Ep 69: Ryan Levesque – The Truth About Specializing
In This Episode
Got a question for the Ask Man? Let me ask Ryan for you…
HEY LISTENER: If you hear this before June 9th and want to ask Ryan a question, I’ll see him next week in Austin. We’ll be filming a Q&A session featuring your questions. If you’d like to be included send your question to contact [at] copychief.com and ask away.
This is one of my favorite episodes yet. Ryan Levesque is a friend and colleague who inspires everyone who knows him to market smarter. And, as you’ll see in this interview, he never holds back the good stuff. (I don’t think he could, even if he wanted to.)
Ryan talked openly about his early struggles to get “weird niche” businesses up and running, and how he had to trick himself into charging $8,000 the first time he got paid to write a sales letter.
These days he’s collecting $50,000 royalty checks for copy he wrote months or even years ago. And that’s just the icing on the cake… His Ask Method has put him head and shoulders above the average marketing expert. His company is worth millions and his clients couldn’t be happier to pay him his cut of the of the over $100 million his copywriting and survey funnels produce.
His book “Ask.” was the #1 Marketing Book of 2015 according to Inc. Made the New York Times Best-Seller list and was ranked as the #2 Must-Read Book for Budding Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur Magazine.
Kevin: Welcome back to the Truth About Marketing, it’s Kevin Rogers here with another great episode. My guest today, Ryan Levesque, is the author of the New York Times number one bestselling book, Ask. I’m sure you’ve read it. It was featured by Inc. magazine as the number one marketing book of 2015, whaaat?
If that wasn’t enough, by Entrepreneur magazine as the number two must read book for budding entrepreneurs, very impressive my friend. Ryan has used the Ask Method to help build multimillion dollar business. Get this: in 23 different industries generating over 100 million in sales in the process and since then, his students have used the Ask Method in thousands of different industries. Ryan, thanks for being here brother.
Ryan: Kevin, my man, I’m super pumped to be here. Gosh, I could listen to you all day long, with that voice, with that mic, and I’ve told you this before, it is just something about your voice that I could just sit there and I can have you read pages from any book and I would pay money for that. And if someone’s listening to this right now, can I get a “Hell yeah!” Isn’t that the truth? I’m so pumped to be here, man.
Kevin: That’s the real secret to your success — flattery. Thank you my man. Here’s what I love about this because we’ve known each other quite a while, we met in Austin a few years back and you were primarily a copywriter then, most people either don’t know or totally forgot that you started out as a copywriter, how did all that go down?
Ryan: Yeah I’m glad you brought that up and thanks for the warm introduction, I appreciate that. Whenever people hear that I’ve been in 23 different markets, I’ve generated $100 million in sales in the process. That $100 million in sales is not money that’s flowed in to my pockets. I was a copywriter, consultant in this funnels and business generating that revenue and as we’ll talk about later, I’ve been paid a royalty on that revenue anywhere from 5% to 10%, it’s still good income for me, but it’s not like I’ve got $100 million sitting in my bank account.
Kevin: In case anybody was going to ask for a loan.
Ryan: Truth be told, as much as I do enjoy your voice, I would be in the Caribbean right now sitting on an island if had that kind of money in bank account, I don’t. I’ve done well, it’s not world changing numbers, but I’ve done well, the thing that started it all was copywriting. The way I got my start as an aspiring budding copywriter was initially on my own projects. When I was first getting started the first kind of thing that I did online that made any serious money at all, is a tiny little business that I started in the orchid care niche, it was the first market that I went in to, it’s a long story behind how I got in to it but my wife and I were living in China, she decided to buy a whole bunch of orchids in our house.
I end up killing all the orchids, we planted they all died, we throw them away and a few years later when I’m looking at reaching different niches I remembered that experience and thought, “If I had so many problem with orchids maybe other people have been having problems as well.” Turned out to be a pretty good market to go in to. The first copy that ever wrote that made any money and you can still see it online today. My website is orchidsmadeeasy.com. You can see my copy there, was writing for my own staff. The way I learned how to write copy is … Might surprise some people, is I was in my apartment in shanghai and every night after I got home from work, I would at work illegally, don’t tell anybody.
I printed up an issue of the Gary Halbert letters because I didn’t have a printer in my apartment I use ,my company resources, I printed out the letter to Garry Halbert letters. I brought it home and in a Chinese composition notebook, I’d copy a letter out by hand basically until either my fingers were bleed and have blisters in my fingers. I really learned to internalize his way of writing copy, like so many of us who are copywriters this isn’t any new advice but if anything just a confirmation that writing out control letters and the style in which you want to learn how to write is a proven process, it’s at least worked for me. It helped unlearn the bad academic habits I’d accumulated as a student like writing college papers and even worse writing stuff in the insurance industry which is where I was working at the time, to learning how to write like Halbert.
After several composition note books full of these hand written Halbert letters, I start to get a good handle on his style of writing and you can even probably see elements of it in stuff that I wrote in the orchid niche, of like the most random of markets ever. That was the earliest start but a few years later after I’d had my first success and I launched another little business that did pretty well, people started reaching out to me asking me for help and that came from being at different events and talking to people and showing people my websites and really not a formal business plan if you were to become a consultant or a copywriter for other people. It was more just here’s what I’ve done and let me take a look at what you’ve done and maybe you can make this tweak here and do this tweak here. That would do well and that’s how things really got started in the very early days.
Kevin: Interesting. How did you end up back in the states and becoming more of a straight up copywriter?
Ryan: We started the business in Asia and actually started the orchid business when after we moved back to the states. We grew the orchids we raised the orchids in China, I launched a business before the orchid business in another random niche, in the scrabble tile Jewry market, that business made a couple of $1,000 a month for a few months and then it tanked and it went down to nothing. I thought I was going to hit it big, I struck gold but I struck out. Just got the earliest little bit of the start of the orchid business in China and we were at a point where we were running out of money.
My wife says, “How about a I get a job, I’ll get a job.” She was a student a graduate student in Hong Kong and she couldn’t work there, but she got a job offer from a museum in Brownsville Texas, I moved to Brownsville which is where Mexico and Texas meet very Southern tip of Texas, it’s not … If anyone is from Brownsville, my apologies but I’m going to tell it how it is, it’s not the most amazing place to live, I’m sorry.
Kevin: That’s a nice version of how you feel about it.
Ryan: Yeah exactly. It’s city of over almost 200,000 people, which is a pretty big city and there is not a Barnes and Nobles. That’s how I describe it, a city of 200,000 people should support a Barnes and Nobles. If it doesn’t …
Kevin: It never occurred to them to pick up a book. Lots of saloons but not a book to be found.
Ryan: It’s saloons to Barnes and Nobles ratio was really high. We’re there making a little bit of money doing okay and then eventfully we moved to Austin, we are doing good enough and my wife quits her job and she decided to join me in the business and I’m able to spend much more of my time on the stuff that I think I’m starting to get a little bit good at and what I enjoy which is the marketing side. I’m not spending time on the … Building websites and customer service and fulfillment, vendors and everything like that.
I’m able to spend what I think I’m starting to get good at. The way my start as a copywriter consultant started, I actually started as a consultant first as coach. Was when I met a mentor of mine a man by the name of doctor Glenn Livingston and he was coaching students through his process which involved using surveys to figure out what it is that people want and give it to them. He went on to become one of my if not the most important mentors in my early life as an entrepreneur and his methodology serves as the foundation for what’s come to be known as the Ask method which you mentioned Kevin in my introduction and what we talk about in the book.
At the time I was still a nobody, I didn’t have any bestselling book nobody knew who the hell I was, nobody had ever heard of any of my websites or anything like that but Glenn as student of his took a look at my stuff, I started coaching under him. One day he reached out to me he said, Ryan you know my methodology as good if not better than I do, what do you think about coaching people who are interested in working with me when I get filled up? He would take a hand full of coaching students but eventually he’d get filled up and I said sure let’s do it.
I started Kevin my rate was $297 a month that’s what I charged literary. $300 a month and what they got for that was every week they could post anything to a private message board and I would respond to that post within 48 hours and a lot of the stuff a lot of people were posting to me was copy, they’d say, “Can you take a look at this email for me and tell me what you think?” Or they’d say, “Here’s my sales letter how would you reward it?” I spent a lot of time far meant hours than I care to admit for that $300 a month, basically rewriting peoples copy. Making tweaks and making changes and saying, “How about this and …” In the early day I was pretty polite about it, I’d take what they give me and I’d tweak it.
Eventually it became that’s nice, let’s throw that in the garbage and let’s start with the clean piece of paper.
Kevin: “I want to hear you tear it up.”
Ryan: That’s how I got my early start as a coach or consultant, helping people with their copy, eventually what ended up happening is I started raising my rate and we’ll talk a little bit about how that happened. I started raising my rate and when I did that after I raised my rate I always said no to writing copy, I did not want to take on jobs as a copywriter. Because while I was coaching people, I always had my own thing going on, I always had my little business that I was building in the background and everything like that and I turned away. People would say, “Can I just pay you to write my sales letter for me?” I said, “No it’s not what I do, what I do is you write it and I’ll help you, I’ll edit and I’ll critic and help you massage it in to something good.” As I raised my hourly rate.
I’m going to talk about that in a moment. Eventfully that hourly rate was high enough that when someone did ask me to write the copy for them, I could justify a price to write the copy that was high enough that I would have been an idiot to say no to and that’s where things shifted for me, helping people with their copy to taking projects on myself and getting great results.
Kevin: What held you up at first? You said in your mind that’s not what you did but what was the moment where you went, alright give me one this.
Ryan: I’m trying to think back to the first project like that, that I did say yes to, it came … Kevin I know exactly where it came from, it came from an accumulation of projects that people would ask for my feedback on, where my stuff would blow my critics, would blow their control out of the water, the one that stands out in my mind as the one that might have been the turning point was I had a coaching client in the infidelity market, basically he helps men whose wives have cheated on them he help them recover from their infidelity and decide should they repair the relationship or should they leave.
There is a tone of pain as you can imagine and anguish in this market and he had a sales letter and a headline that had been doing okay for years, and we had been working together for a couple of months and I said, “Let me tell you what you really want to say in your sales letter headline. The original headline was long and it was like, “If your wife has cheated on you and you don’t know what to do about it this could be the most important letter you’ve ever read.” Standard copy construction something like that. I said, “No.” it was even longer than that.
I said, “let’s try this.” “That cheating bitch but I still love her what the hell do I do now?” That in three sentences summed up the exact though process that every man in this market was going through. We run that and this client Kevin and he writes to me and he says, “Dude we tripled response over night.” That was the time where I was okay … The thing holding me back was fear of failure, I don’t want to charge someone money for something and then it fail. I had another client at the time who had a big business and his business is the business finding niche, he’s still a client of mine today.
His was the first real job that I took and what ended up happening is he says … This is funny. You are bringing back memories this is years ago. I haven’t thought about this in a long time but the way this happened was he wanted to do a VSL, he’s in a none traditional VSL business but I had done a few video sales letter in my own stuff, and I had be consulting with him for maybe a little over a year at this point. He trusted my judgment and my advice and he said, “What should I do?”
I said, “you got hire someone to write the VSL script for you.” He’s like, “Do you know anybody?” Because I was more plugged in to the direct response world than he was and I said, “Let me give you a couple of names.” I gave him one, he said, “No just tell me who do you recommend?” I gave him a name and the guy that I recommended wrote the letter the VSL and he charged them $8,000 and he asked for $4,000 upfront, my client got it back and came to me and said, “Ryan I can’t use this, this is garbage this is not going to work.” I went back to this copywriter who’s a friend of mine, obviously I’m not going to use his name. I went back to this copy write and I was, “Men It’s not going to work dude, it’s so far field and to be honest this might work in a different market but this is not going to work in his market.” My friend was, “Here let me pay you the $4,000 that he’s already paid me, I will take anything, it’s not in my will house and you do it.”
My friend paid me 4,000 and I told the client pay me the remaining 4,000 and I’ll do it, I got paid 8,000 bucks to do this script for this VSL, it’s was the first thing that I had ever done, doing from scratch I’d love to say it was a home run but in reality it did okay. It wasn’t a massive home run or anything like, also it wasn’t a [inaudible 00:16:34] fail they run it for six months or so and it was mediocre and moved onto something else. It’s when I realized holy crap I can charge eight grand, which was a lot of money for me at the time, eight grand to do a 20 page script and it took me a week to do the thing with a few other things going on.
That’s when I made the shift I said I can do this, I can do this and I can start charging decent money to do this.
Kevin: Cool. What a great story and I love everybody handled that situation I just want to say.
Ryan: Yeah it was cool the guy who wrote it was a friend of mine and he didn’t want to burn the bridge with me, and he’s, “I didn’t spend a whole tone of time on it and … “
Kevin: You were honest with him.
Ryan: At the end of the day I made him keep, a 1,000 bucks, I’m, “Dude keep a 1,000 bucks because you did put work in to it.” It was fair all around.
Kevin: You had model of what NOT to do, that was helpful.
Ryan: This is my shitty first draft, don’t have to write a first draft because it’s here for me and now I can start with something.
Kevin: “My throat clearing is done.”
Kevin: That’s funny.
Ryan: I’d love to say my career took off after that as copywriter but it didn’t because I was a copywriter writing copy and it’s not like people were chasing after me, like gosh they got to work with this guy Ryan or anything. It was nothing like that at all but I was doing this thing in the background where I had my orchid business at the time, at this point it had scaled and that’s what was covering our bills and paying our mortgage and paying our life style. This consulting work was nice extra income but it wasn’t my main thing at the time and I had launched another business in the memory improvement market, model what I did in the orchid business and what I did there was simple.
It was a survey segmentation process, I’d survey people in the market to figure out what they are pain points are what they wanted and I’d use that information to identify the buckets that existed in the market. The different subgroups of people that excited in the ,market and customize my copy based on who the person was when they opted in to my list, they’d opt in to my list, they would answer a few questions and with that information I’d customize the emails they got , I’d customize the sales letter that they got, I’d customize the app sales that they got basically the copy was customized to the individual, not to the individual but the group that they belong to and I didn’t think that this was anything special, I was, “Okay that’s cool, it’s what I do.”
I would tell people this at events and people would say, “Ryan I get why your stuff works so well, I don’t have the time to do it. Can you help me with that?” I kept saying, “No, no, no, it’s not what I do. Haha.”
Kevin: Ha! There is a pattern here.
Ryan: Eventually it’s one of these things where it was wait a second this is the one thing that people keep latching on to, this one thing that people are, “If I could get someone to help with that, my life would much easier.” I started doing that for people, I started helping people with that process. Back in the day it wasn’t called the Ask method, I didn’t have name for it, it’s become what known as The Ask Method, the methodology evolved from all the work that I did with clients but that was turning point, that was a big turning point for me.
Because it took me from being a generic copywriter to now a guy who specializes in something and we’ve all heard the story or the parallel in the medical field where you’ve got two choices, you could be a family physician who makes a decent living at a $100,000 a year or $120,000 a year right? Good money but you went through eight years of medical school and you don’t make any money during those years and …. Family physician $120,000 a year, a generalist…or you can become a brain surgeon and make a million dollars a year. 100,000 or a million. When I made the shift, Kevin, from being a copywriter to being a specialist in this one thing, and deciding to say “no” to everything except for helping businesses execute what’s become the Ask Method my income actually increased from … It was a little bit more than 100,000, about 100,000 a year to a million a year with just my wife and one employee in the business.
It was the biggest turning point, going from being all things to all people, a marketing consultant, a generalist a copywriter whatever you want to call it to being the Ask Method specialist. That’s it.
Kevin: That’s awesome dude. Was there a big tech thing, I don’t want people hearing this and going and count themselves out because “there must have been a software or something that made all this happen.”
Ryan: No that’s the beautiful thing I’m not techy at all and I would tell people, when people said, “Yes can I get help with this?” I’d say, “Listen I’m not a tech guy, I can’t build it for you, I can’t build the pages for you, I can’t set everything up, what I can do is I can come up with the hooks, I can come up with the strategy and if you want, which we’ll about it in a moment, I can write out the copy for you too.” Initially I only consulted, I only consulted with people who wanted to do this, I was doing none of the work and telling people what to do. The business that came to me they would say, “Honestly the tech part’s not where I need help. I can find someone on Upwork, I can find someone at Elancer.”
In some cases business they have a small tech team or tech person. That wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was writing copy that converted that’s the challenge and the strategy of figuring out what the buckets are. If you’re a good copywriter, if you earn what you get paid as copywriter a big part of you do is research.
Kevin: That’s right.
Ryan: Research is the whole … If I had five hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first hour sharpening my axe, that’s the research part of writing copy. If you’re spending one hour researching and four hours writing copy, you’re probably doing it wrong. Research is what you feel yourself with all that research, that way when it comes time to sit down and write the words flow effortlessly from your figures because you know exactly what the market wants. You can see the person you’re not even looking at your Microsoft word doc, you’re looking through that doc as if youre computer screen is pane of glass and you’re looking right at that prospect on the other side.
The way you get that level of clarity I discovered, which so few business do or even take the time to do, is by doing what’s come to be known as The Ask Method…you spend time doing surveys, surveys in a very specific way, to identify the pain points that exist in the market. You use surveys to identify the natural consumer language that people use to describe those pain points, it’s how I’ve come up with some of my best control email subject lines in the stuff that I’ve done.
For example, I talk about one of my most of my most powerful subject lines in the memory business is, “Are you the poster child for poor memory?” I wish I could say I was the guy that came up with that phrase, that came straight out of someone’s survey, someone’s survey when I surveyed in that market and said, “Ryan my biggest challenge it’s like I’m the poster child for poor memory.” I said “That’s good.”
Kevin: “Thank you sir.”
Ryan: You start with this research and then through that research you identify that there are different groups of people in the market. Every market is made up of sub segments in that market, the challenge is figuring out which of the sub segments matter, which are the ones that have money to spend, what Halbert would say PWMs, Players with Money, who are the players with money, who are the ones that have enough paint that they are willing to spend money to solve a problem and who are the ones in your market that you want to ignore? Where is the signal versus the noise?
When you have a process a research process that helps you identify that not only do you know what the pain is in your market what the national consumer language is, but you also know which buckets to focus on and how to communicate to those buckets differently. You can see Kev the devil in the details here is all about copy. The tech ones, you figure this stuff out, you could draw a flow chart, send it to someone on Upwork and say, “I want this web page to go to this webpage, I want it to connect like that that’s commodity work and those type of people all day every day. Writing a copy and the thinking behind that copy that’s where the true opportunity is.
I realized when I made this switch and I wish I could say my path from roughly $100,000 to a million dollars was this gradual curve upwards, it actually happened in evolutionary terms, in terms of punctuated equilibrium, punctuated equilibrium is a evolutionary theory where some people believe in evolution. Let’s pretend for a moment we believe in evolution, people who believe in evolution there are two theories, one is gradual which is we gradually got rid of our fins every generation but fins got a little bit shorter until, one generation the fins were no longer there. Punctuated equilibrium is something major happens, there is a mutation in a gene, there’s something environmentally that happens where in one generation there’s one person who has this mutant defect where the fin goes away and that become the dominant trait.
When that finless person reproduces that trait carries forward, it’s equilibrium, no change of plateau, punctuated by big changes. And in my path from $100,000 a year to a million dollar a year, there were three big leaps, three punctuation points that took me there, what I thought would be helpful would be maybe to talk about those three leaps, the three changes that I made, that transformed my income as a copywriter.
Kevin: I’d love to hear them.
Ryan: Let me tell you — Ha, I need to take a sip of water here…
Kevin: I wanted to say something, I can’t help but point out I love this irony that you discovered the Ask method essentially with memory market, and you’re telling people what they said and they are, “I didn’t say that.” That must have been a hard market to prove it in.
Kevin: “I don’t remember saying that but if you said I did I guess that’s effective.”
Ryan: The ironies never end. I did not remember signing up for this email list, unsubscribe me from this crap. Spam rates in the memory market are through the roof. I don’t remember buying this program why are you sending me stuff? Challenging market for that reason. The first big leap for me was what we talked about, going from being a … Happened after going from what we just talked about. It went from being a copywriter or a marketing consultant to being the Ask method specialist or an Ask method specialist.
Doing that one thing.
Kevin: Did you give it that name at the time?
Ryan: I didn’t give it that name, I didn’t have a name for it there was … I was known as the survey guy or the survey funnel guy or these informal names but suddenly what I realized is that people had a … There was a hook in people’s brains that they could hang my hat on, if you think about all the people in your life think of it as a hat rack and everyone of those people that is in your life has a hook. You need to be a hook in people’s brains so they can remember you as somebody, not just another copywriter, you need to be the guy.
The guy who does something, clients of mine especially started talking to their friends about what I did, like, “I have this guy who does this survey thing, that works really well, you should talk to him.” I suddenly became a specialist I went from family physician to neurosurgeon and what that did is it changed the whole dynamic. For the first time in my life instead of chasing after clients, clients started chasing after me. This is counter intuitive and it was scary I remember the conversations I had with myself in my brain. What if I stop doing all these other things, then there will be so many less people who want to work with me and maybe I should keep doing the other things, because I could do ad words for people, I can help them with their ad words stuff, I can help them with obviously writing a copy, I could help them design their email sequences.
There’s a lot of different things I could do and if I say I’m this one thing and I do this one thing only, is that going to turn down my opportunities? The exact opposite ended up happening for the reasons we talked about. The first income leap was I was able because there was so much demand to work with me, I was able to raise my consulting rate, I went from $297 a month and eventually I raised it to $597 a month and 797 and then 997. I remember I was stuck there for a while because I didn’t think I could charge $1,000 and this is a month not hour, $1,000 a month. Eventually I did 997 a month, and I switched from doing a weekly posts to weekly phone calls, I did 60 minutes weekly phone calls, it went 2,000 and 3,000 and at 3,000 I said I shouldn’t be doing hour phones calls any more, I should be doing 30 minutes phone.
Basically doubled my hourly rate when I did that, went from $3,000 a month for roughly four of work for $3,000 of work for two hours of work. I went from 3,000 to 4,000 and 4,000 to 5,000. That’s where I was at when I stopped doing any one on one work, I went from $297 a month basically working for McDonalds rates to 5,000 a month for what became two biweekly 30 minute calls. That’s when I raised my rates from $5 an hour to $5, 000 an hour effectively as a consultant. That happened over a period of years and if you’re listening to this those numbers probably won’t happen to you.
There’s a lot of other conditions that helped make that possible but whatever you’re charging right now I’m willing to bet that you can charge more, I’m definitely willing to bet that and if we have time I can talk about how I was able to do that not only for new clients but also raise my rate for existing clients as well and keep those clients. The first big income leap was shifting from general copywriter to being a specialist implementing this Ask Method. Consulting helping people with this Ask Method and going from this dynamic of me chasing after business to clients coming to me because of the reputation I had with my other clients of getting results of doing well and specializing in this one thing.
That was the first major income leap. The second major income leap was when I started doing the done for you work and when I say done for you, I’m talking purely copy, just copy. This one I’m probably charging $2,000 or $2,500 something like that and I double a little bit in writing copy for clients, like the $8,000 video order that I mentioned, then a few other one off small things here and there, maybe email sequence but nothing really steady, I didn’t find my thing yet. Ones I started consulting with these businesses I was able to figure out what was needed to do one of these projects.
It was pretty simple, it was I got to send traffic to a landing page on the landing page there is quiz or a survey on that quiz or survey, the survey basically asked a quest to figure out what bucket someone goes In to, bucket A, bucket B, Bucket C. from there they are directed to one of three sales letters of video sales letters, the sales letters are 80% the same and what I do is customize the opening because that’s the most important piece if someone doesn’t buy, they are added to one of three email sequences and those email sequences basically have 10 emails each, in the memory market for example.
Three big buckets you got students, like college students, grad students, you’ve got seniors concerned about mental decline. These are older men and women who want to improve their memory because they’re worried about mental decline and the third group which is interesting is a different group which is for returning students, these are people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are going back to school. Going to University of Phoenix or something like that or going back for professional certification after being a none student for years and years. To do one these projects I have to write the copy for a landing page that everybody goes to, I got to figure out what my surveys going to say.
After they take the survey they go to one of three in this case video sales letters one for students, one for old people, and one for returning students and depending on which of those buckets they fall in to I write 10 different emails roughly 30 emails, but those emails there’s a lot of overlap between them [inaudible 00:35:25] customizing it, I’m using different testimonial for the old people different for the students, I’m citing different benefits in pain points, I’m talking about cramming for exams for the students and talking about losing your keys for the older people. That was project I knew how much coffee was involved and I had someone who said, “Ryan I appreciate your consulting, your advice and the issue is I don’t have the time to write the copy. What would it cost to have you write the copy for me?”
I’ve already consulted, I’d already worked with them on doing a survey and I got paid for the hours I spent consulting and now on top of that they wanted to pay me to write the copy. I pulled a number out of thin air and I was 20 grand and they said, “Done.” I said, “Crap I didn’t charge enough.”
Kevin: “I meant 40! Did I say 20?”
Ryan: 20 grand for the landing page and basically that’s what they got, they got landing page copy, they go three versions or a VSL which were 80% the same, and three different 10 email sequences for 20 grand, plus I continue to get paid my retainer every single month of … At the time it was two grand or $2,500 and I got a nice lump sum for 20 grand and he’s already been working on the project together and I said, “This is an interesting model.” That’s how I started charging, basically I said, “Okay to work with me is $2,000 a month and that give you a weekly call with me or if you want to have me write the copy.” Here’s the important part. Listen to this it’s $2,000 a month for my time plus I raised the number 30 grand for me to write the copy for you and what you get with that is landing page, three variations of the video sales letter, three different emails sequences.
The key was in addition not instead, the only time my clients got access to me and my time when I they would pay for it.
Kevin: That’s huge.
Ryan: That’s a mistake I see so many copywriters make, they look at that big check and they say 20 grand awesome I’ll take it but what happens is the clients spend so much time they are on the phone with the client, they’re giving some back and forth to the client, what would end up happening is you pay me my 20 grand I’ll submit a draft to you want to discuss it great time to do that would be on our next scheduled weekly call which your paying me for.
Kevin: Boy all the freelancers are listening to this going, its dream. We get caught up in this sort of guilt over the money, this is constant like simmering and pesters syndrome. It sound like you got over that pretty quick.
Ryan: Yeah it happens gradually, you keep raising the numbers a little bit, it was at $8,000 sales letter and I didn’t even have the confidence to charge that myself, I had someone else do it who charged eight grand and then I took over the project and said, “Crap I’m worth eight grand.” Just gradually increasing the numbers like that. That was my second income leap, let’s see I’ve got a call after this I’m just letting this person know [inaudible 00:39:01] my interview …
Kevin: Yeah because we have a third leap to go.
Ryan: Yeah I’ve got a third leap.
Kevin: You’ve teased us now.
Ryan: Yes I can not reveal it. The key was the reason I was able to charge so much for the copy was because it w as anchored on my consulting rate, I’m $500 an hour to get on the phone with me and project like this, it’s going to take 40 to 50 hours.
Kevin: Do the math.
Ryan: That’s how it was easy for me justify those numbers, that was the second one, the third one was adding royalties, what ended up happening was I would pay, basically when one worked with me eventually I had the gonads to say, “You know what I get paid the success participation fee.” One of the way I justify that is I would not take competing clients, I’d only take one client per niche, so that I knew that they weren’t going to be competing against each other and they would be no weirdness about sharing ideas, sharing coffee or anything like that, I said “Because I’m making a huge sacrifice and I’m turning business away.” Which is true, which you can say as well. The way to offset that is I’ve got to participate in the success of our project, it’s plain and simple and the most common number that I charged was 5%.
Eventually the way my rates came were, “Here’s the deal you want to work with me, there’s two option one is, it’s $5,000 and 5%.” I still charge the 5%. “$5,000 a month and 5%, to work with me where it’s $5,000 a month for consulting plus $50,000.” Which is the number that I ended up with towards the end of when no longer did this, “$50,000 and it also comes with a 5% royalty.” When I did that 5% royalty what ended up happening was if you had 20 clients you’d have 10 of them at the royalty wouldn’t pan out be much. Because 5% …
Kevin: Is that gross?
Ryan: That was 5% of gross, 5% on a $20,000 a month funnel it’s a few thousand buck it’s not, it’s whatever, it’s not a big deal.
Kevin: It’s orchid money.
Ryan: Exactly. When it’s a million a month that’s nice the numbers become really big and I have reached that point, and I have 50,000 plus a month loyalty checks still being mailed to me for my projects and that’s the carrot, that’s the pot at the end of the rainbow. The way get there if you’re listening to this and just feel yeah I would love that, that’s my dream , that’s the best of both world because when you’re getting paid a loyalty like that, when you’re getting paid a loyalty you get all the benefit of having your own business without any of the risk. Because you are a copywriter, writing for an author like a supplement that client of yours they have [inaudible 00:41:58] they’ve got like millions of dollars in the bank, just because they know they are going to get sued and they have to keep that money there.
They have expenses like sending FTA approval for all their products, they’ve got FTC that they need to worry about and all the attorneys that they keep on staff, you don’t have to worry about any of that you write the copy, you get a nice royalty check and you get paid really well. Here’s the key, you can’t be another copywriter in charge these kinds of numbers, you have to be a specialist, you have to specialized in something and that’s something that I found for me to be more lucrative than anything else has been executing the Ask the method for clients and that’s the big thing that I want to leave people with here.
Is that when you find something that is working really well, for example the Ask method, the opportunity as a copywriter might not be executing the Ask method for your business, it might not be building a Ask funnel for you, for your copy writing business as freelancer, that’s not the opportunity, the opportunity is to get paid as an expert helping business who want that. Because I don’t do this work anymore and I’ve sold almost 100,000 copies of my book, there is demand for this thing out the wazoo.
If you are an ambitious freelancer and you want to get paid nice retainer rates, nice upfront chunks of money to write copy and get paid a royalty. There is an opportunity here that is … We are at a very interesting where there is lot of demand and not a whole lot of people yet who are doing this. I know we got to wrap up and I know you got one more questions you wanted to ask.
Kevin: Thank you for that, that’s brilliant, specialize is one of the things I hop in a lot when I coach freelancers, that’s a beautiful example, I have to ask you the essential question of the show, Ryan Levesque, what is the one thing that you’ve done in your marketing that has produced the most surprising results?
Ryan: One word, waitlist. This is the key and I want to leave you with this tips, this is a total tactical thing that anybody can do even if you’re not planning on specializing in something The Ask Method and of course I’m biased and that’s what I think is a pretty smart thing to consider is have a waitlist. So many people out there teach having strategy sessions or getting on the phones and initial consult or something like that.
For me even in my early days, even when money was tight, even with every fiber of my being I wanted to say yes I’m available I was never available, never ever. Even when I had 20 hours a week of time that I could devote to a project or a client, the answer was always sign up for my waitlist, I periodically made spots available and if you sign up to that list you’ll be notified on the priority list to have a first crack at one of those spots, that was it. Standard answer. Wordsmith it better than I just worded it right now.
What ends up happening and you’ve probably had experiences of this in your own life, and we all know this, but we have to remind ourselves of these lessons for our businesses, you know for clients, but since it’s hard to do this when you’re scrapping by, could really use another gig this month. It’s people…you become so much more desirable, you become the ball of yarn being pulled away from the cat instead of the ball of yearn that you’re shoving in the cats face, cat doesn’t want to play with the ball of yarn that you’re shoving at its face, you got to roll that thing, you got to pull it away and all over sudden that cat whose sitting on the couch cleaning itself doesn’t want anything to do with you all over sudden is interested.
That’s how you get clients interested in working with you. Waitlist 100% of the time no matter what periodically make spots open available I would do it on a monthly by monthly basis every couple of month depending on what I wanted to do I’d keep it unpredictable so it’s wasn’t on a schedule, people will get added to my list and I have people sign up for my waitlist and literally, quite literarily years later say, “Ryan I’ve been on your wait list for years, I’ve seen you open up spots every couple of months and the timing wasn’t right or I couldn’t pull the trigger or whatever but I didn’t want this time to go by without taking advantage of the opportunity, so I grabbed the spot as soon as it became available and I am so excited to work with you.”
You’ll have clients that will be so thankful for the opportunity to work with you, you’re not going to have any of those issues you have and you’ve got clients pushing you around on your copy, where clients you write copy and I think it needs to do this, no because you’re the guy that everyone wants to work with they are going to be thankful, they are going to be grateful that you’ve even taken them on in a project. It could be an ego thing, a confidence thing but more importantly you’re going to get better results for your clients by doing this.
Because they are going to appreciate and respect your work so much more and they are going to run it as is rather than bastardize it with all their machinations that they come up with.
Kevin: You go from vendor to expert in an instant. Ryan thank you so much for doing this I know you’re a busy man and this was super valuable. I really appreciate it.
Ryan: Kev my man I could do this all day, I love this and we are going to get together at some point that’s not too distant future.
Kevin: Yes sir.
Ryan: It would be cool to do this again and chat again. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share and although I ended up doing most of the talking on this interview a few moments.
Kevin: You got to hear the dulcet tunes.
Ryan: The silky baritone that is Kevin Rogers really made my day.
Kevin: You’re a great man thanks for sharing brother we’ll talk really soon.
Ryan: Awesome my man take care.