Why some copywriters make bank, while others pinch pennies

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I’ll never forget the first time I read an article about some guy getting paid $125/hr for writing, and all I could think was…

Yeahhhhhh, bullshit.

There was just no convincing me that people would actually pay that much money for such a simple task, but at the same time, I was intrigued to figure out this scam…

So I dug into it more and after a random series of events, I had the opportunity to jump on a phone call with some guy who was making $95/hr for the same type of writing.

Of course, I was extremely skeptical, and I think he could tell by my questions…

Because 5 minutes into our call he stopped and asked how familiar I was with copywriting?

To be honest with you, I had no idea what it was, and finally realized it wasn’t the “all rights reserved” type of writing like 20 minutes before our call…

So I just played it off and said I knew it was a form of ghostwriting, which is when he laughed and mentioned how that’s the main problem most people have…

Because instead of realizing what it really is, such as understanding human psychology and writing words that get customers to convert…

Most “copywriters” think it’s having a love for the written word and that’s it.

By this time my mind was blown, and I couldn’t fully wrap my head around it…

So that night I went out and started looking for different courses I could take to learn this valuable skill.

Came across a lot of options, but finally chose one and moved forward with it…

Then a few weeks later I was positioned as a professional copywriter that was ready to land clients.

Ran into a few bumps and bruises along the way, trying to understand why people didn’t want to pay me $75/hr right off the bat…

But after going from “no idea” to $125/hr copywriter within 12 months, I learned some valuable insights that I’d like to share with you today…

Starting with:

Like everything else in life, you get paid for the value you provide

It always makes me laugh when I see proofreaders get upset about why they don’t get paid much.

They usually back this up with some sort of justification, saying they have a “college degree” and are part of professional bodies…

But I got news for you Suzie, nobody gives a damn about that, they care about what you can do for them.

To give you an example of this, when I first started as a copywriter…

I decided to become a content copywriter (blog writer) and grow from there.

Started submitting proposals at $75/hr, and believe it or not, really didn’t get a lot of responses…

Until one day a guy finally messaged me back, saying how he loved my work…

But he couldn’t justify paying $75/hr for blog writing, and that kind of upset me a little bit, as I thought he was just another guy who didn’t understand the value of writing…

So I continued submitting proposals after that, thinking I’d find my ideal client soon…

And even though I did land a few clients later on (for fixed prices on short articles), I started to realize there was a common theme of people not wanting to pay a lot for blog writers.

This was confusing at first, as I knew people could make a lot of money with writing…

So after being a sorry sad sack for a few hours, I decided to dig into it and see what the high-dollar copywriters were doing that I wasn’t.

Started off by looking through their previous jobs on Upwork, and after doing this for awhile, I started to realize what they were doing different…

And it was because they didn’t focus on the “typical” writing jobs like blogging, but instead, they focused on “outcome-based” writing.

Things like:

  • Email funnels
  • Sales pages
  • Landing page copy
  • Facebook Ad copy
  • Etc, etc, etc….

And that’s when I remembered my initial conversation with the $95/hr copywriter

I have no idea why it took me this long to fully comprehend what he said in our call, but after telling me what copywriting was and why people pay a lot of money for it…

He then jumped into this thing called “funnels”.

At the time, I’d never even heard of a marketing/sales funnel, so he went into a lot of detail and told me how it’s really the way people make money online.

In other words, instead of having intrusive advertisements that try and get you to buy right away…

The “smart” entrepreneurs understand that there’s 3 obstacles that prevent people from buying, which are:

  • They’re not familiar with you
  • They don’t understand your product or service
  • And most important of all, they don’t understand how it can help them…

And that’s why people put together “funnels” that explain all this first, then ask for the sale later on.

There’s a few different ways a copywriter can do this, but in the simplest form, it always goes something along the lines of:

  1. Awareness — this is the first time a prospective client/customer has heard of the brand, and it usually takes place in the form of advertisements or content marketing. To be honest with you, content marketing usually works best here — as it allows them to REALLY become familiar with you…but advertisements work as well
  2. Start the relationship — even though they’re somewhat familiar with the brand at this stage, you still don’t want to go for the sale…which is why experienced entrepreneurs/copywriters will always start the offer with a free item. This could be something like giving them an ebook in exchange for their email address, or giving them a free webinar in exchange for their phone number…the key here is to give them valuable information in exchange for a method of contact, that way you can reach out to them later on for the…
  3. Lead nurturing stage — So now that they’ve become familiar with the brand in step 1, then received a lot of value in step 2…it’s time to start the lead nurturing stage. This is the step where you have to overcome the 3 obstacles I mentioned earlier, and the key here is doing so in a way that’s not boring. In other words, people don’t want to hear how your product/service can help them overcome obstacles, but they are willing to read valuable information (that essentially shows them how your product or service can help). It’s a tough middleground to figure out, but once you do — it’s a very lucrative skill that’ll help you get them ready for ..
  4. The offer — Now this differs depending on what you’re offering, but in the simplest terms — if it’s a product (i.e. course, ebook, etc.) then you’ll send them to a sales page, and if it’s a service — then you’ll offer them a free consultation…

And here’s how that affects your rates as a copywriter.

Remember earlier when I mentioned how people pay for value, not fancy writing?

Yeah, believe it or not…

When you can create a fully functioning funnel that sells for them at all times of the day, then they’ll gladly open their checkbook for you…

And that’s why I think the holy grail of copywriting is creating funnels.

Again, this can be customized, but in the simplest terms — creating a funnel with copywriting is really:

  • Step 1 — crafting blog posts that go viral, then at the end of that blog, leave a call-to-action that sends them to:
  • Step 2 — a landing page that converts like crazy, getting more email subscribers that then enter
  • Step 3 — the lead nurturing stage, which is usually in the form of email funnels that leads them to…
  • Step 4 — The sales page, which converts them into a paying customer

And if you can do that, you’ll never be a starving writer…

But here’s another “hack”

Now as I’m sure you can guess, it takes time before you’re able to learn a full funnel…

And even though I think it’s the end goal every copywriter should strive for, it also doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” either…

Because you can easily learn subcomponents of this along the way and make money before you reach the endpoint.

To give you an example of this, after realizing I needed to become more than a “blog writer” if I wanted to make some serious dough…

I decided to go out and learn landing page copy.

Knew this was the next stage of funnels, and it wouldn’t take me long to figure it out…

So I went out and learned this subskill real quick, then jumped back in the freelance world right after that.

Was able to produce great results right away, and clients were paying me a decent chunk of change to do so…

But then I kept noticing how they had to hire another freelancer who could drive traffic to this landing page for them…

And seeing how most of them wanted to do this with Facebook Ads, I decided to go out and learn this skill.

Took me a few weeks to do so, but after I felt comfortable with my knowledge…

I went out, positioned myself as a “copywriter who grows email lists”…

And well, that’s when the real money started flying in.

Moral of the story:

As long as you can provide an outcome clients are looking for — then you’ll get paid well….

And the method of doing this doesn’t matter, as long as you can provide an outcome they see as valuable.

This is obviously why funnels work so well, but even if you’re not creating full funnels, you can still help with outcomes before that…

Such as:

  • Growing email lists
  • Getting Medium followers
  • Building traffic on their blog…

And on and on and on…

So long story short, just focus on outcomes — and you’ll be alright.

To recap…

After working in this industry for a few years and collaborating with all sorts of writers along the way, I can assure you, talent and experience is hardly ever the reason why writers aren’t able to charge more…

It’s because they’re focused on the tool (writing) more than the outcome (sales)…

And as the old saying goes:

People don’t buy a drill because they want a drill, they buy a drill because they want the hole…

Or in other words, sell the outcome — not your skill.

P.S. Want to learn more about turning this knowledge into a profitable side hustle? Check this out

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