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How did you get into copywriting?

I knew I wanted to be a business owner. I knew I wanted to make a very prosperous life for myself. I also knew that I wasn’t really a well-connected person going to an Ivy League school. I didn’t know any business owners but I loved writing. From there on out, I was obsessed with copywriting.

So, I dropped out of college and for more than 12 years now, I’ve continued my obsession with it. That’s a little bit of background info for you.

What was so compelling about copywriting specifically?

Copywriting is a way for someone to become a one-man or one-woman marketing department and PR department and sales department.

It’s a way for just one person who has a great product or service to be able to harness the power of persuasion, to take people in the world from complete strangers who just don’t know you.

They don’t know about your service. You can introduce them to your world and you can show them that this is something that’s going to change their lives and just via writing, get them to buy a product or subscribe to your service.

How did you begin to get clients in the door? Was it through word of mouth and referrals?

I did not, most likely because of ignorance and a lot of stupidity.

After I dropped out of college, I packed up my stuff. I left. I went home. For a brief period, I just moved back in with my mom. That was a very brief period, though, because I didn’t want to become a cliché. Yeah, back in Massachusetts there.

I learned about copywriting to build my own business. I didn’t really promote myself at all to other people because my mindset was, “Hey, I’m going to sell my own products. I don’t want to become a copywriter for anyone else.”

You talk about hitting pain points in marketing, why does there need to be a story attached to that?

  1. Humans are just wired to listen to stories
  2. We are able to absorb information in a way where our BS filter is lowered

That’s why some of the best teachers, by the way, use stories because while you think you’re just listening to something nice and entertaining, your mind is getting opened in a whole new way. That’s why stories, I think, can add rocket fuel to any marketing message.

Are there some best practices to follow in copywriting?

The ideal is if you have a real story where your product or service figuratively busts through the door and saves the day, saves the person from the burning building.

That is ideal but you don’t need that and that’s not always true. Just because sometimes life doesn’t work that way, where you have a really dramatic story about something that can go wrong in a prospect’s life. Your product may not have even been invented yet.

To what extent it’s okay to embellish or even completely fabricate just for the purposes of copywriting?

I got two answers to that.

Answer One: Looking at the ethics and morality of it. Personally, I write true stories. I’ve always stuck to that. If there’s going to be any sort of wiggle room there, it’s that I always do my best to cut out parts of the story that are superfluous.

From an ethical and moral standpoint. The only thing I can say is you have to come up with your own standards. I hope those standards are where you tell true stories. That’s part one.

Answer Two: Do what works from a strategic and tactical standpoint in the marketplace.

There’s a reason why I said this one second after the talk about morals and ethics. People can tell false stories all the time and it works. There’s no denying that. I’ve seen it in the marketplace. People will absolutely make crap up and make millions of dollars. I don’t think you should do it but yeah, it’s definitely doable.

How can you as a copywriter really get a story across in such a small space?

All I have to do is give a time and a location to indicate to someone that a story is being told.

Time and place and you’ve got yourself a story. “Six months ago, I was sitting in this hammock. Just an hour ago, I was climbing up on the roof.”

It’s a story. The funny part is, you only need a few more sentences to tell the conclusion of that story.

How do you introduce an expert and address the pain points and the actual buyer in that story and sales copy?

if you just have a real blockbuster of a story, that’s so attention-grabbing, something so shocking happened, go with it. Play your ace up front. That’s a good rule for anything.

If you have any kind of third-person story or any kind of experience, you can say, “Hey, has this ever happened to you?” It’s just really interesting and attention-grabbing, prioritize that over any kind of structure.

What are some good resources for people needing some copywriting help?

You can just Google Gary Halbert, just like I did. That website is pretty much still up. His sons have taken it over because, unfortunately, Gary passed away, I think it was in 2006.

There are over a thousand pages of information there. It’s not exactly the easiest, most organized thing to go through but there are storytelling gems there, just his writing is an amazing example of storytelling. You will get sucked in. That’s one resource.

Other than that, this actually may be a question that I fall short with because I know there’s a lot of information on storytelling out there, a lot of it from me. I was just really self-taught other than reading Gary Halbert’s stuff and just being fascinated by writing alone.

If anyone’s interested in reading more of what Nate has been sharing with the ETR world, just click here, and be sure to visit his website.

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Jeff Steen

Jeff Steen is the Associate Editor of Early to Rise. Previously, he worked in food and hospitality journalism, but is currently focused on bringing unique, insightful content to the ETR world.