Continuing with our series of interviews with leading copywriters, our next participant is Mr David Garfinkel of fasteffectivecopy.com. Let’s see what he had to say when we put the questions to him.
1. When did you decide to start your freelance copywriting business?
Around 1991. I had been an award-winning editorial writer (San Francisco bureau chief for McGraw Hill, and a freelance writer) for years, but when I got into the info-product business, I found I needed a new skill – a way to sell my products!
I started to study copywriting, and practice it for my own business. And then I found people would pay good money for sales letters that worked.
2. How long did it take before you established yourself as a leading freelance copywriter?
Probably about five years.
3. Are there any other copywriters you admire? If so, who and why?
There are many. Old-school guys (I mean really old school) include Claude Hopkins, Gene Schwartz and Victor Schwab. Not only because of how they wrote copy themselves, but because of how well they have been able to teach others. These guys, of course, have passed on.
Current living legends include Drayton Bird, Bob Bly, David Deutsch, and John Carlton. These guys have helped me learn a lot and move forward in my own career.
And some of the younger guys I have mentored: Michael Morgan, Vin Montello, Chris Haddad. Because they write so well and get such great sales results.
There are others, but those are the first nine that came to mind.
4. What is the best way to get new clients?
Great question. The answer is, show up where the clients are, and socialize in a business setting. For Internet copywriters, this could include Internet marketing conferences. Even if you’re not a social person, do this anyway. Clients aren’t buying copy – they are investing in a business relationship with someone who understands their business and can help it grow with the written word. They want to have a good gut feeling about you.
5. If you could pick five traits or characteristics to create the perfect freelance copywriter, what would they be?
No such thing as perfect, first of all…
But assuming there actually were, I would say:
1) Good listener
2) Good questioner
3) Able to boil down a lot of information into concise phrases and stories
4) Ability to sell and to “sense” the sales process
5) Patience, including with all the quirks of the human condition.
6. What’s your favourite power word (or word)?
Next to a person’s own name, it will almost always be their favourite word.
7. List five must-have items that you believe each freelance copywriter should have?
1) An elevator speech (30-second pitch) which includes a Unique Selling Proposition.
2) A place on the Web (site, blog, something) to demonstrate how they write.
3) Samples of actual work, with tracked sales results if at all possible.
4) A sense of humour. Seriously. If you don’t have that, it’s going to be hard to last in this business. Because if you take things too personally or too seriously, you could get in a lot of trouble in a hurry.
5) Supportive relationships. With other copywriters, or with a paid mentor, or as part of business Mastermind, or all of the above. You need people who “have your back.”
8. What are the annoying aspects of freelance copywriting?
The most annoying thing is clients who are more interested in “polishing their halo” (that is, buffing up their own egos) than getting bottom line sales results. I don’t think copywriters should be in the PR business, unless they are PR copywriters. But some clients have different opinions, and that’s annoying.
Also, having clients who are so successful that you can’t get a response from them for weeks at a time. That’s what happened with me – I heard back yesterday from a client I had emailed and called 10 days ago. I couldn’t move forward until I had my client’s OK on an approach. It’s annoying, but at least you know clients that busy will be able to pay the bills!
9. What are the most enjoyable aspects of freelance copywriting?
If you enjoy the work – as I do – it’s great to get paid very well for something you have fun doing.
Also, I get a big kick out of seeing my clients’ business grow.
These days, however, most of my copy is for my own two businesses, in which I’m a partner: Fast Effective Copy, the training site; and a wealth education product.
But every now and then I come across someone who can afford me, and for whose business, their investment will pay multiples back to them.
10. Finally. What advice would you give to all the brand new freelance copywriters out there?
Learn all you can, but also, do. I am working with a staff copywriter who had studied things for years but was relying entirely on what he learned (from the best sources) but he had never actually written copy and observed from experience what works and what doesn’t work.
Also, hand-copy Web pages and old sales letters. As much as you can stand, and then some. It’s amazing how fast that advances your learning curve.
Thanks to David for some great answers and insight from a unique perspective!