I have a feeling that most glamorize the life of a copywriter or a marketing consultant. After all, how hard is it to sit at home, with a computer in front of you and write? You can do this in your underwear, you can take a break whenever you want, you can even sit with a can of beer in front of you and sip between writing headlines.
Well … it’s not really like that.
It takes a lot more effort, focus and generally, drive than you’d need in a position of employment. This is because while a boss will pay you no matter what, as a copywriter you eat what you hunt. Yes, you generally do a lot better and you have a lot more freedom in your lifestyle, but you are also required a lot more.
So if you’re considering becoming a sales copywriting, here are some rules, ideas and standards you need to keep yourself accountable to.
Rule #1 – If you’re working under 40 hours per week, that’s pure laziness.
Look, as a self employed person a lot can go wrong and a lot will. Clients won’t pay. You’ll find it hard to get work. Projects will fail. You’ll get sick. Your wife will leave you. You won’t have time to find a new one and so on.
Generally the odds are stacked against you. You can’t control the marketplace. You can’t control other people. There are few people over which you have complete control and that’s how much time you invest into this craft.
If you want to become world class, it is expected that you invest at least 60 hours per week working. That’s roughly 8.5 hours per day. In this time you’re supposed to write, do lead generation, study, create systems, build your marketing machine, etc. In other words, you’re supposed to wear many different hats and do the work of several people, at least in the beginning.
I feel that if you invest 60 hours per week for a long period of time, no matter how much you lack talent or you have circumstances against you, you’ll eventually succeed. You will grow in an accelerated rhythm and you’ll have a lot more coming in than those that take this as a part time gig.
Investing 60 hours is not easy but no matter what you do, if you are a writer or a copywriter or an entrepreneur, you can’t expect to have a 9 – 5 job. The minimum it is expected are 40 hours but don’t expect to be brilliant at this level. You really need to put in the time, at least 60 hours weekly to get world class as a copywriter.
That’s the “bad news”.
The good news is that almost nobody does this. Most copywriters I’ve met are messes when it comes to productivity. They hardly work 4 – 5 hours a day. They take weeks to complete projects that can be completed in 48 hours and they spend more time playing business than actually doing it.
So by doing this, you can get ahead in this field very fast. You don’t need to sacrifice everything to succeed here but it’s impossible to enter the top 20% of copywriters (six figure territory) unless you’re putting in the work. Some of the people that I know and are earning seven figures per year have invested up to 80 hours per week in the first years of their career.
Eventually, it adds up. You get a reputation for getting things done. You get done in one week what others do in two weeks or even four. Plus, the growth is not linear. Investing 60 hours compared to 40 hours doesn’t mean that you’ll get 50% more done. You’ll get 100% or even 150% done more as the effort compounds and your growth becomes cumulative as opposed to linear. It’s hard to explain unless you see it in practice but putting in those extra few hours pays far, far more than you’ve initially expected.
So as a rule of thumb – 40 hours if you want to do decently well.
60 hours if you are serious about this. If you want to be known as an expert in your field and people to talk about you (positively) then this is the bare minimum.
80 hours if you want to aggressively climb the ladder.
And yes, there are world class copywriters who can get the job done in 3 hours and work 10 hours per week while getting a tan somewhere in Bali. They’re not fake. What you don’t realize is that before getting to this point, they were investing almost all their waking hours getting good at this. Copywriting is something you learn and at some point, you can treat it as a part time gig and get a full time income. The thing you need to realize is that it takes years to get to that point.
Rule #2 – Constantly improve your skills.
I’ve recently realized the value of this. While I’ve read at least 50 books on the topic, the time I’ve invested in learning copywriting is minuscule compared to general self-improvement. I guess Napoleon Hill is more interesting than Dan Kennedy but Dan Kennedy gets you a lot more money.
My current approach is for 2.5 hours a day. I listen to 1.5 hours of marketing or copywriting education early in the morning while I run. I am very strict about my ritual so this always get done. It’s simply how I structure my day.
At home, I’m investing another hour into writing copy by hand. I don’t like this a lot as I find it boring but I know it is a very effective way of improving my skills, equally important as listening to an audiobook or studying. So that’s 2.5 hours per day or 500 hours in six months.
And now you may think …
“Are you crazy? I don’t have 2.5 hours daily.”
Oh, really now?
How much you think you spend on Facebook or on YouTube? Or watching a movie on TV? 2.5 hours is less than most people spend surfing Facebook without any particular goal. The average American spends over six hours daily on entertainment activities on a computer (be it YouTube or Facebook or gaming).
Lack of time is one of the most pathetic excuses one can bring. It’s impossible not to get this time unless you’re already super successful and then you know you couldn’t have gotten here without educating yourself.
But let’s say that you have two jobs and you really don’t have the time. Do this while commuting. Driving to and from work takes time. Do this before falling asleep. Do this while having breakfast.
It’s never a lack of time. It’s just that watching YouTube or playing video games is a lot more interesting and fun than improving skills like copywriting. On the other hand, how much will those activities pay you in the future?
I work eight hours a day (2.5 hours of skill improvement included), each day. I run daily and I still have time to watch my favorite TV show for about two hours a day. I’ve watched three episodes of Stargate SG 1 yesterday. There is time. It’s not a matter of this. It’s just a matter of not procrastinating and not wasting it.
Look … I’m not saying this to be a jerk but there are a lot better excuses in life than “I don’t have time”. 24 hours is enough for everyone. I know people who get a lot more done than me in the same 24 hours and I know people who get nothing done. I know a woman running a business, having two kids at home and being a businesswomen, a mother, a driver for her kids, a wife, a writer and she still has time to engage in her hobbies. So if she can do it, what’s my excuse apart from laziness?
Rule #3 – Your second job is always lead generation.
This is true for all people who offer services, no matter if you’re a copywriter or a real estate agent. In order to succeed, you need clients. This translates to either inbound or outbound leads. Inbound leads are generated through marketing (content marketing, PPC, video marketing, etc) while outbound leads are people you contact directly.
The idea here is that most copywriters fail because they don’t have clients. The biggest irony with sales copywriters is that they’re selling a service that in essence comes down to selling and yet, they can’t or they won’t sell themselves. It’s a good known fact amongst copywriters that lead generation tends to come last and that most copywriters struggle for clients.
I suggest you take some action every day to generate leads. It is better to have people willing to pay you and not take their money than to want to do something, to work and not have any project. I’ve been in both cases and the second one sucks.
In essence, these are the three main rules for success.
#1 – Put in the time. This accounts to almost everything. You become better by getting feedback but you can’t get feedback if you don’t do the work. Writers write and the more you write, the better a writer you’ll be.
Of course, it is a bit more complicated than this but everything else tends to take care of itself if only you put in the work. It is like walking a path. The more you walk, the faster you’ll get to the destination. Yes, sometimes you’ll take the wrong road but you will make mistakes and you’ll move in circles no matter if you work 20 hours a week or 60 hours.
Obstacles are a given. Errors and setbacks are a given too. They’re the cost of doing business. You’ll lose time and clients no matter what. You’ll have hardware failures in which your computer crashes after five hours of working eventually. Problems are a constant in life. The only way to beat these problems is with effort, with movement forward. So put it in.
At 20 hours per week you’ll struggle.
At 40 hours per week you’ll probably have a normal job.
At 60 hours per week you’re aiming for the big league, to be amongst the top in your industry.
At 80 hours per week, if you can keep it up, you will become world class.
This is not a science and I can’t tell you how long it takes to reach a level of “good” or “great” but you can notice a major improvement in your skills for every 1000 hours invested into something. The faster you get those 1000 hours done, the better.
#2 – Educate yourself. Make yourself better each day. One hour in education is sometimes worth more than one hour working for a client. The idea with education is to treat it as a constant. Don’t spend an entire weekend reading copywriting books but rather carve time each day to improve yourself.
You don’t need to do it for 2.5 hours but aim for at least one hour of online marketing & copywriting education. Also, it is a good idea to write copy by hand as the ROI is huge.
#3 – Do lead generation. You don’t need many clients to succeed in this field but you need to consistently work towards something. I suggest you always have a waiting list of people who are ready to work with you and one or two clients at any given time.
Keep in mind that if you rely on a single person, the opportunities will eventually dry up. There are only so many sales materials a person needs. Even working for a big organization will eventually end.
That’s about it. Now that you know what it takes – especially when it comes to time, are you willing to put in the effort?