Living the Writer's Life:
Sam Woods

Sam has built an enviable career starting with affiliate marketing and moving into AI, all of it built on the foundational skills he learned from copywriting.Sam has built an enviable career starting with affiliate marketing and moving into AI, all of it built on the foundational skills he learned from copywriting.

When I spoke with Sam Woods, he’d just returned from an invigorating, “unplugged” week of hiking in Sweden and reported feeling poised for forward motion after his time away from technology. That approach toward resting, resetting, and restarting has served him well in his career, as Sam’s business is thriving on the cutting edge of AI technology. But as you’ll read below, the foundation for everything he’s built starts with copywriting. Enjoy Sam’s story.

You ended up in copywriting out of a fluke, correct?

Yes. I worked on a cruise ship some 13 years ago and came back to stay with a friend. He was on his laptop four, five, eight hours a day. I asked him, “What do you do? Because you don’t leave the apartment to go to a job, apparently.” Then he introduced me to the world of affiliate marketing. And from that I got into copywriting.

How did that lead you to clients and to what you’re doing now?

Affiliate marketing really thrives on direct-response copywriting. You have to write ads that get clicked, emails that get opened, sales pages or landing pages that convert. I got into the direct-response world pretty quickly, because that’s what was needed. I studied everyone from David Ogilvy to Gene Schwartz and all the big names. I got pretty good at it, or good as in, at least my stuff converted. As I did, people in the affiliate marketing world started asking me to write for them.

That turned into starting an agency for conversion rate optimization and copywriting. I had that agency for several years and sold it in 2019. In turn, that got me into AI and using AI for copywriting and other stuff. That’s the short version of a very long 12 or so years.

What specifically does your company do with AI?

We’ve been in stealth for a few years, and now we’re publicly available, so to speak. We essentially build AI systems for different purposes inside a company. Like your own intelligent assistant that knows everything about your company. Let’s call it Jill. You can talk to Jill daily and ask what’s happening in your company and get real-time updates back, and you can ask Jill things like, “Based on our Facebook page engagement for the past 90 days, what kind of posts were popular?” And Jill will tell you, “These four posts were popular.” Then you say, “Great. Write me five blog posts based off of those engaged Facebook posts, and then publish it in our website.” And Jill can write them and then publish them for you. It’s not just getting text back, it’s actually having workflows.

Where does the human writer come in?

They can be as involved or not involved as they’d like to be, but everyone that I’ve worked with has humans act more like a combination of art director and copy chief who reviews and fixes things or gives it back to ChatGPT or Claude or whatever with clear direction for the changes you want. I think that’s where you want to be as a copywriter if you use AI. Because AI can’t really have a vision on its own. It can only know or act on the knowledge that it’s been given.

What would you like to see AI do if you could wave a magic wand?

I think AI will become like electricity. It’ll become necessary, but it doesn’t give you an advantage necessarily in business. Everyone has electricity. So AI is going to be the same. It won’t be an advantage or a disadvantage. It’ll help you decide what level you want to engage with technology, and you’ll be able to choose to engage in a way that’s human-positive as opposed to becoming a tool that keeps us enslaved to technology.

For your average copywriter who’s just now building their business, which AI tool or platform do you recommend?

For research I would recommend I don’t even use Google anymore or most other tools. For writing, Claude 3 is probably the best model right now. And GPT-4 and GPT-4o are pretty good, but they tend to sound too business-jargony in their responses, whereas Claude 3 just sounds or reads more human. For drafting, writing, and anything like that, I use Claude 3 right now.

What advice would you give someone for getting started, who wants to engage AI but also take trips abroad and be totally unplugged?

First, be willing to do the really hard work of understanding copy. It’s not just about writing it, but active reading and active studying where you underline and highlight and make notes on what you’re reading to really grasp what’s going on. That way when Claude or ChatGPT spits back copy at you, you can identify the good pieces. Because it’ll give you 1,000 words, but maybe only 400 are good words. After that, be willing to experiment and play with the tools. You can’t study your way to knowing or using AI. There is no curriculum to follow. It’s early enough where things are changing so fast that if you were to study it, then what you know will be obsolete the day after. The best way to become good at using these tools is to just use them every day.

Sam's Living The Writer's Life story was originally published in Barefoot Writer. To learn more about how you can start living your dream writer's life too, click here.

What help do you need to move forward with your version of the writer’s life? Let us know in the comments below so we can help guide you in the right direction.

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Published: June 22, 2024

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