Leveraging the experience of others to boost your own career
Rob Marsh has been a little name and then a big name.
He mastered the copywriting world, working with some of the biggest names and wearing many hats, founding communities, conferences, courses and more. He co-hosts the second best copywriting podcast too!
The golden question is of course “How did he do it? And how does he fit it all in?”
Today, we’ll delve into the Whens, Whats, Whys and Hows.
Rob will give us a sneak peek into how his career unfolded and how you can leverage his experience to boost your own.
Tune in to learn:
- How Rob’s copywriting journey began and why he expanded into other marketing areas
- Which of Rob’s kids he loves most
- The 3 biggest challenges Rob faced in his copywriting career
- How Rob increased his brand and mastered copywriting
- Different approaches to international copywriting
- If Americans or Australians are more open to the hard sell and why
- The challenges Rob faced when launching his podcast, course and community
- The biggest shortfall Rob sees in copywriters today and how to avoid it
Look out for Rob speaking at Copy Con! Melbourne, May 4-5 2019. Find out more here.
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Rob is an expert marketer, writer and entrepreneur. He has worked as a Copywriter, Producer and Creative Director at various companies including FranklinCovey, Publicis, and Hewlett Packard. So he has “big company” and “agency” experience.
In 2004, he joined a startup that revolutionized the online production of design (the predecessor to companies like UpWork and 99Designs). In 2012, he started his own SaaS business. So he understands small biz too.
Today he is part of the copywriting duo (with Kira Hug) that hosts The Copywriter Club Podcast and community for copywriters of all talent levels. He also consults with a variety of technology and wellness companies, to create effective landing pages, conversion funnels, and marketing campaigns at Brandstory Copy and Content. He is the author of the book, Telling Your Brand Story (available at Amazon, hint, hint). He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, four kids, and westie.
Connect with Rob
- The Copywriter Cub programs
- The Copywriter Underground membership
- The Copywriter Club podcast
- TCC podcast episode 31: Why freelancing is hard work with Kate Toon
- TCC podcast episode 103: Building an information business with Belinda Weaver
Rob Marsh: Hey, Kate. Good to be here. I’m good. How are you?
Kate Toon: I’m good. I’m good.
Well, look, let me just introduce you first to the listeners. For those of you who don’t know, Rob Marsh is an expert marketer, writer, and entrepreneur. He’s worked as a copywriter, producer and creative director at various companies including FranklinCovey, Publicis, and Hewlett-Packard. So, he has big company and agency experience. In 2004, he joined a startup that revolutionised the online production of design, the predecessor to companies like UpWork and 99 Designs. And in 2012, he started his own SaaS business, so he understands small business too.
Today he’s part of The Copywriting Duo with Kira Hug that hosts The Copywriting Club Podcast and community for copywriters of all talent levels. He also consults with a variety of technology and wellness companies to create effective landing pages, conversion funnels, and marketing campaigns of brand, story, copy and content. He is the author of the book Telling Your Brand Story, available on Amazon. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, four kids, and a Westie. Welcome, Rob. That was a big bio.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that was … you should cut that out. That should be gone because that was boring me already.
Kate Toon: I’ll put you in touch with a good editor to cut it down a little bit.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, good.
Kate Toon: Well, look, let’s dig into your story, your brand story, and tell me how did you … why did you become a copywriter? Did you grow up as a small child thinking, “I want to move colons around for a living.”
Rob Marsh: Yeah, desperately, you know? The Oxford comma and me starting at age three or four were very close relationship. But honestly, like most people, I didn’t even realise copywriting was a thing, even all through college. And of course, I saw ads, and I saw the advertising, but I didn’t really think through the process of how that stuff was produced. And so, I was headed to law school. I took the LSAT and I was in a Masters of Public Administration programme. And I was going to classes, and I was so bored out of my skull by the stuff that was being talked about in these human resources classes. I mean, it was boring. Boring. And so, before I started law school, I met a friend at a party, and she was doing some copywriting. And she suggested that we work on a project together. And again, I had no idea what this was, so I sat down, I remember writing a 300 word article for publication by a company here in the city where I live. And it got published in their little newsletter. And from then on, I was like, “This is kind of fun. Maybe there’s something to do here.” So, that’s where I got my start. It was not anything ever planned through school, and I just kind of fell into it. And yeah, again, that’s where it all came together.
Kate Toon: So, did you actually drop out of college and not finish your degree then?
Rob Marsh: Well, I didn’t finish the Masters of Public Administration. I had already finished my Bachelor’s degree and eventually I went back and got a Master’s degree in business later on, 15 years later or whatever. But yeah, I dropped out then and there. I was just so bored by it that law school never happened for me.
Kate Toon: Yeah, well what a lucky escape. Although, I guess all that study and learning, it all comes in handy. I did classical literature and poetry for my degree, so I can name every Roman emperor, but I’m not sure how useful that is in the great scheme of things. But I think it is. I think it all adds up. So, you’re there, you’re starting off. You’ve had your first article published in a newsletter and you’ve got the bug. Take us through those first couple of years. Did you then go get a job in an agency? You mentioned that you’ve worked in some quite fancy pants agencies. How did that story begin?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I didn’t immediately start freelancing. I was working for a company as I was putting myself through college, I had just graduated, started this Masters of Public Administration, and there was an opening at the company for a copywriter. They were expanding the creative department, they were adding a few designers, and they were hiring copywriters and some editors. And so I applied. And I only had that one piece.
Kate Toon: Really?
Rob Marsh: That one thing.
Kate Toon: No way.
Rob Marsh: I mean, I went to school studying history and English, so I was a writer, I could write. So, I knew I could write. And I was just lucky that the person, the creative director that was hiring was willing to take a chance on this young kid fresh out of college and see if it was worth it. And I remember in the interview as I was speaking with him and he said, “Why should I take the chance, or why should I hire you?” And I told him that if he thought that I wasn’t up to the task and wasn’t doing the job that he wanted that I would resign in three months. So, I basically removed the risk for him and just said, “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll happily step away.”
But there was a lot of opportunity there and the company was this day planner company, FranklinCovey, you mentioned in the intro. And they made these day planners sold all over the world. People would carry around these … they call them man purses, but it was these day planners people carried around back then. And I was writing catalogue copy, and then we would do seminars, time management seminars and money management seminars. And so, I would write promotional pieces for those. And that’s really kind of where I got my chops. I was lucky to work with a senior writer who was really willing to give me feedback and help show me the ropes and lots of creative resources that I could learn from there. And yeah.
From there, I went to an agency, and then my career really took off. But I think a lot of people who start as copywriters, they launch right into freelancing, and it’s hard to learn how to write and learn how to run a business and learn how to get clients. And so, for me, being able to work in-house and then in an agency before I even thought about doing anything related to freelancing just worked out really well for me.
Kate Toon: Yeah, okay, so there’s a few things I want to unpack from what you’ve said there. So, the first thing is having the guts to call yourself a copywriter or even go for a job with the job title of copywriter that young, I think that’s something that people even at my age are kind of going, “I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a copywriter. Am I really a copywriter? Am I a writer?” How do you feel about that? Like, what gave you the right to call yourself a copywriter, do you think? Do you know what I mean? Like, people are really funny about it.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I think … well, we see this all the time where people will say, “Hey, I thought I was ready to be a writer, but maybe I need to learn this next thing.” Or, “I don’t know anything about SEO, so what business do I have to write a website copy,” and all this stuff. And yeah, I don’t know what was going through my mind that I thought I could-
Kate Toon: Confidence, blind youthful confidence.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I think it was. I was too dumb to know any better.
Kate Toon: That’s it.
Rob Marsh: And so, I went for it and it worked out. Things worked out. My career has been very serendipitous. I have never had this master plan that I’m going to be this one thing at the end of my career, other than retired with a lot of money, I hope. We’ll see if that actually really happens. But you know, it’s just been serendipitous. I do the one thing and then it just has led to the next thing. And that next thing has led me to the next thing. And you know, one job you meet somebody, and that leads to being hired at the next job. And there you have a new experience, you do a new thing. And so, I’ve just kind of followed that-
Kate Toon: That path. I mean, I wonder, because I’m very similar and our paths are actually very similar. When I was reading through your bio, I was like, “Gosh.” I wonder sometimes though is it serendipity or being open to experience and taking chances and seeing the world? I think there’s something to do with that because I just don’t think it can all be luck. But there’s a couple of other things I wanted to talk about there. One little thing that we do at our conference is we give everyone a badge that says, “I am copywriter,” so that they have to wear that badge and they have to own that badge for the day, and hopefully that wears off.
So, you started writing these day planners, a but similar to Filofaxes, do you remember Filofaxes?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, basically. It’s kind of like Filofax or-
Kate Toon: That’s so cool. I loved my Filofax. I want to bring those back. God I miss them. Stupid smart phones, they’re not half as-
Rob Marsh: Yeah, smart phones and palm pilots killed it.
Kate Toon: Exactly.
Rob Marsh: It’s a different business now.
Kate Toon: And I love what you said there about how you didn’t launch into being a freelance copywriter. I’m always amazed when I see people who literally finish university and become a freelancer. Like, wow, that is some hootspa, because as you said, and same with me, I worked in agencies and managed to work under amazing creative directors, senior writers, but also next to fantastic designers and conceptualists, account managers and producers. And they taught me how to write through a series of ripping my writing apart, presenting in front of a client, watching the client, the light in the client’s eyes die. That’s how I learnt to write. And I think if I had been trying to balance my books and market myself, I don’t think I would have been able to. So yeah, a similar experience for you, hey?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, totally. And you know, I think that there’s this vibe in the copywriting community that if you’re not out there freelancing doing the thing that … that that’s the goal that you’re giving up, you know? If you take an in-house job that you’re giving up or you’re quitting on the dream. And that’s not correct at all. Sometimes in-house or in an agency is the best place to learn how to do copywriting or the best place to sharpen what you’re doing while somebody else figures out how to get clients and how to take care of the invoicing. You can just focus on being a really, really good writer. And there are people who spend their entire careers in-house or in agencies, and that’s fine. Those people are just as good at copywriting, some of them are better than a lot of the freelancers out there.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I agree. I mean, it’s just a different experience as well, and I think it teaches you a lot about diplomacy and dealing with different personalities. Lots of people in agencies have big personalities, and you learn how to sell your copy to a client, project management skills. So, I mean, I think that’s a really great takeout for anybody listening, that if you can get an in-house job, even for a couple of months as a contract, it’s such a different experience. And as you said, I don’t think necessarily freelancing is the goal for everyone because freelancing comes with a whole different world. It’s good for people maybe at our age with kids and things to balance. But I honestly think at 24, 25, I’d have been pretty lonely working at home. I like that kind of group environment. It felt a bit more protected.
Anyway, so you then left FranklinCovey, and then you went into proper agency land. Boom, boom, boom.
Rob Marsh: I did.
Kate Toon: The Don Draper world. So, tell us a little bit about that.
Rob Marsh: Well, that’s an entirely different experience again from being in-house, you know? It was very much the agency life. There was a basketball hoop in the middle of all of the desks and people played basketball until the CEO, whose desk was the floor below, came up and complained about the bouncing. We had a pool table. There were several of the art directors who would imbibe alcoholic beverages throughout the day to help with the creativity. It was very much that agency experience. But that’s, again, another place where I really learned how to do different things in the agency world. So, I went in as a copywriter, was promoted eventually to creative director. But I did television production, I did radio production. We did all kinds of different pieces of the advertising mix.
And it was a great learning experience for me, and another way to learn the different kinds of media that we all have to work on. Writing a 30 second script for a television commercial is very different from even a 60 second script on radio, just because the medium is no longer visual, right? So, you’ve got to create different images with the worse you use. Again, totally different from an advertorial that’s placed in a newspaper or in a magazine and has to look like editorial content and still sell. So, being exposed to all of those different kinds of projects in an agency, and again, like you said, working with some amazingly creative intelligent people that are able to give feedback, again, just helped me become a better writer. And I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity to be at an agency.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and obviously the opportunity to work on major brands that often as a freelancer, they’re just not going to come to you, you know? Like the big banks, they’re not going to come to a freelance copywriter. They’ve got like five or six agencies they’re working with. So, you get exposed to these awesome brands and their brand guidelines, tone of voice documents, all those kind of things that you can then apply that to small business clients when you become a freelancer.
Rob Marsh: Exactly.
Kate Toon: And also, did you have beanbags, because I think it’s a requirement to have beanbags. In Australia it definitely is.
Rob Marsh: I don’t remember any beanbags at our agency.
Kate Toon: It obviously wasn’t a great agency then.
Rob Marsh: No beanbags. Maybe there were in one of the-
Kate Toon: Maybe they were reserved for the creative director, he had his own special beanbag. So, you’ve had these experience working in-house and then in agency, and then at some point you did decide to take the leap to go freelance. What triggered that? Why did you want to become a freelancer? Why did you want to leave the agency world and give that a pop?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I went from the agency world to another in-house gig. And then after that, I joined a startup that was acquired. And so, over a number of years came to the point where I actually started my own SaaS company, but it was something that I didn’t really love. So, it was a little product that people could use to make their own logos for their websites. And it was fine. It worked well. I had some contractors that I was working with and people that helped me out. It was actually a piece of software that was designed and built by the startup that was acquired by HP. And then I leased it back from HP once they decided to close it all down and move on. But again, it wasn’t something I loved. And so, I just kind of was thinking I really want to do just something that I always enjoy. I hated the feeling that I would have, that feeling of dread Sunday night when you’ve got to think about going into work. And I didn’t want that anymore.
And so, a few years ago, I just thought, “I’ll sell that off and I’m going all in on copywriting and I’m going to get back to the thing that I enjoy the most.” The people that I get to spend time with as a copywriter, the clients that I get to work with, other copywriters, it’s so much more rewarding than what I was doing before. And I don’t know that this is the last stop on my career track, who knows? But for now, this is the thing that just rings my bell.
Kate Toon: So, I mean, the SaaS company was in 2012, so it’s not that long ago that you took the full plunge into copywriting. A couple of years.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, yeah. So, really three and a half, four years that I’ve been all in just copywriting only, not any of the other stuff going on.
Kate Toon: And do you-
So, you know, since then you’ve started The Copywriting Club Podcast. And we always joke that we’re the second best, you’re the second … we’re all friends, it’s all good. And you’ve got a community as well. And again, there’s more than enough room for lots of communities, people. And you also have a conference, and I have a conference.
Rob Marsh: That’s right.
Kate Toon: We’ve got all the same things. It took me slightly longer than two years, but how did that come about? You could have just gone, “I’m just going to be a freelancer, and I’m going to have a nice life servicing clients.” Why all this other stuff? What was the goal?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, again, I think this is where serendipity comes into play a little bit because I was kind of thinking that three or four years ago. I was like, “I don’t want to create a copy course.” I was starting to see more people doing that-
Kate Toon: So many.
Rob Marsh: … sort of stuff. And it just kind of felt really … I don’t know, it just didn’t feel like me. But I ended up buying a URL for thecopywriter.clubs when they released all of these other TLVs. And I bought that. And then I thought, “Well, I wonder if I should just own the .com for that as well.” And it just happened to be available. So, I bought that and had that sitting in my GoDaddy account for maybe a year or so, not really sure what-
Kate Toon: We’ve all been there, Rob. I think I’ve got about 17 little URLs there for strange things that are never going to happen, but I can’t let them expire just in case.
Rob Marsh: Well I’ve got maybe five or six that will happen, right? So they’re all still sitting in there. And I met Kira in a mastermind group that we were in. And we started talking. I was really impressed with her writing ability. She’s a super great writer and a really smart woman, great copywriter. And we just kind of became friends in this mastermind group. And I reached out to her at one point and said, “I’ve been thinking I want to do a podcast, is that anything you’d be interested in?” We started talking, and it just kind of grew out of that.
So, we knew that you guys had a podcast already where you guys talk a lot about copywriting, and there are a couple of others that are out there. And we thought maybe there’s something we can do a little bit different. And so, we really tried to focus in on interviews. And so, we don’t do a lot of one on one interviews with just Kira and me talking about copywriting. But we do a lot of interviews of copywriters. And for whatever reason, we’ve been really lucky in the calibre of copywriters that we’ve been able to talk to almost from the very beginning. We reached out to A-listers who are happy to come on. And when I talk about A-lists, I’m like true A-listers that are literally making seven figures, maybe more a year. And they were willing to come on. And of course, we don’t just want to talk to the people who are awesome experts, you know? We wanted to talk to beginners and intermediates. So, we’ve got this really wide range of people that we’ve been able to talk to and meet and get to know. And it’s been an awesome opportunity. If that’s all that we had done, no regrets. Like, being able just to learn from super really, really smart copywriters is … it’s a gift in some ways.
Kate Toon: It so is. You know, I’ll admit that I’m like you, I learnt a lot of my copywriting kind of doing it. So, I haven’t done an awful lot of study and I haven’t read all the books and I haven’t done all the courses. I’ve never done a copywriting course. But the podcast has been a fantastic way to learn more. I learn every week, I learn something new. And ours, as you know, is a bit different. People actually seem to prefer the shows where it’s just me and Belinda. I don’t know why.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that’s like me.
Kate Toon: Yeah.
Rob Marsh: Of course they’re going to prefer you two.
Kate Toon: But the podcast is amazing. And then you’ve also, obviously you’ve got your community. And you went … you started off with a big free community, which is now huge. And again, there’s lots of free Facebook communities. Some of them not as enjoyable places as others, I’ll admit. There’s some quite aggressive copywriting Facebook groups online, which I find a little bit intimidating.
Rob Marsh: There are. That’s true.
Kate Toon: And then, you’ve managed to use that in a way as your funnel into your course that you have, which focuses more on the businessy side. It’s not so much how to write copy, it’s how to be successful, is that right? I’m giving you a free little promo here.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, well … and thanks for that. We appreciate it. So yeah. It’s … I keep going back to this idea of serendipity. I mean, we started the Facebook group so that we had this place to just sort of be a home for the podcast, where people could come and talk. And we just kind of paid attention to the discussions that were happening in the Facebook group from the very first day and really started looking at what are the things that people ask? What are the questions? What are the problems that they seem to be struggling with? And for whatever reason, we were attracting people into our group that were just really struggling with the ideas around how do I systematise my business? Or how do I get started? How do I do all of … Like, I know I’m a decent writer, but all of the other stuff that you’ve got to do to be a successful copywriter aside from writing, people were struggling with.
And so, we put together a course that we called The Copywriter Accelerator. We don’t offer it very often, it’s not one of those evergreen things. In fact, the last time we offered it was last April. And I don’t think we’re going to offer it again until probably the August or September this year, so it’s a little ways off. But we really focused in on the mindset of a business owner, figuring out processes, putting together packages for your copy. How do you do branding? How do you get yourself out in front of clients? And the various ways to do that. And focused on that. And it’s been relatively successful. And it’s really fun to go through a course like that with a lot of other writers. And you kind of form this community and learn together. It’s been great.
Kate Toon: Yeah, and again … because again, I have a community. And again, the same things come out. And I think that whole right brain, left brain thing is pretty hard. And you and I are lucky, again, in that we’ve been producers, which is very much more left brain. It’s budgeting, it’s time-lining, it’s packaging, it’s selling. It’s all that organisational stuff comes very easy to me. And sometimes I get too involved in that bit and find it quite hard to get back to the creative side. And I’m a big user of … I sell a lot of templates in The Clever Copywriting School. I’ve got templates for everything because I love to system … I just like to colour in, do you know what I mean? Like paint by numbers. The copy deck’s pretty much there. I’m just adding in some adjectives. Not really. Of course, there’s more to it than that. But that’s my left brain and right brain combining. And I think it’s something a lot of copywriters struggle with, taking that creative hat off, “I love writing. I love writing,” but then it’s like, no, you also need to be marketing yourself every day on top of your budgets, you know? If you’re sending the same email every single week, write it into a template, for the love of God. But people struggle with that, don’t they?
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Absolutely they do. And I think that part of it is because copywriting attracts people who want to be creative, and they’re good at writing, and maybe we didn’t take an accounting course in high school or college and we tend to be introverts. And so, often times getting out and pitching ourselves to clients is difficult. Networking can be difficult. So yeah, so we focus in on a lot of that stuff as opposed to copywriting. In the future, we’ll do copywriting courses, you know? We’ll do some of that. But now, that’s really been our strength in helping people really focus in on what they can do differently in their businesses.
Kate Toon: Yeah, that mindset. I mean, I think people go into it … some people go into it wanting to start their own business. But I think a lot of writers go into copywriting wanting to be writers. And unfortunately, an awful lot of running a copywriting business is not writing at all. I think that comes as a bit of a rude awakening to many people.
Rob Marsh: For sure.
Kate Toon: So, let’s dig into this a little bit because obviously we’re talking here about communities and courses and podcasts, and there’s a lot, you know? We will admit it, there’s an awful lot of copywriting courses, and an awful lot of people touting themselves as kind of people you can learn from. And obviously a lot to do with why someone choose your community or your product over someone else’s is to do with your brand and what you bring. And I think one thing that I’ve really noticed, because I know people who are in my community and yours, and what they like about the Rob and Kira approach is the Americanness. I don’t know how else to put that.
Rob Marsh: Are we that American? That’s funny.
Kate Toon: Well, I don’t think you’re American in a kind of yee-haw kind of way. But I think in terms of the way that you sell your copywriting services, the way that you talk. I do think there are differences. I know what I think they are. But what do you think is different in the American copywriting landscape, freelance landscape that you’ve noticed differences between England and Australia, maybe? Can you think of any?
Rob Marsh: Yeah. I think there are a couple. I mean, I’m not as familiar with Australia and England as far as … because I haven’t lived there to write copy there, right? But we do see ads that come from both places. And I think there’s maybe two really big differences. The first one is the way that we use humour versus the way that-
Kate Toon: Do you use humour in America?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, see? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. So, for whatever reasons, Americans sometimes struggle with British humour or with Australian humour. It’s just … it doesn’t translate quite the same. And if you want to see an illustration of that, look at the UK version of The Office.
Kate Toon: It’s always the example. Yeah.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, because I think a lot of Americans watched the UK version and they’re like, “This isn’t funny at all.” I mean, it is funny. And then, you would look at the American version and say, “Well, this is sort of silly. It’s not as intellectual.” You know? Or I think a lot of times in the UK, the humor’s very biting and-
Kate Toon: It can either be very subtle or very dry to the point of like, “Did he just make a joke? I’m not even sure.” Yeah.
Rob Marsh: Exactly. Exactly. So, there are certainly Americans here that appreciate that. I tend to appreciate that kind of humour. But it’s not cultural wide, right? And the other thing is that American has a real focus on sales. Like, we have this culture where door to door salesmen through the 1920s and ’30s, and even through the ’80s and ’90s, people selling encyclopaedias and brushes and vacuums. Even today we’ll have people selling cable TV and pest control and alarm systems. So, I think we’re just more comfortable with the fact that everything is a sale, and there’s a lot of marketing. And our culture is very marketing based. So, I think in Australia and the UK, that comes off as really heavy-handed and maybe seen a little bit schlocky. And maybe the word for it is American, I don’t know.
Kate Toon: No, it’s so funny because I was literally going to bring up the analogy of the guy with the vacuum cleaner bits in his brown case suitcase knocking on your door, because yes, that’s very cliched and I’m making a sweeping generalisation. But that’s kind of the way that we see you guys. Whereas, with Australians and British people, and I feel like I can talk for both since I’m British living in Australia, it’s a lot more subtle, a lot more storytelling, a lot more joke. And the sale is almost like, “I’m dreadfully embarrassed at the end of this blog post to mention that I actually offer the service that I’m talking about. Please, don’t mention it. Don’t mention it.” It’s kind of like that. It’s ridiculous. Whereas, you guys are just like, “Hey, look, we’re selling a thing. If you’ve got the disease and we’ve got the cure, we’re going to be happy to talk to you about the cure,” you know?
Rob Marsh: Yep.
Kate Toon: And then if you want it or you don’t. And this was a question that came from one of the members of The Clever Copywriting Community. So, Angela [Denly 00:29:55] asked, “Do you think Americans are more open to the hard sell?” Like, the just lay it out there, bam, bam, bam. Do you think that’s true?
Rob Marsh: I don’t know if it’s true because I don’t know enough about whether Australia or the UK is open to that. But I mean, it sounds true to me. And again, I think it just goes back to the fact that our culture is so … it just kind of evolves around marketing in so many things, you know? Sports is really a marketing event. And even some churches in America are really marketing events, right? It’s not always about the things that you think of as being divine or spiritual, but it’s a lot of churches, and I’m not trying to be critical. I’m not passing judgement on that at all. I just think that it’s kind of a marketing spectacle, and people expect that in American more than maybe they do in other places. And there’s good and bad to that. I think, again, it might feel schlocky to an outsider, but for whatever reason it seems to work here.
Kate Toon: But I think one of the positives of it is the confidence. And that confidence not only to write that kind of copy, which is obviously going to work for your clients, but the confidence to sell yourself as a copywriter without feeling like you’re sort of being ashamed to admit that, A, you’re a copywriter, and B, that you’re selling your services. I think that’s something that really comes across from what you and Kira do. And I think that’s a real positive that all copywriters could learn from. And I’m also really excited because you’re going to come and talk at Copy Con. I forgot the name of my own conference there. You’ll be coming and talking about sales pages and selling. And I think that’s going to be a really interesting talk. Give us a little sneak peak of what you’re going to be talking about in that talk.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, so I haven’t written my talk yet.
Kate Toon: God, no. Nor have I. Nor have I. Don’t worry, Rob.
Rob Marsh: But let’s just say that I hope to be able to talk about what really makes a good sales page from the American standpoint, right? So, I think we were joking that Americans do sales pages better than Aussies. And that’s kind of what I’m going to talk about. But I’m not going to approach it necessarily from the, “Hey, this is what you do with your headline, and this is what you do with the deck copy or the body copy, or how you make the sub heads stand out.” We can touch on some of that, but I really want to talk about the persuasive elements. What is it that makes it so that as you read a piece of copy, you want to keep reading? Everybody’s had this experience where they’ve read a sales page and all you can do to keep yourself from pushing the buy button. And I really want to talk about what it is that creates that feeling. And maybe show some examples that prove that really well.
So, I’m excited to come down there. I’ve never been to Australia. I’ve been told that as soon as I get off the plane everything there is going to try to kill me, from spiders and snakes to sharks. But I’m looking forward to having a couple of days to spend with you guys down there.
Kate Toon: Yeah, it’s going to be great. So, that’s May the fourth. I’ll do a plug for myself. And Rob will be coming to Melbourne. So, hopefully getting to Sydney as well to see a bit of that. And yes, the 10 most deadliest creatures in the world come from Australia. So, you be careful, okay?
Rob Marsh: I’m going to be … Yeah, I’ll bring a biohazard suit.
Kate Toon: Exactly, check your boots before you put them on. I guess a couple of questions that came out of the community and The Hot Copy listeners were, of all these things that you’ve done, and especially in the last couple of years launching these courses and communities, what do you think have been your biggest personal challenges? You know? Like, maybe pick a couple of things that have made you kind of go, “Am I doing the right thing? Is this going to work?”
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that’s a really hard question for me to answer because I tend to be really optimistic and kind of believe in myself.
Kate Toon: You’re so American.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, exactly. But let me maybe share a couple of the things that we see over and over and over, and you probably see these in your community too. So, number one challenge that almost all copywriters tell us, we ask before anybody joins The Copywriter Club, there’s a little survey they have to fill out in Facebook and say, “What’s the number one challenge for your business?” And I bet 80%, maybe even higher, say finding clients is the hardest thing. And that is without a doubt everybody’s struggle. I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier that a lot of people are introverted and have a really hard time getting out in front of the right clients. They don’t always know who they want to serve. So, that’s a struggle.
And I struggle with that too, you know? I don’t necessarily have a line of clients at my door, you know? I have to make sure that I’m getting myself top of mind. I have to reach out to former clients and say, “What can I help you with this time?” I have a couple of projects that I’ve been on that I hope are going to turn out really well, big projects. But before the contract’s signed, I’m just like, “Am I going to have enough money in the bank for whatever I need in two or three months?” So, that is a struggle for everybody, and something that we work hard to help people solve in The Copywriter Club. I know you do the same thing with your conference and with your community. This is a big challenge that a lot of us try to help with.
Other challenges, kind of mentioned it before about connecting with the right people, not just clients, but connecting with the people who can help you move your business forward. And we see people all the time in our group who it seems like nothing changes from month to month or year to year. It’s always that same struggle, “How am I going to make rent? Or how am I going to find the next client?” And a big part of solving that problem is getting to know the right people, different people. So, people who maybe have done things that you want to do already. And so, they know how to do this stuff and they can point you the way or clients that can help you take yourself to the next level. We talk about it because we have a mastermind group and we do training, but joining a mastermind group with other copywriters or potential clients or business thinkers, just seeing how other people do business. People often who are operating maybe on a higher level and you can go, “Oh my gosh, how are they doing that? I’m no different from them.” So, you learn things from them. So, connecting with the right people, I think is a huge challenge.
And then, number three, again, figuring out pricing. Everybody seems to struggle with that, right? And it’s because there’s such a huge range in pricing. Some people who are willing to write blog posts for $24 or $30, ridiculously low prices. And then other people who come back and say, “I just wrote this 1,500 word blog post for two grand,” you know? Maybe more. And it’s like, wait a second. If there’s such a huge disparity, where’s the right place for me? You know? How do you go from low to high? Or how do you start out high enough? So, those are all really big challenges that I think all of us kind of struggle with.
Kate Toon: So, you’ve struggled with those as well? Because you know-
Rob Marsh: For sure.
Kate Toon: Yeah, okay. Cool.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I don’t have everything figured out all the time, for sure.
Kate Toon: That’s good. That’s good to know. I think the biggest challenge that … I think those three are spot on. And if I could add a fourth, I think one thing that I see a lot of is the amount of emotion and kind of the way … the amount of emotion people invest in their copywriting business, and especially I think because we do feel like we’re creating something. It is a creative process. So, when it’s not taken well by the client, or when we’re struggling to sell ourselves to someone, it can be quite an emotional thing and there’s a lot of imposter syndrome, comparing yourself to others and their big prices. One thing I do notice in some of … I don’t think it happens so much in your group, but in some of the groups there are a lot of people who come in going slightly chest beaty, “I’m the big guy. Look at me charging X for a sales page.” And you know, we don’t know the story behind that. We don’t know how true that is, but it can make other people feel inferior and they’re not doing as well.
So, there’s a lot of emotion around it. And I think, you know, you said people are introverts. I think to be a good copywriter, you kind of have to be quite empathetic, you kind of have to be in touch with your feelings. And that can sometimes be a bad thing. Do you feel that you’re … Do you think you’ve got that side of it under control? Do you ever compare yourself and go, “God, I wish our podcast was as good as Kate and …” No, I’m joking. But do you still suffer from comparisonitis and imposter syndrome or anything like that?
Rob Marsh: Kira and I joke often that I don’t have any feelings.
Kate Toon: You’re one of those. I love it.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, so I compare myself, sure. I do. I mean, to other people that are accomplishing things. So, there are people that I look up to and I think I wish that I had that project or I was working on projects like that, for sure. That happens to me. But again, it’s a process. So, just because I’m not doing that today, doesn’t mean that I can’t be doing it a year from now, or even six months from now, right? So, it’s always looking for the next opportunity, the next thing that you can take a chance on. We’ve been talking about in our community this idea of quantum leaps and quantum mechanics. And we talk about it on our podcast, so I won’t go into it in real detail.
But one of the cool things about quantum mechanics is that a particle exists in two places at the exact same time, and this sounds really weird and for whatever reason, quantum mechanics and physicists need to explain why, but how you see that particle depends on where you are when you make the observation. And so, we’re often in our lives doing similar things. We operate on more than one level, but we don’t always identify the right level that we’re operating on because we’re looking at ourselves in a different way. So, we might be operating on that $200 blog post level in how we perceive ourselves, but we’re fully capable of doing the $1,000 blog post or the $500 sales page to the $5,000 sales page, whatever that jump is. We’re fully capable of both, and how we look at ourselves really depends on where we are when we make that observation. So, yeah. I mean, if anybody wants to talk … I don’t want to necessarily get it all in.
Kate Toon: No, I get you, I get you.
Rob Marsh: [Crosstalk 00:39:46] whatever, but yeah.
Kate Toon: I think even if you take the quantum mechanics out of it, it’s just the way that we feel about a quote on one day when we’ve had a good night’s sleep and a great coffee and we’re feeling pumped, we’re happy to send that proposal off. The next day when we’re tired and the kids have been annoying and whatever, we look at our proposal for two hours and go, “This is never going to get accepted.”
Rob Marsh: Right.
Kate Toon: So, even in the mesh of 24 hours, you worldview can just tip to the side. But you were talking about leaps and next steps. You’ve obviously achieved an awful lot in the last couple of years. And I guess the question is, what’s next? I know what’s literally next, which is TCCIRL, am I saying that right?
Rob Marsh: You are, yeah.
Kate Toon: Tell us a little bit about the conference. When’s that happening?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, so last year we started a copywriting conference, a little bit like yours. Ours is two days. And we made the mistake last year of asking way too many people to speak thinking that most of them would turn us down and then they all said yes. And suddenly, you have 20 people speaking in two days. And we promised ourselves we wouldn’t make that mistake this year. And then, of course, we’ve got 20 people speaking on copywriting in two days at our conference this year. But March, we’re going to kick off with a little bit of a welcome reception, March 13th. And then we get started March 14th and 15th. You’re coming to speak at the conference. And you’re going to be talking about SEO copywriting, but you’re going to be talking about it in a way that’s really interesting and exciting, which we’re happy about.
Kate Toon: I love the way, Rob, whenever he said, “We can talk about SEO copywriting, but I’m just a bit worried that all the other speeches are going to be exciting and people are going to be like, ‘Oh, SEO, god it’s so boring.'” And I’m like, “Rob, this is my bread and butter.” Believe me, I’m going to make it so sexy. There’s going to be no one in any of the other rooms. That’s it. People won’t even want to go and see any of the other speakers after mine, just you wait.
Rob Marsh: That’s right. Well, we’re a single track, so everything is-
Kate Toon: That’s lovely, I love that. I do that too.
Rob Marsh: There’s no competition.
Kate Toon: I love that.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, and the really cool thing though is, the last year, and I anticipate this is going to happen this year, all the speakers stay for the whole time. They’re in the audience too learning. They’re taking notes. We have some really smart people that presented last year that are coming back this year just as participants. We have a few participants from last year who are actually taking the stage this year, and I anticipate that that’s going to continue as we get to know more people who come to our conference that they’ll be on the stage in the future years. And so, yeah, it was an awesome experience doing it last year. We’re excited about having it all come together this year. It is so much work putting on a conference.
Kate Toon: Oh my god.
Rob Marsh: It’s crazy.
Kate Toon: We’ve talked about this. It’s so hard. Like, we are … what are we? Because I’m getting beanbags because obviously I’ve got a bit of a beanbag fetish. I’ve got a mother and baby area because we get a lot of moms. Otherwise, they couldn’t come if they couldn’t bring their baby. So, I have the-
Rob Marsh: That’s a cool thing you do, for sure.
Kate Toon: Yeah, we’re having a little beanbag area. But then the delivery guy’s like, “We can only deliver them on this day.” And it’s like, I’ve spent three hours trying to negotiate beanbags, aren’t I supposed to be a copywriter? Like, when did this all happen? I don’t know. So, the conference is obviously going to be awesome and hopefully something that you’re going to run every year. And you’ve got your courses and the community and you’ve got your own clients as well, which is a little bit different to me. I don’t actually have that many clients anymore. Is there anything next? Like maybe another book, another … what’s next?
Rob Marsh: There’s lots of things next for sure. I mean, the real next thing is our conference and then your conference, and then some projects going on. We have a mastermind group that relaunches in April. And so, we’ll be working with a bunch of writers in that, which is exciting. Kira and I have kind of mapped out a couple of things that we want to do differently this year. And so, there probably will be a copy course of some kind coming. We’re going to be doing the accelerator again this fall. But really, our focus is growing what we’re doing right now. And at some point we might get to the place where we don’t take clients. Although, I kind of like having clients as we build the stuff. It just kind of keeps our hands in it and it’s just … I really enjoy the process of writing a sales page, you know? And putting things together. And it kind of gives me a little bit of heart burn to want to let go of that. But yeah, we’re growing our membership community, we’re growing what we’re doing. And we’re just excited to see how it all comes together in the coming years.
Kate Toon: Fantastic. Well, it sounds like an awful lot. You’re like, “I’m just doing this and this and this. And this and this and this.”
Rob Marsh: I have Kira there to help. She does a lot of the heavy lifting too.
Kate Toon: I bet she does all the work, let’s be … No, I’m joking.
Rob Marsh: She definitely … she does all the … if it’s good stuff that’s happening in The Copywriter Club, you can guarantee Kira’s behind it for sure.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I love that. And we had a great episode with Kira, which you can go back and find in the annals of The Hot Copy Podcast in iTunes or Stitcher where we talked a little bit more about the American and Britishness. It’s kind of a bit of an obsession of ours. But Rob, it has been so awesome talking to you. I think we’ve mentioned all your things enough for people who are going to be able to find you. But I’ll include links to them all in the show notes for this episode. And I guess we’re all just super excited to see you in May flying over from the USA, so looking forward to it.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, I’m excited too. And you should be sure to link to our interview with you on our podcast, because that was a great interview too where you talk about your experience. And we’ve even talked to Belinda, so-
Kate Toon: We’ll put both those in.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, for sure, you can share those with your audience.
Kate Toon: And I love … I think that sums up something very nice about your attitude and Belinda and I’s is that we’re all about collaboration over competition and there is enough room for everybody. And I find that people are going to choose things based on whether they like your vibe, but also, people are going to do all the things, hopefully come to your conference and mine if they had enough money. That would be amazing. Do both.
Rob Marsh: They should be at both, for sure.
Kate Toon: We should do a package deal, shouldn’t we? Buy both, get 10% off. That would be amazing.
Rob Marsh: Great idea. We’ll have to talk about how we make that work.
Kate Toon: Yeah, one day we’ll get a private jet to fly folk over. Well, thank you very much, Rob. It’s been lovely having you on the show. And regular listeners will know that at this time, we read out a review of the show. I say we, but it’s just me. And this time I have a review from the US of A from [Dray Zidree 00:46:03], what a great name. I’m sure I’m not saying that right. I could read it in an American accent, but I won’t. “This podcast is loaded with great info, but it’s not a slog to get through. These two women are bright, funny, and totally delightful.” Thanks. “If you’re either an experienced or novice copywriter, you’ll get tonnes of great tips and expert insights from this show. The hosts are real and candid and spare their listeners any salesy BS. A+++.” Thank you very much. And thanks to you for listening. If you liked the show, don’t forget to leave a rating and review on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you heard the podcast. Your review will help others find us and we’ll give you a shout out on the show. And as I said, you can head to hotcopypodcast.com and leave your comments on the blog post for this episode, find out more about Rob and follow links to all his thousand billion things that he’s doing. So, thank you again, Rob.
Rob Marsh: Thanks, Kate. Appreciate it.
Kate Toon: Until next time, happy writing.
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