Haris Halkic: Hi Mike, thanks a lot for agreeing to share your best tips on copywriting and your background. Let’s start with how you got started in copywriting. Please, tell us more about your story.
Mike Searles: Thanks for the question Haris. I fell into copywriting by default. After a long and successful career in sales and marketing my entire world unraveled at age 51 due to alcoholism. So, in March 2009 I embarked on what would turn out to be a life-saving, and life-changing recovery program. It meant opting out of the work-force entirely.
Well, ‘opting out’ isn’t the right term. I was without choice. Think of it as a forced sabbatical from life. It turned out to be the best thing because I’ve remained 100% sober since. It was during those earlier years of required mental, physical, and spiritual renewal that I began looking at internet marketing and copywriting in particular.
Haris Halkic: How did you transition to freelance copywriting from your previous job? What’s your best piece of advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Mike Searles: Transitioning from being unemployable would be the more accurate term – because I was in no shape health wise to do justice to anybody hiring me. So, I began using idle ‘recovery’ time by getting books on copywriting, That’s when I caught ‘the bug’. From reading the books I began subscribing to the online courses through AWAI (American Writers’ & Artists Inc.).
The big leap of faith was when I invested in Dan Kennedy’s Certification course. It was late in 2013 while waiting for the Dan Kennedy certification to be approved that I dipped my little toenail into the big ocean of copywriting and (don’t laugh) applied for a gig on the old Elance site for freelancers. I won the gig to write 500 words of copy for $35. That was my first paying gig as a ‘professional copywriter’.
Haris Halkic: Best piece of advice for someone who is employed and wants to become a freelance copywriter?
Mike Searles: Read and study the greats on sales, advertising, and copywriting. Anything by Dan Kennedy, Gary Halbert, Claude Bristol, Joe Sugarman, John Caples. There are plenty more big names to study.
Get familiar with the principles of influence and persuasion. Study people and human behavior.
Begin writing. And move along the path to getting some writing assignments as you progress towards getting some paid gigs. Look at launching a freelance copywriting business well before considering leaving full-time employment.
Haris Halkic: Getting clients is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters. What ways do you use to get clients?
Many roads lead to Rome. The way I landed my first big paying client was by sending a cold email.
But, there was some groundwork beforehand. I followed the advice I’d received and subscribed to the email lists of the ideal clients I wanted to write for. I noticed an email in my inbox from a company in the self-help niche. And I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, ‘this email could be stronger’. So, I sent a cold email to the company. Didn’t hear anything for about one week. Then, out of nowhere, I got a reply from the CEO wanting to talk. That all led to a very fruitful arrangement to write their emails for the next 18 months. Not only for the self-help list but for another list they had for writers.
Haris Halkic: How did you learn to write copy? Are there teachers, books or resources you can recommend?
Mike Searles: Having a background in sales and marketing helped. I mentioned earlier about AWAI and being a Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter after completing his course. I’ve just commenced a mentoring program with fellow Australian copywriter, Trevor ‘Toecracker’ Crook who was recently appointed the International Copy Chief for Agora Financial. I mention that because, for me, the learning never stops. And I don’t want to be just good at copywriting. I want to be great. There is a little-mentioned book I would highly recommend. It’s Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale.
Haris Halkic: How do you prepare for a writing session?
Mike Searles: I’d like to tell you I begin each day with 30 minutes of meditation, three sets of 30 push-ups on one hand, and a 30-minute sprint around the park. I’d like to tell you that – but I’d be lying. I’m in a permanent mindset for writing. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant. Trust me – I’ve done a mountain of personal development work to get my mind to where it is at today.
There is one secret if you want to hear it. It’s a 100-year-old book called The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles. I have it as a book as well as the audio version on Audible. I’ve emersed myself in the teachings of that book since 2013. Literally, drenched every cell in my brain with the contents of that book. If I had to give you a more tangible answer – I’d say a nice, fresh mug of coffee helps!
Haris Halkic: Who’s your favorite copywriter or piece of copywriting?
Mike Searles: A favorite copywriter is Dan S. Kennedy. Piece? Oh, that’s a tough question. I’ll say the one that comes to mind right now. That’s the old classic newspaper ad written in 1925 by John Caples, beginning with the headline, ‘They Laughed When I Sat Down To Play The Piano – But When I Started To Play!’
Haris Halkic: In your opinion, what are the greatest advantages of being a freelance copywriter? What makes this lifestyle so special?
The first four letters of freelance are ‘free’. And, in my case, that’s what I have today. Freedom.
What does my freedom look like? I sit at my writing-desk while barefoot and dressed in shorts and polo-shirt. That’s because I’m now living on a small island in the Philippines, fully self-funded, along with my wife and our young daughter. If I look out of my upstairs office window I first see the coconut palms in our front yard. Beyond the palms, I see the blue waters of the surrounding sea. If I’m dreaming please don’t wake me!
Haris Halkic: What one daily habit has contributed to your success more than any other?
Mike Searles: This might surprise you but it has nothing to do with copywriting per se. For me, it’s been to do with mindset. Getting the mind right and keeping it right. The Science of Getting Rich has helped me with that.
The biggest challenge for new copywriters (and this was the same for me), is self-belief. Thinking of ourselves as professional copywriters. Getting past the ‘imposter’ syndrome.
It’s a big issue for many in the early days. The other thing I would mention is the Sir Winston Churchill advice, “never, never, never give up!”
Haris Halkic: Are there areas you specialize on as a copywriter and if someone wants to hire you, what is the best way to get in touch?
Mike Searles: Thank you for asking Haris. I like writing copy for online sales funnels and follow-up email campaigns. I’ve been doing a lot for work in the health and wellness markets which sits nicely because being a baby boomer I’m often writing to my own avatar. I can be contacted through www.mikesearles.com