Episode 86: How Nicolas Cole Scaled a 7-Figure Ghostwriting Agency on Cold Outreach

By Zach Swinehart

In this episode, Zach talks to Nicolas Cole from The Premium Ghostwriting Academy about how he scaled his 7-figure agency with cold outreach.

If you haven’t heard of Nicolas Cole, he’s a ghostwriter-turned-agency-owner-turned-product-course-creator-biz-owner.

He is the co-founder of Ship 30 for 30, the largest cohort-based writing course on the Internet; Typeshare, the leading platform for Digital Writing tools & templates; and Premium Ghostwriting Academy, an 8-week training program teaching writers how to enter the world of ghostwriting & land high-ticket clients.

Cole is also the author of 10 books, including the best-seller, The Art & Business of Online Writing. His writing has accumulated hundreds of millions of views, and has been republished in TIME, Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider, Inc Magazine, and many more. In 2017, he built the first ghostwriting agency writing on behalf of 300+ Silicon Valley founders, investors, and CEOs of publicly traded companies, Grammy-winning musicians, Olympic athletes, and NYT best-selling authors & speakers-and to date has ghostwritten more than 3,000 articles for industry leaders on the Internet.

Today he shares his experience scaling his agency with cold outreach, and gives us a behind-the-scenes look into his story transitioning from agency work into products.

Download Cole’s Free Ghostwriting Blueprint!

The Ghostwriting Blueprint walks you through the 5 Steps to landing your first $5,000 client: https://dyf.link/ghostwritingblueprint

You’ll learn…

  • The #1 Reason Why Most Freelance Writers Are Broke (And How To Fix It).
  • The Secret To Charging Premium Prices As A Ghostwriter.
  • How To Create Your Own Irresistible Offer As A Ghostwriter (In 3 Simple Steps).
  • A Proven Technique To Land New, High-Paying Clients Every Month.
  • How To 10x Your Earnings (Or Make The Same Amount Of Money Working 1/10 Of The Time).
  • BONUS: The Most Effective Way To Do Cold Outreach (Without Being “Salesy”).
  • BONUS: A 3-Part Formula To Finding Your Own Lucrative Niche As A Premium Ghostwriter.

Download it here: https://dyf.link/ghostwritingblueprint

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AI-Generated Summary

  • 0:00 – 2:00 — Zach introduces Nicholas Cole, mentioning his achievements including founding the Premium Ghostwriting Academy and being the author of multiple books.
  • 2:00 – 4:00 — Zach highlights Nicholas’s career from earning as a soloist to scaling agencies and his significant revenue achievements, leading to the discussion about areas where agencies struggle.
  • 4:00 – 6:00 — Zach and Nicholas delve into the approach of content marketing versus a cold outreach value-forward approach, touching on Nicholas’s unique strategies.
  • 6:00 – 8:00 — Nicholas emphasizes the importance of showcasing skills firsthand to land clients and how he is a testament to this principle, highlighting the necessity of personal branding.
  • 8:00 – 10:00 — Nicholas and Zach discuss how professionals from various fields, like back-end developers, can benefit from articulating and showcasing their skills through content creation.
  • 10:00 – 12:00 — Zach asks Nicolas for a timeline; Nicolas details his early career, from blogging about gaming and studying fiction writing to working at an ad agency in Chicago and leveraging his fiction skills in the business world.
  • 12:00 – 14:00 — Nicolas dives into his stint as a top writer for Ink magazine, his exit from his job, and his pivot to ghostwriting, initiated by an entrepreneur who read his Quora content.
  • 14:00 – 16:00 — Nicolas discusses niching down to work with entrepreneurs and executives, his transition from individual writing gigs to scaling and pricing his services, and achieving significant yearly earnings through ghostwriting.
  • 16:00 – 18:00 — Nicolas mentions the inception and rapid growth of his writing agency, which attracted high-profile clients, and emphasizes the importance of cold outreach in client acquisition.
  • 18:00 – 20:00 — He touches on the challenges faced during the agency’s scaling process, specifically the linear nature of agency growth, hiring woes, and the financial strain of overhead costs. The segment ends with Nicolas reflecting on business growth vs. personal income.
  • 20:00 – 22:00 — Nicolas shares his experience of shutting down his business, emphasizing on providing severance for employees and the personal financial sacrifices. Zach inquires about the decision to scale down significantly.
  • 22:00 – 24:00 — Nicolas elaborates on the challenges of scaling, the toll it took on their well-being, and the contrast of managing a small team vs. a larger one. Zach compares the challenges of scaling a writing business to that of a development agency.
  • 24:00 – 26:00 — The conversation shifts to the optimal size and financial goals for a premium boutique writing business. Zach brings up Nicolas’ book, discussing the target revenue range for such businesses.
  • 26:00 – 28:00 — Nicolas shares the story of transitioning from his previous business to partnering with Dicky Bush in creating Ship 30, a writing challenge. He details the growth and evolution of Ship 30.
  • 28:00 – 30:00 — The duo discuss the novelty of the Ship 30 project, with Zach expressing surprise at its recent inception. Nicolas points to his book as a source of detailed stories about building and scaling a writing business. The topic transitions to cold outreach as an effective strategy for acquiring clients.
  • 30:00 – 32:00 — Zach asks Nicolas about how he managed his agency, particularly with regards to delegating tasks and his personal involvement. Nicolas responds by emphasizing the similarities between an individual’s approach and that of an agency.
  • 32:00 – 34:00 — Nicolas explains the “free work pitch” concept and emphasizes the importance of educating potential clients rather than coming off as salesy. He suggests identifying a client’s specific problem rather than pitching services.
  • 34:00 – 36:00 — Nicolas continues, discussing the importance of specificity when offering services. He introduces the “rule of ones” concept and highlights the need to be exact about whom and what problem you’re solving.
  • 36:00 – 38:00 — Zach attempts to summarize the steps of Nicolas’ approach. Nicolas offers further clarification and adds steps to Zach’s summary, emphasizing starting a dialogue before offering free work. He highlights the importance of engaging, even with negative feedback.
  • 38:00 – 40:00 — Nicolas describes a proactive strategy of using video feedback as a tool to educate potential clients on areas of improvement. Zach reflects on a past experience where he received negative feedback, connecting it to the imposter syndrome many face.
  • 40:00 – 42:00 — Zach discusses feeling imposter syndrome when working with influential clients; Nicolas shares experiences of ghostwriting for influential figures and emphasizes the importance of practicing on oneself to understand what works.
  • 42:00 – 44:00 — Nicolas talks about realizing his expertise in specific areas over time. Zach emphasizes the significance of niching down to a very specific skill and becoming a master in that domain.
  • 44:00 – 46:00 — Nicolas discusses the importance of firsthand experience in writing headlines, confidence based on experience, and sticking to one’s knowledge against client opinions.
  • 46:00 – 48:00 — Zach inquires about the balance between confidence in work quality and recognizing overconfidence; Nicolas stresses the value of proving oneself through personal achievements before promising results to clients.
  • 48:00 – 50:00 — Discussion continues about gaining experience either through personal projects or pro-bono work, with Nicolas emphasizing the need to genuinely drive results and not just be a passive participant.
  • 50:00 – 52:00 — Zach asks about niche specialization and Nicolas emphasizes real-world experiences over theoretical considerations.
  • 52:00 – 54:00 — Zach discusses zooming out and understanding how to apply skills in specific contexts, questioning cold outreach’s viability.
  • 54:00 – 56:00 — Nicolas argues for the importance of focusing on one specific task and becoming excellent at it rather than diversifying services.
  • 56:00 – 58:00 — Nicolas highlights the value of pattern recognition in niche industries, stressing the importance of being hired for knowledge and not just as a service provider.
  • 58:00 – 1:00:00 — Zach addresses challenges in value-forward cold outreach and asks Nicolas about the benefits of offering self-contained solutions versus those requiring client collaboration.
  • 1:00:00 – 1:02:00 — Nicolas discusses how people pitch ideas to him after turning content from his podcast or Twitter into assets, but they often burden him with deciding its utility.
  • 1:02:00 – 1:04:00 — Nicolas advises on the benefits of educating potential clients on problems before offering a solution, highlighting free consulting as a mindset.
  • 1:04:00 – 1:06:00 — Zach inquires about the effectiveness of providing tangible examples like redesigned thumbnails versus merely suggesting improvements.
  • 1:06:00 – 1:08:00 — Nicolas emphasizes starting with low effort, high impact approaches, making the client aware of a problem, and then offering solutions with packaged assets.
  • 1:08:00 – 1:10:00 — Discussion ensues on the step-by-step process of approaching potential clients: identifying problems in their funnel, proposing solutions, and following up consistently.
  • 01:10:00 – 01:12:00 — Nicolas emphasizes the need for freelancers to define their niche and package their services rather than simply offering their time. Zach mentions pricing strategies and shares an anecdote about undercharging.
  • 01:12:00 – 01:14:00 — Nicolas and Zach discuss the strategy for cold outreach and whether freelancers should target big or small clients. Nicolas relates the approach to choosing the best wine to drink.
  • 01:14:00 – 01:16:00 — Nicolas shares insights on selecting a niche based on one’s experience and interest. They touch upon the vastness of B2B software and the potential for growth within specific niches.
  • 01:16:00 – 01:18:00 — The conversation revolves around the challenges faced by individuals who think their niche is too restrictive and the importance of taking opportunities to branch out.
  • 01:18:00 – 01:20:00 — Zach compares Nicolas’ teachings with those of his own course, highlighting the importance of being more than just a “keyboard for hire” and delves into the subject of reactive vs. proactive freelancing.
  • 1:20:00 -1:22:00 — Nicolas explains the 80/20 time law for freelancers, emphasizing that they should spend 80% of their time on regular clients and the remaining 20% pitching at premium prices outside platforms like Upwork.
  • 1:22:00 – 1:24:00 — Nicolas continues his discussion on Upwork, suggesting that freelancers should try to educate potential clients on problems they might not be aware of, and change the frame of the conversation to position themselves as problem solvers.
  • 1:24:00 – 1:26:00 — Zach expresses his understanding of Nicolas’s approach to moving away from platforms like Upwork. Nicolas further elaborates on the challenges of trying to charge premium rates on Upwork, encouraging freelancers to eventually move off the platform and pitch outside their comfort zones.
  • 1:26:00 – 1:28:00 — Zach suggests discussing strategies for developers with large-scale projects to better package their offerings. Nicolas stresses the importance of understanding that freelancers are selling solutions to problems, not just services.
  • 1:28:00 – 1:30:00 — Nicolas details how to create an irresistible offer by identifying a problem, its cause, the consequences of not addressing it, the solution, and the benefits of that solution. Zach then brings up the importance of social proof in outreach.
  • 1:30:00 – 1:32:00 — Zach acknowledges Nicolas’s expertise; Nicolas emphasizes the importance of an irresistible offer over social proof.
  • 1:32:00 – 1:34:00 — Zach discusses authenticity and not faking expertise; mentions ongoing discussion duration; asks for additional context.
  • 1:34:00 – 1:36:00 — Nicolas highlights the value of community, mentorship, and accountability in programs; mentions how to join the Premium Ghostwriting Academy.
  • 1:36:00 – 1:38:00 — Zach queries about advice to Nicolas’s younger self; Nicolas emphasizes understanding one’s pricing ceiling and increasing rates.
  • 1:38:00 – 1:40:00 — Zach shares his own pricing journey; the two discuss the significance of maintaining a lead flow to prevent desperation and the impact on rates.
  • 1:40:00 – 1:42:24 — Nicolas speaks about the importance of always seeking new business opportunities; they discuss how to project client turnover and manage waitlists; Nicolas highlights the long-term benefits of outreach.