Authors need to know about copywriting. It’s writing designed to make the reader take action, so we can use these techniques in writing the all-important sales description for the online book retailers, as well as ads for Facebook, BookBub and more. In today’s show, Joanna Wiebe from Copyhackers gives us some tips.
In the (personal) introduction, I talk about being in Brisbane, Australia and how my life has changed since I moved away from here in 2011. It’s quite amazing what can happen in 6 years – and I look forward to 2023. What do YOU want to achieve by then?
I did an interview with Publishing Perspectives on our plans for Curl Up Press, and fantastic KDP reporting tool, Book Report rolled out an all-time sales data tab, which is very useful! I also talk about a fascinating book I read this week: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets
through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
- What is copywriting and why should authors care about it?
- How to bring authenticity to your book sales copy, while you’re trying to hook readers
- How to use a swipe file when you’re writing sales and marketing copy for your books
- Are we writing copy for people or for robots?
- Tips on time management for busy people
- Making the leap from a day job to an entrepreneurial business
- How and when to hire a copywriter
You can find Joanna Wiebe at CopyHackers.com and on Twitter @copyhackers
Transcript of Interview with Joanna Wiebe
Joanna Penn: Hello, creatives. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I’m here with Joanna Wiebe. Hi, Joanna.
Joanna Wiebe: Hello. Two Joannas. The world will explode any second now.
Joanna Penn: Well, just a little introduction in case people don’t know you. Joanna is a conversion copywriter and founder of copyhackers.com and airstory.co and an international professional speaker. She’s also a prize-winning author of urban fantasy. Talented woman, Joanna. And you’re in Canada, aren’t you? Which is awesome.
Joanna Wiebe: I am in Canada, yeah. I am on the west coast of Canada, near Vancouver.
Joanna Penn: Which is great. I love that. I don’t think I have enough Canadians on the show.
Joanna Wiebe: Oh, never enough Canadians. I’m just kidding.
Joanna Penn: Exactly, right? Well, I wanted just to get started. You describe yourself as a copywriter, and a lot of authors hate the word copy, like content. It’s, like, is this content? Is this copy? It sounds somehow less creative.
How would you explain copywriting, and why should authors care?
Joanna Wiebe: My first job was technically a copywriter, but we called me creative writer because I hated the idea of being called the copywriter, so I get it. And then eventually, I came around to being called a copywriter. This is the important part, right? Is when is your work best done as a copywriter, right? So creative writing, fantastic. You get into a narrative that can apply in copywriting. The ability to pull people into your story, to hook them, all of that is critical for copywriting. And the law, of course, comes from creative writing.
Copywriting is there when you are ready to sell books. When you’re ready to pitch agents if you decide to go that route or have your agents then, say here’s the letter we’re sending for the pitches that we’re doing to editors. Copywriting is really moving people to the yes. So you get a yes using your work.
That’s why copywriting is a skill that you can really ship. It’s not the same as creative writing. I don’t believe it’s the same as creative writing at all. There are things that are in common, but it’s there to get people to say yes to whatever you’re trying to persuade them to do.
And so, that can be, of course, a way to persuade when you’re writing your sales page on Amazon for your book or something, like that. How do you get people to care about your book compared to all the other books out there that they could be reading? Why should they read yours? Practicing and learning copywriting can help you with that.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, fantastic. And I did want to actually talk about the book description, on the online retail stores, which is probably one of the most important pieces of copy that an author should care about, right? And you mentioned hook there. So, and this is something we all struggle with.
What are some of your tips for deciding on a hook?
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, for me, one of the best shortcut to a hook is completing the phrase, “I never thought it was possible, but…” So whatever follows that is usually a good filter for a hook.
So if you’re starting to write a page by saying, “This book is going to show you,” or, “This book takes you down a path of discovery,” I don’t know what your line is. Does that complete the phrase, “I never thought it was possible, but?”
I never thought it was possible, but this book takes you down a path of discovery. No? Bad, right? It’s clearly bad. But if you can start, really, when you use this, “I never thought it was possible, but…” it forces you into the most interesting part, which is all anybody cares about. Skip all the preamble, drop me right into the middle of the battlefield. The battlefield principle, we call it.
I don’t want to hear about all the surrounding peripheral stuff. Bring me, drop me, right into the middle of it, make me care instantly, and that’s hook framework. I never thought it was possible, but, is a good way to find that.
And that might mean that you already have a page written, let’s say, if you don’t worry about starting the writing process for your copywriting by saying, “What follows I never thought it was possible, but…” You couldn’t just write out whatever it is that’s in your head.
Just go, get something on the page, write as much as you need to. Then go through it line by line, and see if any of those lines that you’ve written complete that phrase.
You might find that your hook is buried way down, or, the lead is buried. It’s way down in paragraph three. Cool, cut everything, start there. Go open, like that. So yeah, so it can work really quickly to get you to that initial hook, yeah. Does that help?
Joanna Penn: That’s great. That’s a really amazing tip. And it’s so funny because I think where we are now in the political climate, and I know we’re not gonna talk about politics. What I wanted to ask is, so many people, like I was talking to a PR lady and she had these types of questions, like what is the most interesting thing about your backstory? And I’m like, “Do you know what? I just, I don’t want to go there,” because if you want to pull out that, that’s gonna really…
Joanna Wiebe: I know.
Joanna Penn: With people feeling a bit of a backlash against some of these clickbaity headlines in blog posts and things, and if people are feeling a bit weird about doing this type of copywriting. I think of you as this really authentic lady.
How can you bring that authenticity and that realness to copywriting when you’re also trying to hook people?
Joanna Wiebe: I think and one of the things I want to make clear is that “I never thought it was possible, but…” doesn’t appear on the page ever. It’s just, you complete the phrase. But I think, I know that a lot of writers feel that.
I was an English major, creative writing, was a huge part of that, and none of us wanted to hang out with the business majors or growth marketing. You guys just hang out over there, we’re gonna hang amongst ourselves, we’re cool.
So I get not wanting to participate in things that sound clickbaity. If it triggers this weird reaction, I think that is something that writers are really tuned into. But don’t let your fear of sounding salesy get in the way of your selling.
You should start by writing the clickbaity headline, start with that. Do that. Take a formula that will end up sounding like clickbait, put that down first, and then edit it to the point where you feel good about it.
BuzzFeed is filled with clickbaity headlines because they work. They work and they work and they work. You don’t have to say, “This one trick developed in Argentina will save 50 years off your face.” You’re not doing that.
But what can you take from the formulas that they’re relying on, the formulas that have turned BuzzFeed into a billion-dollar business using content that they didn’t even write. They put other people’s projects and rewrote it, and now they’re worth over $1 billion.
I’m not, “Oh, I don’t want to sell out.” I’m not talking about that, but what can you do? You want to sell books. If you’re self-published in particular, it’s on you. If you’re an author, you’re published by a traditional publisher, it’s still on you, really.
You have to know how to do this and start with the clickbaity formulas. They’re all over the place. We’ve got a whole post on formulas on Copy Hackers if you’re like, I don’t know where to start, just all sorts of them on there. And just pay attention when you’re reading BuzzFeed, and then pull back.
Pull back to where you feel comfortable, and try different ones if you have a book that’s not selling very well. And you can rewrite the body or the copy for it such that it does have more of those of formulas in place that helped. They’re there for a reason. Over time, this is how we’ve evolved to hear stories and have our curiosity piqued.
So you want to apply it across the board, but where can you start trying to use different copywriting techniques and see what happens? At least, as a starting point.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, and it’s interesting you said that. You have this post on Copy Hackers, and this idea of a swipe file, I think is something that a lot of creative writers won’t know about. Because there’s this fear of plagiarism, and rightly so, we don’t plagiarize.
What’s the difference between using a swipe file, and what is a swipe file, and how is it useful when you’re writing?
Joanna Wiebe: I think it’s a little bit different in copywriting. Yes, you never want to plagiarize, obviously. But copywriting is about taking other people’s great work and building on it, really. When you’re doing it right.
If you sit there and you stare ahead at your blank page, and you think what should I say that’s the opposite. Stop right now, back up. You can do that with your own creative writing all day. Coming from you. It’s all of that great stuff that you already talked about.
But for copywriting, others have mastered this stuff. The great, legendary copywriters you don’t know about because you’re not in copywriting, but they have shaped what we’re doing today. All those clickbaity headlines from BuzzFeed come from copywriters in the 1920s. It has been in play all the time, and if you can just go and keep a swipe file.
A swipe file, just a quick overview for those who don’t know, is that when you, let’s say you get emails from other offers or Amazon. You sign up to get emails about different books and things like that, what do they send to you? What did they say? What does the subject line say? Did you care? Did you open it? Did it get your interest?
That goes in a swipe file like those in Gmail very easily for keeping, like swipe for email copywriting, put folders together, like great subject lines, and then save that in that email with a really great subject line that made you pay attention, and open, that goes in your swipe file.
Then when it’s time for you to sell your book, you say this is the subject line they used, what’s going on in it, how can I use it for my own work? It’s like four words with two periods in it and those words, one of those words with all caps.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to copy the subject line, but you’re going to say, “Okay, well, here’s the framework of what they were doing. What if I try that for my subject line, for my sales email, and see what happens?”
Not always talking about the swipe files, not taking somebody else’s work and copying it and pasting it into a new document, like a new landing page or something like that. But take the core of what they’re doing there and just leverage it, use it. It’s yours to use as long as you don’t, of course, plagiarize. And people do obviously, in all walks of life, but that doesn’t mean you have to. But that doesn’t mean your stuff will be held back from borrowing great ideas that convert well.
Joanna Penn: So then I guess I wondered about how does SEO work with copywriting and search engine optimization for people if they don’t know what that is.
Are we writing for people or computers when it comes to a landing page or blog post or something like that?
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, I think it’s a great question. When I first started copywriting, like 15 years ago, oh, long time ago. SEO was starting to be a thing, search engine optimization. Copy that will make sure we rank on page one and then, of course, fire up on like number one on page one. That was the whole idea. And everybody was in a frenzy, like this is how you have to write like this is the way to do it, how you get traffic to your site.
And then, of course, ads came out. Then ads got promoted heavily and Google had built on it. And on Facebook, it’s being built on it. And so it’s gonna become as necessary to get organic traffic. There were other ways to get traffic, right?
And of course, if you’re building your email list. That’s yet another way to push more traffic back to your site, get them to do other things. And then along came A/B testing technology. Where that’s where we can say, okay. Now we moved from SEO to CRO, which is conversion rate optimization of search engine optimization.
SEO wasn’t gone, but CRO is asking, okay well once you get traffic to your site, are they doing anything? Are they doing what you want them to do? Because there are lots of ways to get people to your site. Once they’re there, what are they doing and how can you make them do more of the thing you want to do which hopefully for good traffic they also want to do?
That’s the world I live in. It’s the world where it’s like, once you get traffic there, are they saying yes, are they giving you the yes, or buying your book, or signing up for your list so you can keep emailing them as you launch more books, or as you relaunch and do campaigns.
Are they sharing on social, things like that? I don’t recommend that people worry a lot about SEO now. Big asterisk next to that where I’m like, hold on, it doesn’t mean don’t worry, it’s like, if you don’t have other ways to drive traffic to your page, like for Amazon, let’s say if you don’t want to pay to drive somebody to your Amazon product page, that makes sense because they could go find your competitor, right below you, right? In the other recommended books, so okay, that makes sense.
But what can you do to be found there? To be found on your sales pages wherever they may be. And that’s where having keyword phrases incorporated in your copy on that page is an important thing to do. And you can do that without sacrificing the ability to convert.
What I would say is I never recommend that someone lead with thinking about SEO when they’re writing copy or content, lead with the user because Google wants you to lead with the user. Google is siding with the user, not with people who are stuffing in keyword phrases.
If you can write copy that sounds like something your user would say, it’s likely to be more natural language, it’s likely to be what they’ll search when they’re like, book about cool person who is a vampire or something. And your H1 happens to be your title with a book about a cool person who is a vampire. And that is good for Google.
It might not be a keyword phrase that says vampire eBook sale or something like that, but rather, it’s that natural language that might be searched. Google is smarter than we are. Google is much smarter than we are with those things. So write for your user, Google rewards you. We’ve seen that again and again. And make sure when you’re writing for your user, it just so happens that it’s also very good for conversion rate optimization.
Good for Search, good for CRO, no point in not writing for your user. And that’s where we say, “You should take your copy from what you know people are looking for.” Not really to look from book reviews and things like that.
So go through Amazon book reviews to see what phrases people are using that kind of stand out. Go through Goodreads reviews, not just for your book, for the books you want to rank against. If you’re writing a vampire book and you know there are lots of vampire books out there, go read the reviews and try to do an analysis there and use that language from review, not from the product description, from the reviews, in your own copywriting. And that’s more likely to be natural language that will work for SEO and for conversion optimization.
Joanna Penn: Now, you’ve just freaked people out by saying things like A/B testing and CRO.
Joanna Wiebe: Sorry.
Joanna Penn: And everyone is going…
Joanna Wiebe: You don’t have to worry about it. Don’t worry about it.
Joanna Penn: No, it was great. But I want to come back because you’ve just started developing airstory.co, which sounds to me much sexier than something like CRO.
I want to come back to the importance of story in all of this stuff and why story is the basis of so much of copywriting.
Joanna Wiebe: Because that’s how we learn. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s how we pay attention, I mean, and we think we’re looking for facts and that’s when you’re selling a feature or not.
I know one weird guy who’s always asking me about facts in life, like what airline I took when I went to a place. And I’m like, “No, I want to talk about the place I went through, like the cool thing that happened there.” And he was like, “Was it airbus E7?” I’m, like, “I don’t know.” This is the one person on the planet that cares about that. Everybody else wants the story.
That’s obviously, as I think all writers know, that talents evolve, how we collect information and process it. Nothing matters, and so you can visualize in your head and your imagination’s engaged. The color blue, saying blue, might bring something in mind. But telling a story that put bluish images in your head or more compelling, and we’ve seen that in test that we run in scary A/B tests that we’ve run, not where you take something that isn’t a concrete sort of thing that doesn’t create a picture, and you test that again some copy that does create a picture. The copy that creates a picture converts better. That picture is the piece of the story.
And of course, if you have a bigger advertorial story, like a brand story. We’re here, let’s talk about that; what’s your brand story? That’s good for getting people to care about your brand, understand who you are. If you’re Dollar Shave Club vs Gillette, Dollar Shave Club has a better story. Gillette has no story. And so they might be doing really well, but how did Dollar Shave Club come in? They have a better story and they’re building up.
Well, they have a story at all. So there’s that part of it and then there’s the on page story. Where if you write email and you tell a story about what you’re going through, or what someone that was reading your book is going through, and they wrote something to you, and here’s something I’ve just heard, those kinds of stories are going to help perform.
“Hey, we’re launching this book right now. It’s about X, Y, and Z, come here to buy it.” Tell me more about the reactions that people had or what you were going through when you wrote it. And that we’ve seen, not with books, but with other things, is more likely to convert than just like what people think marketing and copywriting are about. So we just keep coming back to stories because of the way we evolved. That’s at least what the academics say, and so I’ll take it.
Joanna Penn: Absolutely. And of course, you have, you’re an award-winning author over in fantasy, now you have these books. It’s amazing, and when I discovered them, which you’re quite stealthy about them, really. They’re just hanging out there.
What part does your fiction play, or what part has it played, in your creative life and your business?
Joanna Wiebe: It’s just an escape for me. I loved creative writing when I was an undergrad. I won some awards there in undergrad for that, which was cool and gives you like, okay, maybe I could do something with this. And then I went to Japan actually to write a speech. And while I was there, my goal was to have a year to write a book. And I wrote like two paragraphs; I had nothing. I was creatively nothing.
It took a while to get to a place where I felt like writing anything. I think I was holding writing on a really high pedestal. I’d written up, in undergrad, it was this very like post-structuralist sort of writing that I did. And then you’re like, “Well, no one’s gonna buy a book with that.”
So as cool as it was there, what do I do now? And then I started reading some young adult fiction and I liked it. I won’t keep writing it because there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t end up liking about it. I liked writing for myself.
You have to actually write for librarians. Libraries are the ones who make the choices about where the books go and reviews and all that kind of stuff. I learned a lot in that process and I decided to stop working. I had a three-book contract, I decided to stop after book two. One was I just didn’t have the time with my business to do that. But we all know that you can make time for the things you really want to do, right? So I just wasn’t feeling the love for writing young adult fiction anymore.
I still have an agent and we’ll see what happens with other things. Like a lot of people are now working on a bunch of other ideas, and I haven’t rediscovered the discipline of working on just one idea and going with it. So we’ll see.
That’s why I don’t really talk about it much because although I like the writing process, I don’t like the publishing process like at all. I like my publisher, but there wasn’t a lot I liked about that, you know, you think it’s gonna be like this moment when you get the book in your hands and you’re like, “Oh my Gosh.” And you walk into a bookstore and your books on the shelf and you’re like, “That’s my book.” Take a picture. I never really felt that. I don’t think it was the right book for me to write, but I did because I wanted to and I’ve had it in my head that I had to publish.
And so I did and that’s why now, I’m just like, just allowing myself a break from it. The next one that I write, I want it to be something I really want to write, a story I really want to tell, not just maybe something that feels like, “Oh, it’s gonna be a trilogy.” and then you’ll get another trilogy.
And then I’m like, I don’t want to go on that wheel, so that’s why I don’t talk about that much. I make it sound a very bad thing. I sound like, all the worst thing that ever happened to me was getting published, but it’s not that bad at all.
Joanna Penn: It’s quite common story and, you know, you can always come to the dark side and go indie.
Joanna Wiebe: I love that. I was thinking that I could have other books. I have other ones like completed, and I thought about self-publishing them. It’s just I know that it’s also a marketing game, right? Do I have the marketing resources the time and availability to push that right to market any book that I self-published? But that’s why I follow you to learn more about all of that good stuff.
Joanna Penn: It’s great to talk about is because there are a lot of people listening who might work in a day job or have their business, and fiction is that slightly guilty pleasure, which you know is difficult to actually make money with, so it becomes kind on the back burner.
I read a blog post that you wrote which I put in my Evernote because I want to come back to it over and over again. It was called “Note to Self on Time management”. And you basically were like, Joanna, you’ve just not done on these things and you’re exhausted and you’re burned out. And what are you doing? Why are you doing all this stuff?
A lot of people again will understand that.
How are you managing your time in 2017 to not have to write yourself another post like that?
Joanna Wiebe: Well, yes, actually there are some readers that reach out after I write something, one of those is an acquaintance who become a friend. His name is Todd Ferment. He is a coach to Olympians and business leaders. We both went to the same universities so we connected, “Hey, we’re from the same old crowd. Don’t you wish to be part of the same new crowd?”
He runs a program called “The 90-day Year”, which involves setting these goals and doing these things. And he’s like, “Well, hop on a call with me.” Let’s talk. Let’s see what’s going on.
After talking with him, he gave me some really good techniques that I’m using now. I’ll see how they go and then I might hire him. He said that he would take me on, which is huge. Because he knows his craft. I had an hour-long, hour and 20 minute call or something. And I’m now I’m doing what he recommended there, theme days.
A bad thing is context switching when throughout your day, you’re switching between seven different things that your mind think about. It’s not even necessarily multitasking. It’s like after you’ve done an hour of this, you switch to something else completely.
You think you’re single tasking, but you’re context switching and that’s the problem. So he’s like, okay. From now on, you’re going to theme every day.
I have like Financial Friday. That means on Friday, I work on the business money stuff, that whatever that looks like there, I spend that time on there. I work every day of the week, which I was already doing. I felt bad about that because I’m like, oh, you’re not supposed to work weekends, right? Like that’s the thing. And he’s saying that’s made up, that the weekend is a made-up thing. It doesn’t have to be a real thing for you. You’re allowed to work on weekends, but you have to make sure you’re taking time off, time for yourself. So if it’s Financial Friday, and you have two hours of work to do. Do your two hours and then go on with your life. So you might only put in those hours.
Another Financial Friday might be this huge thing, where you’re meeting with your bookkeeper, when you’re going through line by line everything that could be an eight-hour day. Okay, but it’s a theme day, single-focus on that day, you go away after the work is done, period.
So I’ve been integrating that. It’s hard. It’s hard to break the habit of I’m done. There’s other stuff to do. I know it’s not content marketing day which is Wednesday. I know I’m supposed to wait for that. But I should do it. I have to like, tell myself, come get lunch.
He told me like, stop it. You’re done for the day, and usually for me that means switching from my primary business to, okay, there’re story stop. This other thing, this other software, that we’re launching.
That’s a big part of what I’m changing right now is being more conscious of the things I’m going to do on each day. I’m setting a goal the night before for what I’m going to do the next day, like the one thing I’m going to get done the next day.
I used to try to do like seven things in a day, like, “Wow, I didn’t get anything done.” Sucker, of course, you didn’t. So one thing a day. So it was one the biggest things that I’m focusing on right now. You have the same problem? How are you with time management?
Joanna Penn: That’s why I asked. I’m trying really hard this year to block out my time a lot more. So similar to you; theme days. Yesterday was a JF Penn day which is my fiction name.
I know a lot of people listening have a day job and you can’t have a whole day, but you if you have two hours a day or one hour a day, you could still theme that one hour, right? You could be like, okay, well, three mornings a week, I will do one-hour writing fiction and the other two, I will learn some marketing stuff, or I’ll do the copywriting for my description. I’m definitely doing that too. But I was looking at your LinkedIn. I think we left our jobs at the same time in September-October, 2011, right?
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, I left September 2011.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, me too.
Joanna Wiebe: Amazing.
Joanna Penn: It is. It’s kind of crazy. Why I wanted to ask you about this time management stuff is clearly we were still struggling with various things after five years, nearly five and a half years.
Joanna Wiebe: Oh, I know.
Joanna Penn: A lot of people want to make the leap.
Can you kind of think back and how did it feel to make that leap? What were you scared of? And what actually got you to make that leap?
Joanna Wiebe: Totally. I wouldn’t have made the leap if not for an accident, a big accident, which I’m pretty sure is God saying, “enough. Stop complaining about your job. You’re quitting this even if I have to make you do it accidentally.”
I had a boss who was not a fan. I’m shaking my head for those who are listening. Not a fan, not a fan at all. And I was like, okay, but I was at this really great job with a copywriter, which I’d come from an agency where they’re like, “You’re the lowest rank. We don’t care about you.” So you’re gonna get paid nothing.
And then I went to Intuit, this big tech company, and they’re like, “Cool copywriter,” there’s all this money. And so I had this great job that I didn’t want to leave. Because I was making good money and I was writing on the side while I was doing that.
I had a meeting with my boss and I had been writing these ‘I quit’ emails. I had perfected the art of the “I quit email”. It was like, I had everything covered. It was in a cool tone. I wasn’t passionate or anything, just like, “Hey, I’m leaving.”
So anyway, after this meeting with him, I wrote yet another I’m quitting email. And then it was a Friday afternoon and I work from home. My husband also works from home. And Friday afternoon, it was like, 4:30 p.m. or something which was wine time, that’s right, “We’re working from home. Let’s have a glass for lunch.”
So I was still sitting up my desk, which was right next to the kitchen where Lance was bringing wine over. And I still sat on my desk and we just talked. And I had a bunch of windows open on my computer for it because I was using Outlook, and you write an email in outlook in Windows. So you can open a new window for everyone. I had like six or something stacked up on there and I had just written another I quit email, and I’d written other emails but I havdn’t sent them.
So I’m sitting there, having wine, you can see where this is going. I’m having wine with Lance. We’re talking I look at my email, just click send because it was like when I had to get off to this other person at work. And I look back and it’s like, “Ohm it didn’t send.” Like I accidentally clicked it or something, and I clicked it again, and then like hours later, it’s like, “Oh, my Gosh.” I clicked the “I quit email”. It’s gone. It is gone.
So Lance and I went into panic mode. I go and look like trying to recover, bringing that email back. It was Friday afternoon. They were out east. I was on the west coast. Chances are good nobody had opened it yet. I went to try to get it back, but I had because I perfected the email, I had HR cc’d on it, and HR had opened it. And so I couldn’t take it back and I was like, “Okay, I guess I just quit.”
That was how I left, but it wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t happened that way. And so I totally get people who are like, “But if I go on my own and do my own thing, then all of the anxiety and objections that follow that,” right? And there’s a long list of them, and they’re all scary. I ended up having freelance work immediately. There’s always more work. You can find it. You can, by the way, do that if you want to be on freelance work.
I was living off savings for a while. So if you have a little bit of savings, that’s good too. But yeah, that’s how I went about finally leaving and doing my own thing in a very scary way.
Joanna Penn: That’s awesome. And I totally agree with the freelance work or just any kind of work that doesn’t mean you’re unemployed person, like where you have more freedom of time, because then you can fit stuff in. But kind of fast forwarding till now. What have you learned, apart from the time management thing, what have you learned in the last years? It’s five years in. We’re still learning, right?
What have you learned in the last year that has made a really big difference to your business?
Joanna Wiebe: For me, it’s been finding people that can do work that I no longer want to do. It doesn’t mean I found all of them. I have hired some people that may have work so…but if you want to, I have a principle that I teach to freelancers, if I think it’s out there a lot.
And that is hire yourself. What can you hire yourself for to grow your own business? And if you don’t have skills that you would hire yourself for – I’ll do all my website design, but you would never hire yourself to do your own website design, hire somebody else for that kind of stuff, and hire yourself with the things you’re good at or that you want to do.
If only if you want to have website design in your back pocket as something else like a hobby or something. Then you’re like, “Okay, I’ll hire myself for that knowing it’s gonna be a long blog, but I’ll learn a lot and I want to have those skills for later.” But if you don’t even want to have those skills later, outsource those.
I know everyone is talking about, “Well, how do I get the money for that?” and that is, be frugal for a little while. Save so that you can buy yourself the freedom that you need. And it might sound easier said than done, but if you don’t try it at all, if you don’t save that money and then hire someone to do the work that you’re not good at, and you don’t want to do, but needs to be done for your business to grow, then you won’t grow.
I have found that hiring people and getting them to do work that I’m not good at and don’t want to be good at is a huge part of growing my business and buying myself a bit more of the time, not a lot. It’s always funny how much our work does suddenly come into. But it has been a big part of getting a lot of projects off the ground.
Joanna Penn: It’s so funny because so often we feel like we’re the only people going through these challenges. And yet that’s exactly the same thing I’ve done in the last year.
Joanna Wiebe: Really?
Joanna Penn: The realization that I have to hire more people. After I met you, I went and hired a copywriter. Yey! I was just like, I just decided I know enough about copywriting, but no one would hire me for copywriting so I should get someone else. That’s really interesting.
I did want to ask you about hiring a copywriter because you have the site Copy Hackers. So if people are feeling like me, they need help with copywriting. I’ve actually got that right now, a copywriter redoing my book descriptions. Because the ones we’ve got up there some of them have been tweaked over and over again but I’m just like, please do something with these and look at the reviews and exactly what you said.
If people want to hire a copywriter, how would you suggest they do that and all their resources at Copy Hackers?
Joanna Wiebe: Because there’s the world of copywriters out there and a lot of people who work in words, say, “Oh, I’ll do a copywriting gig at night.” But they don’t necessarily know how to be copywriters. There’s the skill there, there’s the techniques. There’s a lot of stuff that you have to have tried to know if it’s going to work and why something you’re about to do is unlikely to work. But say, the way you’re going to write something.
An experienced copywriter is far better than inexperienced copywriter. I would say, hire an experienced copywriter. We have a certification program at Copy Hackers where we thoroughly review people’s work and the way that they work, and only then do we certify them so maybe 10 people that we have but they’re listed on Copy Hackers for hire, which is attached to Copy Hackers. So there’s that.
When you hire an experienced copywriter, they’re going to be a more expensive copywriter, you should prepare yourself for that. And that means, don’t put them on random craft. Put them on tasks that are going to move the needle for you.
If you’re like, “This book is really good, like the reviews are great but nobody’s finding it,” then that’s a good option. If it’s like, “Well, I have 20 books that I self-published, I’ll just get them to rewrite all 20 descriptions.” A great conversion copywriter is going to charge you a lot of money for that. That is a poor use of things, so start small. We would look at it at Amazon sales page as a sales page. How do you close people? You have to know how to write a sales page.
But if you get somebody in who has done that work before, then you can get those results where now they’ve got you ranking where they’re getting people who stop on your page actually know why they should buy this, and then buy it.
Be prepared to spend some money. Have a realistic budget, not one that you wish were true, but absolutely is not true, like, “Oh, if I could get this done for $250, it would be amazing.” Well, that’s about an hour of time for a conversion copywriter. So they might review it, and give you some notes in that time, and then you’ll have to go implement.
But for most conversion copywriters, you want them to rewrite your eBook page, let’s say for your book page, and you want to sell, get them on that one page, it’s not going to be $250, but you can always talk and work through things with them.
And just don’t assign them to everything. Don’t get them to write your website, if nobody’s coming to your website, and you don’t really care about your website, don’t hire them for your website. Hire them for the things that are going to bring in revenue for you
Joanna Penn: Now, that’s really helpful. Just a quick question after that then.
In terms of using examples in the genre, are traditionally published books well copywritten in terms of their sales description? Or did they just not care because they’ve never really gone that route, they’ve used other marketing methods?
Joanna Wiebe: I can say from my experience, traditionally published meant that somebody on the marketing team as a publisher was writing it. It’s not a copywriter. So yeah, there’s a huge opportunity there.
And that’s where it’s like one of the great things, I think. I talk to other people who’ve been traditionally published and now are self-publishing. And that you’re going to be heavily involved in marketing no matter what, but at least when you’re self-publishing, you’ve got all the sign-in credentials for all of the different technologies. So you can go right into Amazon and write your page and go through all the motions with that and make it better and better and better. You can control growing your list. That list is yours now.
There’s a lot of great things there that traditional publishing does not have, where you’ve got a very busy marketing team that are working on a lot of different projects that aren’t theirs. Because a great copywriter is a hard thing to find, like a great anything is a hard thing to find. It’s rare that they’ll be in-house working for a publisher.
So knowing that, you’re on the same playing field as traditional publishers, and the books that authors are writing for them. But the difference is that you can control that.
I couldn’t control what my publisher was gonna put on Amazon. I couldn’t. And in hopes that they’re doing a really great job, but I’m, yeah. I sound like I’m like anti-publisher and I’m not, but I do know that you could market your book at least as well as a publisher to market the books that they’re marketing.
Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Right, well, we could go on talking all day, but we run out of time.
Joanna Wiebe: I know, right?
Joanna Penn: So where could people find you and everything you do online?
Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, at copyhackers.com, and on twitter @copyhackers.
Joanna Penn: perfect. Thanks so much for your time, Joanna. That was great.
Joanna Wiebe: Thank you, Joanna. Thanks, everyone.