Tag Archives for " copywriting "

Playing In The Big Kids’ Sandbox

Friday, 11:35pm
Reno, NV
Tell your mama and your papa, I’m a little schoolboy, too…” (“Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl”, Sonny Boy Williamson)

Howdy…

Eventually, the main concerns of an entrepreneur become:

Concern #1. How does all the hard work fit into a lifestyle you enjoy having?

Nobody minds slaving away in the early stages of a biz adventure, cuz it’s fun.

And nobody wants to get locked into forced labor indefinitely, with no end in sight.

That old “work-life balance” thing can be a pesky bugger.

So this lifestyle stuff quickly becomes something you need to pay serious attention to. It’s interesting that so many “get rich quick” schemes feature (as bait) someone supposedly living a great life, on a beach somewhere, drenched in wealth and sex and fun…

but the folks who fall for the pitch never quite seem to attain the same action. 

That’s because, while it looks easy enough to do, it’s actually a royal bitch to put together a great lifestyle.

You gotta sample lots of things (like, for example: Do you even LIKE the beach?), test out different kinds of fulfillment (a huge mansion isn’t so much fun if you can’t afford to maintain it, or it’s far from your friends and you slowly waste away from loneliness), and figure out what you actually want (pretty Ms Suzy Q, the beauty queen, might turn out to be a nightmare to live with).

The trick to knowing how to set and achieve goals involves much guesswork at first…

… because almost no one really knows what will make them happy, at first.

In fact, I’ve discovered that MOST folks don’t actually want what they achieve, in their first efforts at implementing goal-attaining behavior.

They underestimate income, what makes them happy, and how fulfilled they will be with the first batch of stuff they go after. (I’m certainly in that camp. I was so broke and lost when I discovered the magic of goal-setting-and-attainment, that I was way too modest about moolah, love, and lifestyle. Took me years of attaining and discarding to figure it out.)

It’s a process.

Just like business.

The trick is to start right now, no matter where you’re at in life.

And use critical thinking to examine what you’re after, and what it means to you after you’ve attained it.

And adjust accordingly for the next round of goals.

Concern #2. Are you maximizing the easier ways to bring in money through multiple streams (so your cash register is pounding away even when you’re asleep, on vacation, or missing in action)?

Most entrepreneurs and freelancers leave massive piles of moolah on the table, never realizing the potential windfall just itching to fall into their laps.

You’d be shocked to know how many veteran business owners come to me for consulting…

… with a main problem of “not enough sales”…

who actually just need to implement simple things like a good back-end.

A good back-end is just creating a product or service (or a menu of such) that you immediately offer customers…

… right after they’ve bought whatever you sell that took so much marketing and effort to close.

You spend 90% of your time and marketing money on making that first sale.

Then, you got nothing else to offer?

After earning all that trust, and getting them to open their wallet?

Right when the first sale is made, that wallet is still open, you know.

And the customer is still glowing with his new-found trust in you and your business.

So, you ignore that opportunity?

Stop. Offer him something else. Right away.

It will cost you ZERO in marketing. You simply make the offer, while you’ve still got his attention.

Such a deal.

And then offer him something else, again, throughout your future communications with him.

Of course…

… most marketers forget to continue communications at all.

Or they’re ridiculously stingy about it (as in, sending out one or two emails a month).

No, no, no. Simple way to double your income next year: Email your happy customers, and your still-doubtful prospects, OFTEN. At least a couple of times a week.

The most successful marketers I know email their list every freaking day.

And no, it doesn’t alienate their list…

… because they take pains to keep those daily emails interesting and valuable.

Simple ways to keep interested customers buying, over and over, after the initial sale: That’s the key to kicking your bottom line into the stratosphere.

(And that’s just ONE way to maximize profit. For freelance copywriters, for another example, royalties can produce income for years after the work is done. I’m still receiving checks for ads I wrote TWENTY YEARS AGO. And the tactics just go on and on. Not exploring the simple ways of boosting your income is just asking for a lifestyle of relentless hard work and burnout.)

3. When do you decide to chuck the original model, and grow?

To complicate the hell out of everything, bringing in new staff or putting yourself in debt to investors, just because you think that’s how “growth” happens…

… is silly.

When you’re ready to play in the Big Kids’ Sandbox, you often just need a better game plan, higher quality skills, more powerful network connections, and a much, much deeper bag of tricks if you intend to thrive.

Becoming, and remaining, successful is an ongoing process that requires constant vigilance…

… and a commitment to doing what needs to be done to sustain your enthusiasm, your motivation, your ability to “read” your market, and the resources needed to stay relevant and vital.

Think of all this as your “toolkit”.

In there are the tools, tactics, strategies, techniques, skills…

… and the human side of your resources: Your networks, colleagues and mentors you trust to keep you focused on the right goals.

We all need someone to confide in, share ideas with, and confess our fears and troubles to. (I’ll be on the phone today with multiple colleagues, talking shop. And I’ll come away from every single call more energized, bursting with fresh ideas, and full of new tactics to put things into motion.) (After 30+ years in this biz, I’m one phone call away from the best possible answer to EVERY SINGLE QUESTION in business today. That’s a luxury you need to aim for, too.)

For some, that confidant is a spouse. For others, a biz partner.

For most, though, it often comes down to bringing in outside consultants who can give your situation a cold appraisal…

… and deliver the truth in ways your close friends and lovers may not be able to muster.

The top entrepreneurs all have a bulging toolkit, along with a vast network of human resources they rely on to grow, to recover from failure, and to help keep their eyes on the prize.

Just sayin’… all this is the key to a happy, wealthy life as an entrepreneur.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. You don’t get into the Big Kids’ Sandbox with stuff you learn from a book.

No. You get there by tapping into the experience and savvy of mentors and experts and colleagues willing to share (while you’re building your own foundation of experience).

That’s where knowing where to turn comes in.

It’s good to have a one-stop resource for all the idea vetting, implementation strategies, skill-set expansion, and high-end reality checks you need to goose your mojo (and bring in the Major Bucks).

Here’s an excellent one-stop resource like that, sitting right under your nose…

Tribute To The Ink Stained Wretch

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Tuesday, 11:22pm
Reno, NV
I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)

Howdy…

For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.

Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…

… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.

For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.

Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…

particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.

For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…

… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.

We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.

Yet, the opposite is true.

Even today, the right to speak or write about what’s on your mind remains curtailed, risky, and forbidden all over the planet.

Even here, the struggle to get to this point — where you and I can write “fuck” without fear of censorship or a visit from The Man — was an ongoing battle that claimed careers and lives of contemporaries.

I grew up owning banned books (from the notorious Grove Press, which insisted on publishing every author banned in the U.S. throughout the latter half of the 20th century), watching authorities destroy comics like Lenny Bruce and artists like Jim Morrison, and being pleasantly dumbstruck when respected magazines like The New Yorker finally began printing formerly-prohibited words like “motherfucker” in their articles.

It’s not just about swearing, or about sex, or even about the never-ending brawl between Puritanism and libertarianism.

Much deeper than that.

The offensive language and unhinged rants now common online are just a price to pay for the more important victory of Free Thought over censorship.

All those past writers and wannabe scribes, muzzled and cowed into submission or silence over the past eons, would weep with joy at the lack of control by The Man over what we think and write. Never mind the wonders of electricity, air travel, the InterWebs, the buzzing gadgets that dominate modern life — the real jaw-dropper is our ability to use our minds unfettered by outside authority.

It’s a shame folks here take it all for granted. That’s how you lose these kinds of privileges.

The offended classes gather power, see freedom of thought as a direct threat to that power, and wage constant war against it.

Most folks have no use for too much freedom — it’s kind of scary, full of challenges to their belief systems and ideologies and traditions.

And I’m all for having the sense to pull back a bit in situations where speaking like a drunken sailor will cause folks to clutch their pearls or faint. I’m fine with a little cognitive dissonance, where we pretend that kids have never heard a bad word before, or that “decent” literature and movies can be great art.

But do not infringe on my right to enjoy Shakespeare and Twain and George Carlin and Henry Miller without hiding (all have been banned or censored at some point in our history).

And I will write whatever the hell I choose to write, whenever I choose to write it.

We all have to pick our battles in life. Writers tend to be an introspective, introverted bunch who aren’t so hot with manning the barricades…

… which is why it took nearly the entire arc of civilization’s history to reach this point of unfettered free thought.

So we modern writers owe it to the ink-stained wretches of the past — our professional ancestors — to embrace, defend, and heap glory onto the practice today.

This kind of freedom was never a guaranteed deal.

The Founding Fathers argued about it, and current governments elsewhere still get queasy even considering letting nutballs like us off the leash, with no way to stop our brains from thinking way outside of the box.

Dangerous stuff.

I realize that many of my fellow citizens would be just fine with a few shackles on writers here and there. For them, other battles are more important. And that’s fine…

… as long as these nay-sayers keep losing that argument.

For me, the real fight of the past few generations — the fight worth dying for today — is freedom of speech. The unconditional freedom to think, and write, whatever goddamned crap I feel like writing about…

… whether it’s the next Great American Novel or just a funny post on social media skewering uptight jerks.

Or even another ad that raises eyebrows.

Yes, there are a few restrictions still. I’m okay with having a few legal lines that shall not be crossed (because they cause real harm, not theoretical harm).

But the restrictions should remain rare.

Hearing harsh language won’t damage your brain, no matter how freaked-out you get over it.

Being exposed to foreign ideas won’t change your biology.

And stumbling upon writing that offends you won’t cause civilization to crumble.

I’ll toast the First Amendment today, and every day afterward, for the rest of my life.

It was worth blowing shit up for. It’s worth every knock-down fight that has happened, and if more fighting is required, sign me up.

For all the faults and missteps and foibles of my country’s existence…

… I still allow myself to get choked up over Old Glory.

Because she flies over my continued ability to be the kind of writer my ancestors could barely dream of being.

Free.

Fuckin’ A.

Play ball.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Hey — make sure you’ve got my books with you when you go off on holiday.

You can order them right now, in the right-hand column here. The digital versions will be in your digital hands immediately, too… no waiting…

Here’s that old book I recommend…

Tuesday, 12:36pm
Reno, NV
“… and succeed in changing the world.” (Dale himself)

Howdy…

I’m about to reveal that book I taunted you with in our recent email exchange.

But first, I want to really lay it on thick how important this is.

I’ve made a habit to practice what I learned in this book ever since I first read it some 30 years ago.

And it’s never failed to work.

I’ll go to parties where I don’t know anyone, and within minutes have someone sharing secrets about themselves they’ve never told anyone before. 

And they’ll consider me of such high quality, that they are almost desperate to become my close friend.

Yet, they don’t know a thing about me. I haven’t shared anything about what I do, who I am, what I have to offer.

I simply practiced the tactics I learned from this book…

and let the magic unwind. 

And frankly, I see the LACK of these simple skills a serious reason why so many entrepreneurs fail. 

They simply do not understand the fundamentals of good salesmanship…

… which do NOT start with you lecturing to your prospect. Or sharing details of your life, or your desires and goals.

Nope.

The magic starts, and ends (with a sale), inside your prospect’s head. 

It’s incredibly important to the sales process…

… and even more so now that we do so much biz online.

In person, these skills work like crazy.

Digitally, they STILL work like crazy. My emails, blog posts, Skype calls and everything else is front-loaded with them.

Okay, time to share:

The book (again, called The Salesman’s Bible by savvy insiders) is Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends And Influence People.”

You’ve heard of it. Maybe you even read a bit of it.

Certainly, you’re heard jokes about it. People have been mocking it since it was first published. The headline alone (suggested, I believe, by ad legend John Caples) has spawned a thousand mimics, both seriously and satirically.

Doesn’t matter.

All books are TOOLS. You use them, to absorb the info and strategies and tactics. They are your hammer and nails, the most fundamental tools in your kit.

Keep the book hidden, if you like, if you’re afraid someone might laugh at you.

But read it, several times.

And get the oldest edition you can find. As I mentioned in the email, Dale’s heirs have decided they know more than he did (despite not living the life of a salesman), and screwed around with the copy.

I prefer the older editions. The one I first read was from the 1930s.

I just checked on Amazon. You can buy a 1981 version (pre-heir screwing up) for around $40. Or get one of the new digital versions for a few bucks — do that, if you must.

But get hip, regardless. 

Oh… and there’s a FREE book here for you, too.

Next post down…

Stay frosty,

John

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-level 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.

In fact, 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.

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.

We get a TREMENDOUS amount done in these hours. For example, 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.

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.

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…

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

It’s time for you to move up a level.

How much?

A single hour session with me, personally, is just $2,500.

Here’s what to do now:

Just email Anne at annem@marketingrebel.com, write “Consult with John” in the subject line…

… and answer these four quick 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? Have you ever consulted with a professional before?

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

That’s it.

Either Anne or I will get back to you quickly. And we’ll schedule the call, if I feel I can help you.

I book up fast, because I only take a couple of clients on each month.

So, if you’re at all interested in getting direct, personalized advice and insight from me on your biz, career, and specific situation…

… please jump on this right now. This time of year always clogs up quickly.

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

Stay frosty,

John

Does Anyone Really Know You?

Wednesday, 11:22am
Rome, Italy (yeah, I’m on vacation)
Wither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car at night?” (Jack Kerouac)

Howdy…

I’ve been asking people, lately, what I consider a great question: “Is there anyone in your life who could write your biography?

Most folks never think about their legacy.

The writers I know all do, of course, though few take the time to work up an autobiography (beyond the blurbs we use for promotion). You gotta be really full of yourself to think you’re worthy of a book.

Still, it’s a question to ponder. Who in your life knows you well enough to tell the tale?

I have no one. Because I’ve moved around a lot, and had radically different sub-plots in my life many times that brought in new batches of friends and cohorts, leaving prior ones in the dust.

There are folks who could tell you intimate things about me, within a limited “chapter” of time… but never the whole story, as an overview. Childhood, youth, the middle years, geezerdom. Each of these eras are like separate John’s, completely different people.

Guys like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have been close their entire lives, from late childhood on, because of the band. They may not know all the details of each other’s tale, but they could hold forth with pretty decent accuracy on the main themes.

Read more…

What Shrinks Know That You Don’t Yet

Saturday, 1:25pm
Reno, NV
“It’s game over, man, game over!” (Corporeal Hudson, “Aliens”)

Howdy.

Folks who’ve followed my ramblings and rants for a while know that I’ve had a healthy, life-long love of psychology. Both the academic discoveries, and the street-level revelations that only savvy, old school salesmen ever discover.

And that’s the useable stuff. The insights and tactics that work in marketing, for example. And in dealing with people (who, as you well know, can be whacky and illogical at the worse times).

So here’s one piece of what I call Psych Insights that may help you at a very fundamental level.

Dig: I’ve hung out with — and learned a lot from — a number of professional psychologists.

Most are whacked (with personal lives in complete disarray)…

… but it’s like knowing an insane plumber who can nevertheless fix any pipe problem you have.

You don’t judge the guy you let into your brain’s plumbing by his whackiness, but by his ability to help you.

Anyway, Gary Halbert also shared my fascination with shrinks, and even had one in his inner circle for a few years. (We tried, and tried, and tried to help him get an entrepreneurial project going… but, you know, he was just too caught up in the academic mindset to “get” marketing.)

This particular shrink really understood the territory of human behavior and belief, though. (He’d spent so much time inside people’s heads, he could recognize your particular neuroses before you opened your mouth.) (Yes, you’re neurotic. Get over it. We all are.)

What I learned from him (and other shrinks, both the good ones and the close-to-being-committed-themselves ones) gave me awesome persuasion tools to work with in ads.

But I also learned a lot about living well, too.

Read more…

Tribute To The Ink-Stained Wretch

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Tuesday, 11:22pm
Reno, NV
I’m a long gone daddy in the USA…” (Bruce.)

Howdy…

For most folks in America, July 4th is about picnics, blowing shit up, and toasting the gutsy nature of our country.

Born in defiance and battle, prickly and belligerent and idealistic, with built-in endless (and often absurd) political arguments…

… we’ve somehow made the grand experiment last a couple of centuries and a half.

For me, though, the real victory of the joint isn’t in the details of elections or legislation, or the question of how exceptional we are or aren’t as a culture.

Nope. My own pursuit of life and liberty has always balanced on the First Amendment…

particularly the parts about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

That’s the beating heart of this place. That’s the saving grace.

For every writer here… novelist, copywriter, journalist, blogger or disgruntled “letter to the editor” ranter…

… there is a long, gruesome pedigree of ancestor writers who were prosecuted or erased or bullied into silence, stretching back as far as history goes.

We’re so spoiled here with freedom of speech, that many naively believe it’s an essential privilege that, of course, is the rule and not the exception.

Yet, the opposite is true.

Read more…

Congratulations. Now, Stop Being A Wuss…

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Monday, 1:32pm
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 sixth 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?

Read more…

The Most Awesome Lesson I Learned From Gary Halbert

Wednesday, 1:50pm
Reno, NV
Nothing is impossible for a man who refuses to listen to reason.” (Gary Halbert)

Howdy…

I learned a lot from Gary Halbert, but the lesson that most affected my life had nothing to do with copywriting.

Rather, it was about living well.

I began my freelance copywriting career back in the “dark ages” of the mid-eighties, when direct response advertising had gone out of fashion and there were just a handful of us “true believers” in the game, devouring the ancient (and often out-of-print) books on advertising while doing the hard work of becoming masters at old school salesmanship…

… so we could relentlessly obliterate our clueless competition in every market we went after.

I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles at the time… because multiple large agencies had just opened up branches there and were starved for competent copywriters. I quickly became the guy the creative directors snuck in the back door to do the work their house staff couldn’t pull off (because none of them studied the craft).

Then the large mailers back east caught wind of my work, and I found myself moving in the “A List” crowd of now-legendary copywriters like Gary Bencivenga and Jim Rutz (who I ghost-wrote for).

However, the corporate world bored me to tears. It was primarily financial and health newsletters with the large mailers, and insurance and equipment sales with the agencies. Yawn.

That’s when I met Gary, at Jay Abraham’s house. He was the most arrogant, vain and outrageous person I’d ever met in the business world…

… and I liked him immediately.

Read more…

How To Weasel Out Of A Deadline (When You Seriously Must)

Saturday 3:08pm
Reno, NV
Do the least damage possible to the client.” (Me.)

Howdy.

Recently, a good pal (and damn fine copywriter) had a bit of a meltdown…

… because Life inserted some truly cruel and unusual shit into his day, and he was in danger of missing a deadline. (That’s a photo of a deadline, above. Nasty thing.)

This is a no-no among most top professionals of all persuasions. You don’t miss deadlines.

People are counting on you. As a freelancer, entire businesses may be counting on you.

Back when I wrote for the largest direct mailing outfits in the world, a missed deadline might mean tens of thousands of bucks wasted, as printing presses sat idle. If my piece was meant for a print ad, even more money could potentially go down the tubes — my deadline was attached to a publication deadline, and no magazine or newspaper waits for you to get your shit together.

You don’t get your ad in on time, you don’t go into the publication. And you still have to pay (at least a penalty, and maybe the whole ad cost).

It’s serious stuff.

Still…

… because we’re all humans living in an essentially hostile world (full of danger, unpredictable risks, and lots of other gruesome horrors)…

you need a plan.

A plan for that day (which hopefully never comes) when… shudder… you may be forced to miss a deadline.

My colleague is a true pro. He understands that clients and printing presses and budgets and biz plans are counting on him to meet his deadlines…

… and over a decade as a freelance copywriter, has never to my knowledge missed one.

And yet, here he was…

… cornered by Life, and needing some advice on what to do.

So, I whipped out a short list of options.

And it was so good, I thought I’d share it here.

For you to use NEVER… unless there is absolutely no other choice.

So, ONLY for your deep Bag O’ Tricks-Maybe-Needed-Down-The-Line (and never for regular use), here’s that advice:

How to get out of a deadline…

… when you absolutely have to (cuz you’re faint from loss of blood, or space aliens kept you locked up all night doing anal probes, or your eyes fell out…

… which, by the way, are the ONLY real excuses a true professional would ever let get in the way of a deadline. Other than life-or-death emergencies.)

Let’s begin with the stark fact that I, for one, have never missed a deadline. Never. In a 30-year writing career.

A few colleagues have expressed shock over that. Cuz, from the complaints I’ve fielded over the years about my cohorts, the average copywriter misses approximately half his deadlines. From rookie to top dog. It’s appalling.

But it also opens up a huge opportunity for writers who want to stand out (as all the “A Listers” do). One of the reasons I earned the global reputation I enjoy, in fact… is by meeting my deadlines.

Deadlines are sacred. I made a vow early in my career, “biz before pleasure”, and I stuck to it.

Without that attitude, I would be just another run-of-the-mill copywriter. No fame. No fortune. Not worth much.

In fact, the whole notion of meeting ALL your deadlines caused me to create what I call “The Professional’s Code”. It’s good for anyone in any kind of job where people count on you.

Here’s that code: You are where you said you’d be… when you said you’d be there… having done what you said you’d do.

It’s just that simple. In biz, romance, hobbies, getting your hair cut, everything you do… you follow the code.

If you crave the respect (and rewards) of BEING a true pro…

… you move heaven and earth to make this code REAL in your life.

You become That Guy who can be counted on. Who follows through. Who you can trust with your life. Or the life of your business.

Still…

… nevertheless, there may come a time in your career when life interferes so drastically…

… that you are forced to miss a deadline.

If that happens, here are your options:

Option #1: Arrange for an extension. You do not reveal details of your emergency. You’re not looking for sympathy. You’re a professional who is admitting that you cannot meet the current deadline…

… and something else needs to be arranged.

If they refuse your request for an extension, then: (a) return whatever fee you’ve already been paid, and deal with the professional shame of missing a deadline…

… or (b) hand in whatever you’ve completed up to this moment (if it’s even close to being what the client needs)…

… or (c) combine (a) and (b).

You may lose the client if what you give them isn’t something they can use… but then, who needs clients who don’t respect the fact that — once in a while — life hands you a bummer? (And, to be fair, what client needs a writer who misses deadlines?)

This is assuming you haven’t made a habit of missing deadlines. You may have earned some slack, IF your rep is clean up to now.

If missing the deadline causes a huge problem for the client, then your reputation has taken a massive hit…

… and your job, for the next few years, will be to try to repair your reputation. It will be hard. And dependent on you never missing another deadline.

If you take the hit, face up to it. It’s a setback. You’ll have to work to fix it.

It is what is. (Good Zen advice for living imperfectly in a rough world.)

Getting an extension is the best possible option.

But it only works if it works for your client, too. 

If you must face the reality that you will not meet the deadline…

then own up to it as soon as possible. Do not try to keep a fee you haven’t earned.

And — most important — do not vanish on the client.

The WORST thing you can do is go radio silent, leaving your client in the dark… just because you’re too embarrassed to admit you’re missing a deadline.

This compounds the error, essentially tossing your reputation into the toilet.

Own up to the situation. Again, you do not need to share details — what’s important to the client is not what’s happening to you, but what’s to become of his campaign. He paid you to do a job, and you’re not doing it. There are no “good” excuses for missing a deadline…

… but there are missed deadlines, even the most perfect of worlds.

Option #2: Gear up, do the best job possible in the time you can give to the gig, working overnight if you must, and meet the deadline with something resembling a complete ad. Meet the deadline despite the crises. 

Schedule time to get at least some sleep, and to deal with the interfering emergency…

… but give the rest of your available time to the job. Make it happen.

I’ve even resorted to jamming out an ad in a couple of hours, to meet a deadline. Normally, I want weeks to carefully craft an ad… to research it, edit it, come up with multiple headlines, carefully craft the whole thing. However, I’m also capable of writing quickly, without the days of obsession and editing.

I prefer to have time to do it right.

But when time is not available, I do the best job I can inside of the small block of time I do have.

When you jam stuff out… what you end up with is what it is.

Just know that a top writer working at 70% is worth a lesser writer at peak output — which means, if you’re a veteran writer, this rushing to meet the deadline at the last minute can still produce “good enough” copy.

If you’re not a veteran writer… then you’ve got to make the call: Can you craft a complete ad — even an inferior one — in the time you do have available?

If you can’t, then this isn’t a good option for you.

Side note: The great Gary Halbert used to routinely finish ads, writing by hand on a legal pad, in the passenger seat of a car speeding to the client’s office. I’ve written speeches in the airplane, flying to the event I’d be speaking at. I know writers who’ve recorded themselves talking out copy while in the shower, and editing the transcription in the lobby of the client’s biz.

And I’ve written ads (and made major biz decisions on the phone) in hospitals, taking a break from attending to the loved one I was there to see. I never neglected my duties as part of the support team. But there was always time to break away for 20 minutes or an hour (when they were sleeping).

You do NOT need your usual “safe space” to create good copy, once you become a true professional. You use what you have.

Especially today, with modern technology. I’ve written ads on my iPhone, typing with thumbs.

No excuses.

Option #3: If you have even a day to spare, hire a ghost writer, and meet the deadline.

If the emergency forcing you to miss the deadline is also taking you away from your ability to do ANY work at all…

… but there is still time for SOMEONE to do it…

… then this is the best option.

Early in my career, I worked for copywriting legends like Jim Rutz (inventor of the magalog), Jay Abraham and Gary Halbert in these exact situations. Sometimes, even for my very first jobs with them…

… so we had no history, and they had no idea of I could deliver quality or not. But they hired me, because I was willing to throw myself into the fire, work all night (for several nights, if needed), and move heaven and earth to help them meet their sacred deadline. And they’d heard from other marketers that I met my deadlines…

… even when they were unreasonably short.

It was a great way to kickstart my reputation as a writer you could count on. And it got me inside their operations, where I soon held high-status positions.

If you need to hire a ghost writer, hit up your network and pay what you need to pay to meet the deadline. It might be all of your fee…

… which is acceptable, because this is an emergency situation.

Oh, wait. You don’t have a network yet?

Well, why not?

One of your priorities in life should be to cultivate and nurture a network of colleagues who are in your biz. If you’re a writer, then that network should be full of your writing peers — the sort of professionals you can hit up when you’re forced to hire a ghost writer.

And those are your options.

Bottom line: Do not be bullied or guilt-tripped by the client — for your own peace of mind. Rest on your laurels if you have to — if your reputation is clean (because you’ve made meeting deadlines a professional habit), then this one time missing a deadline or returning the fee won’t harm you much.

Recite: “It is what it is. Under normal conditions, meeting this deadline wouldn’t be an issue. It is an issue, however, this time.”

Then make your decision on the best option, and engage the client in conversation if you’re backing out of the gig. The sooner he knows, the more he can mitigate the problems you’ve caused.

Seek the least damage to the client.

Side note: The best way to AVOID this travesty, of course, is to avoid agreeing to hard deadlines in the first place. Smart clients pad their deadlines, so they’re not actually “hard”, in the sense that missing it creates a disaster.

A “soft” deadline means there is still time after you turn in your manuscript before the ad runs, or gets printed, or the project starts. You’re not turning in your copy the day before the launch or the print date.

That doesn’t mean you can miss soft deadlines with impunity, though. The extra time is usually reserved for your copy being reviewed, fact-checked, and proofed. All very necessary stuff.

Top pro’s who’ve had experiences with deadlines prefer this arrangement. If there’s a problem — especially one in miscommunication between client and writer (including bad info, incorrect facts, and totally misunderstanding some essential part) — it can be caught early, during one of the multiple soft deadlines in the funnel.

It gets complicated, when writers don’t want early drafts of their work seen by the client. I certainly do not want this.

However, it’s very smart to insert soft deadlines where the client must get all info to you (so you can start writing)… where all facts (from phone numbers to links to research info) are double-checked… and where you float your hook (especially if it’s outrageous) or sale-closing angles (including guarantees).

This saves everyone a lot of problems.

It also forces the writer not to wait until the last minute to start writing (which is why sudden emergencies cause such havoc). If you’ve got all the info double-checked, and you’re sure of the facts you’re working with, AND you’ve cleared your hook with the client…

… then having to finish up in a hurry (when unexpected shit hits your fan) becomes much, much easier.

Top writers know how to navigate life and business at a level far above how regular civilians operate.

Because people are counting on you.

Hope this helps.

Stay frosty,

John

P.S. Want more good advice like this, specifically for copywriters and consultants?

The “Freelance Course” is crammed with it.

Go here to check it out.

Many top working writers used this course to break away from the pack, and start earning the Big Bucks as their reputation grew by leaps and bounds.

Take your career seriously. This is a great place to start.

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