Classroom to Copy #16: Sean MacIntyre on Why Copywriting Is More Than Just Paying Off Your Student Loans & House with a Single Check (Part 2/2)
12:10PM Aug 29, 2023
Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of classroom to copy. This is part two of the interview I did with Sean McIntyre. Last week, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the conversation. It's a good one. So I know we, I could talk to you all day about finding coffee. But I do want to remember the our audience. And there were like two very interesting things that you shared with the discord that stayed with me to this day, you said that if you're starting out in coffee, I don't recommend that you niche down, although I completely ignored that advice. Immediately. Yeah, because, for me, I felt like I did. My my version of not niching down was like going off and trying to be an artist or a teacher in for many years, and then figuring out like, I won't do something else entirely. And then I don't want to waste any time exploring different niches. But you have a very interesting take on that. And then, which is also kind of related to how you never thought you would end up in finance. And you have like a pretty interesting backstory for that. So can you share more about, you know, niching down and how you ended up with financial? How you ended up, you know, financial, and you never thought you end up there?
Of course, of course, it's funny, I actually just told a story on a stream yesterday, for copy that, but, and yesterday, by the way, for people listening to this 10,000 years in the future is August 16 2023. I'll start with answering the question about niching down because I want to, you know, front load the actual advice, and I'll leave the, you know, the fun stories and stuff like that later. But in terms of niching down, I, I'm doubly minded about it, because here's the thing, what do people want? Do people want to be a financial copywriter? Or do people want to be a copywriter? Like, what what are people getting at? And really, once you start diagnosing that about yourself, what you realise is that most people that, you know, they're picking a niche, not based on their personal interests, not based on their passions, not based on their past knowledge, not based on their experience, they're picking it because they think that they're gonna get the most money from it. And so those people have a tendency, frequent tendency to struggle, really struggle, because, you know, just think about what you'd have to do to learn financial copy or health copy or something like that. Not only do you have to learn, like the register of copy, but also you need to learn like, like the ins and outs of the business, financial economy is a weird frickin world. Like, you know, this, like it's, it's different from any other niche is different from any other type of copy. And like the requirements, the legal requirements, the compliance requirements, the editing requirements, the structural, it's so crazily different from everything else. So not only do you like have to learn that and like there's a sort of limited or maybe even parsimonious amount of things that you can transfer over into that skill. But then also like, you also have to learn financial stuff. Like you have to learn so much like just to get even like barely a toehold into financial copy. But here's the thing, you a friend of mine, Cody have done it, but it's because they knew what they wanted. And they just be lined up for that. They were like, Okay, I need to learn this, this, this, this and this, and then they just picked it up along the way. And they they didn't care about like trying to make money as a copywriter, copywriter along the way because that wasn't their goal, their goal was to achieve this. And I think that if people want to achieve and get into a particular niche and a particular business, vehicle deals, that's totally fine. approach it with a model maniacal singularity of purpose, just go after it. But most people are not like that. That's like, one out of 20 people are like that. And most of those people fail. Like most of those people don't make it like that. They you know, they shoot for the stars or they shoot for the moon, they end up among the stars. So what is the girl to do? The other 95% of people, like don't worry about niching down because most of your jobs early Nate like generalist copywriting career, like you don't, you can't you don't get to pick, you don't get a choice. You're gonna be cold pitching people, you're going to be reaching out to people on Upwork you're gonna be trying to get jobs and like, you're gonna be like, One day you'll be writing PPC ads and I say you're gonna be writing cold emails and let's say you're gonna be writing SEO blogs and I say you're gonna be writing a sales page. And what typically happens for those people is that they will get really good reviews about a particular thing. And you know, say it's writing product descriptions for Kindle I use the candle product description thing often because it's something I have some experience with. If you do that, other candle makers are gonna be like, Oh, he did a good job where that same candle makers be like, Oh, you did a good job, come back and do more for me. And then all of a sudden, your portfolio is just full of product descriptions for Kindles. And like, man, you started out wanting to write health copy for like joint supplements. But here you are, you're the candle guy now. And that's the typical trajectory of like most software decides it. And guess what, you can make a tonne of money as the candle guy like you can, you can branch out and write other like the genres of coffee, or candle makers. And now all of a sudden, because you've written like, I 80,000 product descriptions for various smelling candles, you have now a sustainable, wonderful career, thinking only about candles, every single that. And that's that's what happens. That's actually what happens to people, it's only occurs, if you don't hyper focus, if you are a generalist, if you take any job, guess what the niche is going to choose you you're going to become the candle guy. And like, obviously, you know, there are many off ramps to go do something else along the way if you don't want to be the candle guy. But for the most part, people just kind of stumble and Bumble into the niches based upon just pursuing the money. And if you're not passionate about something, if there's not a particular niche or topic that you're just like, Oh my God, I want to live, breathe, eat shit, consume financial copy every single day of my life for the next 18 years. If you're not that person, man just become just let yourself become to pander guy, you know, just you know, learn how to write a good email, learn how to write a good squeeze page, learn how to write a good welcome sequence where you'll learn how to write a good landing page or product description. Throw those things into your portfolio and then start like applying for work and you know, just let whatever happens happen. And that's going to be a better, less stressful, faster to monetize path for the vast majority of copywriters and I would say it's 95% You know, 19 out of 20 people. Yeah, so that's my opinion of vision.
And I mean, not to mention, you'll be getting your reps in because like all the stuff that Shawn just mentioned about learning to write a good email or squeeze page now that's easy either. So like if you can cut down on on the stress of starting out and still make money like you're doing great. I remember I just remember I was I was struggling because I liked as linear progression that you described, and I just couldn't get that from from like, jumping around. But yeah, and then you you also shared this, this thing about
well, we'll talk more about that. So your What was your experience? Like, you know, as you were learning copy, like, Were you trying to go the broad route or were you trying to, you know, hyper specialise at first.
Um, well, my my online tutoring plans fell through so I was like, Okay, I hear that copywriting pays. Well, I love writing, but what the hell is copywriting? So
copywriting, I don't even know.
Yeah, and then I think I joined the discord that's started seeing what like copy that people posting and also tips for getting on Upwork. So I tried that. But then I think someone sent me my first financial promo, I watched it, and it appealed to me as a, like a visual artist. I was just like, and as someone who taught literature, I was like, look at the storytelling. And yeah, the way that telling stories about finance, I mean, finance is a very dramatic world despite what a lot of people think. And I was just hooked. And I was like, Oh, you can make a lot of money writing this. Like, I want to learn how to do that. I just wanted to do that. Like I was the three practices that you should like to do every day I was doing that I was falling with like my iPad on my face from like, marking up promos I was eating and shitting my journey
I apologise I should have asked you if I could swear on this.
Oh, it's fine. I swear. I'll tell you my website. Um, but yeah, and then then I hit a point where I don't want to keep bugging Shawn to look at my financial copy. Where should I go? And I want to like compensate people for for you know, taking the time to read my copy and give feedback because I can't test it on the market yet. Right? I'm not there yet. The only way I know if my coffee can work is by getting someone experienced to look at it. So I looked around. I think I even considered I'm doing a mentorship with you guys before. I don't know if you still do that with the copy that thing. Yeah, I think I remember when you guys stopped.
It's funny. At Stanford you work at all with a person named Janet. Yeah. She's She was one of our our mentees. She's
fantastic. Yeah, she's great. And
yeah, if you get a chance to I need to reach out to her just to see how she's doing. But if you get a chance to please tell her I said, hi. But she's, she's so cool. Like, lots of respect towards her. She's really wicked smart. So
yeah, she she just did really well. Working with Michael for on an AI Pro. So, yeah, it was we were just watching the numbers climb every day. Really cool. But yeah, so there was, I don't know if that answers your question. I think after just six years of teaching, and knowing that it's not what I wanted to do, even though like there are parts of it, I enjoyed, like what you said, then the moment I saw financial or financial promos, like, yeah, that's it. And I just want to focus on that I'm done talking around and not knowing what to do with my life. So I just went all in.
That's see that I think is also a good, how shall I say, alternative view of the binary choice that I just presented to people, because if you're starting, like, if you're starting off as a generalist, you're going to stumble across something that might just light up the dopaminergic centres of your brain and be like, Oh, my God, that is something I want to dedicate my life to. And but here's the thing, if people are just hyper focused on like, Oh, I just want to be in the most financially profitable niche. People are gonna miss out on the serendipity that can happen and like draw them towards something that like, is lucrative and is interesting to them. And so I think what happened to you is a very common story, and a very good story and a good example of like, what can happen if you just start broad, and then sort of like sift through the weeds a little bit, and then discover the thing that is really, really stimulating and interesting to you. And I think that that's a good path that people should take. But I mean, I was at George RR Martin talks about how like, some people are gardeners, and some people are architects, and I definitely am, like, you know, be a gardener. dig around the dirt kind of figure stuff out, like other people, like have to have a plan and figure things out that way. And I'm just not that person.
So I know we're coming up to the hour, I do have, like, so many questions, but
I can give you another 28 minutes I have, I have to bolt out one so that I can actually write but if you want to ask me a few more questions, I'd be delighted to answer them.
This is, this is why like, I followed everything. He said, I don't know the new like, I was like taking screenshots of everything that you post on this car, like, study, there's like a Bible. Because you know, he's just been so he is so generous with with, you know, his advice. Where to begin? Oh, yeah. Sorry about like, how you you didn't think
we both have ADHD, right? Like this is?
We do indeed, I have very bad ADHD, I have a horrible tendency to jump around to a lot of different things. And for me, it makes sense in the sort of nebulous cacophony of information that I tend to spit out, but hopefully, it's helpful to the people that are listening right now. I really do sincerely hope that but you had an earlier question, which was like, How did I end up in financial copy and why did I choose that? And the reason why I was reluctant to get into financial copy was because both my father and my grandfather were stockbrokers stock and option brokers. And I grew up in basically running around the halls of a stock brokers office Paulson, invest in, you know, the Paulson investment offices in Calabasas, California. And so I, you know, I learned how to use a Bloomberg coming out at the age of nine, I bought my first stock at the age of 11. Like, as Apple, and my dad didn't hold on to it, otherwise, I'd be wealthier than I am. And so like, I was very conversant and knowledgeable about finances, going into college, and I've always viewed that world because, you know, stockbrokers they're on the sales side of that word, not not the analysis side, not the, you know, helping people Like manage your money side, it's pure sales. And some of the tactics that I saw just, they were really smarmy. And so like, from that experience, and then other experiences I had later in life I had, I had a strong distaste of the financial industry, it was very exploitative. And I didn't want to be a part of that. As I got into coffee, and you know, after I got into Palm Beach research group, what I realised was that actually like selling information to help people empower themselves, about this kind of topic about this kind of stuff that can actually help people and like, listen, I do a lot of research. I have never seen a person talk about how an article from The Wall Street Journal helps them get rich. I've never seen a person on an internet forum talk about how that, you know, idea forum helped them get rich. But I have seen people write in and tell their story about how I newsletter recommendation, help them get rich. You know, like, yes, it's sales but also it's changing people's lives. Ideally for the better if the advice is actually good. And you know, you work for stands for and Associates like that. They have some of the best lifetime values from customers in our industry, because they've done such a good job of greeting customers well, over many years. And, you know, that has an impact on people's lives. And it certainly has an impact on business. And you know, if you compare copy from people that are just like, you know, your tick tock trading gurus and stuff like that with like a Stanford associates copy, like the copy is like night and day. And people can choose like, you know, based on their own ethics and their own morals, like do I want to write copy that's like a little more ethical, still, so pushes the sales, but it's, you know, more about presenting an evocative and emotionally compelling idea than it is about like, promising that people are going to like, you know, become tick tock billionaires or something like that, you know, based on like trading simple indicators, you know, some stupid thing like that. And so, when I was managing marks business, and attaching it to poor financial, like, I had to learn how it was absolutely necessary to win a copy. And it kind of like you were the more for getting into it, the more I started, like trying to do it, the more it just like tickled every single dopamine Centre in my brain. And then suddenly, I was just like, I literally, it's like a combination of storytelling and analysis. And it's, and like creating things that are evocative and compelling. It was just delightful. And man, like, I love writing, long form financial direct response sales copy, it is just wonderful. It is not for everybody. Yeah, it's certainly not for everybody. But for me, and like, getting over that initial hump of reluctance. And finally, like being like, alright, this is the thing that I just have to do. And once I started actually doing it, I was like, Oh, my God, I love this.
Right? I, everyone back at home in Singapore, when I tell them what I do. Now, there's you went to art school?
No, no, no, no, no, you're making a mistake. Don't don't talk to normies about what you say, Hey, I, you know, I write for a magazine just say something like that.
Yeah, I remember from a talk that Justin Grossman gave that he he asked for his name, like his business card to be like researcher and not copywriter because nobody knows what financial copywriter is. And technically, like, 90% of what we do is research. Yeah, yeah.
It's, I gave up trying to explain to my parents, my family members, what I do, I think the only family member that actually understands what I do is my wife, but it's because she was in sales too. And she actually gets that world. And she's my sales copy and things like that. My, the one, I want to tell you a story. I was having dinner with Kyle Milligan and another copywriter named Manny Madrona are both really good dudes. And I just remember it was at the steak house in Delray Beach and Kyle leans forward on the table, and he looks at me and goes, Hey, Shawn, do you ever have trouble talking to normies about this stuff? And it was just so funny because like he had been struggling like trying to talk to people about like, like, it's like close and no stress, like the mafia. It's like, this is our thing, like, and what you realise is that the deeper you get into this world, the degree get into copper and the more lonely it comes because you really can't talk to anybody about this kind of stuff. You're either in it and you're aware of it and you understand what is being said or you're just kind of outside and it's difficult to get I shouldn't be something that I've had to learn how to, like, I have had to relearn how to talk to normal people about things that they care about, rather than the things that I care about.
This reminds me of during the Stansberry boot camp, it was your lunch break. And notice that nobody was sitting next to Mike Palmer are the crazy is that MTC for me, and I grabbed it, I sat next to him, I got to like, pick his brain during the lunch break. And then after that, I called my parents like, Oh, my God, I sat next to my power for lunch. And they had no idea. Talking about, like, he's a big deal. Like, I don't know how to explain to you how he's a big deal, but he's a big deal. Trust me. Oh, okay. Yeah, so definitely, it's the only other people you can talk to you on the coffee. But yeah, they're fun bunch. Fun. I was also going to ask, like, how, how is life different for you now that you're a copywriter as compared to you know, all those years ago when you were teaching.
Um, I will say this becoming a copywriter also aligned with a period of my life, a very difficult period in my life where I had to sort of like, realign and readjust like, how I saw myself what my values were, like, who I wanted to be as a man, things of that nature. And so like, a lot of different things were happening my life at the same time, you know, getting divorce, like figuring out like, what I wanted to do with my life, like, spinning up a bunch of businesses, but then like, also, like realising that, like, you can't just spin up business, you actually have to, like, focus on them. So I couldn't help them grow, like crap. And so, for me, it was the transition from like, teaching, like, you know, my job is to show up and teach people and also pay me like, you know, once every other week, and things like that, like, switching from that mindset to being like, Oh, my God, like, My pay is directly connected to how much work I do and the quality of the work that I do. Whereas most people never experience that most people do not live do not see do not experience a meritocracy. I think that's why a lot of people in America and around the world that America especially are so very cynical about, like, money and opportunity and things like that they, they don't live in a world where there is an opportunity to get more money based on doing more work or doing work better. You know, at the end of the day, they say, you know, you and the lazy person aren't getting the same paycheck. But my experience, like working up through the ranks at agora and then becoming a copywriter. And then like writing good copy and getting paid, you know, there was one world he had checked, I got for a criminal that I wrote that was over $100,000 and bought me the house that I'm in currently. And, like, I don't know, really many other people that have gotten $100,000 Check for work that they did a year before. Like, not a whole lot of people can talk about that. I'm not saying that to brag, I'm saying that, like, what I discovered, getting into copywriting was an entirely different mindset, divorced from that, like, just show up and collect a check, it totally changed my attitudes about work about the merits of work about the intrinsic value of work. And also like, you know, now that I have this mindset, like, I wish I could go back in time, and like, you know, tell myself like, think about things differently, like you can actually achieve a lot in this life and actually get paid commensurate with the effort and the work that you do. So long as you approach things a little bit differently. You know, don't just go into a job that's, you know, easy and offering you money, like actually find something that is going to reward you for the person you are with the work that you do. And if that job doesn't cut it, find something else, be a little selfish, and like actually do the hard work to be selfless in a situation that is going to result in you either getting promoted getting more money, things like that, that can be as a freelancer that can be as an employee, it doesn't matter so long as you have the mindset of like, your value is entirely connected and correlated with the value that can you can bring and deliver to the people that you're working for. A lot of people don't experience that they don't see that but I've seen it there's a whole other world out there that other people I want them to see it
good that's exactly why I asked you on the show cuz that the first time I think someone else was talking about like royalties and something that you wrote in 2020 And they were like doing the math, I don't remember numbers, I'm really bad at numbers, despite being a financial copywriter. I was like, what? Like, that's a thing. Like, because I don't know about. I mean, I speak from my experience. But I also know that there are a lot of unhappy teachers in America. And they're highly qualified way more like they have way more paper qualifications than than I do. But they're not like compensated fairly for everything that they're doing as a teacher. And then join us this court. And then here you are a former teacher who bought, you know, his house with a single worth he checks.
Yeah, I was able to pay off my all my student loans with a single check, I was able to buy a house with a single check. Like I was able to buy a car with a single check. Like, let's listen, I am extremely grateful. And you know, a lot of it, like I said, lightning in a bottle, I wrote a promo that became a hit, right time, right place. But it wasn't the first note, multimillion dollar promo that I've written, I've written, you know, a couple before, but it was the first one that really took off. And like, you know, part of that was, I had a Volvo Albuquerque as my mentor and senior on that promotion, he, you know, he didn't really do a whole lot to my copy, you know, change some stuff around and simplified it. And I can point to places in the category of like, you know, that was a Volvo. That was me, that was a Volvo. But what I got was, you know, just an exceptional experience of like, actually having success and seeing what success can bring into a person's life. Because of all the left of our financial I was the best selling back end financial copywriter in 2020, at agora financial, and just realising that, like, you know, guess your worth as a person, but also you can find additional worth and additional value in yourself, based upon the work that you do for other people. If you teach, if you spend 80 hours grading 460 papers in your little server book, that in the job that you're moonlighting at, like, you're gonna get paid the exact same as the teacher who doesn't give a shit. And in teaching, unfortunately, in America, you know, your effort, your intelligence, your acumen, or effort that you put in, it's not rewarded. At least, I mean, not directly and not immediately talk reading is cool, because they're that immediate connection between right of things and the thing get paid. Like, you know, direct response is great for that reason, because, you know, especially for people with ADHD, you know, what is the quote, the problem is immediate gratification is it takes too long. Yeah, there's an immediate gratification aspect to response where it's like, with teaching, like, if you're good, you have to be consistently good for many years in order to reap any sort of reward whatsoever. And usually, it's a trophy or a plaque. That's it, and $100 gift card to Applebee's. That's what you get as a teacher. And, you know, it sucks. There are some very highly paid teaching positions, but like, it's a it's a complicated game. And that's a completely different conversation altogether. Like yet, if there's the publish or perish aspect of it, you have to be pretty renowned scholar and things like that, in order to get those sort of like, you know, really advanced, really high paying tenure track positions, good universities, and those are largely disappearing, because college admissions have been declining for the last 10 years. So, you know, my opinion is that teachers, unless they are super passionate about it, you know, if you're super passionate about something, like I said before, approach it with monomaniacal singularity of purpose. But if you're a teacher, and you're unhappy, there are other things that you can do that will reward you and treat you like a real human being. And actually, like, you know, either there's a locus of respect that you can like, find, and like, be like, Oh, my God, I'm actually worth I'm worth more than $80,000 a year, holy crap. Like, it's a cool feeling, but you only discover it after you leave the profession. And that's, I think, really unfortunate, and that's going to be bad for America. You know, it's good for a society that teachers are horrifically mistreated and underpaid. But unfortunately, you know, we don't get to live in the world. We want to live in the world that we're in.
I think that's a great way to because you answered my final question, you know, what you what would you say to all the teachers out there who are stuck who are on the fence, you know, don't know if they should go all in to copywriting or anything else that's out there that appeals to a very quick story. Well, You said about being treated like an actual human being, I actually said that on the last day at work, I was like, someone asked me, So are you gonna do analysis? I don't know, I just want to hang out and be a human being. And he thought I was being sarcastic. But I meant it, you know, like, it was, it seems, it seems a little ask for but at a time, it seemed like a lot to just like, who, what am I and who am I without all of this, and not being seen in relation to just, you know, my students whom I loved, and grades and, you know, less than prep. And just having that space to figure out who you are as a human being. And like Sean said, that there's so many other ways that your contributions to society can be measured and valued more fairly, and humanely. Yeah, thank you so much for, you know, sharing. This time with us. It's like one hour. It's way more than the time that I scheduled with you. You're really generous and wonderful person and appreciate you. I also have to run off after this. He's like he's shaking his head right now. But he really is go check out all of his content on copy that and on dry wealth. It's always like a fun read or watch. When you know, Shawn is involved. Do you have any, like, last words you'd like to share with the audience?
Yeah, I, the lesson I would say is that transitioning from teaching to copywriting, really just engaging, covering it all. Like, you don't need to abandon what you're doing to become a copywriter like you can pick up you know, you can work your nine to five in New York or five to nine. And I would say that copywriting is a much more fulfilling five to nine than like moonlighting as a waiter. And so, you know, the cool thing about copywriting is that you really do get to set your own hours if you're starting off as a freelancer. And it is possible like, yes, it's difficult to hit those lofty, like $10,000 months, you know, $100,000 a year, things like that. You know, most people do not hit that in the first one to five, even 10 years that they're doing this, but it is possible. And if you're just looking for something to do that's fulfilling and fun, and intellectually engaging. copywriting is not the worst thing that you can do. Ditch digging, ditch digging is worse.
Thank you so much, Shawn. And we'll see you guys next week.