So You Want to Be a Writer…

I just got off the phone with a smart lady who thinks she might want to become a copywriter.

Hurray!

The world needs more smart copywriters. 🙂

This article will list some great resources for you if you’re interested in pursuing the path of the paid pen.

BUT… before you go out and buy a new Macbook Pro and a carton of Epson ink… there are a few things we have to get straight.

1. What kind of writer do you really want to be? Many people lump all writers together under one category of “copywriters,” but a copywriter, in the strictest sense, is someone who writes SALES copy:

That means direct sales pieces (postcards, sales letters, sales emails), sales pages, advertisements of all sorts… the list goes on.

And because you’re directly responsible for SALES, you’re usually compensated at a higher level than general content creators who write blog posts, reports, lead magnets, or even books.

So… what do you want to write? What topics would you like to write about? What type of content would you like to create? What do you NOT want to write (that’s often just as important!)? Do you want to write for the web? For publications? For company blogs? For radio or podcasts? It’s all open.

2. What skills do you have? Do you have experience writing video scripts or social media posts or books? What about checklists or articles or even legal briefs? All of that will help you find positions that others might not be qualified for.

And I’m not just talking about writing skills… you might have a background in medicine, or technology, or law, or a lot of experience in researching, all of which will give you a leg up in the job market. Yes, there’s a big need for writers… but to be paid at the higher levels, you’ll need a specialty to call your own.

3. What skills are you willing to acquire? If you want to be considered for the most lucrative copywriting positions, you’re going to need some specific training in sales writing. AND online sales writing is different than other types. You’re going to need to educate yourself through books, courses, or other training (see below for my suggestions!).

I’m thrilled to be able to regularly charge $1,500 – $2,000 or more for email sales sequences or sales pages… but it didn’t start out that way. I spent seven years studying marketing and testing, tweaking, and honing my craft with my own business. And I’ve then spent the last two years writing hundreds of thousands of words for my clients, producing some very real results.

I’ve read books, articles, and blogs, taken classes, and deconstructed other successful campaigns, pages, and emails to see what works… and I still do this! My education is never ending.

Once you’ve answered those questions, you’re ready to start trolling the job boards (see below) to apply, apply, apply.

Good luck!

Websites:

Copyblogger

Neville’s Kopywriting Blog

Bushra Azhar’s Persuasion Revolution

#FastLain (duh!)

Books:

How to Write Copy That Sells: The Step-By-Step System for More Sales, to More Customers, More Often by Ray Edwards (Not the most creative or innovative approach, but he’ll give you a great grounding in the basics.)

This book will teach you how to write better: Learn how to get what you want, increase your conversion rates, and make it easier to write anything (using formulas and mind-hacks) by Neville Medhora (I appreciate Neville’s straightforward approach. Not fancy, but it works. Definitely the 80/20 approach to becoming a better writer.)

No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses by Dan Kennedy (One of the first — and best — books on sales writing. All his books are terrific.)

Job Boards:

Cult of Copy Job Board

Problogger Job Board

Bloggingpro Job Board

Simply Hired writing jobs

 

Best Email Subject Lines of the Week

#fastlain feature: “Flop or Fly.”

I get a lot of email. (100+ a day!)

I delete most of it, but a few grab me. Every week I will be announcing 5 winning and losing email subject lines, and why they worked or flopped. Stay tuned to soon start to seeing a pattern — and to review your own subject lines with a more critical eye.


#1:“An email a day for 16 YEARS?!

From: Jaime Masters/Eventual Millionaire

Why it works: This is a perfect example of using intrigue/curiosity with surprise, while still hinting at the value to come.

How you can use this: We’ve talked before about layering – value + curiosity + surprise = WORKS.


#2: “She’s the WORST marketer…EVER!

From: Ryan Lee/Freedym

Why it works: I had to open this — we get so many emails about the BEST of this… the TOP of that. But this turned the common hook on its head and I bit!

How you can use this: Be unexpected. Disrupt people’s expectations by turning the ordinary, the expected, upside-down.


#3: “LAIN, come back to Jiffy Lube (R) and Save!”

From: Jiffy Lube

Why it works: Another great layered subject line: Personalization plus “what’s in it for me?” was a winning combo. I knew exactly why I should open. And I did — even though I don’t use Jiffy Lube!

How you can use this: You don’t have to be cutesy. Be direct. If the offer is good, people will read.


#4: “WSJwine. Watch me sip, watch me rose”

From: RueLaLa

Why it works: RueLaLa does a great job of funny (or “punny”) subject lines that relate to current culture but in a tongue-in-cheek way. A great approach for a retail site.

How can you use this: What’s a quote or song lyric or movie title you can draft off of?


#5:“A Daddy of a Deal”

From: Paper Source

Why it works: Like RueLaLa, Paper Source does “fun” really well. They were able to combine a current event (Father’s Day) with a sale in an unexpected way. Well done!

How you can use this: If it fits your brand, don’t be afraid to play a little bit. It adds personality and interest.


Now, the flops:

#1:“NEW! MCDEM Weekly Preparedness Updates!”

From: Paradise Valley Neighborhood Email List

Why it flops: Explain yourself! If it’s new, obviously I’m not going to know what the acronym stands for. Government agencies are notorious for this – thinking we can read their acronym- and jargon-addled minds. We can’t. BORING. CONFUSING. BAD.

How you can avoid this: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What information do they need to understand what you’re talking about? Don’t assume they have the same level of knowledge you do — they don’t.

My rewrite: “BE PREPARED with our new emergency updates.”


#2:“Ready to build your podcast website?…”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: Don’t ask a question that people can answer with an emphatic NO.

How you can avoid this: Um, don’t ask a question that people can answer with an emphatic NO.

My rewrite: “Time for a podcast website? Here’s how to know…”


#3: “remind me what your paypal email is”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: It screams “spam.” In the email itself the person offers to send you $ for making a time to chat with him – but it sent my BS filter so far into overdrive that I don’t believe him.

How you can avoid this: Don’t try to be tricky. Just be upfront about your intentions. It’s okay to be clear and open.

My rewrite: “Would you be open to this…?”


#4: “It;s my birthday…Giving you a cool “gift” :)”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: The typo in the subject line kills it for me. Looks like spam. Plus, the “gift” in quotes makes me think it’s not REALLY a gift but a sales pitch.

How you can avoid this: Focus on WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM. Not on the fact that it’s YOUR birthday (no one cares). Proof for typos — ALWAYS.

My rewrite: Not sure what to do with this one! I’d lead with the value you’re providing — not with a pseudo-gift.


#5: “compare leads to despair”

From: Internet marketer

Why it flops: I can’t decipher what this means. Am I being asked to compare leads? Or does comparison lead to despair? Or something else?

How you can avoid this: BE CLEAR.

My rewrite: “The sure-fire path to misery.”


The upshot: Internet marketers apparently need to up their games. I’m available for consults. 😉

Got your own submissions? List them in the comments below!

Are you worried your message is too “fluffy?”

Are a coach, inspirational speaker, or other topic expert?

If so, you’ve got a bit of a challenge as you try to establish your unique message with your target market.

After all, so many people out there in the expert authority industry are claiming to offer “hope,” “motivation,” and “support.”

So how are you different?

One HUGE way you can separate yourself from the pack is by becoming ultra-crystal-clear on the applied VALUE you provide to your audience.

And by “applied,” I don’t mean pie-in-the-sky, watercolor-sunset-inspirational-quotes. I mean down and dirty helpful guidance on how people can use your unique perspective on the world to improve their lives.

Let’s face it: Pithy memes are a dime a dozen (literally — you can buy pre-made quotes on dreamy backgrounds for a few bucks!).

What most coaches and influencers NEVER consider, though, is how to take your perspective and convert it to a manner that people can actually use, TODAY, to make their lives better. And that needs to go way beyond “changing your mindset,” “thinking positive,” or any other feel good/power of positive advice.

It’s the difference between posting a meme that says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” and publishing a blog post about, “3 Things to Do When It Feels Like the World’s Against You.”

It’s like getting in shape: We all know that the common wisdom is to eat less junk and exercise more. But if it were that easy, we’d all be at our fighting weights, right? So telling us, “Eat better, exercise more” is pretty much useless. What we need instead is, “3 Ways to Outsmart Your Mind When You Don’t Want to Exercise,” or “Five Sneaky Ways Sugar Gets Into Your Diet.”

One is superficial, and one is concrete advice people can use, today.

So what do you do when you fear you are too “fluffy” and you don’t provide enough concrete value for your audience?

The answer is two parts:

1. It’s okay sometimes to be “fluffy.”
2. Not all content you create should be “fluffy.”

When working with clients, I like to think about their “body of work.”

I have goals for any individual piece of content I’m working on (to inspire, to “seed” the idea for an upcoming product or course, to teach, etc.). No one piece of content can do EVERYTHING. Which is why people shouldn’t just post one blog post and call it a day.

So each piece must be valuable in and of itself… but it should also accomplish something within the larger body of work, and the body of work as a whole should provide a 360 degree picture of your value.

For instance, one blog post may be very specific about a case study or success story of one of your clients. It motivates and inspires and also demonstrates your authority — but it doesn’t necessarily show ALL of who you are or what you do.

Another piece of content — say, a Facebook Live video — shares a bit about your backstory and where you’re coming from and why you’re so passionate about your mission. It’s awesome, but it’s more about the “WHY” than the “HOW.” And that’s okay.

And a third piece of content might be very “how to, 1-2-3.” It’s not rah-rah “You can do it!” Instead, it helps people accomplish one very specific thing.

I get concerned is when the overall content is TOO skewed one way or another. Like if everything you create is a “You rock! You can do it!” cheerleader/mindset piece with no concrete info on HOW to do it.

The exact balance or recipe depends on your audience and your message.

You may be very much a high-level inspiration type rather than a tactical, “here’s how you do it” type.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide specifics to your audience. (And this is where I see a lot of coaches/motivational professionals fall down… It’s the biggest complaint I hear about the personal development/motivation industry, that there’s a lot of rah-rah but very little direction.)

For instance, in a “fluffier” inspiration/mindset piece, you can put in calls to action, or next steps, or something that hints at the “how.” (I think you did a good job of this in the “vision” post — asking people to answer specific questions about their vision).

As long as you continually ask yourself, “What’s next? What do I want them to do? How can they go further?” and then you convey that to your audience, you’re in good shape.

Let me know how else I can support you-

PS This blog post might help you too.