The $10,000 Sazerac

Feb 16, 2024

A few weeks ago, I woke up in the morning after having a weird dream.

In my dream, I was in an upscale lounge in New Orleans. I went up to the bar and ordered a Sazerac — a cocktail made with rye whiskey, absinthe, and other ingredients. It’s a classic drink that originated in New Orleans.

The female bartender behind the bar nodded her head, smiled at me knowingly, and began the somewhat elaborate process of concocting my cocktail. 

When she was done, she handed the Sazerac to me and said… 

“That’ll be $10,000.”

In my dream, I responded with shock. “What do you mean it’s $10,000? There’s no way I’m paying that much for a cocktail. I was just in here yesterday and paid $15 for a different cocktail.” 

“What makes this Sazerac so special that it’s worth $10,000?” “Why should I pay that much more when I can get something else to drink for much cheaper?” 

And the arguments in my head went on and on from there, almost as if I were an attorney arguing a case in a court of law.

Now this was just a dream… one that was unusually vivid and memorable. But while pondering it the next morning over coffee, I realized something…

THIS is the conversation that copywriters need to have with clients!

All too often, a copywriter quotes a price to a client — but doesn’t really convince them that they’re worth it. They’re unable to close the deal as a result.

Or worse, a copywriter purposely low-balls their quote just so they can land the project or job. They know they should be charging more, but they’re afraid to do it.

In both scenarios, they don’t know how to answer the essential question:

“Why should I pay you $10,000 for a Sazerac new sales page when I can get a different cocktail copywriter for $15 $2500?” (See what I did there?)

So the less confident copywriter who’s undercharging plays it “safe” and puts out the $2500 quote, while the (over?) confident copywriter who quotes $10,000 isn’t able to provide the proof needed to persuade the client they’re worth that price.

Ironically, from what I’ve seen it’s often the more experienced and competent copywriters who end up charging LESS than they’re worth. It’s a huge pain point for them. 

Meanwhile, copywriters with little actual experience — and who spend far less time mastering their craft and focus instead on learning how to hone their sales pitches and prospecting tactics, tend to ask for MORE than they’re worth. 

That’s because there are too many so-called “gurus” out there who oversell the copywriting dream… the idea that anyone can do it and can make a million dollars while working from their laptop on the beach. 

Give me a break! (If I’m on the beach, the last thing I want to be doing is working.)

It’s time to get REAL…

Copywriters are often in the dark when it comes to knowing how much to charge for a particular project. Sure, there are surveys and pricing guides out there. 

But all too often, they can lead copywriters astray with their general categories and broad price ranges. Often the lowest end of the range is still too high if you don’t already have several projects under your belt and some good samples. 

And if you’re highly experienced, the upper ends of those ranges are a joke. You can do much better… especially if you build in win/win incentives like performance bonuses, royalties, or revenue share deals. 

Plus the work needed for different types of projects varies greatly. A supplement promo, for example, requires a great deal more time than a more straight-forward e-commerce or coaching offer, for example. 

As a result, I’ve seen copywriters quote $10,000 for something that really should only cost $2500… and vice versa.

So it’s no wonder the copywriter quoting four times more than they should gets turned down by the potential client. 

Meanwhile, the copywriter who’s way underpricing gets frustrated churning out all that work for so little pay. This also whittles away their self-worth, undermining their confidence so it’s even harder to raise their rates to where they should be.

But it’s NOT just copywriters who are suffering…

Most clients I talk to these days, whether it’s ones that I’ve worked with or friends who own their owns businesses and hire copywriters, are struggling as well. 

One client I talked to bemoaned the fact that after spending more than $100,000 on copywriters during the past year, they didn’t have a single new control promo.

Others tell me how despite paying higher fees for copywriters that were supposed to be good, they ended up deeply disappointed in the quality of copy they got. 

And it’s not just something they’re seeing with copywriters. It’s happening with other freelancers as well: graphic designers, ad buyers, consultants, etc. NOT delivering the expected quality they’re paying for. 

Their complaints? Copy that’s flat or amateurish, sounds like everything else, sloppy and riddled with obvious grammar and English mistakes, looks like it came straight out Chat-GPT or other AI tools (they can always tell), or simply not meeting deadlines like a professional. 

At the same time, one marketer confided they’d just hired a copywriter who was really good… yet they were only charging $50/hour. 

They felt guilty about paying so little… and said they kind of wanted to pull them aside and say, “Get your sh*t together!”

What’s the answer for this obvious mismatch of realities?

The truth is, there are more businesses in need of more GOOD sales copy than ever before.  

Despite all the hype about AI, they know they still need humans who understand how great copy is made, and can create it from scratch… OR who can take AI output and turn it into something that can convince people to buy.

And let’s face it… it’s harder than ever to get those sales when consumers feel they have less spending power (higher inflation and interest rates over the past few years haven’t helped) and most niches are more competitive than ever. 

So smart clients know that copywriters are vital to growing their business. They understand the value of good copy. However, they’re also often constrained as far as what they’re able to pay.

While a larger company can scale your copy to hit millions or even tens of millions in sales… making that “$10,000 Sazerac” a no-brainer… a smaller company with limited resources won’t get anywhere near the same ROI, no matter how good the copy is.

That’s why as a copywriter, you have to be able to screen and assess clients and see things FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE. I put that all in caps since as copywriters, we should know how to put ourselves in our avatar’s shoes… and identify their biggest hopes, fears, frustrations, beliefs, and so forth. 

Once you start seeing things from the client’s perspective, you’ll be in a better position to meet them where they’re at and overcome their objections.

But you’ve got to be able to deliver a good product. As I’ve written before…  

Copywriting is job #1! 

That’s why I’ve made it my mission to put together the best copywriting trainings out there, based on the tried-and-true direct response copy principles that go back to when the stakes were much higher for success than they are today.

However, I digress…  I plan to dig more into this topic in the coming weeks and months, talk to more clients to hear their perspective, and have conversations with some of the top players in our industry. 

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you, Kim. Simply reply back to this email (it’s really me here) or go to this link and tell me what you’re struggling with most as a copywriter or someone who hires copywriters.

I want to hear as much as you’re willing to share: what’s working for you, and what’s not… your biggest frustrations and obstacles… your worst nightmare stories, whether they’re involving copywriters or clients… and whatever else is on your mind when it comes to this important topic. 

When you do so, I’ve got a special invite for you (but you’ve got to be fast!) See the P.S. for details.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here sipping my $10,000 Sazerac.

Yours for smarter marketing, 


P.S. Right now while it’s on your mind please reply to this email or go to this handy-dandy link and let me know what you’re struggling with or most frustrated with when it comes to closing deals or working with clients, or hiring and working with copywriters. 

When you do so, you’ll get a free invite to join top email marketer Chris Orzechowski (who I did my popular 3Rs: Royalties, Retainers, and Recurring Revenue course with a while back) for an uncensored, no-holds-barred discussion. This live call is happening Tuesday, February 20th at 2pm Eastern.

We’ll be diving in deeper to this big problem facing our industry: how copywriters can charge their worth — and feel confident they’re charging the right price for the value they bring… and how clients can find better copywriters who won’t leave them feeling disappointed or that they wasted their money. 

Plus we’ll talk about other less-known ways copywriters and clients can work together to achieve their goals in these ever-changing times. It’s going to be a fascinating discussion. And if you’re there, you’ll get the chance to ask questions and pick our brains, too.

Get your free invite to this live call now by replying to this email and letting it rip… or fill out the form here (you’ll need to provide your name and best email to get the invite! But if you want to stay anonymous, that’s cool, too…you won’t get an invite though). Just be sure to act no later than noon Eastern time this Tuesday.

P.P.S. Chris and I won’t be selling anything at this call. It’s a discussion we were going to do anyway.

But since I know it’s going to be super-valuable, I thought I’d give you the chance to be a fly on the wall… or better yet, ask whatever burning questions are on your mind. 

I simply ask that you reply to this email or fill out the brief form here. And if you can’t be there in person, I’ll make sure you get access to the recordings.

Whatever you do, Kim, please make sure you get YOUR voice heard!