TCC Podcast #40: What “A-listers” Have in Common with Kim Krause Schwalm

Kim Krause Schwalm joins Rob and Kira to share her thoughts and advice about copywriting. She also talks about how she went from successful marketing director to control-beating copywriter in less than two years. It’s a great story. Along the way she shared her thoughts about:
•  climbing the copywriter ladder (and why it’s so lucrative)
•  how to stay in control of your writing process
•  the copywriting lessons she (re)learned from Parris Lampropolous and Clayton Makepeace
• the one thing all A-list copywriters have in common
• and why you might not want Kim to make your next lasagna

It’s another great interview and look into how a fantastic copywriter runs her business. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Sponsor: AirStory

Clayton Makepeace interview with Kim
Boardroom
Rodale
Gary Bencivenga
Jim Rutz
Healthy Directions
Ted Nicholas
Kim’s L.A. Bootcamp
David Deutsch
Brian Kurtz
Clayton Makepeace
Parris Lampropolous
Advanced Bionutritionals
The Girls Club
KimSchwalm.com
TheMarketingSuperPower.com
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Outro: Gravity

Full Transcript:

The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.

Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.

Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 40 as we chat with A-list copywriter Kim Krause Schwalm about writing effective direct response controls, what steps other writers can take now to get a control beater, writing in the health and finance niches, and her ongoing efforts to help other women succeed in the business.

Kira: Hi, Kim. Hi, Rob. Welcome.

Rob: Kira, Kim. It’s good to talk to you guys.

Kim: Hey, it’s great to be here.

Rob: Kim, we are so excited to have you here, partly because I’ve known about you for several years. I think I remember reading an interview that Clayton Makepeace did with you a number of years ago, and I’ve followed your career and I know Kira and you have connected recently as well. We’re thrilled to be able to talk with you, but I think where we’d really like to get started is just your story, how you got into copywriting.

Kim: I didn’t know copywriting existed as a profession until I was working in marketing for a major publishing company called Philips Publishing. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but for many years it was considered one of the powerhouse direct response marketing companies. In fact, it was bigger than Agora at the time.

It was up there with Boardroom and Rodale and other major companies in terms of working with the very top-level copywriters, the ones that we all consider legends like Gary Bencivenga, Jim Rutz, Clayton Makepeace, et cetera. I went to work for them back in 1992, which seems like an eternity ago.

I actually had had marketing management and brand management experiences with other companies. I had an MBA in marketing and I was just full-bore marketing, but I always could write copy. It was always one of the many hats I wore in different jobs. It was the same story at Philips, but at Philips it was one of these things that was really valued because so much of their business was built on strong copy.

A lot of my different roles, I would write copy as well as direct marketing efforts. I ended up, after being there just a short while, I was asked to help them launch their supplement business, to promote supplements formulated by Dr. Julian Whitaker. I helped launch and run that company, which is called Healthy Directions, and you may have heard of it, and grew that to a $23 million business within three years.

Worked in some other parts of the company, but after a while I realized I’ve always enjoyed copywriting, seeing the kind of lifestyle and income potential that the A-level freelance copywriters enjoyed, and that’s when I became intrigued about it. When I was pregnant with my first child I started thinking about it even more. Went back to work after having him and then after about six or seven months decided to take the leap and become a freelance copywriter. That was about 19 years ago.

Kira: Wow. When you took that leap, what did it look like immediately? Did you have jobs, gigs, lined up or were you starting from scratch?

Kim: I had really the best possible situation. There was a supplement company in my area. I knew the person who owned it. He hired me into a retainer arrangement, which was going to guarantee me basically about 90% of my salary that I was leaving, but it was only going to take about half of my time.

Kira: Wow.

Kim: I was able to bring on other clients. This is why I was able to walk out of a $100,000-a-year salary job in 1998 and keep my full-time nanny and just start full speed. Had my one client. He referred me to a few others, and before I knew it, the first year I made 50% more.

Kira: Wow.

Rob: Wow. Did you start out with immediate successes from the stuff that you were writing? Did you have immediate control beaters, or did you take time to learn the business and figure out what you were doing in order to get to that level?

Kim: Definitely the latter. I mean, like anyone, I had to climb the copywriting ladder from the bottom. I did not start off writing those 24-page magalogs with royalty potential that I knew I eventually wanted to get to. I had never written something like that as an in-house marketing person. The type of things that I was good at or had experience with were inserts that rode along with newsletters or other types of back-end mailings. Smaller type promotions, renewal inserts for publishers, that kind of thing.

That’s how I mostly filled my schedule. For the supplement client I was working with I was doing more than just copywriting. I was also doing marketing consulting, but I was writing catalog copy. I was writing renewals. I was writing all sorts of smaller type things for other clients, including the company that I left, which is, P.S., always stay on good terms if you do take the leap and leave a company … After I’d been out for about a year or so they became by far my biggest client.

Yeah, I had to write a lot of smaller … It was all flat fee the first couple years. I eventually was able to convince one of my clients, who was … He had a very small company promoting videos and books and that kind of thing, and he was actually writing his own direct mail letters. They were actually pretty good. He actually studied with Ted Nicholas, was one of his students. His copy wasn’t bad at all. It was quite good.

What I did was I convinced this client, after I’d been working with him for maybe a year or so, that “Hey, maybe you should try a magalog. They’re really working well in the health space, and you’ve never done one, and I can write one for you, and blah blah blah.” I convinced him to let me write my first magalog, which he paid me actually a decent amount of money.

It’s a fraction of what I charge now, but I got paid to write it. There was no royalty or anything, but it was like, “Hey, I’m going to do this and I’m going to get my first real sample as a magalog.” I wrote it for him. I probably should pull it out. I haven’t looked at it probably in ten years. It would probably make me shudder to look at it, but it wasn’t terrible. I think it did okay for him.

More importantly, I had a printed magalog control that I could show somebody. Sure enough, I don’t know how … It was maybe a few months later or … I got a call from a supplement company down in Florida that somebody had referred me to, and he asked, “Hey, have you written magalogs? Can I see a sample? What do you charge?”

I sent him the sample. I asked for actually a pretty comparable going rate. It was not rock bottom by any means. It was about triple what I had charged to write this first one, and it had royalty potential. He hired me to write a supplement magalog. That’s basically how I got that door opened.

Rob: From the launch of your career as a copywriter until that point, it sounds like that was about eight years?

Kim: No, I would say … I’d have to go back and look at my timeline, but I would say that was just probably a few … Just within the first two years.

Kira: Kim, I would love to hear more about the copywriter ladder, because it’s such a great visual and I think … Especially for new copywriters. They can’t totally see all of the rungs that they need to climb in order to successfully climb this ladder the way you have. Can you just explain how it works and why it works? Yeah, let’s just start there.

Kim: It’s just like any kind of career. You’re not going to just jump out of college, “I’ve got my bachelor’s degree,” and someone’s not going to hire you for a $100,000 a year director of marketing job. You’re going to have to start maybe as a marketing assistant and do a bunch of schlep work and then you’re going to maybe, hopefully, soon get promoted to marketing manager, et cetera.

We’re all familiar with the concept of climbing the corporate ladder. It’s kind of the same thing with copy. It’s a really challenging assignment to write a longform promo. A lot of people … Probably not everybody in your audience, but a lot of people out there keep hearing about all the huge opportunity with royalties and with this type of longform copy, which is … It’s all true. There’s definitely a lot of opportunity.

The reason why there’s so much opportunity, and the reason why it’s lucrative, is because very few people can really do it well. It’s not the kind of thing that you’re just going to take a course and you’re going to suddenly be able to do this really well. There are always, obviously, exceptions, but most people aren’t.

The way you really build your copywriting chops, aside from doing whatever training you can and reading everything you can and getting yourself on as many mailing lists as you can and looking at all your junk emails that send you to sales pages, et cetera … Becoming a student of good copy.

You have to start somewhere with your projects. You want to start with smaller projects that probably will be flat fee initially, and you do them well. Then you get more work and you get more work, and then you start to get a reputation and other people want to hire you. Ideally, you’re doing some good work for a big client that can actually step you up that ladder.

For example, I started having some successes in the health and supplement space, and then somebody referred me to a financial publisher. They work with people like Jim Rutz and all these A-level copywriters. They mailed a lot of names promoting their financial newsletters. This was way back in the early 2000s.

The first things that I did for them was writing one-page or two-page renewal letters that would be inserts that we got with the newsletter or would be mailings or even emails. I was just doing a whole slew of that kind of stuff. Flat fee and move on to the next one. They were really happy with my work, especially … I had this one renewal campaign that was by far the most successful one that they’d ever had.

I had some successes with them. They’re like, “You know what? Let’s give Kim a shot at a magalog.” That’s how I got that opportunity. I worked with them. I can’t remember, it was probably at least a year or so cranking out all those smaller type flat-fee work, and they were impressed with my copy. One of them even said, “I feel like you’re a hidden gem.” Then they gave me a shot.

I’ve told this story before in my boot camp that I had a few months ago, but I made a classic rookie mistake and that was, “Hey, I’m going to take this really out-of-the-box approach to this magalog.” I ended up putting … It’s actually a pretty good cover, but it has a dinosaur on this magalog and it’s like the change monster that ate the economy. This was when the economy was really in the toilet.

Really good copy. I had Alan Greenspan on there, some other … George W. Bush on the front cover. There’s much more to the whole story, but to make a long story short the first effort … It went up against Jim Rutz. He had a very strong control. It did not beat him. It didn’t do well, but it didn’t do terribly. It just didn’t do … It didn’t beat Jim Rutz.

Fortunately, my client was far-sighted enough to say, “Hey, you know what? Let’s give Kim another shot.” It’s not just because you don’t … Smart companies realize that nobody bats a thousand. Sometimes that second effort or that third effort is going to be that one that really is the big winner.

They hired me again six or eight months later to write a completely new package to go up against Jim Rutz, and this one I took a more conservative, tried-and-true approach. Again, being a rookie, why would I not do that? I ended up getting a control and beating Jim Rutz. That completely put me on the map as a copywriter.

Rob: Kim, what is your hit rate today? Do you win everything or is it 50-50? Are you Gary Bencivenga level, where nobody ever beats you? What does that look like now?

Kim: I think they’re all pretty much winning. I had one product … It’s funny, because for one particular client I’ve written a lot for her over the years. I can’t even tell you the exact number. I’ve probably had at least a dozen or more controls, because everything I’ve written has been a control for them and in some cases mailed for as long as eight years…

Rob: Wow.

Kim: …Or longer, as a control, meaning multiple other packages have gone up against it. I think I finally hit one. It was maybe two years ago, and it was a product focused on cholesterol, or at least the positioning was. We just tested it with inserts and online promotions, and so that one … [inaudible 00:12:22] like we could get work.

I’ll just … I won’t even name the person, but a person who is retired from copywriting who is legendary actually even gave me some tips to try to get it to work with some other subsequent tests, and we still couldn’t get it to work. I think it was more of a product to market issue than copy. I just want to point that out too, because a lot of times it’s not so much the hit rate. Sometimes you can have the best copy in the world and something’s not going to work.

Yeah, I think my hit rate’s pretty good. I try to remember one where I haven’t beat the control. A lot of times, too, I’m doing a launch and it’s just getting something new up and going, so it may not be testing against a control. It’s testing against its ability to become a control, if that makes any sense.

Rob: Yeah.

Kim: I would say it’s pretty high. I don’t go around tracking it, but I honestly can’t remember the last time it lost except for that.

Kira: Kim, I want to know what your business looks like today as far as where you’re spending most of your time. Are you still working on supplements or finance projects? Are you juggling a couple of projects at once?

Kim: I’m always juggling a couple projects. What I try to do is schedule my time as far as new longform promos so that I would conceivably have one at a time for at least a four-week period, knowing it’s always going to be some overlap because you can’t always control when you’re going to get the copy back from the client and what more work you’re going to need to do with it, et cetera.

Then there’s always the time period where it’s in design, and I do stay pretty involved through the design phase because … Especially when it’s something where it’s tied to royalty, because I’ve had early-on traumatic experiences related to that, bad design. I’m like, “No, you’re going to kill my promo.”

There’s always a little overlap but I typically allow … What I’m spending most of my time on now is still what I’ve been doing all along, and that’s mostly longform promos. I do have some smaller projects that I do for various clients that I’ll bring in other copywriters to help me with and I act more as a copy chief, but the majority of what I’m doing is longform promos.

Rob: Kim, what does your writing process look like? When you take an assignment, how much time do you spend doing research? What does that look like? What are the kinds of things that you’re doing in that phase? How much time are you spending writing and re-writing? What does the back and forth with the client look like?

Kim: I would say normally it’s about a week or so for research, and that can include everything from digging up studies to calling customers who used the product if it’s a supplement. There’s usually at least two weeks for the writing phase. I’d say maybe two to three weeks, because then there’s some procrastination period involved. Then there’s like, “Oh, I got to get this done.”

Typically I like to tell a client four weeks, because sometimes there’s usually … What often happens, between you guys and I and a thousand other people listening, is I usually don’t get started until at least a week late, because everything else is stacked up or taking longer than planned. I usually end up starting it late, but I do allow four weeks. I can usually get it done within three weeks, and then get that first full draft off to the client.

Then typically within a week or so I’ll get feedback, but again, your results may vary and my results definitely vary. There are certain clients who will go unnamed sometimes that can take a month or longer. That drives you crazy because you’ve moved on. “Now I’m thinking about prostates and I’m not even thinking about memory anymore, and now you got me back on memory,” or whatever.

Yeah, so that’s typically how the process goes. In an ideal flow, four weeks to first draft and then two weeks after that to final draft, and then it goes into design. That might take about two weeks, so it’s pretty much birthed within two months.

Kira: I want to jump back into rates. Obviously you don’t have to share specific rates, but can you share just ballpark numbers of how much you’re charging today, so especially the new copywriters know what they can aspire to eventually charge if they’re working hard? Also just how you know when you should raise your rates.

Kim: I think it’s important that … Couple of things. One is you might hear that people were charging 15 or 20,000 or 25 or $30,000 to write a long-form promo, but if you have never written one in your life, obviously it would be unrealistic to think that you could just, right out of the gate, charge that much.

On the other hand, I think it’s important not to A, do things for free or on spec, and B, I think it’s important to charge at least a reasonable amount of money for what you’re doing. What I’m going to be talking about as far as figures is for long-form copy and that’s generally like, “Oh, I’m delivering a Word file that’s probably at least 25 to 40 pages in length,” so it’s a lot of copy.

It can range anywhere from 15 to $30,000 plus royalties, and it depends on if it’s a long-form sales page, am I including … Or is it a direct mail promo, which could be as much as 32 pages or even 64 pages if it’s a small format? Is it including things like emails or anything else to drive traffic to the sales page? If it’s a direct mail promo, there’s usually a lot more copy than a sales page, because you’ve got sidebars and other things, front and back covers, that need to be written.

That’s arranged, and then my royalties can range from … They’re usually at least four to five percent or four cents per name, three to four cents per name, but I’m starting to feel like … It’s funny because I get on women … I don’t get on them, but I do rag on them a little bit about … Especially women tend to underprice themselves. I’ve seen some women who don’t do that, but…

I think it happens, I think it applies to the guys too. A lot of people do undervalue what they do, and if you undervalue what you do then how do you expect a client to value it? If you are a good copywriter and you know what you’re doing, that’s something that’s really a value to a business. If a business doesn’t value that, then chances are you don’t want to work with them in the first place.

Yeah, I’m at a point where I’m booked out a year and I’ve got people still begging to get on my schedule. I’m thinking, “You know what? I think maybe my prices are going to go up starting in January or maybe sooner. Maybe it’s time for a price rise.” I just raised them a little bit recently, because I just realized, “Hey, you know what? More people want me than I can put in my slot on my schedule.” It’s just like anything. Demand-based pricing.

Rob: Kim, imagine that I’m a just starting out copywriter and I’m listening to this and I’m thinking, “I want to be there. That’s the goal for me, whether that’s in two years or in ten years, whatever that looks like.” What specifically would you recommend that I do in order to be the next Kim Krause Schwalm?

Kim: Focus on what niche you feel most passionate about, like for example, if you were very interested in health and supplements, I would try to get on as many mailing lists and study what people were mailing as controls. Now, I have never done the whole method of writing controls out by hand, but a lot of people swear by it. It does make a lot of sense just terms of learning, and how you learn by the movement of your hand and it cements things in your brain.

I would recommend maybe doing that. Write out some controls by hand, study what’s working, and then try to get in the ground floor with some companies that promote supplements. Find the clients that need you to write those back-end promotions or those emails or those smaller projects, and do well with them. Work your way up to the magalog. If you’ve never been able to … If you don’t have a sample of something, I’m assuming you don’t, but it’s like what I did. Get to that point that you can get that first break, that opportunity, and build from there.

Kira: I’m going to jump back a bit, because you mentioned that you’d worked on a project or two with bad design that potentially hurt your copy. We’ve all dealt with that. How have you since learned how to deal with that and build it into your process so that you have the best design possible for your copy?

Kim: If I’m working with a client that doesn’t already recognize the importance of good design … Fortunately most of my clients are bigger successful direct response companies who do work with the very top designers as well as copywriters, so I don’t have that issue … But when I do work with the occasional client who’s a newbie…

I had one of these recently where it was a stretch to hire an A-level copywriter and there was a whole lot of additional client management stuff I had to go through with him. I told him right out from the start, I was like, “Okay, I have certain designers I like to work with, and it’s going to cost in this range, but I highly recommend that this is what we do. It’s going to give the copy and everything I do the greatest shot of being your next strong control.” I basically refer them to the designers that I want to work with.

Rob: Jumping forward, you work with a few writers, I think, doing a little bit of coaching, at least on a limited basis. When you work with them, what are some of the mistakes that you see them making that you sort of like … “Absolutely, writers need to stop doing these things”?

Kim: That’s a topic for another whole long call.

Kira: We have time.

Kim: It’s funny. I will just confess that sometimes in my first drafts, and I will go back and hopefully fix it and catch this myself, I make some of the same writing mistakes that I see a lot of cubs do, or people who are starting out. Not being completely clear is a huge one. Making sure that main headline is clear. Don’t try to be clever or don’t try to make it too long. Don’t mix three or four different ideas into one main headline, or even into a sentence or paragraph.

You got to look at it through your prospect’s eyes and realize that they’re going to just get completely lost. Being clear or not being clear is, I think, a very common mistake. Another thing is long run-on sentences. This is why it does help to read your copy out loud. It also helps to have somebody else read your copy.

I actually have a woman who’s wonderful, and she’s my avatar in so many ways for a lot of the products that I market, because she’s in her early 60s. Most of what I write for in health is mostly going to a slightly older audience. She has a background as a psychologist, and she also really knows direct marketing. She worked with Jay Abraham. She’s worked with David Deutsch and many other people over the years.

She’s my copy therapist. I will have her, especially when I have time … Sometimes I’m like, “Oh my god, I got to get this to the client. I don’t have time for three or four more days.” I will run it by her and she will read it from the perspective of my prospect. It’s always interesting to get that kind of feedback. Where I’ve tripped her up, where I’ve left her confused, where I’ve maybe said something but it came across differently than how I intended.

I would recommend that you go through your copy, you make sure you’re being clear, you look at every sentence, every word. Look at every word and you say, “Is this helping my copy, is it hurting my copy, or is it neutral?” If it’s hurting your copy or it’s neutral, get rid of it, because that’s going to allow you to really tighten up your copy. You make sure you have somebody read your copy, ideally who’s an avatar, and get their feedback and find out where they’re getting tripped up, what’s confusing, et cetera.

Kira: I love that idea of having a copy therapist. We all need a copy therapist, our very own.

Rob: Kira is my copy therapist.

Kim: Yay.

Kira: Yeah, I feel like I have a few, so I’m good. Kim, how do you manage your clients and the entire process when you’re working on a project so that you don’t become a punching bag or even the client takes over and is telling you how to run the show, which happens to a lot of the new copywriters?

Kim: That’s a tough one, because it doesn’t ever really happen to me anymore. I’ve witnessed that situation maybe indirectly. Sometimes there are client red flags, right?

Kira: Yes.

Kim: I’m in a position where if I see red alert client flags, I can just say, “You know what? I’m not going to take this project.” That’s number one. If you see the red flags, just avoid it. Maybe you feel like you can’t, because you need the money or you want the project. You want to have a sample that comes out of it, whatever. Or to, which happens all too often, it’s too late. You didn’t see the … There were no warning signs, and now you’re in it and you’re like, “Oh my god, this is a nightmare.”

I think what you need to learn to do is speak confidently directly to your client and know when and how to push back. What you need to do is feel confident that you know what you’re doing as a professional. They hired you to do a particular job. When you feel you need to push back and say, “Look, this is how, based on my experience with other companies and other successes I’ve had, this is really how we should do it, and this is how it’s best for me to work, and how you’re going to get the best work out of me.” You need to just push back and tell your client that.

Rob: Sort of about owning the process.

Kim: Owning the process. For example, and this isn’t something that happened to me. Actually, I think it did with one client I worked with, who I will never work with again. They’re process they do with all copywriters before they have you go on to that next, that full draft of copy, they want to see your headline and lead.

There’s a couple companies that do this with all their writers. I don’t know if they do it specifically with less experienced writers, but I think they do it with all of their writers. Then they have a whole committee of people who look at your headline and lead and decide which one they like best or which approach, and I think part of this too is they’re determining do they want to kill the project right there and not pay you any more, or do they want to go on to that next draft where they would then potentially be liable for more money?

It’s a screening process, I think. To me, the problem with that, at least the way that I write long-form copy, is my process is a lot more organic. Sometimes I’m starting with a headline and a lead and I’m going through. Sometimes I’m starting in the middle. Sometimes I’m just like, “You know what? I’m just going to get the order form and some of these sidebars done just to feel like I’m getting going, and then I’m going to jump in.”

It’s wherever I feel the inspiration, the ideas. Then even if I write that headline, by the time I finish the promo, I’m like, “That headline’s not right. It sucks,” or “There’s five other buried headlines in my copy that I think are better. I’m going to use those,” blah blah blah. To me, that’s like … I don’t start making the lasagna by putting the sauce on the bottom. I do, actually, when I make lasagna.

Do you know what I mean? It’s like my copy equivalent would be, “Put that ricotta in there and now let’s put the bottom layer and now let’s put the cheese on top,” or whatever. It’s not always in that classic order. When a client is saying, “We want you to start with your best headlines and lead,” it’s like, “You haven’t gotten deep into it yet.”

Especially for a supplement, it’s like you have to go look at … Let’s say there’s five ingredients. Which one of these has the very best story? Which one’s going to be the star of this product? What am I going to lead with and what are the other ones that play the supporting role? You got to dig out all that research. You got to maybe start writing and go, “Oh, that’s actually … Oh, that’s a really strong story. Oh, that could even be the headline. Oh, that could even be the lead,” or whatever.

You’re not even going to get to that point until you’re really digging into it. If you’re just starting and you just got to write four or five paragraphs and a headline, it’s not a reflection of what you might actually be able to do with that promotion. I think it’s a very misguided approach.

Rob: Yeah, I find the same thing. When I write, I’ll start somewhere, but oftentimes as you move down the page you find a better lead or a better hook as you go through it.

Kim: Yeah, absolutely.

Rob: It makes me sick to think that I have to live on the very first idea that I come up with, or that first futile effort that I start with, because it just gets so much stronger as you work through the page.

Kim: Exactly. It just takes time to dig in and do that and get that research. That’s definitely one problem area I’ve seen. Again, I think client warning signs … You have to really trust your gut.

Kira: Yes.

Kim: Sometimes you just know this is not going to go well. I had one client, this was probably five years ago, and I will just say, not to be prejudiced or anything, but sometimes those solo companies where it’s just a doctor who’s got his own product line, those can just be problem clients. Again, they’re newbies to it. A lot of times they just have a problem paying anybody more money than they think they should earn.

Kira: Right.

Kim: I have a friend who used to work for a practice, a whole company that was run by doctors, and she was basically the rainmaker, but they didn’t think she should make money, because they were the doctors. It’s like, “No, you wouldn’t have a business without the rainmaker.” You know what I mean? They don’t always get that concept.

Anyway, I could just tell. He sent me a … At the time I think I was charging 20,000, whatever, for a magalog. He had sent me the $10,000 advance to hold my time, and I wasn’t scheduled to start for three or four months anyway, but I could just tell with my dealings that, “You know, I don’t know. There’s just something about this guy. He’s going to be difficult.”

Then as it got closer, I think he had entered into some kind of arrangement with a marketing agency and I guess that was going to cost him a lot of money, so he was like, “Is it possible that maybe we could not do this? I might maybe do it another time, because I think I’m going to be doing this thing with this other agency.” Typically I would say, “I’m sorry, it says in all my paperwork, $10,000 advance is non-refundable.”

Kira: Right.

Kim: Because I’ve literally turned down other projects for that slot. I’m saving it for you. As it turned out, another client … It actually was the one that originally gave me the retainer arrangement when I was first starting out. He called me and was like, “Hey, I’ve got this project. I’m wondering if you could fit me in.” I’m like, “You’re in. This guy is out.”

I called this guy, or I called him or I sent him an email. I’m like, “You know what? As it turns out, if you feel like it’s not the right time to proceed, I have someone else who will take that slot.” I couldn’t send him back his $10,000 fast enough. He was thrilled. That’s why I was like, “I don’t need any problems.” I could have technically kept it, but I’m like, “You know what?”

Kira: Just get rid of him.

Kim: I don’t need this kind of asshole in my life.

Kira: It is amazing how you just always know in your gut when that first conversation, or even that first email, when it’s going to be a problem and then …

Kim: Yep.

Kira: When I’ve overlooked it, it ends up being a problem. I just have to trust my gut.

Kim: You do have to trust your gut. Yeah, so there’s a whole process. I’ve had other people I get in email conversations about, and I can just tell when they’re just trying a little too hard to try to get my price down or they’re not willing to pay. I’ll just say, “I’m sorry we can’t come to terms. It would be nice to work with you. It doesn’t sound like you’re willing to spend what it takes for a copywriter of my level, but I wish you the best and if there’s other people that I can refer you to that maybe aren’t as expensive I’m happy to do so.”

I’m not going to suddenly give you this huge discount. No one’s going to feel good about that. I’m not going to feel good about it. They might feel like they’re getting a deal, but bottom line is, they’re not valuing what I bring to the table. I want to work with people who value what I can do for them.

Rob: Kim, I want to ask another really big question that probably could be its own episode. You have worked very closely with a lot of A-listers, and even if you haven’t worked with them, they know you, you know them. Gary Bencivenga’s talked about you. Brian Kurtz has talked about you. I think you worked with Clayton Makepeace when you launched Healthy Directions.

I’m curious. What are some of, maybe the top two or three lessons that you’ve learned from these other A-list copywriters that have really moved your business forward?

Kim: One of the top ones has really improved my copy a lot, and I already shared some of that when you were talking about mistakes that I see in copy, the younger copywriters or newer copywriters make. Parris Lampropoulos, I think everybody’s heard of him, he has an arrangement with Soundview, which is also known as Advanced Bionutritionals, where he copy chiefs everybody that they work with.

While Parris has his own group of copy cubs that he mentors, and I’m not one of those cubs, anybody that Soundview or Advanced Bionutritionals hires to write copy, he also serves as copy chief. I think I might … That’s the client I was referring to. I probably had at least a dozen. I can’t even count. It’s probably higher.

Pretty much every promotion I’ve written for them since the last 12 years that I’ve written for them has become a control, but all my copy is always copy chiefed by Parris when I write for them. I’ve learned a lot from him, and yeah, he has really helped me be more clear with my copy and make sure I’m being … It’s tighter and more concise.

I think another thing is get more story into your copy, especially when it comes to studies. Again, when you’re writing a lot of copy about supplements, studies are critical for providing proof. However, you want to make sure you’re romancing the story more, that you’re telling it like a story versus just reporting on … “A group of scientists found that people who did this got 46% higher…” You want to dimensionalize it more, like a story. Some of his feedback has helped me get a lot better at that.

I think I just worked once or twice directly with Clayton. It’s been years, but Clayton is all about getting that emotion into your copy. He taps a lot into anger quite well. He’s really good at that. That’s something that I’ve gained from working with him and studying his copy. Those are the ones that primarily come to mind.

Kira: What do you think these A-list copywriters, including yourself … Is there something that you all embody? Is it that you’re just really hard-working individuals that have been critiqued over the years to excel or what is it that you all have? If there’s one thing.

Kim: I think we have an insatiable curiosity. Being very curious, asking those questions, digging deeper and deeper and deeper to find out what is that USP? What are those possible objections people are going to have? Just digging, digging deeper. Being curious, being relentless, not just phoning it in.

Kira: Right, yeah.

Kim: I think that’s the differentiating factor right there.

Rob: Kim, we could talk copy, I think, for hours. Before we run out of time, I really want to touch on what you’re doing to help other women in the copywriting space. You’ve created a group. I think you’ve done some training. Will you talk a little bit about that?

Kim: Yes. Back in November, I created a free Facebook group. It’s called “The Girls’ Club.” If any women out there would like to join it’s an amazing group of female copywriters and marketers and entrepreneurs. It’s pretty much like any … It’s very similar to your group, because I’m also a member of your wonderful group.

You can post questions, you can get feedback, or you can just share something that you think everybody is going to find humorous. We occasionally have some free group calls that I host where we’ll talk about a specific topic. Then every month I highlight a woman who’s really kicking butt and having success, because I think that that’s inspiring.

It’s not one of these groups where it’s all about Kim. It’s really all about the women in that group, and women elevating other women. That’s what I’m doing with that group. I did have my first boot camp session, which I purposely kept small, and it was just one day back in early March in Los Angeles. It was actually more than half guys. I didn’t limit it to just women. Yeah, we had a great session and I definitely would like to do more of those in the future.

Kira: If our listeners want to hear more from you, they can join the Facebook group and if they want to attend a future boot camp where can they find more information?

Kim: I’m glad you asked. I do have a landing page, which it probably needs some work. I do have my own web site, which people are welcome to go to. It’s KimSchwalm.com. I haven’t done anything to it in eight or nine years. Just to get more information about me.

Rob: I should jump in, Kim, and say your portfolio there is full of these longform sales magalogs and VSLs and some of the things that you’ve done, and it’s basically … You could spend a day or two there just going to school on the successes that you’ve had and the work that you’ve done there. I think it’s a great resource.

Kim: Yeah, I think I only was able to put in five pages of each of the print things, because sometimes my clients really don’t want me to put the whole thing out there. Yeah, you can definitely study it a lot. I want to encourage the guys and gals in your audience to go to TheMarketingSuperpower.com. If you go there … Like I said, I want to try to make this a little bit nicer landing page, but whatever. It does the job.

If you go there, you can request a free report, which has my top seven strategies for creating winning promotions. I think I call it the “A-List Copywriter’s Manifesto.” That’ll put you on my list, and you’ll find out about anything that I have going on for guys or gals. Also, the women will find out about the Girls’ Club there.

If you get on my list and … Just the main thing is when you put your email in, make sure you respond to the opt-in message. You got to click on that or else you’re not going to get the free report. You’re not going to get on the list. A lot of times that ends up in the junk mail folder. Everybody who’s listening should go to TheMarketingSuperpower.com.

Kira: Excellent. Thank you, Kim, for joining us today and sharing all of your experiences and insights with us. It’s really been a pleasure.

Kim: Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed talking with both of you.

 

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