Ben Settle

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File under: Business Building, inner game

Below is a snippet from the “Gran Torino” screenplay.

In the scene the old grouchy main character Walt — played by Clint Eastwood — is talking to the young loner teen Tao who he befriends about the valuable tool set in his garage, and how he got it.

WALT: What?

TAO: I can’t afford to buy all this stuff.

WALT: I didn’t buy all this stuff at once, blockhead. I’ve lived here for fifty years. A man stays in one place long enough he tends to attract a decent set of tools.

TAO: Yeah, but…

WALT: Look, kid, I think I know where you’re going with this. You don’t need everything to maintain a house. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

[Walt rattles around his tool bench and slaps down THREE items in quick succession.]

WALT: This is for you. Roll of duct tape, can of WD-40, and a pair of vise-grips. Any man who’s worth a shit can do half his household jobs with these three things. In the odd chance that doesn’t work out, you can borrow something.

And so the script goes…

Here’s the point:

When it comes to starting, growing, and eventually conquering in the freelance game especially — copywriting, coaching, any other kind of service business of the sort — you don’t need to have every info product, every piece of software, every lead’s contact info, or every anything else to get things rolling.

Way back in 2002 I barely had enough money to buy a book on copywriting.

So I spent what I had:


Time to research who the best teachers at copywriting were.

I chose Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Sales Letter book.

Cost probably $12 or so at the time.

I don’t really remember.

I read that book several times — many of those read-throughs in one sitting — and then I found a small forum of other online marketers and, following the forum’s rules, made an offer to everyone there for my services.

That got me something like 5 clients.

Not a single one paid me even a single penny, due to my inept negotiation skills.

But it did get me experience dealing with the realities of clients.

It did get me testimonials.

And, most important of all… it did get me working hard to write full length sales letters using nothing but what I learned from that one book, from which I produced a pretty decent newbie’s portfolio. And I took that portfolio to one of the freelancer sites (eLance, I think) and that got me my first for-real paying assignment that added up to $850 in fees. I took that money and immediately invested it in two higher-ticket copywriting products to further my education.

Then I took the money from applying that info to buy more info products & education.

Then I took the money from applying that new info to buy even more education.

And so on, and so forth.

Eventually I got into some JV’s that paid enough to wipe out my credit card & car payment, and be able to move out of the shyt hole state I’d lived in my whole life to somewhere more sane, as well as get my toe into some bigger doors in the industry.

Which brings me back to the above movie script:

When a man sticks with a skill long enough, he attracts a decent set of info products on the subject. This is especially the case with copywriting & marketing. Although the glut of crap products available today that weren’t around then makes discernment a lot more important than it was for me.

But you don’t need to start out with a huge budget.

You need only the copywriting equivalent of duct tap, WD 40, & vise-grips.

Then you work, invest, acquire more.

Work, invest, acquire more.

Work, invest, acquire more…

Over time.

And, yes, for the rest of your business career.

That is, if you want to be not just good but great at what you do.

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Ben Settle

  • Book & Tabloid Newsletter Publisher
  • Email Supremacist
  • Alt-Copywriter
  • Software Investor
  • Pulp Novelist

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