2 months ago · 49 minute read
We call this episode “The Man Behind the Curtain” because our guest Bill Mueller has a unique skill that is required for every business, from big corporations to independent Etsy stores, and everything in between. That skill is copywriting.
Bill hasn’t had a real job in over 15 years. He works from home, takes long walks with his dog, and makes money consistently by selling info products and consulting as a copywriter. But this didn’t happen for him overnight. Bill is a trained journalist who stumbled into the world of internet marketing and info products only after helping his buddy write a book.
As Bill tells us, every decision made in our world to buy is based primarily on words. Those words that make up an ad, a product description, a social media post or an online review. Words influence people, and words sell products. That’s really as true in 2018 as it was 50 years ago.
Bill’s words have sold millions of dollars of products over two decades. And that end goal always starts with a flashing cursor on a blank screen.
Bill’s a modest guy, but you’ll find that he’s incredibly intelligent, and passes along a wealth of knowledge about copywriting and marketing. This isn’t our typical “hanging over beers” atmosphere…partly because we forgot the beer… but you’ll want to save this one for reference in the future!
Highlights from Episode 5 with Bill . . .
On finding early success with a book and product on ADHD that he wrote with a buddy he played basketball with . . . “It took about eight weeks to get his story down and all his advice, and then we combined it with PDFs and audio interviews, and eventually did videos. From a small computer in a studio apartment in La Jolla Shores, we ended up selling information products to people in 43 different countries and turned it to a full time business and never looked back.”
Telling us to not perceive the “experts” in online marketing as having some magical talent . . . “I think a big stumbling block to a lot of people that subscribe to these internet marketers’ lists, they think there must be something more complicated about it, and there’s not. Find the market first, find the demand, have a good product, learn how to copywrite a good sales page, drive the traffic to it. There’s not a complicated game, but people want to think that there’s something magical about Frank Kern or John Reese, and it’s really not the case.”
On the power and pervasiveness of “words” in every buying decision we make . . . “Isn’t it amazing? When you buy something on the internet, what are you basing your entire decision on almost aways? It’s just the words on the screen. Now, video’s great, but the great sales videos are written with a script. They have just as much structure as a written sales letter. Nobody’s winging it and then just hoping it sells. There’s a craft of those as well. But think about it. Whenever you’re cruising around looking for information, and the credibility has to be there, the trust has to be there, you’re going by the words. Whether it’s, you could be reading an Amazon review. You’re just reading words. Words on a screen. Those pixels are going to base your entire decision.”
Listen to Bill’s Story Now
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Richard Armstrong’s http://www.FreeSampleBook.com
- Richard Armstrong Keynote Speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVEHi2Scbo&t=1409s
- Brian Clark https://www.copyblogger.com/
- Frank Kern https://frankkern.com/
- Eugene Schwartz http://swiped.co/person/
- Claude Hopkins http://scientificadvertising.
- Gary Halbert http://www.
thegaryhalbertletter.com/ newsletters/zgkl_best_ copywriter.htm
- John Carlton https://simplewritingsystem.
- Michael Masterson https://www.awai.com/p/is/cop/
- Anne Lamott, Bird by Bid: Some Instructions on Writing and Life https://www.amazon.com/Bird-
Some-Instructions-Writing- Life/dp/0385480016/ref=sr_1_1? ie=UTF8&qid=1523236885&sr=8-1& keywords=bird+by+bird
- Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft https://www.amazon.com/
Writing-Memoir-Craft-Stephen- King-ebook/dp/B000FC0SIM/ref= sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid= 1523236941&sr=1-1&keywords= stephen+king+on+writing
Dana Robinson: Welcome to the Opt Out Life podcast, the no BS guide for living the modern, good life. Hosted by subversive millionaires, Dana Robinson and Nate Broughton, the Opt Out Life podcast explains exactly how creative hustlers are turning side gigs into real income and taking back control of their time.
Dana Robinson: From their studio in sunny San Diego, the Opt Out Life welcomes guests who are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, travelers and creatives, who are proof that you can choose lifestyle over money, but still make money, too.
Dana Robinson: If you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, running the rat race, or stuck in a system that’s rigged against you, we’d like to offer you an alternative here, on the Opt Out Life podcast.
Dana Robinson: Bill Mueller bought a one-way ticket to San Diego, Monday, January 26th 1981, and he never looked back. He was a trained journalist who had a knack for all styles of writing. Serendipity brought him into the world of info products when he helped write a book focused on ADD and ADHD, and he realized he could sell that content as an information product, rather than just a book. That turned into a career in the world of copywriting, sales pages, sales letters and info products.
Nate Broughton: We call this episode The Man Behind the Curtain because Bill has a unique skill that is required for every business, from big corporations to independent Etsy stores, and everything in between. That skill is copywriting.
Nate Broughton: As Bill tells us, every decision to buy is based primarily on words, or little pixels on a screen, those words that make up an ad, a product description, a social media post or an online review. Words influence and words sell. That’s as true in 2018 as it was in 1988, and as it will be 20 years from now.
Nate Broughton: Bill’s words have sold millions of dollars of products over two decades, and that end goal always starts with a flashing cursor on a blank screen.
Dana Robinson: Bill’s a modest guy, but you’ll find that he’s incredibly intelligent and passes along a wealth of knowledge about copywriting and marketing.
Dana Robinson: This isn’t out typical hanging out over beers atmosphere, partly because we’ve got the beer, but you’ll want to save this one for reference in the future. We’ll add some notes on the Opt Out Life website, so you can find the books he references. Let’s listen and learn from the master.
Dana Robinson: Bill, I’ve known you for a long time, but I still find you to be a highly mysterious person. You are the adoptive father of my fur baby, my dog, Monty, my Havanese who just days ago turned 11, right?
Bill Mueller: And you realized that the day we took delivery of him was on Saint Patty’s Day, his birthday.
Dana Robinson: Three years ago?
Bill Mueller: That’s right.
Nate Broughton: Wow.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. Well, how’s my boy? How’s my dog?
Bill Mueller: Monty’s doing just fine.
Dana Robinson: I miss him.
Bill Mueller: I miss him too. Been away from him for-
Dana Robinson: For a week?
Bill Mueller: Yeah.
Dana Robinson: Well I’ve missed him for three years, although the story goes like this. After our daughter left, my wife and I had set to take a sabbatical and go to Bali, and we had one problem with that. Amidst all the life extractions, businesses to reposition, the practice that I had, we had the dog. So we approached you and Molly and said, “You guys have always been the people that loved this dog and he gets along great with your dog. Could you dog-sit for a year?” And in fact, our intention was to just give him to you, but you’re gracious and said, “Look, we’ll deal with that when you get back,” and you took Monty.
Dana Robinson: When we got back, I said, “Is he part of your family now?” I mean, I don’t want to take him just because I love him. And you said, “Yeah, I think he is.” And I remember when we met up with him, he looked at me like a stranger, and I now know why, is because Bill lives the ultimate opt out life. Monty gets at least two walks a day, he’s got a good buddy and chewy, and I think he’s in a far better home. It’s probably an equivalent of doggie heaven versus living with me.
Bill Mueller: He’s doing good and we really appreciate your guys’ attitude about when you come back, how are we going to work this out, because I know you didn’t want to rip him out of our arms when you came back, but we didn’t want to deny you the dog you had for so long. But it all worked out and I think we’re unusual in that way, in the way you handled it, and we always appreciated that.
Dana Robinson: Absolutely. It was the right thing and our attitude was, if you really wanted to scale back to one dog again, then obviously we’d love to take him, but that we still had a hectic life and a lot of projects on the table, a lot of travel still ahead, and I’m glad he’s with you.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. It’s all good.
Nate Broughton: It takes a village to opt out.
Dana Robinson: It sometimes does. It is team work.
Bill Mueller: And it’s always a dog’s life.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. So Bill, as long as we’ve known each other, which I think is probably eight years, I’ve never really known you to have a job or a job title.
Bill Mueller: I’ve had them.
Dana Robinson: Tell us, when the last time was that you had a job or a job title, or both.
Bill Mueller: Last I time I punched the clock was early 2000s. I was bartending, believe it or not, and before that I was in the journalism game, recovering journalist as they say. I wrote for newspapers and magazines freelance, and got into the restaurant business, and my whole entrée into the world of opt out lifestyle as you would put it, started with a boombox and an asphalt basketball court in Pacific Beach and a friend of mine who had an idea for a book.
Bill Mueller: And everybody’s got an idea for a book, right? So I said, “Well, why don’t you write something and I’ll take a look at it.” He knew I was a professional writer and editor. And as it turns out, he couldn’t really write it very well and would rather just explain it to me. Wasn’t really looking to take on a project of that kind of magnitude, so we came up with an interesting idea. We played basketball for years every week together, Saturday, so we’d just show up one hour early to basketball each week, and I brought a big old ’80s style boombox with cassette tapes. This is how long ago this was. And I sat down and punched the record button and said, “Tell me what you got.”
Dana Robinson: Nice.
Bill Mueller: And it turns out he had very good information on a very compelling topic that people needed help on and we turned that into a book. It took about eight weeks to get his story down and all his advice, and then we combined it with PDFs and audio interviews, and eventually did videos. From a small computer in a studio apartment in La Jolla Shores, we ended up selling information products to people in 43 different countries and turned it to a full time business and never looked back.
Dana Robinson: Can you tell us what the product was?
Bill Mueller: Sure. He was a teacher and he’s a very accomplished teacher who really has a knack for dealing with kids who have ADHD and attention problems and are just plain disruptive, and he had a way of explaining it, how others could get better control of a classroom, or how parents can better navigate the school system with these kind of kids. So we just started marketing it to teachers, not really knowing what the demand was. And it turns out the demand was pretty good.
Dana Robinson: All right. We’re going to cut in here and talk a little bit about the business that Bill Mueller is telling us about here. He’s talking about an info product, and a lot of people might not know what that is, so we’re going to talk a little bit about that and the business around info products.
Dana Robinson: Imagine you write a book like Bill did. This book, as he’ll tell us in a minute, is about attention deficit disorder and how educators and adults can help children with that. And he can make that book, sell that book and make $5, $10 a piece when you sell those books.
Dana Robinson: What an info product is is when someone with that kind of knowledge and that kind of information packages that on the internet into more than a book. So you have the content that would be in the book, but you also have more, some side tips and tools and tricks, and you might have some video and some interviews. There’s a lot more for people to get. And instead of selling that for $5 or $10 like you would a book, you sell that for $50, or $100, or maybe $500. Some people have info products that sell for $5,000.
Dana Robinson: We’ll learn about how he meets one of the gurus of info product marketing, Frank Kern, who sold products for thousands of dollars and made millions of dollars in a matter of days with his info products.
Dana Robinson: So this info product space is a really interesting niche that Bill found himself in, and it’s largely driven by how you write. So we’re going to talk also a lot about copywriting … that’s the process of writing a copy that goes on a website … and about sales letters. Nate, have you seen any interesting sales letters?
Nate Broughton: I’ve seen tons of interesting sales letters. I mean, a telltale sign of a sales letter is it starts off conversational, and you see that you could scroll for pages and pages of content. They kind of have, as Bill ends up telling us, they’re built rather than written, so they have a formula and a structure to them that I think has been refined by marketers and copywriters for years.
Nate Broughton: Once you really know what these things are, I bet you’ve seen a ton of these in the past online, or even in paper in newspapers as ads, I think any consumer in America’s seen them, but now that you’re going to know what sales letters truly are and get the info from Bill here, you’ll never look at them the same again.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. I mean, a sales letter often starts by conveying exactly the information that you thought you wanted. So you click from a link, you land on a page and you start reading and you think, “This is exactly what I’d hope to find.” Now, that’s the sign of a great sales letter, it’s led you in, it’s set the hook.
Dana Robinson: And then at some point in the sales letter, you’re going to realize it’s selling you something. But at that point, you’re still interested because it’s been written well and it’s provided you what it promised, it’s delivered something so you keep reading, even once you realize there’s a sales pitch here.
Nate Broughton: And really said another way, info products, they start with a book, but it’s just repackaging it. Bill talks about PDFs, and Dana mentioned some of the other things that you can do to create and sell and info product, but it’s creating a whole little universe around a written piece of content, a more traditional book, and monetizing it in a whole new way. And that’s really what Bill’s career has been. His traditional skill is in copywriting, which is the most effective skill that you can have to build these types of businesses.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. And a lot of our listeners might be thinking, “Why do I need to hear of personal business tales of a professional copywriter?” For those that don’t know, there are copywriters that command $50,000 to write a single sales letter.
Dana Robinson: And what we’re going to learn from Bill is not only is it’s something you can do on your own without paying $50,000 or $5,000 or even $500, but it is the most teachable skill in all variety. It’s a marketing and writing skill and listen to this interview and I think you’ll get a lot of skills from it.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, it’s really interesting to hear that. I come from a background in internet marketing and my starting point for that would be do market research using tools to figure out how many people search for that stuff, and then I would produce the product and try to sell it.
Nate Broughton: You guys were able to sell it, pretty much sounds like just on merit and quality, and kind of locking into a market especially at a good time, early internet. How did you guys figure out the marketing? Did you just kind of throw something at the wall?
Bill Mueller: Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know anything about marketing. I knew a lot about copywriting, I knew how to write a sales letter very well. I might have done a little bit of keyword research to know enough about that, but we were fortunate in that we got in at the very beginning of Google AdWords, and you could drive an ad straight to a sales page and-
Dana Robinson: Do nickel clicks-
Bill Mueller: Nickel clicks. I don’t know how much your audience knows or doesn’t know about AdWords, but it was an easy game to play back then, and I was smart enough to know that it was all about list building back then.
Dana Robinson: Not many people knew that back then.
Nate Broughton: No.
Dana Robinson: A lot of people still don’t. So there must have been some sort of psychic hub in La Jolla Shores, because isn’t that where Frank Kern launched most of his early products?
Nate Broughton: Yeah, I mean there’s-
Dana Robinson: You might have been neighbors.
Nate Broughton: Yeah.
Bill Mueller: Well, we were. It’s actually a good story. I’m on the boardwalk with Molly and I had been on Frank’s list and bought a few of his products and I see this guy on a skateboard with a little kid, and I go, “Molly, I think that’s Frank Kern.” She goes, “You ought to go up and say hi to him.” So I did.
Bill Mueller: I think he was a little taken aback, and as he later mentions in one of his most popular videos, some kind of influential video, he tells the story of how I came up on him and that was the day he realized that he shouldn’t be afraid of his customers.
Nate Broughton: Nice.
Bill Mueller: And he ended up coming to our wedding, got to surf with him a bunch of times. And he did live on our street about four blocks away. A great guy. It’s funny that you bring his name up.
Dana Robinson: So were you doing info product marketing in an environment where others like him … did you have some models? Did you have some mentors?
Bill Mueller: He was one, and I’m trying to think of others. It’s funny. Some of the books back then that I bought to learn internet marketing, I keep even though they’re … one was called Make A Living Online by some guy I never heard of. I think I was on Perry Marshall’s list early on other than Frank Kern. I was probably on John Rhys’s list.
Nate Broughton: Another guy who spent some time in La Jolla.
Bill Mueller: Yeah.
Nate Broughton: John Rhys.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. He was down there too. Matt Trainer, got to know him. There is a real community in San Diego.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. A lot of people, I think, perceive that maybe you can’t repeat history. So you have these guys that made millions doing these kinds of things, but I think you’re proof that you can find a niche and follow those models and provide a great product and make great money too.
Bill Mueller: I think a big stumbling block to a lot of people that subscribe to these internet marketers’ lists, they think there must be something more complicated about it, and there’s not. Find the market first, find the demand, have a good product, learn how to copyright a good sales page, drive the traffic to it.
Bill Mueller: There’s not a complicated game, but people want to think that there’s something magical about Frank Kern or John Rhys, and it’s really not the case.
Nate Broughton: I mean, if there’s anything magical to me about that, from where I sit, it is good copywriting. I think that good copywriting withstands changes in trends and platforms and where you grab eyeballs, but ultimately, I mean, the sales letters and ads from the ’30s and ’40s that are in books that people still have on their shelves, still perform, at least from my understanding.
Bill Mueller: I agree 100%. If I had to pick one super skill to have, it would be copywriting.
Dana Robinson: And that’s your skill.
Bill Mueller: It is. But what’s funny about that, Dana, is I came from a world of journalism, which is a different style of writing, and I had to be taught into … I don’t want to say dumbing-down, but you do have to use language that’s … you’ve heard of the Hemingway App?
Dana Robinson: No.
Nate Broughton: Just cut out every other sentence-
Bill Mueller: Yeah. Ernest Hemingway was known for writing sentences with great brevity and clarity and it’s not a slam to say this, but at a fourth to eighth grade level. And journalists are not necessarily doing that, although they’re writing punchy sentences too.
Bill Mueller: I’ve read a lot of literature, and my style was more verbose, and I had to really learn in copywriting to keep it short, don’t use the 25 cent word when a five cent word will do. A little bit humbling, but once I got that conversions increased, I just started learning that craft a little bit better and had more respect for it as a result.
Nate Broughton: When I think about copywriting and some of the guys I know that maybe aren’t as skillful … maybe they are. I don’t know actually, this is why I need to ask. How much of it plays on emotion, because good writing is one thing in my mind and creativity, but how much do you have to think about the emotional state of the reader or person you’re trying to sell to, and how much do you have to use phrasing that plays to those emotions at a certain point in time?
Bill Mueller: I think it’s a huge part. You really need to be keyed in on the psychological state and the hot button points and the points of objection they have, and have those in mind. And it’s one thing to write a bullet point, but it’s another thing to write a bullet point injected with the emotion that you’re referring to, and it just pops off the page that way, and it gives them a warm feeling.
Bill Mueller: I always try and do my copywriting when I’m in a warm, happy, generous mood. It makes the difference. You could have a software just auto write some copy and it might be fine, but if you want it to really resonate with people, it has to do also with the emotional component you’re talking about.
Nate Broughton: How much can you split test emotion, and how much do you split test in general? Sorry, I’m getting all excited asking these questions, but yeah, I’m imagining you in a happy state, nailing this perfect piece of copy, someone who’s very experienced in doing this. Do you always write two or three versions and see which ones perform, or do you feel like you know when out of the gate?
Bill Mueller: Well, I have this structure in mind overall, and everywhere I’ve seen the checklist, and you do need those. There are some writers who will burn through a first draft and then go back and clean it up. I’m more like the mason who’s got the brick in place, puts all the cement in and then do the next one.
Bill Mueller: Everyone has their different way, but it’s basically I write my sales copy in one draft, but it’s a little more pain staking and slower, but that’s just the way I do it.
Nate Broughton: Okay.
Dana Robinson: How much research do you have to do before you can put yourself in a place to build, to be the mason?
Bill Mueller: Research is the huge secret, and Eugene Schwartz, one of the masters of copywriting, that was his big secret. So if you do a deep dive into the product and pull out everything that resonates with you, every single detail and bullet point, feature, and just get into the details full into it, and then make a list, prep is probably 80% of it. The writing part, once you’ve done it for a while is really not the difficult part.
Dana Robinson: Right. So there’s two things. You’ve got to research then the product that you’re going to write about, but then you do research on your consumers, as well, the target?
Bill Mueller: I do if I don’t feel like I know that audience very well. I’ll go to forums, I’ll talk to the product creator a lot because they know better than me.
Bill Mueller: I believe anybody can become a copywriter and learn it, but if there’s any component that’s maybe a natural talent, if you have a lot of empathy, if you’re the kind of person that can put yourself in other people’s shoes and imagine what kind of struggle they’re going through, that helps a lot.
Dana Robinson: Right. So once you understand the product, then you put yourself into this empathy mode, which is why you say the warm and fuzzy is, that you feel good and positive, put you in the right frame of mind for that drafting.
Bill Mueller: That’s right.
Nate Broughton: Coming back to the emotion side of it, I guess emotion is important because people who are buying a product, particularly products that are sold this way … maybe I’m wrong about this, I don’t know … are buying based on emotion, right? It’s to solve an emotional need as much as the practical one. What are your comments on that potential observation?
Bill Mueller: That’s a great point. I think that’s a really good point. And the one fact of people reading your sales copy is, they’re driven by the hope that you might be the answer, so a lot of products are purchased on hope.
Bill Mueller: And you could take a cynical view of that and say, “Well, I guess the product doesn’t matter. They’re buying on hope, they might not even open the course,” and the sad fact is there’s some truth to that. We all know that a disappointing percentage of people who buy information product courses maybe don’t even open the box or consume the first chapter of what you’ve written. And that’s just the sad reality, but you can’t operate that way, thinking that, but that’s all you need to do.
Dana Robinson: There’s going to be some products that suck, that people are just selling a box of crap and they’re good writers, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell a great product using the skills you have as a copywriter.
Bill Mueller: That’s right. And every product that I either create or do work for for others, I make sure that the product delivers 10 times more value than what it costs. And that’s not hard to do with an information product.
Nate Broughton: Going with the cynicism line, it may be a needler aspect of cynicism related to info products and even people like Frank Kern and maybe people’s just idea of who those people are. So these guys are just hucksters, they’re gurus, they’re selling stuff.
Nate Broughton: Dana was starting to allude to that, that that is not going to really make a difference for these people and their lives. A lot of that comes down to the consumer of course and taking action with the information that’s given to them, but if you’re out at a party and you tell people what you do and you answer with “That,” or you get lumped in with those folks, what’s the rhetoric to, those guys are just shady internet gurus.
Nate Broughton: Because we don’t want to be that with the Opt Out Life either. Everyone believes that their own shit is the best and they’re going to help people, but we really don’t want to shy away from presenting ourselves that way, so I’m curious that general sphere of questioning, what’s the rhetoric and what’s the difference between someone who’s selling crap and someone who isn’t in that space.
Bill Mueller: Well, it’s a great question and a lot of it is personal responsibility. A lot of the criticism of internet marketing and those products and info product marketing in general is really unfair. If I buy a pair of basketball shoes and I don’t wear them and go to the gym, and two months later I go back into Sports Authority and ask for a refund because my basketball game didn’t get any better, what do you think they’re going to say?
Bill Mueller: It’s a similar dynamic, but there’s a fear [inaudible 00:20:17]. Your product might teach something, but how much does it address their fears or deeper issues as to why they’re not taking action? Like, when I referred to before about people thinking it just has to be more complicated than what you’re saying. But no, it’s not. It’s a matter of actually implementing falling down and trying it again and doing it a little bit better.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. And I think it comes down a bit to the branded persona that ends up getting portrayed in the sales process. I mean, you look at someone like Brian Clark and Copyblogger, they’re never going to call him out, because he puts out good stuff but also because he doesn’t drive a G-wagen in La Jolla.
Nate Broughton: I’ve been to parties with Frank Kern. I think that’s part of the reason people come down on it is because there’s a bit of flash there and it’s easier to hate on that.
Bill Mueller: Frank does have a way about him that makes it sound like he just fell out of bed and created this 8,000 word sales letter and that anybody can do it. People don’t realize how much of the greats he’s consumed and read about. He’s read Eugene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, John [inaudible 00:21:15], all those guys. So when you ingest all that, your skills are going to be so much better and part of his business is to make it sound very doable and he’s got the awe shocks, I did this, you can do it too. And there’s truth to that, but you don’t see how hard he works too.
Dana Robinson: I’m excited about the fact that we’re talking about this right now because a lot of people out there can’t afford a professional like you. And I’m not sure what your rates are when somebody hires you to write a sales letter, but I’ve personally been involved with deals where sales letter started at $5,000, and I’ve met people who start at $50,000. So these sort of gurus of copywriting are commanding massive fees.
Dana Robinson: On the one hand you’re saying Frank Kern is an enlightened expert, and can somebody learn to write their own sales letters? Are we at the whim of needing the profession to start a business, sell and info product?
Bill Mueller: Well, I’m conversant in many kinds of writing, all the way from literature, down to journalism, to poetry to whatever, and I’m not just saying this, but copywriting’s one of the most learnable, doable things for the “Amateur.”
Dana Robinson: Well, especially if someone’s selling something that they know well, right? If someone is saying, “I’ve written a product, I’ve got a video, I’ve got a course,” in theory that person ought to know that really well, so the next step for them is to learn copywriting as a separate skill, and then apply all their knowledge of the product to writing a sales letter.
Bill Mueller: Yes. There’s a real template to copywriting and you don’t want your copy to be generic and templaty, but there literally is a checklist. If you have these things, then you will get sales.
Bill Mueller: And as Eugene Schwartz said, copy is not so much written as built and it’s component upon component, and you look at the sales letters of Gary Halbert. His entire archive, they’re called the Gary Halbert Letters, they’re for free online, anybody can go and do this. He was a master of copywriting. You can see there’s commonalities to all the great sales letters that are not that mysterious.
Nate Broughton: All right. Let’s break in for a minute, because we’re nerding now pretty hard on copywriting there, and depending on your interest level in copywriting, you might be going to sleep or you might be taking copious notes. But we’re going to list out a lot of the things that Bill mentioned, and a lot of the people and resources he mentioned, the free ebooks and the videos.
Nate Broughton: Those may just be things to file away for the future. What I take from this, if you’re not a big geek on copywriting and you’re not seeing how this might be applied to your business, think back to the time when you’re sitting there with a blank Facebook post to write, or a blank Google ad to write for your business.
Nate Broughton: And if you don’t have business now, eventually you’re going to have to write something that’s going to have to compel someone to look at it and consider buying something. And what going to be the first thing that they’re going to see? What words are you going to use? What emotional state is your potential customer in? These are things that Bill is reminding us to do that I think is always going to come back to any business person’s point of view or need at some point in time.
Nate Broughton: So yeah, think about that blank screen with that flashing cursor, and then come back to these resources, come back to these little lessons and tidbits that are like, what emotional state are the people in that I’m trying to reach and what’s going to resonate with them now?
Nate Broughton: Good copywriting, Bill says, does not force or convince anybody to do anything. It just resonates with what they’re already feeling and brings them in.
Dana Robinson: There’s so many people that start a business and they put up a website, and they start putting content into that website. They don’t think anything about what Bill’s talking about. This applies whether you’ve got a simple five page website, or you have a really complicated product and you need a big long sales page.
Dana Robinson: I actually have been in meetings with marketers before and they’ve talked to my clients, and the look at their website and they say, “Okay. Well, you’re running these ads. Where are you sending all these people?” And they just say, “To our homepage.” And what they don’t realize that the greatest epiphany people have when they sit in that room with a marketer is that you don’t just send people to a webpage with some copy on it. You send them to a page that is the content they expect to find. It’s going to meet those felt needs, that’s going to resonate with why they got there in the first place.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. That’s right. I think that a lot of people go through the exercise and the effort to get an entire website launched and then they feel like they’re done, and suddenly at that point, that it’s really just began.
Nate Broughton: I’m guilty of this too, and maybe you do it in iterations. We’re in the process of launching a new website and a lot of new marketing materials around Opt Out Life, and I think at the end of day one we’re just going to throw something up on the website to get it up there, we kind of have a general idea of the people who are going to be out audience, but we’re figuring that out over time and you have to just take the messaging serious and not just set it and forget it.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. And I think there’s a lot of skill to be learned from what Bill’s talking about, not just in the long form sales letters. He mentions the free book from Richard Armstrong. If you actually go look at the free book from Mister Armstrong, it’s a sales letter and it’s got to be like 20 pages long. And it’s brilliant that he’s using his skills to give you a free ebook about these skills using those skills, but even writing an ad for Facebook requires stepping back and thinking about copywriting skills.
Dana Robinson: And then once you have an ad and you’ve paid dearly to get somebody to your site, you need to be sure that the messaging that’s there is clear and consistent with the message that they came from.
Dana Robinson: This whole idea of copywriting applies to little things, as well as a big thing. So it applies to simply the content you put in your website, the content you put in your ads, and obviously into the more complex world of sending emails and the content of those emails.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. I think we’re asking for a little bit of mind shift or a reminder to those of you who are listening out there who have done this stuff, but to those who have not, a mind shift in thinking this is important, and here are a few tools that I can pick up by listening to this, that I can put in my toolkit and come back to in the future.
Dana Robinson: Are you aware of any courses someone could buy for reasonable price that would get them over the hump on that? I mean, obviously you’ve listed all the greats, they could read those.
Bill Mueller: Yes. There’s plenty of copywriting courses out there. I’m struggling to come up with a really inexpensive one. Let me just … John Carlton has a great one, Michael Masterson has a great one.
Bill Mueller: Here’s a great resource for people. Richard Armstrong, one of the top copywriting experts, has a free ebook out there about copy that he could charge a lot of money for. I don’t have the URL in front of me, but you could put it in your show notes or whatever.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. We’ll put it on the site.
Bill Mueller: He’s also got a keynote speech that he made at AWAI, is one of the major copywriting seminars. I just watched this less than three months ago. It’s a keynote speech he made about two years ago. It’s an education in copywriting that anybody would do well to watch. It addresses actually, Nate, some of your comments about psychology, and he made a great point.
Bill Mueller: A lot of copies strive to drag people across the finish line, assuming they’ve got their arms crossed and people do it to some respect, and try to convince. Richard Armstrong makes the wonderful point that you can’t convince anybody of anything. And he actually puts up screenshots of the work done by Nicholas Tesla, or whoever did a lot with the tuning fork. You want to just resonate with what people are already feeling and you can see the video for more details on that, but it’s just a little bit of a twist on, you’re not trying to convince people with copy. You want to resonate with where they are.
Bill Mueller: And that’s one of the research things you can do, is write down what do you think some of their core beliefs are and objections, and just meet them there and then persuasion comes from there.
Dana Robinson: Interesting we’re talking about a particular type of business right now, it’s this info product marketing, someone who’s written a course, a video course, a PDF, and they write a landing page based on certain skills that you’ve got to help sell that, that sales letter.
Dana Robinson: How important do you think the skill is to people selling anything that requires writing?
Bill Mueller: Isn’t it amazing? When you buy something on the internet, what are you basing your entire decision on almost aways? It’s just the words on the screen. Now, video’s great, but the great sales videos are written with a script. They have just as much structure as a written sales letter. Nobody’s winging it and then just hoping it sells. There’s a craft of those as well.
Bill Mueller: But think about it. Whenever you’re cruising around looking for information, and the credibility has to be there, the trust has to be there, you’re going by the words. Whether it’s, you could be reading an Amazon review. You’re just reading words. Words on a screen. Those pixels are going to base your entire decision.
Bill Mueller: You’re not going to base it on the ebook graphic or the CD cover or whatever it is. That makes a little bit of a difference, but it’s the words that are going to move you and it’s amazing how language can do that.
Dana Robinson: Right. So the copywriting skill that somebody would acquire could be applied to every page, product page, landing page, the service they sell, the products they sell, even you’re saying if you sell Amazon products, when you land on your product page on Amazon, there’s room for copywriting.
Bill Mueller: I’ve never done this, but there’s an opportunity on eBay to do really well, because you look at the listings on eBay, there’s almost zero copywriting skills being applied there, or even some Amazon products.
Bill Mueller: If someone took a good selling product on eBay and just put in their own copywriting with a strong headline and some bullet points and put in a story there, they would do so much better than anyone else. And I know eBay’s not the hottest marketplace maybe anymore, but yeah.
Dana Robinson: Every form. I think of when I hit a Craigslist ad, when you have two sentences or you have too much. You have people that are putting in color and graphics and a big messy page.
Nate Broughton: Do you think that they could sell on eBay for higher price? Or just at a higher conversion? Or both?
Bill Mueller: Both. Absolutely both. And in terms of eBay or Craigslist, whether it’s selling a jukebox you have or whatever item, this is a simple act of telling a story with it. And you want it to be true of course, but almost everything you have has a story. If you just tell a story, it just, for some reason, just increases their value for people and they just start bonding to it in a way, and they just become more interested in it.
Nate Broughton: This car was driven by an old lady to the grocery store one day a week. She always kept it in shape.
Nate Broughton: Well, I’m curious to go further with the story because we’ve hit on an interesting point and went pretty far with it, but you, as a professional, what happened next, after that project with your buddy and the book and the ebook and the info marketing?
Bill Mueller: Yeah. It went great. We lasted nine years and he went off to do other things and I did as well. And I’m pretty much doing this for other clients now in different markets and also have a couple of my own products and just past week we actually helped launch it too, a list that did quite well. So I’m still doing basically the same thing, not ADHD so much but other topics.
Nate Broughton: So you had an eight to nine year run on the one-
Bill Mueller: We had a nine year run.
Nate Broughton: I mean, that’s incredible. Yeah.
Bill Mueller: I think we covered the overrun.
Nate Broughton: Most people last like nine months, right?
Bill Mueller: And we’re still very good friends. It all worked out great. Just had other projects going on and-
Dana Robinson: And is that products just not worth continuing to sell? Or you just hit a point where it’s not worth the constant-
Bill Mueller: No, it is actually. And I’m actually relaunching it for September at the start of the school year.
Dana Robinson: Okay.
Bill Mueller: So it’s still-
Dana Robinson: So it’s evergreen.
Bill Mueller: It’s evergreen, it’s a very viable topic that’s not going anywhere, and that’s for parents and teachers. I’m still friends with other competitors in that field that I did join ventures with.
Nate Broughton: How have you dealt with the changes in the platforms over that time span? I mean, you mentioned AdWords’ five cent clicks back in the day, and that was the gravy train. I mean, people’s eyeballs are shifted to other device and other platforms. How have you guys dealt with that and had such a good run?
Bill Mueller: It’s true that AdWords has changed. Some would say that Facebook ads right now is the old AdWords and there’s some truth to that. And the amount of demographic data that you can develop now too as you know is phenomenal compared to what it was with AdWords. You can really do some laser targeting.
Bill Mueller: But that’s just one form of advertising. One of my clients gets all his leads from YouTube to the tune of hundreds, between 400 and 700 email signups a day just from youtube.
Dana Robinson: That’s amazing.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. I’m not talking about video views or visits to land page. People that actually put in their email address.
Dana Robinson: And is that paid, or that’s not paid because the content is-
Bill Mueller: 100% free, which is the golden goose. Now he got in on the early days of YouTube, but there’s still opportunity on YouTube.
Nate Broughton: I mean, he must have a million daily … I mean, not a million.
Bill Mueller: In that neighborhood.
Nate Broughton: I’m jealous.
Dana Robinson: What I love about Bill is because he’s working on different products for different people, whenever you’re hanging out with Bill, you get to learn and get enlightened by new stuff.
Dana Robinson: When I was in Bali, I had someone who came visit me bring two hammers and some golf balls, and maybe you can tell the story about why I would have two ball-peen hammers and golf balls sent to Bali.
Dana Robinson: All right. So I should probably give a little bit more background about why I asked this crazy question out of the blue, of Bill.
Dana Robinson: When I was living in Bali in 2015, I was having Bill collaborate with me on the Opt Out book, so we’re going back and forward in email, we’d talk occasionally and I’d get him talking about the projects he’s working on. One of them was really interesting, and this project revolved around brain training. And I was really intrigued and I thought, I’m in Bali, I’ve got the time to do some funky things and I said, “Tell me what you’re working on.”
Dana Robinson: And the brain training includes a variety of different things, including learning to juggle, learning to bounce a golf ball on the head of a hammer. In fact, you can get so good at this that you can switch the hammer and bounce on the ball-peen side, the rounded side of the hammer, and keep the ball bouncing. Once you have the skill, then you can do the same thing with a golf club and a golf ball.
Dana Robinson: And these aren’t just skills to get better at your athletics. These skills help your brain grow. So it’s a really intriguing story as to how Bill ended up with this as his next info product project.
Dana Robinson: I’m leaving him with a couple of crazy questions, and I think you’ll be really intrigued by where this goes.
Bill Mueller: Well, it started with an excentric man I met on the boardwalk in Laguna Beach, who was quite a good artist, painting seascapes, but that’s was not the real story to this guy.
Bill Mueller: I was there meeting and old high school buddy I haven’t seen for many years and he kind of insinuated himself into our conversation when he was ears dropping, and next thing you know he is taking a nine iron and a golf ball and I don’t know if you remember the old Tiger Woods commercial where he would bounce it between his legs and do all kinds of tricks with it and just get the ball spinning, and just keep it spinning on the face of the club. He did that, he was bouncing golf balls off the rounded edge of ball-peen hammers, which is what you’re talking about.
Bill Mueller: He could recite pi to 500 digits. He can write as I can now, because I’ve learnt how to do this, write just as beautifully cursive handwriting with either hand and with his left hand he writes from right to left in mirror image, so you’d have to hold it up to a mirror to read it.
Bill Mueller: And he just basically does this as brain training. And there’s all kinds of data now … well, it’s not data anymore, it’s known fact that your brain is not this hardwired fixed machine that we all thought it was. It’s very plastic and neuroplasticity is a term that most people know now. You can grow your brain just like you can grow your muscles.
Dana Robinson: And these are tools that apply to certain skills, or to apply across the board to just improving your brain processes?
Bill Mueller: Across the board in general. Your speech articulation improves, your memory improves. This guy taught himself how to golf from both sides of the tee. So he basically became an ambidextrous golfer.
Bill Mueller: He was a pretty accomplished tennis player. Had never golfed, never broke 110 in golf. Drew all kinds of stares from people because he brought two sets of clubs to the range. A left-handed set and a right-handed set. Taught himself how to play ambidextrous and plays scratch golf now from either side.
Dana Robinson: That’s amazing. I learned all this cool stuff from you, so I was eager to get my hammers and my golf balls and start training my brain. I learned to juggle as well. That’s another skills that I think I remember you saying was important to that brain training.
Dana Robinson: All of that said, why is that important to our discussion here?
Bill Mueller: Well, you tell me. You’re the host of the show.
Dana Robinson: Was there a product to sell?
Bill Mueller: Yes. And that’s the one I referred to earlier. It’s just an example of how you can improve people’s lives with an info product that can come from anywhere. And brain training happens to be one of those markets that’s on the up and up. The demographic in this country is skewing older. All the baby boomers are going to want to be staving off Alzheimer’s and keeping their brain sharp. And I know from personal experience that these drills really help with that.
Dana Robinson: And then they have sports applications that are specific as well as the general-
Bill Mueller: I was just going to say. I’ve partnered with this gentleman and created info products. It’s for tennis players, golfers and it’s sports specific, but it’s across the board in general. In fact, we just did the launch for guitar players, and I’m getting emails from customers that are more interested in the overall brain benefits.
Nate Broughton: I’m interested. I want to buy this. This is awesome.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. I’d be happy to tell you about it. And this gentleman’s worked with-
Dana Robinson: For only $1,499 [crosstalk 00:38:03]-
Bill Mueller: This guy helped, pitcher name, Pat Venditte, who became the first starting pitcher in major league history to throw from either side of the plate.
Nate Broughton: My dad wanted me to be that, but we just did it with brute force. Two gloves. [crosstalk 00:38:20].
Dana Robinson: Nate is ambidextrous when it comes to-
Nate Broughton: Actually I could do that, right. Yeah, I could do that in baseball sort-ish. Not really.
Bill Mueller: The only problem is when this guy came up to the minors, and this had never occurred in baseball before, when it’s called switch-pitcher, and he has a glove that he can move from either hand. [crosstalk 00:38:34]. It’s a special glove, yes. He just flips the-
Nate Broughton: Or the batter have to decide-
Bill Mueller: Well, that’s a thing. A switch hitter came up, and you can find this video on YouTube, the umpire was flummoxed as to what to do. This wasn’t in the rule book apparently and they finally … I forget what the final outcome was, but they came up with a rule that said … I think they gave the slight advantage to the batter. So the pitcher had to establish, are you a righty or a lefty during this [inaudible 00:38:55] Each guy can make one move.
Nate Broughton: Making baseball interesting for the first time ever.
Dana Robinson: All sports should go this way.
Bill Mueller: As if games weren’t long enough.
Nate Broughton: Which way is he going to go? That’s interesting. I mean, like his left arm is tired he’s going to throw with his right now. Pitch a nine and a game-
Dana Robinson: All kinds of possibilities.
Nate Broughton: Turn around in two days, that’s awesome. Yeah. Put me on the list for that one, man.
Bill Mueller: It’s a fascinating-
Dana Robinson: Fantastic to sell something that’s so cool, right?
Bill Mueller: Yes. It’s a fascinating topic and it’s a worthwhile thing.
Nate Broughton: Let’s talk about lifestyle for a minute.
Dana Robinson: Bill just moved.
Bill Mueller: Nine months ago, me and my wife moved to the Seattle area. That’s a whole another podcast.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. And now your house in San Diego, I remember your home office was kind of awesome because it was segregated, so you could actually sit in there, stand in there with your hammers and your golf balls and-
Bill Mueller: That’s right. We had a little sun room for that. And the big key to my home office, I’ll talk about all day, and we won’t because it’s not that interesting, but a standing desk that goes up and down. And that was a big improvement.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. I’ve got a power standing desk. Nate just stands.
Nate Broughton: I just alternate [inaudible 00:40:06].
Bill Mueller: I can see that you got a mat there and that was my big mistake that I made, was standing all day without having anything under my feet. I actually developed a foot injury.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. Me too.
Bill Mueller: I went to Amazon, best $59 ever spent. I was standing on yoga mats and that just wasn’t doing the trick and there’s … it’s called Sky Mat or something and haven’t had any foot problem since.
Nate Broughton: Me neither.
Bill Mueller: Cool.
Nate Broughton: Let’s put an affiliate link for Sky Mats in here. Changed my life.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. There’s a lot of people using standup desks now that aren’t standing on pads.
Bill Mueller: Yes. And they said sitting is the new smoking, well, standing all day is not that great for you either. I didn’t have a desk that went up and down for a while and that gave some new issues, so I had to figure it out over time.
Dana Robinson: So you’ve got the quiet reclusive life of a copywriter, home office, easy commute.
Nate Broughton: Now you’re in Seattle, so you can wear a scarf and look more pensive …
Dana Robinson: That’s right.
Nate Broughton: … in the dreary weather around you.
Bill Mueller: It is interesting you brought this up earlier, Nate, about being at a party or your neighbor’s asking you what you do, you guys know this. It’s always hard to talk about and people don’t know what to ask you.
Dana Robinson: No job title.
Bill Mueller: No job title. I’ve gone from various descriptions of copywriter, internet marketer, or writer, or freelance writer. And when you say copywriter, people think that I’m a notary public and that I’m copywriting whatever …
Nate Broughton: And they do what he does, right?
Bill Mueller: Right. Copy that lawyer, copy writer, it’s all about the same.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. It’s almost like a dreaded question, right? Like, I’ve gotten to a point where I can hear them saying it and I don’t even want to hear the question and have to answer it.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. And another word I’ve used that you can use, because this is part of what I do, is consulting. You can call yourself a consultant.
Nate Broughton: Okay. Listen up right here. Whether you’re a newbie who’s never done internet marketing or marketing of any type, or you’re an expert beyond us, this is a really cool story that Bill is going to tell and it’s cool because it’s is offline.
Nate Broughton: He’s talking about selling to previous customers of a client of his, but he goes into detail telling about a campaign that they run sending postcards. Not even physical letters. Just two sided little postcards with a little call to action and a logo on it, to dial in to a pre-recoded voice mail, where people can listen for several minutes and then choose to purchase pushing a button and talking to someone on the other line to complete the sale. I love this story.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. It’s amazing. It’s pretty funny to be talking about the business of internet marketing, where everybody’s talking about ROI on their clicks, their ads spent, all of the metrics people are using and completely overlooked … you might call this a secret weapon … completely overlooked space of mailing, through the post office. And then the system designed to manage that funnel is elegant and simple.
Nate Broughton: And very opt out. It’s a 24 hour pre-recoded voice line with the option for people to connect with sales agents to complete the sale. The genius of it, you get this thing in the mail and you recognize it because it’s a previous customer, and you’ve got an opportunity to dial in, and it says on there that it’s a pre-recorded line, so you know that you’re not going to end up getting connected to a sales person who’s going to try to push you. Like, just come, listen to this offer. It’s 100% captive. They’re not browsing a website with flashing things on the left and right, getting texts at the same time popping up.
Nate Broughton: This is one of the most compelling sales stories and methods I’ve heard in a long time.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, I love it. Listen up.
Dana Robinson: So you’re doing mail in the age of cheap and free email.
Bill Mueller: I’m telling you, this is going to sound crazy, but I designed a postcard that we sent out to a list of people who had already bought, which as you know, people who’ve purchased are your best customers for other products. And it was for a high-end thing, and just probably the most profitable thing, including email campaigns that we did.
Dana Robinson: Even after that, I mean, the costs of those mailings with the postage is substantial.
Bill Mueller: That’s right. Well-
Dana Robinson: Talking about lists of tens of thousands of people probably, right?
Bill Mueller: Yes. It was in the tens of thousands and that’s why we had to have a high end offer. For this market, a high end offer was in the $400 range and it was basically a post card that drove people to … first we drove them to an 800 number, where they had to listen to an outgoing voicemail message and it was almost like a sales letter over the phone.
Bill Mueller: You know, the phone is an underutilized tool because it’s a pretty intimate thing to be on the phone … first of all, when you put on that postcard, it’s a 24 hour recorded message. That’s something that people will not hesitate to call, because they know they’re not going to be talking to somebody, so it’s not [inaudible 00:44:34] I’ll listen to that, sure.
Bill Mueller: They dial the number and you can hold them captive for as long as six to eight minutes if it’s compelling enough. And again, structured like a sales letter, compelling copy, you use all the tools. You’re not just winging it. It’s a very structured piece of copy and you’ve got them captive. They’re not doing anything else. They’re not on the browser. They are listening on the phone and you can compel them to take the next step, whether it’s driving them to a URL landing page, or, in this case, the 800 number. At the end of that message they just had to press one and they would be connected to a live operator that would take their order or answer questions.
Bill Mueller: How underutilized is that? Everyone’s got a full email inbox, but when you get a postcard, you don’t have to open the envelope, it’s completely naked. You’re going to look at it even if you’re sorting your mail over the trash can like most people do, you’re going to flip the card and at least look at it.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. You get the eyeballs.
Bill Mueller: That’s right. And if it comes from someone you know, and you only know them online, you’re like holy smokes, Perry Marshall sent me a postcard? And Perry Marshall has sent postcards. I’ve gotten that from him before.
Bill Mueller: So that’s an effective way to change channels and get people’s attention.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, I was curious and I guess you answered it. Have these people ever heard from the person offline? I guess the answer is no. How do you create consistency with that? Do you just throw the logo on there, is that one piece of thing that makes you realize this is from Perry Marshall?
Bill Mueller: In this particular case, this info product guy had a logo that was actually a cartoon image of him and very recognizable, and that was kind of the brand of the product. So when they saw that and the return address, they recognized it immediately.
Dana Robinson: We have talked through a lot of really great strategies and specific skills and marketing campaigns with Bill. We changed the subject and we wanted to get personal with him and talk a lot about his personal life, things that have held him back and one of the things I like to ask people is, have they done anything they regret?
Dana Robinson: So I raised that issue with Bill and it’s a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to sit and think how can you learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. I think we need to ask each other that sometimes, Dana. You know, if you were to ask me that question I think it’s maybe hard to come up with something right off the spot. I think Bill kind of feels that way too, but what he says is, what if I had to write a letter to my younger self, and when he said that I was like, I wonder if I had to do that, what would I say?
Nate Broughton: Because immediately what comes in mind first is being an entrepreneur and breaking off and doing your own thing is kind of a mind fuck. It’s very emotional and it’s lonely sometimes, and you’re up really high at 8AM and then down again at 10AM and up again at noon. It’s a rollercoaster, and I can think back to lots of times, maybe even down by the minute where I was convinced that my businesses were going to be successful, and then at the end of the day I thought the whole world was going to end.
Nate Broughton: And I think that if I had to write a letter to my younger self, at least as an entrepreneur, it would be to calm down and take more of a long-term view.
Nate Broughton: I think approaching things these days I realize it’s a lot more realistic to just have a few things to get done today and to also know that a lot of things aren’t going to go your way. Young people, especially when I was young as well, I thought I was going to create something that was going to make a ton of money and it was only going to take six months and everything was going to go my way because I had the smartest idea. And the real world, what happens out there, it doesn’t matter. And that’s totally not true.
Dana Robinson: Right. What Bill says in a minute, fear is the thing that holds so many people back. In my life it’s not been fear that’s held me back, it’s been bad decisions.
Nate Broughton: Maybe that’s easier to live with? I don’t know.
Dana Robinson: It is actually. So I’m going to admit something here, in the permanent podcast form. I have a tattoo that says, “No regrets.”
Nate Broughton: No regrets.
Dana Robinson: I know, I know. And it’s properly spelled, it’s not spelled with the A. It’s a great tattoo to have with people that did have good cultural memes in their heads. They always give me shit about it. But the philosophy of no regrets for me wasn’t that I don’t have regrets. I have a lot of regrets. It’s that I don’t want to be held back by not doing something because I was scared.
Dana Robinson: And that would be the regret that I wouldn’t want to live with. I wouldn’t want to live with the regret that I didn’t take a chance at something and that has enabled me to take on failure, repeatedly, and out of those failures comes success. So I’m not sure what I’d write to my younger self other than the same as you. Like, take it easy, calm down, it’s going to be all right.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. Yeah. Enjoy the experiences while they’re there, because ultimately, depending on where you draw the line on where you’re stopping, all you may have to show for your leap of faith is experience.The success doesn’t necessarily come right away and doesn’t necessarily come every time.
Nate Broughton: And I think the only thing I can sometimes cling to is like, yeah, well, I’ve had a really cool experience and I’ve learned a lot. The money may come later, but yeah, at least I didn’t succumb to the fear or whatever.
Nate Broughton: You have to kind of value that experience and know that if you’re really lying there on your death bed, you’re not likely to be concerned with how much money is in your bank account, that is traditional score keeping of success, it’s more like being happy with what you have done and have, and being happy with your tattoo that you can look at on your death bed.
Dana Robinson: Thanks, Nate.
Nate Broughton: It will be there. We got to get Opt Out tattoos by the way. That’s on the podcast.
Dana Robinson: We need some more things that we might regret when we’re old.
Nate Broughton: Right, exactly. Dear Nate, the podcast with Dana goes South. Do not tattoo Opt Out on your forehead.
Dana Robinson: Knuckles.
Nate Broughton: Knuckles, yeah. Well, that’s going to get in the way of my little wedding tattoo there, and that probably would be a bad omen for the wedding situation, the marriage.
Dana Robinson: That’s true.
Nate Broughton: It said, “Opt out.”
Dana Robinson: And ended on your wedding finger.
Nate Broughton: And then my wife’s initials.
Dana Robinson: No. She would not appreciate that Opt Out.
Nate Broughton: Okay. We won’t do that. We’ll put Opt Out on my ass.
Bill Mueller: If I had to write a letter to my younger self, I would have gotten on the stick so to speak. I don’t want to say I wasted a lot of years, but I would have been more proactive. And not to bring the brain training back into it, but I really believe that brain training along with some meditation I’ve been doing for years has created more awareness. And if I had that awareness back then, I’d be further along then where I am now.
Bill Mueller: And not that where I am now is not good, because it’s great. I love my life. It’s just that we’re talking about that whole thing. Schopenhauer was the one who said that life can only be lived forwards, but it can only be understood looking backwards. And we have that luxury now to look backwards. You didn’t have that luxury back then.
Dana Robinson: It’s a great set of advice for anybody, entrepreneurs, young people. We’ve got a lot of people talking about career choices for people who don’t want to have a career. So those life lessons, I don’t think it’s necessarily regret it’s the maturity and understanding.
Bill Mueller: And if I had to bring up one word, and it’s going to sound tripe, because everybody knows this, but the word fear. Fear kept me from doing a lot of things. And you’ve heard that there’s no such thing as failure. It’s true. Fail fast, throw some mud against the wall, learn. I wish I had more of that in me early on.
Nate Broughton: That’s interesting to hear you say that, sorry to cut you off. I was envisioning in my head … and this may not be the exact same time period … but you’ve got this long run with this info product, living in La Jolla Shores, things are going well. It’s probably kind of like why rock the boat? It could probably work, not too much each day and life a good life, when it’s just kind of an easy street.
Nate Broughton: That’s kind of what’s going on in my head as to maybe a reason why you aren’t pushing more deliberately with your business over a certain period of time, but you say mostly down to fear more than even living fat and happy.
Bill Mueller: Yeah. There’s a piece of the story I left out, which would make it understandable, why you would say that. Basically, when I was a journalist in my 20s, I got out of journalism … jeez, we’re just getting honest here … I got out of journalism because I wanted to write a novel. And it was so humbling, not patting myself on the back, but journalism came fairly easy to me. It made sense.
Bill Mueller: I had been reading newspapers since I was the kid. I just understood in my head how a story was built. And I could do that, I’m not going to say I could do it in my sleep because I’m a slow writer, I always have been, and even in journalism, in topics I knew well, I was not a fast writer and I’m not going to say I was fantastic but I knew what I was doing.
Bill Mueller: So when I dropped out to write the great American novel, and that’s like a very pretentious thing to say. I wasn’t trying to write the great American novel, but everybody knows that phrase. It was really, really humbling to discover that I was a complete beginner all over again. I wasn’t expecting that, and it scared the shit out of me.
Bill Mueller: So I backed off of it, did other things, wasted a lot of time. I was young, I’ve always been a later bloomer. And then later I got into the copywriting.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. You found a perfect match for you skillset with that. You think you didn’t do bigger greater in that business because of that fear that was instilled there from having been kind of kicked in the nuts.
Bill Mueller: Yes. That’s a good way to put it. If I had to boil it down to … everything’s multilayered and faceted, but if I had to boil it down to one word it would be fear. And I think a lot of people listening they look back at their own life, maybe there’s some fear that kept them from something.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. That’s the one thing I didn’t have. I do now though, a little bit, because I failed a lot.
Bill Mueller: Let me ask you, because that fascinates me because fear was so natural to me growing up and … I’m not going to go in the whole family dynamics as to how that came up, everybody’s got their own story, but I’m fascinated with people like you who I think are in the minority, that did not have fear. You just got hugged a lot as a kid, or what was it?
Dana Robinson: No, no. In fact, I just wrote the forward for the book and sort of my own acknowledgments to the book because we’re getting close to publication on Opt Out. And I recount the story of seeing a book on my parents’ bookshelf called The Strong Willed Child. And I looked at my mom and said, “Who’s that for?” And my mom laughed and walked away.
Dana Robinson: So I was completely self-willed from the time I could walk. And wanted to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, how I wanted to do it and the one advantage was a high pain threshold for that kind of personality.
Dana Robinson: I think if you’re that kind of person and you don’t have high pain threshold, then it hurts when you make mistakes because you’re doing what you want and you’re going to fail when you decide you’re just going to fix that thing and you break it, I didn’t find myself crumbling because of that.
Dana Robinson: So I just had that kind of personality. I got married at 19, I started a business when I was 19, when I was going to college I hired people. All these things that are incredibly stressful for most people and I just didn’t … it was all painful, but the pain didn’t bother me. It just didn’t really affect me because I felt privileged to do what I was doing.
Dana Robinson: And failure stung, but it didn’t increase fear. I didn’t experience massive failure until the market crashed in 2008, then as one as my neighbors said, I lost more money than I ever made because so many of us had millions and millions and millions of dollars in equity vanish in a matter of 12 months. So that was a point at which I thought, wow, okay, this is not the same as selling a business for less than you thought, or shutting your business down that didn’t succeed. This is watching what you’ve built for 10 years sort of evaporate.
Dana Robinson: So I’ve had more discipline with larger number that has … I wouldn’t say it’s [inaudible 00:55:47] fear ut I’m more cautious maybe.
Bill Mueller: So are you saying that you have just a natural disposition to being this way?
Dana Robinson: Yeah. I think so. And I wouldn’t call it courageous. It’s probably stupid. It’s probably like when somebody has less nerves in their hand so they don’t know they’re getting burned when they put their hand on the stove.
Bill Mueller: It’s a very smart kind of stupid.
Nate Broughton: It’s a very fine line between courage and stupidity.
Bill Mueller: I learned this too. One helpful exercise, you’ve probably heard this, is if you’re coming across a roadblock and you’re deciding what to do, write down the absolute worst thing that could happen and then write down the best thing that could happen, and you’ll have a game plan for the worst that could happen, and it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. And if the upside is really high and the worst that could happen is, well, I can recover from that. I found that helpful.
Dana Robinson: Absolutely. Risk aversion is a type of fear and that’s the thing that’s going to keep most people from opting out, from starting a business, from choosing the path they want with their lives. We’ve talked to a couple of our guests about their own internal pressure, I need to buy a house, I need a career, I’m going to work for a bank, or their parents, you need to be a dentist, or you need to go to school and get these degrees so they’re-
Nate Broughton: Or their spouse.
Dana Robinson: The spouses, absolutely. And the six interviews we’ve done so far for this podcast, that come up almost every time that’s been a pressure.
Dana Robinson: Fear hasn’t yet, so this is interesting because I think it’s the third piece to this sort of psychology of the outside influences, the internal influences, and this sort of risk aversion that people have.
Bill Mueller: Let me ask you this, because you guys have been I touch with a lot of people that are in this lifestyle and I haven’t really thought about it until now, but I always had it in me. I always wanted to do something different than the nine to five. And I guess entrepreneurial types have aways felt that way.
Bill Mueller: And not that I could not have been happy in a normal career, nine to five, but I always knew there had to be a way to do something independently. And I think in the back of my mind that was this software running in my head, so that when an opportunity came up, for instance to work with my buddy, I kind of latched onto it because how exciting is it to make your first $100 doing something independently and go, well if I can make $100, I can make $10,000.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. This has actually come up. The employability, or I should say the unemployability of most of our guests. When they talk about the transition from a job to their first gig, side gig, business or whatever, we always want to know were they about to get fired? In some cases they did, in some cases they knew they would so they quit, but certain part of the personality profile certainly. If you feel like you don’t get along well in corporate America, there’s an opportunity for you to become an entrepreneur.
Bill Mueller: Yeah, Bruce Springsteen, he likes to say at a lot of his shows that he does what he does because there were no other options for him. And I hear that a lot from entrepreneurs and artists, this is the only way I could be … that was really not my situation. I don’t know if that’s unusual, but I could’ve gone any number of ways and maybe that held me back because I knew I had that option, whereas a guy like Springsteen didn’t know anything else and he just really pushed all of his chips to the middle of that table and made it happen.
Nate Broughton: We should have him on.
Dana Robinson: Can you call him up for us, Bill?
Bill Mueller: Well, at least I didn’t follow him. That wouldn’t be good.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. Yeah. Just read Stephen King’s book on writing.
Bill Mueller: That’s a good book on writing. And I’ve read a ton of books on writing. That’s a good one and I’m not the biggest Stephen King fan but what he had to say about writing was good.
Dana Robinson: The first half of the book he’s just showing you. You noticed this? For the first half of this book about writing, he’s not really telling you how to write. He’s showing you, telling stories, and he’s using that economy that he’s preaching about in the later half of the book so it’s fascinating. Good to talk about writing books since our guest is a copywriter. Bird by Bird.
Bill Mueller: Anne Lamott.
Dana Robinson: Anne Lamott. Simple.
Bill Mueller: She’s a great person to follow on Facebook by the way. She goes against the grain on social media. She will not post every day, but she’ll post a really long essay every once in a while, which is not commonly done.
Dana Robinson: But she’s fun to read.
Bill Mueller: She is. Bird by Bird is-
Dana Robinson: Book about writing, yes.
Bill Mueller: … a classic, yes. She cut off all media reading and only got her news from printed newspapers. So she read three papers I believe. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and maybe two other papers. Didn’t look at any social media, and she came up with some interesting conclusions.
Bill Mueller: One of them was that a very efficient way to consume the news, is by the newspaper because you’re getting … I don’t want to say just the facts, as people think everything biased, and there’s some truth to that … but when we consume news online you’re often getting someone’s opinion of it in a Tweet. Like, they’ll say something like, “Look how certain group is getting screwed because they just passed this.” Well, they gave you their opinion inserted in the story, whereas if you read the printed story it would just be explaining what happened.
Dana Robinson: And today’s news is more entertainment than old journals.
Bill Mueller: And it’s very partisan driven in many cases.
Dana Robinson: True.
Bill Mueller: It’s really hard to find a source of news that doesn’t have an agenda or a view point.
Dana Robinson: Yeah. Are there even journalists anymore that are doing in-depth stories, not being driven by-
Bill Mueller: There’s tons of great journalism still being done. And a lot of people don’t want to hear that because a lot of people think the media is full of it, and there’s a lot of good long form journalism going on right now. New York Times, Washington Post and other outlets. New Yorker does a lot of great stuff, and I could find just as many conservative voices.
Nate Broughton: I got my New Yorker cover there from the week I was born.
Dana Robinson: That’s cool.
Bill Mueller: Is that right?
Nate Broughton: Yeah.
Dana Robinson: Picture in the studio, the New Yorker cover. How about Dan Rather’s independent product? Have you checked it out?
Bill Mueller: I have not, but I see him interviewed here and there and he’s a lion.
Dana Robinson: Interesting experiment, I guess, in direct journalism.
Bill Mueller: It is.
Nate Broughton: I’m thinking about transcribing these on papers, so my son can start reading them, because I remember you mentioned earlier at a very young age reading the paper, and I felt everyday I was excited to do it. I mean, I started with the sports page but I think it developed a habit and appreciation and certainly probably helped my mental development and just made me a better reader and probably a better writer to have that.
Nate Broughton: And I think that if it’s say, separate physical thing that’s there it’s better than even trying to create some iPad app that will make him read something before he watches a video or something. I want to get back to that now.
Dana Robinson: You should. Should get your milk delivered. You’ll be the ultimate hipster and this is the hipster’s neighborhood.
Nate Broughton: I’m going to go that way with it. I thought you’re going to say, “You’ll be a good father,” and now you’re going to make fun of me, something with milk delivered. Come on, man.
Bill Mueller: Be that guy on a park bench with the manual typewriter.
Nate Broughton: Yeah. Jeez.
Dana Robinson: Actually I know, Bill, you have a manual typewriter, but you could also, Nate, start shaving with a straight edge.
Nate Broughton: Sure, sure, sure.
Dana Robinson: Wearing suspenders.
Nate Broughton: All right. Fine, fine, fine.
Dana Robinson: We’ll make some craft cocktails together this afternoon if you’d like.
Nate Broughton: We were going to do that anyway.
Dana Robinson: Bill Mueller, thank you for coming on the Opt Out podcast. Look forward to continuing to interact with you and the future.
Bill Mueller: This was fun you guys. Thanks so much.
Dana Robinson: Our pleasure. Thank you.
Nate Broughton: Opt Out out.
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Nate Broughton: Opt Out out.