully inadequate.

For the most part, fortunately, it’s not important that most people understand what you do. It is important that we understand what we do. And I suspect a lot of copywriters don’t really understand what they do, what is responsible for their income and success … and that’s one of the subjects I’m looking forward to talking about at my Business Of Copywriting Academy presented this year by AWAI. For now, let me just generalize.

Two categories of things we do.

One, we are storytellers. Ultimately, we create and tell a compelling story to a well-matched audience, in which they can imagine themselves achieving whatever dream, desire or solution the product or service we’re speaking on behalf of can make possible.

Traditional advertising and, particularly, TV commercials changed forever with the advent of ‘slice of life’ storytelling, as replacement for simple, straightforward product presentation. Sales letters can be welcome guests instead of annoying pests by virtue of the intriguing, interesting, maybe amusing, maybe poignant story they tell.

This is why long copy so often out-performs short copy in direct-response, although even a brief headline can tell a story: She Was On The Verge Of Leaving Their Bedroom For Good – Marriage Rescued By Snore-Stop®. To be great storytellers, we can’t just be writers. We have to be detectives. Students of human psychology. Most freelance writers think of this as the fun part. There are days I do, days I don’t.

Two, we are – there is no word for this. We are in control of clients. So we function as Socratic teachers, surrogate parents, advisors, consultants, guides, confidence builders, motivators, sounding boards, confidantes, creative collaborators. If you are not as much about mastering this second role as you are the first, you are going to be under-valued, under-paid and under-effective your entire time in this business. If you create and deliver brown-kraft envelopes filled with work, and are paid for doing so, you’re probably going to be forever disappointed with your wages. The key words in this paragraph are “in control of.”

I can sometimes fully and accurately describe the first role to a genuinely interested civilian. I can explain it to my clients. And I have to. But I can’t explain the second role to civilians or clients. It has to be our secret.

SPECIAL INVITATION: Join Dan Kennedy May 6-8th for a Once-in-a-Lifetime Immersion into the BUSINESS OF COPYWRITING!

Dan’s promise to you: After 2 ½ days with him, you’ll experience a fundamental change in the way you think of yourself and your role, and in the way you present yourself to clients.

You’ll learn directly from him exactly how, for the past 35 years, he’s prospered as a part-time copywriter, in the earliest years never earning less that 6-figures and in more recent years, over a million dollars per year.

You’ll be part of a small and personal group learning Dan’s particular, consultative approach to copywriting that transcends writing by assignment.

Dan will show you how to get clients, get better and better fees, get great results for clients, manage client relationships, and build your career.

He’s going to “open his play-book” and show you how he raised himself from fledgling copywriter to million-dollar-a-year copywriter … how he attracts, manages, keeps and leverages clients … how he works behind the scenes.

Register before March 1, 2010 and save $595. If you’re ready to start increasing your value to clients in multiple ways … that will multiply your income … I strongly urge to claim your spot today.

Register easily online right here.

To hear more about this “Change Your Life” event from Dan, click here.

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: February 15, 2010

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