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The 3 tips to being a pro copywriter... - Jimmy Curley "Street Marketing" Blog

Jimmy Curley here.

Glad you made it. I’ll jump right in.

The reason this blog exists is to dispense shocking bits of wisdom and insights for copywriters and marketers…

…so when a newbie copywriter emailed me a question, I decided to turn it into a Street Marketing Lesson plan.

The question was: “What does it take to be a professional copywriter?”

I’ll take my best shot at this using my own “in the trenches” marketing and copywriting experience (hence the name “Street Marketing)…

…and if you’re a pro copywriter reading this you are obligated to chime in with comments too.  I’m serious. Don’t you dare leave here without contributing.

So let’s kick it off with the Street Marketing Lesson I call… “So you wanna be a rock star?”

First, let’s be clear about something: Writing really isn’t really a job.

Nope. As everyone knows, unlike plumbers, secretaries, doctors, field hands and other poor saps who have to actually work for a living…

… writers live like a rock stars…

…boozing it up all night… dreaming up killer copy licks from the middle of an orgy… rolling out of bed at noon with a beer, a bong, and a blast of cocaine.

Yeah baby… it’s a crazy freak-show dream.

This exactly describes how my life is playing out.

And suddenly we zoom through a virtual tunnel and tumble back into reality.

Listen: As a professional writer you’ve got to actually sit down and… well… WRITE.

It’s part of the gig.

You’ve got to put in the work. Hard work.

It’s like what an astonished Bono from U2 said about Roy Orbison while they collaborated on an album together.

Apparently Orbison needed no “special inspiration” like so many other musicians (who end up face down dead in their own vomit). Nope, according to Bono, Orbison showed up at the studio early in the morning with nothing more than a case of Coca-Cola and a carton of cigarettes…

…and then went to work.

Worked all day long.

Worked like a piker digging ditches. Like a mason laying bricks in the hot sun.

Worked because he loved it.

THAT is a pro.

The reason for the astonishment is simple: Like writers, most wanna-be rock stars and musicians want all the fab rock-star benefits without having to break a sweat. There’s not many willing to put in the serious hard work and sacrifice.

Which leads me into my next Street Marketing Lesson: “You’re in the mood for WHAT?”

As a pro, you’ve got to write, no matter HOW you’re feeling.

What’s that? You got a little headache? Feeling a little down? Not quite in the mood?

Well, as George Kastanza screamed at Jerry Sienfeld when Jerry said he wasn’t “in the mood” to spill details of his hot juicy date…

…”well then you GET in the mood!”

That’s what pros do. They write when they’re up, down, nursing the flu, fighting with their spouse, whatever.

And believe me – whatever the late great Hunter S. Thompson may have convinced you – alcohol, cocaine, and weed will NOT “get you in the mood” or make you a better writer.

It may make you THINK you’re a better writer… but later on, when you emerge from the fog, and read what you wrote, you’ll realize that it was all a delusion.

Thompson was a great writer in spite of his drug and alcohol issues, not because of them, (although it was often the topic of some of his best work).

Reminds me of a bass player friend of mine who said his entire band took a dose of LSD just before show time. Said they played their hearts out. It was their BEST performance ever because they had poured so much heart and soul into the music that night.


A couple days later he ran into a groupie – a girl who had attended EVERY single gig — and he was floored when she asked, “What was wrong with you guys on Friday? The music was so off. It was the only time I ever left in the middle of one of your shows…”

The point is that you can’t wait around until you’re in the exact “mood” or mindset you need to be or you will NEVER get the job done on time.

Which leads quite nicely into my third Street Marketing Lesson of the day:You need it WHEN?”

It’s about meeting deadlines.

First, let me tell you about my own harsh lessons on dealing with deadlines.

Back in the 1980s, on my very first day as Art Director for an ad agency, I sat comfortably sipping my coffee while gazing out over the San Francisco Bay.

Oh the satisfaction of it all.

“Art Director”, I whispered to myself looking at my new business cards. “Hello. Nice to meet you… Jimmy Curley, Art Director.”

Oh yes, I was quite pleased with myself.

And then it happened. The first shot of a vicious, bubble-bursting, “one-two” punch.

The office traffic coordinator rushed into my art department with a stack of advertising insertion orders.

“You the new production guy?”

“Production guy?” I recoiled in horror. “Hello. Nice to meet you. Jimmy Curley, Art Dire…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hello Mr. Art Director. Better get your people together. We need layouts to fax over to these clients today.”

She plopped down 17 different insertion orders for 17 different clients. SEVENTEEN.

And they were big fat clients too.

Lockheed… World Savings… Bechtel… Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories… Morton Thiokol… Bank of the West… FMC… McDonnell Douglas…

… and a host of other weighty clients… any of whom could’ve casually activated an atomic military laser beam from their office, bounced it off a low-orbit satellite, and had me evaporated right where I sat.

And the insertion orders were for big fat ads.

Full pages in the Wall Street Journal. New York Times. Boston Globe. Chicago Tribune. Two-page spreads in the biggest industry publications. It went on and on.

Geez… I was responsible for all this? Me?

And quite suddenly I shrank to a very small and insignificant speck…

…and tasted a weird metallic sensation in my mouth. Like I was being exposed to a lethal dose of x-rays.

I dug deep and pulled myself together… but then, just as I prepared to call together my team of typesetters, camera people, and paste-up artists (we had no computers back then)…

… a hard boiled account executive stormed in to deliver the second blow of that one-two punch.

She grabbed an insertion order from the bottom of the stack and thrust it at me.

“Here… you take care of this one first. You hear me?”

I foolishly tried my technique.

“Hello. Nice to meet you. Jimmy Cur…”

“Listen asshole”, she said pointing her razor sharp finger in my face.

“In case you don’t know, the agency pays for these insertions upfront and then bills the client later. So we’re on the line for all this money. And this one here is MY client. I get commission on this. You better get this layout done now, and it better be good, and creative, and the client better love it, or by god your first day will be your last day.”

I was stunned.

She called me an “asshole” on our first meeting…

…before she even knew my name…

…before I knew HER name…

…and there were 7 other customer service reps and account executives just like her lined up outside my art room preparing to level me with the same kind of “welcome-aboard” pep talk.

I toughened up quickly… and managed to excel at that agency for six long years. And I NEVER missed a deadline… although that weird metallic taste never left my mouth.

Here’s what I’m getting at: I had to learn, just like ANY pro has to learn, how to prioritize the task at hand to “get the job done”.

At the agency, each ad had a clear process — layout, copy, client approval, typesetting, paste-up, camera work, final client approval, final PMT…

…and into the courier package for shipping to the publication.

There was no “skipping” any of these steps. I simply had to adjust how much time I could spend on any one step… which was determined by the deadline.

It’s just like YOUR copywriting and marketing.

If you’re writing an ad for a new client, you gotta first know the steps. For a direct response ad, the steps are this:

Research… copy dump… organize… edit… re-edit… and re-edit.

Yes, you can add in some more “re-edits” if there’s time, but other than that, THAT is the process.

You can’t simply ignore one of the steps to save time. No, you have to look at how much time you got, then distribute it something like this:

Research, 50%. Copy Dump, 10%. Organizing, 10%. Editing, 10%.  Reediting, 10%. More reediting, 10%.

So if, for example, I have two days to write an ad, (I would insist on more), I don’t choose to eliminate “research” to make up some time. No, it just means I have to limit my research to one intensive day. I can’t burn up ANY time researching on the second day because each of the other steps will require a few hours apiece.

Which brings me to you folks who are writing your OWN ads for your own products.

If you don’t have a clear deadline, (because after all, YOU are running the show), then get into the habit of creating “drop dead” deadlines. One that you’ve got to stick to. One that you can’t get out of.

How? Well, as an example I have a business partner who orders (and pays for) magazine space for products not yet completed with an ad not yet written.

That sure gets the time-bomb is ticking. Quite suddenly everyone’s scrambling to get the work completed or be caught in the fiery blast.

It’s like something I learned from the book “Following Through”, (by Pete Greider and Steve Levinson) written specifically to help people complete important tasks.

If you’re having trouble getting up at 6am, (you know… because you’re exhausted from the all-night orgy), then you should set your alarm for 6am and another alarm clock in the baby’s room for 6:05. THAT will get you out of bed.

Point is, you wanna create an emergency, set a “drop dead” deadline with some kind of “brick wall” that you’ll hit…

…something to make you sweat a little…

… and maybe trigger that metallic taste in your mouth.

For better writing and marketing…




Jimmy Curley

P.S. Hey, it’s time for YOU to chime in.

Don’t be shy. If you’re a working pro writer I definitely want to hear your thoughts. Please don’t leave without a comment…


41 Responses to The 3 tips to being a pro copywriter…

  1. Anthony Flores says:

    Great post yet again Jim.

    Priceless advice for those who got into copywriting to live the “writer’s dream” … only to find out that there IS some work involved.

    Many of your points really hit home for me personally. In my case, copywriting success almost came too easy — I was “kicked out” of John’s Insider Club in under a year, less 18 months after I heard of copywriting (partly because I had gotten good, partly because I was annoying the shit out of John with all my critique requests.)

    And then from that point, I got quickly picked up and mentored closely by Clayton Makepeace and was on my copy superstardom.

    Or so I thought.

    Sure, things went well. I’ve made great money, lived all over the world since becoming a copywriter (Miami, Asheville, Hollywood – next door to Keifer Sutherland and Charliz Theron, Vancouver BC, Buenos Aires, Manhattan NY, and currently steps from the beach in the Dominican Republic.)

    Yet I’ve had quite a few speedbumps along the way because many of these disciplines and commitments to deadlines were totally new to me … and had to be learned the hard way. Still learning some of them to this day.

    And as you allude to, we sometimes face the dilemma of delivering “B” or “B+” copy on time … or “A” copy slightly late — and 99% of the time it’s better to do the former, if purely for the client’s perception, professionalism and your rep.

    Sure, there are exceptions. The legendary Jim Rutz (who mentored John a bit) once said, “The heartbreak of a blown deadline is soon forgotten in the warm glow of a hot new control.”

    He was right — but that’s a RARE EXCEPTION. And you damn well better communicate and get approval from the client before “adjusting” a deadline, or it will get ugly in some way.

    Especially because if you miss the deadline AND the copy kick some serious butt … well, everyone loses.

    Also, love your advice about not waiting for inspiration and just being a professional who shows up and writes each day.

    Probably the best tip I ever received in this area was from a Gene Schwartz video I used to watch over and over again, about his 33:33 timer that he used.

    He never suffered from block or procrastination, and was one of the fastest and greatest copywriters of all time.

    And what he would do was set his little timer for 33:33 – and then work on the copy for exactly that length … nothing else but the copy (this was before the days of Facebook, MMS, cell phones).

    Then once he was done, he would take a short break to recharge and let his subconscious “work” on the info and copy that his brain had just been focused on.

    It was a brilliant solution for staying focused, productive and maximum creativity.

    And it has more relevance/importance now than ever — particularly in our ADD/distraction-heavy age.

    Anyway, back to work 🙂

    Great post Jim and Happy 4th,


    • Jimmy Curley says:


      Great to hear from a pro.

      Yeah… that “block” or procrastination is usually about trying to make something perfect.

      It’ll never be perfect. Your work may achieve “control” status, but that’s about it.

      I have a friend who’s been working on redesigning his bathroom… for the last SIX years.

      He keeps coming up with new ideas, demanding impossible standards for himself, and generally making the project so friggin’ complex that he will NEVER be able to finish the job.

      So it sits. And sits.

      I’ve seen some copywriters fall into this trap. They’ve got this “big idea” tucked away in their head, but have made it so damned unachievable that they simply never start.

      Tony… some fabulous insight here.

      Appreciate you stopping in and sharing.


  2. Kevin Dawson says:

    Hey Jimbo,

    Loved the story about the clueless Bonehead (er, Bono). What a way to bring home the fantasy rock star lifestyle vs. the real-world protestant work ethic.

    Reminds me of a story about a “normal guy” who happened upon Tiger Woods about noon, as Tiger strolled back towards the clubhouse.

    “Tiger, I’d give ANYTHING to be able to hit a drive or put like you do.”

    Very bluntly, yet patiently, Tiger told him, “No you wouldn’t.”

    The fan protested, “Sure I would!”

    TIger shook his head.

    “I’ve been out there blasting drives and sinking puts since 5:00 AM. And I’ll be out there after a bite to eat, for another three hours.”

    Jimmy, you really nailed this one. There’s nothing glamourous about the grunt work we do — except its final tally, when the results are in.

    And the ad agency stuff…

    I’ve got three bosses, each of them who review my copy, then send it in front of a weekly meeting for other copywriters to have a say, too. Of course, my immediate supervisor has final say — it’s his ass.

    So, I may whine about it being a pressure cooker. But it doesn’t stack up to 17 nattering nabobs, each demanding immediate perfection. Yikes! It makes me think I’ve got it easy.

    • Jimmy Curley says:


      I worked for agencies where there was NO metrics set up to determine if the advertising was working at all.

      Those cushy days are coming to an end.

      Advertisers are becoming hip to metrics and demanding that their ads perform.

      Which make the people who understand basic salesmanship extremely valuable.

      This doesn’t mean that everyone “gets” it. In fact, I’ve had clients admit that they are doing NO split testing of their ads and landing pages.


      Good stuff here Kevin. Thanks for your input.


  3. First of all you commie, publishing on America’s birthday? Dude, it’s the fourth of freaken July here in America.

    Second, none of the “copywriting courses” out there such the friggen “C” word – clients.

    What’s it really like to work for clients. Their delusional, irrational, change the copy, and do stupid things.

    Oh yeah, they also pay the bills.

    I used to have so many clients change the copy and then change the results John made me stick into my contract that they had to run the copy my way.

    Once that started happening, I stopped having problems.

    Then there’s working for an agency. Which of course is a totally different form of insanity.

    But Curley, you’ve got the flavor here of what it’s really like.

    Even if you did post this on the 4th of July instead of drinking beer, eating hot dogs, getting sunburned, and watching fireworks.

    • Jimmy Curley says:

      I am actually writing this from a 4th of July orgy.

      I’m not even gonna tell you where I’m launching the bottle rockets from.

      Okay… not really.

      But you nailed this. Killer copywriting skills aren’t enough… you gotta learn how to deal with clients — the guys with the money.

      And if YOU’RE the client — writing your own stuff for your own products — you have to force yourself to make deadlines and split test marketing materials (because as the owner, maybe you’re NOT the person who should be writing the copy).

      Thanks for dropping in Harlan… on the 4th. Don’t lose any fingers today.


  4. Robert Gibson says:

    Hi Jimmy!

    I’m working on a deadline right now on the 4th of July which ties into getting things done no matter what day it is.

    I meet deadlines. But someone coming in and cursing at you?
    Hold on a second…

    Client or no client, cash or no cash, deadline or no deadline, there’s a line that can’t be crossed. If a client starts cursing at you, that client needs to be straightened out.

    Keep in mind,even under extreme pressure, there are certain people that person WON’T curse at. Not because of position or title. But because they know that person won’t put up with it. Make sure you’re one of those people.

    “You get what you tolerate.”

    Enjoy your 4th!

    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Hey Robert:

      Yeah… fourth-smourth.

      Actually it wasn’t the client swearing at me, but an account executive at the agency I worked at.

      That place was actually a riot. They had a full bar in the kitchen, which meant everyone was half crocked.

      We worked hard and played hard, and in the end everyone kissed and made up… then started all over the next day.

      A real pressure cooker because the accounts were huge and the money they were throwing around was big.

      But as for clients — agreed. If a client even hints at getting abusive, you either have to make it clear that you won’t tolerate it (as nobody should), or you simply “fire” the client.

      Thanks for your thoughts Robert.


  5. John Carlton says:

    Nice one, Jimbo. You’re gonna scare the bejesus out of about three hundred budding copywriters, who will probably crawl back to the Corporate Womb in abject terror… but it’s something that cannot be hammered hard enough into the wannabe pro’s head: Yes, work is involved. And deadlines are serious beasts…

    My one small quibble: Editing, in my career, was more important than the initial copy dump. I always spend twice the time editing that I do actually writing — “writing is re-writing” is the old saying.

    Editing is a lost and dying art… but ALL the A-List copywriters rely on it to get the controls that define their status.

    Just sayin’…

    • John Carlton says:

      Okay, just re-read your percentage list, and I see that you’ve got editing as 3 times the dump.

      So… never mind. Point made.

      • Jimmy Curley says:

        Hey John:

        Yes indeedy… editing and re-editing. Writing and rewriting.

        For me, it’s actually the fun part about writing. It’s the research and searching for “where the hell am I going with this” stuff that’s the real ball-buster. Once I have that under my belt, improving flow, sentence structure and brevity is enjoyable.

        Thanks John, much appreciated.


      • Ajay says:

        Hi Matey, Cant begin to tell you how much we miss you, and wait for the day that justice is done. Its a dtinussigg affair- and if I begin with the facts I know I will rant. What a sick story they made up, the whole thing is an outrage. No evidence, -no suprise No crime!!!!You’ve been a top friend for many years, my family are sickened by the lies Australia have cooked up, but then we know the lengths they will go to to save their embarrassment, its the same the whole world over,and corruption seems to be taking over! Hard as it must be, stay strong, because I know you will be free and your story will be told, remember-truth will out. Take care of yourself, and I WILL see you soon. XXX

  6. Craig Woolven says:

    Hey Jimmy,

    Another stellar post.

    Firing a client…….for most a strange business concept……until you do it and find out just how liberating it is.

    I worked in mega-media for a long time. Your colorful visuals of the environment pretty much nailed it. Brought back some great memories.

    The job at hand though is writing and the looming deadlines that go with it.

    Thanks for the great perspective.


    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Hey Craig:

      Once worked for an agency where the owner was simply tired of spending 12 hours a day, 7 days a week pleasing an arrogant mega-client.

      One day he just decided to “simplify” his life… and fired the client.

      Everyone cheered… right before we were all laid-off.

      So we all got to tolerate the guys paying for the gig… the trick is to know how far.

      Thanks for the commment… good stuff.


  7. Lina Nguyen says:

    You mean, I actually have to write? Like, produce work? 🙂
    After years of law school and practising law, I have the word “deadline” tattooed on me, in multiple places. I got up at 4am this morning to get some work done before my baby woke up. And I didn’t even have to put the alarm clock in his room. I just got up and did the work. Part of the gig, hey. Of writing. And of being a new mother.
    I love it.

    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Hi Lina:

      Congrats on the baby… I didn’t know.

      Sounds like you got it nailed… so forget about the alarm clock in the baby’s room.

      But most people go through a phase of feeling like they’re “spinning their wheels”…

      …which can go on for months, even years. Starts to sap the life out of people.

      But there’s some simple “get er done” techniques… maybe the subject of an upcoming blog.

      Thanks for posting…


  8. Kevin Rogers says:


    Great stuff, dude.

    I’ve often marveled at your writing speed and now I see what’s behind it.

    So, if I have this right, you actually sit and write no matter what? Regardless of mood-altering issues like running out of your preferred flavor of coffee cream or any physical discomfort, like your chair cushion suddenly going “flat” on you?

    OK wow. Yeah, I totally see it now.

    Wait… you do sort your sock drawer by season before you start a first draft though, right? I’m not alone on THAT one, at least?

    Seriously, this is incredible insight you shared and I’m inspired to get back at it tomorrow morning.

    I don’t even care if my tube socks are crowding the crews right now. I really don’t.

    At all. Doesn’t make a bit of difference to the copy, soo…

    I might just look, but I’m not worries about it.

    I’m too focused on the sales page.

    Lasered in, man.

    It’s just… a little hard to concentrate completely knowing those thick ass socks are in there when I won’t need them for six more…

    … you know what… forget it man. It’s all good. Stupid socks, who cares?

    I’m dialed in, bro! Thank you for this.

    I just set my alarm and the one in the baby’s room for 5 am! Killer idea!

    (I just hope my wife hears it if I don’t… ‘cuz I take a half an Ambien to help me sleep and that shit knocks me OUT! Damn, it’s 1:15 now. Better change my alarm to like 8:30. Still lots of time. I’ll be fine.)

    Thanks, Jimmy. This is awesome!

    Hey, I might call you around 8:45 tomorrow morning… got an idea you’ll love.


    • Jimmy Curley says:


      Pissing my pants reading this. Very funny.

      For me, it’s really not small details that tend to hold me back but just my deep desire to sit in a comfy chair and watch the river roll by.

      There’s of course still a fire in the belly… and a fear of looming deadlines… and a desire for “more”….

      … but it’s like being in high school again. Everyone wants good grades, but few are willing to give up a day swimming at the quarry to get them.

      Great, great post Kev, talk soon.


  9. Dezi Koster says:

    Hi ya Jim,
    Another great post! You always seem to evoke such rich images as you kick the point home like a winning goal.

    Ah yes! Deadlines…. Nothing like them to make you wake up, step outside the box of your boundary condition and pull a rabbit out of a hat, time and time again. It’s like the impetus you carry when it’s the first time for your writing gig – you are hungry and passionate and willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what… and that’s the point!

    Great writing requires you dig in deep, beyond what you think you are capable of, beyond the mundane and mediocre into the stellar realms of artistry. In order to leap frog into these transcendent heights one must be willing to be inspired by any moment and see the gift that it holds, the gift that you as the writer holds, right in the palm of your hand.

    Then edit savagely. Pare away at the excess,remove what is superfluous, till there is nothing left but a stark impact, that leaves its mark, its indelible impression on the reader that compels him or her to take action without ever exactly knowing why. It’s like a first kiss… you are left excited and always wanting more… Just like your writing… AWESOME Much love
    Dezi xxx

    • Jimmy Curley says:


      Thanks for dropping in.

      You’re comment here made me think of the need for another post — tricks to make your prospect take action.

      Hmmm… the gears are turning…


  10. Jimmy thank you for the breakdown. I can immediately refine my own process using this golden nugget:

    “Research, 50%. Copy Dump, 10%. Organizing, 10%. Editing, 10%. Reediting, 10%. More reediting, 10%.”

    So swiped!


    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Hey James:

      Very cool that you stopped by.

      If you’re already deeply familiar with the product, the client, and what he or she does, then the “research” part of it becomes a little less critical.

      With my golf ads I know Doc O’Leary is a smart ass golf nut who’s been delivering killer instruction from underground golf pros known throughout the industry for teaching OTHER golf pros.

      Knowing that frees up a lot of time to concentrate on the “hook”, the dump, and the edits.

      Thanks again for popping in James…



  11. Hey Jim,

    Man, great post.

    I found your blog via Bond Halbert’s link on FB and I’m now an avid reader.

    It’s a funny thing. I have friends who work “normal” jobs and they’re always needling me about how I’ve got it “so easy” and how they’d love to “make money without going to work”…

    The thing is, I spent a year dodging direct fire in Iraq, I’ve been a plumber, painted houses, roofed (that sucks), hung drywall, served tables for minimum wage and done just about every “crappy” job on the planet…

    NOTHING I’ve ever done is as stressful as being a freelance copywriter.

    You have to keep clients coming in the door.

    You have to keep producing for the clients you do have.

    You have to pour all of the blood you have into your work everyday, ESPECIALLY when you “don’t feel like it”.

    You have to watch the market respond.

    You have to do so many things, and it ain’t easy.

    Love the blog post, hope to see more soon.



    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Hey Scott:

      Did all the regular jobs you listed, and a lot more, with one exception. Never had bad guys trying kill me. Never been tested that way.

      In TRS (FightFast.com), I’ve personally worked one-on-one developing product with combat soldiers. They all basically say the same thing. That you never know how someone will react until the bullets actually start flying.

      Anyway, I’m a big history nut, so I could ramble on about this for a long time… but I won’t. And I know saying “thanks” for putting your ass on the line doesn’t begin to cover it… but it’s all I got. So thanks.

      But for me the MOST stressful job was when I was thrown into the galley of a busy restaurant and told to perform.

      Shit… those waitresses can get downright dangerous when the order isn’t right because it’s their tip you’re messing with.

      Dealing with clients and meeting deadlines comes in a close second.

      Thanks again Scott…


  12. Bond Halbert says:

    Your advice on deadlines is freaking great. I’ll be using that trick from now on.

    Please keep the posts coming because I rarely feel like I’m learning anything new and now I’m hungry for more.

    • Jimmy Curley says:

      Bond… awesome to have you man.

      I do shift some of the percentages around, depending on how well I know the product or client, but that formula pretty much stands for a new product and a new clients.

      And “research” of course means taking detailed notes when studying the product and client credentials…

      … with one eye always open for that “hook”.

      Thanks for the comment Bond. Talk soon…


  13. Jim, sorry this is late. I was in North Carolina, not working!

    Seriously…the desire to just goof off or GTIL “get to it later” is a disease all of us struggle with.

    The rise of Facebook and email and texts and TV are just another “push” at the demon inside of us, just waiting to be giving ANY excuse not to work.

    Great content like this will help me immensely, and keep me from putting myself first instead of a client.

    “Research, 50%. Copy Dump, 10%. Organizing, 10%. Editing, 10%. Reediting, 10%. More reediting, 10%.”

    • Jimmy Curley says:


      Always a pleasure.

      Absolutely right. Issac Shoenberg, the guy largely responsible for inventing the world’s first usable television, said he and his team “had invented the world’s biggest time-waster of all time.”

      And now… Facebook.

      Although I doubt Zuckerberg will make the same confession.


  14. Lisa says:

    Okay. I see what happens. I spend all my time (for my biz) stuck in research mode. I never actually get to copy dump phase, so there’s no organizing or editing or reediting, etc. Trouble is I always find more to know. Sort of shiny object phase or perfectionism… So when do you decide you have enough research and get yourself to copy dump?

    Or does the fact that I’m stuck in research mean that I have lost my passion for what I do and should move on to something else? BTW, I looked to follow you on twitter, but didn’t find you, are you there?

    Thanks for inspiring me to face this stuff

    • Hey Lisa,

      I know you’re asking Jim, maybe I can help.

      Let’s say you have a 2-week deadline, you work 40 hours a week on average, so you have 80 hours to work with.

      Week 1: RESEARCH.

      40 hours, and then STOP.

      Make the most of the time. Put the hours in. Leave no stone unturned, no detail unexplored.

      And when you’re done, STOP.

      Week 2: Copy dump, organizing, editing, reediting, more editing, etc.

      It depends on the project, and a two-week deadline SUCKS (depending on the project) but I’d say most of us have been there.

      You work within the time you have.

      And if you don’t have a strict client deadline you assign yourself one (loved the idea about buying ad space with no copy or product:)

      There’s a problem with a “perfect” hook, lead, headline or anything else… You, nor anyone else, will ever write one.

      You may write one for the record books. You may come up with a home-run approach. You may beat a 20 year control…

      But you’ll never write the perfect ad.

      In most of my copy I test multiple approaches, leads, etc.

      Often times, my winning headlines aren’t clever hooks, they’re simply “How To Quickly And Easily Solve Your Problem”.

      Well, variations of that.

      And we test them, sometimes they win, because that’s exactly what people are looking for. A clever spin or hook can definitely help, but again, it’ll never be perfect.

      Maybe world-class. Maybe something that’d wow the best of the best. But it’ll NEVER be perfect.

      So give yourself a deadline. Show up on game day. Give 100%.

      And be ready to turn in a stellar (but never perfect) draft come deadline time.

      So give yourself a deadline, and stick to the 50% research. (Even if it’s a niche you know, you want to know where the traffic is coming from, what they’ve bought in the past, at what price point, how experienced they are, how much money they make, what keeps them up at night, etc, etc… And often times it’s a HUGE mistake to “assume” you know a market from previous experience on a new list, product, strategy, etc. Buying behavior and psychology DOES change A LOT even in very similar markets).

      Hope that helps a little, and just my opinion. I’m sure every writer has a slightly different approach.

      On my own projects, I’ve fallen into the “perfectionism” problem many many times. Jim’s advice is golden.

      Rent an ad blast, notify JV’s about launch dates, announce product launch dates to your list…

      …All of these things WILL give you a deadline, like it or not, and the same feeling (or even worse) that you get when you have a client deadline.

      (I loved this post, and the above reasons (based on Jim’s advice/motivation) are why I’m taking a quick break from writing copy for my own product to comment on the blog at 6am on a Sunday morning. It’s mine, but it’s due! And there are VERY real consequences if it’s late).

      Hope that helps a little.



      • Jimmy Curley says:

        Lisa… Scott’s advice is golden.

        Setting that hard deadline (with real consequences if it’s missed) really sucks because it builds enormous pressure to “get it done”.

        But that’s often times what it takes to “create the emergency”.

        In the book “Following Through” the author explains how the human mind works like this:

        It’s like you’re driving a car with two steering wheels. One is controlled by a gorilla (that lazy bastard who wants nothing more than to eat and sleep and be pleasured and who only responds to dire emergencies)…

        … and a small, fragile, but highly intelligent pencil-neck who sets lofty goals to obtain things like a nice home, car and European vacations.

        When it comes to controlling where the car goes, the gorilla will always win. But the small geek can out-smart the gorilla… by creating “emergencies” that that dumby’s gotta respond to.

        The percentages are a nifty way to create mini-emergencies.

        If it’s the 1st of the month and you have committed to a pre-paid eblast on the 16th you should have a pile of research notes and deep understanding of where you’re going by the 7th.

        These are rules of thumb of course, but it gives you a target to hit. Something that makes the gorilla move.

        And Scott is right on another front here (damn him)…

        … in direct response there really is no telling what’s “perfect” until the numbers come in.

        So USE these “shiny” objects that keep distracting you as things you’ll split-test.

        But finish ONE complete ad first… then return to your other ideas and determine if you still have enough time to set up a feasible split test before deadline.

        If not… you can always use the ideas later as a way to try and beat the control.

        Great question Lisa…


  15. Chris Boss says:

    I Found the end of the rainbow here Jim! This is perfect, and at the right time for me. Subscribed.


    – Reedley CA

  16. Jimmy Curley says:

    Right on Chris… glad you enjoyed it.

    Been on a writing frenzy lately… for which the blog has suffered through a longer than expected period without a new post from me.

    Will hopefully rectify this soon.

    Thanks for popping in…


  17. G’day Jimmy –

    Another gem polished to near perfection. Good to see another stealthy pen of the shadows emerge with some swift morphing of words in true reality.

    Looking forward to more from you mate!

    another unknown veteran of the
    re-Marketing-able and a few tasty AD-able words,


    Jonathan Dune

    P.S. Good Point to Newbies: Research is underrated and editing is underfed. Now, get back to work!

  18. Brian McLeod says:

    Had a blast with you last night on the webinar, Jimmy.

    Loved this post (especially the great Orbison example of knowing how to settle in and get shit done…

    Inspired by your speed, skill and effectiveness, pal.



  19. Perry Rose says:

    “’Listen asshole’, she said pointing her razor sharp finger in my face.”

    lol I would have just got up and left.

    Oh to be the fly on that wall on that one special day….

    Perry Rose

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