You read a lot of sales pieces about how great it is to be a direct response copywriter. Those sales pieces generally talk about being your own boss, working on your own terms and making a great income.
Yes, that is part of it. But the life of a direct response copywriter really isn’t that glamorous. In fact, I realize now that success really is never glamorous when you’re on the inside. It’s only glamorous to those on the outside.
The fact is, being a direct response copywriter can be hard. For me, it’s not the writing that’s hard. That actually comes really easily… and fast. The hard part is the constant failing. If you let it get to you, it’ll drag you down into the deep dark depths.
But if you treat each “failure” as a learning experience and realize that each flop that doesn’t make you quit is one more step than some of your competition will take. That makes failing quite valuable.
So after you come back from all of those carefree days at the beach and realize that being a direct response copywriter actually means you have to write, here’s how I work. Just a word of warning…
The Creative Process is a Mess
Generally when I have a promotion to write, I get all the facts (offer, audience etc.) together and cram that into my head. Then I go work on something else for a long time. I let the ideas come to me and congeal over the next few days and maybe weeks.
I’m actively NOT working on the promo. If I take 3 weeks to write a promo, this part of the process generally takes up about 2 weeks and 5 days
Somehow (don’t ask me how), the hook, the story and everything else just fall into place, usually right before I have to start writing. Being able to do this is either talent or luck. Either way, I’ll take it.
Some of the questions I might ask myself when I’m preparing to write or reviewing what I’ve written are:
- What is my reader feeling at this precise moment in time?
- What are the hopes, dreams and fears of my reader?
- What makes my offer a no-brainer? (Is it a no-brainer?)
- Is this going to “connect” with my reader, or is it just a sales piece?
- What objections might be going through the head of my reader?
I don’t ask myself these questions so that I can manipulate my reader. Manipulation as a sales tool is a dead end. It’s the sure sign of an amateur to me or the sign of someone who just cares about money at the expense of value.
Empathy is my goal. True understanding of my reader on an emotional level is my goal.
You get that right, couple it with a good offer at the right time and you’ve got a home run.
I Only Write One Draft
I don’t write multiple drafts of a promotion. I don’t write multiple leads for the promo. I don’t even write out a bunch of headlines.
I do think for a while about all of this, I just don’t let it out on paper until it’s ready.
Editing is something that happens before I start writing. That’s why I take so much time before I write. I’m not a multiple drafts type of person. When something is coming out onto the paper, it’s coming out as a single unit, not blocks that I can simply rearrange.
To me, being a direct response copywriter is a lot more about art than anything. Creating a successful promotion is not something you can be scientific about.
Now maybe all of this makes Claude Hopkins roll over in his grave… or maybe this is how he worked. I really have no idea.
Sure, you can follow all of the rules you read in books, or all of the suggestions from past successful promotions, but that doesn’t mean squat. Your promo can still fail.
You’ve got to figure out how you work best and work it.
The art of it involves knowing how to approach your reader. The art of it isn’t so much about how to say things… it’s about what to say and when.
I pretty much subscribe to the 80/20 rule of things. I go after 80% of the results and forget about investing the added time in editing/revisions to chase after the remaining 20%. So I don’t toil over each and every word of my promotion.
Some copywriting gurus will probably think that’s a dumb strategy. But they’re “gurus,” they have to make copywriting appear hard and mysterious. Lemme tell you, this strategy works for me.
I’ve written promotions in a matter of a few hours that have brought in tons of sales. Wasn’t really even “trying.” Just spit it out and moved on with my life.
In other cases, I’ve “tried” and had the promo fall flat on its face.
So if I don’t write and rewrite, and if I don’t spend a lot of time editing, how do I improve my copywriting skills? I don’t work on my copywriting skills by copywriting, I work on my copywriting skills by actually selling things. Big difference in my opinion.
This is the Nature of the Business
So whether you’re a direct response copywriter or you’re the person writing the copy for your own business, don’t take it personally. Failing is hard. And you fail a lot in this business.
Understand that this is a marathon, it is not a sprint. So when you hear about all of these zillion dollar promotions, understand that what you’re probably not hearing about is the string of failures that led up to it.
Just focus on the goals you want to achieve and take one more step forward.