What I Learned Spending $20,000+ on Copywriters (Transcript)

In today’s episode, I want to share what  I learned through the process of spending so much money on copywriting services.

I’m going to break down whether or not it was worth it, as well as how to consider whether hiring a copywriter is a smart move for your business. I’m also going to share with you the impact that investing this money has had on my business – good and bad.

This is a transcript of Work Less, Earn More, Episode 21. Listen to the episode here.

Last year I spent over $20,000 on copywriters, $20,000! That is a lot of money. I would say by any small business standards and that was definitely a very significant chunk of my expenses last year. In this episode, I want to break down for you some things that I learned through the process of spending so much money on copywriting services, whether or not it was worth it, whether or not I’ll do it again, whether or not I’d recommend you hire a copywriter or spend a lot of money or even just a little bit of money on copywriting services and I’m definitely also going to share with you the impact that it had on my business, both the good and the bad. Before we get into all that, first of all, I just want to talk about what exactly copywriting services are just so we’re all on the same page.

Basically, copy writers are people who write copy, which is the words that are used to sell things. It’s the words and advertisements. It’s the words in sales emails or on sales pages. I’m sure that you’ve written plenty of copy in your day if you run a small business, whether you knew it was called copy or not. I didn’t know it was called copy for a long time. I thought that I was just writing words. I thought that I was just doing business writing, writing ads, things like that. But, that’s called copywriting and you can write it yourself or you can hire someone else to write it for you. Now in my business, I’ve typically written all the copy. First when I used to do everything myself, of course I wrote the copy and then even as my team has grown, I’ve continued to write the copy because it’s something that can be really difficult to outsource because you need your copy or your words to sound like you.

You need them to say the right thing and oftentimes it’s easier to just write them yourself than to try to explain to someone else what you want them or need them to say. Now, on the one hand, I tend to be the sort of person who likes to do everything myself so it can be done the way I want it to be done. I like to wear all the hats in my business. But on the other hand, I know the value of outsourcing. And so I’m always working on building my team and finding people who can do the work required to build my business better than I can. As my business has grown and I’ve had funds available to invest, I have invested very heavily in help from other people. And one area that I knew I potentially could use some help with was copywriting because really copywriting is such an incredibly powerful tool in your business.

If you write well, if you write effectively, then you can drive a lot more sales than if you say the wrong things in your copywriting. And while I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, I also am certain that I’m not the best writer out there. And I’m sure that there are other people who know how to write even better than I do. So for those reasons, I was interested in outsourcing my copy and of course I also hoped that it might save myself some time as well. But I was really mostly focused on improving conversions. Now, let’s just think about the math for a minute. It might sound crazy to you that I spent $20,000 on copywriting services, but imagine this scenario, let’s say you’re selling to 10,000 people, like you have 10,000 people on your email list. You’re selling a $500 product and you have a 1% conversion rate.

Well, you’re going to earn $50,000. But if you could increase that conversion rate to 3% then you’d earn $150,000. That’s a really big increase, and since my audience has grown and I have a pretty big email list, if I can improve my copy and improve my conversion rate even a small amount, it can create a really big increase in my revenue and my profits. So for me since my audience is bigger, it’s really worth it for me to do anything I can to improve my copy, including spending significant amounts of money on copywriting services. Now, going into this past year, I had really never hired a copywriter. I’d hire a few people to do a few small writing projects, but I’d never hired someone to write an email sequence for me or write a sales page or anything like that. But because of the potential big reward, I was willing to invest pretty heavily into giving this a try.

After all, it makes sense to spend money if spending that money will earn you more money. Now, of course, that’s only the case if you can, to get the same results without having to spend the money. So for example, if I could have somehow increased my conversion rates without having to spend a penny, obviously that would be better than increasing my conversion rates and spending $20,000. There’s no denying that. But it is important that we invest in our businesses, that we invest some of our profits back into our businesses so that we can continue to build them. And that’s something that I’m always working on doing. One other reason why I was very interested in investing in a copywriter was because as Ashlyn Carter mentioned back in Episode 16 of the podcast, copywriting for yourself is the hardest copywriting you’ll ever do. If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, go back and listen to it because Ashlyn shares some really good tips on copywriting for yourself and some small changes you can make that can really improve your conversion rates.

It was a really good episode, but in my experience in writing for my business has been exactly that. That writing for myself is really difficult. Even though I’m a pretty good writer and I can write for others easily, writing for myself is just like pulling teeth. I experienced a lot of writer’s block. Now, I’m pretty good at pushing through it generally, but especially when there’s a big overwhelming project, I can really get stalled out. Next I want to share with you what exactly I spent this money on. Where did that $20,000 go? First of all, I spent $6,000 having someone rewrite all the words on my website. They rewrote my homepage, my about page, my programs page, all the main pages of my site. They completely rewrote them from scratch, $6,000. Next step, I hired someone for $13,500 to build a sales funnel for me.

When I say build a sales funnel. I’d mean write all the words of the sales funnel. We were still putting everything together, but they wrote all the emails and the sales pages, et cetera. So $6,000 plus $13,500 obviously equals $19,500 and then I spent a little bit more money on some random other projects, hiring people to write content for us, to write blog articles and other things like that. But for the most part, the $20,000 I spent went into two different projects and just so you understand this from the outset of this conversation, I hired two different copywriters and I wasn’t doing these projects at the same time. First I hired someone to rewrite the website and then several months later, once that project was completely finished, I hired someone to build the sales funnel. Let’s talk about the website writing project first. Now, this is a little bit of a sore subject, so excuse me if I beat around the bush at all.

It was a sticky situation. We’ll just put it that way. Basically, I hired someone who I really love and respect and I think that they are a phenomenal writer and I paid them $6,000 upfront to write the entire website. Like I said, I really, really like how this person writes and they’re a phenomenal person themselves, but the deeper we got into the project, the more I realized that something was wrong. I just wasn’t getting the results that I was really looking for. There were two big things that I was struggling with. First of all, the fact that it was taking so much of my time and energy to get the project finished. I felt like I was actually having to write all the copy myself because I had to tell this copywriter everything I wanted the website to say. Now I wasn’t telling her the exact words and I don’t blame her at all for this problem.

This is one of the lessons that I learned about copywriting that  I’ll get into more later. Basically since I knew what I wanted my website to say and I was just having trouble getting the words out, I had to communicate all of my ideas to the copywriter. And what that meant was that I was practically doing all the heavy lifting myself. The other struggle was that she was then taking my ideas and writing them in her own voice and it really didn’t sound like me. And the more she wrote, the more I just felt like this isn’t my voice, this isn’t what I sound like, this isn’t how I normally communicate with my audience and it doesn’t sound authentically like me. It was the worst of both worlds because on the one hand I was having to do all of the creative work or at least a whole lot of it.

And on the other hand, I wasn’t getting the results that I was really looking for. Ultimately, this project failed. I spent $6,000 and I ended up not using a single piece of the final copy. Now the project wasn’t a complete failure in the sense that I didn’t get anything out of it. Because the process itself of communicating to the copywriter what I wanted the copy to say actually helped me to think through what I wanted my website to say and to really get that out on paper and to verbalize it. Once this project concluded and I decided to not use the copy that had come out of it, I was able to rewrite my own website much easier. I’d of course tried to write my website prior to hiring the copywriter and had just gotten all up in my head about it and hadn’t been able to figure out what I wanted my message to be.

After the project finished and I’d gone through the whole process, I was able to write my website. So ultimately I got what I wanted. My website did end up being written. But it was certainly an uncomfortable process and a lot of work along the way. All right, let’s move on and talk about the second big project and then after that I’m going to get into some of the lessons that I learned from hiring these copywriters. The second big project was building a sales funnel. This was an evergreen sales funnel. We have a webinar in this sales funnel and a series of emails that go out and a sales page and a few other funnel assets also. And we did not have a version of the sales funnel that was functional prior to this. We had launched the product live, but it had been essentially a beta launch.

The copy and the launch assets were very minimal and we really needed to write everything from scratch. Now, the main reason that I decided to hire a copywriter in this case wasn’t because I was all up in my head about what I wanted the copy to say or how to communicate, but rather just because we had a lot going on in the business at the time. So I didn’t have a lot of time to do the writing myself. And I happened to know someone who I thought was a really good writer and I thought their writing style was really similar to mine and so I thought that they would be a good fit for just getting the words out there, getting the words written.

Also, their audience is fairly similar to my audience and so it seemed like they wouldn’t have to try very hard to figure out how to talk to my audience, so basically I just wanted to get the project done more easily with less hassle and save myself a lot of time. Now, $13,500 was a lot of money, but we were launching this new funnel that we were expecting to have it generate $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 every single month, and so the investment comparatively seemed pretty minimal.

It seemed like it would be a smart decision to just get it off the ground sooner rather than wait for me to have the time to do all the writing myself. This project went a lot smoother than the website writing project. In fact, in some ways it really exceeded my expectations. This copywriter did some incredible market research and she really helped me find some amazing case studies from past students of this course that we were selling and that made the funnel and the launch assets a lot stronger. We were able to use these great testimonials that she found in our emails and in the webinar and that’s something that I really would have struggled with myself and I wasn’t even expecting her to do that, but she really went above and beyond with the initial research aspect of writing this copy and I really appreciate that.

Then she went on to write the copy itself. And this part of the process went pretty well. On the one hand, her copy was very research based. She was speaking to specific pain points that she had found among our past customers and she was speaking about specific benefits. It was very structured, very organized and very, very strategic and the writing was pretty good. Now, it was still not quite, how I would have said things myself and there were some parts of the copy that weren’t quite what I wanted to say. But the two things that were really good was first of all it did all get written with minimal amounts of my time and energy invested. And it was very structured, very strategic and I felt really good about the process as a whole. Now, in addition we then had that market research that the copywriter had done, we had those great testimonials and she then tracked the analytics or the results that we got from that funnel over the next few months for us and made some tweaks to the copy.

The process here was amazing. Not every single word was exactly what I wanted it to say, but that was okay because we got the funnel up and off the ground. Now in some ways I’m sure that the copy that came out of this was better than the copy that I could have written because like I said, it was a lot more strategic, especially in terms of doing that customer research. But on the other hand, some of it didn’t quite feel authentic. And I do think that that hurt our conversions somewhat. That sales funnel from the time that we’ve launched, it has consistently converted about 2% of the traffic that we send into it, which isn’t bad for an automated evergreen sales funnel. It is a little bit lower than we were hoping and the sales funnel right now is generating around $10,000 a month.

I do think that this was a good investment because it paid for itself very quickly. Within two months of making the investment, we had recouped our investment and we were turning a profit. So, from that perspective, this was a great decision and overall I would say it was a good experience. Now the last project that I’m going to touch on real quick before we get into the lessons I learned is the project that was all those small writing projects where I was hiring people to write content.

I was hiring people to write blog posts and things like that. I have been surprised at how difficult it can be to find people who write really good copy. We’ve worked our way through quite a few different writers over the past couple of years trying to find people who can write well and write blog posts that are interesting and enjoyable to read and sound basically like me and it’s something that we are definitely still working on, but I would say that that project has been overall successful. We are getting that content written. It’s been a little bit of a struggle but not terribly expensive and like I said, we are getting the content written which is the measurement of success for that project.

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Let’s move on and talk about my ultimate lessons that I feel I’ve learned from spending $20,000 on copywriters. There are five big lessons and then a few incidental lessons. The first big lesson is that generally it takes just as much effort to work with a copywriter as it does to write a copy yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, you have to communicate to the copywriter what you want the copy to say. Now, as I said, with that sales funnel copywriting project, the experience was rather different and much more pleasant in this regard because the copywriter did so much work figuring out what the copy should say rather than just basing it on my own ideas and inspiration. It was a very different sort of experience. But in other times when I’ve worked with copywriters aside from these few big projects, I’ve always felt that it took almost as much work from me as it did if I had just written the copy myself.

The second thing that I’ve learned is that writing my own sales copy is one of the very best things that I can do for myself and for my ability and skill at building my brand, growing my audience, leading my audience, and selling my products. Writing my own copy is kind of like doing my homework. It’s not really something that I want to do and at the time it can feel like a waste of time and energy, but the exercise of it is exactly what I need. I learn how to communicate better with my audience. I learn how to more effectively sell my products. I learn how to better run my business when I write my own copy. So yeah, sometimes it can be painful, it can be uncomfortable, it can be tedious, it can feel overwhelming but overall I would say that writing my own copy is worth it whenever I can.

That sales funnel project I talked about earlier was an exception to this. In some ways I definitely think we got better results with the copy than I could’ve produced myself, and so I’m really thankful for that experience. But I do think that if I had written the copy myself, it still would have been really good for me as a leader, as a communicator, even if  we wouldn’t have gotten quite as good results on the other end of it. 

The third thing I’ve learned goes right along with that and that’s that writing sales copy is about you communicating with your audience. And you can’t really outsource communication and expect relationships to deepen because communication goes both ways. It’s you talking to your audience and it’s you listening to your audience talk back to you. And I mean just imagine what would happen if you tried to outsource communication with your spouse for example.

If you tried to hire an assistant who would talk to your spouse or your significant other for you, that won’t really help to improve your relationship with them even if that assistant who is talking to them for you was a really, really good communicator. In order to build a relationship with anyone, you have to talk to them yourself so that you can get that feedback directly from them and you can work on improving your communication. And building your relationship with your audience is really no different. You have to talk, you have to listen and you have to then clarify what you were actually trying to say. Now, I do want to give one caveat here. If you have a very mature brand and your brand’s message is fully developed, you may be able to hire copywriters to basically extensively repurpose that message. So just as an example here, Steve Jobs really originated the ideas that Apple’s brand was built on, but he didn’t have to write every word of Apple’s copy himself.

As long as the ideas start with you, someone else might be able to take them and spin them one way or the other, turn them into lots of new pieces of copy. But, the more undeveloped your brand and your brand’s message are, the more difficult this will be. You have to have a really established brand before you’re going to be able to do this very effectively. The fourth big lesson I learned, there is no shortcut to success. Now I know that you know this, I knew this, but I really learned it on a new, deeper level. I wanted to be able to hire someone who could just get me bigger, better results, but the reality is that there was still hard work involved on my end and that honestly if I had just put in the hard work myself at the beginning, I quite possibly could have recreated similar or better results.

I was resistant to the work. I was scared that it would be too hard. I was scared that I wouldn’t know how to do it and so I tried to hire someone to do it for me, but it was a really hit and miss experience. As the leader in your business and as the leader of your audience only you can really define the mission of your business. Only you can explain who you help and how you help them. Only you can really explain the benefits of your product. Nobody can sell your product like you can, even though some people can write better. And so if you’re trying to build your audience, if you’re trying to make more sales, hiring someone who’s a good writer won’t be a shortcut to doing that. You really have to dig in and do that work yourself because only you can be the leader of what you’re trying to build.

The final big thing that I learned is that sometimes help is exactly what you need. For example, if you’re completely overwhelmed by a project or if you’re just way too close to it, hiring someone to at least get version one off the ground can help you to get over that challenge. So with this, I would say that there are two situations in which hiring a copywriter could be a good way to get that help you need. 

The first one is if you’re just having trouble getting a project off the ground and you need someone to do that first draft for you so that you can start moving forward. And then the second time would be if you’ve written something yourself already, so you’ve already done that hard work, but you’re so close to it that you don’t know how to improve it, then having someone who’s a really good writer or editor step in and look at what you’ve done can really help you to improve and get bigger and better results.

Now, aside from those really big overarching lessons, a few other incidental things that I learned through this process. One of them is it’s really tough to find a good copywriter who writes well, sounds like you and understands sales psychology. It’s pretty easy to find someone who knows or skilled at one of those things. But finding someone who understands all of them and is skilled at all of them, it’s just really tough. So if you’re interested in possibly hiring the copywriter, I would say start looking now and keep looking, keep doing trial projects with people until you find someone that has all three of those strengths. Again, someone who can write well, someone who sounds like you and someone who understands sales psychology, because if you can find someone like that, then you’ve struggled.

Second, incidental thing, good copywriters typically charge a lot. Why? Well, because they can, because they’re good copywriters. If someone isn’t charging very much for their copywriting services, maybe they’re just new and that’d be the best case scenario. But maybe it’s because they’re not actually very good at selling their own services, which probably means that they’re not that talented of a copywriter. Most good copywriters charge an arm and a leg. And the final little thing is even if someone is an amazing human and a great writer, it still might not work out. Just like I shared with my website writing project, the person who I hired there, she’s an incredible person and a great writer, but for a lot of reasons the project was a failure. After everything that I’ve learned, the question you might be wondering, the question I’m wondering to some extent is, will I be hiring copywriters again in the future?

The short answer is yes. I do think I will. Even though it has been a hit and miss experience, even though it’s been expensive, I will hire copywriters in the future, but in the future I will generally only hire them for parts of projects. Specifically, I will hire copywriters to help me with content strategy, especially launch content strategy. Figuring out what emails we’re going to send, figuring out what should be on the sales page, how are we going to structure the sales page, when the emails will be sent out, things like that. Strategy items. Because some copywriters who have a lot of experience with launching, they’ve learned a lot through the process and they know what works and they have frameworks that they know work. So even if I don’t hire someone to write the words themselves, I definitely might hire someone to help me on the strategy side of things.

The second thing I will definitely hire copywriters to do in the future is to rewrite or edit or review copy that I’ve written myself. Because even though I do consider myself to be a pretty good writer and I understand sales psychology to a certain level, as I said before, writing for yourself is very difficult and I definitely think that when I write, I’m too close to my writing to really see how it can be improved. So I would love to have some really brilliant writers or people who are really good at sales psychology, really know their stuff, look over my writing and tell me how to improve it, to optimize it and to increase conversions. And the third thing that I will continue to hire people to do is to write content. Not sales copy, but writing content. And the reason that I’ll hire people to do that is because it isn’t as specialized of a skill set.

Someone doesn’t have to understand sales psychology in order to do that. They just have to be a good writer and write basically like me. And it does save a whole lot of time because writing tends to be something that’s very time consuming. And as I am working on working less and I want to be earning more, I have to really think about work that I can do versus work that someone else can do so that I can really focus on the things that I do best and the things that only I can do and the things that have to be done to run my business. Generally when I hire people to write content though, I’m always going to have them essentially be repurposing content. I’m going to have them take a video that I made and turn it into a blog post or take a blog post or an email that I’ve written and turn it into a social media post.

I’m not typically going to hire people to originate content or originate ideas. They’re going to take the ideas that I have already created and already shared in one form and they’re just going to turn them into a different form. Now, of course, there are plenty of other people out there who are great at coming up with new ideas who have a lot to share, but for the sake of me building my audience, building my business, being a leader of my audience, it is important that the ideas that are shared on my platforms really start with me. Overall the biggest lesson I’ve learned through this whole process is that as a leader you have a message to share and you are the person who can most effectively communicate that message because until you do communicate that message only you fully understand it. And so there’s really no point in trying to hire someone to communicate for you because you have to figure out how to express that idea yourself.

To wrap this episode up, I want to make sure that you leave with some actionable takeaways. Here are three things that you can do to learn from my experience and really apply it to your own business so that you can build your business even more successfully. The first one is just to understand that writing sales copy is tough, and when you do it yourself, you’ll probably feel unequipped. It will probably feel overwhelming. You’ll probably feel like you’re the wrong person for the job, but just know that everyone feels that way. Even professional copywriters feel that way, especially when they’re writing for themselves and you just have to push through those feelings and do it anyway. That’s the second thing. Do it anyway. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. You just need to practice. Writing is a skill. Copywriting is a skill, so you need to write every day.

That could be emails, it could be blog posts, ads, social media posts, sales pages, whatever you need to write in your business. I’m sure that there’s writing that needs to be done and rather than trying to look for a shortcut and hire someone to do it for you, you just have to buckle down and do it yourself so that you can get better at it. And finally, if you are trying to do it yourself and you’re feeling overwhelmed or you don’t know where to start, three little things that could help, first of all, set a timer and try just writing for 10 minutes. It’s okay if it’s messy, you don’t even have to use what you write, but if you are having trouble getting started, just set that timer and commit to writing for 10 short minutes. Second little thing is to start with the questions you’re trying to answer.

Instead of trying to start with some big persuasive statement, just think about what questions your audience would have or what questions your prospective customer would have, and then start writing by answering those questions. And then finally, especially if you’re more of a verbal communicator, you could pull out your phone and open up the recording app in your phone and you could talk to your phone rather than writing on the page at first. This will probably be really messy and you won’t use the exact words that you say, but you can say generally what you’re trying to write. And then when you get stuck, you say, what I really mean is, and you clarify, and you do that over and over again. You say what you think you’re trying to say, and then you say, but what I really mean is, and through that iterative process, you can get some clarity, can get out of your head a little bit, and then when you actually start typing the words onto the page, you will have a lot more confidence in what you’re really trying to say.

Well, that’s it for today’s episode. What I would like to know from you is what did you find most useful about today’s episode? Be sure to let me know over on Instagram because I always love hearing from you. We don’t have comments here with the podcast like we do with a YouTube video, which is what I’m so used to and so I would love it if you could communicate with me by just grabbing a screenshot of this episode and then tagging me on Instagram along with your biggest takeaways or whatever you found most useful about this episode. I would love to see that from you and connect with you in that way.

Today’s featured review comes from [GP Amp L]. Okay I’m not really sure what this person’s username is, but I still really appreciate them leaving me a review on Apple podcasts. This review says, “Gillian always gives great advice in a very positive way. She’ll keep you interested the whole time and inspire you to take action.” Thanks so much for this review. That means a lot to me. And if you’re listening right now and you haven’t left a review yet, then I would appreciate it if you did that. And if you do, please be sure to tag it with your real name and or your business name, if you want me to give you a shout out because I would love to personally thank you. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, this is Work Less, Earn More, and I’m Gillian Perkins.

    Sean McMullin

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