In Episode 4 of The Copywriter Club podcast, Kira and Rob interview former HotJar copywriter, Brian Lenney. Since we recorded the show, Brian has left HotJar for the world of freelancing. And though he didn’t know he would be leaving when we spoke, you can hear Brian almost talking himself into the decision during our discussion. Take a listen by clicking the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Bob Hoffman | The Ad Contrarian
Brian’s Controversial Inbound Discussion
The Cult of Copy
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Gary V—How We Make the Sausage
The Brothers Karizmozov
Cormack McCarthy’s The Road
Kira’s Horror Podcasts
Intro: Content (for now)
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
RM: Hey this is Rob. When Kira and I recorded this episode our guest Brian Lenney was working as a copywriter at Hotjar, but a few days after we rapped Brian left his cushy cooperate job and went back to freelancing. We didn’t know he would be quitting when we spoke with him. You can tell Brian is wrestling with his decision as you listen to him talk about his career. It’s probably not best copywriter practice to close the loop before we’ve even opened it, but now you know the rest of the story, so let’s get on with the show.
KH: What if you could hang out with really 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 try to do every week at the Copywriter Club podcast.
RM: You’re invited to join the club for episode four as we chat with Hotjar copywriter Brian Lenney about the pros and cons of writing for a startup, why copywriters should consider using a product like Hotjar, and his thoughts about freelancing before he went in-house.
BL: Hey Kira, you ready?
KH: Hey guys.
BL: Howdy, happy to be here.
RM: We’re excited to have you Brian.
KH: Yeah, thanks for being here. We should probably start with some context. We met Brian through the CopyHacker Mastermind. I feel like that’s how we’ve met everyone here so far. We got to hang out with him in Sonoma in September, and really get to know Brian.
RM: It was funny, because once we got to Sonoma even after being in the Mastermind for several months with Brian it dawned on me that Brian had done writing at Inbound, because I had seen so much of the stuff that he had done at Inbound.org. Suddenly I’m like wait a second, Brian is Winsome Writing. Then maybe there was a controversial post or two there, and I was like okay that’s the guy. It all kind of came together.
BL: I had the same thing Rob, because when we started … I don’t go on there as much as I use to, but I’m like oh yeah we’ve actually like, yeah, I had the same kind of ah ha moment. I’m like that’s the Rob, I know Rob from Inbound. Cool.
RM: It’s kind of funny we all sort of know each other, but we don’t really know each other.
BL: Yeah, but we got to hang out, and drink wine [Rob drank Coke Zero], and talk about business, and copywriting in Sonoma wine country, so it was fun.
RM: It was a good time.
KH: I think to start Brian, you have background. You’ve spent years freelancing as a copywriter, and you’re currently at a startup, Hotjar like we mentioned, and then you’ve worked with Inbound. Can you just kind of give us a brief background on the worlds that you’ve been hanging out in?
BL: Yeah, because it’s kind of unique. I think it’s one of those things like banking for instance, I look at banking like if you’re a banker I’m like who wants to be a banker. Banking is just something you kind of fall into, not to insult any bankers out there, but most people don’t grow up saying I want to be a banker. My background isn’t technically copywriting and stuff like that. I have a degree in political science, and graduate degree in theology essentially. Which aren’t really copywriting degrees, but I did a lot of writing in those degrees.
Copywriting was one of those things where my brother is very, very successful as an SEO online. He just does SEO affiliate stuff, anything to do with building a link. One day we were talking and I’m like, his names Jeff, I’m like “Jeff, you make money online. What’s that all about? How does that work?” We got to talking and it hit me one time he said, “You know Brian, you’re a pretty good writer,” which if someone tells you the same thing over and over you should pay attention, whether it’s good or bad. He said, “There’s people who just make money just writing online.” I’m like, “No, just writing? What are you talking about?”
That was about four or five years ago, and that’s how I kind of got into it. Similar to, have you guys had Ry Schwartz? He was on one of the episodes right, or he’s going to be?
RM: Yeah, we’re talking to Ry.
BL: Yeah, you’re talking to Ry. When I was talking to him he kind of had a similar story. I’m like, “You can make money on …” I started Googling how to be a copywriter, how to be an online copywriter. That’s how I found Copy Hackers and Joanna. I just kind of self taught myself like the business part of it. I just kind of started doing it. I was working at doing marketing for, this is really weird but it’s true, for a Hospice a couple years ago. Which is odd right? Marketing for a Hospice.
RM: Very sad.
BL: Yeah, and sad because you’re marketing like hey you’re dying use us, but it is really competitive in America. I just got to the point where my boss, the founder of the Hospice came in one day and she said, “Brian, why are you working here? You should start your own business.” Long story short I did, and started freelancing. I started kind of at the bottom of the barrel, in my opinion, doing SEO copywriting. Just keyword stuff to kind of content mill type stuff, and I didn’t like it at all. Started getting cooler clients and better clients.
BL: Then I worked with Inbound.org for most of 2015. We helped grow and scale that, that was cool. Got to work with Dharmesh Shah directly, founder of HubSpot.
RM: Very cool.
BL: Yeah, then just kind of the Inbound thing changed a little bit, so left on good terms. Started freelancing again, and then I said I kind of miss being on a team, so I’m kind of like ADD freelancing. Now I’m with Hotjar, which is a really, really, really cool startup. I’m just doing writing, and content, and copy for them. I’ve kind of been all over the place. That’s a really long answer, but yeah that’s what it is.
RM: Talk to us a little bit about what you’re doing at Hotjar. We haven’t really talked a lot about tools with most of our guests so far. We talk a lot about their processes and what they do, but Hotjar is also a potential tool for a lot of writers to use, at least if they’re looking at things like online conversion. Tell us a little bit about again, what you’re doing, and how Hotjob could maybe inform somebody else’s process.
BL: Yeah. Hotjar was one of those … The funny thing is when I worked with Inbound.org we used Hotjar. We were one of the beta users, so it’s kind of cool to be working with Hotjar at this point. Hotjar helps you, without being salesy or businessy, it helps you understand everything people are doing on your website. You can see recordings, it’s like watching a movie of how people are using your website, where they click, where they hover, where they get hung up. You can watch people convert, which is always a good thing.
Say you’re running an e-commerce site or something, and someone puts something in the basket and they’re about to check out. You can use a Java script trigger to have a poll show up like hey we noticed you put this widget in the cart and you didn’t buy, did you find everything okay.
Hotjar helps you on the data and analytics side. You can measure conversion funnels, form completion rate, stuff like that, but it also lets you talk to your users. Again everyone’s heard of Survey Monkey, or stuff like that, but Hotjar currently we’re sitting on top of the mountain as far as the all in one solution. You could sign up for seven different services and figure all this stuff out, or you could sign up for one service and have it all in one place.
What I’m doing there, we’re doing pretty much anything that involves writing. Copy, content, I’m working with David the CEO we’re co-creating, which is kind of cool, some blogs together. Email nurturing, stuff like that. Pretty much anything that involves words. Pretty cool gig.
KH: While we’re talking about Hotjar, I’ve learned a lot about Hotjar through the Mastermind and working with you on projects in that space. I think it’s terrific. How can a copywriter, like me like all of us, integrate it into our freelance businesses to our advantage so that we could potentially charge more with our clients, get better results, kind of like take our game to the next level? Do I just get an account and then I can use that account with multiple clients, or do I just tell my clients hey you have to get an account and then I’ll work with you, and collaborate, and talk about it, and review it with you?
BL: That’s a cool question, because there’s a couple things you can do there. You can use it personally, like internally on your own business and website. If you’re having like blog posts you can see how far people read, where they click, where they hover. For instance, maybe you have like this gigantic blog post, which doesn’t mean it’s bad because if it’s good it’s good, but you find out through Hotjar only about 12% of people make it to the bottom, so maybe I should change that, or do things shorter.
You can kind of analyze your own business, like your own freelance website and business. You can poll people. I actually setup a survey that was very funny with Hotjar on my site Winsomewriting.com. I don’t know if I’m allowed to plug it.
RM: Of course you are. Of course.
BL: Right now it’s just kind of sitting there, I’m not actively using it at this point in my life.
KH: We need to talk about what’s on that website right now, at some point in this conversation.
BL: We can. Let’s do that. I send out a survey to my list, which isn’t terribly large, but it’s several hundred people saying if you could describe me in one word, and my business what would you do. I sent a survey and I got some very funny … One guy said “A beardy bloke who is really good at telling stories.” That was my favorite one I got back.
RM: That seems like a pretty accurate description.
BL: Yeah, because I have a beard. You can use it for that, but a lot of people, so agencies are huge, huge, huge with Hotjar. We love agencies, agencies are a big sales force for us honestly. A lot of agencies use Hotjar in their agency, and with their clients. You can have a client setup a site and say give me access so I can manage your stuff, or if you’re an agency and you have several clients, or you’re a freelancer it doesn’t matter, if you have like 10 clients who you want to use Hotjar with you can add them to your account as a separate organization.
The cool thing is here’s what we hear unsolicited email through Intercom, through messages, anyway customers can talk to us we hear all the time, I got to use Hotjar to be the bad guy, so Hotjar can be the bad guy for you. If you’re trying to like talk to a client, even if it’s not even specifically copy like conversion rate optimization it seems like that’s getting a lot of traction these days. You could show a client like if we lay it out this way I don’t think it’s going to be very effective. If the clients like digging their heels in you could setup a heat map on the page, you could setup recordings, and just show the client like look we had 1,000 people visit this page, here’s how they’re interacting with it.
Hotjar is really good at just objectively providing data and insight, but also getting feedback from users. Hotjar can be the bad guy, but it’s also like you said Kira, it’s like a selling point. If you’re working with a client you could set them up with Hotjar and just say look, not only do you get Kira Hug’s amazing copywriting skills, you also get all this data, and all this analytics, and all this feedback on your site. It’s something cool to have in the tool belt.
RM: Brian, I’m curious I’ve worked in-house, I’ve freelanced, I’ve done other marketing type related jobs that weren’t necessarily copywriting, so I think we have that in common. Talk to me a little bit about the differences between freelance and being in-house, and maybe even specifically like the financial differences. I hear that people leave freelancing often take a pay cut to go in-house, but then you have things like benefits, and a team to work with, that kind of thing. What were your thought processes around that switch, and how has it benefited you?
BL: It’s a good question, because it’s something that I just constantly … I have a problem with the what is it, the grass is always greener syndrome. Something that invades and infects every area of my life. When I’m freelancing I’m like it would be really cool to be with a remote team, and kind of in-house so to speak. There’s obvious reasons, you get security, you have another team, it’s not just like you solo out on your own trying to make it work. You have people who have your back, and you have a team you can bounce ideas off of, and you get to work with other people, and co-create, and you’re just not in it alone.
Technically I guess speaking right now I’m still freelancing, and Hotjar is just a full time client. That’s one way I could look at it. There’s financial security there. If you’re on a remote team most remote teams, I would say all remote teams in the SAS kind of tech startup world, you get a salary, like buffer. We could just go down the line.
When you’re out freelancing some projects make a lot of money, like more than I make at Hotjar in a month I would make on one project in a few weeks, but that goes up and down. You have regular clients, semi-regular clients, then there’s those dry spells where you’re just out trying to make it work. When you’re with a team it’s like cool I just get a regular salary every month, I don’t have to go out and like hustle.
Then sometimes you miss the hustle. Sometimes I miss the hustle, and sometimes I miss … I’ve had really good months freelancing, and I’ve had just average months, and I’d say Hotjar for me financially what I’m making right now I’m kind of right in the middle. I’m making good money, but there has been times when I was freelancing where I made better money, but there’s also been times where I’ve made less. I think it’s like in-house you get the security of hey I get a paycheck every month, I have a salary, I’m with a team, and I’m working with a team that’s like really, really cool, but you’re working with a team.
For instance, I have to try and write and put stuff out there in the Hotjar voice, where my natural voice when I was just on my own is probably a lot more similar to like Kira’s. Just kind of like out there, and pretty unique, and just say what I feel. There’s a lot there. You have to kind of make some compromises when you’re with a team, because you’re with a team. Whereas the cool thing about freelancing when I was just solo is I can just say and do whatever I want, and it’s like cool there it is, that’s me on a plate if you don’t like it find someone else.
RM: It seems like there’s probably some validation around that. You have a business card that says what senior writer, something senior content provider, something like that. For those who might not want to be in the freelance life, they don’t want the hustle, they don’t want to be always out there looking for the next client. What could they expect salary wise at different levels working in-house? Obviously they’re not going to make millions, but at the same time they’re probably not coming in at $20,000 which is what I think the average copywriter freelancer actually makes every year.
BL: Yeah. As a freelancer, Kira and I talked about this on Slack one time, just kind of chatting back and forth. My first year freelancing, not knowing what I’m doing as far as the business side of things, and how to get clients, and all that. My very first year just I’m going to quit my job and do this, and then I wake up the next day I’m like oh crap how do I do this. I made like $44,000, just kind of completely winging it. Not kind of, completely winging it.
For instance Joel Klettke, I hope I’m saying his last name right, his first year freelancing doing the same thing I think he made like … He’d be a great guest by the way. I think he made over $100,000 his first year. It depends on how quickly you can sell yourself, and acquire clients, and how much coaching you’ve had, how much help you have, how big your network is. For me I just kind of pulled it out of my ass, and just went for it, and said okay I think I can figure this out.
Where looking back if I where to start just being a full solo freelancer again I would be much more intentional on how I did stuff, but I think in-house I can give you probably like a range. At least in kind of the tech startup SAS world. I would say, and this is very general on the low and the high end, I would say if you’re going to be a copywriter in the SAS tech startup world from what I gather, and what I’ve seen, and what I’ve heard I would say probably a starting point, maybe like a minimum to expect would be maybe like hight 50s all the way up to probably mid 80s. I would say maybe between 60 and 90, and that’s very broad.
If you’re getting up to close to 90 or something like that, then that’s very rare. I would say probably, I don’t know, maybe 60s and 70s would probably be average for just like entry level, hey I’m a copywriter content guy, or girl, or gal, man, woman, however you say it to now offend people. If you’re just kind of getting your feet wet, or just starting with an agency, yeah I’d probably expect around that.
KH: Brian, you said that if you could go back you would’ve been more intentional starting your freelance business. Specifically what are you thinking about, because there are people that could be starting their freelance copywriting businesses now? What does that mean? If you were to go back and start a new copywriting business, say two years from now, what would you do the right way early on?
BL: First of all you have to know how to sale yourself. You have to know how to sale yourself, you have to be confident, and that only comes from doing good work and knowing that you do good work. One thing I didn’t do early on was I would do work, I would do what I thought was good work and I would just kind of throw it up on the table and go what do you guys think. It’s in hindsight right?
It wasn’t until I looked back and said man I should’ve just … I saw this it was like a … I forgot what it was. A podcast or a conference talk, I forgot the guys name, but this guy gave a talk once and he was talking to designers, not copywriters, but he was talking creatives and he said, “When you do good work and present it to a client …” I want to say it like Bob Hoffman maybe, but he said “When you do good work and present it to a client you need to say here’s my work, here’s why it’s good, here’s why you need this.” You need to walk them through it. Where before I would just kind of slap it on the table.
That’s one thing is you have to sale yourself. Just because you got the job and you got … I would also say never do a job unless you get at least 50% deposit upfront. I’ve had jobs where the client has like begged to hire me, and they just gave me 100% upfront, and that’s really cool, but I’ve seen people do jobs and they’re like I didn’t get anything upfront, and they put several months of work into it, and they get nothing. Like they get fired. That’s never happened to me, but it’s like it’s not a good fit, it’s not working out, sorry. I’m like, wow you just wasted so much time.
I think besides the business stuff, and having a contract, and that kind of stuff I think where most people struggle, I would say I know just because I hear it from everyone, is how do I get clients.
RM: What you said about presenting and being the expert is so critical with all clients. It’s something I think all of us naturally struggle with. I do. I’ll complete an assignment, a sales page, or something and send it to the client, or be in that presentation and I say what do you think, and that’s such the wrong thing to say, because as the copywriting expert it doesn’t really matter what the other person thinks.
BL: It doesn’t matter what they think.
RM: I think all of us do this, or maybe you don’t do it so much anymore Brian, but it’s so much about look this is what I know, this is what I’ve learned, this is what the data is telling me assuming that we have that data, or what the customer research is saying, and this is why it makes sense. Rather than what do you think, what would you change, sort of opening it up for that terrible conversation that we all hate to have.
KH: I love that you shared that Brian, because I totally agree. Early on I was doing the same thing. I would just share the Google Doc for a review, and I would just open it, and the way I presented it was very much like I want you to scrutinize my copy, because you’ve paid for it, and I will totally rewrite it if you want me to, because that’s part of the package. That’s such the wrong way to present it, because you’re right even though you’ve already sold them on working with you, you still need to sale them on the final product, and I think that’s what we forget. That’s what I forget, and I think that’s just a great reminder to be careful with how you position every conversation with your client.
BL: Exactly. It’s like hiring a plumber, because we recently had to do this, and then it’s like the dishwashers not working and he goes through it and he’s like, okay is it fixed. I think it’s fixed.
RM: How do those dishes look now? Yeah.
BL: That’s how you get like zero business. Confidence, confidence, confidence. Confidence gets you clients, it gets you repeat clients, it gets you referrals.
KH: How do you get that confidence?
BL: There’s a line, I don’t know. There’s a line between cockiness and confidence that I have to walk sometimes. I think that’s like asking, what’s his name, Michael Phelps, how do you get your confidence as a swimmer? It’s because he’s a bad ass swimmer. He doesn’t have to get it, he just has it because he knows. I would say if you’re good you know you’re good, if you’re not don’t blow smoke up someone’s ass and try to pretend you’re good, and sale yourself, and then you can’t deliver.
For me it was like after hearing from several people, after getting some of these early on clients, and I was getting better, and better, and better. There’s a difference between having to unlearn some of the stuff I learned in college, like I’m not writing for the MLS or an academic paper, I’m writing for normal people who read the internet and scan stuff.
Once I started getting better, and better, and better I would just … I don’t know the confidence just kind of snuck up on me, and it just showed up. Then I would start to get … I would actually say all of my favorite clients have been 100% Inbound. Like hey I saw what you wrote about blank, how do I give you my money, I want to hire you now. That’s what you want, but that comes with confidence, that comes with generally speaking … We could talk all day about how do you get clients, but generally speaking for me I started doing a lot of guest posts. I don’t even have that much, but I have a couple on HubSpot.
I started doing guest posts and just really putting myself out there. Just kind of here’s me, this is me. What you see is 100% me. Then I would have people, most of my really, really good clients and the high paying ones … By the way the clients who are the good ones are the ones who don’t try to haggle you and argue with you about price nonstop. They know what a good copywriter is worth and they’ll pay it. They’ll pay you.
I had people just email. I got an email yesterday from a guy I use to work with who’s like, “Hey we got this project I would love to work with you on it. How do I pay you?” With Hotjar I’m not really taking on clients right now, so I’m like “Hey thanks, but …” Yeah, it’s confidence, and putting yourself out there. Some people say guest posting is dead, I think the people who say that are the people who’ve never had a successful guest post.
I’ve gotten so many clients based on hey I saw what you wrote on HubSpot, could you write that for our agency. Hey I saw what you wrote over here, we want you to write an e book. It just kind of happens.
RM: Brian, let’s talk about controversy for a minute. You’re a guy that has some opinions and you don’t always keep them to yourself. I think there have been a post or two at Inbound where I think you caught a lot of flack, or being misunderstood, and expressing an opinion, that kind of a thing. Even your website today, somebody could go to Winsome Writing and look at that, and it’s maybe just a little bit…
KH: I’ll take a screenshot. I’ll take a screenshot so we don’t lose it.
RM: …kind of fun, but maybe a little controversial. This seems to be your approach. Right? You’re not afraid to speak your mind, you’re not afraid to offend, but at the same time I don’t think you go out of your way to offend. Talk to me a little bit about your thinking around that.
BL: This is like a great topic.
RM: Yeah, we could go on for hours about this. Right?
BL: I think you’re right. Sometimes very rarely I do intentionally try to offend someone, not offending for the sake of offending them, but this is just generally speaking. We could kind of put copywriting on the shelf for now, but this is just me in life, but it creeps into my business. Sometimes the only way to kind of make a point, or get your point across is to say something that’s going to rattle someone’s cage, because then they’re going to finally get it.
I don’t ever, I don’t think, intentionally in my mind I never say I want to go out and offend someone, or be controversial. What I do say is I’m very opinionated on almost any subject you could think of. Obviously politics, and religion, and stuff like that, and culture. If you link to the post there’s a lot of stuff even in Sonoma Rob, you, and I, and some other people got into some stuff. I’m just me.
I think it all comes back to vulnerability. I’m not afraid to put myself out there, because here’s what happens, here’s what you don’t see. There was this post on Inbound earlier this year about like feminism and Neil Patel, and should he use these ex Playboy models in his ads, blah, blah, blah, whatever. I don’t even want to talk about that per say right now. I don’t.
I made my voice known there, because I have some different views from what kind of the typical people were posting there. The stuff you didn’t see is I got like five or six emails that week from people, from agencies, and companies who I don’t want to mention them to not put them in a weird spot, but people who wanted to hire me that week.
There’s obviously the people … Basically if you put yourself out there, and you state an opinion on anything some people are going to love you, some people are going to hate you, some people are going to not care. James, how do you say his last name again? I can never say it.
BL: Altucher, yeah. He posted on that like something dealing with haters, or one of those posts, and he said “Just work for the people. Some people aren’t going to care whatever, some people are going to hate you whatever, just do your work and do what you do for the people who love what you do, and there’s plenty of business.”
Some of these posts where I’ve maybe been a little bit controversial, if I wasn’t with the company I’m with now Hotjar, I would’ve said maybe we can work together. It goes both ways. I got a lot of flack for some stuff I’ve said, but I also got a lot of like hey I didn’t want to post this on the forum, because I don’t want people to see me, but I love what you wrote here can we hire you. When you put yourself out there people are going to love you, people are going to hate you.
RM: Having a voice matters.
BL: Yeah. I hesitate to say this, because it makes me sound like a jerk. I was going to say or you could be like an intellectual coward and just never have an opinion about anything anywhere. You’ll have no controversy, no opinions, but then no ones ever going to notice you. Like what you see is what you get. I’ve never shied away from stuff, even when I know for a fact that my point of view or opinion might be in the minority, or very unpopular. I just put it out there, and there’s people who love it, and there’s people who hate it. The ones who hate it don’t hire me, and the ones who love it do.
KH: I think Brian, we could talk a lot more about your viewpoints, and the power of having viewpoints especially when you are running your own business and how that could help you, or hurt you. I know we’re running low on time, so I do want to ask you about processes in Hotjar. Especially you mentioned co-creating with the founder, with David. I’m always interested in learning about the startups and how they do things when they have processes in place, because often times we don’t have processes in place, or we can pull something from what you’re doing. If there’s anything that comes to mind around your creative process currently at Hotjar I’d love to hear it.
BL: Yeah, cool. I would say just generally speaking at Hotjar our creative process is built on feedback. What we do typically, I’ll give you kind of the general answer, if we’re going to write something or do something we have kind of the strategy session, whatever determines what we’re going to do. Say we’re going to write a blog on podcasting. Okay we’re going to write a blog on podcasting, whoever owns that will do an outline, then we’ll come back and we’ll loop in usually not more than like three people.
Say I write an outline, here’s what I think the post should look like based on what we talked about, what do you guys think? We do everything in Google Docs, it lives probably like Rob, Kira, most of us probably do most of our stuff in Google Docs these days, so it lives in Google Docs. We get the feedback, we get the outline, and one thing we do is Hotjar is pretty big on blunt and direct feedbacks.
It would be like this doesn’t make sense, this sucks, this sounds like a teenage girl wrote it, stuff like that. We’ll just keep doing that. We’ll do an outline, then we’ll do version one, come back. What do you guys think? Tweak this, change this, you got the voice wrong, you’re not writing to the right audience. We just go back and forth, back and forth, feedback, feedback, feedback. Then once everybody signs off on it then we build it. We use HubSpot for our content management. Most people probably use WordPress depending on where you’re at.
Feedback is huge, and I know if you’re like a solo freelancer, if you’re just literally by yourself, this is something I didn’t do when I was first starting off either, there’s always someone to give you feedback. If you’re apart of a Mastermind something I would recommend, Kira I know we’ve talked about this, is like the cult of copy on Facebook. I’ve gotten tons of great feedback there, so if you literally don’t have a group, or a Mastermind, or people just like a friend. Like hey I just wrote this for a client what do you think? We do that internally. Right, with the Copy Hackers Mastermind? If you don’t have someone there’s a group on Facebook called Cult of Copy.
KH: Actually this is turning into a community as well. I don’t think I mentioned that Brian. This will be Facebook group.
BL: Oh okay. I didn’t know that, because I’m one of the early adopters of the podcast.
RM: Feel free to go to Cult of Copy and then ask everybody to come and join the club.
BL: Feedback is key. Feedback is key. With that you have to be able to take it. Naturally, myself included, people get defensive with feedback, but if you’re working with someone to create something cool that’s going to represent a client or a brand, it doesn’t matter what you think, at that point it has to represent the client. Does this sound like something Hotjar would write, or does this sound like something we should be saying, or how do you think people are going to react to this if we post X, Y, and Z?
That’s one thing, is we’re really big on feedback. Something cool that we just started doing on our last couple blog posts, David and I, David’s the CEO founder of Hotjar. Brilliant, brilliant guy. Just a really great guy, I’m learning a lot from him on marketing. We’ve done some sessions where we’ll just sit down and talk, kind of like how we’re talking right now in the podcast. I’ll be like “David tell me about how to launch and grow a business.” He’ll kind of brain dump, and we’ll record the calls, then I’ll go back and take that recording and replay, and right a post based off of it.
Then I’ll say, “David, here’s the post I wrote based on our talk.” He’ll be like, “Okay, you got this right, change this, tweak this.” Then we’ll kind of do the same thing feedback and edit. That’s another way to create content if you’re kind of strapped for time. Sometimes you can just talk to an expert, or whatever you want to call them. Record the call, and then go back and write a post on it. That’s something we’re just kind of testing out, we’re still working out some kinks on how to make that a little bit more agile and quicker, but it’s produced some really cool stuff.
We wrote a post last month that got over 10,000 hits in one day from Hacker News. That was a post we wrote together. It was kind of David’s brain, and my writing squished into one, and we kind of made it together. Yeah, there’s some cool stuff to be learned there about collaborating, and co-creation. Gary V talks a lot about documenting. Gary Vaynerchuk for people who don’t know, everyone calls him Gary V. If you look up Gary Vaynerchuk he has a video called How We Make the Sausage that he does a lot of this with his team. They’ll kind of just document what he’s saying and they’ll turn it into content. We’re testing some of that out, and doing some of that. It’s been pretty cool so far.
RM: Brian, one last question for you as we’re running low on time. Where do you go for inspiration, and to sort of sharpen your skills?
BL: This is a really cool question, because I don’t know if my answers unique. I actually have found that the more I read the better I become at writing. I actually read a lot of … For instance, right now I’m reading The Brothers Karamazov by, I can never say his last name, Dostoyevsky. It’s like a five billion page novel written by a Russian guy about these brothers, and murder mystery thing, and they just talk about life, and death, and stuff like that.
I have found that for me the more someone reads the better they are at writing, because if you constantly consume and take in good writing that helps you … What is it garbage in, garbage out? If you’re constantly reading, and learning, and studying, and for me I don’t actually read a lot about copywriting. I’m starting to read some more stuff about marketing in general, but I read a lot of fiction and it kind of inspires me and helps me, I think, become a better writer.
Of course there’s blogs, and stuff that come out. What are some blogs I read? I read almost everything Brian Dean writes, but he’s more of a SEO strategist kind of guy, but I still learn a lot from him. Obviously stuff on Copy Hackers is great. There’s a couple more blogs, it’s just I’m on the spot so I can’t think of it, but a lot of it I just read actual physical books, and most of them have nothing to do with marketing or copywriting, but I found that the more I read the better I write.
RM: We’re going to have to have you back some time. We could just do a book review session.
BL: That would be fun.
RM: Where we can just talk about some of our favorite books, because I agree. I like to read a lot about business and writing, but honestly the stuff that helps me improve is like you said fiction. I read a lot of history. Really good writers you can learn from them no matter what genre they’re writing in.
BL: Oh my gosh, yeah. Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite authors. He wrote the Road, they made a movie out of it also. C.S. Lewis is another one.
RM: …yeah. Yeah, we’re definitely going to have you back.
BL: That’d be cool, yeah.
KH: I just listen to a lot of horror podcasts, so maybe I should switch over and start reading more.
BL: Horror podcasts?
KH: Yeah. Murder mysteries. Like gruesome murder mysteries. Somehow that helps me write better.
RM: Kira’s dark side.
BL: There’s a whole podcast episode right there on horror podcasting.
RM: If people want to find out more about you, where would they be looking online?
BL: Right now my website is more of a placeholder, because I’m not technically using it to generate leads because I don’t really need to at this point. If you want to contact me just about anything Brian@winsomewriting.com is great, Brian with an I. B-R-I-A-N. Twitter I’m on there @winsomewriting as well. That’s just kind of if you want to get in touch with me those would be good places to do it.
KH: We’re doing this new thing where the guest has to end the show in a witty fun way, so that’s what you get to do right now.
BL: Totally putting me on the spot. I think a good way to end the show is just it’s been really great talking, and we’ll catch you on the next episode. Is that a good way to end it?
RM: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive available on iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard you can help us spread the word by subscribing at iTunes and by leaving your review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
Like what you've seen so far?
There's plenty more where that came from. Sign up for The Copywriter Club newsletter today and we'll send you the unpublished Doberman Dan interview (plus two other awesome resources) in addition to regular updates about what's going on in the club.
You won't find this on iTunes, Stitcher or anywhere else. The only way to get this "secret" mp3 and transcript is to drop your email in the box and hit "gimme!".