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EPISODE 87: Running a Successful 6-Figure Copywriting Business Solo with Aaron Wrixon

by May 24, 2022Copywriter Collaborative, Podcast

Is it possible to run a 6-figure copywriting business without exhausting yourself or charging a heart attack-inducing amount per project? YES!

This episode features special guest, Aaron Wrixon, and it covers:

  • How Aaron replaced his prior lucrative job’s income with freelance copywriting.
  • Securing clients when you don’t want to spend a ton of energy marketing yourself.
  • Valuable lessons and tips for our fellow copywriters.

Marie here, and I have the pleasure of chatting with Aaron Wrixon this week on the podcast! 

The super-duper official bio:

Since the mid-90s, WRIXON founder Aaron Wrixon has been paid for writing well over 8 million words. That’s the equivalent of more than 10 copies of the King James Bible.

Aaron has written for more than 120 different industries across the English-speaking world, with a focus on writing for agencies and their clients. (He also works directly with service-based businesses and smart SaaS companies with great products.)

He lives in Canada, with his wife, two children, two dogs, and a bearded dragon. In his spare time, he reads, writes music, watches a surprising amount of HBO, and listens to Frank Zappa.

Additionally, his mom says he is handsome.

 

Aaron and I chat about all kinds of gems, like:

  • Pricing structures to ensure you get paid for your creative work.
  • But wait, is copywriting really creative work? (Yes. It is.)
  • How to make money as a copywriter beyond marketing yourself (aka screaming into the void… at least, that’s what it can definitely feel like!).
  • Stuff that is freaking great about being a copywriter.
  • Battle scars lessons learned from being a copywriter.

 

Homework: 

  • Grab Aaron’s P.S. This is Magic resource! If you aren’t taking full advantage of the power of the P.S. in your (and your clients’) copy, this is definitely an opportunity for greater impact.

 

Services/Products/Offers/Freebies Referenced (for affiliate links or list growth):

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the copywriter collaborative podcast, where we're digging into how you can build a sustainable writing business. We're your hosts, Jessi...

Marie:
...and Marie. We're the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy. When we started our business in 2010, we had no idea what we were doing. We just knew we wanted to write. Since then, we've learned a lot and we've grown into a successful multi-six-figure copywriting agency with a talented staff of writers and project coordinators. We've served hundreds of clients and we've seen it all. We wish we could have had a resource like this way back then. So we created it for you.

Jessi:
We're here to share our and top tips to help you achieve personal and professional success in the copywriting industry. Every week, you'll get valuable insights from us, members of our team, and special guests. Whether you wanna write better copy, create a stronger copywriting business that can support you financially or both, grab your earbuds.

Marie:
All right writers, I'm excited to introduce you today to a special guest, Aaron Wrixon. Thank you so much for being here today, Aaron.

Aaron:
Thank you for having me. I'm sure it's gonna be a rollercoaster ride.

Marie:
I think it's gonna be excellent. I love rollercoaster. So I'm down for that. Yeah, so Aaron, like you if you're a listener is a writer since honestly the mid-nineties. He has been paid for writing, he is the founder of Wrixon, and has written well over 8 million words, which if you're counting is the equivalent of more than 10 copies of the KJV Bible. So basically he is super prolific and really knows his stuff. And I guess like 10X holy, I don't know.

Aaron:
Wait, that's a conversation for another podcast.

Marie:
Yeah, that'll be another spinoff episode. Right. But yeah, he's written for more than 120 industries and he's really focused on writing for agencies and their clients. He really works directly also with service based businesses and smart sass companies that have fantastic products. He lives in Canada with his wife, two kids, two dogs, and his bearded dragon that we were just chatting about before we hit record who he's, even though this bearded dragon is his daughter's, he's laying claim.

Aaron:
Yep. She's mine. Like Michael Jackson said, the girl is mine.

Marie:
That's it exactly. I mean, you know, I think beardies are super cute, so I'm into it. I also have two dogs, so I mean, you know, I've got love for animals and children and spouses all those are good. So I'm actually really excited about your beardy.

Aaron:
It's like whatever, he's got two kids and a wife, but Hey lizard.

Marie:
Let's check this one out. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. And another thing that I learned about Aaron is he writes music and you can go find him on Spotify. Maybe we need to put that in the show notes.

Aaron:
Oh for sure.

Marie:
He sure loves to read, loves some HBO, who doesn't love to relax and watch some TV. Loves to listen to Frank Zappa. And my favorite line of the bio additionally his mom says he's handsome. And the other Quip that we had just before this, when I was making sure I knew how to pronounce his last name was, you know, we can also pronounce his name, Kim Kardashian, if desired so.

Aaron:
For reals.

Marie:
This give you a little flavor for Aaron. You guys are in for a treat today on this podcast.

Aaron:
My behind is slightly smaller than Kim's.

Marie:
There you go. But you know, that's pretty much all of us, so, you know, we can all, we have something to aspire to.

Aaron:
Speaking of aspire to, I don't know how Pete Davidson ended up with Kim Kardashian, but hold on, Pete, hold on tightly.

Marie:
Yeah. Don't let a good thing go. Right.

Aaron:
Don't let a good thing go. Wow.

Marie:
So yeah, I'm excited to chat with you today. And a topic of this particular episode is gonna be all about your, how you're running a successful six figure copywriting business solo. In the previous episode for anyone who's like a real diehard of this podcast, we had just been talking about how you can add writers to your team if that's something that's of interest and that's how we've managed to create a six figure copywriting business. So there are multiple ways to have successful copywriting businesses by whatever metric you're looking for. You may look at the books of Aaron's business and our business, and they may look similar, but the business models are different. And so we thought it'd be really cool to bring Aaron on to give kind of counterpoint to that and another insight into how that works. So I guess I'd love to start Aaron by knowing, like, what is your professional journey? I mean, you've been at this for like more than three seconds.

Aaron:
A little bit more than three seconds. Wow. Okay. So the first time I ever got paid to write was 60 bucks a week, writing humor of all things, for my university. Yes, massive dollars as the humor page editor for our school newspaper.

Marie:
Cool.

Aaron:
And we had a blast. We did like really silly things like, we fronted and ran a fake candidate for student council president, and then had him assassinated Kennedy style with like a full photo essay and everything. So we did like Roc Krtch. Actually, his name was Roc Krtch. Now that I think about it, haven't thought of that name in a long time.

Marie:
Everyone's gonna be like frantically Googling this.

Aaron:
R O C was the first name and the last name was K R T C H, no vowels. So I did that in 95, but I don't count that. In 97, in the middle of gee my life sucks, I was working retail and hating it. And my girlfriend at the time suggested that I, well, you know, you can write, you should apply for this little job in the newspaper. It was a little tiny newspaper ad. And I went to work for a company that made stereo speakers, like you know, high end stereo stuff for the princely sum of $21,000 a year.

Marie:
There you go.

Aaron:
Yeah, it was my first real job. And I did that. I worked on owners manuals and marketing ads and all kinds of fun and wacky stuff that you might need a stereo business. And then I got upity because I decided I didn't wanna make that much. I wanted to make more. So I went to school for technical writing and in the technical writing class, I was hired into a government job. And it was ridiculous. I mean, welcome to the government. Right. This we're talking 90, 1999. I went from 25 at the time to, I think it was like 42. Yeah. All right. Welcome to it. So it was pretty nice. It was nice. I like that.

Marie:
Wow it's like professional development pays off.

Aaron:
Yeah. I was like, oh sure. Somehow I translated a $1,500 college course into another $17,000 worth of salary. So I worked there for a million years and then followed a former boss over to another organization. Up here we have, up here being Canada in Ontario specifically, we have a, there's a bright line between like you know, most of I think every state in the US has the state bar where they, licensed lawyers. Ours is kind of split where the bar is an advocacy organization and then we have a regulator. I went to work for the people that give the lawyers trouble if they're acting up. Right. So I worked there and that was itself a six figure job.
But at the previous one, I had had so much time and it was such a cushy job. And I hated it so much that I started doing a side hustle where I was building websites and I was building them for clients. And it occurred to me that really, the only reason that I was building them was so that I could do more writing. I had thought, oh, I don't wanna write all day and then write when I get home. But it turns out that's the piece that I like the most. So when I jumped to this lawyer regulator, I stopped doing websites entirely and started focusing my side hustle completely on writing. And so was writing as a side hustle exclusively from 2011. And then by 2016, when I was doing my 2016 taxes, I realized that I had made as much on my side hustle as I did in my day job. So I said, okay, I'm out.

Marie:
Yeah. That's a really amazing milestone. Congrats.

Aaron:
It was pretty cool. And I think the secret, and this is, you know, it's not like a closely guarded myth or whatever that I can't share, but the secret was one born of necessity because I had the stage up I couldn't sell. So I was like, well, who could sell for me? Well, all these website agencies, they need writers and they're landing these deals. So I'll just let them sell. And then all I have to do is keep in touch with the website agencies and then somebody would come along and say, I've got a project for you. And it would turn out to be, accidentally, the smartest thing I've ever done, because that's basically from 2016, my side hustle was like full referral only. And it has been that way since then. And so I managed to run six figures a year, just on people bringing me projects saying, Hey, can you work with this guy? Or can you work with these people? You know? And so it's been quite an adventure been full time for six years now.

Marie:
That's fantastic. Congrats.

Aaron:
Thank you.

Marie:
Yeah. This is something that Jessi and I encourage on this podcast or with our writing business owner clients, you know, develop those relationships. The more you can get referrals from people who have complimentary businesses where they really need a writer, the better it can be. Because exactly you don't have to spend that time marketing. Yes, you do have to establish that immediate initial conversation and relationship, but it can pay dividends for you for a long time. So this leads, well, I guess, into my next question, which is around your business model. So, walk us through what happens with those clients. Like when you have an agency, just taking that part of your business for an example cause I know you do also work directly with some businesses, you know, do you have specific packages? Do you kind of bow to their own processes? Like what does that look like for you?

Aaron:
Well, you know, some of these, again, it was fortuitous because born of frustration, at this first day job, you know, the government job where, you know, was heavily unionized and the work was sort of not fulfilling and I was writing, but it was going through 12 layers of approval and so on and so forth. I started sort of dreaming bigger and really all I knew at that point was, you'd see these high price consultants come in. So I thought, oh, I wanna be a consultant one day.
So I read a lot of consulting books and the thread around them, or a thread that ran through them rather was this idea of value based pricing. The idea that you should go in there and say, look in a consulting engagement, say, okay, how much does this stand to make you, it's gonna make you an extra 8 million in revenue, therefore it's perfectly ethical for me to ask you for $800,000 for this engagement, as opposed to saying, yeah, I bill out at $150 an hour.
Now I'm not crazy enough to suggest to you or to your listeners or to anybody that works in a writing context. But you, I mean, you certainly can't go in and say, or at least I have been unable to say, well, since I'm gonna make you a hundred thousand dollars Mr. Client, therefore you owe me $20,000 for these emails. That's silly talk. But I started to think what is an equivalent and detach myself from this start from per word prices or per hour or whatever, and saying, you know, well, what's the project price here? What's the value of this project?
And so if agency X comes to me and says, we're building this website, the conversation became not okay well, I bill out its $75 an hour, but okay, cool. What's the website gonna do? Who's the client? What are they in? What's their revenue? What are you billing out for that website? Oh, you're billing $12,000 for that site. Oh, well all of a sudden $3,500 doesn't seem like that much more money, you know? So if they're already paying 12 grand for the site, and then I come in and say 3,500 and they bogged me down to 3000 and I've just made $3,000 for the five or six pages instead of saying, oh, it took me 12 hours. So that'll be $1,400 please.

Marie:
Yeah.

Aaron:
So that kind of extra profit built in did a couple of things. It let me be more creative around how to, you know, let me do a better job for them. And let me spend more time with sort of my feet up on the desk, looking out the window, going what's the perfect headline here. And it also is instantly kind of elevated my rates. So yeah, I started out at saying a hundred dollars a page, but then that quickly became 250 a page. And then that became three, 300 a page. And now on the right job and get 750 a page just because that's what I charge. Right?

Marie:
Yeah.

Aaron:
So the, you know, the business model... I've, as I sometimes do, forgotten the original question, but-

Marie:
No, no, you're spot on and we're talking about just business model.

Aaron:
Okay. So the business model became about these higher paying website jobs. Okay. So who can afford that? And again, luckily enough I was able to luck into some communities of web designers who themselves refused to design for bargain based prices. And in one community in particular was organized solely around the idea that web designers would be taken from whatever they were charging down to a minimum of $10,000 per website. So that those kind of pricing structures bore out higher fees for me. And it's really, it's made all the difference.
Cause I will tell anybody that wants to listen, are you listening, audience? You cannot get rich at 10 cents a word. You just can't, it's impossible, you know. You can't, and you can't even really get rich at anything per word.

Marie:
Yeah.

Aaron:
And you have to kind of like unplug from that and say, what's this worth for the client and find a way to make it worth, you know, make it make sense to get like a 10th of that for what you're writing, you know. couch it in the language of this is a $35,000 thing for you, and so therefore, you know, $2,500 for this copy is a steal.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean a few things, like one of the other things I've observed with hourly based pricing is this danger of kind of getting into this mode of like, well, if I'm not actively sitting there punching keys on my keyboard right now, I am burning daylight and I am wasting an opportunity to make money. And that could really lead to burnout. Same thing happens with cents per word. Plus you can just start stuffing things and the quality of your writing could go down. You know, people always joke about like Charles Dickens novels are so long cause he was like paid by the word. I don't know if that's an urban legend or if that's true, but like, you know, if you're working on really tight copy, that's not gonna serve you, it's not gonna serve your client.

Aaron:
Yeah it's true.

Marie:
You wind up in these pitfalls in these sort of go to payment methods or pricing methods I should say. So I'm totally on the same page with you with pricing structure. Absolutely.

Aaron:
Yeah. I mean, just to use your metaphor there there's no, it's not that, you know, Hemingway is worth somehow less because he's more economical, Charles Dicken shouldn't be getting paid more because he's got all these purple adverbs in there and Hemingway doesn't use adverbs, you know. It's still it's about, you know, as a novel reader, it's about a story that moves you. It doesn't really matter whether that novel is 140 pages or whether it's a thousand and 50 pages, you know. It could be, it could be Anna Karenina or it could be Corcaigh Park. Like there's nothing that says that the writer is more valuable because their book is bigger. So therefore, you know, why should you think, okay, well, I know I'm only charging 75 an hour, but next year I'm gonna raise my rates to 85 an hour. Well, come on. Like, you know, it's like exactly what you said, it's recipe for burnout. You're thinking, oh man, I've got a migraine and it's Friday afternoon, but I really can't afford to just put my feet up. I gotta keep working. Cuz if I'm not working I'm not earning. That's crazy talk.

Marie:
Yeah, for sure. So yeah, I mean, I hope anyone listening is really taking notes on this cuz there's so many amazing tips coming out of you and considerations. I mean the first time we met, we were talking about, you know, our battle scars that we've experienced. But yeah. So I guess I wanna flip it on the other side. So now that you, this is your full time work, congrats again on that and it has been for years.

Aaron:
Thank you.

Marie:
What are some of the things that you really enjoy most about it?

Aaron:
Well I do like the flexibility. I mean, you know, today my daughter was sick and so my wife got called into work at the last minute, but we were still able to, for example, take my daughter to the doctor because I was around and I could just leave, you know. That certainly didn't happen when I worked 50 miles away or for someone where I had to ask if it was okay. I like the freedom to be able to say no, you're like a whole bag of red flags. I don't wanna work with you. Thank you.

Marie:
No, thanks. Bye.

Aaron:
No, thanks, bye. But there are difficult conversations. There's always somebody, you're gonna think that I'm deeply religious cuz I spoke, we spoke about the Bible and I'm using a Bible metaphor. I was raised religiously. That's about as far as it goes. But there's always somebody with an apple, you know, tempting you with the apple saying, take a bite to this apple. Like just literally yesterday, someone was trying to make the case for me, where I should move off of what I was charging them. And instead, except half of that rate in exchange for guaranteed hours. I mean never mind that, oh, we wanna pay you half, but we're, we'll make it up with more work. It's a non-starter for me. I dunno how that worked.

Marie:
How does that, how does that benefit you at all?

Aaron:
I dunno. I mean, but that's it right? I think what the benefit was supposed to be was the removal of uncertainty. Because you know it and I know it and I'm sure your listeners know it too. There's always that there's that voice in the back of your head. That's like, oh this is great now, but I sure hope it lasts next week, you know?

Marie:
Yeah. The dread machine.

Aaron:
The dread machines, it works really loud. It's a loud machine. And if you don't have your earplugs in, it can get almost deafening. And I think this person was trying to appeal to that dread mechanism saying, oh, sure. Yeah. You know, your equivalent hourly here is 125. I wanna pay you 65, but I wanna give you 15 hours guaranteed a week. And my answer was, why do I wanna lock up 60 hours of my month for 65 bucks when I can make that $3,600 on next week's project? Sure. I don't know what that project is yet. But you know, I'm sure that it'll be just around the corner.
And there have been times where it hasn't been, you know, in 17 I did six weeks without work. It was the worst man. It's the worst. I was like, is this ever gonna end? I just, all of a sudden the referral machine that had been working for six years just went, oh, we're just gonna take a break and I did six weeks without money. And so you get that classic Feast or famine thing that all of the get rich quick guys are trying to sell you, you know? Oh, stop it. We'll turn, you know, you'll get to leave it on autopilot, we'll turn you into cashing machine. Well, sure you will. But you know-

Marie:
No skepticism at all.

Aaron:
Yeah. None whatsoever. So that temptation is always there, but I always say, you know, somebody last week somebody asked me if I would ever take a job again. I told them I couldn't cuz they need a certain amount of income. But it, you know, even if a job wanted to pay me that amount of income that I'm used to, I could never go back, man. Like I'll have to almost lose the house before I go back to another job. Because I appreciate, I like being on the front of the Titanic, screaming "I'm the king of the world!" Not knowing that in just an hour and 20 minutes, the boat's gonna sink and I'm gonna drown because she won't let me onto a board that is clearly big enough for the two of us.

Marie:
Yeah, I have. Okay. I just saw that movie for the first time. I somehow managed to avoid it. Cause it was so popular back when it came out that I was like, well I'm gonna be edgy and like not watch it. So I finally did watch it and it was like, Kate look.

Aaron:
Seriously. There's a meme floating around out there. There's if you look hard enough, you can find a meme that shows like nine different positions that they both could have fit on that piece of wood.

Marie:
We have so many things for the show notes now.

Aaron:
Yeah.

Marie:
Everyone's gunna be thinking like what? This is a grab bag. What is this episode?

Aaron:
We should have done a spoiler alert on Titanic. Spoiler alert the boat sinks.

Marie:
Spoil alert on history.

Aaron:
Yeah. That's right. Spoiler alert. We won world War Two.

Marie:
Yeah. Whoa phew!

Aaron:
Yeah. Oh man. My lizard, she's giving me the weirdest look right now. She does not like these headphones that I wear or. Yeah. Maybe she's like, wait, are you telling me that Jack dies?!

Marie:
Yeah. She's she's spoilered.

Aaron:
She's like, you jerk. I haven't even seen Titanic yet.

Marie:
I know. Well, that's maybe her weekend watching now. So I have on final question for you on this topic. So instead of asking you to relive all of the horrific battle scars that we were talking about, I guess I'd ask, like if you had a lesson or two that you've learned from this experience of running a copywriting business that you could impart upon other copywriters who, maybe they're newer in this or, you know, they're just like me. I mean, I'm always eager to hear what other people have learned and how to navigate all of this cuz it's constantly changing. What are some of the top things that come up for you, Aaron?

Aaron:
Hmm, well, there's a Peter Gabriel song that's "Don't give up." That one's good. Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. I think talent is not overrated. That sounds like a funny thing to say, but there are so many people on Facebook that are selling like, oh yeah, for $27 you can buy this thing and it'll teach you to be a copywriter. No, it will not. You know, like it will not I promise. One of the best things that you can do is hone your craft. You know? I mean, that sounds so pretentious. I once watched the behind the scenes of like Breaking Bad and the one actress was like, you know, I believe she used the phrase "in this business of show," which is like-

Marie:
Oh no!

Aaron:
Yeah. Don't don't say that ever. So, you know, take it with a grain of salt anytime anybody starts talking about honing their craft, but the point is be the best writer that you can be. Read a lot, get better at writing, get better at terms of phrase, try to buff the clunky stuff out of your stuff. But the point is all this, while you're doing that work, go and get paid for doing that work. That's as much a part of your job as fingers on keyboard, you know. Doctors have to constantly keep their skills up to date and they get paid a lot. It's not like you shouldn't be paid for what you know and what you continue to learn. You know, by the same token, it's not like you get to say I'm a writer and then stop learning and stop learning how to write, stop learning how to make yourself better.
I'm a big believer in, it doesn't sound like it, but I'm a big believer in humility. I think that words are words on a page and if they're not doing the job that they need to do for your client, then yeah, your client has every right to say, this is not working. They don't have a right to say, I would do it this way. But if you can focus on sort of the brief and whether it accomplishes the goal of what it's supposed to do, and if they're not doing that, then go ahead and rewrite them. Gosh, I should have prepared a list cuz now I'm just sort of, you know, rambling here.

Marie:
You're a font of wisdom here.

Aaron:
Font of wisdom... here's the tip. Don't drink an espresso before you get onto a podcast. How about that?

Marie:
No, that's... I disagree.

Aaron:
Dirty little secret that maybe your readers don't know or your listeners rather don't know is that you and I are about to record another episode. So if for fun, listen to that episode and wait till about 17 minutes into that episode, when the caffeine wears off and you hear me crash.

Marie:
There's gonna be a dramatic slowdown on the speed of the words.

Aaron:
Seriously, like complete split personality. He was so fun and engaging in the first one. And now he's just cranky and bitter.

Marie:
I'm also here for cranky and bitter that's okay.

Aaron:
All right, rock and roll.

Marie:
I'm here for it. All we're humans.

Aaron:
You know, this is gonna, I'll make this one quick. This is gonna be the weirdest thing that I will confess, but, don't discount your creativity. For a long time [Dog barks] your dog agrees. For a long time I thought that what I did was not creative that somehow, because I wasn't writing a fiction book, like you've written, because I did the music on the side, you know, the music was the creative stuff and this was just the way to pay the bills. And I realized that no, like what we do is creativity on demand. Somebody comes to us and says, I wanna pay you money to do this thing. Please do it. And we go, okay. And we take the money and then we do it and it gets done and it just gets pulled from nothing. That's extremely creative. And I think if you're out there listening to me now, and you doubt that you're a creative genius, stop doubting and raise your rates.

Marie:
That is beautiful advice. Thank you so much for that. And maybe something I needed to hear as well. You know, creativity on demand is an extra level of challenging and I think we should all be pretty proud of ourselves for rising to the challenge. So amazing.
Well, thank you. Yeah. So, you know, I will see you in like two more minutes, but listeners you'll have to hang on for one more week and we are gonna dive into the specifics around the type of writing that Aaron does on conversion copy. So if that's of interest to you, please tune back in next week and we will diving in. So thank you so much for being here, Aaron. I really appreciate it and all the wisdom that you've shared.

Aaron:
Thank you. And, I'll see you again next time.

Marie:
Real quick. Before I forget, Aaron has a really cool resource that I wanna let you know about, and it's all about the power of using the PS. It's called "PS, This is magic." And, he talks about how the PS after the initial headline is actually the most consumed and read piece of content. So if you're not utilizing that within your copy that you're doing for yourself, for your clients, you're really missing out on an opportunity. So I've linked in the show notes that resource, and I would really love for you to check it out and start utilizing that PS to its maximum value.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Copywriter Collaborative Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com/podcast, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on your favorite podcast app and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy copywriting.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 

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