Paul Buzan On The Exact Rules Of Becoming A Freelance Copywriter From Scratch

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Interview With Copywriter Paul Buzan – HarisHalkic.com

What You’ll Learn In This Interview:

  • How Paul Quit His Job As A Teacher To Pursue A Career In Copywriting
  • The Mentor That Made Him Finally Realize This Is REAL
  • In-Depth Tips On Getting Clients And Growing Your Copywriting Business 
  • The Most Important Thing You Can Do In Your Business From Day 1 Is…
  • 3 Direct Response Books Paul Highly Recommends
  • Why He Compares Working As A Freelance Copywriter With A Job Flipping Burgers At McDonald’s
  • The Reason Why Getting Clients Is NOT The Biggest Challenge

Find Out More About T. Paul Buzan:

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How Paul Buzan Quit His Job As A Teacher To Pursue A Career In Copywriting

Haris Halkic: Welcome to today’s interview. My name is Haris Halkic and today’s guest is T. Paul Buzan, a direct response copywriter, marketing consultant, and podcast host from Kansas City. Welcome, Paul, and thanks a lot for agreeing to share your story and maybe some copywriting tips.

Paul Buzan: Oh, man. Thank you so much for having me here. I’m so excited to be here.

Haris Halkic: Yeah. I’m really excited about this interview today. I think this will be great. Please tell us more about how you got started in copywriting.

Paul Buzan: Okay, yeah. So my background is actually in education. I got a degree in English. Let’s just say that an English degree is not going to get you too far in America, right? And so, I got a degree in English and I parlayed that into education, into a teaching career at the elementary school level and I started in America in Kansas City where I live and I liked it. This was about 2007 or so.

I’ve always been interested in traveling and so I took a teaching position over in Korea and I taught at an elementary school over there. It was going to be a year-long sojourn and I ended up really liking it so I extended that first year to a second year and met and fell in love with a woman from Korea and so, we got married in summer. The one year became seven years, so I extended my stay a little bit longer than I’d anticipated.

When my wife and I got married, I was working as a teacher and she had a job in education as well. We knew that we wanted to move back to America and to be honest, I didn’t see really how I was going to be able to support a family on a teacher’s salary. It’s unfortunate but that’s where things were at at the time and I’d always been interested in copywriting or I’d always been interested in writing rather and so I started Googling how to make money writing and all these different things are coming up and then copywriting is one of the things that popped up.

The Mentor That Made Him Finally Realize This Is REAL

At the time, I had no idea what copywriting even was. I never heard of it. I vaguely thought maybe it was like when you look at something and it’s got a copyright on it, I figured it was like the legal thing. I didn’t know anything at all about copywriting. The book that popped out when I was doing my search as I was searching again and again was Bob Bly‘s The Copywriter’s Handbook. Again, I’m living in Korea at the time. There is one English language bookstore, one major English language bookstore in Korea, it’s in Seoul, Korea, it’s called What the Book. I ordered this book. They were one of the few places where you can get books ordered in. I got Bob Bly’s book and I liked it a lot and then so many other things, life just got busy again and I’ve set it aside and so I forgot about it.

About a year later, we were planning our move back to America and so I’m feeling some stress and I’m thinking, “Okay, I’ve got to figure something out.” At that time, I was listening to Pat Flynn, and I was looking into niche sites, and I was trying all these different things and just failing gloriously at them. So there was a lot of trial and error. I did niche sites and that didn’t work out and find a bunch of different stuff and, by process of elimination, figuring out the ones that weren’t working so much.

I circled back around to copywriting and long story short, there’s an outfit here in America called AWAI, which is the American Writers and Artists Incorporated. So I found an online sales letter for one of the programs. I think it was called the Accelerated Six-Figure Copywriting Program or something. Six-Figure Accelerated Copywriting, it’s their program.

It sounded great. It honestly sounded a little too good to be true and it’s like man, they’re talking about can you write a letter like this one? Copywriters can make six figures and all these great things and I’m thinking, “Man, that sounds amazing and also, it doesn’t sound that it will be even possible.” One of the instructors of the program was Bob Bly. So I was like, “Well, I’ve read his book and I trust him.”

So I talked to my wife and the program was $500. We didn’t have $500 just laying around at the time and I said, “Hey, you know, I think this is a good investment and maybe this is something that I can do over in America.”

So I got the program and I went to the program and this would have been I guess like the end of 2013, heading into 2014. So I did that program and I remember it was like something clicked. It started making sense to me and I really started getting into it and then I just started digging around in this stuff like crazy. It was around this time then that I started … I was in Korea so I didn’t know anything about getting clients so I was doing job boards and stuff like that. We can talk about clients and stuff, but that’s basically how it got started.

I was in the position where I knew I wanted to transition into another field and we were planning an international move so there were some things, I guess there were some deadlines that were external. I knew what my last day at the school was going to be.

I knew when the school year was going to end and I knew that I was not going to renew my contract. So it wasn’t one of those things where it’s like I’d like to get a sight how it’s going.

It would be nice to change jobs, but I’m comfortable and I’ve got a steady gig going. It’s like I knew on April 30th, everything ends for me and six weeks later we’re moving to America and I got to figure something out. So that was what launched me into copywriting.

Haris Halkic: Wonderful story. It’s interesting but there are quite a few teachers who became copywriters that I’ve interviewed so far. It’s very interesting.

Paul Buzan: Yeah. I think if you’re a teacher you like learning and that’s very important for copy and we’ll talk about that. Also, if you’re a teacher, and I can’t speak to other parts of the world, but certainly if you’re a teacher in America, there’s definitely a financial component to it where really doing just about anything else came to be very attractive. It’s sad but it’s definitely true.

Haris Halkic: Okay. But it’s similar in Germany, so I think it’s a global thing that teachers are really not paid that well, unfortunately.

Paul Buzan: Unfortunately, yeah.

Haris Halkic: What was that phase like for you, this transitioning phase or these first years? Because I’ve read on your blog that you wrote the two things that are necessary to start a freelance copywriting career are time and hustle. How would you describe this phase or what are some things that finally made it possible for you? Was it AWAI or were there other things that helped?

Paul Buzan: Yeah, that’s a good question. AWAI helped in the sense that … and I would recommend anyone listening if you’re not already on their mailing list or if you’re not connected to that world, get connected with them because they’re a great resource. I’m not an affiliate or I’m not getting a commission for anything and there’s a lot of different ways to learn copywriting and we can talk about some of those, but certainly being connected to something like AWAI I think is valuable particularly when you’re starting out.

So that was important because it started putting things on my radar like the different kinds of copywriting that you can do, B2B, if you want to write for the big mailers like Agora or if you want to do small and medium size businesses. So it started putting these different things on my radar.

So the feeling at the time here as we were making this transition was one of terror because we were making an international move and my wife had a very specialized job in Korea. Long story short, I don’t know what it’s like in Germany, but in America, if you want to go on to graduate school or law school, there are very specific tests like placement exams that you have to take. And so my wife, Jinah, she had a business that taught for this test. In America, we have the ACT or the SAT and so she taught for those.

Well, there’s not any demand for that in America so we knew that at least when we initially transitioned, we would go from being a two-income family to a one-income family, so there was some pressure there. I’d always been a teacher so it’s like I had maybe some limited beliefs about what I could do and what I could earn. And so, the transition was terrifying and exciting.

But the thing that really helped, and this is something I was thinking about, you provided some questions beforehand and I was thinking, for people who are in a job or wanting to make this transition, what’s some advice?

For me, the thing that really made a difference was I had to succeed at this. I didn’t have a 9 to 5, I didn’t have a backup thing.

I was moving to a country that I hadn’t lived in for almost 10 years. I had very few contacts here. America had gone through this terrible recession and all these different things.

So moving back to this country and to these circumstances and environment where there wasn’t really anything else on the table, and that’s not to say that you can’t find other things or make other things happen, but for me, it was like I wanted to make the go of it and so the transition was one of okay, I’ve got to make this work and that was where the time and the hustle came in.

I just decided okay, look, I’m going to do whatever I have to do to make this work because that’s what we’ve got right now and that was the mindset that I was in when I got started full-time with this back in 2014.

Haris Halkic: Okay. Great. You already mentioned this, getting clients especially if you are just starting out and if you had to make it happen, this is one of the greatest challenges for freelance copywriters.

Paul Buzan: For sure.

Haris Halkic: What are some ways that you used and still use to get new copywriting clients and maybe what role did the niche play in there? Because you have a very specific niche on the website. You’re targeting alternative health professionals and you do email marketing for them or email copy.

Paul Buzan: Yeah. Great question. I’ve had a chance to talk with a lot of copywriters over the last couple of years, a lot of whom are in the upper echelons of this field. So these are the A-listers who write for Agora and Board Room. They’re A-listers. They’re the rock stars of the industry. A lot of people who are journey men, who are hustling, who are in the beginning or a few years into their career and they’re growing. And then a lot of people who want to do copy and maybe they do a little bit on the side here and there, but they’ve got a job, and they’ve got families, and they’ve got all these other obligations.

So to answer the question of how to get clients, so I’ve talked a lot of these people and I certainly have my own experiences, and I think the first thing when you’re wanting to get clients is before you even think about how you’re going to get clients, you got to think about what do I offer to a client? Why would a client want to work with me? A lot of times, we think about what clients … What can I do to get a client? It’s like dating. If you’re single and you’re thinking like, “How do I go out and find that special someone?”

But I think another way to look at it is how can I make myself so attractive to clients that they’re like, “Oh, I want to work with Haris. Oh, I want to work with Paul. I want to work this person or the other person.” For me, one of the ways to do that, one of the ways to really make yourself attractive if you’re going to pursue clients, there are other ways to use copywriting to build a business.

But if you’re going to build a client map and you’re going to work with clients, first, I would want to clarify what is it that you offer to clients? Because clients don’t really care that we’re copywriters. They don’t really care about the deliverable. Clients want to get a certain problem solved.

They want to get a certain pain taken away and a lot of times, that’s going to be they want more of leads or they want more sales or it’s a combination of the two, but it typically boils down to that. In business, there’s not a lot of problems that more sales doesn’t fix.

Haris Halkic: You’re right.

Tips On Getting Clients And Growing Your Copywriting Business 

Paul Buzan: Whether it your own business or clients you work for, whatever the problem is, if you can get more sales, then that problem is going to probably get a lot smaller or be a lot less pressing, right?

To start, I would want to look at okay, how do I help that client get the thing that they really want? Again, it’s typically more leads and more sales, so that’s where I start.

Just to give you an example, for me, the market that I’m in, you might call them health and wellness entrepreneurs, a lot of times they’re doctors. So they’re people who are in this healing field but they have practices and they have clinics and things like that. So they want to take care of the patients that they have, and they want to make sure that the patients that need them can find them, and they want to make sure that they have other ways to support the financial realities of their business because the reality is that if you’re not making money in the business, then you’re not going to be able to stick around and you can’t do the good work that you do.

Some of these people may have coaching programs or supplements or other things that they use to make sure that there’s cash flow so they can continue to operate. So what I do is I look at what can I do to help those people get the things that they want? So that’s where it starts. What can I do, how can I offer value to the people that I want to work with? So you get clear on what kind of thing you’re really good at. Maybe it’s like you’re really, really good at generating leads or you’re really good at convincing people to take action, so you figure out what that is.

I would recommend if you’re going to look at a niche or a market, it can help if you find someone or a market that you really like. Maybe it’s chiropractors, maybe it’s the auto industry, maybe it’s something that you’re in right now. It’s an industry where you’re already working, where you already have a lot of experience. But you start with what you can provide to these people and then you figure out who it is that you provide that value to. So those are the things in the background.

And then I want to offer three specific strategies or tactics I guess that you can use or that I’ve used that have helped me get clients once you clarify how exactly you’re going to provide value to those people.

The first thing that I would really suggest people do or something that certainly worked for me is tapping your existing network.

So this is people that they’re in your life. You may not necessarily think of them as potential clients but they if they’re not a client, they may be able to connect you with someone in their world who could be a potential client.

So you let these people know hey, I’m Haris and I’m starting this copywriting business and I help … have a very clear statement who it is you help. I help certain people overcome whatever the pain is and I do it in this way. For me, it’s like I help health and wellness professionals achieve greater impact and income done through done-for-you email marketing services. So it’s very clear. I want to make it very clear to the people that I’m working with what it is that I offer and how I could help them and then tap your network. Talk to people in your world who you’re already connected to.

I was having beers with a good friend of mine who’s a part-time copywriter the other day who was asking me these questions. We’re just talking and talking and it came up as an aside and he said, “Oh yeah, you know, I’ve got this guy who’s like a friend of mine.”

The buddy for mine is also a teacher so again there’s the teacher copywriter. He’s got this friend who started a renewable energy business maybe, I don’t know a decade ago, and it’s doing really, really well. It’s like a multi-million-dollar business and this guy is just not getting the results he wants with this marketing. So I’m talking to my friend and he was saying, “Man, that’s who you need to go and take out for lunch and explain to him you help businesses like his and then see what you can do to help your business. So start with your network. Tap your network.

From there, what I did is I built a list of like when I call that my dream 50 or dream 100 and a really good book on this and a really good book on this, if you’ve read Chet Holmes, is The Ultimate Sales Machine. That’s a fantastic book on creating the ultimate sales machine. It has some really client-getting strategies. But you build this list of 50 or 100 clients or more that you really want to work with and then you start getting in front of them. You start connecting through LinkedIn or you start sending warm emails. You can call. I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable with cold calling but it works if you’ve got the stomach for it.

Again, if you’re in a position where it’s like I’ve got to make this work, then it’s a lot easier to get over those fears. I’ve used direct mail. A lot of focus just on digital channels, but I’ve used direct mail successfully as well. So postcards bring together an information pack, the natural mailing of physical information packet. So this is that old school just grind it out, like what you would do if you’re in sales where you’re going to put together leads and you’re going to call these leads. Again, there’s so much here that we can’t get into on this call, but you want to make sure that they’re qualified leads.

You want to make sure that these are people who, one, use the kind of thing that you offer and two, have a marketing budget to support the kind of thing that you do, and three, and this isn’t necessary, but I would really recommend working with people who have had experience working with outside writers, copywriters, and marketer or consultant.

How will you position yourself? We’ve had some experience with that in the past. I have had good experiences with folks who’d bring me in as their first copywriter, but I’ve also had some abysmal experiences who they don’t know what they don’t know and so it can be very helpful, particularly when you’re starting out, to work with someone who has some experience working with someone like yourself, a marketer or a consultant or a copywriter.

The second one is to reach out by emails, cold calling, sending direct mail – you have to be systematic about it. You have to set like I’m going to contact this many people on this day, and you’re going to track it, and you’re going to see how they follow up, and you’re going to set a time to follow up.

So it’s not just this willy-nilly kind of thing. You’ve got to be really tactical about how you reach out to these people.

The third one is to go to networking events.

I don’t know what it’s like in the UK or in Germany, in Europe, but here in America, we have a couple of big events. One is Traffic and Conversion that’s put on by Ryan Deiss and the folks at DigitalMarketer. Another one within the copywriting industry is AWAI’s bootcamp event and that’s in Florida and they’re smaller events. There’s going to be industry events I know. If you want to get into finance writing, there are financial writing events.

There’s industry events for supplements and for heavy industry and there’s all kinds of industry events. But you want to go to these if you can. It can be expensive. I’ve only gone to a couple and it’s a hit to the wallet, but it’s had a huge impact on my business, just an enormous impact on my business.

But the trick is when you go to these, you have to go in there with a strategy to really connect with people and to really hustle to meet these people. You don’t just go to it and then it magically happens.

You want to look for okay, who are the speakers going to be? Who do I want to connect with? How do I want to connect with this person? You really have to look at it as this opportunity not to be obnoxious and in your face, but as writers … a lot of writers I talked to were introverted. I’m a very introverted dude by nature. A pretty shy, introverted guy by nature. I can flip on the switch of the extroverted when I need to be, but then it’s like afterwards, I have to just relax and get to myself and be in a room. You know what I mean? I have to be myself and recharge the batteries.

So it’s not always easy for writers. But when you go to these events, you really got to go in there with the mindset of okay, I’m going to make sure that people know who I am and remember me because I’m going to connect. You got whatever it is, business cards, they’re going to throw your business card away. What’s the thing you can do to really stand out? Maybe it’s a book you’ve written.

Maybe it’s like a really cool, little package that you make for the top five or six potential clients who are going to be at this event who you really want to connect with to really show them that you know who they are, and you understand what they do, and you got some ideas on how you could help them. So that’s the third one is to go to these events but to go in there really strategically knowing that yeah, I can make some crazy good things happen for my business by going to these events but I have to make them happen.

Haris Halkic: Whoa, that’s some awesome advice. Thank you for that. I have to take some notes afterwards when I do the editing.

Paul Buzan: Sure, sure.

Haris Halkic: That’s great. Thank you so much. Let’s take us back to the time when you were starting out. You already mentioned a few resources like AWAI and Bob Bly’s main book. I’d say main book. He has a lot of books.

Paul Buzan: He does, yeah.

Haris Halkic: Are there any other resources you would recommend to somebody who’s just starting out learning copywriting and what are some tools, books, seminars whatever that he or she could use?

Paul Buzan: Yeah, great question. When I started out, I was voracious and now I’m four years into this and if anything, I’m more voracious in my consumption of books and training and there’s a couple of reasons why. Now, I want to practice everything I say here with this:

The most important thing you can do in your business is: take action.

It’s very easy. At least it’s easy for me. It’s very easy for me to … again, I’m an English major so obviously, I like books, right? So it’s easy for me just to like three or four hours of really deep study and feel like wow, okay, productive day. But if I didn’t reach out to clients or promote with my current clients or give them actual deliverable done, whether it’s email or a sales letter or whatever, then I’m failing myself.

So my caution is we have to be very careful that we don’t substitute learning for action. Learning is so important, but action is the thing that’s going to make or break you in the business.

That’s my preface. So as far as things to get connected with, yeah, AWAI is a great place to start. It’s just if you’re into copywriting, you need to be on their mailing list and you need to have an open mind about the different products and things that they promote. So that’s one place to start.

I would also recommend, as far as books, one of the things … Joe Sugarman, who is one of the all-time great copywriters, he has talked about how it’s so important for copywriters to know a little bit about a lot of things because you never know how you’re going to be able to connect one thing to the other when you’re writing a promotion or you’re never going to know when that odd bit of trivia that you read three years ago suddenly gives you this toehold into a good idea that creates a blockbuster for you.

So it’s really good to stay curious and even David Ogilvy talks about how curiosity is maybe … I don’t want to misquote him, but he talks about it being one of the number one characteristic that you want to look for in a successful copywriter. So we want to be really open-minded and we want to constantly be consuming stuff and just looking at it and really have that curiosity about everything.

The 3 Books On Copywriting You Must Read

The three specific books that I would recommend are these. The first one is by Claude Hopkins. It’s Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising. They are two different books, two separate books, but they’re often packaged together. Now, these books were written, oh man, a little over a hundred years ago, and a lot of times I’ll hear people today talk about like, “Oh, I couldn’t get through it,” or, “It’s old fashioned and it doesn’t apply today.”

But here’s the thing, if you’re focused on just the tactics, if you’re trying to swipe and lift specific examples from these books to the copy you write, then no, it’s probably not going to work. But if you’re focused on the strategy and I would always advise that we look beyond the tactics, tactics are the surface stuff and those things change, but strategy doesn’t change because human nature doesn’t change.

This book, when you read it, when you dig in to My Life in Advertising, when you start to get a sense of what Claude Hopkins work ethic was like, then you start to understand why the dude made more money in copywriting when you adjust for inflation than probably anyone else who’s ever applied the craft. I mean, he was the mega millionaire at this. So there’s lessons to be gleaned from these books even if they do seem a little bit old fashioned and outdated. So that’s when I would start with is Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising.

The second one that I would suggest, and I read this every year, is Victor Schwab’s How to Write a Good Advertisement. It is a clinic on just the knots and bolts of copies. So if you’re getting started and you want to just get a 30,000-foot view of all the different components and the things that go into copywriting, so how to do headlines, and your lead, and the forms of proof that you want to use, and how to close, and how to create urgency, then that is the book to get into. That’s Victor Schwab’s How to Write a Good Advertisement.

The third one is John Caples’ Tested Advertising Methods. It’s another great book on the knots and bolts of the craft. A ton of great examples from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s again. John Caples is famous for that headline When I Sat Down at the Piano. They all laughed when I sat down at the piano, but then I started to play. You laugh because you’ve seen that headline swiped, right? It’s been swiped a billion times so it doesn’t work anymore. But the psychology behind it absolutely works.

How many times have you thought about like man, I’ll have this fantasy of stepping on to the basketball court and I’m horrible at sports. I mean, I am horrible. Like comically horrible at sports. Just stepping on to the basketball court and just wowing all these people who used to laugh at me because suddenly, I have this bodacious basketball skills, that is a driving human desire.

That’s not going to change. We want to shut up the naysayers. We want to impress people. It’s that whole keeping up with the Jones’s kind of thing. Again, you’ve got to read these books for the strategy that lies behind the tactics. So that’s what I would recommend is John Caples Tested Advertising Methods.

Those are three copywriting books. If you haven’t read Robert Cialdini’s Influence, that’s a really important book to read because it’s going to help you understand why people do the things they do or why they’re persuaded to do the things they do and then you can use those things in your own copywriting.

And then a final book that I really want to recommend and it’s one of my favorite books of all-time, it’s Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck and this book talks about Dr. Dweck refers to as the fixed mindset. Fixed mindset is essentially this idea that your talents are innate and they’re fixed. So if you’re a good copywriter, I’m a good writer, it’s just one of those things, right?

If you got a growth mindset, it’s this idea that like yeah, I’m not as good at whatever it is. I’m not as good at writing right now as I want to be. I’m not as good at sales right now as I want to be, but that’s cool because I can get better at this. I can do this in deliberate practicing. I can really hustle and I can get better. So it’s a really important book I think to read because copywriting is fun and it’s exciting and it’s very, very challenging.

It takes a lot to put yourself out there and you’re going to have things that write that you think are great but the client isn’t going to like or the client loves it and then it just fails miserably in the marketplace. And so having that growth mindset where you can look at these as these “failures” as learning opportunities is very important.

Haris Halkic: Amazing. Great books that you recommended. From what you’re saying and from the interviews I’ve done so far, it seems like copywriters are also reading a lot. Is that true for you and how much do you read? Just give us maybe an estimate of how many books or articles or how much do you have to read to become good and stay good?

Paul Buzan: That’s a good question. I don’t know what it’s been like for you as you’ve been interviewing copywriters, but for me, as I’m talking to people like Kim Krause Schwalm, Bob Bly, and Parris Lampropoulos, and Clayton Makepeace, and these people who are the absolute pinnacle. They’re just voracious leaders and they just consume books. They consume information.

I’ve noticed that with the successful entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with, people who are, especially millionaires, almost all of them, I won’t say every single one but certainly like 95% are voracious readers, so I think that’s really important.

I’ve always liked reading that’s why I pursued a degree in English. I’ve always enjoyed reading and I try to deep read one book a week or thereabouts and then of course, I re-read a lot of books as well and I take extensive notes and just really try to set that up. There’s something in I don’t know if you call it necessarily cognitive psychology or maybe it’s more performance psychology, but there’s this concept of domain knowledge.

So if you’re a chess player, you’re a master chess player, you’ve got a vast domain knowledge of chess, which means that you can sit down and look at a board and within a split second you know what the potential moves are you look at the chess board in a completely different way because you’ve got so much knowledge and understanding of chess that you can sit down … that’s why when we look at people who are great at school or great at music or great at whatever it is and we think like, “Wow.”

We’re just awed about their talent. But it’s not talent. It’s just these thousands, and thousands, and thousands of hours of deliberate practice and they put out this domain knowledge and it’s really important as copywriters that we do that as well so that not only that we understand the books that I mentioned but we understand the components of what makes copy work.

But we also want to immerse ourself in the copy that’s working right now. So you get on Agora’s mailing list or whoever the heavyweights in your industry are, you get on their mailing list and you just really get their stuff and you analyze it. So I spend an hour a day reading a book and about an hour a day analyzing copy. So it’s like two hours of study in addition and I’m writing every day. Again, this doesn’t take the place of writing. Sometimes, if you’re writing a big project and you need to do research, then there’s going to be a lot more reading that day. But it’s just part of my daily routine. It’s about two hours of that intensive study.

Haris Halkic: Okay. So now get rich quick strategies in copywriting.

Paul Buzan: No. I wish, man. I don’t know. I see on my Facebook feeds, I see all these guys with their Lamborghinis and talking about how they made a million dollars last week and then I’m like, “Dude, show me the way.” I just hustle and grind, man.

Haris Halkic: It’s like “What’s the secret headline?”

Paul Buzan: I know, right?

Haris Halkic: Unfortunately, I think, most of them are fake anyway. But maybe they’re not.

Paul Buzan: I’ve got an inkling that maybe that’s the case.

Haris Halkic: Yeah. Great, Paul. Thanks a lot. Let’s go more into the specifics of writing for a project that you start. How do you start the writing session basically?

Paul Buzan: That’s a great question. I think it depends a lot on the kind of writing you do. You mentioned before that my focus is on email marketing. So a lot of the stuff, I would say 80% of what I write is shorter forms. Say I do a thousand words. For me, it’s different if I’m going to write long form sales letter, that’s a completely different process because you got to do just a lot more researching. It just takes a lot longer. With email, you start to research what it is what you’re talking about but it’s a different kind of process because it’s a different kind of project.

So as far as how I prepare for writing sessions, I don’t.

I’m extremely routine-driven and so for me, it’s like I have a set bedtime that I go to bed every night. I have a set time that I get up every morning and I have a morning routine that I do every single morning and then I sit my butt down and start writing.

Again, there’s no muse. There’s no inspiration. There’s nothing exciting like that.

I just sit down and grind.

Haris Halkic: Okay. You already mentioned a few copywriters whose books you can recommend. Maybe there’s a copywriter that’s your favorite one or there’s a favorite piece of copywriting that you have?

Paul Buzan: Yeah. Well, I don’t know what it’s been like for you, Haris, but when you read a really good piece of copy, you will get almost this like tingling kind of feeling where I’m like oh man, I just really appreciate the craft. It’s a little bit like how I feel if I hear a really good pop song because pop music is formulaic, but when all the parts come together and it’s just right, there’s just this satisfying appreciation of the craft.

I think it’s maybe one way to look at it. So I like reading good pieces of copy and whether it’s older stuff like Gene Schwartz or getting a little more recent, Gary Halbert or Mel Martin or Gary Bencivenga, some of the older people. People who are writing today, Parris Lampropoulos, I’m a huge fan of Parris’s work. Kim Krause Schwalm is amazing. Marcella Allison, Barnaby Kalan.

There’s a lot of writers and it’s cool because once you start to understand them, it’s just like music or film. If you sit down to watch a film by a filmmaker you really like, even if you don’t know this film within a few seconds you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s so and so.” You start to recognize their tells. So I like that about certain writers. You can read a thing and you can go, “Ah, yeah. This is one of Parris’s pieces,” and then find out later, “Oh yeah, it actually is.” So yes, as far as for copywriters or piece of copywriting, I don’t know that I have one favorite. I’ve just really tried to immerse myself in the craft.

Haris Halkic: Great. There are just too many great copywriters.

Paul Buzan: There is a lot, right? I mean, if someone said you have to pick an absolute favorite, I like Gene Schwartz a lot. Gene Schwartz and Gary Halbert were more of that like … I’m a pretty chill, laid back dude and so Gene Schwartz and Gary Halbert were more that like it’s intense, and it’s hard-hitting, and it’s in your face, which is not really my personality style. It’s not really my writing style. But they’re the one camp. Then on this side, you’ve got someone like Gary Bencivenga and it’s cool too. If you look at kung fu, you have Ip Man who begets Bruce Lee. If you go back to the Bible it talks about so and so begets so and so who begets so and so and it’s like all these begets, right?

Well, copywriting is the same. You have people that took on students and so they train that student in their way and then that student took on students. Copy has a very rich tradition. It’s almost like the guilds of the Renaissance where copywriter masters will take on what they call copy cubs and they’ll train them in their way. It’s like Gary Bencivenga. One of his students who adopted his style is Parris Lampropoulos and I like that more. It’s like you’re being sold without really being sold. It’s really hard-hitting sales copy that is disguised as really cool information.

In fact, Gary Bencivenga talks about anything but marketing. You want to make your copy look like anything but marketing. So the person is reading and they’re really intrigued and then they’re getting pulled along and then before they know it they’re like, “Oh my gosh. I got to get whatever this is. Oh wait, someone just sold me something.” It’s just that more low key. So if I had to pick a favorite it would be like Gary Bencivenga, Parris Lampropoulos, and Parris’s students like Barnaby Kalan and Marcella Allison. It’s more at that school of copywriting if you will.

Haris Halkic: Okay. But in this case, we have two Bruce Lees.

Paul Buzan: Yeah, right.

About The Importance Of Professionalism

Haris Halkic: You already shared when you talked about your story, how you moved back to United States, about your whole copywriting story. Could you share more about this lifestyle of freelance copywriting and what makes it so special for you?

Paul Buzan: It really is a lifestyle so I think that’s the first thing is that more than anything, it’s a lifestyle. If you’re the kind of person who’s perhaps slightly cantankerous or a little bit anti-authority or you don’t want someone telling you where to be, and what to do, and how to do it and that kind of thing, then copy can be a good thing because you do have a great degree of freedom and I’d imagine that a lot of the copywriters that you spoke with have cited freedom as one of the number one things that they enjoy about being a copywriter, about that lifestyle.

Haris Halkic: Yes.

Paul Buzan: So that’s the big thing. I want to add though that it drives me nuts too when you see these things like working in my pajamas and yada, yada. I mean, I don’t know what it’s like for you or for your listeners, but for me it was like this was a job from day one but there’s never been working in pajamas. There’s never been like oh, I’m just going to sleep-in today or take a day off. I’ve got a lot of flexibility and there’s a great degree of freedom, but I think one of the things that has helped me succeed at this and I’ve been able to support a family on just on a copywriting income for the last four years or so and it’s because I took it very seriously.

So treat it as a job. I love the freedom of the lifestyle, but it isn’t this like, at least for me it hasn’t been, it isn’t just like you go playing on the beach, running on the beach, banging out an email in the evening and you’re good to go.

And again, unfortunately, there’s not that get rich quick, have a Lamborghini in your driveway tomorrow morning kind of thing. At least that I haven’t found. So it’s that freedom, but it’s a freedom tempered with a great degree of being self-directed.

Haris Halkic: Do you work from home or do you go to an office or co-working space or something?

Paul Buzan: Yeah. So I work from home. My wife and I, we don’t have any kids right now so that makes it a little easier. I think if we had kids it would be harder. But I work from home and then Jinah, my wife, she helps me do the operational side of things. She’ll help me as far as being in touch with clients and of course then she runs the household as well. So it’s very much a group effort but we do it all here at home.

My commute takes about 15 seconds from the bedroom down to the hall into the office, which is kind of nice.

Haris Halkic: Yes, it is. If you had to decide on one daily habit that has contributed to your success so far, what would that be if you had to choose one?

Paul Buzan: Yeah, that’s a great question. We were talking before the call about Germany, which, unfortunately, I’ve not yet had a chance to visit Germany. But of course when I lived in Asia I traveled all over Asia. I’ve been to Europe and other places, but not Germany. But in Germany, do you all have a restaurant called McDonald’s?

Haris Halkic: Yes.

Paul Buzan: You do? You do have the Golden Arches? Okay. I don’t know if I should say I’m sorry you got that. So we’ve got McDonald’s here obviously in America. When I started, my first paycheck job was McDonald’s so I’m not knocking McDonald’s. But when you talk to kids like, “Hey, what do you want to be when you grow up,” most of them don’t say, “Well, I want to work in McDonalds,” right?

Haris Halkic: No.

Paul Buzan: Right. It’s not that kind of job. But imagine that you work at McDonald’s and imagine if you’re working at McDonald’s, what if you just decide that you’re not going to show up one day or you come in 15 minutes late or when you’re there you just goof off and you don’t do what you’re supposed to do? How long do you think you’re going to last at that job?

Haris Halkic: Oh, not that long.

Paul Buzan: Not long, right? Your boss is going to think, “Okay, you’re out.” So my mindset has always been look, I have an opportunity to build this dream lifestyle. If I couldn’t even just like goof off at a McDonald’s job, why on earth would I goof off at this job? So for me, that daily habit has been … and I’m not trying to sound like I’m this super disciplined monk who has no fun. We have a ton of fun, but for me, the thing that has contributed to my success more than anything else is just this intensity about making this happen.

Failure was not an option. I took it very seriously.

I have a lot of fun. Our clients, we have a great time, but we’re talking about making money and we’re talking about helping people achieve results that they want in their life. That’s serious business. So I’ve taken it very seriously from the very beginning. So that’s been the thing. I didn’t treat it like McDonald’s. I wasn’t showing up on my pajamas or goofing off or not showing up on time. It’s been a business for me from day one.

Haris Halkic: You’re so right, Paul. I love it. It’s just also the experience that I have so far, especially from interviewing other copywriters. Being professional from day one is just so important.

Paul Buzan: It is. There’s a quote and I can’t remember her name, but she’s a marketing coach. I don’t remember her name but the quote was effectively, “If you treat your business like a hobby, then it will cost you like a hobby. But if you treat your business like a business, it will reward you like a business.” To me, that really encapsulates it. It’s like you said, professionalism. You got to take it seriously. You got to treat it like a business.

Haris Halkic: Yeah. You already talked about this, it’s not just a job, it’s building your dream lifestyle.

Paul Buzan: Yes.

Haris Halkic: It’s something really special that you’re building as a copywriter because I suppose, in most cases, you choose to become a copywriter. It’s not something that your parents tell you to do.

Paul Buzan: Right. For sure.

The Just Add Hustle Podcast

Haris Halkic: I just want to mention one special resource and that is your podcast that I really enjoy listening to and I can recommend it to everybody listening to this interview. It’s really amazing and you have such amazing guests on your podcasts and not just copywriters but also bloggers, and then full-time bloggers, and people who build online businesses but of course, also very successful freelance copywriters. Maybe you could talk more about this whole project, what your motivation is behind it and yeah, just tell us more about your amazing podcast, Paul.

Paul Buzan: Oh yeah, thank you so much. The podcast is called Just Add Hustle and it’s at justaddhustle.com or iTunes and wherever that you listen. Stitcher, you can find the podcast there, but it’s justaddhustle.com. So the show, here’s when I got started. One of the things and the first guest was Bob Bly. He’s my copywriting hero and I knew I wanted to have copywriters on the show, but when it got started, I wasn’t really sure because a lot of times I’ll start things before I have a clear idea about what I’m trying to do. Yeah, it’s better than overplanning, I think. You’re figuring out as you go along.

Yeah, there’d been like a variety of different guests in the early days and now it’s really focused in on copywriters and professional writers. The show was about helping writers have more fun and make more money with their writing and it’s particularly geared to writers who are either early in their career as writers or people who are at a 9 to 5 and they’re looking for strategies to help them break into writing full-time. So that’s what the show is about and yeah, I’ve been very lucky, very fortunate to have some amazing guests who provided a ton of great value.

It’s a lot of copywriters but also, like you said, there’s professional bloggers and there’s writing coaches. Just a wide variety of writers. So if you’re into writing, whether it’s copywriting or any kind of creating information products or blogging or whatever it is, Kindle books, whatever it happens to be, if you’re into writing then chances are you’ll probably find an episode that resonates with you because again, I’ve been very fortunate to have some really awesome guests on the show.

Haris Halkic: Yes, and especially one episode, episode eight, with Ryan Biddulph that I listened to over and over, probably eight or nine times so far. It’s just great.

Paul Buzan: Nice, yeah. He’s a great guy. His story is so cool because obviously, he was at a job he didn’t care for and was able to parlay some of these experiences not only into professional blogging but he’s able to blog and then travel, which I know is a passion for a lot of writers. So yeah, definitely a cool episode to check out.

Haris Halkic: Yes, of course. Every episode is definitely worth checking out.

Paul Buzan: Thank you.

Haris Halkic: I can really recommend it. It’s an amazing podcast that I just discovered lately when I contacted you because of this interview. It’s one of the hidden ones, but definitely worth checking out.

Paul Buzan: Thank you. I need to do a better job of promoting it, for sure. It has a devoted following, but we’re a very small tribe so I want to get out there for more writers because I do think it provides value. It’s not a show that’s meant to entertain you. It’s a show … I mean, it’s called Just Add Hustle for crying out loud. It’s a show that’s meant to give you stuff you can do right now.

I want you to listen to it and take action because we’re all in this together. We’re all trying to grow a business that provides value and provides a lifestyle for ourselves and for our family. So yeah, it’s a clinic in hustling and growing your writing business.

Haris Halkic: Yeah. So, Paul, I enjoyed this a lot. It’s been amazing, an amazing interview. You’ve shared so much great information, so much great tips on copywriting, starting a copywriting career and also your story and it’s a wonderful one. So thank you so much for this interview and for sharing.

Paul Buzan: Thank you.

Haris Halkic: I love it.

Paul Buzan: Well, thank you, man. It’s been great and it’s been awesome to connect with you and I’m so impressed with what you’re doing as well. So again, thank you so much for inviting me on the show.

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