“We must not be free because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
– William Faulkner
My friend Paul Hollingshead is pretty smart fella.
He recently wrote a piece that shared the math on this career path we’ve chosen, direct response copywriting.
In case you don’t know how you got here — and some don’t — let’s backtrack a bit: copywriting means writing writing ad copy. The headlines. The print ads you see. Billboards. TV ads. And sales letters.
In the role that Paul and I and many others play, we’re talking most of all about the sales letters. Really long ones, that can range 8… 16… even 24 pages or longer.
These days, we’re talking more specifically about sales letters on the Internet. Usually posted to a website or read off in “video” form, with text on screen.
I’m almost sure you’ve seen these ads. Maybe you’ve even responded to a few of them. But what happens on the other side of the screen? As Paul spelled out, people like us get paid to write those ads. And we often get paid pretty well.
Two weeks of writing or maybe three can bring you, the writer, a $10,000 fee. Throw in another two or three weeks of good sales, and you could see $30,000 in royalties. That’s a pretty tidy sum — $40,000 — for about a month of work and waiting.
That’s not unprecedented. For some us, it’s the norm or even a slow return. At the very top, it would be downright depressing. I’ve seen writers make twice that in a month. I’ve done it myself. I’ve seen a handful do that much in a week.
In short, Paul’s right. This gig can pay.
But the writing students I meet are so focused on the income potential, I don’t get asked often enough about other benefits. Since you can start enjoying these benefits even before you hit the big time — and perhaps if you never do — let’s talk about them now.
One of the big ones is, of course, the freedom. I used to work in an office, on someone else’s schedule. But you really can write copy from anywhere. All you need is a laptop and a Wifi connection. Heck, you could pull off a productive afternoon with a legal pad.
It did take work to get “good,” but once demand for my copy started to go up, I started working from home. Then from London, for a couple months. After that, I spent two months writing in a French farmhouse. Then I fulfilled a dream and moved to a sun-dappled apartment on the best street in the West Village, in New York City.
Since then, I’ve also worked seaside in Greece… under a friend’s grape arbor and in a family gazebo… poolside in Florida and pub-side in Dublin… on a cruise ship… and right now, from a favorite armchair in our apartment, here in Paris.
I didn’t need to put in for vacation time. I didn’t even ask anybody’s permission. I just packed up and went. These days, I bring my family.
When we go on vacation, I just get up a little earlier than they do and work until lunchtime. This way, we can take two or three vacations a year. Sometimes more.
Honestly, I have to remind myself now NOT to work when we go away.
What about the client? I take calls on Skype. We email. Sometimes I combine a vacation with an onsite visit. Sometimes they even pay for the travel, because I “trade” it for a brainstorming meeting or a mini-seminar.
As long as the work gets done, they’re happy.
You can’t imagine how great this is when you have young kids. Every morning, I walk them to school. Every afternoon, I’m here when they get home. No rush hour or missed family dinners. Even if I have a deadline, I still get to be nearby.
You can’t say that about most office jobs.
You can’t even say it about most jobs in sales. But with my kind of copy career, I don’t need to do cold calls or hit the road, either. One letter gets scaled up to mail worldwide, with results that roll in overnight. I like that too.
Perhaps least obvious to the early writer, though, is the job security.
After you do this awhile, you start to realize that the better you can sell, the more indispensable you become.
Suddenly, you’re the one people look to at meetings. You’re the one they count on. You’re even among those they call first, when any new project comes along.
Why? Because nothing happens in any business, until somebody sells something. By being the copywriter, you become that somebody. It’s that simple.
You would think that in today’s market, with so much of the job characteristics a lot of people look for, that there would be a glut of copywriters out there… fighting for clients.
You might even think that people like me would want to keep new writers out, just to short circuit new competition.
But the truth is, demand for good copywriters has never been higher.
With the Internet, every sales piece reaches out to many more markets. And many more people get to see each ad, more often. New ads need writing, just to replace them.
Meanwhile, many more businesses continue to crop up online. The industry is constantly looking for new “talent” to fill the void.
So why not be that talent, yes?
Last modified: March 2, 2019