Robert Nomura has inspired new writers to pursue freelance writing (we know because they wrote and told us!). So it’s a pleasure to feature him as a Barefoot Writer living the good life; a life he’s created thanks to determination and a studied understanding of excellent writing.
Many years ago, I worked in a translation agency and one of my jobs was to bring in new clients. By this time, I had heard of direct-response marketing and read a few books about it out of curiosity.
The business was struggling and the boss forced me to make cold calls to potential clients. Instead, I got a copy of the book Ogilvy on Advertising. It really isn’t a book about copywriting or how to do copywriting, but it gave me a number of ideas on headlines and offers, things I had not heard of before.
To make a long story short, I opened up the Yellow Pages and cherry-picked 100 companies I thought could use our translation or interpretation services. I called each company to get contact information and then wrote a one-page letter introducing our services.
I closed five new clients from that promo. A 5% close rate. Two of them were pretty big, too. Oakwood, the international corporate housing firm, and Minimed, the company that commercialized the insulin pump, which was later bought by Medtronic, the company that commercialized the pacemaker.
The funny thing is, I didn’t realize copywriting was a profession until I discovered AWAI around 2009. I thought I was just in marketing and sales.
Now that you write and work from home, what projects do you prefer?
I like writing lead-generating copy, emails, landing pages, and PPC ads. I get a kick out of A/B testing, analytics, heat maps, and all that geeky stuff.
I love the feedback that direct-response copywriting offers … requires, really. And I love how with so many tools today and so much electronic copy; the feedback is almost instant.
Even today, I’m amazed when people respond to what I write. I’ve always felt like the castaway who sends a message in a bottle, and a ship actually comes in.
How do you stay focused?
I have a very complicated writing ritual that is tweaked and adjusted at least a few times a year. I try to make it less complicated but more powerful.
At the moment, it goes a little like this:
– Calm my mind
– Clear my head of distractions and negative mumbo-jumbo
– Do some visualization
– Ask focusing questions
– Copy one page of winning copy or well-written copy by hand
– Write 500 words minimum
I use the Pomodoro technique and follow the Jerry Seinfeld “Don’t Break the Chain” method, learned from Barefoot Writer articles.
What kinds of freedom do you enjoy thanks to the writer’s life?
My wife and I are able to homeschool our children. We spend almost zero time commuting in traffic. We take trips during the off-season with fewer crowds and cheaper prices. And I’ve worked on projects while traveling China, Peru, and the U.S.
Was there a moment you realized you’d made it as a successful freelance writer?
When I got paid to write from home.
Any advice you can share for aspiring Barefooters?
I see copywriting as the hinge that swings many doors, if you’re open to opportunity.
If you’re new, keep at it. You have to spend probably half or more of your time marketing yourself, even when working on a client project, to avoid the peaks and valleys in income.
If you’ve been at it for a while, look for a couple of new or additional ways to generate income that do not depend 100% on your ability to write copy. Leverage your skills and experience.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. My biggest fault is doing too much on my own. I can accomplish more, and do more meaningful things, if I hire or outsource more of my smaller projects and to-dos.
I think many freelancers, including myself, are their own bottlenecks to greater success.