This week I’ve been in New York, in my other capacity as a freelance copywriter. Working for a special client: Google!
I’m under NDA, so can’t talk much, except to say: the office is everything you thought it was. Fun design, playgrounds and ping-pong tables, free food everywhere. But most interesting is the building. It’s the old Port Authority Building – at the time, New York’s most expensive real estate transaction ever – and it takes up a whole city block, as you’d expect.
But more interesting than that is what the building does. As a past housing for infrastructure, it’s where a large number of transatlantic telephone cabling and optic fibre enters the USA – the building was once home to a telephone exchange. Which means, of course, Google sits atop the fastest, broadest bundle of bandwidth anywhere in the world.
My August self-challenge was to write up my thoughts on the healthcare sector, in the same little-book format as How to do Freelancing and How to do Life. One day clear of my Aug 30 deadline, both paperback (ISBN 978-1-912795-27-7) and Kindle editions are now available for order.
The next few books in my “How to do…” series will also involve public policy rather than private victory: planned titles include How to do Welfare and How to do Schools. There’ll be a break for How to do Fitness though.
Xeno’s Paradox lives!
It’s the old Greek tale that demonstrates it’s logically impossible to overtake a tortoise if you give it a head start. Because to catch up, you’ve got to travel halfway to him first. And when you get there, he’s a bit further ahead. You’ve now got to cover half the remaining distance. As you do, the tortoise plods a bit further. And so on.
Of course, it’s a fallacy. But it has some parallels to the writing process of 100 Days, 100 Grand.
In the middle of 2016, I spent three months solid on a big surge of content, with enough now there to start testing it as an actual work plan. (In other words, becoming a six-figure freelancer myself.) Did it work? Yes – and how. A single sales letter to a small list (fewer than 40 prospects!) led to a fully-booked September, with initial projects turning into new retainer clients at the rate of one a month. A situation still in progress now, six months later. (One reason I’m blogging on a Saturday afternoon.)
But of course, each new client took up days on the calendar…days I couldn’t spend on the book. In fact, September to December I completed barely one chapter a month. This has happened several times in the long slog to publication, and I expect it to happen again. It’s great for my own freelancing business, but no good for yours.
The book’s now 80% done: 235,000 words of 250,000 or so and 1096 pages of a planned 1200. (I know that’s not 80%, but I expect a great deal of current content to disappear in editing.) But each time I test a process, it reduces the amount of time I can spend on that last 20%. Pure Xeno’s Tortoise stuff. It’s both frustrating and exhilarating. Because I can see the finishing post… but my own actions are preventing me from reaching it.
A blatant plug first: my wife Lynne won our race to publish, and her brilliant cookbook Lynne’s Month of Meals is available from Amazon and bookstores, RRP £14.99. If you like exotic Indochinese food you can cook without being a whiz in the kitchen, take a look; she’s already sold enough copies to be in the top 1% of all indie authors. (Which puts a bit of pressure on me.)
But back to the blog. And a sentence that’s caused me some aggro. It’s in my home page blurbets:
- Win customers 10-20x faster than even pro marketers!
I’ve had some blowback from pro marketers protesting it can’t be right. Pro marketers, by definition, get better results than random freelancers, surely?
Not always. To see why, let’s go where the pro marketers are.
Imagine you’re on an advertising agency’s direct marketing team, and your paying client wants a one-to-one marketing campaign.
Even for bigger agencies, DM is a bit like local radio: that distant cousin you don’t really spend much time with. (Odd that the most accountable medium of all is seen as more arcane than broadcast TV, but I don’t make the rules.) And client budgets tend to reflect this. For a fresh campaign, excluding production and postage, £20,000 would be high; figures like £5,000 are more common. And that money has to buy a copywriter, art director (yes, even plain letters need designing), print pro, and account handling expertise. For one DM letter there might be 7-8 people on the team.
Now, how much of their time does £5,000 buy?
Persuading an agency to spend just two weeks on your campaign’d be a stretch. Ten man-days, max. That’s not much time to understand your customer. Little chance to pinpoint that salient selling point that deserves A/B splitting. And definitely no list-building; they’ll have to buy it in.
Contrast that to the 100 Days approach. Where developing the perfect List and Letter to deliver your offer to the market is the main goal of three month’s work. A few distracted ad agency employees scrabbling around on deadline can’t compete.
And that’s why you can win more customers, much faster.
None of this disses old agency hands. Can you compete with a pro marketer… on a level playing field? No. But the field’s not level. In 100 Days, you’re spending three months working hard, following tried-and-tested rules, with the motivation that every penny of return accrues to you. That’s a resource that lets you understand what your market really is, hone your offer with precision, write from the heart so you’ll close the emotional sale first time. You have a far bigger “budget” to invest in yourself than most clients allow their agencies.
It’s why my campaigns for myself – like this DM letter – reach customer acquisition rates of nearly 20%. (100 Days aims for 1%.)
Which brings this blog full circle. Because to test the 100 Days methods, I’m doing another campaign for myself this month, the first in two years. Yes, I practice what I preach. There are countless marketing agencies out there, including thousands of good ones, but when it comes to marketing yourself your first option is you.
The latest update on 100 Days, 100 Grand has just gone out to its now hundreds-strong mailing list. Some explanation of what’s happening with the release date, in addition to some self-indulgent musings about typography…
At the Shard building in London today, enjoying a glass of breakfast champagne with Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Sad to say it was nothing to do with 100 Days, 100 Grand – my alma mater Warwick Business School was opening its London outpost (that’s the Dean and Vice Chancellor to the right of Boris) – but it was fun to pass on a caricature of the Mayor kicking down the door of No 10, drawn by my pal Simon Ellinas. (Who also cartooned at my wedding earlier this year!)
I put a listicle on Buzzfeed about the habits of Kindle owners. Anyone who knows a heavy reader will understand…!