Things have changed—a lot—since I first took the leap into freelance copywriting more than 25 years ago.
Some for the better, some for the worse.
But here’s an undeniable fact… there are more copywriters now than ever before.
And now, with the emergence of ever-smarter AI tools, you have to think about how to survive and thrive as the role of “copywriter” evolves and changes.
But first, let’s talk about all that competition.
When I first started freelance copywriting, many of the top direct marketing companies were starving for good copywriters. It wasn’t that easy to break in, just as it’s not easy now.
But there wasn’t as much competition… and there were plenty of opportunities.
Once you established yourself as a GOOD copywriter (again, no easy feat when you were going up against the likes of the late Jim Rutz or the now-retired Arthur Johnson), you could easily collect hefty advances and book your calendar out a year or longer. And some of us still do that today.
You could also charge a lot more for your copy than many companies are willing to pay today to “unproven” copywriters (I say “unproven” because even if you have a few controls under your belt, they still may consider you unproven for THEM. I had this very situation happen to me once even after I’d beaten Rutz and Parris Lampropoulus, among others.)
And you’re not just going up against a slew of competitors, you’re facing other challenges as well.
Some of the big direct response companies have built up their own in-house copywriting teams and no longer work with freelancers.
Others hire virtual teams that do unlimited work on retainer, versus project-by-project work.
Meanwhile, more and more people are lured each day into the idea of becoming a freelance copywriter by training programs that paint the picture of a care-free laptop life anyone can achieve without hard work (I’m trying not to puke as I write that).
Or the insane idea that, by simply dropping in a few pre-written AI prompts, you can suddenly write world-class copy–without even having mastered the fundamentals.
Even before Chat-GPT, hordes of other freelance copywriters were vying for the same (albeit growing number of) clients. So when you apply basic “Economics 101”, you have increased supply driving down prices.
Now throw in the fact that some companies are trying to do more with Chat-GPT and less with copywriters… with mixed results… and there’s even more of a squeeze on the opportunities for copywriters and what clients are willing to pay.
That means unless you’re really, really good, you may have a hard time getting paid what you might have 10 years ago. Yes, you read that right: despite the price of everything else going up, an increasing number of clients expect to pay less.
(Don’t get me started on the foolishness of that. Many of those same clients who don’t value copy or think AI can replace a good copywriter will learn the painful lessons that result sooner or later.)
How to stop struggling and start prospering like a copy “badass”
Now while I might be making it sound like being a freelance copywriter is harder than ever today, there are lots of things that are better than 10 or 20 years ago.
There are more companies needing copy than ever more… and much fewer barriers to selling your own products.
And no matter what you’re selling or where, everything is based on WORDS that persuade and sell. Even videos need good copy for scripting.
The sheer number of clients out there competing for good copywriters dwarfs the number from a few decades ago. So why the disconnect? Why are so many copywriters struggling and feeling like the freelance dream isn’t working for them?
Here’s a thought: maybe you’re getting lost in the crowd. You need to have a way to stand out. And the best way to stand out is getting really good at writing copy.
That’s why I urge you to dedicate yourself not to “copy and pasting” the latest AI prompts… or using formulas or pre-written “outlines” to draft your sales copy.
What you need to dedicate yourself to doing is getting “dangerously good” at writing copy. And by that I mean truly understanding the process and strategy behind writing effective sales copy.
Because whether or not you use AI tools for writing copy, you have to know what constitutes good copy… how it’s constructed to be most effective… and how to evaluate, tweak, improve, and strengthen whatever copy you create.
Reading classic books, like Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins — or, for a deeper and more complex dive, Breakthrough Advertising by Gene Schwartz, can give you insights that are just as powerfully applied to writing modern-day copy.
But the most important thing you can do is to give yourself the strongest foundation possible for mastering the art of writing persuasive, effective copy… and acting as the “conductor” to get the maximum leverage out of AI tools.
That’s what I’ve strived to do in each of my best-in-class copywriting trainings: my Get Dangerously Good Copywriting System… Research Beast… and Million-Dollar Controls. You can learn more about these trainings here.
Develop the mastery you need to write and “conduct” great copy
These trainings go far beyond the “basics” (though you can right jump in if you’re a beginner who’s at least familiar with the fundamentals). They include the A-list-level tactics and strategies I’ve used successfully to write dozens of multi-million-dollar controls and rack up an estimated billion dollars in sales for top companies.
Ask anyone who’s gone through these trainings… and you’ll find that while I give you summaries, checklists, playbooks, cheat sheets, and other tools that are useful and valuable…
…it’s when you listen to me on the recordings teaching you, as if we’re having a one-on-one mentoring session, that so much of my knowledge and dare we say “secrets” are revealed.
It’s not the kind of knowledge other top copywriters openly share, nor that you’ll likely find in any other copywriting trainings.
So if you want to level up your copywriting know-how dramatically so you can thrive in the new AI copywriting reality, keep an eye on your inbox starting this Monday.
My birthday’s this coming Tuesday the 11th, so I hope you’ll enjoy celebrating with me whether you decide it’s time to snap up one of my trainings or not.
“Oh thank heaven for 7-11!”
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. Oops, almost forgot… in case you missed it, my friend and former mentee Sam Woods put out a special issue of his “Bionic Marketing” e-letter… and yours truly was one of the copywriters featured.
I shared how I recently used Chat-GPT as an “assistant” in crafting some headlines for a new control promo I wrote a few months ago. I was surprised to get a few gems that, with some tweaks, I was able to actually use!
Again, it all comes down to understanding what makes for a good headline and having a solid understanding of the prospect and market. Once you know these things, you can (and should) craft and customize your own prompts… and then strengthen whatever AI output you get from there.
It’s a good read overall–and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the AI tools the other copywriters shared. Check it out here, and if you aren’t a subscriber yet (it costs $0), I highly recommend you become one.