One of the best parts of being based out of Chiang Mai is the large digital nomad community here. I don’t know of any other city in the world that comes close. It’s amazing to be able to connect with so many travellers and entrepreneurs. By far, the most dominant group of location independent entrepreneurs are the Dynamite Circle members from TropicalMBA.com. I recently had the opportunity to meet DC member and copywriter John McIntyre. John talks about his background, what makes Chiang Mai so great and gives some advice for aspiring copywriters in this interview.
Please tell us about yourself?
I hail from the grand ol’ city of Sydney, Australia. But… I haven’t been there in over a year.
I never had a typical career and never wanted one. I jumped from casual job to casual job, moving around whenever I got bored. I had a knack for figuring things out quick. The problem was once I had it figured out, I lost interest. I did a lot of sales jobs. Both face-to-face and on the phone. The experience in sales has been incredibly valuable.
I played with online marketing on and off, but never got enough traction to replace my job. But in late 2011, everything changed…
I applied for a job to live on a tropical island in the Philippines for free. In exchange for couple days of marketing work each week, I was able to stay at a resort called Badladz for free. It was a sweeeet deal and I owe my current success to it. Easily one of the best years of my life.
Please tell us about your travels?
I’ve been volunteering in Bali and Nepal, snowboarding in New Zealand and living (and working) in the Philippines. I don’t have a home base. I left Sydney in October 2011 and I won’t visit until next year sometime. I currently live in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
How do you like Chiang Mai?
Love love LOVE it!
I’ve only been here a month, but I’m glad I decided to stay here for a while. Loi Krathong, a recent festival, blew my freakin’ mind. Down near the river, people were lighting lanterns that float up into the air, and little boat-like lanterns that float down the river. There was delicious food EVERYWHERE.
It felt like a warzone, since you could buy fireworks for less than 2 bucks. In Australia, fireworks are illegal, so I was like a kid in a candy store (Watch a video I made here).
Festivals aside, Chiang Mai is a great place to live. I spend less than a quarter of what I might in Sydney, yet I feel like I make no sacrifices. I have everything I could have in Sydney, only it’s way cheaper.
I rent a nice studio apartment for far less than I would in Sydney. I eat lots of amazing food. The gym’s cheap. People are friendly. It’s easy to get around. Living expenses are low.
It’s a great place to be based while I build my marketing business. I even have loads of world-class destinations within a short plane ride. I’ll be in Koh Samui for NYE, Vietnam in January, then back to Chiang Mai.
With that said, it’s not a holiday. I work harder than I ever did in Sydney, but since I’m in control of my time, location and income, it feels incredible.
Please tell us about the Dynamite Circle?
(John’s note: The Dynamite Circle is a private forum for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs ran by TropicalMBA.com. There are dozens of Dynamite Circle members living and working in Chiang Mai.)
If I didn’t have the Dynamite Circle (“DC” for short”), I would be a loner!
Instead, I can meet like-minded entrepreneurs anywhere I go. It’s amazing. I’ve met so many awesome people through the DC. Guys who are killing it online.
Hands down, the best thing about the DC is the people you meet. And as the cliche goes, you become the people you spend the most time with.
It’s not for everyone, but if someone’s earning money online and wants to meet similar people, there’s no better place.
There’s a great forum with loads of advice and info that’s hard to find online. People are friendly. The atmosphere is helpful. Worth joining if you do business online. The membership will pay for itself many times over.
How do you earn an income?
Main Business: Drop Dead Copy
I write sales copy and email autoresponders that turn traffic into $$$ and leads into raving fans.
Drop Dead Copy is a copywriting business. I help people create more value and sell more stuff. People email me when they need someone to take their product and make it desirable. I dig up the essence of the product and explain to people why they should part with their hard-earned money for it.
I started doing it 6 months ago and it more than covers my living expenses.
I began learning copywriting (and marketing) in March and had my first paying client by June.
Nothing special or secret about it. I just developed a skill (copywriting) that people were willing to pay good money for. If anyone is struggling to get started, I’d tell them to pick a valuable skill, become great at it, then find people who need that skill.
That’s all there is to it. Then, while you’re on the road, you can scale it up, automate it and live the four-hour-work-week lifestyle if you so wish.
What are some common copywriting and landing page errors?
The BIGGEST error I see is a crappy offer…
The best copy in the world will not work if the offer sucks.
The offer is the value proposition. It’s the “give me $X and I’ll give you X product or service in return” part of the deal.
It’s the MOST IMPORTANT ingredient in writing copy.
It’s not about headlines, bullet points, hyperbole, hype, guarantees or PS’s.
It’s about creating a compelling offer that fits the prospect like a glove. It’s about empathy. It’s about understanding EXACTLY what the prospect wants and needs.
When you have true empathy, you don’t even need good copywriting.
That’s why guys like Ramit Sethi spend more than 50% of the time and money on RESEARCH, not on writing copy. The research drives the copy. You never see it, but it’s the magic ingredient behind all successful sales letters and landing pages.
What advice would you offer for JetSetCitizen.com?
Ha. You’re doing great man! Seriously. Great site. Nice design. Easy to navigate.
On the homepage, move the headline “Honest Interviews…” to right below the header. It should be the first thing my eyes gravitate to. I shouldn’t have to look for it. Remove the dark background, as it makes it harder/longer to read.
Also, put more emphasis on the interviews. I recently had trouble figuring out what your site was about. Apart from the headline, the homepage is confusing. There’s no clear “thing” that it’s about. Instead of putting “interviews” with SEVEN other things, highlight it, feature it, point it out. For example, next to the headline, put a photo a “Get The Interviews!” or something like that.
Your optin offer “Want more from life” could be improved. Of course I want more from life. So does everyone. What will I get from it? “Free Interviews Sent To Your Inbox” or even just “Free Updates”.
Do you have an autoresponder? If not, create one. Tell people about your best content. Survey them to find their biggest problems. Use each email to solve those problems. You become their most trusted advisor.
How do you find clients?
To date, my website has been responsible for no clients (as far as I know).
My client acquisition strategy is “be cool”. That simply means to be a cool dude. Find novel ways to create value for people. Help them help other people. Make them look good. Find ways to make their life easier. Be on time. Do what you say you’re going to do. Kick ass at whatever it is you do.
I let people know I’m a copywriter. I might give them copy advice for free or we might end up discussing marketing. I try to do this with influencers. People who know other people. Networking up. It’s very simple and relatively easy, but it takes time.
When people need copy, or when they meet someone who does, I’m usually one of the guys that pops into their heads.
“Oh, you should talk to John. He’s great.”
Never used Elance or Odesk to find work. If I kick ass at whatever I do, I shouldn’t have to.
My advice to aspiring freelancers is to: a) get good at a valuable skill, and b) build relationships with influencers.
For me, that meant an interview on Dan’s podcast. You could do guest posting, an email joint venture, a book where you interview key people or whatever.
Just be creative.
How do you learn to be a good copywriter?
Simple (but not easy).
Read old-school marketing books and write out winning sales letter by hand. That’s the advice of the late Gary Halbert (read that newsletter for your action plan), one of the world’s greatest copywriters.
I’ve written out more than 80 classic sales letter by hand and I’m not stopping any time soon.
Start by reading Scientific Advertising a few times. Then read My Life In Advertising or Breakthrough Advertising.
You’ll realize that not much has changed since 100 years ago.
Use a site like Info Marketing Blog to get old sales letters to write out by hand. When I say ‘by hand’, I really mean it. Grab a notebook and pen, set a timer for 60 minutes and WRITE. Do that every day for a few months.
I used CopyHour to get started, but now I get my own sales letters from around the interwebs.
John McIntyre’s Consulting Biz
John McIntyre’s Travel blog
Follow JohnMcIntyre_on Twitter
WOW, (I never had a typical career and never wanted one. I jumped from casual job to casual job, moving around whenever I got bored. I had a knack for figuring things out quick. The problem was once I had it figured out, I lost interest.)<———-it’s really really scary how much that describes me.
That and the fact that IF im not providing Value to people i really dont want to do it.
Now one thing i have noticed lately how much writing a story/book is similar to writing copy? Yet i have noticed that most copy does not contain a story about the product.
briefly met him in Puerto Galera, Philippines. It’s pretty cool how quickly he learned the skill and applied it right away with client work. Inspiring! I’m a silent member of DC and don’t think I fit in with all the dudes.
Come to think of it, i suspect that all marketers should be bad ass dating people. Because marketing in my opion is dating
It goes go show that focus and hard work can accomplish a lot. John is a good role model to follow.
There are some women in DC as well, but I guess there are not that many.
I think most people jump around from one job to the next. We have so many choices that we can’t commit to anything for a long time. The ability to choose one single career focus long enough to get good at it is the primary determinant of success.
I think most good copywriting tells a story. Think about the famous VW or Apple advertisements of the past. They had great stories.
Hey Steve! Most copy is bad copy, which is why there is no story. Great copy is very story-focused, but not necessarily in the same way a book is. There is a theme, and it flows, and it brings people in.
I think writing a book is completely different to writing sales copy. Sales copy is primarily about getting people to take action. If people don’t click or buy, it doesn’t matter how clever, entertaining, or thoughtful the copy is, it sucks. Conversely, a good book can be a good book for a whole range of reasons, whether it’s because it’s witty, engaging, entertaining, fun, etc.
Hey Janet! I miss PG 🙂
Haha. You are on the money! They’re the same thing. Marketing, sales, copywriting, dating… it’s based on the same fundamental skill – persuasion.
So in dating, a cold lead is any girl that you haven’t spoken to. A sale might be getting laid. Once you speak to a girl, she becomes a warm lead. By providing value and nurturing the relationship, you move the girl through the sales funnel, unless you close the sale by getting laid. Following the sale, there is the opportunity for repeat business. All the big marketers make their money on the back end. In dating, it’s easier to get laid on the back end (someone you’ve slept with before) than it is to find someone new (the front end).
To all the girls reading who hate my analogy, you’re not my target market 😉
Great post and quite inspiring! I have also loved travel blogging, but have never considered copywriting as a job (freelance or fulltime!).
For whatever reason in the UK i don’t think those sales type pages work as well – it seems to be an American thing. I just cant get my head around them!
Hey Scott! Most people don’t think they’d work, but they do! It’s all about the value. It’s much easier to sell someone something when you have more space to tell them about it.
Living in Chiang Mai sounds great. We plan to give it a try in about 8 months.
I’m also trying to start offering my services as a content writer in order to get a back up for my more passive sources of income.
This advice left me a bit cold though:
“If anyone is struggling to get started, I’d tell them to pick a valuable skill, become great at it”.
Just like that? Why not just say “I’d advise someone to get rich and make loads of money”.
Seems equally vague!
Sorry to be so negative!
Getting good at a valuable skills might seem obvious but is surprising how few people follow this advice. I see it with new bloggers all the time. Many think they are going to make lots of money from a generic blog. After all, many people are selling programs on how easy it is to make money online.
A far more effective strategy is to specialize in a skill that is in high demand. Over time you will get better at it and will be able to earn more money. Finding that skill set may be difficult for some, but I don’t think it’s the same as ‘get rich and make loads of money.’
It’s a major simplification, but I 100% believe it’s the fastest way to start making location independent cash.
The key to making money is providing value to the marketplace. We get paid in direction proportion to the value we create for the marketplace. It just so happens that it’s easier to create value via services than products.
In my case, I learned to write copy. 3 months after I started, I sent my first invoice. Just. Like. That. I didn’t start a blog (tried that a long time ago!).
Whether it’s copy, web design, programming, sales, or something else, the formula is bulletproof. Become good enough at something that people will pay you, then make potential clients aware that you’re offering a service. It really is as simple as that.
I NEVER would have thought it that simple, but now that I’m on the other side, I realized that it is. The sooner you get into that mindset, the sooner you’ll be making money. It’s nothing special, but a choice to do things differently.
Hey John and John,
Just wanted to thank you for the resources, I am currently learning how to write sales copy myself and I’m completely new to this.
I bought a highly recommended book from John Caples “Tested Advertising Methods” but I still haven’t gone through the whole content.
The stuff you shared here looks great so thanks again!
Another fantastic list here from Gary Halbert: http://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/Newsletters/zfkj_hands_on_experience.htm