Questions and Answers from the Live Facebook Chat with Six-Figure Copywriter, Joshua Boswell
On Friday, March 6, Joshua Boswell answered reader’s freelance copywriting questions via live chat on Facebook.
He wanted to know what you needed to move forward with launching a successful copywriting business.
The response to this live event was amazing! 20 unique questions were asked and Joshua answered each and every one with some top-notch advice.
Weren’t able to make it to the live chat?
No worries. The full transcript from the live chat is displayed below, so you too can benefit from these common freelance copywriting queries.
Question #1 — You've done a lot of cold calling. Can you give advice on how to talk to prospects over the phone?
Answer — I have three suggestions: First, be real. You’re not their best friend, you don’t know them, and they don’t have time to chit-chat. Saying things like, “Hey, how are you doing?” is not genuine or sincere.
Second, get right to the point. I said, “My name is Joshua Boswell. I’m a freelance copywriter and I’m out fishing for new clients. I wonder if you hire outside writers?” Simple and direct.
Third, make them a specific, no-friction offer, set up a follow-up time, and get off the phone. “I have a complete Information Packet and can send it to you. It will tell you all about me and answer all your questions. I’ll call you back in a week to see if you have any questions. What’s your email address and I’ll send this over.” Done and off the phone in less than 3 minutes.
Question #2 — What do I need to do first to attract solid (repeat) clients?
Answer — First, “attracting solid clients” is different than any kind of direct-response efforts where you actively find and close clients. Attracting clients hinges on being perceived as a professional expert.
So, the very first step is defining what you want to be an expert in. It should be something that will lead to clients, like email content, social media, or SEO. It should also be in a specific niche, like pets, financial, or hardware manufacturing for industrial automation.
Your second step is to decide how to position yourself in a way that your ideal customer will find you. For example, you could write a monthly column for an industry publication.
Third, you need to consistently be found in multiple locations. If you’re published in a magazine, have a blog and a nice social media presence. If they like the article, they’re sure to Google you to find out more and to validate that you’re a real pro.
Question #3 — How do I identify my niche?
Answer — Your best niche is the one you enjoy, know well, can be somewhat of an instant expert, and is in an industry that is growing.
That being said, one of the biggest mistakes copywriters make is not choosing a niche. They are so concerned with making a bad choice that they make no choice … which is the worst choice of all! I have a list of dozens of growing industries.
Pick one and get started. You can always change it later … and the truth is, you’ll always pick up projects in different areas as you go … so take your best guess and go for it!
Question #4 — I'm working with a web designer/developer in an exchange: she's designing a site for me and I'm redoing her content. We also have a client together and we are building a new website for them. What I'm hearing from her is about scrolling, sectioned websites with very short copy. VERY short. Do you have suggestions on web writing in this era of "not too many words!" attitudes? I know people don't want to read a lot. I get that. But how much is too much these days? I assume it depends on the industry, but it does seem to be a trend, and I'm wondering how to navigate it as a copywriter.
Answer — I can’t give you a specific answer about the website question, because I don’t know the industry or the product — that affects things substantially.
But, as a general rule, the long and short discussion is silly. People will ALWAYS invest time on things that are important to them. I think of the Harry Potter books. They are very long. They made J. K. the first billionaire author in history … during a time when everyone said no one would read long books. But they did. Why? Great copy always wins, that’s why.
Another example is the End of America campaign by Porter Stansberry. That promo was over 15,000 words … more than 45 minutes in a VSL. Best-selling promo in financial newsletter history. And that was just a few years ago.
If you do use really short copy on the home page, then it had better have tons of copy and content behind it to keep people engaged and interested. If not, you’re just leaving money on the table.
If it is a "trend," then it’s been going on for hundreds of years.
Question #5 — I'm working on branding myself and my services. I recall Dan Kennedy talking about "being the authority in the room" and including Consultant in our personal branding. I'm not comfortable or eager to get too far into being an overall Marketing Consultant. I love the writing, and I love Content Strategy, and want to learn more. But I get very overwhelmed trying to learn Ryan Deiss's sales funnel strategies, and find myself in over my head when I consider going too far afield with marketing. I just don't see myself becoming brilliant at general marketing issues, and don't want to become an outsourced marketing department for a client. How much do you need to offer in that department in order to get into the six-figure world? Do you brand yourself as a copywriter or consultant or marketing strategist or some combination? When you approach a client, how do you present yourself and your services? What do I need to know/learn, besides the actual writing, to become that authority in the room and attract great clients?
Answer — You don’t need to be a marketing guru or consultant to make six-figures. For the first three years, all I did was copywriting. I didn’t offer anything else. It was clean, simple, and direct.
I love Dan and other gurus. They are brilliant … but they are also 20, 30, 40 years into this and talking from that perspective, with ideas of making millions. The truth is, if you want to make a strong six-figure income, working 20-40 hours a week from you home (or anywhere you choose), you can do it very nicely being “just a copywriter.”
To attract great clients, I repeat my previous advice … simply become an expert in an area that has high demand. Email is one example. Just be awesome at writing great, high-pulling emails.
You won’t start off amazing … you might start off only so-so … that’s fine. There’s a huge need for so-so writers. Just make a start. You’ll get better as you go and you’ll be able to do bigger projects. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert and your dance card will be full. It might take 6, 12, 18, or 24 months … but it will happen if you’re consistent.
So take a deep breath and don’t worry about being the “authority in the room.” You can just be the “copywriter” in the room and make a very nice income.
Question #6 — I'm in the starting phases of putting my business together and working on The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. What do you suggest as an excellent resource for getting started quickly? There are a few programs and events I’d love to attend but money is an issue at the moment. As much as I would want to do them all, I really need to make a best choice and get rolling.
Answer — I’m totally biased on this question … of course.
My answer is that you should come to my Launch Your Writer’s Life in a Day event. The whole thing is geared toward helping writers reduce their overwhelming options, turn down the noise, and create a simple, easy-to-follow, workable, customized plan.
I’m not going to give tons of options and drown you in information … rather I’m going to give you a plan that is proven to work and help you customize it so it’ll work for you.
If you can’t come to a Launch event, then email me and I’ll give you other suggestions. They won’t be as good — since my Launch event was designed for people like you — but they will be helpful.
Question #7 — I’m brand-new to copywriting and worked through The Six-Figure Program. I’m currently working through the Build Your Website Program with Rebecca, Marketing Confidence with Nick Usborne, and starting on Web 2.0. I’m passionate about good and healthy food, love to cook, am a Food Scientist as well as Pastry Chef/Chocolatier, as well as I’m passionate about life and personal development. I’m interested in B2B; however, since I’m just starting out should I choose a niche? Dig into it and contact prospective clients (in the food industry)? Or do start to write any kind of copy just to get some experience? How can I combine those two passions? Writing about personal development is relatively easy for me, yet I don‘t know how to make something sellable out of that, other than for a blog. I’ve got these two passions and I would love to enrich someone’s marketing with them. Any suggestions on how to get started, regarding website and niche?
Answer — Yes … I have a suggestion …
Take a deep breath and focus.
Your question tells me that you have the same syndrome as I do … Highly Talented, Slightly Schizophrenic Entrepreneur Disease (HTSSED) hehe.
Remember, “the hunter that chases two rabbits gets none.” I strongly suggest that you just pick a place to begin. It’s not your end destination, it’s just a start.
Marketing is all about having a one-on-one, personalized conversation with another human being because only human being hire copywriters. To have an effective conversation, you MUST have some focus.
Have you ever talked with someone that topic hops? One minute they are talking about skiing and the next telling you about their mother’s hip replacement. It’s confusing and leaves you slightly irritated, right?
That’s the way your market feels when you “focus” on multiple areas. Over time, every copywriter I know deviates from their chosen niche. But they all started somewhere. A specific somewhere. So should you.
Oh, and pick the niche that you feel has the shortest path to profits. Personal development is highly guru-driven. Most of those guys/gals don’t like other people writing in their voice. Hard market because of this, unless you have some good connections or writer for a vendor company like Nightingale-Conant. Food might be a better bet.
I have found it very useful to find someone that will help you stay focused. I have always needed this … someone that can help me review my action list and stay consistent.
Question #8 — Is it wise to take out a business loan enough for a year and take a sabbatical from my job? It's very attractive but I don't want to do something stupid either!
Answer — I never, ever recommend going into personal debt. If you can find an investor that is willing to invest in your company and not demand a personal guarantee, then you might consider it … that is how businesses are started every day.
But, truthfully, you’ll be hard-pressed to land that deal. (If you do, can you send me the person's name, I have a few things I'd like to sell them!!)
As painful as it might appear to you now, the best way is to do this in harmony with your day job so you have stability and don’t run into debt.
My entire marketing system for copywriters that I’ve developed over the years of working with new writers is designed to take up 3-5 hours a week. You don’t need a TON of activity to make this work. It is not a grindstone, head down, work yourself to death proposition.
You just need to CONSISTENTLY do a handful of very simple, laser-focused activities over a 3-12 month period. If you’ll do that, success is guaranteed. And I mean that. It’s a science, not an art.
Think of it like this … if you plant a watermelon seed and take care of it, what will you get? Watermelons. The ground, sun, rain, and genetics do most of the work. And so it is with my system. We let the system do most of the work. You just have to consistently do simple things to keep it running.
BUT, if you pull up the plant just when it’s getting some roots, it'll never produce. Give it time and be consistent. It'll come and you'll LOVE the harvest.
Question #9 — How do I find good clients and track down leads. What would I put in a prospecting email to a possible client?
Answer — Finding where good leads are depends on your industry. For example, if you’re doing direct-response copy, I think the best resource is Directory of Major Mailers. If you are doing social media in the pet industry, trade shows and associations might be your best bet.
I used to shy away from just saying, "Buy a list and get it over with. It'll be the best investment you can make." But these days, after seeing people mess around for YEARS trying to build a list of prospects, I'm firm on it. Invest a few hundred bucks and get a quality list. It'll be some of the best money you spend.
My first interaction with possible clients is always the same: I want to qualify them and begin to identify their needs. I do this with a simple question: “Do you hire outside writers?” If they do, I know they are qualified and have a need for a copywriter.
Question #10 — I am a newbie to copywriting, just started The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting a few weeks ago. All I know about copywriting is what I have read and studied in the course. Hearing about landing clients without having even completed the course seems overwhelming to me. I'm still figuring out what my niche is. I've read a little bit about B2B and it sounds intriguing. What would your advice be to the true copywriting novice, how to find one's niche and the pros/cons of taking a leap of faith and trying to land clients before finishing the course?
Answer — Congrats on getting started!
If you have ZERO writing skills, you should get something under your belt before getting hired. I was naturally an “okay” writer, so I landed my first clients while still working on the program.
But, don’t do it if it overwhelms you … unless you’re wildly desperate for money like I was.
See my advice above for thoughts on a niche. Just decide and go for it!
(Oh, and B2B is NOT a niche … a niche is a group of people that you can assemble in a single list and have a specific conversation with about a similar topic.)
My advice is finish the course (quickly!!), choose a niche (right now … you don’t need to wait), gather a list of potential clients, including industry contacts like associations and publications, decide how you’ll contact them, and get started.
It’s a simple three-step process:
- *Market — Who are you talking to?
- *Message — What will you offer them for sale?
- *Match — Connect your solution to their problem.
The key is consistent action …
Question #11— How good of a copywriter do I need to be to start looking for clients? I feel like a client is going to see through me right away … and realize I am just starting out or feel I don't know what I'm talking about. Also, I REALLY don't want to contact clients over the phone. I am much better at writing than speaking. Is email contacting a legitimate way to find clients?
Answer — First of all, you don't need to be an AMAZING writer … no one is when they start out.
But, you should be an “okay” writer. If you're worried about it, just use AWAI's stuff as a guide. That will make you 95% better than anyone out there, trust me.
Many, many clients are looking for fresh, new eyes. For one, they hope to pay them less (nature of the beast), and two, they hope to find new, fresh ideas that can energize their business. Being new is not a deficit.
You don't have to do any kind of marketing that you're not comfortable with. I've seen people win doing cold calls … and I've seen then win doing emails.
The best marketing approach is the one you will consistently do. Any of them will work.
So, yes … email marketing will work.
P.S. If you really have a true phobia against talking live with people, you should address that. I'm not saying you need to get on the phone and cold call, but you should read How to Win Friends and Influence People … it will be very valuable to you.
Question #12 — What's a good method for determining rates for the services we choose?
Answer — Excellent question … and one that really scares and frustrates other writers.
I have two answers: First, begin with the rate card of another writer. Feel free to swipe mine. (At least the one I used when I was getting started. You can see it under the samples page of my website: www.joshuaboswell.com.)
Second, do this simple exercise:
Determine how much you want to make in a year … (i.e., $100,000)
Decide how long you will work to make that. (i.e., 20hr/week)
Divide those numbers to get an hourly rate.
That is how much you need to charge per hour. When someone asks for a quote, you estimate how long it will take you, multiply it by your rate, and then quote them a price.
If they say it is too high, you either negotiate your goals or find clients that will pay you what you need to hit your goals. It’s that simple.
Question #13 — What is that list of growing industries you mentioned earlier Joshua?
Answer — It is a list I put together for the Web Copy Intensive. Of course, anyone coming to my Launch Your Writer’s Life in a Day Tour will get it …
We did research on different industries that use copy and that are in growth mode. It’s a great list and really helps you think about your niche and where you should focus.
Question #14 — Once you have a lead (correct contact and they hire outside writers), how do you pitch your services and get them to take a chance on you?
Answer — No one is going to take a "chance" on you … that is called gambling and it kills businesses.
However, they will make a wise investment to hire you.
The key is to help them see that you're a professional. You do this in two ways:
First, help them see that you have skills that will provide solutions for them. You wouldn't talk to a mechanic about doing your taxes … no matter how good he was at fixing your car.
They need to know that you can get the job done. This is SUPER easy because you have AWAI in your back pocket. Any kind of writing you want to do, they have a program for.
Second, you need to show them that you're dependable … and you can do that by simply doing what you say you'll do.
If you promise to meet a deadline, meet it. If you agree to a certain amount of work, get it done.
When you do those two things, you become an investment, not a gamble.
I don't usually "pitch" … instead, I consult with them. Using the three golden questions (What do you want? Why do you want it? and What does it look like when you have it?) will tell you what their needs are. Get outside of yourself and focus on them. Be a solution provider. Be genuine.
Question #15 — Do you have a recommendation for an income/expense and project/content management tool that works well for freelancers? How do you track your work for the year?
Answer — To be honest with you, I'm not the best at this … except where it comes to tracking clients.
What I mean is, I always know what is in my client pool and what the next step of the game is for them and me. I'm constantly thinking of new solutions I can provide for them.
Lately, I've been using insightly.com. It is easy and a basic version is free.
I'm a Mac user and use Billings for invoicing and tracking time, project costs, and other financial stuff.
Question #16 — What do you feel is the single best way to build a portfolio. What did your clients find most attractive?
Answer — I found that most of my clients didn't give a rip about my portfolio.
I know that sounds surprising, but it’s true. They just want to see your writing style and know that you can communicate clearly.
In fact, the ones that obsessed about my portfolio, never, ever turned out to be great clients. Most never even reviewed it.
But, you MUST have it there because it signals to them that you have some experience and are a pro.
The best way to seed a portfolio is to write!!! You're a writer! Take your favorite product or service in your niche and write about it … so some emails, a blog post, a sales letter … etc. …
You don't need permission to write … so write! At the bottom of the sample, you can put a disclaimer:
"This company did not commission me to do this work, but it is an example of the excellent quality you can expect when you and I work together."
You can replace these self-made samples as you get hired and do paid gigs.
Let me repeat … JUST WRITE.
Question #17 — Your Launch Your Writer's Life in a Day Tour, will this help the novice copywriter who is in the beginning stages of studying The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting? Or is it designed more for the experienced copywriter?
Answer — It will help the novice and the experienced writer. The focus is on helping you create a workable, customized, realistic, effective plan for living the writer's life.
This is NOT a "come in, sit down, and listen" event. This is an experience where we'll discover where you are, what you need, and custom-tailor a plan for you.
The plan will be simple, clear, and easy to follow.
My goal is to underwhelm people with information and overwhelm them with results.
You have enough info … you need simplicity and clarity that lead to results.
So, no matter when you are in the process, I'll come alongside you and help get you moving down the road even faster.
Seriously, I've been to zillions of events. This is going to be extremely unique. After the first one, you'll see the comments from attendees to validate what I'm saying. If you're in Phoenix … maybe you'll be one of them.
Question #18 — I have to admit two things honestly before I ask my question. First, I really am enjoying copywriting … I'm so happy to have found it and especially AWAI! Thank you so much! I love the mix of intellectual and creative. I have always wanted to write for a living and I am really enjoying this type of writing. Second … I am scared out of my mind about starting out! I want to do well, I want to make my future clients happy, and I want to help customers find a product I believe in. So, on to my question … how do I work through the fear and especially have confidence in myself? I am almost finished with AWAI’s The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and my sample and I know I've put my heart into it. But … there's always that little voice wondering if I'm good enough.
Answer — I can see from your question that you're good enough.
(Nice voice and good flow!)
So, set aside that worry … or don't and just live with it … I don't care what you do with it, as long as you move forward!
Second, the only way to begin is to begin.
Years ago, I was faced with the task of climbing a rock-climbing wall to impress my children. I HAAAAATE heights.
I did three things. First, I got the gear on. It was a start. Second, I looked up at the bell on the top of that rocky monster. Third, I looked at the handhold just an inch above my head.
By keeping the image of the bell in my mind, and my focus just a few inches up, I was able to conquer that fear.
You can do the same. If something seems too big, break it down into smaller and smaller sizes, until you have steps that are not scary.
It can be done and you can do it.
Question #19 — I want to get started RIGHT NOW … but it seems like there are so many ways to get rolling … can you give me a simple way to start?
Answer — About a year ago, I got an email with about the same question.
Here's my answer (in part). I think it will be helpful to you …
I will share with you a very simple secret …
Anyone can go full-time in copywriting in around 8-18 months IF (and it is a very, very big IF), they will do the following:
- *Decide on a niche or market to focus on.
- *Build a simple website and Information Packet that shows they are a professional.
- *Choose 1-3 methods of marketing themselves. (Social Media, cold calls, articles, networking, etc. … )
- *Make 10-20 contacts a day with qualified prospects or people that will lead to qualified prospects (publishers, other marketers, etc. … ).
- *Repeat this over and over and over again (for at LEAST one year) until they start closing clients and making money.
- *Those that will actually see it through, be diligent and consistent, booking time out of their schedule every day (or at least regularly), can and will most assuredly become a really, really profitable copywriter.
Simplicity, clarity, and consistency … that is the KEY to making all of this work.
Question #20 — What would I list in a prospecting email to a possible client?
Answer — A prospecting email just needs to get the conversation started.
What you don't want to do is to dump your life's history on them … ramble about how terrible their stuff is and you can fix it … etc. …
Think of it like a landing page. A simple landing page offers something of value and tries to entice them to opt-in. The words, the report, the offer, the page … all serve to filter out the qualified and unqualified buyer.
Your emails can do the same.
I always like to start off with the simple question, "Do you hire outside writers?"
You can make it more detailed than that, but it is just the start of a relationship. Start off slow … engage the conversation. What exactly you say will depend on your industry, your services, and who you are … but keep it simple and short and clear.
We’re out of time for today. Thank you so much for joining us! If you’d like chat more with Joshua Boswell, he’ll be traveling around the U.S. to help you launch the copywriting business of your dreams!
Tampa, FL on April 10, 2015
Houston, TX on April 17, 2015
San Diego, CA on April 24, 2015
San Francisco, CA on May 1, 2015
Seattle, WA on May 8, 2015
Chicago, IL on May 15, 2015
New York, NY on May 22, 2015
Meet him at the stop closest to you and you’ll walk away with the tools, resources, and power YOU need to start living the writer’s life right away.
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