Category Archives: business

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

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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

3 Old School Rules That Can Ruin Your Plans To Remain Poor And Miserable.

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Monday, 3:33pm
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
One way or another, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha, I’ll gitcha gitcha gitcha…” (Blondie)

Howdy.

Okay, quick post today… aimed at ruining your life by prying open the profit floodgates with a few simple rules even grizzled old veterans seldom learn.

We’ll discuss later how to deal with all the extra moolah (so you can salvage an excellent life once the realities of being richer sink in).

(Tee hee.)

First, let’s make sure you understand these 3 basic (and mostly ignored or botched) rules from our Operation MoneySuck manual.

Ready? Okay, release the life-changing stuff:

Op$uck Rule #1: Get an assistant.

Hey, I totally understand the “go it alone” mindset of the average entrepreneur. I was a one-man-band for the first 5 years of my career — if you got a letter or phone call from my office (in my collapsing beach house in Hermosa), it was from me.

However, once I decided to start teaching and offering courses and coaching, I took to heart the Prime Operation MoneySuck Directive: “If you’re the dude responsible for bringing in the big bucks, then that’s your #1 job. And your #2 job, and #3 job, etc. Hire out or delegate everything else.

I brought on a part-time assistant for 10 hours a week, who worked out of her house (so we communicated mostly by email, phone and only occasional visits). She was smart, had biz experience, and was thrilled to have a part-time gig with totally flexible hours, with a generous and savvy boss (me) so she could work from home and raise her kid.

When I realized those 10 hours were INSTANTLY gobbled up by random stuff like scheduling consultations, dealing with refunds and printers and non-essential client requests…

… it became obvious that I’d been STEALING 10 hours of energy/time/thinking/effort from my biz. Which I could have been force-feeding back into the money-making part of that same biz.

Total WTF moment.Continue Reading

Risky Bidniz

IMG_2258Monday, 2:26pm
Visalia, CA
He wants to dream like a young man, with the wisdom of an old man. He wants his home and security. He wants to live like a sailor at sea.” (Bob Seger, “Beautiful Loser”) 

Howdy.

We’re in for a treat today.

One of the best storytellers in copywriting — my longtime cohort Jimbo Curley — has sent us a riveting tale sure to send shivers up the spine of every entrepreneur alive…

… while simultaneously delivering one of the most primo lessons in getting after your own success. I laughed out loud several times — Jimmy has a real talent for doing that to readers.

Enjoy… and reap the profits of learning the lesson. Here’s Jimbo:

Thanks for the intro John.

Something crossed my mind the other day — just after I ran over my neighbor’s dog.

Here’s what I was thinking: As an entrepreneur, a business manager, or just a plain working stiff, you may not be taking enough risks.

Or perhaps not the right kind of risks.

I’ll tell you about poor Rex in a second. For now, fasten your seatbelt. You’re in for a wild ride.

“Risk” is the base ingredient for success. It’s the secret sauce to landing a spouse who’s outta your league. The mechanism for pole vaulting over your competitors. It’s how you’ll win big, and make your nay-saying friends and family look like idiots for ever having doubted you.

I’m serious. Today I own and operate a couple companies that earn in the millions each year…

… but twenty-something years ago it wasn’t like that. Back in the early 90s I was managing a near half-million dollar marketing budget for a hardware and contracting operation – at $28K a year. I figured I had a secure job, a good title, and would safely “ride my way up” the escalator of success while others risked their necks climbing up the rickety ladder.

Rookie.

I opened my eyes. The media reps who landed me as a client were wearing silk ties and gold watches. The guy running the crumby print shop I frequented was driving a new Beemer. The owners who employed me were living in obscene homes and enjoying three or four lavish vacations a year.

And yet there I sat for 8 to 12 hours a day at a particle-board desk. I ate a bag lunch and drove a 10-year old beater.

I wanted new stuff. I wanted lavish. I wanted obscene.

It began to sink in.

Achieving such noble and lofty goals in total safety was a delusion.

Simple math and ruthless honesty made it clear — I could NEVER get there “working my way up” from $28K a year.

In the “death zone” of Mount Everest climbers must use ropes and ladders to traverse a sheer 40-foot rock-face before they can reach the peak. It’s called the Hillary Step. (It has nothing to do with Clinton, but Sir Edmund Hillary, the first nut-job ever to summit Everest and come back alive.)

One screw-up on the Hillary Step… one minor bobble… and you’re dead meat. 

Yes, you CAN refuse that terrifying climb up the Hillary Step, but it meansContinue Reading

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 ever written, so it deserves an annual rediscovery.

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

Ahem.

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… Continue Reading

Your Own Private Crystal Ball

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Monday, 6:16pm
Reno, NV
We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when...” (Omnipresent WWII song by Vera Lynn)

Howdy…

A big part of the mojo I bring to the consulting table is simply that I survived a fairly wild-ass lifestyle before and during my career…

… and took notes.

I come from a family of storytellers, and it’s always been second nature for me to concoct the way I’d relate the story of any adventure I was involved in… often while I was experiencing it. More likely, of course, the lasting model of any story came together over a few tellings, as I tossed out the boring bits, highlighted the more exciting or outrageous sections, and found that sweet spot that ended the tale like a punch line.

You don’t get away with aimless, pointless or dull stories in a family like mine. You either grab attention, hold it, and deliver a rollicking good telling… or you get swamped by a better story from a frustrated listener. Best possible training in the universe.

And I can’t think of a better segue into an advertising career. Humans are hard-wired to crave, love and remember well-delivered stories because before the written word, memorized stories were the primary form of sharing information. And persuading folks. And molding the contours of a socially coherent civilization.

Most of us are not great storytellers, however. It’s not a default setting in our brains… and if you don’t hone your chops, you’ll remain a naif at it.

However, if you DO choose to get hip (and I’ve got a ton of posts here in the blog archives on this very subject), then you get past the hulking bouncer at the velvet rope and into the “great storyteller” party.

I actually used to do that, by the way, as a hobby. Talk my way past bouncers. The last time was at a casino, where the Van Morrison concert was sold out. I had a cup of coffee and walked briskly toward the bouncer, saying “I got that coffee for Van” as casually as I could. The guy waved me through. Heck, other folks standing in line stepped back to let me past. I stepped into the venue, and just slumped.

“I can’t do it. Look, man, this coffee isn’t for Van. It’s just a cup of coffee.” The bouncer blinked at me. I wandered off, the fun gone forever in that game. Heck, it just got too easy.

Now, good consulting is also a form of storytelling. Usually, my client comes to me with a mishmash of complaints, problems, nightmares and quandaries… and none of it seems to make sense.

However, I learned long ago that almost everything makes sense when you get the right perspective on it.

But it has to be the right perspective… Continue Reading

Publishers Freak-Out As Freaks Move In

Typewriter and gun

Thursday, 12:40pm
Reno, NV
I write because I cannot NOT write.” (Charlotte Bronte)

Howdy…

I want to cover three important things today.

Important Thing #1: Very exciting news this morning: My first Kindle ebook (“The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Getting Your Shit Together”) elbowed its way into best-seller territory on Amazon in less than half a day. It’s #4 on the “entrepreneur” books-for-sale chart, with a bullet, and surging on the “business” charts (in the top 35).

This is like watching your latest album climb the Billboard rankings. I labored over the book (with superb editing help from our pal David “Flashman” Raybould) for many months, whipping it into shape and waiting for the right moment to dive into the wonderful new world of self-publishing that has just hit the Big Turning Point.

Now, it’s up to the reading public to decide if it’s worthwhile or not. A little scary, a little thrilling, a lot of fun for a writer who has craved being in control of publishing my own stuff, in my own damn way, for most of my life.

And, as satisfying as it is to read the great buzz-comments on the Amazon page (and in social media) for this new tome… it’s even more energizing to have finally busted my cherry in digital publishing. This first book took a while to finish and get launched. The next one will follow blazingly quick, and there are even more in the hopper.

If you are so inclined, you can check out a free preview of the book (or even, gasp, buy it) here.

Leave a comment, too. And hit the “share” button on the page. The tome is getting rave reviews, which makes sense since it’s a lovingly-revised compilation of my best Rant newsletters (which I mailed to subscribers for 6 amazing years). This is time-tested stuff, the best “here’s what Carlton’s been teaching all these years” resource possible.

Hope you enjoy it, if you buy it. Hope you stay awake all night thinking about it if you don’t buy it, and feel compelled to buy it first thing in the morning. Cuz it’s damn cheap as a digital book, and you really SHOULD own it. (And yes, we’ll be offering a paperback version down the road, but this digital version is what you need right now.)

Important Thing #2: I now know much about self-publishing ebooks that was a mystery to me before.

For example… Continue Reading


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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.

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