My Income Fell Dramatically Last Year …
Here’s Why … Who’s Fault It Was …
And How My Little “Fix” Can Make You
Quite a Bit Wealthier

When I noticed my copywriting income had fallen sharply last year, it didn’t take me long to find out why.

I had been holding steady in the mid- $300,000 range for several years and in previous years I had earned as much as $500K.

But in 2009, my accountant told me I had only made around $240K.

Now I know that’s a lot of money. And it seems silly (and a bit arrogant, quite frankly) to complain that I only made $240,000 in a year a lot of people were struggling to get by.

But still, when you have a lifestyle that’s accustomed to a certain income – a roughly 30% drop is something to be concerned about. And I wouldn’t be telling you about it if I didn’t think there was a lesson in it – one I think could make you a lot of money from here on in.

At first I looked for something or someone to blame.

An obvious culprit was the economy. But truthfully, that didn’t have much of an impact on our business. There was no shortage of projects to take on. I was still turning down more letters than I took on.

Was it the direct response industry as a whole? No. By all accounts that was still growing. In fact, because of the down economy, more companies were turning to direct response because it’s such a cost efficient marketing option.

It wasn’t that my clients had stopped spending, either. They were mailing as often and as aggressively as ever.

Was it my client’s customers? Were they simply not buying?

Well, it’s true they weren’t buying like they were when times were better … but they also weren’t cutting back enough to warrant a more than $100,000 drop in my income over 2008 – a year a lot of consumers really did stop spending.

No, the culprit was none of these.

It was me.

I simply wasn’t writing enough.

And you don’t have to be a freelance writer to know that no good can ever come, financially or otherwise, to a writer who doesn’t write.

But a few months ago I did something about it.

What I did may just lead to me having one of my best financial years ever.

And the thing is – it was such a simple fix … that you won’t believe the dramatic impact it can have on a copywriter’s productivity and income.

I’m writing you today to share it with you.

Because if you’re already a freelance writer, I’m convinced what I did to correct my “income slide” can have a profound impact on your income beginning immediately.

Even if you’re someone who’s thinking about making the leap to this most wonderful of careers – then this really illustrates the income-generating power of learning the art of persuasion … and becoming a copywriter.

But before I tell you what I did, let me share with you what last year really “drove home” with me …

Sure, copywriting is a great profession, where you can work from home, have control over your day – and make a very good living without any bosses to deal with, or time clocks to punch.

It’s one of the few “jobs” I’m aware of where you can truly make your own schedule, work at your own pace, and set aside a good part of your day to do things you want to do, whether it be work around the house, take up a hobby, golf, ski or just spend time with your family.

That much every working copywriter knows full well.

But at the end of the day, being a freelance copywriter is a numbers game.

The more letters and ads you write … the more you’re paid. The more writing fees you can invoice … the more royalties you make from the sales your letters generate.

So its no surprise that when I went back and looked at last year, I discovered I wrote about half the letters I normally write.

In a typically year, I write about 12 letters. Last year I wrote seven. So that’s five letters I didn’t get paid my standard $8,000 writing fee.

$8,000 X 5 = $40,000 in income I missed out on.

But it’s the missed royalties that hit me the hardest. I did some figuring and I realized I’d been averaging about $12,770 a letter in royalties (although they can be as high as $60K). So multiply $12,700 X 5 letters and you get $63,490.

There you have it: $103,000 in income that I didn’t see, simply because I “stopped” writing.

How did it happen?

I wish I could tell you. It certainly felt like I was writing as much as I wrote before. But clearly I wasn’t. Instead I was falling into the old writer’s trap of doing “busy” work first: answering e-mails, reorganizing my office, looking at mail, reading stuff I told myself I needed to read, spending too much time catching up on news and such on-line.

As a result, there would be days when a word wouldn’t get written.

So I got out my calculator so I could figure out what I had to do to get my income back to where it was … maybe even higher.

I set the number, for fun, at $500,000.

And I asked myself: based on the numbers I know – how much writing would I have to do … how many letters would I have to write – to make $500,000 in income this year.

So I started punching some figures into the calculator.

At first I didn’t believe what the numbers were telling me. So I went back and did it a couple of times – just to make sure what I’d “figured out” was really the case.

And every time it revealed the same startling fact.

Do you have any idea how much writing I have to do to earn $500,000 in income this year?

Just 2 pages a day!

Surprised? I sure was.

Two pages a day is nothing. Heck, sometimes when I get on a roll writing I’ll rattle off eight or ten pages in a day.

Two pages is a piece of cake!

But here’s the thing: you’ve got to make the commitment to do it. You have to sit down at your computer come hell or high water, no matter what the distractions or temptations are and write those two pages a day.

It’s the best advice I could ever give you – whether you’re a working copywriter or you’re just starting out.

Let me show you the math of it:

I told you earlier I’m paid an average of $8,000 to write the kind of letters I write. (That’s about average. New copywriters get less to begin with, but there are also writers who get $16,000 to $20,000 a letter too. Dan Kennedy? Forget it. He gets about $100K … )

The letters I write are, on average, about 20 pages long. (I write for the financial publishing industry, so those tend to be longer than many projects copywriters will take on.)

So here’s how the numbers unfold in my situation:

If I write two pages a day, that’s 10 pages a week (2 pages X 5 days = 10 pages).

Take 10 pages of copy a week, multiply it by 50 weeks (I gave myself two weeks off) and it adds up to 500 pages of copy.

Divide 500 pages of copy by 20 pages, which is the average length of one of my letters.

You wind up with 25 letters.

25 letters at $8,000 each = $200,000 in writing fees.

“Not bad,” you say. “But a long ways off from $500,000!”

True enough … but don’t forget the “copywriter’s best friend”: Royalties!

Royalties, as you’ll recall, are “bonus dollars” copywriters are paid when their letter is sent out and it’s a success. If a letter works and it mails a million copies (or brings in a million dollars worth of business) these royalties can really add up. Of course not every letter’s a hit. But I’ve written letters that have mailed over and over again, adding up to hundreds of thousands in added income.

So I went back over the past few years and figured out what my average royalty on all the letters I’ve written were for the past three years, which is how I got the $12,770 per letter figure I mentioned earlier.

So now, multiply $12,770 by 25 and you get $319,250. Add to that the $200,000 I’d get from writing the letters and you get a grand total of $519,250.

Now here’s the thing …

You might think it’s a huge leap to go from writing seven letters a year to writing 25 letters a year.

But the fact is, since I’ve been sticking to my “2 pages per day” rule, I’ve written six letters already – in just the first three months of 2010. And you know what?

It feels like I’m writing less!

Because rather than trying to grind out a 20 page letter under the pressure of a tight deadline in a few days … I simply spend a few hours in the morning writing my two pages – then stop and go on to other things.

And something else happens when you stick to my new “2 page-per-day” rule:

You become a better writer faster.

Because writing is like anything else. The more you do it, the better you get at it. And the better you get at it – the more successful your letters are and the faster you can write them.

And the more letters you have under your belt, the more “chunks” of copy you can borrow for similar letters selling similar products and the faster those projects go (yes, it’s the copywriter’s a dirty little secret: it’s okay if we “recycle” stuff we’ve written before … )

So add it all up, and it’s a very good habit for any writer to get into.

2 pages per day …

You’ll write more letters …

You’ll make more money …

Your days will seem easier …

You writing will improve …

Your letters will be more successful …

Your royalties will skyrocket.

I’m sorry if it’s not the breakthrough secret you were hoping for. But it took over a dozen years and a $100,000 drop in income for me to finally figure it out.

What’s more, I’m using it – and it’s working like a charm.

I’m on pace for one of my better years ever from an income standpoint – and I feel like I have more free time than ever to live “the writer’s life.”

Try it. And let me know how it works for you.

[Note: If you’re new to copywriting and you’re surprised to hear about folks making $200,000, $300,000 even $500,000 writing simple letters from their home … have a look here. It’s a special report that tells you what this very lucrative form of freelance writing is all about, why there’s such a demand – and how anyone with basic writing skills can learn to do it. Click to see the report 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: April 5, 2010

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