You need this but don’t get enough of it

Oct 24, 2022

The past month of so I’ve been sending you some of my most popular past issues. That’s because I was on a much-needed break that included a 3-week vacation.

It was a fairly active but well-paced trip, starting with a few cold, rainy days in Munich for Oktoberfest (it was fun, but not as exciting as the first time my husband and I attended in 2019).

Then we were off to warm, sunny South Italy for two and a half weeks to explore Puglia, Naples, and the Sorrentine/Amalfi coasts… places we’ve never been.

I’ve gradually gotten back into the work “mode” and caught up on emails. But one email that landed in my inbox this past Friday grabbed my attention. And it’s a lesson I’ve learned and re-learned in my more than two decades as a freelancer.

It was an email from the Daily Stoic, talking about the importance of leisure.

(Yep, that’s what I was talking about in my subject line. I’m not sure what else you may have been thinking… )

Many of us don’t give ourselves the “luxury” of leisure time. Yet it’s essential to take breaks and allow your mind (and body) to rest now and then.

It’s what keeps you from experiencing burnout… lets you come up with fresh new ideas… gives you a fresh perspective to see problems and challenges differently… and let’s face it, it makes life more enjoyable.

In the Daily Stoic email I received (if you’re interested, you can sign up here), it talked about how we will readily take risks with uncertain payoffs in our career (i.e., that new client launch with an unproven product, or signing on for an exclusive retainer deal)…

But when it comes to risking even one minute of our time for leisure, we avoid it. We worry our work will suffer if we step away from it, or feel guilty for being idle.

There can also be that “scarcity” mindset that if you’re not always working, suddenly all of your work will dry up and you’ll never get clients again.

But with that kind of thinking, we risk actually making our performance far worse…

We can get stuck in the “same old, same old” and not seeing new opportunities…

And we can actually start to hate whatever initially turned us on about copywriting or running a business or whatever it is that jazzed you up enough to make it your career.

Side note: a perfect example of this was a post I responded to in a copywriting Facebook group where a copywriter (who once posted a year or two ago how much he LOOOOOVED copywriting, and then later boasted he thought he was “the best out there”) vented about how terrible and soul-sucking it was to be a copywriter and how much he hated writing copy.

Obviously this is either a poor career fit or, more likely, this dude needs to give himself some well-earned leisure!

It’s also important to make your leisure truly work-free and relaxing. It’s why whenever I go on vacation, I rarely touch my laptop or do a lick of work.

But it doesn’t have to be a 3-week vacation that restores you.

There’s the practice of doing regular self-care (meditation, exercise, yoga)… getting enough sleep… setting boundaries for your work day and hours… a weekend blocked off for no work, just fun… or even just an occasional day off for no good reason other than you need a break.

I realize how hard this can be if you’re a) struggling to make ends meet, b) have young children or other care-taker responsibilities, or c) all of the above or other challenges.

However, you must “sharpen the saw” regularly. (I’m referring to the 7th habit that Stephen Covey talked about in his book, 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People).

Otherwise, you actually make everything: your performance, your results, and yes–even your earnings, far worse.

One place to start: take “mandatory” leisure every hour on the hour. It could be a five-minute break to get a fresh glass of water… or a walk out in the woods with the dog… or heck, even a shower (you know you need one!)

The great Gene Schwartz famously talked about how he would set a timer for 33 minutes and 33 seconds and then force himself to work without interruption, even if it meant staring at a blank page.

He’d then make himself take at least 5 minutes of “mandatory” leisure… which involved stepping away from his desk to do something else. Anything. Shave. Unload the dishwasher. Fold clothes. Do push-ups.

During this mandatory leisure time is when he’d get some of his best ideas. That’s because creativity is really “connectivity”… all these connections we aren’t able to consciously make need space to come together on their own in our subconscious.

Build more leisure time into your life, and you may be amazed at how much more productive you are, how much better your copy and sales results get, and most importantly, how much happier you are doing this line of work.

So take that vacation… say “no” to working on weekends… and regularly take “mandatory” leisure breaks during your work days. And honestly, if none of that works, take a deeper look at what’s holding you back from loving what you do.

On a related topic that I referred to briefly earlier, you need to set client boundaries.

So much misery I’ve seen in copywriters I’ve mentored is when they say “yes” to doing something for a client that probably shouldn’t have, or make common boundary-setting mistakes.

While I was away on vacation, one of my mentees was asked by a potential new client to write a new lead for an existing promo for free… and get paid for it if they decided to use it.

More and more, companies feel they can get away with asking for free work without paying for it… and have copywriters “try out” for the chance to work with them.

Now, there are some cases where doing a sample assignment is a reasonable request. But a company that actually respects what copywriters DO will always pay you something for the time required to do so.

On rare occasion it may make sense to do a SHORT “spec” assignment, but the parameters of how and when you get paid should be clearly spelled out.

And I’d only do if the parties are known to you and you know it’s going to be considered (vs languishing in an inbox, ignored for eternity. It’s one of the main reasons I’m anti-“spec”, since the client has NO stake in it and there’s no guarantee they’ll even look at it.)

Many of these potential clients aren’t asking brand-new, wet-behind-the-ears copywriters to work for “free” for the chance to get a project from them. They’re asking seasoned, well-trained copywriters who already have samples to do this.

A hard “no” in my book!

As it turned out, my mentee countered with a proposal to do a test lead for a very reasonable upfront payment plus a performance bonus if it beat the control, but the company passed. She feels like she dodged a bullet… but even better, got another plum opportunity that came along the next day that she now had time for.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to be sharing with you what I think is the BEST training out there for negotiating profitable “win/win” arrangements with clients.

Whether your goal is landing retainers that let you bring in rock-steady income month after month… negotiating royalty deals that let you earn passive income while you’re off traveling or doing other things… or simply position yourself in the best way to land high-quality clients and close higher-paying arrangements…

You’re going to want to do a deep-dive into this training I put together with top e-commerce and email expert Chris Orzechowski a few years ago, and that’s already helped so many copywriters boost their earnings and client rosters.

So keep an eye out for it!

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. If you already have our 3Rs program and you want to still get the promotional emails I send out for it, reply back to this email and let me know.

I’ve got a bunch of stories from my travels to Italy I’ll be using for inspiration in the emails I’ll be sending out about this program. All will have some kind of lesson or takeaway… and I think you’ll find them entertaining.

Hopefully one of the reasons you’re here as a Copy Insider isn’t just to get my “value” emails, but also see how I write copy to promote my various programs or others I believe in. If not, you’re missing out on some great lessons!

For that reason (and others, including it requires too much time on my end), I won’t be offering an opt-out option for this upcoming campaign. I’ll be sending at least a couple emails each day for the next few days, so consider it part of your copywriting “education”.

And if you don’t, there’s that “unsubscribe” link below you can click and say “arriverderci”, which means no more “value” emails for you, either.

P.P.S. Having someone who’s truly your mentor (not just where you’re one of dozens in a crowd) can be game-changing… not just when it comes to seriously leveling-up your copy, but when it comes to running a much more profitable freelance business and becoming “known” in the industry.

It’s why I keep my mentoring group SMALL and ensure everyone gets personal attention, even after the program is officially “over”. If you want to be a part of my 2023 Fast Track to A-List group, click here and take the next step by getting on the wait list. I’m starting to fill the limited number of spots available, and the “early bird” savings I’m offering expire in little over one month.