Big IdeasBusiness Beyond FreelancingCopywriting

The 3 types of copywriters

By 07/29/2014August 2nd, 20144 Comments

3 copywriters

On a beautiful late summer afternoon, two years ago, three hungry copywriters discovered the Copywriter Café. They were very much alike these three copywriters. All three of them were better-than-average copywriters, all were personable and all of them – as aspiring copywriting rock stars are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these three copywriters met up at a boutique hotel in downtown Chicago for a writing retreat…

There’s a point here

Okay, okay. A lame rip-off of one of the greatest sales letters of all time, the classic Wall Street Journal piece written by Martin Conroy that ran continuously from 1975 to 2003.

I use it to illustrate the fact that I really do see three type of copywriters, and the production levels of each of the three are drastically different.

Do you see yourself in any of the descriptions below? Want to move up to the next level? Simple – take action and do the things suggested in the bullet points.

Easy? That’s another story. If it was, everyone would be doing it. That’s good news for you. There’s less competition at the top.

The Average Freelance Copywriter

Want to join the crowd? The vast number of freelance copywriters that have converged online in the past 5-10 years? Do what they’re all doing:

  • Learn the art of copywriting
  • Practice your craft
  • Determine your niche
  • Establish your service offerings
  • Get a good domain name and business name
  • Build your website
  • “Hang out your shingle”
  • Hope people stumble upon your site, call you, and hire you because you’re offering something better, different, or cheaper than they can get elsewhere

In other words, the average freelancer is waiting for something to happen. Sure, you’ve done all the right things to set yourself up in business, but it’s extremely passive. Not a big payoff either.

You’re better than that, and you are looking for ways to make good money, right? Aim to at least be…

The Opportunity Seeker

Instead of waiting for things to happen, you actively seek out clients. You do all the things the Average Freelancer does, and in addition you:

  • Research your target audience and launch a mass direct mail or email campaign
  • Look online for companies that are hiring copywriters
  • Complete spec assignments for clients who are looking for new talent
  • Join LinkedIn groups, make connections with prospects, and find companies that need a copywriter
  • Go to conferences to connect with key companies on your prospect list
  • Network with local businesses at Chamber-type mixers
  • Attend a networking meeting like BNI
  • Ask higher-level copywriters if they need help with overflow work
  • Contact ad agencies to see if they ever hire freelancers
  • Get referrals from satisfied clients

Those are all good ideas. You’re building your business, getting good projects, and making a name for yourself. Still, you could take it a step further and become…

The Idea Generator

Now we’re talking! The Idea Generator makes things happen. Want to join the ranks of the bigger income earners, the Idea Generators? You actually don’t have to do everything the Average Freelancer and the Opportunity Seeker do.

You can take some shortcuts and skip certain things. For example, I’ve never launched a targeted self-promotional campaign. I’ve never gotten work from a spec assignment (and I’ve only done two, ever).

What I have done instead is:

  • Read a lot and look for opportunities where a business might need my services (not one that’s currently seeking a copywriter, though)
  • Connect with other copywriters in person, share ideas with them, and brainstorm possible project collaborations
  • Listen and observe, everywhere I go, for subtle signs that someone could use my services
  • Look for gaps in the marketplace – a perceived need that needs to be filled
  • Constantly think about, generate, and give away Big Ideas (something I’ll touch on again soon)
  • Take action anytime I detect an opening!

Here’s what I mean. Instead of waiting for a company to tell you they need a copywriter, or waiting for a “copywriter wanted” ad or spec project to be posted, do something different than your Opportunity Seeker colleagues.

If there’s a business that you think could use your services, contact them in an offbeat way, give away one or two of your Big Ideas (yes, I said “give away,” just not all of them), and follow up with them soon after (by giving one more Big Idea).

It’s too long to go into exact detail here, but two of the things I’ll be offering at my Café Writer membership site are a checklist of 101 ways to generate Big Ideas, and a series of proven scripts for landing clients. For now, let me give you three quick ideas for contacting them that stands out:

  1. Send them a letter. Yes, a good old fashioned business #10 envelope with a stamp on it, with their name and address hand-written. In today’s world, this will have an impact, because no one does it anymore.Take it a step further and use heavy linen paper and envelopes, and hand-write the letter. Yes. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve picked up from this one simple technique. I’ll give you some sample scripts in the future.
  2. Have a third party mutual friend or acquaintance set up a meeting with you and the prospect. For example, a year ago a friend of mine introduced me to best-selling author Jeff Goins, whom he already knew. That resulted in a 90-minute phone call with Jeff in which he graciously gave me tons of free business-building advice. In September I’ll be in San Diego on business. One of my clients is in La Jolla, and he has a good friend whom I’d like to get as a client. Again, I’m going to ask for a personal introduction.
  3. FedEx a letter or proposal. Yes, I know, FedEx is more expensive than just sending a letter. You wouldn’t do this for a mass mailing, of course, but I use FedEx all the time when I want to make a good first impression for an individual prospect. It’s how I landed Dan Kennedy as a client four years ago, and I’ve gotten other less notable clients since then doing the same thing. It works because most people are too cheap to do it. The way I look at it, it’s a better use of your marketing or advertising dollars than almost anything else.

Do these methods work every time? No, but nothing does. What does work over the long-term is to operate in the mode of an Idea Generator, versus working as an Average Freelance Copywriter or an Opportunity Seeker.

Have you landed a client in an offbeat way? I’d love to hear the story. Tell me and our readers about it here.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (33 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers create profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and live, in-person business-building workshops. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Laura says:

    Interesting, Steve.

    I’ve thought about this concept before, and divided people up into similar sub-groups.

    Here’s the thing …

    I’m not so sure transitioning from one to another is possible, at least not for everyone.

    To some degree it’s a personality trait. It’s innate. I think one can only push so far outside of that successfully.

    Instead, I think it makes more sense to determine where you land in the spectrum and embrace it. Just find out how to capitalize on your particular strengths.

    For instance, for your sub-group A, you are likely to have a lot more time to do the actual writing. A symbiotic relationship with someone in sub-group C may be way more enjoyable and easily profitable than fighting against your nature.

    Ya dig?

    • Steve Roller says:

      I dig, Laura. You know, I never thought of it like that. I assumed everybody was like me and aspired to move through all three levels! But you’re right, not everybody has the mindset, skills, or desire for that. Better to embrace where you fit best and go all out in that space, absolutely.

      Good observation. We need to talk more. I have a feeling some Big Ideas will be generated as we do.

  • Everett says:

    Great suggestions to help a ‘starving artiste’ of a Freelancer become a writer who devours their competition. … So, Steve… need any help with overflow work? 😉

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