This Is Probably the Main Thing Holding You Back

Gary Halbert, one of the smartest marketers in history, said he believed most people would choke to death in a restaurant before they’d allow someone to perform the Heimlich maneuver on them.

I don’t think he was far off the mark.

Why would Gary make a statement like that?

I wasn’t there when he said it, but I think I understand his reasoning. He was trying to shed some light on the biggest force that stops most people from making the kind of progress they’re capable of making.

I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Your Real Job as an Entrepreneur, Salesperson, Marketer or Other Kind of Influencer

As a business owner, copywriter or marketer, you have a two-fold duty:
1. Create value for your clients/customers.
2. Get them to take action.

(Sometimes your ability to induce action is itself the value you create.)

I’ve often said it this way: A salesperson/marketer/copywriter’s job is to empower people do the things they already want to do.

They want a more comfortable temperature in house during summer, so you help them get the right air conditioner, etc.

A big part of that process is education. Education is in powerful tool for persuasion, but if it’s not helping the would-be customer take action to improve his life, it’s lacking. Consider this: a teacher gets paid to “do the work,” preparing lessons, presenting to the class, grading homework. As entrepreneurs and marketers, we don’t make money by simply doing the work. We have to impel customers to act.

What Holds People Back?

What keeps people from buying even when they’re in the market for a specific product, they can see the benefits and can afford to make the purchase?

The main reason is fear. The fear of making the wrong choice, looking stupid or getting burned. The fear of having to explain the purchase to a spouse or business partner.

Here’s a big one — the one Gary Halbert was referring to in the statement above: People are very protective of their comfort zones. Halbert said that people will “struggle harder to stay in their comfort zones than they will to save their own lives.

When you ask someone to change their habits, their preferred brands or their way of looking at things — you’re asking a lot — even if it will get them closer to the future they want.

This applies to YOU as an entrepreneur or marketer.

We often cling to our way of doing things, even when we know there’s a more efficient way.


We spend hour after hour educating ourselves, only to keep doing the same things, the same way.

I’m guilty, too. Over the years, I’ve only implemented a fraction of the ideas I’ve spent hundreds of hours consuming.

Herein lies the rub: nothing is going to change if you don’t change it. You can either take responsibility for your own results or you can make excuses. One of those options empowers you; the other gives your power away.

If there’s something your business needs but doesn’t have…
If there’s something you need to do, but you’re not sure how to make the next step (or the first one)…
If there’s an urgent problem you have no idea how to solve…

…Own it! Then take action to get what you need.

Quoting Gary Halbert again, MOTION is the biggest difference between winners and losers. He said “You don’t have a choice of being afraid or not afraid in life; you’re going to be afraid. You’re either going to be afraid and frozen or scared and moving.”

Isn’t it time to get in motion?


P.S. Need help skillfully persuading your prospects and clients to take action? Come to my Irresistible Offers teleseminar August 11th.


10 Tips for Copywriters in Training

Copywriters Write

A few days ago, I received an email from one of my newsletter subscribers. We’ll call him Paul. He’s taking a copywriting course and wondering how long he should wait to start seeking clients.

Here’s my slightly modified response to him. I think it’ll be helpful for any copywriter near the beginning of his career.


Good morning, Paul. Thank you for reaching out.

Let me ask you a question: when you look at a website, email, even a TV commercial do you know — almost instinctively — what the advertiser was trying to do, where he went wrong and how you could make it stronger?

Now, I don’t know you, but I’d be willing to bet that the answer is an emphatic “yes.”

With your studies of Hopkins, Kennedy, etc., you’re probably already good enough to be very helpful to 75% of the business owners in America.

So my answer to your question is, YES, you should begin looking for work now.

Let me share a few thoughts:

1) Copywriting, like any other discipline, requires continual study and learning. You’ll never know it all. So there’s no need to wait until you’re done “studying” to launch out into the deep. Or at least stick your toes in the water.

2) Freelancing can be tough. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not bringing in Bob Bly-level fees in the first year. Realize in advance, strengthen your resolve and go for it.

I spent my first 2 years or so as a moonlight copywriter. I worked as many as 80 hours a week in management at Kmart, then came home to prospect and work on projects. I tell that story in some depth in an interview I did with Michael Zipursky in 2012 –> If I recall, it’s about 30 minutes long. If you have the time, it might be an encouragement for you. I get lots of good feedback.

3) You’ve probably heard it a hundred times, but you should spend a good chunk of your time promoting your services. 50% promoting, 50% doing client work and improving your craft, or something like that.

4) Most copywriters start out as generalists, but the sooner you find a niche (and maybe you already have experience or deep knowledge of some particular industry) the better. Position yourself as an expert in that niche and focus your efforts there.

5) Get some copywriter friends. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have the camaraderie. You’ll come to cherish those relationships.

6) It’s also helpful to build relationships with people in other industries. Especially people with bigger audiences and established authority. These are people who can interview you and put you on their websites or in their newsletters, recommend your services to their people, do joint ventures, make valuable introductions, give opportunities for guest blogging, etc. Proactively seek out and nurture those kinds of relationships. If you’re looking to provide mutual benefit (and not just be a self-seeking mooch), you’d be surprised who will be open to connecting with you.

7) Be generous, but do your best not to undervalue yourself or your work.

8) Try to get paid upfront, even if it’s just a deposit. Save yourself from getting burned. And watch out for bad barter deals. Sometimes they’re worth it, but a lot of times you end up frustrated with what you get out of the deal.

9) Start building your email list ASAP. Even if you don’t know how you’ll keep in touch with them. Someday, maybe sooner than later, you’ll be glad you did.

10) Read a lot, but don’t let reading stop you from writing. I suggest reading non-marketing stuff and stuff outside of your area of expertise to continue giving your brain more raw material to build creative ideas with.

Curiosity is one of the characteristics of most, if not all, great copywriters have common.

People are often amazed by the stuff I know. From pop culture to ancient history and from biology to philosophy, I know a lot of random stuff. I have a “swipe file” (if I can call it that) of quotes I like about anything, everything. Never know when a powerful idea will spring forth from one. They make good writing prompts, too.

While you’re reading, please add the Bencivenga Bullets to your list: Now that I think about it, I’m going to work my way through them again…

Here’s the big one:

10) Almost no one wants a copywriter. Almost no one even knows what copywriting is, as you’ve probably noticed.

That means 2 things: A) look for clients who know what copywriting is and how much it’s worth, and B) don’t position yourself as a copywriter, per se, for people who aren’t familiar with it. Focus on your own benefits versus the “feature” of being a copywriter.

I think that’s about enough to start out.

Thanks again for reaching out. I pray you have more success than you dream of.


What’s your best advice for a starting a successful copywriting career?


Struggles and Success as a Marketing Copywriter

Michael Zipursky interviewed me the other day about the struggles and successes I’ve experienced as a copywriter and consultant for his Business Consulting Buzz podcast.

We talked about:

  • the power of guest posting to build credibility and find an audience (instead of having to build one from scratch)
  • the crucial mindset you must have to sell anything, in any medium — it’s a simple switch, but human nature makes it a perpetual struggle
  • some of my early inspirations as a copywriter (I still love all of ’em)
  • how I got my first clients
  • one thing anyone can do to automatically boost the persuasiveness of their sales copy.

Listen to Direct Response Copywriter and Consultant: Interview with Donnie Bryant.

Thanks for listening!