In conversation with Shahzad Khan, a globally recognized Direct Response Copywriter, with $12 million in sales and 3000+ projects under his belt. He is amongst the top 10 copywriters in the world on Fiverr.
Recently he became a pride of the nation when Troy Ericsson (founder of Copywriter. org) interviewed 712 copywriters and Shazad Khan ranked in the 18th position amongst the top 44 most popular Copywriters in the world.
To support other budding copywriters in Pakistan, Shahzad authored his first book on copywriting “The Ultimate Copywriting Handbook” and runs a popular support group on Facebook by the name – The Laptop Living: for copywriting + content writing + freelancing where he engages and teaches them how to craft compelling direct response copy and authentic brand storytelling.
All of which is the first of its kind in Pakistan’s copywriting arena.
Five years back, Shahzad Khan took the leap of faith and abandoned his 4 years of hard work and prestigious engineering degree for venturing towards a skill set unheard of in Pakistan.
While prepping for the essay section in CSS exams, I thought, why not leverage my writing skills to make a living? At that time the platform I used was Odesk which later merged with Elance and is now famous as Upwork, one of the largest international platforms for freelancers.
What motivated me, even more, was the upfront and fair dealing of these platforms. The $4 I had earned in 2014 was still present in my freelancer’s account in 2017, when I decided to give my complete attention to this field.
My gut feeling guided me to make this move.
The most pleasing part of my work is that it makes me free from the shackles of the 9 to 5, pseudo slavery in the name of a corporate job. I don’t have a boss, I am not bound by time or space; the freedom I have is envied by many.
I have the privilege to grow bigger and expand horizontally or vertically. This has helped me to experiment with my own side ventures and ideas. All this would probably be next to impossible if I was not a freelancer.
Also, the pleasure of withdrawing dollars at the end of the month and converting it into rupees is an exhilarating feeling. It might sound materialistic, but aren’t we all? Who wouldn’t be delirious to earn 7-figures a month?
Based in Pakistan, I feel that copywriters here don’t have many opportunities to network across the oceans like our foreign counterparts.
Physical meet-ups are a game changer for building solid relationships; the rapport formed through attending conferences and events and addressing concerns face-to-face are a few things, which I feel we lag. We do have the means to carry virtual meetings but it is not the same.
On a positive note, I strongly feel that we can overcome this if we start landing 8-figure clients and start earning big. Traveling and networking internationally is an obstacle than can easily be removed.
Copywriting is still a relatively new field in Pakistan. In my career as a copywriter, I felt that copywriting in Pakistan is often misunderstood. So I had to face some challenges in getting the right guidance and mentorship, or benchmarks to compare with. No one could critique my work, which I believe is essential to make improvements, to become a seasoned writer.
I have also noticed that many local writers do not want to share their successes or failures and are often very secretive about their techniques.
This pushed me to turn to some internationally acclaimed names in copywriting like Adil Amarsi (a billion-dollar copywriter). I have even worked with Stefan Georgi (another billion-dollar copywriter), where we generated $1 billion in sales.
There are some obstructions at the government level which I want to highlight.
Firstly, there are no local payment gateways to facilitate our freelancer community. With additional taxes, service fees, and risks of fraud, this is an area that should be highlighted and worked upon.
Another cause of concern is the low internet penetration in Pakistan which stands at the rate of just 36%. Without robust internet services and infrastructure, it becomes almost impossible to succeed in the freelancing sphere since connectivity is the bloodline of all freelancers.
The work of the government where numerous digital skills training programs have mushroomed in recent years is commendable. I have seen people starting to earn a comfortable kitchen income through e-rozgar, digiskills, freelance training programs, etc. But there is still a considerable market in IT exports that can be tapped and for that, the government needs to have a methodized and monitored literacy plan in place, to ensure our economic survival where our youth should be well equipped with using different technologies and staying up to date at the same pace as the rest of the world.
I needed writers to become part of my team so I started searching for them on different platforms and Facebook groups. That is when I realized that everything was a sham. New writers were exploited and offered sometimes less than Rs. 1 per word which seemed like a horrendous joke and quite disrespectful to be honest.
These platforms lacked mentors, no one was there to guide or lead the industry in the right direction.
That is when I decided to be a missing link and bring the much-needed evolution. I could either be like the rest, or I could pave the way and guide others to learn the art that many wanted to keep a secret.
I believe that if you have the support and guidance of some top-notch mentors and teachers behind your back then it can catapult your career tenfold, the way I had because they always get you back on your feet if you take a fall.
A lesson I have learned from some of the top internationally acclaimed copywriters, with whom I have directly interacted, is that they never hide their experiences or failures. Which motivated me even more since we had no such examples in Pakistan.
Now my Laptop Living – Facebook group has over 15000 followers. It is a warm friendly place, where we learn from each other, share experiences, and take and give pieces of advice. Here, I actively interact or answer any and every question asked.
I even enlighten my community with some of the top trending hacks, tips, and tricks to be successful and be that motivation that keeps them pushing to not give up.
The same passion to share knowledge inspired me to write “The Ultimate Copywriting Handbook” again the first of its kind in Pakistan. It is a how-to guide where you can literally learn all of the hidden secrets of copywriting by reading it just once.
The evolving trends in the sales industry are all about leading with inspiration.
The 2023 trend in sales is more about the sellers starting with a strategy where they tell their audience that they have nothing to sell. Instead, they initiate a story of how they have solutions to the audience’s endemic issues, or how they will give value and completely transform their follower’s life.
To start off, they build the brands on this premise, once their audience is hooked, then an actual sales offer is made.
I believe this starts off with a stimulus and then provides valuable insights is something that will always attract customers.
It is also essential to explore other mediums of sales, for instance creating partnerships with top influencers in the same field will definitely boost your sales and capture attention.
Apart from that, we need to understand that now direct mail marketing has exponential possibilities. Spending time to build trust, developing rapport, and creating a community that is on the same page as you and would want to take you on your offer is also a need of the hour. So, monetizing your mailing list is another must to boost sales in 2023.
I strongly believe the crux of freelancing is to acquire a direct client. Not just any client, but those big brands who have more than 7-8 figures in sales so that you can grow big.
Through platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, etc. you can get a push to start your career but you cannot completely depend on them. A number of times my students come to me complaining that their gigs got de-ranked or their client went cold turkey, or they were given really low rates despite the demanding and time-consuming task. This uncertainty is a bummer.
I, myself have recently transitioned to direct clients, and I can confidently vouch that there is a huge difference. They often pay well, and since it’s a one-on-one interaction, you can actually develop an understanding relationship and you have even better chances of growth.
So develop a flawless client acquisition system fast and aim to work for direct clients.
I have now trained a considerable number of copywriters, can’t count them on my fingers, but I can confidently share that the impact has been quite powerful.
For instance, one of my students, who is just 20 years old is making 100k a month after completing my training. Imagine where he’ll be in a few years’ time.
My strategy to introduce those with high potential has three facets;
First, I focus on organic content.
Second, I do “content barrage”, my personally coined term, where I just flood people with information and content.
The third is through paid advertisement.
All three work very well together. This strategy has helped us gain immense traction and built our brand beyond the borders of Pakistan.
For those who are new, and without experience in the industry, AI tools should never be something you can completely rely on.
It’s important to first learn and improve the skill set since copywriting is not just about writing but includes some other crucial elements like developing a strategy, understanding the concepts and user requirements, connecting to them through market research, and understanding their pain points and emotions.
To use these tools you first need to give the correct prompt and the correct research.
These new disruptive and invasive tools can be utilized to propel you forward and become even better in 2023, but they can never be the means to achieve that level as a freshie.
It is quite common for many to manipulate the readers in their copy. This happens when you, as a writer, do not believe in the product you are writing about or the person you are writing for does not have a solid offer.
So you would probably use fake tactics to create scarcity, artificially inflate the numbers, etc. to grab attention. But for me, all of this is ethically incorrect.
I personally analyze the value my copy would provide to the reader, I want them to feel educated, and inspired by the honest facts that I put forward and then incline them to drive action. I want to first develop rapport so that what I will share with them eventually, would benefit them
Also remember when writing a persuasive copy, it is never about you, it is always about the customer.
Shahzad Khan is an ordinary, down-to-earth person who just likes hanging out with his friends, exploring investment options, or spending time with family.
I do want to share my fear of traveling, which I am working on overcoming step by step.
This is the need of the hour and a very important issue, especially for freelancers because their work hours are not defined.
My work is very challenging and time-consuming where I have meetings with clients, I have to manage my Facebook group, address my student queries, mark and check assignments, and supervise my team but all this requires focus and time management to prevent burnout and stress.
I have a block from 9 pm to 1 am when I take my mind off work and routine tasks. I utilize this time to de-stress my mind, relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family.
If I don’t do this then managing the pressure would become a bane and reduce my productivity. As the saying goes, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy! So I consciously make an effort and make sure that my life is not always “all about work”.
I am a person who believes that learning has no limits and spending to learn new techniques in one’s area of expertise from a professional is a must to keep expanding and growing.
I have almost spent over Rs. 25 lacs and plan on investing even more in myself to enhance my skills through different courses, webinars, training, and programs conducted by some of the top renowned names in the industry across the world. This is almost 4 times of what I spent on my 16 years of education till my postgrad but I know that it is an investment with very high returns.
I would strongly advise all of my followers to never ever let their learning curve fall. If you earn $10 then put $4 back into training. If you don’t, you will fade away.