Episode #151 – Abbey Woodcock On Easily Imitating Your Client’s Voice (And Smooth Systems Every Freelancer Needs).
Her mother thought it was a complete scam when she was flown to a live event by Derek Halpern.
A year later, her mom still thought it was shady when she was writing for Ramit Sethi…
And making real money!
She brought some ideas from her journalism background that
gave her a leg up.
Which led to finding her niche in big personality brands.
She has figured out the way you can imitate a client’s voice with a simple, easy system.
In fact her entire freelance business is now run on simple systems…
So she can focus on the work.
This could be the most important episode of the podcast if you’re a freelancer.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- The first salesletter she ever wrote didn’t convert a single soul!
- The importance of attending LIVE events. (Abbey has made a career out of closing down the bar).
- The one idea she brought from her journalism career led to her “superpower” and created her own niche!
- How does she write her copy? Abbey walks us through part of her copy process.
- How systems have revolutionized her freelance business. (She provides her full workflow on her website – all 18 steps!).
Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO
David Allan: Hey, everybody David Allan from makewordspay.com. We have another great exciting guest here today someone who is on the freelance route as a copywriter and has great experience – and systems stuff to put in place to help you with your freelance career. Abbey Woodcock. Welcome to the show.
Abbey Woodcock: Awesome. So great to be here. Thanks for having me on.
David Allan: Yeah it’s really great to have you on. You were recommended by one of the other people that we had on our one of our previous shows and came highly recommended for your story and your skill set. Everything of course. Now maybe let’s start at the very beginning. I got into all this superhero origin story. Where did you come from and how did you get into this mess of marketing a copywriting.
Abbey Woodcock: Well I guess it depends on when you start counting. So my first ever long form sales letter was in seventh grade. I wrote a 30 page letter to a boy to ask to the eighth grade dance. So I was amazed by the zero percent were conversion on that line. So I’ve always kind of been a writer at heart. As you can imagine seventh grade nominee to know that not many boys are getting 30 page letters but. And so I dove into journalism first and learn two really important skill sets in journalism which was to write fast on a deadline and to write super clear. So I loved journalism loved reporting but the hours and the pay are terrible. So I had to figure out something else. And I discovered this land of Narnia as I call it online marketing kind of by accident and fell in love and I dove into copywriting from there.
It’s awesome. Now when you first heard of copywriting Did you have any idea what that actually was.
No of course like everyone I thought copywriting had to do with you know true trademarks in books and you know all that kind of stuff.
And I actually went to a an event a lot of events to learn about online marketing because even though I’d gone to college and got my master’s degree in communications they weren’t teaching any online marketing.
It was still very you know advertising and mass communications and that kind of thing.
So when I’d gone to this event it was like this whole world opened up of of all these people that were selling things online. So I knew that it matched my skill set really well.
You know writing clearly and succinctly and I was I’ve always been into behavioral psychology and that kind of thing has always been a real interest of mine so.
So it is a really great fit and that was I don’t know six or seven years ago now probably you remember one event that was yeah it was an event that Dirk Helprin put on actually.
And I won a ticket to it because I sent him in a funny YouTube video and he bought my ticket and my parents were convinced that it was a scam and that he was going to somehow try to swindle me out of money by playing you can. And then my first big copywriting gig was with raw meat Saidie and I was working with him for about a year and my mom was still convinced we flew out to L.A. for an event. My mom was still saying this is a big scam.
I’m like this is like beliefs profitable scam ever because he’s been paying me really well for a year.
So it all like the longest con in history.
That’s awesome. So did you get introduced to meet at that event.
Yes. That’s that’s where I met me. And then the rest is history. So I got into that world pretty quickly and I kind of put my flag in the ground as as writing for personality based brands like. Because people were amazed that I was writing for Rosemead. As for me some of his emails and blog posts and that kind of thing. And you know he’s had a really unique voice. And so it kind of became my my superpower is is capturing the voice of people that aren’t me and helping other copywriters do that.
So that’s that’s kind of what I’ve done since then working with you know Jeff Walker Ryan Levac those kind of really big personalities that people recognize when they read their email.
So right now at that point where was the company at when you brought on board at the time the content team was really small.
There was me a content manager who did more of the strategic you know editorial planning and that kind of thing. And then Remmy who is writing and he still writes a good portion of his own copy at the time he was writing almost everything. And so I found that that’s a really common transition period now that I’ve worked with a lot of these other brands.
Is that these people who love writing copy and who have really distinctive voice and are great writers and great copywriters and are now find themselves running you know multimillion dollar companies and are still writing like YouTube descriptions and you know blog post and it’s one of the last things that they that they let go you know they’re all onboard with delegating. But then when it comes to writing copy it’s a big transition between writing every single piece of copy to letting somebody else write your emails for you or your blog posts or you know even the YouTube descriptions little things you know because it’s it’s a really scary thing right. They built their community on their brand and their voice and their
personality so they’re really scared to let that go to.
Work. It’s like yeah definitely it was a process.
You know between when I first started working the amount that he was involved into I ended up working. I still I still do some work for them but I was a full time writer for about three years I think. And so by the end it was we just kind of found a groove.
But yeah it was a I think what what happened and I think this is really common I’ve seen this over and over again is they realize that they’re the bottleneck in why things are are are going late or why you’re doing launch emails. You know the night before they’re supposed to go live because they just have so much on their plate.
You know they’re running a company that the CEO of the company they have a big team to manage now. And so they realize that they’re they’re holding it up and that’s kind of I think the catalyst for letting go. And I think that that’s not unique to me or to anyone because I’ve seen that pattern play out over and over again and again.
Yes so I think it was the kind of the freelancers dilemma where I was really happy there. But I was getting a lot of opportunities.
People were certain to know who I was and I realized that I was saying no to a lot of things that were really interesting to me. And so yes and then I just. So now I guess three years ago two years to I don’t know.
Somewhere somewhere in that range I realized that I had a kind of a viewpoint that was outside of me had some opportunities that I wanted to I wanted to see how far I could take this thing. So and I’m still I’m still kind of curious to see see where I can go with it.
CH. Ch ch ch ch ch.
Well it kind of both. I I live events I always say are my natural habitat.
I’m just somebody that really enjoys meeting people so you know I’ve conversations with other copywriters are like What do you say at events like that’s never been a problem for me because I just talk to everyone so I’ll say all my clients came from bars at live events.
And so I wanted to learn more about this copywriting thing and I obviously was learning a ton from our meeting a great copywriter and I was reading a ton but I wanted to you know go out and see as much and attend as many events as I could.
And one of the most influential events I guess was Brian Kurtz who I know has been on your podcast before he put on titans a direct response and that kind of just opened my world to the whole you know the big big guns and directorates response and what the possibilities were for being a copywriter and all of the amazing things that are happening and the director response world so that was that was huge and I still am getting work from that event that was out years ago so that.
Yes so it was you know all of the above and repeats and I think it’s one of his strengths and why he’s been so successful is raw meat is a natural teacher. He loves teaching and has his team members are.
That’s one of his things that he just really prioritizes with his team is continuing everybody’s education so he knew I was really into learning more about copywriting and learning about behavioral psychology which is where his background is so he was sending me books.
I mean probably every other week I’d get a book in the mail from him.
We’d have a conversation about something and you know he was sending me the classics the Robert Collier letter book you know breakthrough advertised all that all the x and that’s when I really dug in. In addition to reading you know getting on as many lists as I could of really influential people in all different spaces to kind of see what everybody else is doing and their e-mails and their sales pages and their launch sequences. And it was just a really intense time of learning because I had just never seen this world before and I’m somebody that can be kind of competitive. I have to be the best. And so I
just really dug in and wanted to become the best copywriter I could as quickly as possible.
So I liked.
So yeah a little bit of both.
I’m actually in the last year or so have been way become way more systems oriented. Just because as my business has grown I can’t go with the light creative mindset of just doing things as they come to me. And so at the time I didn’t really have a system for it as a routine I would wake up and before I dug into copy I would open my e-mail and read all the emails that I was getting from the various lists that I was on.
And then at night I’ve always been a big reader before bed so I would I would read a lot at night and then you know in between there it was it was very haphazard of you know if I had a free minute I was I was reading up on different things or Rimi it would send me something or someone else. And so I didn’t really have a system for for learning it was just any time I had a free moment.
Ch ch ch ch ch ch.
CH Yes I think it started with I came from journalism.
Like I said so when I came into remits world there was two big things that I think made a huge difference and I realized nobody else was doing them. The first one was I came in and he is one of the first assignments he asked me to do was proofread one of his sales pages for a new product. And so I said yes sure. Can you send me your style guide. And hes like What the heck are you talking about. And I realized that in journalism I mean your style guide is like your bible you have the AP style guide which is the national standard and then each newspaper has their own local style guide which tells you like how the local school spells their mascot or what the colors are or
just all kinds of information like that and that thats on every single reporter’s desk is the AP style guide in the newspaper style guide.
And because I was new to this online world you know bloggers dont have style guides in general. So I created one. And so anytime that remet gave me feedback I never wanted them to have to give me the same feedback twice so what I did is created what now I call my Kodak’s persona. And so I use this now with all my clients. But its a style guide basically so you know Romney never says these words he always says these words he refers to his customers as students he abbreviates his courses in this way you know all just all kinds of things. Influences of his that
you know to be familiar with to understand references and that kind of thing. So it just ended up being this like 45 page document and their contents seem it team is still using that and that was just a huge way for me to shortcut the process so that he wasn’t making the same corrections over and over again I could reference the style guide when I tried to remember how to spell something or how to abbreviate something and then the second big thing was the content manager obviously was a little bit skeptical of me being brand new to the industry and so gave me kind of this busywork task early on and it was to go through and spend blogging now for 13
years. So at the time it was you know my 8 or 9 years worth of blog posts that he had to go through every single blog post and create a tweet saying so you know a tweet that we could tweet and promote like an old blog post and so I went through eight years of blog posts and wrote three tweets for every single one.
And I just wanted to kill myself the whole time.
It was like awful boring work. Oh it was awful.
But I’ll tell you what I knew more about the content on that blog than anyone in the company and they would joke about it all the time because I would say you know we’d be in a meeting and I’d say you know in January 2009 Rimi wrote on this exact topic like I’d like brainpan. Yeah. And so it was really interesting. So then later when I realized that we we ended up growing the content team quite a bit over those three years.
Ramita had a lot of growth in the company. I realized as these writers came on that that was like a really great task upfront is just to have them be super familiar with the backlog or content that you had. So it was creating systems to shortcut learning that and boy say you you learn the voice over time if you just work with somebody long enough but you can shortcut that by. I mean I was listening to his podcasts I was listening to his YouTube videos. I was listening to anytime that he had any audio and it was like his voice was on repeat in my head. So as I was writing the emails I could hear him saying the words and if it sounded like him or not.
I developed this guide to kind of shortcut that process for the writers on the team and then since then I have ive put it out on my blog for because it’s it’s just a huge need for copywriters to understand voice especially as these personality based brands continue to grow online.
Ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch.
Yeah I mean it’s been especially so new copywriters tend to look for a position similar to what my position was for me.
You start out kind of as a content writer on a bigger blog to kind of grow your chops and work with with great clients and I’ve kind of defacto in the last six months or so started coaching some of these newer copywriters and content writers on these processes because it’s been a huge win for them because what happens a lot of times in these companies is the personality or the brand person tends to. They don’t even know what makes up their voice so what happens is they’ll hire a copywriter the copywriter will write an email the person will
say this doesn’t sound like me at all. They’ll rewrite it. The copywriter will say OK how can I improve in the future and they’ll give feedback that something like will make it sound more like me which isn’t helpful for anybody. So the copywriters feeling terrible because they’re not performing and they really want to be successful. The personality is not happy because they’re paying a copywriter that’s not producing anything that they can use. And so I’m kind of doing two things right now is consulting with these bigger companies on how to build up a system so that when they bring on copywriters they can be more successful. And then
just my contacts in the industry a lot of newer copywriters I’m working directly with them on how to build the skills so that they can come in and they can do some of the things that I did for me building a style guide as you’re learning which is like I said just really taking the feedback that you get and cataloguing it and taking you know idiosyncrasies that you notice and cataloguing those so that it helps you it helps the next person down the road.
Yeah that’s a really easy question for me to answer because it was completely building out system so when I worked it was very much like a full time job. It was a work from home and it was flexible but it was very 4:51 type job for me where you know I would I would work on his schedule so you know he would have writing time say Monday morning so I would be available Monday morning to help him get something out the door or.
The deadlines were all very clear.
But what happened pretty quickly is because I had all this experience and launches. I started taking lead on launches for other clients so they would say OK you know we’re going to have this four week launch for this huge product and it’s going to happen on June 1st and you’re having this conversation on you know February 14th. And so then I’m like Okay great. And so what do you do. On February 14th for a June 1st launch like I had no idea on how to set up the systems to do that. And so when I asked business grew my first hire was a project manager to like really help me with the systems.
And it was an interesting process because he is a total systems guy and I am not. And so his systems were OK from 9 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. you’re going to be working on this e-mail from 10 a.m. to 11 you’re going to be working on the headline from 11 to noon you’re going to work on the subhead.
And it was just like I’m a freelancer like I don’t want to do a job like I want to go to Target at nine o’clock in the morning I’m going to go look it.
I was like Yeah exactly.
So it was interesting because we were working he’d never really work managing a creative and I’ve never worked with a systems person. And so we kind of developed these systems that really help with creatives and how to structure your days and weeks. And now like I said this is now you know my other part of my blog is the system things because I had them write a guest post on my blog and just as kind of almost a joke and it was like blew up.
It was like the most reaction the most shares the most. Like everybody was like I need more this like systems because I and I had learned just by trial and error by missing a lot of deadlines by irritating a lot of clients by not updating them. And and so that was totally One hundred percent. The thing I was not prepared for is becoming a freelancer is is creating the system so that I could do my best work and still fit into the real world of deadlines and client expectations and all that kind of thing.
So fast things like this you know.
That’s why my writing. Is you know I asked my sister to watch. Ouch ouch ouch ouch. Ouch ouch.
Yeah definitely you know follows that that assembly. You know the research is so key and that’s where I spend so much time.
Because what happens is as I’m doing research to gather a lot of especially if you have a lot of client research you know market surveys and client testimonials and just you know dig in and I end up with that I’m not sure how it works for everybody else but I end up with kind of a crazy list of you know 50 different sound of things that I think are really interesting from various interview or articles or products or whatever. And then once I end up with the list of soundbites It’s like a puzzle it’s putting them in the most effective order that I can. And a lot of people say that they write the headline laughs.
I find the headline a lot of times for me reveals itself at some point during the process. I don’t spend a lot of time you know like what’s my headline going to be as I’m writing.
It’s always a line or a piece of information or a benefit that really pops and I’m like that’s that’s the headline that’s that’s the one right there.
And it’s just kind of rearranging everything. It looks like a mess.
To be honest I buy into special clients that have been copywriters in the past which tend to be a lot of people that I work with like I said these personality based brands so they know copy syllabi. You know what’s the status of the sales page and I’ll say oh you know it’s a mess but it’ll be you know done by the end of the week and they’ll say can I see what you’re working on now.
So my working document they’re like never mind just up they will click on it here. So. It’s like it’s just like laid out the roadmap for how.
You know something that comes across to us that way later what you’re talking about. Religion. I wish I would have this. And if you’re just starting out. You can just play something you should come to you know to get these things. You of course go to our website business copywriting is a pop up copy.
Doug thank you for coming on the show and sharing your story and sharing all these information and these great ideas to us again some time I’m sure everyone else for a podcast to look for yet another person coming on us hopefully may be dropped here today. Anyone looking to get in touch with me. Which of course will be back next week with another exciting episode of