It can feel like successful copywriters appear overnight, with social media having us believe people go from zero to hero in the blink of an eye.
This mirage can – unfortunately – beat down the positive ambition in even the most optimistic of people. The reality for most people is a more complex journey of learning the craft and failing forwards toward success.
Mark Herdt graduated earlier this year from my Fast Track to A-List class of ‘22. A quiet but studious presence, his tenacity and self-discipline have served him well on his copywriting journey.
Here’s his story about how he’s made time to pursue his ambitions, the steps he’s taken and people he’s learned from along the way, and what’s allowed him to stay the course and keep making progress towards his goals…
My road to discovery started several years after studying interior architecture at college when I was working full-time in interior design. My ambitions of becoming a business owner and teen dreams of having the freedom I wanted to work whenever I wanted re-surfaced.
I ruled out running my own brick-n-mortar design firm and wanted to find something different. Marketing had interested me since the dawn of the internet – it had started to really explode during my college years and I wanted to jump on the bandwagon.
This led to home business adventures in Network Marketing, Internet Marketing and e-commerce selling on eBay and Amazon.
It was during my Network Marketing gig I discovered Dan Kennedy and his No BS Direct Marketing book.
The book created excitement in me, but at the time I had no clue how to transition the principles to the internet. I tossed the book aside.
After several years of dabbling in and out of online adventures, the word “copywriting” kept popping up. I discovered people were making a good living writing sales letters.
Having recognized the value in Dan Kennedy’s resources, my next purchase from him was two binders of sales letters from dozens of now-recognizable A-level copywriters.
I followed that with a copy course from the late Scott Haines. Scott’s direction was simple: “Go through the course and hand-write out the sales letters”. Which I did – every single day – for months. I can’t pretend I understood the purpose behind Scott’s recommended madness, but I did it.
Copying those sales letters taught me discipline, but I needed more direction.
By the time I came across the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI), I had spent years working evenings and weekends, jumping from one thing to the next, and my wife was questioning whether “this new copywriting thing” was “actually going to lead to something.”
AWAI gave me the ins-and-outs of a sales letter I was after, but after months I still struggled to write really good copy. I wanted to emulate the great copy I’d seen in those binders from Kennedy.
I needed hands-on guidance. Someone who could review my copy and give me real-time feedback so I could learn how to make my copy better.
I found a hands-on training program and it sounded like it was the solution that I was after. Fantastic! Only it wasn’t. At all.
Doubt had shown its ugly face throughout my countless years of trial and error. But, at this point – in the fall of 2021 – it felt like it was going to completely consume me. I was ready to give up.
The Turning Point
The following month, in November of 2021, I received an email. I almost deleted it immediately, but something told me not to. Inside this email was an introduction to Kim and her mentorship program.
I dug into who she was and what her program was about. This was exactly what I’d been looking for. It was what I needed. I signed up immediately.
When starting the program a month later, I intended to write for the health and wellness market.
Specifically supplements (I advocate taking supplements for health benefits and to avoid side effects from over-the-counter drugs).
But after a few group video calls, discussions about financial copywriting sparked my curiosity.
I enjoy investing, subscribe to financial newsletters, read the sales promotions that bombard my inbox, and tune into interviews Daniela Cambone does over at Stansberry Research.
I’d found my natural stomping ground. My ideal niche. It became a “no-brainer”.
A Great Opportunity
Through Kim’s mentoring, I gained confidence I most likely would have never had. It enabled me to attend a financial copywriting event co-hosted by the famous financial publisher, Agora.
The entry fee to attend wasn’t money. Instead, attendees had to complete an online questionnaire and generate a small piece of copy based on specific criteria. The copy was reviewed to check whether you were a good fit. Thankfully, I was.
Copy chiefs from divisions of Agora like Banyan Hill, The Oxford Club, and Money Map Press were there. Two full days of sessions covered principles of writing financial copy, how to best land a job with a financial publisher, and copy critiques.
Agora’s main mission for this event was to seek out new writers. The financial publishing world of copy is desperate for new talent. I used my newfound confidence to talk to everyone from Agora, asked them as many questions as I could think of, and – crucially – got their contact information.
Less than two months later, another Agora financial copywriting opportunity became available. The spec assignment was to write an advertorial leading to a sales promo they were currently running. If they liked your copy, and the promo was still running, they would test your advertorial.
I was pumped up and got started right away.
If you’re not familiar, an advertorial is a pre-sales page. It comes after those “sponsored ad” headlines.
It’s not designed to sell but to simply warm up cold traffic. A subtle way to approach a skeptical audience and to get a reader’s mind ready to read a sales page.
I discovered they’re just like writing a sales letter. Why? Because an advertorial has several of the same key elements that a sales letter has. But they’re much shorter to write.
It’s not a monumental task for a “newbie” copywriter to write one, unlike a sales letter… which can take 2-3 months, even for a seasoned financial copywriter! And you can get them critiqued faster as well.
Other advantages of writing advertorials (even as a freelance copywriter) are:
…You can measure effectiveness via the click-through rate to the sales page (unlike a blog post or article).
…You can demand a higher fee because it’s an essential part of a sales funnel.
…And publishers need lots of them! Typically, a financial publisher likes to have at least four advertorials ready to test with the sales letter.
This advertorial advice can – and should – be applied to other markets as well (which means more writing gigs and bigger fees for freelance copywriters).
As an ad leads a reader to an advertorial, you want to keep in mind that the ad, the advertorial, and the sales letter must all be congruent to be effective.
There must be no disconnect between any three of these copy components in the marketing funnel. Otherwise, you will lose your reader and the potential sale.
My main copywriting takeaways from 2022:
1) If you want to really elevate your copywriting skills, get constructive feedback on your copy. This is, by far, the fastest way you’re going to grow your skills. Kim can provide it to you in spades.
2) The fastest way to become a great financial writer (and get hired!), is to learn to write good advertorials. Not only are they a must for every sales promo, but they’re also a good way to understand how a financial promo is written and structured.
3) When an opportunity becomes available (like the Agora event), jump on it! I discovered you can’t get anywhere by sitting out on the sidelines.
4) Commit to a disciplined writing and study habit. I now write for 45 minutes every morning before getting ready for work (I rise at 3:50am). The morning works best for me because my mind is fresh and not drained from a long day. Plus, there are no distractions, it is completely silent.
Consistency makes all the difference. Consistency in my daily routines gets me where I want to go, boosted by my excitement and always wanting to learn.
One last thing before I go, I wanted to happily share with you that I DID submit my advertorial to Agora.
And they liked it so much, they’ve now got it in the queue waiting to test it (crossing my fingers).
Good luck on your journey!
I wanted to share Mark’s inspiring story with you because I know (and it’s been confirmed so far by the latest survey results that are coming in) that many of you are just starting out in copywriting and consider yourselves “newbies”… or are struggling to bring in as much income from copywriting as you’d like.
And even if you are bringing in solid earnings, you may feel you’re still not charging enough for the value you deliver…or you wrestle with “imposter syndrome” and don’t feel confident enough to ask for what you want from clients.
Either way, the constant noise of social media and various groups leaves you constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re not keeping up.
So here’s the truth: It’s never an easy, straight path to the top. Or even halfway to the top. NEVER.
The journey you take requires constant focus and dedication to improving and getting better… and working on your mindset as well. You have to set realistic expectations, and seize the opportunities that come along.
Most importantly, you must have a consistently-applied work ethic and plan to get where you want to go.
Mark’s journey is the epitome of that… and I expect to see big things from him in the coming years. (Note: if anyone is looking for a smart, hard-working, and extremely well-trained up-and-coming financial copywriter, reply back to this email and I’ll make an introduction.)
I hope you got some ideas of how you can shape your own path and destiny.
In other news, it’s my dog Pearl’s 14th birthday today. In “dog years” she’s 98! She’s celebrating by relaxing on the couch in the sun, taking a long walk, and enjoying a few bites of bacon.
May your weekend include plenty of the same!
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. Thank you so much to those who have already completed the Copy Insiders survey. I’d love to hear from more of you so I can deliver the content and resources you value most in these emails.
Click here to spend a few minutes sharing your thoughts. Not only can you consider it your good deed for the day (a step closer to Santa’s “nice” list…), but it’s also a nifty procrastination tool if you’re hankering for an excuse on a Friday!
P.P.S. Check out the Copy Insiders shirt Mark’s wearing below. Why not gift one to yourself and find one waiting for you under the tree on Christmas? Find your size and cut here (available in men’s/unisex and women’s cuts!) Bonus: you can save 15% through Sunday!