Why We Blow Stuff Up On The 4th Of July (redux)

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Saturday, 1:35pm
Reno, NV
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high…” (Grateful Dead, “US Blues”)

Howdy,

As a kid, July Fourth meant fireworks, and lots of them.

We’d start salivating around mid-June, shaking like 10-year-old junkies until Pop finally drove us to the Red Devil stand in Fontana, where’d we stock up on the most gruesome display of flame, gunpowder and amateur rocketry possible.

Oh, the joys of ladyfingers going off under Aunt Ruth’s chair… of nearly burning down the garage when a bottle rocket zoomed sideways… of thrilling Roman candles singeing the shrubbery… of snakes, pinwheels, sparklers and fountains frothy with fire in the backyard battlefield…

It was freakin’ glorious, is what it was.

But I never made the connection to what, exactly, we were celebrating.

Later in life, I got into history, and I finally understood why (for example) my Mexican and European pals rolled their eyes at my stories of celebrating the Fourth by setting fields on fire with M80-loaded Silver Salutes, or blowing up toilets in the boy’s room with cherry bombs (as custom demanded).

Americans are a raucous bunch, that’s for sure. We take a lot for granted, we’re still fighting the Civil War, much of our politics is incoherent and illogical, and we can be pretty infuriatingly provincial.

Plus, we’re no longer world leaders in the stuff we used to be rockstars at, like education, social mobility, inventions, progress, medicine… and we’re in denial about much of it.

However, even acknowledging all of these glaring faults hasn’t made me as cynical as some of my hipster pals. As I’ve said many times, no political party would ever allow me to be a member, and you’ll never figure out how I vote or what my views are on the topics the news media obsesses about.

This causes some problems in social situations when colleagues just assume I agree with them on the major issues. And I usually don’t agree at all. I’m not a total cynic, but I find fault with almost every opinion I hear. I totally understand how a lot of folks do become snarling partisans, enraged at their polar opposites on all issues, bereft of hope for the future.

I just learned to loathe cynicism itself long ago. Worthless attitude, doesn’t help anything, doesn’t provide solutions, doesn’t make an iota of difference in what goes on. At best, the cynic may toss off an actual witticism…

… but mostly, they’re just too cool to be bothered beyond expressing droll boredom and a vague superiority at being “above the fray”.

Well, fuck ‘em. The social/political/world-affairs cynic is a close cousin of the dude who’s never met a payroll, yet feels completely qualified to deliver speeches on how everyone else’s business should be run.

And I learned to shut that guy out very early in my career. My first question, whenever someone was bashing an entrepreneur’s efforts, used to be “well, what would you do in his situation?”

Which, of course, produced exasperation that someone of such intelligence and knowledge as themselves should be required to come up with solutions.

The nerve, asking him to dirty himself with real-world considerations.

Nowadays, I prefer to just let the conversation die from non-involvement. No matter what the cynic is talking about, it’s the same game every time – either “they” (the mysterious folks apparently running everything) need to fix things, or the world just needs to stop bothering Mr. Cynic with its problems if no one’s gonna take his advice.

Yawn.

Yeah, you’re the guy I’m going to when problems need fixing. Those platitudes, snooty attitudes and arrogant dismissals of detail work oughta solve everything fast.

Oops, I let some sarcasm slip there. Sorry.

Anyway, I bring up my detestation of cynicism because it often rears its ugly head right about the Fourth of July, when guys like me start ruminating on what’s good about this country.

Yes, I know The Man is getting better at keeping us down. I know we’re being groomed for digital slavery by evil geniuses who want to control the universe. And I know it’s hopeless to fight city hall (let alone the gazillionaires currently corrupting every corner of the government with buckets of moolah).

But I’m an amateur historian. And I can scoff at the cynics because even a casual glance at the ride we’ve taken as a country so far lays bare a single fact: We’ve always been at each other’s throats… the machinery of government has always clogged up at some point with cronyism and stupidity and corruption… and there is no single “truth” about living in the modern world.

Folks, we’re making it up as we go. If you’ve been living your life believing there’s some grand plan guiding things beyond the next election cycle, well, good for you. I hope that belief gives you comfort, but you’re delusional.

What’s kept the country going, so far, has been the incredible creativity of a minority of people who either get sucked into positions of authority, or who throw themselves into the fight (and suffer the consequences) because they simply cannot ignore the craziness anymore.

Our Constitution, cobbled together by men who did their best to force-feed the breakthroughs of The Enlightenment into government, is part road-map, part mysterious Oracle (written in language so open to interpretation that we haven’t agreed on it in two centuries years of trying), part sobering reminder of how imperfect our origins are.

Hey, it was one of the first governing documents of its kind, so cut it a little slack. Your bitchin’ new iMac is a direct descendant of that first homemade Apple computer (with no monitor and very limited utility) in Wozniack’s garage, you know. Your nice dependable car with the sealed engine bloomed from the unreliable Model A. The first of anything is almost always a fragile, error-riddled Beta version that gets a few steps forward and then collapses.

Which is why we didn’t get our modern version of the Constitution until after we tossed the mortally-flawed Articles of Confederation, and added a whole bunch of Amendments to address other serious problems that kept popping up.

I don’t have any easy answers to the problems plaguing us, and you don’t either. The battles we fight have always been with us, and forever will remain with us. Right vs. left, ignorant vs. arrogant, moralist vs. libertine, religious vs. secularist… you’re not gonna solve the disconnects and partisanship with laws.

What resiliency we’ve enjoyed has been because of the elasticity of the governing document. It has bent near-to-breaking many times, but keeps snapping back.

Which brings me to one thing I insist on celebrating in our Constitution over all other elements – the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Like much of the writing in our governing document, it’s vague and easily interpreted in silly ways.

However, that key detail about freedom of speech is the grease in the engine of democracy. Most of our ancestors, thoughout history, had no such luxury. A few short generations ago, I easily could have been shot just for writing what I do on this blog. Most ruling classes, once they get into power, seek to shut down dissent (and anyone else they don’t like for general purposes). It’s hard to rule large growling groups of humans, and you can get very irritable when critics are always sniping at your heels.

So, despite all the cynical things you can say about this joint, I keep coming back to that fragile, constantly-in-need-of-nurturing First Amendment…

… which, if any of my ancestors throughout history could have seen, would have taken their breath away.

We take it for granted that we can speak our minds here… and my network of writerly pals feel mostly immune from the anxieties our colleagues in other times have suffered (and still suffer in many parts of the world).

It’s hard to imagine how I’d get through my day if I had to bite my tongue, and keep all this blather in my brain a fearful secret, 1984-style.

Americans are a contentious bunch. We may yet screw things up and lose it all… but it’s not a foolish bet, either, to believe we can also re-establish our foothold in this brave new world and keep the noble experiment going…

… as long as writers and other ass-kickers are free to persuade, cajole, cast shame and float new ideas without being tossed in the hoosegow.

And so, today, I tip my hat to the flag and Ms Liberty, and shed a modest tear for the freedom I’ve been given to be my anti-authoritarian, irreverent, rebellious bad self.

Here’s to ya, old girl. My love is genuine and forever, no matter how much she pisses me off at times.

And to the cynics: Either put up, or shut up. There’s work to be done, and your troll-like carping from the sidelines has long been like the annoying yapping of lap dogs. Lay out your plan for what to do differently. Don’t just gripe.

Okay, I feel better now. Thanks.

Hope you have a great holiday weekend. Don’t get sunburned, don’t get too wasted, and don’t burn down the garage. And for cryin’ out loud, don’t get sucked into another futile political argument with that asshole brother-in-law of yours…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Love to hear your comments on how you deal with cynics, and how you view this opportunity to live in a world where you can spout off to The Man without (for now, at least) risking your neck.

We live in interesting times, my friend.

Congratulations… Now, Stop Being A Wuss

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Monday, 7:55pm
Reno, NV
But it’s all right… in fact it’s a gas…” (The Stones, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash“)

Howdy…

It’s time for another orgy of graduation rites across the land…

… and, in honor of it all, I am re-posting my now globally-notorious big damn rant on the subject. This was one of the more popular posts I’ve written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

So, without further ado… here’s the fourth redux of that post:

Nobody’s ever asked me to give the commencement speech for a graduating class.

That’s probably a good thing. I’m pretty pissed off at the education system these days, and I might cause a small riot with the rant I’d surely deliver.

See, I have a university “education”. A BA in psychology. (The BA stands for, I believe, “bullshit amassed”.) I earned it several decades ago…

… and while I had a good time in college (height of the sex revolution, you know, with a soundtrack that is now called “classic rock”), made some lifelong friends, and got a good look at higher learning from the inside…

… that degree provided zilch preparation for the real world. Didn’t beef me up for any job, didn’t give me insight to how things worked, didn’t do squat for me as an adult.

I waltzed off-campus and straight into the teeth of the worst recession since the Great Depression (offering us Nixon’s wage-freeze, record unemployment, an oil embargo, and near-total economic turmoil)…

… so, hey, I should have a little empathy for today’s grads, right?

Naw.

While today’s graduates are facing similar grim economic times, there’s been a significant change in the concept behind a college education. Somehow, over the years, a bizarre mantra has taken hold in kids minds: “Get a degree, and it’s a ticket to the Good Life.”

A job is expected to be offered to you before the ink is dry on your diploma.

And it really, really matters WHICH school you get that diploma from.

You know what I say?

Bullshit. Okay, maybe if you go to Yale or Harvard, you can make the connections on Wall Street and in Washington to get your game on. Maybe. (More likely, those connections are already available, if you’re gonna get ‘em, through family bloodlines… and the Ivy’s are just playing up their famous track records in a classic sleight-of-hand.)

Put aside the advancement opportunities offered to spawn of the oligarchy, though… and the realities of life-outside-of-academia do not jive at all with the propaganda doled out by the university systems.

Many of the richest guys I know are drop-outs. Some are HIGH SCHOOL drop-outs. The few friends who did go to the kind of school whose name causes eyebrows to rise…

… are ALL working far outside their major. To the point that nothing they learned has proven to be even remotely useful to their adult life. (Unless they stumble upon another over-educated dweeb at a cocktail party and get into a bare-knuckle Trivial Pursuit marathon.)

Too many people get all confused and bewildered about “education” as opposed to “going to college”.

It’s not the same thing, folks.

Some of the most clueless individuals I’ve ever met have impressive diplomas… while nearly all of the most savvy (and wealthy) individuals I know done got educated all on their lonesomes.

I learned more about history, business and psychology in 2 weeks of serious pre-Web library surfing (with a speed reading course under my belt) than I did in 4 years of college.

And I learned more about life in 3 months of hanging out with street-wise salesmen than I did from ANY source, anywhere, up to that time.

By all means, go to college if that’s part of your Master Plan to having a great life. You’ll meet interesting people, and it’s a Rite Of Passage for many Americans these days.

But don’t do it blindly. Just cuz The Man says it’s what you’re “supposed” to do.

Do some critical thinking before you jump in.

And if you really want that degree in Russian literature, or women’s studies, or political science, or whatever… then fine. Go get ‘em. Grrr.

Just KNOW that you can probably educate your own damn self on those subjects… and even get a deeper understanding of it all… by reading every book written about it, and interviewing a few experts. And if you can get private mentoring from someone, even better.

This can all take place during evenings and weekends, over the course of a few months, while you hold down a day job. Even if you buy the books, instead of hitting up libraries, you’ll have spent less on this specialized education than you’d pay for a single semester in “real” school.

And, unless you’re the laziest screw-up ever, you’ll actually learn MORE in those few months of intense immersion… than you would with a full-on degree.

You know how I can make this bold claim with a straight face?

Because this is what I’ve been doing as a freelancer for decades. Every time I wrote for a new market, I spent weeks immersing myself in it… learning everything I could about it from the inside-out. And this process often made me more of an expert than the client himself.

And I did it over and over and over again.

It was just part of the job.  All top freelancers do this.

Once you lose your fear of self-education…

… you can finally let it sink in that WE LIVE IN THE FREAKIN’ INFORMATION AGE. The joint is crammed to bursting with books, ebooks, videos, websites, courses…

… the whole world is CRAZY well-stocked. There are teachers and coaches and mentors available if you need supervision. (I’ve partaken of this opportunity frequently over my life.) Boards and fan-zines and forums and membership sites abound (for bitching and moaning, as well as for networking with peers).

It’s a cornucopia of knowledge, experience and adventure out there.

Yes, there are blind alleys and pitfalls and wrong turns…

… but once you’re committed to learning something, these are just brief excursions off the main drag… and you can use even your failures as advanced learning tools as you gain expert status. (In fact, it’s really required that you screw up at least a little bit. Otherwise, you never get perspective.)

And best of all…

… you can engage with life as you go. And skip the jarring nonsense of the Ivory Tower bubble.

(One caveat to self-education: You must, early on, read up on how debates are actually taught. Or join a debate club.

I’m serious. Best thing I’ve ever done. As you sample debating, you should demand that you get to defend the OPPOSITE viewpoint that you currently hold for any subject. This forces you to look beyond your petty biases, and open your mind to other points of view.

This is a HUGE advantage to have in your toolkit throughout life. Everyone else will be hobbled with un-examined party-line nonsense and indoctrinated crap they can’t even begin to defend when challenged…

… while you — with your rare ability to walk in anyone’s shoes, and to feel the pain or glory of alien thought patterns — will forever more see beyond the sound bites and cliches. And be able to eloquently explain anything, to anyone.

You will actually begin to sense vestiges of “truth” in the wreckage of our modern culture.

I don’t have to tell you how that might apply to marketing, do I?)

Most people will not go this route of self-examination and immersion-learning, of course. The concept of taking control of your own education seems kinda threatening and foreign to the majority out there.

We spend the first years of our lives sitting quietly in classrooms, being brainwashed to believe we don’t know shit (and that Teacher knows everything). That’s excellent training for hitting a groove in college and post-grad pursuits…

… but it’s piss-poor preparation for Life In The Concrete Jungle.

Again, nothing wrong about going with the status quo. No shame.

Just don’t expect to learn much about the way the world works. You’re learning how academia works. Different animal.

Wanna hear my short speech on how to prepare yourself for life? (I’ve edited this from a recent post I wrote for the Simple Writing System mentoring program.  Lots of great stuff keeps coming out of that gig…)

(Okay, quick plug: Check out www.simplewritingsystem.com to start your own adventure as a high-end sales master, if you’re so inclined…)

Here’s my mini-rant: I’m extremely prejudiced about this subject, of course. If I ran the world, everyone would get at least a taste of being an entrepreneur, during their formative years.

It will taste bitter to most people. And that’s fine. No harm, no foul. Move on to getting that job with The Man.

But for some… it will be sweet nectar. A thrill like nothing else they’ve ever experienced before.

Being an entrepreneur takes balls.

But you don’t have to “be” a ballsy kind of person.

You just have to understand how to implement your goals… which requires a little savvy about getting stuff done in the face of opposition and obstacles. Which is the definition of “ballsy”. Most folks who are successful at achieving goals were not born with the necessary attitude.

They learned the skill of living life with guts, just like they learned every other important skill associated with the gig.

I OFTEN intervene even with long-time professionals (like freelance writers, or veteran biz owners) who are screwing up their efforts to be successful.

My main advice: “Stop being a wuss. Everyone is scared. The successful ones acknowledge that fear, put it aside, and just get busy taking care of business.”

It really is that simple.

Life beyond childhood is for grown-ups. If you’re scared, you can take a regular job somewhere, and stay far away from the risks and realities of being your own boss.

On the other hand… if you’ve got entrepreneur’s blood in your veins… and you really DO want to be your own boss…

… then allow the reality of doing so to wash over you, and embrace it.

Everyone is unsure of themselves out there. There are no guarantees in life for anything… and getting into biz is among the riskiest things of all to do.

A tiny percentage of skydivers will die each year while jumping… but a vast chunk of rookie business owners will fail.

This is why you pursue the skills of salesmanship. Learning how to create a wicked-good sales message, how to close a deal, and how to bond with a target market is the PRIMARY weapon you want walking into ANY business environment.

Will you still fail? Maybe.

But you will NOT fail because you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. If knowing how to persuade and influence can make your business sizzle, then learning salesmanship means you’re armed to the teeth. Like everything else in life, having the right tools for the job at hand is the best way to put the odds in your favor.

MOST people are not meant to be their own boss. The world needs followers, too.

Here’s what I tell students in the Simple Writing System, when doubts about their future bubble up: “Just by diving into the SWS, you have shown that there is something different burning inside you. No one held a gun to your head and forced you to come here to learn these skills. You decided to join all on your own.

“Even if you’re not yet sure why you’ve joined us here… you need to understand that MOST people would never even consider doing anything like this.

“Independence freaks most people out. The thought of standing up and taking responsibility for the birth and success of a business is terrifying… and most will refuse to even entertain the thought.

“This is, by the way, why you should always enter the entrepreneurial world WITHOUT relying on your current crop of friends for support.

“They will not applaud your efforts. They think you’re batshit crazy for daring to even consider being your own boss. They will (consciously or unconsciously) sabotage your progress if they can, and rejoice in your failures… because if you DO succeed, that kills their main excuse for not succeeding themselves. Most folks believe success is all about luck and magic. When you dig in and actually do the work necessary to succeed, you piss all over their world view that The Little Guy Can’t Win.

“If you’ve made friends or started a network of fellow travelers here in the SWS, great. Most entrepreneurs have to operate alone (until they find places like this, where they can find help, advice and coaching). That loneliness just intensifies the fear and sense of risk.

“But I’ll tell you the truth: As scary as being independent is…

“… once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be hooked.”

Most entrepreneurs who enjoy even a little success instantly become “unemployable”. After thinking for yourself, after taking responsibility for your success or failure, after engaging the world fully aware and experiencing the thrill of living large…

… you’re worthless to a boss. He can’t use anyone who thinks for themselves.

Are you wracked with doubt?

That voice you hear — the one knocking you down, digging a knife into your gut and highlighting your worst fears — is JUST A VOICE.

In psychoanalytic talk, it’s your “Super Ego”… the scolding parent’s voice, the doubter of your abilities, the whiny little bastard bent on keeping you down.

And it can easily be sent packing.

Most people allow others to rule their lives. Rules and bad advice and grim experiences dating back to childhood somehow become “the way it is”…

… and regardless of any proof otherwise, they will obey that voice until they die.

And yet, all you have to do…

… is acknowledge the voice (“Yes, I hear you, you little shit“), realize it’s not your friend… and lock it in a dungeon deep in your brain, where you can’t hear it anymore.

I speak from experience on this subject. I was ruled by The Voice Of Doom for the first half of my life. I didn’t even try to take responsibility for my success, because The Voice told me it was hopeless. That I was hopeless. That Fate had nothing but failure in store for me.

Then, I realized that The Voice was actually full of it. I proved it, slowly at first, by setting a goal outside The Voice’s warnings… and then achieving it. And then doing it again.

It’s like superstition. I used to be the most superstitious guy you’ve ever met. Literally, my life was dominated by superstitions.

Then, one day, I just decided to see how real those superstitions were. So I violated every single one of them. On purpose. If I had previously thought some action was “bad luck”, I would do it, blatantly, just to see what kind of bad luck occurred.

And, of course, no bad luck ever appeared.

The human brain is crammed with nonsense like this. Superstitions, bad rules, dumb beliefs, unfounded fears and ridiculous feelings of guilt and shame.

Especially guilt and shame.

You know what a fully functioning adult does? They don’t approach life believing it should be a certain way, or wish that life was a certain way.

No. They engage with life the way it really is. You make your own luck. Rules sometimes make good sense, but deserve to be broken when they’re clearly stupid. Belief systems often have nothing to do with reality. (You can “believe” you’re gonna win the lottery with all your heart and soul… and it won’t change reality one tiny bit.)

Fear is a natural part of our defense system… and it can get out of hand in modern times.

So you need to dig in and get to know your fears.  Some are fine — don’t walk down that dark alley if you’re not prepared to deal with the things that happen in dark alleys.

Others are counter-productive — you had a bad experience once when you were 12, and so what? Get over it, put on your Big Boy or Big Girls Pants, and re-engage with life.

And shame? Guilt and shame are useless. On the road of life, feeling guilty about something is like setting up camp and refusing to move or progress any further.

Instead, try “remorse” — recognize when you’ve done something wrong, clean up the mess, fix what you’ve broken as best you can, and make amends to people you’ve hurt.

And don’t “vow” to do better next time.

Instead, actually DO something to change your behavior or habits. Promises are bullshit. Action is the only way to move through life in a positive way.

Don’t promise to do better. Just do better. This will probably involve learning something new — a new skill, a new way of dealing with life, a new set of behaviors.

Doing this will set you apart from the majority of other people out there, too.

The modern Renaissance Man or Woman is something awesome to behold. While the rest of the world increasingly sinks into a snoozing Zombie-state — indoctrinated, fooled, manipulated and played– you have the option of becoming MORE aware, more awake, more alert and ready to live life with gusto.

However, no one is going to force you to do this.

If you want to join the Feast of Life, you have to step up and earn your seat at the table. You will not be invited in. You will not stumble in by accident, or stroke of luck.

Nope. You must take responsibility for your own life… figure out what you want… and then go get it.

It’s a daunting task for most folks… too daunting to even contemplate.

For the few who know it’s what they want, however… it’s all just a matter of movement and action.

Yes, it can be scary. Life is terrifying, at times.

It’s also only worth living, for many people, when you go after it with all your heart.

There are no replays on this game. No second tickets for the ride.

You’re allowed to sleep through all of it. Most folks do.

If that’s not good enough for you any more, then welcome to the rarefied air of the entrepreneur world.

It’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s scary, and there’s no safety net below you.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s the commencement speech I’d give.

Put you to sleep, didn’t it.

Okay, my work is done here.

What would YOU tell new grads? Lay it out in the comments, below…

Stay frosty,

John “The Prof” Carlton

Buzz And Awe, Redux

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Tuesday, 2:08 a.m.
Reno, NV
Is there gas in the car? Yeah, there’s gas in the car…” (Steely Dan, “Kid Charlemagne”)

Howdy…

Those of you in the loop know we’ve re-launched the coaching program of the Simple Writing System again.

We rarely offer this hand-holding, personalized, one-on-one mentoring (by coaches who are also successful copywriters). The last session was a couple of years ago.

No idea when another session will come around… if it even does.

We take this one program at a time. It’s notorious among marketing insiders, because of how effectively we’re able to transform almost anyone into a sales-message-producing machine… quickly and efficiently. It’s life-changing, and business-changing mojo…

… and that’s why the top marketers in the game have demanded that the folks in their organization responsible for marketing TAKE this course.

The personalized coaching in the SWS is extremely interactive Perfect for anyone who knows that hands-on mentoring is the best way to learn the simplest possible system (crammed with short-cuts) for creating all the sales messages needed for a profitable business…

… including all your ads, websites, video scripts, emails, AdWords, blogs and other social media broadsides…

everything that pumps eager prospects into your Sales Funnel.

So you can close the heck out them.  And get filthy rich and happy, and become the most successful entrepreneur or biz owner possible… because without killer, persuasive copy, you’re not going to find, nor close very many prospects.

Most marketers wander through the wasteland of Bad Business Practices their entire career…

… and never figure out how to SELL anything.

So, no matter how totally hot and good and righteous your product or service might be…

… you still struggle. Or go under.

ALL the top marketers you know about, online and offline, know how to write their own sales messages.

And when it’s really, really, really freaking important that it gets done right…

… they almost always actually DO it themselves.

Now, yeah, sure, they also hire out some of the writing, too. But not because they are clueless about what needs to go into a killer sales message.

No way.

In fact, the top guys are the WORST clients a freelancer can have. Because you can’t bullshit them. They know EXACTLY what a good ad looks like.

The really good marketers are armed to the teeth with salesmanship chops.  A freelance copywriter cannot lollygag around with those guys, or he’ll get thrown to the dogs. He’s got to deliver the best work possible, because the client who understands what great ad copy looks like will not accept mediocre crap.

You know what the BEST client is for a freelance copywriter?

It’s the fool who hasn’t got Clue One about what goes into a decent sales message.

The freelancer can toss off the laziest piece of garbage possible… something that barely resembles advertising… and still collect his fee.

And when it fails and dies a horrible death? Well, who’s to say why it happened.

The clueless client sure doesn’t know.

And consider this: Say you somehow manage to hire the most promising copywriter in the universe to come work for you.

Exclusively.  He becomes a member of your team.  And you teach him all the secrets of your biz, right down to the specs of your product.

I’ve seen this soap opera go down often.

Here’s how it plays out: Once that brilliant young writer gets some experience with you… and learns all your secrets…

… yep.  He leaves.

And either starts working for the competition…

… or BECOMES your competition.

And let’s see.  Hmmm.  You had the biz first.  It was your baby.  Your product.

But he knows how to create the sales messages that sell it.  And you just taught him all your secrets.

Who do you think wins in that match-up?

People… you MUST learn how to create a decent sales message, if you are to survive and prosper in business today.

Otherwise… you’re toast.

And this is why we’re hauling out the Simple Writing System personalized, one-on-one coaching program again. The very deep, yet easily-understood online quick-learning program where recognized, veteran, professional copywriting experts personally coach you through the SWS. Which will finally trick your brain into being able to create killer, persuasive ads and marketing materials…

… whenever you need them.

Is this program for you?

Here’s a simple way to find out: Go here and watch this video. (It’s just me on the video, explaining everything to you, and it’s not outrageously long. Just the facts.)

You’ll get the full story… how you can go through this program at your own pace, on your own schedule… and have a veteran copywriter coach you the entire way, with personal advice and coaching. No one is “too busy” to take this course right now — jettisoning a single TV program you watch each week, for a few weeks, is more than enough “found time” to do everything.

And when you come out the other side of this coaching… you’ll have finally learned how to create, from scratch, all the ads and marketing materials you will ever need. The stuff that sells, and pumps up your bottom line, and brings you massive success on a silver platter.

Are you ready for a ride that can change your life forever?

We’re gunning the engine, holding the door open for you…

… but you gotta take that first step on your own.

C’mon.

It’s more fun around crazy writers who know how teach you the secrets of excellent salesmanship…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. I almost forgot…

… you can only watch this video for the next week or so.

This new SWS sessions starts very soon. (No, you do not need to “plan” or “prepare” to get involved — you can really can go through the entire program in your spare time, at your own pace… and still get all the personalized coaching from your teacher you need.)

So you need to get over here now… while we’re still accepting students.

I have no idea if we’ll offer another SWS session.

So take nothing for granted here. Go watch my video now…

Department Of First-World Problems

clivelab

Thursday, 10:37pm
San Francisco, CA
If you want it, here it is, come and get it…” (Badfinger)

Howdy…

Quick post today — I’m hosting my awesome Platinum Mastermind early tomorrow, and have a little prep work left to do.

However, I thought you might enjoy sampling the kind of posts I’m getting global recognition for… on Facebook. So I ripped a recent one from the site, and put it here for your delight and consumption.

Social media confuses most marketers — many refuse to even engage with Twitter or Facebook (or any of the myriad other options online to share silly secrets and post photos you’ll regret later). But I was an early adopter, and eagerly so — I had one of the very first marketing blogs (which you’re enjoying here), one of the first biz-oriented podcasts on iTunes (and if you haven’t listened to the latest free podcasts I’ve been hosting, go to the Psych Insights For Modern Marketers site now and indulge: www.pi4mm.com)…

… and I’ve been breaking every “rule” on Facebook ever since it hit the mainstream. I use FB to have fun, sometimes… but also to share insight, advice, lessons and some of the more obscure (and funny) war stories I’ve gathered in my 30 year career. (I currently have 5,000 “friends” — the limit — plus another couple of thousand “followers”… and I expect them all to show up at my wake and cause trouble. I’ve made them promise, in fact.)

To get the full flavor of what’s up — including the very long comment threads that you are invited to join — you’ll need to pop over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/john.carlton).

However, here’s a nice little taste:

Dept. Of First World Problems: Wow. Does ANY big biz in the country have even semi-decent customer service anymore? Is there a seminar somewhere national chains attend to learn how to frustrate customers online or on the phone?

Macy’s furniture store. Simple question with no possible answer to be found on their website, or in their byzantine robot phone maze… and no way to reach a living rep. PLUS, they want me to key in my social security number — not the last four digits, mind you, but the whole thing.

Eventually, I did reach a live person… who promptly disconnected me. Scared off by my question (which was “where do you recommend I go to get a chair purchased at your store repaired?” — admittedly, a VERY scary question).

Yeah, yeah, I know what you cynical dudes are gonna say — there’s no privacy left, we should all have such easy problems…

And let me shut you up right now: I post about biz and marketing here most of the time. (Well, when I’m not having fun, anyway.) Somewhere along the line, in the rush to automate and fire human beings, much has been lost. A decade ago, I left Gateway (where I’d bought multiple PCs) when their customer service collapsed, and went to Dell for several years… until they very publicly decided to cut back on their customer service.

Sent me into the loving arms of Apple… where, sure, you occasionally get some snark, but they do rock when it comes to support.

Business owners and entrepreneurs pay me a buttload of cash for consultations… and frequently, their most urgent problems involve some mysterious desertion by customers. Which often leads to the kind of super-simple solutions they do NOT wanna hear: Hire more people who know how to deal with people.

The DIY ethic is great — I did it myself for many years, loved it. However, just hiring a part-time assistant revolutionized my productivity… AND made customers fall in love with the biz. Diane (who’s been with me for 13 years now) handles complaints personally, adds a very friendly touch to every communication she has with people, and — very important — knows how to solve nearly every problem that comes across her desk. Including saying “I don’t know — let me find out and get right back to you”, which can transform a potentially angry situation into a good experience for the customer. (The other great line she’s used: “That sounds like a genuine problem, and let’s see how we can make it right for you.”)

No amount of advanced technology will ever replace the power of good human interaction in your biz. The natural impulse of failing businesses often is to get stingier, drift into more unethical behavior (like lying to prospects), and make the customer experience a nightmare of inaction and avoidance. The smiles are phony, the info is deceptive, and the pretense of being a “full service” store becomes a total sham.

We have a once-favorite pizza joint nearby sinking fast. A small dose of competition sent them into a death spiral… and every decision they make seems like it was scripted by that “How To Fail With Customers” seminar that Macy’s sends its staff to. Flat sodas, mushy undercooked food, lost orders, dirty silverware.

There is a time in certain business’s lives where the end is hovering. At that point, it might just be best to fold up the tent and move on. Limping along with an attitude and commitment level guaranteed to fail isn’t an answer — it’s denial masquerading as “trying”.

The best entrepreneurs often fail at certain projects. I always caution biz owners to be clear on their goals, and constantly question their assumptions about where they are, and where they’re going. Success can be fleeting, and fad-fueled success (like Candy Crush and Pet Rocks) can be flukes never to be repeated.

It’s a process, without guarantees, that cries out for reality checks. However, the lessons you take from your losses and your wins are what will give your NEXT project a better chance.

The fundamentals, like customer service, get ignored too often. Don’t be short-sighted about your biz.

Okay, I gotta call Macy’s back… or maybe search for furniture repair joints (cuz I maybe learned my lesson about Macy’s “commitment to excellence”…).

Next: Can’t wait to call AT&T later, and enjoy their robotic idiocy, too…

I was gonna post some of the action in the comments, but there over 38 of them (at last count)… so just hop over and see what mayhem went on there yourself.

As you can see, I’m not abusing the opportunity to reach folks so easily on social media. There is method to my madness, and my “reach” to new audiences (and ability to refresh my marketing lists) has exploded. (My Twitter account is up around 17,000 followers, too.)

This style of social media — avoiding what everyone else does, and just laying out good, funny, interesting rants that get passed around by your “friends” — isn’t being taught by any guru out there. I have no interest in creating a “product” about it, either — if you want to see how I do it, just follow me… and try some of the techniques yourself.

Hey, I’m inviting you to join in. I’m maxed out on “friends” (the maroons at Facebook limit non-fanpage accounts to 5,000), but you can “follow” just as easily, and get most of the same privileges. It’s www.facebook.com/john.carlton.

C’mon in, the water’s fine…

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. One last thing. I almost forgot — be sure to sign up on this blog, in the upper right hand corner… to get your bitchin’ new “Grizzled Pro Report”…

… which just happens to be a collection of my BEST Facebook posts over the past few years. All in one dazzling digital presentation.

You also will be notified when new blog posts appear. So, you know, you aren’t left out in the cold, while lesser colleagues are enjoying all the fun over here.

Sign up now, while you’re thinking about it. Use your best, every-day email address. Your report will be zoomed to you over the Internets immediately…

How To Force Me To Personally Advise You On Your Business… For Cheap.

IMG_1737

Friday 8:09pm
Reno, NV
“Just move on up now…” (Curtis Mayfield)

Howdy.

Quick post here to help you figure out when you should probably consider consulting with a respected, proven veteran marketing expert…

… and what your perfect consulting option is, once you’ve decided it’s time to kick your biz or career into high gear.

Step One: As a small business owner or entrepreneur (especially if you’ve been going at it alone, or mostly alone)… if you have any kind of success at all… there will come a time when you’re simply overwhelmed and need a little help. Or a lot of help.

For example:

[] It may be time for you to move up a level in your marketing… and you know that having a veteran marketing expert comb over your new plans can shortcut your path to increased wealth, while jumping over the unseen pitfalls that ruin so many other biz owners trying to expand.

[] Or, you may have a problem that needs serious attention… like sales going into the toilet, or new competitors chewing you up, or sudden changes in the marketplace that crush your bottom line (like a Google slap, or adverse rule changes at Clickbank, or the obsolescence of your product, or technological left-turns that disrupt your sales process). Even worse, what was working before suddenly isn’t working anymore, and you don’t see a clear reason why.

[] Or, you’re just working harder and harder, but sales are stagnant. Time, perhaps, to bring in an objective, experienced marketing whiz who can help you restructure your biz plan… so you maximize results, and get your life back (by working less, not more.)

[] Or, you may want high-end professional advice on your current sales funnel… just to make sure you’re not hemorrhaging money somewhere, or murdering potential sales through marketing blunders you can’t even see.

[] Or, you may be ready to start a new business adventure, and just want to be positive you’ve got your ducks lined up and you aren’t forgetting something critical.

[] Or, you have copy that may or may not be working, which you know could jack up your bottom line if a professional copywriter helped you with a total make-over.

Step Two: The best reasons to seek professional help from a veteran dude like me always have one main goal: To fix problems, and goose your bottom line into obscene levels of newfound wealth.

When your situation is urgent, the cost of hiring a consultant who can provide solutions is almost always “cheap”, because you’re extracting yourself out of a dangerous reality that threatens your business and peace-of-mind.

And it’s a screaming bargain when that consultant can offer you simple fixes inside of a plan you can put into action immediately…

… without radically changing who you are or what you offer.

The more experienced and successful the consultant, the greater the shift you can expect from following their advice. And the bigger the bargain for the small investment you make by tapping into that experience and success.

The world of business is roiling with ways your product or service can be ambushed, sucker-punched and even crushed… by market forces, shoddy previous advice from questionable sources, and your own gaps in skills or tools to deal with it all.

No matter how brilliant you are, and no matter how much success you were enjoying at one time…

… if the game has changed on you, and you’re struggling, your best first move will be to get help. Serious, experienced, proven professional help.

Step Three: Not only is there no “shame” in bringing in hired guns… it’s exactly what the best and most successful marketers do all the time. It’s often the most important resource they have, and they never make a move without consulting with the experts they trust.

I’ve been the “expert of choice” for a great number of successful entrepreneurs and small biz owners for three decades now. From my vast experience in the front trenches of the marketing world… I know where the most common problems are hiding, and how to fix them fast and simply.

I have yet to meet a business problem I can’t solve, using the deep toolkit of tactics and techniques for creating killer sales funnels I’ve developed while working successfully in nearly every situation a modern business can encounter.

I offer a unique form of consulting we call “Be John’s New Best Friend”… because, as a client, you will immediately get the same level of attention, advice and access that my closest colleagues and friends enjoy.

What’s more, since my biz partner Stan Dahl is usually involved in these sessions, you get his 25 years of experience, too.

He’s very hip to technology, software, and the structural problems that growing a biz creates (having run and consulted on multiple online businesses, including creating entire coaching programs… creating, filling and running large seminars… managing some of the most successful early launches ever… and created many virtual and real products. And before that, he was hired to consult with massive companies like Wells Fargo, Starbucks, and AM/PM mini-markets… to specifically improve their use of technology, streamline their biz procedures, and max-out profit funnels).

It’s a one-two punch. I’ve been creating products and ads and marketing campaigns for decades… and Stan has been advising businesses on how to find and fix the problems of making a biz work for nearly the same length of time.

You can get access to us…

[] For an hour on the phone…

[] For a day, in person…

[] For a month, via phone and email…

[] And for a year, by joining our exclusive (and very small) mastermind.

Here’s how to think about which option best fits your situation:

1. In an hour on the phone, I can go over your current marketing in astonishingly deep detail – including copy, websites, and sales funnels.

You can easily come away from this single hour with hot new headlines and sales angles you hadn’t thought of… fresh ways to make your website more user-friendly, so it brings in more sales… and fixes to your overall process that is killing sales.

We can go as specific as you want to go… or we can look at the “big picture”, helping you deal with growing your biz, encountering new markets and competition, and adapting to changing conditions.

It’s your hour, to use as you please. I am at your service, completely committed to solving every problem you bring up with all the tools and experience I have.

2. If you want the most intense kind of consulting, come meet with us for a full day. We can go deep into multiple issues, help you deconstruct entire biz plans (and restructure them as killer actionable plans with immediate results), make your copy explosively powerful, and solve all the problems now keeping you awake at night.

This one-day intensive includes email or phone exchanges prior to the meeting, where Stan and I will get completely up-to-speed on your business and situation…

… so there is zero time wasted before getting down to the nitty gritty of increasing your bottom line (for both profits, and your personal happiness).

3. The “Be John’s New Best Friend For A Month” option gives you weekly hour-long phone calls with me, plus unlimited email contact between calls.

This will be one of the most intense months of your life, since the way we consult includes specific, well-defined actionable solutions… using your current resources, in your current situation, aimed at fixing what’s broken, and kick-starting new results as fast as possible (with the least amount of work on your part).

The benefit of working with us for a month is that you have time to implement ideas and solutions, and see results as we go. It’s like a month-long workshop. You are, literally, getting the maximum level of attention we’re capable of providing.

4. Finally, when you’re ready to make your move on future wealth and happiness over the long haul, our Platinum Mastermind offers you a year-long exclusive seat alongside a handful of other biz owners and entrepreneurs…

… all committed to helping you grow your biz, and watch your back as you put things into motion.

The mastermind is very intense (in the best possible way). In every meeting you have a full session where the entire group is laser-focused on you… and we like to get specific, even offering “homework” items you can implement in order to grow and change and move in the time between meetings.

Plus, there is a dedicated Google Group just for members (unique to our mastermind)… so we’re all watching your back whenever you have something you’d like to get input from the group on.

We host four meetings a year, quarterly. This group is the fastest (and most raw entrepreneurial fun) way to go deep into our world.

Step Four: So, whatever your burning need is… from getting immediate help with a specific set of problems, or getting long-term advice on grand new ventures…

… we can help you. And if you’ve read this far, you are very likely in a position to profit from allowing us to do that.

It’s time for you to move up a level.

Here’s what to do now:

First Action Step: Figure out whether a one-hour consultation will meet your needs, or whether you’re a good candidate for any of the more intense and involved options here.

If you’re unsure, I highly recommend the one-hour consultation. We get a TREMENDOUS amount done in these hours — we can dedicate the time to finding solutions to specific problems you have…

… or we can explore, in great detail, your entire sales funnel (looking for leaks, sales-murdering problems, and other things you’re too close to the situation to see yourself) and come up with workable solutions…

… or we can critique and fix copy (for your webpage, emails, ads, VSLs, whatever marketing you’ve got copy for)…

… or just dive into your business and help you get clear on the Big Picture (how you fit in your niche, against competition, the changing market, and advancing technology)… so you can get moving more quickly, with more confidence and more proven info on your side.

The thing is, it’s YOUR hour. You control it, and we’re here to help however we can. Our combined 55 years of in-the-trenches experience with business, marketing, copywriting, advertising and problem-solving is a very effective tool for you to have on your side.

OR…

… if you’re already pretty sure you want more involved intensity, then the “Be John’s New Best Friend” options (for either a month of phone calls and email, or one super-intense day face-to-face)… or the Platinum Mastermind are your best choices.

Second Action Step: So, whether you’re positive of what you want, or you want to explore your options more fully, the next step is easy.

Just pop over to this page… take 5 minutes to fill out the quick questionnaire (which helps us direct you to the right decision on consulting)… and hit “send”.

There is zero obligation on your part, at this stage. You’re simply getting more info, based on your current situation.

Either Stan or I will get back to you as soon as possible — often, the same day. We are notified immediately when a new questionnaire hits the inbox. You will not be shuttled off to underlings, or put into “auto responder hell”. We treat every request for our help seriously and professionally.

Special Note: If you decide to start with an hour consultation, and afterward decide to expand your consulting to the month- or day-long options… or you decide to join the Mastermind…

… then we’ll apply the cost of that first hour’s consultation. So you’ve got a bargain (and special treatment) going on right off the bat.

The details of signing up for any of our options are on this page. Including your costs.

For any entrepreneur or biz owner looking to solve the problems holding you back… or looking to solidify your biz plan and move to the next level up… or to maximize the sales-producing power of your marketing…

… the price of a consultation with us is simply a very small investment in short-cutting your time, money and energy spent in getting a solution.

If higher profits, less stress and more time off… plus the sheer joy of crushing your competition… is something that would please you, then getting personal attention from us should be an immediate priority.

Again… go here for the next step. It’s a 5-minute questionnaire that simply helps us help you decide what your best next action will be.

We’re not everybody’s cup of tea. We’re proven professionals, who take enormous delight in succeeding, and we devour life’s opportunities with gusto, humor and serious skill. We do not tolerate bullshit or delusion, and our advice is based on real world solutions and time-tested tactics.

Go fill out the no-obligation questionnaire right now, while you’re thinking about it. It will take you just a few minutes, and you can expect to hear from either Stan or me very, very soon.

It’s the best next step you could ever take in your quest for wealth and happiness.

Stay frosty,

John

How To Hire A Copywriter.

photo-1Tuesday, 2:14pm
Reno, NV
Are you going on this crazy voyage?” (Sailor in “King Kong”, 1933 version)

Howdy…

It’s high time for a little “public service” message here, for any marketer wanting to hire a freelance copywriter.

Cuz it’s a jungle out there.

There’s a veritable mob of available writers, of all levels of expertise (from world-class down to “should be hung”), charging all kinds of fees and making all kinds of promises.

It can get confusing, abruptly, and you can end up mismatched (or getting roughed up financially) if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, here’s a Quick Start overview of what you – the dude or dudette doing the hiring – should get straight on before heading into the Big Scary Jungle Of Freelance Copywriters to find your perfect scribe. (This works for hiring ANY consultant, actually, so pay attention.)

Step One: Deconstruct and list what you want done.

Do you need a single ad written, or do you need your entire website created or overhauled? Do you need someone to write the necessary emails, Video Sales Letters and sales pages for a launch? Do you need a sales funnel created, starting with Adwords and traveling through landing pages, auto-responders, landing pages, and sales support?

Or what?

Step Two: Admit it if you aren’t sure what you want (or need). Double admit it to yourself if you’re absolutely clueless.

This is a critical step.

You’re about to shell out a lot of money, and put a lot of your hopes and dreams on the back of the writer you hire…

… so this is no time to be deluded, or to try bullshitting your way through the process.

Whether you find the perfect copywriter (someone you’ll end up working with for years successfully) or whether you bring on a misfit (who leaves your marketing efforts sputtering)…

… this is gonna be one of the most time-and-money intensive relationships you have in your business.

Copy is the MAIN ELEMENT in your ability to attract prospects and close them as customers. (Yes, the quality of what you offer matters… but never forget that the Marketing Graveyard is crammed with superior products that died horrible and fast deaths because no one figured out how to sell them.)

So, if you’re an experienced marketer who is positive that you know what you need from a hired copywriter… great.

And if (despite your other experience in business) you’re not sure precisely what you need… because you’re maybe new to a certain advertising tactic, or market forces are crushing you (like changed technology, fresh competition, or the sudden obsolescence of your product), or what you’ve done before just ain’t working anymore…

… you’re going to need a different kind of freelance copywriter.

This is a process. It will be come clear in a moment.

Step Three: Figure out your budget. For the entire project, which might include hiring professionals, paying for services (like designers or programmers), buying lists or ad space, every conceivable cost you’ll encounter.

Experienced marketers will have a “war chest” for any new project (or any other situation requiring hiring outside help). It’s an approximate amount of moolah they’re willing to shell out to get things rolling.

If you’re new to using freelancers, you may not know how much to set aside. There’s no exact formula… but you can at least figure out what you can afford right now.

Entrepreneurs often learn about the cost of outside services as they go. It can be a shock, so you have to understand what the “value” is to your business of every new move. (In other words, get clear on what a winning ad, in a winning campaign, to the right lists, via the right media, in the right vehicles will mean in terms of buckets of cash cascading into your life…

… versus how a losing ad in a total bomb of a campaign will harsh your mellow.)

At first, you may have to be vague. This applies to everything you do – from going to a high-priced seminar, taking a course or joining a coaching program, hiring a writer or consultant, designing new product, investing in new infrastructure, and so on.

There’s a “cost” to everything, which includes both the dollars involved, AND your time and invested energy… all balanced against the odds of success. If you “save” time doing certain things yourself, and the results are abysmal, how much have you really saved? Or, if you write a check that makes your hand shake to a top copywriter who produces something that opens the wealth spigot on your head, how much did that writer “cost” you?)

When it comes to hiring a freelance copywriter, you have decided that either (a) your own ability to craft an ad/website/email/etc is not up to the task at hand…

… or (b) it makes “sense” to hire a professional writer… because you have the resources to pay for the help you need…

… and the time saved (by having more people involved in the project) allows you to move more efficiently toward your biz goals.

(Side Note: If your ability to write your own marketing materials is zero… and there is no one already on your staff able to write this material at a level needed in your niche to convert prospects to customers… then your problem is magnified. I highly recommend that anyone craving success as an entrepreneur learn how to write fundamentally-solid sales copy…

… so (1) you can avoid being dependent on outside writers when it’s not necessary… (2) you can write decent copy in a pinch during emergencies… and (3) you will understand precisely what you need from freelancers when you do hire them (and never be in the dark about whether their copy is “good” or not). There are a lot of ways to get this fundamental education in copywriting…

… and because it’s the lifeblood of all your marketing plans, you should consider this as important as anything else you do in your quest for success. I can recommend the Simple Writing System – check it out here. But whatever you do, get this fundamental understanding of what goes into good sales copy under your belt asap. Consider it a primary asset in your business toolkit. A PRIMARY asset.)

Step Four: If you’re unclear about any of this, admit it.

No one is born knowing how to plan for a business project. And even MBA degrees can leave you clueless (amazing, but true) (and common).

So take stock of your resources: Who amongst your staff has the knowledge to do… or the experience to know how to price out… the things you need done?

If you’re a one-man-band, this is easy. And, you may have zero skills, and be mostly riding your passion for becoming independently rich into the entrepreneurial world. Hey, it can work. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who made a gig work, learning everything as they went. Not the recommended path, but it’s an option.

Eventually, however, every biz owner will have to come to terms with the need to invest in getting help where you need it. You can never do everything yourself, if you’re going to grow.

If you’ve never hired a freelancer before, use whatever resources you have to help you make a good decision. Ask colleagues for recommendations, shop around (never just hire the first copywriter you realize exists), and understand that learning how to hire the RIGHT copywriter is a process, not an end game. If you’re gonna use writers often, you’ll learn as you go. If you’re gonna hire someone permanently as a writer, you better know how to judge their ability to do the work first.

There’s no magic. Sorry. And it’s not quite like hiring a plumber to fix the pipes – a lot more is resting on good copy.

Step Five: There are oodles of ways to find writers. Many advertise their services. Others are well-known within marketer networks.

There are many different kinds of freelance copywriters, too. Quick breakdown:

[] The non-advertising writer. This is the guy or gal who knows how to string sentences together, but does not know how to sell. They can be great at providing content for your blog, or writing the special reports you offer as bonuses, or fleshing out the other materials you need that your biz is not relying on for sales.

They should come cheap, too – and work by the article, or by the hour, or by the project. But because they are not responsible for your bottom line profits, they are more like a vendor. They provide materials you need that require being written.

[] The “regular” advertising writer. They may come from the world of ad agencies, or from publications. They also are NOT usually steeped in the art of selling – they rely instead on cleverness, slogans, and graphic-oriented advertising that cannot be tested because it does not produce actual results.

Their fees will be all over the map. They may have a good resume, having written material for recognizable companies.

For most entrepreneurs, I’m gonna go out on a limb and warn you away from any copywriter who doesn’t understand “direct response” advertising. (The term “direct response” simply means “asks for an action, which can be measured”. A sale, an opt-in, a reply. The “response action” is where profits will be made.)

[] The direct response copywriter. This is the dude who understands how to write copy that will ask for an “action”…

… which (it’s worth repeating) includes closing a sale, capturing a lead, or moving a prospect to becoming a customer.

Real salesmanship applies. In nearly all “big” entrepreneurial jobs, this is the kind of writer you want.

There are 3 approximate “levels” of expertise to any direct response writer you hire:

Level One: Raw rookie. A beginner, with little or no track record, and few if any prior clients.

Believe it or not, a rookie can actually be a decent bet, depending on what you need done. IF he’s been trained in direct response, or is in training with a good mentor, then he will at least understand the fundamentals of good marketing-oriented writing.

However, they are untested, and you must be clear that you will be paying for part of their education. If you need something that requires real expertise, the rookie will be over his head.

Expect to pay under five thousand dollars – all the way down to a few hundred bucks – to hire a rookie writer for almost any project. And you will have to manage him closely, and know exactly what you want (and why you’ve gone with a rookie to get it).

You may be able to bully a rookie into working fast, or constantly change copy as you go… but remember that he is not experienced at meeting tough deadlines, and may not handle stress well. (A writer needs a buttload of time cooking in the front trenches to develop the thick skin of dealing with most clients, under deadline, with a lot riding on the ads. It doesn’t come naturally.)

Remember: A rookie is not a “bargain” if you’re relying on their copy for anything critical in your biz. It’s like hiring a Little Leaguer to pitch opening day for your Major League team.

Level Two: The veteran direct response freelancer. This is a writer with references, success stories, and examples of his work he can point you to that already exist online or in other media.

They will have experience in all forms of advertising and marketing, including direct mail, Video Sales Letters, email auto-responders, web sales pages, print ads, just about every way a sales message can be delivered to a prospect.

More important, the high-end freelance veteran will also have massive marketing experience – after being involved in many, many different projects over the years, he’ll have insight to what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what is working now, what isn’t working anymore, and in many cases what is NEEDED to make your project work (that ain’t there yet).

The best veteran writers are essentially marketing consultants, who provide the copy once the marketing plan has the bugs kicked out of it.

In other words… you can hire them JUST to provide copy, if you know exactly what you need done, and they’ll deliver great ads. Or, you can allow them to look at your current efforts…

… and they may help you discover where the “real” problem is with your sinking sales (hiding behind what you thought was the culprit)… where unseen problems are murdering your bottom line… where new problems may develop down the line…

… as well as pointing out what may be missing in your product or marketing plan.

Top writers earn their fees many ways, and you can expect to shell out ten grand up to thirty grand (and more) just for fundamental advertising (like a Video Sales Letter, or a web sales page, or a sales funnel from Adwords to name capture to email auto-responder to sales page, and so on).

This is why knowing what you need done… and WHY you need it done… can be so critical. If you don’t have a clear idea of how great copy is going to produce a pile of new profit for you, you cannot “fit” a high-end freelancer into your plans…

… without realizing that you’re gambling.

A lot of entrepreneurs have done just that. Some have thrived, hiring a writer to do their first campaign without really knowing what to expect… while others have gone under, because they didn’t earn enough back to justify the expense of a top writer.

When you know (or strongly suspect, based on reality) that great (or even just “better”) copy will bring in more prospects, and turn those prospects into customers… then you’re in a perfect position to hire a freelancer.

Expect to compete with other marketers looking to book any good, respected writer… and he’ll need weeks or longer, minimum, to produce copy for a project.

Warning: I recommend you do NOT do any royalty agreements on the first job. It may sound great to push off part of the fee to result-oriented royalties paid later…

… but you need to remember that you’re just beginning your relationship with this writer. A good one will usually not even propose royalties on the first job… because he doesn’t know or trust you any more than you do him.

What you pay to hire him MUST fit into the results you expect from the project. You must have your other ducks in a line – your product must be good and ready to go…

… you must have ways to access your target audience (through your house lists, or affiliates, or paid-for lists, or “push” marketing like Adwords or niche publication banner ads, etc)…

… and you must have the resources available (in your budgeted war chest) to pay for putting everything into action.

For example: If you’re selling an existing ebook on Clickbank, you may only need to hire a writer and someone to convert their copy to a Video Sales Letter.

If you’re launching a full-on new product, though, you’ll need an affiliate manager, a project manager, possible several copywriters, programmers, designers, and more.

Side Note: Some copywriters will provide ONLY the copy, in manuscript form, to you. And you must then convert that copy into a Video Sales Letter, website, published advertisement, whatever.

Other copywriters bring more to the table, including producing the VSL (though unless you’re dealing with a copywriter who is part of a full team, it’s rare that he will produce camera-ready art for publications, or direct mail, or the programming necessary for web pages).

Be aware of what you’re getting. The services AFTER the copy is written are all less important than the quality of the writer, but they are part of the process of getting a campaign going. The copy must contain essential killer salesmanship first – afterwards, you pretty it up for delivering to your prospects.

Level Three: “A List” writers. The best in the world.

You may be able to book one of the handful of the best copywriters in the game, but at a minimum you should expect to pay $30k and up past $50k into six-digits… including (not in lieu of) some type of royalty, even on the first job.

The best writers will not take jobs they are not guaranteed will deliver the kind of profits that make their outrageous fees worthwhile. They become, in essence, a partner in the project, possibly earning more than you will…

… and they’ll be worth it.

However, you as a client are under more scrutiny than they are. If you have to ask how to find an “A List” copywriter, you aren’t ready to hire one yet. You cannot make “deals” with them. They write for the largest direct response marketing outfits on the planet, and are out of the league of nearly all entrepreneurs.

And they often require three months and longer to create a package. Advance planning (and booking) is mandatory.

Good to know they exist. Down the road, after you’ve earned your first couple of fortunes, you may be ready to hire one and reap the rewards.

For now, I recommend you get your plan down as well as you can…

… and hire a veteran copywriting professional to help you put that plan into action.

Listen to what he says, if his experience and skills at dissecting current and potential problems suggest a change to your plans.

Test what he writes, but never change it without knowing from a reality-based market test if he’s right or not. Your niece with the degree in English literature is not qualified to judge sales copy. Nor is your lawyer (though a good copywriter will work with even the most nervous attorney on your team to keep you on the side of the angels). Nor are you, unless you have a better track record than the writer.

You can test a professional’s copy against whatever else you think should be better… and you’ll learn a lot doing this. The best copy I’ve ever written has nearly given my clients heart attacks. If they say “hey, this is great copy”, then I suspect I’ve failed to deliver the best ad possible.

I want them up all night, worried sick about how the ad gonna’s do… because great copy always takes you out of your comfort zone.

Selling is hard. You have to find your prospects (after figuring out who they really are), reach them, get them into your sales message, and wake them up to the point that they will take action (like buying).

The fastest-moving, most successful entrepreneurs all know how to craft good sales messages, and get them into shape to deliver to prospects. And then follow through.

If you’re not confident, or not in a position to craft a great sales message… or, if you have the budget that allows you to take advantage of hiring your copywriting out… then wading into the freelance world makes a huge amount of sense.

There are many more details to this (including the creation and handling of contracts, setting deadlines with teeth in them, and having escape clauses when things go south)… but a good professional freelancer will help you with all of this. They want a successful gig as much as you do.

This is just a first-blush attempt to help you understand the process better. I may get into more details later, if enough people bug me about it.

Now, be wise and prudent, and get busy after your goals.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Yes, if you’re asking, I do still take on clients. Rarely, but I do.

You’ll notice I’ve clearly separated this P.S. from the rest of the post, so nobody should get offended about me letting you know I’m still in the game. (Everything above is still solid gold info.)

Anyway, here’s how I approach the “should you hire me or not” thing with fresh clients, below. You may get some ideas yourself on how to best approach other copywriters from this, too:

“To find out if I’m available, and whether I’m your best choice or not, send an email to my personal assistant, Diane, at consult@john-carlton.com… and clearly state your answers to these simple questions:

1. What general market are you in… how long have you been in business… and what products or services do you offer?

2. What website URLs are you currently hosting for your business… and approximately how much are you grossing now, and how much have you grossed at the highest point in your marketing efforts? (This information is completely confidential… and if you’re squeamish about stating specific figures, you can just say whether you’re grossing more-than or less-than a certain figure. Whatever makes you feel more confident in sharing.)

3. Have you ever worked with a professional copywriter before?

4. Do you have a budget for hiring a copywriter? If so, what are you budgeting, right now, for hiring one?

5. Finally, what do you feel are your biggest advertising problems right now?

I have set fees for specific projects I take on for clients. We’ll know quickly if I’m your best choice for a writer, and if you’re a good fit for the kind of advertising I create. And, we’ll figure out right up front what the exact fees will be for what you need.

Sometimes, the best route is to start with consultation, then agree on a plan for your advertising, and only then actually produce the ad (or Video Sales Letter, or broadcast media, or whatever you agree you need). Consultations are good when the problem you THINK you’re having isn’t actually the main reason you’re having problems with being profitable. I bring 30 years of hard-core, front-line experience in marketing to everything I do, and I can help you see things you’re too close to, or haven’t yet considered.

Other times, you really do “just need an ad”, and I will simply and quickly create one for you.

First, however, we need to have that conversation. So, again, to move this to the next step…

… email my personal assistant Diane at consult@john-carlton.com, and include your best answers to the 5 simple questions above. Diane alerts me immediately to potential clients, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible. I know you’re anxious to get fresh advertising out there, and I want to help you do exactly that.”

 

The Rest Of Your Freakin’ Life (one more time)

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Wednesday, 6:50pm
Reno, NV
Hey, you bastards, I’m still here!” (Steve McQueen as Papillon, floating away to freedom…)

Howdy…

I’m re-publishing — for what has become a very popular tradition on this blog — one of the more influential posts I’ve ever written.

It’s a good one, worth rereading even if you read it before.

What you’re about to encounter is a slightly tweaked way of looking at the best way to start your new year…

… but this tweak makes all the difference in the world. I’ve heard from many folks that this particular technique finally helped them get a perspective on where they’re at, where they’re going…

… and why they care about getting there.

So, even if you’ve read this post before… it’s worth another look. Especially now, as you gaze down the yawning gullet of 2013, trying to wrap your brain around a plan to make the year your bitch.

This is a critical step for entering any new period of your life. To keep your life moving ahead, you need to set some goals, dude. And most goal-setting tactics, I’ve found, are useless. Worst among them is the traditional New Year’s resolutions (which seldom last through January).

This tactic I’m sharing with you (again) is something I’ve used, very successfully, for decades…

… to reach goals, to clarify the direction of my life, and to change habits. I first shared it in the old Rant newsletter a few years back, and I’ve hauled it out here in the blog on a regular basis.  It’s timeless, classic stuff that will never let you down.

So let’s dive in. Here’s the relevant part of the post (slightly edited):

“Goal Setting 101 And
The January 15th Letter”

Yeah, yeah, I know a chat about goals can quickly turn into a boring, pedantic lecture. But then, so can a chat about space flight.

And, in reality, both space flight and your goals are VERY exciting things.Continue Reading

Staying Out Of “The Lonely Hearts” Club

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Monday, 5:55pm
Reno, NV
“Train whistle blows, lost on its own track…” (Dwight Yoakum, “Long White Cadillac”)

Howdy…

I thought you’d want to see this.

I first posted it on Facebook, and it generated an avalanche of “likes” and comments… which always means I’ve hit a nerve. And since many of the nice folks on my main list are curmudgeons who refuse to participate in social media (“Facebook, bah, humbug!”)…

… I’m reprinting it here. So you don’t have to sully yourself by dropping by Facebook. (Bonus: The post below actually trashes large swaths of the Web.)

The cold, dark days of December are, traditionally, a breeding ground for both regret over mistakes in the past year…

… and (more happily) for bold new plans in the coming year.

So, in the spirit of helping you end the year on a positive note… while also teeing up 2014 as possibly your best new year ever…

… let’s see if this advice (which has transformed so many entrepreneurial adventures into something amazing) will have any effect on you. Maybe get a head-start on wading through the mounting piles of nonsense out there, and snuggling up closer to the reality-checks and truths that can help you attain your wildest goals and dreams.

Here’s the post:

Warning (and your brain may curdle if you ignore this): I’ve been paying close attention to human behavior for longer than many of my readers have been alive. And because I felt so clueless, even as a kid, I devoured every available source of “spying” on how everyone else managed to exist in such a strange world…

… which included reading advice columns (street-level psychology at work with Ann Landers and sis Abbey), monitoring adult conversations, and stalking older kids (who were navigating life just a few hormones ahead of me).

So I’ve been a one-man research center for decades. I still haunt multiple advice columns online, see what the trolls are up to in the comment sections of NYT opinion pages, and (here’s the important part) discuss human behavior with a wide selection of colleagues both online and in person.

The discussions are critical… because there is a FLOOD of bullshit cascading down on us from every direction in the culture. It’s impossible for one individual to keep track of the spin, urban myths, misinformation campaigns…

… and (especially) the really, really, really awful investigative reporting that passes for news organizations today.

My colleagues are biz owners and pro writers well-trained in applying high-level skepticism to incoming data, and following through on research when necessary. We represent every age group of functioning adults in the culture, from all over the world (including the US hinterlands, Canucks, Limeys and other uncivilized joints), specializing in all kinds of different markets, hobbies, lifestyles and professional goals.

So when — for example — the media gets looped into a meme on how millennials (the generation of kids just now emerging from college) are bringing their parents to job interviews, and are incapable of critical thought (because of helicopter parenting) and just generally not becoming adults at all…

… we can look behind the glib stories and anecdotes and see a deeper truth.

Such as how all of us, from every living generation, have oodles of friends and family who meet every single detail of the problems now being assigned to millennials. The lack of independence, the living at home until late 30s, the whining and narcissism and sense of entitlement…

… all of it. And when you get a broader view, from older and younger colleagues, you quickly see how DEEP the bullshit can get in a media firestorm.

I hunt down photos and resumes of the reporters, and sigh. They’re like, twelve (or 32 going on 12) — insulated, given vast unearned attention through posts and stories, and dishing out accusations based on minuscule life experience.

And yet the stories stick, and become “common wisdom”.

As a marketer, you need to immerse your bad self into the culture, and understand what your prospects know and — very critical — THINK they know. And what they suspect they don’t know, or feel paranoid about not knowing.

That means you’ve got to go deep, all the time, and have resources you trust to bounce incoming data and ideas off of.

Masterminds have always been my #1 tool for this. I’m in multiple free ones, have paid for membership in others…Continue Reading

The Answer (and Winners) Revealed…

photo-1Thursday, 2:30pm
Reno, NV
Every time they were sure you were caught, you were quicker than they thought…” (Bob Seger, “Still The Same”)

Howdy…

Well, we do have a couple of winners to announce here.

It was a hell of a quiz, wasn’t it. Over 400 responses (and still climbing)… and, as several posters noted, just reading the thread was an enlightening experience (with dozens of great stories and insight shared).

Crowd-sourcing at its finest.

Before I give the two winners their moment in the sun, however (and ship out their signed copies of “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“)…

… let’s get straight on the answer to this one-question quiz.

Recall: I asked what — in my 30 years consulting with biz owners, freelancers, entrepreneurs, inventors and dreamers — was the Number One problem I saw folks encountering in their quest for wealth and happiness.

There may indeed be many other problems troubling folks…

… but in my experience, there is only one Big Kahuna problem.

And solving this big one also solves vast chunks of other problems in your life and career. Just like that.

The last great clue (no, I’m not gonna just roll over and tell you the answer without preamble) is in the photo up top here: That’s (from left) Joe Polish, the marketing whiz-kid who wrote the forward to my book…

Gary Halbert, my uber-infamous mentor, biz partner and close pal…

Gary Bencivenga, whose controls I stalked and whose teaser copy inspired me to rewrite my own bullets 30 times for every ad I penned (and who I actually wrote some stuff for in the late 80s)…

… and me.

Bencivenga loved this photo. We’d all known each other and worked in the same part of the direct response world for years… but we’d never all been in the same room together. (This was in NYC, at Gary’s legendary “Bencivenga 100″ seminar.)

Think you have the answer yet?

Consider: Just from these four guys, you’ve got generations of successful copywriters and marketers who owe their “breakthrough moment” to one of us. Ads that brought in gazillions, and created empires. Advice that transformed a moribund business plan, or a headline, or a career. An entire revolution in biz attitudes, success strategies and persuasion methods…

… all emanating out like rocket-fire from just these guys.

Got the answer now?

We leaned on each other, borrowed from each other, learned from each other, watched each other’s back, traded war stories and admired each other’s skills…

… and, in general, shared often large parts of our professional lives in the thin, rarefied air of world-class movin’-and-shakin’.

In short… Continue Reading

Quiz Time! (With prizes! And angst for your brain!)

blog photo 12-10Wednesday, 9:26pm
In The Bosom Of The Sierras Below Lake Tahoe, NV
I got your number on the wall…” (Tommy TuTone “Jenny/867-5309″)

Howdy…

I’ve got an idea: Let’s give out a couple of hot prizes. What d’ya think about that?

Like… how about a bitchin’ hot-off-the-presses copy of my book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together“…

signed by me, to you.

Free. I’ll even pick up the shipping, that’s what a mensch I am.

And all you gotta do is be either the first to deliver (in the comment section below) the correct answer to the question I’m about to reveal here… or write up the best response. I’ll be the judge and jury here.

So there will be two winners. We’ll let this quiz percolate for a week, and then I’ll announce the two winners here.

I haven’t hosted a quiz in a long time. Shame on me. The last few quizzes pulled in hundreds and hundreds of replies, which kind of freaked me out… but they were also evil fun. I’ll be in the comments myself, sifting and searching for the two winners (and tossing out the trolls).

I’ll announce the lucky victors in the comments section on Friday, November 22.

Free signed copy of the one book all serious entrepreneurs should have on their shelf. Might be worth something, you know, when I kick the bucket (or get embroiled in a scandal or something).

First correct answer, and best response (as judged by me).

Okay, ready?

Here’s the set-up for the question: I’ve been counseling and advising entrepreneurs for over 30 years now…

… on just about every detail of creating a solid biz model, and cramming all marketing materials with the kind of persuasive voodoo that brings in the Big Bucks. I’ve helped transform a small army of formerly-clueless entrepreneurs into scary-good monsters of profit.

And, in almost every long-term relationship I’ve had advising a client…

… we’ve covered every aspect of running a business — dealing with details, solving problems, finding happiness and managing wealth (or lack thereof).

If you haven’t enjoyed a mentoring relationship like this (or even an extended round of consulting with an expert), you might be astonished at what, precisely, pops up as the biggest (and baddest) obstacle to getting filthy rich and deliriously happy as an entrepreneur.

You might even be shocked.

So, here’s the question: Based on what you suspect I’ve discovered in my 30 years of consulting…Continue Reading


All testimonials and case studies within this website are, to the best of our ability to determine, true and accurate. They were provided willingly, without any compensation offered in return.

These testimonials and case studies do not represent typical or average results. Most customers do not contact me or offer share to their results, nor are they required or expected to. Therefore, I have no way to determine what typical or average results might have been.

Many people do not implement anything I teach them. I can't make anyone follow my advice, and I obviously can't promise that our advice, as interpreted and implemented by everyone, is going to achieve for everyone the kinds of results it's helped some of the folks you read about and hear from here achieve.

The income statements and examples on this website are not intended to represent or guarantee that everyone will achieve the same results. Each individual's success will be determined by his or her desire, dedication, marketing background, product, effort, and motivation to work and follow recommendations. There is no guarantee you will duplicate results stated here. You recognize any business endeavor has inherent risk for loss of capital.

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