In this edition of Interviews With Brilliant People, we are joined by Ryan Healy, the most referred direct response copywriter on the Internet. Ryan’s extensive copywriting experience includes working with clients such as Alex Mandossian, Terry Dean, and Pulte Homes, along with many more.
Ryan is also a regular contributor to the BoostCTR blog, the co-author of Million-Dollar Marketing Secrets, and routinely offers advice for improving sales copy and advertisements. Ryan’s success speaks for itself and has made him an innovative contributor to Internet marketing. Ryan Healy comes highly recommended and is an industry leader not just because of his writing, but his approach to everything he encounters in the industry. Book him now before your competitors do.
Q: Give me some information about your background and how you’ve quickly risen to become one of the most respected copywriters available for hire.
Ryan Healy: I’ve always been a writer. In fact, in the 8th grade, I had this epiphany walking down the hall of my school: “I’m going to be a writer.” And I thought, “Okay, cool. Sounds good.”
Ever since then I’ve been pursuing writing as a hobby or career. My focus on writing at such a young age has given me an advantage. Writing comes naturally to me.
But writing hasn’t been my only pursuit. I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I’ve been involved in selling — and selling my services — since I was nine years old when I started trying to get lawn-mowing jobs. I’ve started various businesses as well.
It’s this focus on writing and business that has shaped me and gives me an advantage when it comes to writing direct response sales copy.
As far as how I’ve done as well as I have as a freelancer, it’s probably a combination of timing, experience, and hard work. But God gets all the credit. Ultimately, He writes my paychecks.
Q: Freelance writing has traditionally been a tough industry, but you’ve obviously bucked that trend as an independently employed copywriter. How do you effectively compete with agencies and show prospective businesses you’re well worth the time and money?
Ryan Healy: It’s my feeling that most solopreneurs and online business owners aren’t really interested in hiring an agency. They’d prefer to work with somebody more like them; somebody who lives and dies by results.
So when I think of my competition, I’m not really competing with agencies, but rather other freelance copywriters.
One of the ways I’ve set myself apart is by sharing my knowledge on my blog. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate authority is to teach. So that’s what I’ve done.
I can’t say it’s the fastest way of getting results, but it does work if you’re committed to it for the long haul. I’ve now been blogging regularly since 2004 — and blogging in the business and copywriting space since about 2006.
Q: Freelance writing can be a tough profession, financially speaking. It speaks a lot to your independence, talent, and drive that you’ve come as far as you have in such a short time. What have you learned about yourself since you began as a freelancer, and how has that helped you become a leader in your personal and professional life?
Ryan Healy: Here are a few things I’ve learned about myself:
- I’ve learned that I can stand up to criticism.
- I’ve learned that I can accomplish a lot more than I thought I could.
- I’ve learned that success in business comes from a series of consistent actions over time.
- I’ve learned to be comfortable with uncertainty and to trust God and His timing.
- I’ve learned it’s okay to shift my work hours — but that a regular work schedule is important.
Of all these personal “life lessons,” the ability for me to stand up to criticism has been the most important factor in becoming a more effective leader. I no longer get offended or take criticism personally, so I’m not shy about taking a stand and sharing my opinions and viewpoints.
I’m much bolder about saying what needs to be said — even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when people disagree with me, they still respect me for being willing to speak up.
Q: Good copywriting requires an appeal to emotional and logical parts of the reader’s brain, both of which are crucial parts of human psychology. Is this true, and if so, how does that psychological influence change depending on the customer?
Ryan Healy: Yes, it is true. Good copywriting has to use both emotion and logic to make the sale. Customers between one market and another are generally quite different. So it’s critical to understand who you’re selling to, what problems they have, and what they’re actively thinking about.
The emotions or appeals you make to one group of people will not work with another group of people. That’s because we’re all motivated by different things. Some emotions move us; others don’t.
How you sell a weight loss program to a middle-aged woman is very different from how you’d sell an investment to a middle-aged man. With that said, there are common appeals that work on almost everybody. Appeals to pride, vanity, and greed are the most common.
After a prospect has accepted your emotional appeal, you are one step closer to a sale, but it’s not a “done deal” yet. You must now use logic to justify the purchase. The logic you use will be based on the product.
Maybe you will talk about how the product helps you save time or money. Maybe you will talk about how reliable it is, and how it will last for years. Maybe you will talk about how affordable it is compared to other options.
So you’re making two separate cases: you’re making an emotional case and a logical case. The two combined ought to lead your prospects naturally to a sale.
Q: Does the problem of black hat SEO or Internet marketing “gurus” that engage in unethical practices affect your copywriting and advertising strategy, and how do legitimate Internet marketers guard their own reputations from being lumped in with the snake oil stereotype associated with their industry?
Ryan Healy: When I wrote my first sales letter to promote my copywriting services, I realized I could make a claim that nobody else was making: That I write honest, no-hype copy.
So from the very beginning, I used the problems within our industry to position myself. But at that time I had no idea how deep the problems were. (I know better now.) Since then, I’ve not changed my strategy much, although I have been willing to write some fairly controversial posts in which I “named names.”
In our industry, there’s an entrenched “good ole boys club,” plus a strong “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of mentality. Nobody wants to say anything bad about anybody else because historically, there have been big profits in reciprocal promotions.
Reciprocal promotions are the “hush money” that keeps people quiet. So for somebody to stand up and expose some of the things that are happening — knowing full well that it permanently bans him from inclusion in the good ole boys club — shocked a lot of people.
But this was intentional on my part because most people are judged by their associations. You can be the most honest guy on planet earth, but if you’re hanging out with the Mafia every weekend, people will assume you are as criminal as the people you associate with. And total silence — while not proof of guilt — can cause people to draw the wrong conclusions about you.
So you have to be careful about who you promote and who you associate with. You also have to be careful about what you say and what you don’t say. Your market is watching.
Q: Who should we interview next?
Ryan Healy: One guy you might want to pursue is Jim Camp. He’s written a few books about negotiation that I think are brilliant.
A friend and client of mine, Kory Basaraba, may be a good person to interview. He runs a “Publisher Model” business where he acts as publisher for an expert in an industry, then sells that expert’s products for a commission. He then manages the team, who writes the copy, designs the web site, packages the product, etc. Kory is not well-known, but he’s innovative and quite good at what he does.