Copywriting Interview With Joseph Ratliff, Part II 6

Here’s part II of my interview with Joseph Ratliff.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your copywriting business?

That is an excellent question Stephen, and I’ve made only one (LOL, kidding). My biggest mistake was in my early days, I was an “order taker” for my clients. They had a project, and I wrote it…turned it in and got paid.

But if you want to survive as a copywriter, you have to be more than an “order taker.” You have to find a way to help a client in more ways than writing the project they are offering. In other words…

…you have to find a way to add value, so you become a valued partner in a client’s business…not just an “order taker.”

A simple example would be if you were asked to write a squeeze page as a project. What about the emails? If they were written before, could you add some? Could you re-write some? What about the back-end processes when someone responds? Sales letters? Consulting?

Your mission as a copywriter is to become someone your client cannot function without. Those will end up becoming what I call an “A-List” client. They go to you first, with no questions, no worries about what you’re charging etc…

Don’t make my biggest mistake 🙂

How do you think the sputtering economy affects copywriters?

The words “sputtering” or “down economy” only give copywriters an excuse for failure IMO. Sure, you can run into some potential clients that might be hesitant to part with their money, but that usually doesn’t relate to the economy (for real any how). The real reason is the copywriter didn’t demonstrate enough value to the client to hire that copywriter…period. That or the client wasn’t an ideal match for the copywriter to begin with (i.e. doesn’t have a need or buy whatever type of copywriting the copywriter offers).

And…even if the economy really does go bad (like if we’re all on food lines fighting for food etc…)…wouldn’t you rather go out trying to make something of it (maybe not copywriting, LOL)? Or accept “the sputtering economy” as a reason that “copywriting just isn’t the thing to be doing” right now? I would rather try and make something of it…and always will.

A wise saying (and yes, I might be butchering it): “90% of the game is half mental.” — Yogi Berra

Name your favorite copywriting resource/book/training. What makes it so valuable?

Well if I had to pick one it would be The Gary Halbert Letter (because I’m a direct response copywriter). I have read those letters dozens of times each over the years. Most of them are still available online on the website maintained by his sons at

The reason they are so valuable is each letter is packed with tons of direct marketing education. I can still read them for hours to this day (and most of the lessons still apply, although 1-900 numbers may not be “the thing” now, LOL).

But one book I still recommend to this day is “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins. It is required reading for anyone who gets involved with writing marketing copy of any type…period. I prefer the “My Life In Advertising/Scientific Advertising” combo-book available on Amazon.

Do you have a favorite ad written by another copywriter? Or a favorite copywriter? Why?

My favorite piece was David Ogilvy’s “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock” ad (even though he didn’t actually write that famous headline, but that’s for another time). This is my favorite piece because it expresses the benefit without directly saying it.

But my favorite copywriter all-time was The Prince of Print himself, Gary Halbert. When you can write a one page, 261 word or so letter and mail it making millions…you’ve “got the chops” as they say. 🙂

How can readers find out more about you and what you can do for them?

Readers can take a trip over to my blog, now titled The Ratliff Report and subscribe to the RSS feed if you like what you read there.

When I’m not booked 3 – 6 weeks (and sometimes up to 3 months) out… I offer marketing strategy consulting and direct response copywriting services for those business owners with dedicated marketing budgets. It’s best to contact me from my website if any readers may have a possible project.

Thanks Joseph for giving us your time and insight.

6 thoughts on “Copywriting Interview With Joseph Ratliff, Part II

  1. Pingback: Copywriting Interview With Joseph Ratliff, Part I | Copywriting Dean

  2. Reply JosephRatliff Jul 28, 2011 7:00 pm

    Thanks for the interview Stephen, excellent questions 🙂

  3. Reply Wayne Buckhanan Jul 28, 2011 7:16 pm

    All good stuff Joseph!

    I especially like the “don’t be an order taker.” I’ve been in the habit of making myself indispensable to my clients for more than they specifically hire me for, and it’s good to hear it framed the way you have.


  4. Reply JosephRatliff Jul 28, 2011 10:28 pm

    The sad thing to think about is how much moolah it cost me and how much more my clients may have stood to profit.  Thanks for commenting Wayne. 🙂

  5. Reply Stephen Dean Jul 28, 2011 10:39 pm

    Cheers! Some of them were self serving questions 😉 Great interview Joseph, thanks again.

  6. Reply Judith Sep 29, 2011 2:18 am

    Thanks for sharing your insights.  Relating to business owners as peers that they can turn to is valuable advice.  🙂

Leave a Reply