The Shippers is an interview series featuring #ship30for30 alum who have completed at least one cohort and published at least 26/30 days during it. You’ll meet a new creator, hear how Ship 30 impacted the way they create online, and what they took away from the experience.
Today we meet Colin Chung, an experienced copy and sketch comedy writer who considered the personal cost of building an online persona and decided it was time.
If this interview helps you decide to jump aboard a Ship 30 for 30 cohort please consider signing up with this link as it helps me cover the (admittedly small) cost of putting these together.
Introduce yourself and the main topics of your writing
Tim: You jump right into it and start out by introducing yourself and talking a little bit about the main topics of your writing, say the buckets and how they came to be.
Colin: Sure. Uh, my name is Colin Chung. I am a direct response copywriter. I’ve been doing that for 14 years now. Um, I recruit, manage, uh, coach copywriters as well. So I’m a director of copy at a supplement company. I also own an agency, um, and we also co-founded a mental health facility.
Colin: Um, so you, you come sorry, go ahead.
Tim: Oh, you got your fingers in a lot of pies. I wanna hear the last thing you were just about to say before I interrupted them.
Colin: Uh, my BFF and I, um, she’s also my officemate. We do, we write comedy bits.
Tim: Oh, cool.
Colin: And we’re gonna start writing sketches
Tim: And, and I’ve never like <laugh> so just like, as, as like scripts or what does a, what does a comedy bid look like when you’re,
Colin: Writing? It’s a sketch? Well, I mean like SNL or
Colin: In the hall or, um, well, who is late? Who are the Canadian ladies? Uh, fudge.
Tim: I was
Colin: Recently. They just ended their five seasons, five really good seasons.
Tim: I was, uh, recently talking to somebody about Bob and Doug McKenzie now they’re not, um, they’re not sisters. They’re the old-school Canadians.
Colin: Yeah. That’s old school
Tim: Sketching company. Do.
Tim: I’ve been edited.
Colin: Yeah. That’s what the sketches are.
Tim: Yeah. Okay. And do you write them as scripts like that or do you actually perform them or what?
Colin: We’ll probably perform them cuz the class we’re taking has a show at the end of the class and you do it live in front of an audience.
Tim: That’s awesome.
Colin: So we did some improv classes. Well,
Tim: So yeah, that’s cool. And you’ve just been funny and wanted to kind of get it out there in that format. What is it about sketch sketches that you find compelling?
Colin: I don’t know. Um, it’s like a very short story, but still funny and a joke in two to three minutes. Um, key and P are very good at it and I, I, I think that’s a good standard to look to
Tim: For sure. Um, Can I ask, is it like the punchline is what comes first or like how does this, how does the sketch come together, and when you’re working with your partner?
Colin: Well, I mean writing-wise, you, you, you need a premise first, so you kind of like have to come up with a situation before you come with the jokes. But like if, if a situation is inherent, uh, humorous, then you can kind of play with it and then you toy with it and you tweak it and then you write it into something.
Tim: Yeah. Right. Cool. And um, this occurs to me cuz it’s something I think about is there, if you think of like any show you could have possibly ever rewritten for, um, just be like put in the writer’s room and, and, and be contributing to tomorrow. Um, which, which TV show would it be and why
Colin: <laugh> um, so both E Alicia and I are big fans of the community.
Colin: Um, I don’t think we can write, and mad man, even though we love it, um, you just need too much historical research and anything Phoebe Wallace bridge does is amazing. So
Colin: She did a sleep bag and well, she did two things: fleabag and um, killing Eve.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. My wife watched both of those. I like community. And if I were, if you were to ask me the same question and I think I want to, I would’ve wanted to work on another Dan Harmon project. Um, yeah. Party would’ve been, would’ve been pretty fun, I think just
Colin: To be in they’re in Vancouver, um, or not in Vancouver, but they’re somewhere in BC. They’re an animation studio.
Tim: Yeah. That’s cool.
Colin: Yeah. It’s kind of crazy.
What was it that got you over the line joining ship30for30?
Tim: Yeah. So, um, like I’ve talked to a, a couple other shippers now about this kind of thing and um, it seems to be a mix, but in general, I would say that um, many of them are kind of coming to copywriting and, and kind of writing online via ship 30 for 30. And you’ve been doing it way longer than, um, before shift 30 was even a twinkle in Cole and Toki’s eyes. So <laugh> um, what was it that kind of got you over the line to participate?
Colin: Um, for me, so if you’re a direct response copywriter, um, you can pretty much stay under the radar and not have to be public and you can make good money and land clients, blah, blah, blah. But, um, I turned 40 last year and I woke up and I was like, do I really want to keep freelancing for another 10 years? And I’m like, no, no, I need to start doing something where it’s more sustained and it’s actually building an asset for myself. And that’s when I was like, you know what, um, I’ve avoided it for so long now, but building a personal brand and building my own audience is something that I just need to focus on.
Colin: So that’s kind of why I’m doing it. Um, I, I, I’m hesitant about it because I am an introvert and I know all the costs of fame and that’s what it is. Right. Personal branding. You’re, you’re trying to become famous. Um, and it’s just, there’s collateral damage when you do that.
Colin: And I, I think most people get into this and they don’t realize what it’s like.
Tim: So what are you looking out for when you talk about the downside to fame and collateral damage? What, what are your kind
Colin: Being recognized? Yeah. Having your family recognized. Yeah. Um, just possibly being stalked. Cause once you get to a certain number, um, they’re just great logs by Tim Ferris and everyone should look it up. If they’re looking to do personal branding after a certain number of followers, um, you’re just gonna get death threats. And if you’re a woman you’re just gonna get stupid.
Tim: It’s gonna sooner to yeah. If you’re a woman
Colin: Might be. Yeah. Um, and then if not that, there’s also the fact that I, I love how Tim Ferris says when a hundred people on the planet have mental issues. So regardless if you’re doing anything right or wrong.
Tim: Yeah. People are just,
Colin: You’re always gonna get 1% that is not just mad, but like they may be just bonkers. Yeah. Like they may think it’s a good idea to show up at your hotel room.
Tim: Yeah. There are definitely some odd people out there. So I guess you gave that, like, why did you decide to push ahead with it? Or like what, how did you look at that? Alongside the,
Colin: Because there are the benefits, the benefit is there’s greater reach. You can, uh, build a customer base. You can meet more interesting people in that, uh, increase your deal flow. Not just like clients, but like potential investments, and potential partners.
Colin: Um, and there’s a bit of an insurance policy to it. Yeah. In a sense that, you know, if you’re ever low on work, it’s another avenue for the, it’s another distribution channel to hit up clients. Yeah. With potential clients. Yeah. Whereas when you’re under the radar, um, I still had a very close-knit, private network and like many times throughout my career, uh, I goofed off for a few months and then I was like, right. I need to get clients. And I would just email basically everyone in my network and I would get jobs again. Yeah. Yeah. Um, but with, you know, by following our audience, you can do it faster.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And what was it about turning 40 that kind of changed the calculation like away from like preferred privacy towards like preferred say reach or, you know,
Colin: <affirmative>, it’s recognizing that everything I’m doing for my clients is not building an asset.
Colin: So I, on one hand, yes. I’m making money and I’m putting away into, uh, retirement and investments and all that. But like what is something that’s more leverageable in an audience or a following and a product line of your own is more leverageable than doing project work.
Tim: Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. I wonder, um, <affirmative> one of the cool things about our era is like, you can be super famous in like a super tiny niche, you know what I mean? So you can like, if you, there are some rooms that you’ll walk into when you do that and everybody knows you and then you walk into the next room over and nobody. So it’s like such a weird kinda definition of saying fame or reach that is super-like narrowly defined in what context you’re gonna be famous and not.
Colin: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
What was the technique, tip, framework, hack, or whatever that helped you the most?
Tim: Yeah. So, um, coming into it with like 14 years or whatever of experience, I’m sure you had developed a lot of like your own style and technique and things like that but was there anything that the, of what they taught that you found particularly impactful or helpful or put to work?
Colin: Um, Not in particular or what they taught, but it was more like the technique around it, like forcing yourself to write daily. Yeah. Uh, publishing and learning as you, excuse me. As you publish. Yeah. Um, and just getting engagement data.
Colin: So it’s not like a hundred percent new to me, but it’s totally different when you do it for yourself.
Tim: Do it for yourself. Yeah, for
Colin: Sure. So like, I’ve written so much copy as the voice of multiple clients over the years, but when you write for yourself now, you’re, there’s like a mental limit. Right. Cause now you have to break through and go, I’m putting myself out there. I’m not Heidi behind a guru’s voice. Yeah. And again, going back to that same thing, like, you need to be very thoughtful about what you put out and what you don’t.
Tim: Yeah. I mean, I get it. And I think I, I kind of agree. I also really like what I found, like, um, impactful about what they, what they, um, preach say or, or, uh, encourages, um, that it’s all just experiments and data. So it’s like on the one hand, I, I kind of see the point of making sure what you’re putting out there is right for you and stuff like that. And you’d want people who are trying to find out about you to see what you’re publishing and be like, oh, makes sense. But at the same time,, I like how they kind of lower the stakes in publishing by saying, look, nobody’s gonna read this or maybe nobody’s gonna read this anyway. And it doesn’t matter. The point is you, you, you’re doing the practice, you’re getting the data. Um, and you’re exploring what your voice would sound like.
Colin: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, for sure for that, like the practitioner, but like the substance, what you put in the content. Yeah. I think you do need to be thoughtful about it because we live in, uh, a culture of the constellation. So
Tim: Like yeah, sure. Okay.
Colin: When James Gill got canceled with, like, that was a joke from like 10 years ago. Yeah. So it’s like, you just gotta be careful, especially what I wanna do. I wanna do comedy and yeah. Comedy is hard, it is about offending a certain segment of people.
Tim: Yeah. And that segment probably just changes every joke you make. Like you’re kind of like, it’s a bit free-range, right?
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Tim: Yeah. Guess that’s like a pretty unique space. So I, I maybe won’t speak to, like, I’m not worried about getting canceled and also, um, you know, James gun is like, was kind of canceled and then kind of UNC canceled and, you know yeah. At
Colin: At the end of the
Tim: Cancels kind, like one of those things, that’s a bit, it’s a bit slippery. Exactly.
Colin: It is very slippery and like they always come back and if James’s gonna get canceled, we wouldn’t have peacemaker, which is one of the best things DC ever put out. Um, and you know, like Louis K won the Grammy, you
Tim: Know, for
Colin: His 2019 or 2021 album was like, okay, so
Tim: What are we even talking about here?
Colin: Exactly. <laugh>
Colin: And it’s not like he actually ever apologized either. He was just kind of like, this is stupid. I hate it.
Tim: He was very careful to seem like he might be contr, but also not ex explicitly say that he was
Tim: Um, so there wasn’t any, like, you know, a lot of people really liked the 1 31, I guess maybe, maybe another way to ask the question about techniques and the stuff they taught is, is there anything that they taught that was like, you like really give the stamp of, of approval as far as the techniques as, as an experienced professional in the space? Oh,
Colin: So, I mean, look, I have to be clear here. What Nicholas has done is mastered content writing
Colin: And I’ve never been paid to do content in my life. Okay. Uh, so everything I do copies, and, what I mean by copy is it’s like direct response copywriting has to get action. Yeah. So it’s an ad or an email that asks you for a click or, uh, an Optim page to ask you for an email or a sales page should ask you for an order. So pure content I’ve never actually written for a client before. So that’s all new to me. So if Nicholas has proven it then awesome. Um, it’s just that I’ve developed my own style even for content. And when I read his book two years ago, before ship 30, it was like, okay, cool. It was more of the, it was the technique around and the thought process behind it. So, but more than the actual how to write content, I was skipping through that whole section.
Tim: Yeah. And can you think of what stuck with you from the book, especially the
Colin: Fact that Nicholas has turned content writing into a game, like how can I get higher engagement and write better content? So I get more retweets or shares or whatever. Um, the fact that um, content is really just a way for you to, to get, reach an audience. Yeah. Um, it really was the gamification part that blew me away.
Tim: Is that different from how you kinda look at the copy in terms of like the length of time you’re allowing, like, the time horizon? Like, it sounds to me like when you’re talking, when you were talking about being a copywriter versus a content writer, just now as a copywriter, you want an immediate, um, action, like a click or an email or a response or whatever. Yeah. And as a content writer, you still want something right. You want, but it’s, you don’t necessarily need that right now. You, you’re kind of willing to let that kind of go over a longer time horizon.
Colin: Yep. Because, um, in direct response, copy, we spend money on traffic and we want to get an ROI right away. Yeah. So for F every Facebook ad, Amazon ad Google ad that we spend money on, we want them to click, go to the VSL or the sales letter to buy the product. And that gives us an ROI right away.
Tim: Yeah. Whereas as a, somebody who’s trying to establish a persona online and build an audience, it’s
Colin: A long game. It’s a, and like, um, there are things called pillar posts. Those are like those super long blogs and those things can live for years and people are still checking it out, weeding it, and discovering you for the first time.
If you were to start from the beginning again knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
Tim: Yeah. That’s another, otherwise, not as like the evergreen, evergreen post thing. Yeah. Cool. Yeah. So if you, if you could start again from the beginning of your shift 30 experience, is there any knowing what, you know now, is there anything that you do differently?
Colin: Um, no. No. I, I, I, I would do the atomic essays for the first cohort. Just do exactly what Dickie and Nicholas have set up, do the 30 atomic essays. Cause it’s all more about the habit than what it does. Yeah. But if you’re going to reach the audience, uh, afterward, I would just do threads. Cause three is what Twitter wants. It’s what the algorithm likes. Yeah. Uh, so
Colin: That’s what I would recommend.
Tim: Yeah. I mean, it does, it does. I don’t know. I don’t know whether or not it’s, uh, because I’m like in the ship 30 community. And so my feed is skewed that way or, or why, but it does seem like in the last say a year or two threads have really kinda become the thing on Twitter.
Colin: Oh, it’s been that way since the algorithm changed in 2017. Okay. Then, they want threads because threads, uh, are content that keeps you on the platform
Tim: Form. For sure. Yeah.
Colin: And that’s really ultimately what you need to constantly think about for every single platform. It’s like, what can you create that will go viral and keep the audience on the platform longer. If it does, the algorithm will like you and push your reach further, that’s it, that’s really all. It is like Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and they all want the same thing. They want, you want their audience to stay on the platform longer.
Tim: And what are some examples of stuff that’s worked for you on Twitter? Like, have you had some standouts once?
Colin: So there are two threads I wrote that, uh, went viral. Um, and it’s, it’s about copywriting stuff. Uh, and one is about freelancing stuff. Um, and I think what people have to realize about Twitter is it’s really a place for journalists, comedians and writers, and founders
Tim: And politicians
Colin: And politicians. Yes, absolutely. Um, and if you try to get, like, if you try to write stuff, that’s not inside those genres. Yeah. It’s very difficult to grow big on Twitter. Okay. Like all the biggest accounts are writing about writing self-help stuff, in the marketing world at any rate.
What reasons would you tell someone not to do ship30?
Tim: Yeah, sure. Yep. Um, are there any reasons you tell somebody not to do ship 30?
Colin: Um, if you already understand the game of Twitter and you already have a good writing habit, I would say, yeah, you don’t need to do it.
Colin: But for me, it’s a great community. If you’re just starting out, you don’t have a digital habit, um, and you need a community and it’s a really great community. Like their tagline is so true. Come for the writing, stay for the community.
What are some unexpected benefits you’ve seen from your participation in the program?
Tim: That’s what I’ve, that’s what I’ve experienced as well. Um, what unexpected benefits have you seen from your participation program?
Tim: Benefits. Yeah. I mean, the community is one kind of it’s tagline. So we saw that coming, and writing habits are part of it.
Colin: Yep. That,
Tim: But what, is there anything that you didn’t see coming?
Colin: I don’t, I don’t think so. It delivers it exactly as promised. Um, well, okay. So unexpected. Here’s what I, um, so watching, uh, Dicky and Nicholas run this thing along with Daniel and all the automation that he puts in it, um, I joined a tonne of communities pay on, on a paid in early 20, 21 and ship 30 is the one that I’m still in after all this time. And I think what they’ve figured out is just so damn clever, causing the problem with most paid communities and I’ve been like a mastermind. So that’s like 10 to 25 K for a year, all the way down to like just a private slack group for like 300 bucks. What ships already have done right. Is that they’re making everyone do the exact same thing daily so that you have something to talk about.
Colin: Yeah. Whereas most paid communities, just like you go in there, there’s really no structure. It’s just that you get to hang out with like-minded people. And if the host isn’t like driving, making connections, and creating new content, the community eventually goes, Hey, I met a few friends and it was like, why are we paying this person to be friends when we can just go off and connect with each other? Yeah. And that’s why most of those communities eventually dissolved. They don’t, there is no common activity and that’s what I’m so impressed with about shifters. That’s something I wasn’t expecting to notice or learn. But that’s what I noticed and learned. And I, I, I think anybody thinking about doing a cohort class or anything along those lines, make sure there’s some sort of common activity that everyone can talk about. Yeah. Um, other similarities maybe how, I don’t know if you play D and D but ever since five E they’ve released modules once every quarter. Yeah. And the intelligent part about that is that you could be talking to someone that’s not in your group and you can be going, oh, I just got to this level and there were these two J. How did you deal with it? And you would know exactly yeah. What that other person is talking about because you’re all playing the same module. Yeah.
Colin: And that’s just, it’s just so clever. Um, it’s a clever way of driving community
Tim: For sure. Yeah. Cause it’s like shift 30 is a context that allows for people in an entire, really different context to connect and relate and even help each other.
Colin: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.
Tim: So if somebody was listening to this and was curious to find out more about you, what would you ask them to check out as something that you’re particularly proud of that you’ve created? And the last little while?
Colin: Um, so I write a weekly newsletter, uh, it’s called osmosis, uh, that’s at osmosis.dev, D E V. Uh, it’s a weekly newsletter where I read books about human behavior, uh, marketing psychology storytelling. And I summarize what I read and put it into the newsletter. Um, and yeah, if you’re, if you are interested in becoming or you are, you’re currently a copywriter or marketer, uh, understanding human psychology is probably your highest priority. So through that, that’s something I’ve created.
Tim: Thank you so much for your time, Colin, and for sharing some of your experience and stuff like that. Uh, I doubt this will be the thing that makes you famous, but it’s, it’s been neat to hear about the thinking behind what you’re doing. And, um, yeah, just to learn a little bit about you. I really appreciate you and your time.
Colin: Thank you for inviting me.
Tim: Cool. Cool. Now we’re gonna hit the stop button.