Why everyone thinks they can write copy

Aug 18, 2021

Issue #136—August 17, 2021
If you ever wanted to look for a J-O-B, now is one of the best times in years.

According to the latest reports, there are more than 10 million job openings in the U.S., more than ever before…about 1 million more than there are people looking for them.

But here’s something interesting: when asked what people were looking for in their next job, more than 50% said schedule/location flexibility was their #1 priority…compared to just 38% saying higher pay.

It’s one reason why freelance copywriting is attracting more people than ever before. Not to mention more people launching their own offers or businesses, since the barriers to entry are fewer and the cost of doing so relatively cheap.

Even my college-educated, young adult children are now looking at freelancing as a better path to the lifestyles they want versus traditional entry-level jobs.

But there’s another reason why so many people have been deciding to become copywriters: it’s been “sold” as something anyone can do.

“Write a simple letter and make a million dollars.” Yeah, right!

(Okay, I admit, there are some of us who’ve done it…but believe me, it wasn’t simple!)

To the untrained eye, advertising copy looks simple. Good copy generally consists of simpler words, arranged in sentences and paragraphs that read at no more than a 5th to 8th grade level.

Heck, anyone can write it, right?

Obviously as a Copy Insider, you know that’s not true. Anyone who’s had to roll up their sleeves and write copy–especially a lengthy sales page or VSL–knows there’s a ton of blood, sweat, tears, and hair-pulling that goes into it.

There’s the days of intense research…the hours of copy “thinking” and brainstorming……all followed by, as Ernest Hemingway put it

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

Then, as any copywriter worth their salt knows, once you produce that sh*tty first draft, you spend hours or days going over it with a fine-toothed comb…reworking and editing it until it really can’t be perfected, at least in that moment, any further.

Yet there are many people deciding to call themselves “copywriters” who haven’t studied or mastered the basics…who turn in copy that’s riddled with typos, incomplete sentences, or grammar mistakes…and expect to be able to charge clients good money to do so.

It’s no wonder so many business owners and marketers feel “burned”…are leery of paying “too much” to copywriters…and end up deciding and thinking they can write their copy better themselves.

And while in some cases that may be true, it usually isn’t. And even if it is true, is that the best use of the business owner’s or marketer’s time?

I remember back in the 90s when I was working with Jay Abraham on his newsletter for Phillips Publishing, another big business guru by the name of Michael Gerber wrote a best-selling book called “The E-Myth”.

And the gist of his message to entrepreneurs at the time was this: You should be working ON your business instead of IN it.

Writing your own copy is working IN it. And it generally doesn’t produce as good of results as if you hired an experienced, professional copywriter.

It doesn’t allow you to see things from a different (perhaps more accurate) view. Even more importantly, it takes your time and focus away from bigger-picture opportunities and business improvements that can pay off far more for your time.

But here’s one of the issues I’ve seen time and again. Many clients or business owners who don’t value what good copy can do for them tend to go “cheap” when hiring copywriters (or, as mentioned earlier, think they can write it themselves).

Yet the money they “save” ends up costing them far more in terms of launches that bomb or get less-than-stellar results. It can result in “me, too” copy that was simply swiped from other successful promos that, not surprisingly, ends up sounding like everything else and failing to grab eyeballs.

The other issue I’ve seen are companies or clients who don’t see the value of paying royalties on long-form copy or creating similar types of arrangements where the copywriter is invested in the promotion’s success over the long-term.

When you’ve created these kinds of partnership arrangements, when that first attempt fails or produces lackluster results, an invested copywriter will help you create new headlines/leads, offer tests, new emails or ads, or other tweaks to help you generate better results and make it successful.

It’s so much better to explore, if not exhaust, these possibilities with a new promo or launch, rather than simply walk away and deem it a failure…get by with so-so conversions and revenue that make it difficult to scale…or start all over from scratch by ponying up for a whole new promo written by a different copywriter (unless the one you originally worked with truly wasn’t delivering).

I have multiple examples of promos I wrote the first time earlier in my career that either failed to beat the control or were basically a “tie”.

But because I was an invested copywriter (meaning I would earn royalties if I was able to produce a control) AND because I had smart, clear-eyed clients who realized that none of us can bat 100% and always get it right on the first time, I was given–and took advantage of–a second chance.

Those second chances resulted in huge wins like the Boardroom promo I wrote that beat Parris Lampropoulus’ “unbeatable” 7-year control (and made me the first female copywriter to get a Boardroom control)…a 10-year control for a joint supplement that generated millions in sales…and a long-running control for a financial newsletter that beat Jim Rutz’s control not just once, but twice!

So to sum up here…

1) Not everyone can write copy, at least naturally or instinctively. It takes a strong desire, work ethic, and discipline to develop strong copy chops.

2) Good copy is not rushed or turned around on a dime. It requires having the time and “copy thinking” to put into it… as well as time to do the subsequent editing, polishing, and perfecting that’s needed.

3) If you run a business and are relying on a direct response ad or promo to act as your primary “sales force”, make sure you are valuing the importance of copy. This is one area where you don’t want to cut corners. Better to save money elsewhere in your business where it’s truly an expense, not a potential revenue generator.

4) If you are a business owner and are writing your own copy yourself…or making whatever copywriter you hire think you can do it better than they can (and are thus demoralizing or micro-managing their efforts, thus hindering their ability or motivation to deliver good copy)…maybe it’s time to step back and focus your efforts to working ON your business.

5) If you’re not creating win-win partnerships with your copywriters that make them invested in your promo’s success, look for ways to do so. Hire copywriters who are experienced with doing these kinds of deals, or give copywriters who you’ve worked well with in the past and who have produced good results the opportunity to work with you on a royalty or revenue share basis.

And if you’re looking for an “easy” way to work from home and make lots of money, know that copywriting requires a unique combination of innate talent combined with insatiable curiosity, the drive to always keep improving, and the discipline to deliver only the best, highest-quality work you can produce.

If you’ve got that ideal combination going for you, it can be make for a fantastic living and lifestyle. I’m proof of that myself, and am grateful I made the decision more than two decades ago to go freelance.

And it’s one reason why I’m finding it so gratifying to share my knowledge with others who are on (or starting) the same journey and helping them be more successful.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if anything I wrote about in today’s issue resonates. You’ll find an excerpt of today’s issue when you click the button below.

I’d love for you to like/love my post…or add a comment or question (I’ll reply back). By doing so, you’ll help me share my tips and insights with more folks.

Check out Kim’s post and leave a comment!