I made $1 million in passive income last year by creating online copywriting courses. Here’s my advice on how to monetize your talents.

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Laura Belgray is a copywriting expert who now makes a living from passive income. Eric Michael Pearson

I’ve made my living fortune from my flaws – laziness being the dominant one. In 2020 alone, I made $US1 ($1) million in revenue through my copywriting business, using the brand pillar of laziness as a key factor in my success.

I call myself a “copywriting expert” because I’m not for hire. I’ve retired my services and now only offer content online: two mini courses available year-round that help people build great emails, bios and about pages, and two larger, downloadable email copywriting courses with open-and-close enrollment periods, and an annual membership called Shrimp Club where members can get my personal input on their content and business. 

Finding my passive income niche

Making money selling courses, having a group membership, and pushing hard to become the best affiliate partner doesn’t sound very “lazy,” but I consider it work done up front that pays off in passive income, or laziness, later.

Initially, I didn’t set out to be a copywriter. In 1992, at age 22, I became an intern at SPY Magazine. A year later, I started writing advertorials to get advertisers to buy space in SPY and New York Magazines, and I realized I was actually quite good at it.

Two years later, I landed my dream job writing promos for VH1, then got hired by Nick @ Nite in 1995 to do the same. I’d always wanted to get paid to watch TV, and this came pretty close. I spent many years with Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, and TV Land as my home base, and then branched out to work for other networks – Bravo, Fandango, HBO, NBC, and more – on a freelance basis. 

Joining the world of freelancing

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Belgray says she built her freelance client network through a regular email list. Eric Michael Pearson

In 2009, I built my first website to host my reel of TV spots and attract new clients for that work. At the time, my friend Marie Forleo showed me how to use an opt-in form on my site to start building an email list, even though I didn’t quite know what I would do with that list. 

That year, Marie also invited me to speak about copywriting at her first live event for entrepreneurs. After that presentation, people started approaching me to help with their website and marketing copy, so I started taking private, non-TV clients. 

In 2015, Marie and I created the Copy Cure, a flagship copywriting course for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small-business owners who want to find their voice and use it to sell. The course gave me a lot of exposure and helped grow my email list. 

Launching the course also forced me to admit what I wanted in my career. It wasn’t taking on client work – it was to make great money by writing, to express my voice, and sell my products instead of someone else’s. 

Getting paid to be me

To achieve this, I started reshaping my work to become more visible. I started emailing my email list consistently, pitching myself for speaking gigs, and guest posting on online outlets.

I discovered I was a d–n good affiliate partner for courses, which meant I was good at selling. I also figured out how to connect my random stories to a point or call to action, and started using them to sell a mini-course I’d created on email marketing and copywriting called 60 Minute Makeovers. Originally the course cost $US49 ($64), I’ve since beefed it up and doubled the price to $US99 ($129). 

At the end of 2018, I started emailing my list three times per week and mentioning my mini course regularly in my emails. Soon, that one mini course started making $US8,000 ($10,431) to $US10,000 ($13,038) per month. It wasn’t enough to replace my client-based income, but it was enough to show me the possibilities of replacing it with my own products. 

Eventually I was able to segue out of both TV writing and private client services, and created another mini course – the About Page and Professional Bio Builder – in the form of a pdf that costs $US199 ($259). 

Expanding my online course offerings

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In 2020, I put together two new copywriting courses – Story Hero + Inbox Hero and Launch Hero, both for $US499 ($651) – that I sold through what I call “lazy launches,” meaning through my email list and social media exclusively, with no affiliates and no ad dollars. 

The rest of my income comes from selling as an affiliate for big, well-known programs, and coaching a group called Shrimp Club where for $US15,000 ($19,557) members get my personal help with their business and the words they use in it for nine months. 

Now, I’ve arranged my business so that, as much as possible, I’m doing work that feels fun for me; work I can do from my couch without combing my hair; work that feels unapologetically me – which means work that feels lazy. Writing my emails, the main engine of my business, actually feels lazy to me because it;s easy and fun. 

When I started talking about the idea of laziness in my business, people started to identify with it because it was so relatable – people want to feel normal, and being lazy sometimes is normal.

It was (and is) an antidote to the ubiquitous “hustle” culture that can feel so oppressive – it’s magnetic to people who are relieved to see that you can succeed even if “go, go, go” isn’t in your DNA. 

Anytime you’re unapologetic about something that’s regarded as a “flaw,” it gives people permission to be more themselves. 

Because of this, my underlying brand message has become “permission.” It’s the thread connecting everything I do in my business – giving people permission to be less perfect and more themselves. Despite the fact that we want to fit in when we’re kids, I’ve discovered that in business, and as adults, being you and standing out are essential.

Using email lists to generate revenue 

Being me, and teaching people how they can get paid to be them, is what’s made my business successful. As my email list has grown, so has client engagement, loyalty, and subsequent revenue. Here are three tips on how you can do the same:

  • Build an email list. And share your personal stories with your subscribers on a regular basis. Email is, by its origins, an intimate format. 
  • Be prolific. Tell lots of stories – honest ones – so that you have the opportunity to share many dimensions of yourself and go deep into the details. 
  • Create a “coat of arms.” If you don’t know what your personality is, try creating what I call a “coat of arms”: A collection of symbols that represent what you’re all about. What are you obsessed with? What do you talk about all the time? What would friends forward or post on your timeline, saying, “This made me think of you.”

This strategy may not sound lazy, but laziness can mean a lot of things. To me, it doesn’t mean I won’t work hard. I’ll work hard, as long as the work feels easy. People respond to this message of laziness because they want to feel OK being themselves. For me, that’s the holy grail of work.