NOTE: This is an interview from October 2018 that was originally only available to email subscribers.
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I’m excited to do this interview with you since we’ve known each other for a while and run in some of the same online marketing circles.
Let’s start with your background for readers who don’t know you.
Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do and all that?
I know you’re involved in multiple businesses, from Becoming the Alpha Muslim to Dropkick Copy to Ubrik.
What’s good, Dennis. I appreciate the invitation. You know, we’ve been social media friends for a while and I’ve learned a lot from you by osmosis. I love how you’ve designed your business around your lifestyle. Very few copywriters/marketing consultants get this. They just go from one s***ty boss to several.
My name is Nabeel Azeez. I’m Sri-Lankan born-and-raised. Moved to Chicago for college and lived there for 6 years before moving to Dubai. I’ve lived in Dubai for 13 years now, got married, had kids, yada yada yada.
I got bit by the online business bug 3-4 years ago, when a friend introduced me to Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ramit showed me a world I never knew existed.
Fast forward a few years.
As an entrepreneur, I wear a bunch of hats. I’m a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. I co-founded a boutique content studio with my brother, called Dropkick Copy. And I also own a self-improvement blog for Muslim men, called Becoming the Alpha Muslim. I did a short stint with Ubrik Media, a small inbound marketing agency, as their Head of Growth (impressive, right?).
Now I’m back to flying solo full-time. Duo, actually...my brother and I are focusing on a new offer for Dropkick Copy: podcast launches + marketing.
Full disclosure: I know next to nothing about Islam.
You posted a couple tweets after the Conor / Khabib fight that blew up and I’d love for you to expand on them.
These tweets touch on several hot topics, including honor, free speech, rules and consequences.
It reminds me of some stories in “The Warrior Ethos” by Steven Pressfield which I read a couple months ago.
He talks about “shame-based cultures,” like the Spartans or samurais, which aren’t really prevalent in today’s world.
One story that stood out to me about Spartans had to do with young men going into battle.
The mothers would famously say, “Come back WITH your shield... or ON it.”
Shields were heavy in those days, so you’d want to leave it behind if you wanted to run away from your attackers as fast as possible.
But Spartan mothers would rather see you fight to your death than come back alive as a coward.
With that story out of the way, let’s get back to the fight. Specifically, what are your thoughts on honor and being disrespected from the Muslim point of view?
There’s a scene in Die Hard 3 where the bad guy makes Bruce Willis go into Harlem wearing a sign that says “I hate n***ers.”
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you had an immediate visceral reaction. That’s because everyone understands there are certain things you just don’t say or do.
Can you talk s*** about Jews, homosexuals, trannies, or racial minorities in the West without severe pushback?
The question then becomes, where’s the “line”?
Not just Muslims, but many non-Western cultures have a different “line” than Westerners do.
Talking s*** about someone’s family, their people, or their religion is a big no-no. You can do it if you want but you might be on the receiving end of a beatdown.
It’s incredibly arrogant to think the rest of the world thinks the way you do. Or worse, think the rest of the world should think the way you do.
One of the things I’ve noticed about you is that you’re not just a freelancer - you’re an entrepreneur… and a content machine.
Not that there’s anything WRONG with being just a freelancer, but I see freelancing as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
One of the frequent questions I get is “How do I start making money online?” and I always recommend freelancing to get started.
Do you agree or disagree?
Is there another business model you recommend for someone who’s never made a single dollar online?
I tend to oscillate here. On the one hand, I believe everyone should have multiple streams of income. 100%. Not even debatable.
On the other hand, you’ll make much faster progress if you focus on, and master, one business model at a time. Take it from someone who made the mistake of starting 3 “businesses” around the same time.
And there’s another aspect to consider.
“Copywriting” and the “business of copywriting” aren’t the same thing.
I think you’ll agree with me here...trying to learn the ropes of a freelancing business while also learning to become a good copywriter is beyond the ability of most people.
Now try to add building niche sites, selling digital products, or drop-shipping. It’s too much.
I can only speak from the perspective of being a copywriter. I believe our best chance of success lies in first working in-house at a company that relies on direct response marketing to make its money. Like the Agora group of companies for example. You’ll get paid to learn from the best copywriters and marketers on the planet.
Since you’re involved in multiple online businesses, I’m curious how you evaluate different opportunities.
What made you decide to pursue Becoming the Alpha Muslim and Ubrik?
Becoming the Alpha Muslim (BTAM) was supposed to be my main thing. I started it after taking Ramit Sethi’s “Zero To Launch” program. I still maintain it but I haven’t figured out a good way to sell stuff to my audience yet.
Also, as my consulting business grew I didn’t have as much time to devote to (BTAM.)
I joined Ubrik at a transition period, after I was made redundant at my 9-to-5. They offered me what seemed like a good deal at the time.
I would help them grow their blog and generate leads via content marketing, in exchange for a base-salary and profit-sharing. I came in as a partner and not an employee. It was also “security” and helped put my wife at ease about me going the entrepreneurship route.
I consulted my wife, my brother (who co-founded Dropkick Copy with me,) and my best friend about the decision. All 3 gave me the same answer: Ubrik was the best option.
Interestingly enough, my gut was saying “NO” the entire time. But I have very high risk tolerance and was worried my gut was being too aggressive for my business and life context. So, I decided to follow the advice of people I trust, and after praying for Allah’s guidance I said, “OK let’s do it.”
I’ve since moved on from Ubrik.
In retrospect, it wasn’t the right move. My business partners and I were and are still good friends.
But our approaches to business and marketing couldn’t be more different.
And the money I was making didn’t justify the amount of time I was spending on Ubrik. I ended up having to take client work on top of my business partners expecting me to work on Ubrik full-time.
Still, I learned a lot from the experience.
Mainly that I do not want anyone telling me what to do. I’m 100% unemployable. I will never sacrifice freedom for security ever again. And I will never take a “job” unless I end up dead broke and on the verge of being homeless.
You’re the first guy I’ve interviewed who has a family and kids.
I’m not at that point yet, so I’m curious how your juggle everything between family, work and shitposting on Facebook 🙂
What’s your typical daily schedule look like? Do you have set office hours?
I’m awful at juggling the 3. Our mutual friend, dating & relationship coach Pat Stedman, said on Twitter across career, wife, and kids, you can only have 2 operating at a high level. I tend to agree.
Here’s how I’d like my day to look:
4:00 am - Wake up for prayer + morning routine (mine is mostly religious in nature)
5:30 am - Workout
8:00 am - Work (writing)
12:00 pm - Stop working
1:00 pm - Afternoon nap
4:00 pm - Hang out with kids + help with homeschooling
6:00 pm - Work (admin)
8:00 pm - Bang wife
9:00 pm - Sleep
These are all approximate because the times of our 5 daily prayers oscillate depending on the time of year.
I’m nowhere close to this daily schedule but I’m trying to get there slowly.
Since I work from home I haven’t yet built up the discipline to stick to a routine like this.
I do wake up early because of the prayer. But the rest of the day is flexible. I’ll fit a workout in somewhere in the first half of the day. I’ll try to get some client work done before noon. Somewhere in there is me doing activities with my kids, like taking them to gymnastics or teaching them to read.
Most of my clients are international, so sales calls and client calls happen either around 6 am or in the evening 6pm onwards. Yeah, it’s a mess right now.
Let’s talk about content creation and marketing.
What are some of the mistakes people make when it comes to creating content that builds awareness, positions you as an expert, generates leads, etc?
The biggest mistake is a lack of congruence. This is a concept I cover in my book, Dragon Energy: The Tao Of Personal Branding™. I took something I learned from Pat Stedman and repurposed it for marketing.
Your brand is based on three things:
Preselection is your skillset...it's what you do...the problem you help your audience solve.
There is a set of people who will resonate with your personal brand in general; they vibe with you.
And there is a subset of that group, your Audience, who will attract to you because of preselection.
These are the people who will pay you to solve their problems.
Preselection determines the overall theme of your online presence.
It's also the first thing people say about you when your name comes up.
"Nabeel is a copywriter and a marketer."
Persona is the face you present to the public.
It's the frame you create for all your interactions.
In the context of your brand, it's the way you come across online.
I come across as straight-talking, no-b.s.-taking, open about my religion, unafraid to speak my mind on controversial topics, charmingly sexist, and so on.
Personality is who you really are.
With your brand, personality goes to authenticity:
Are you really the person you claim to be, or are you playing a part?
Which leads me to…
Congruence. All 3 P's need to be congruent for you to have a strong personal brand.
You can't fake having skills you don't have (preselection.)
You can't play a character online that you aren't in person (persona/personality.)
They all have to line up, or your entire operation will fall like a house of cards.
Bruce Lee put it like so:
"Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live for their image."
You written some interesting stuff about how to repurpose content and distribute it on multiple platforms.
I think it makes a lot of sense to leverage your content onto other platforms as long as you can do it WITHOUT investing a lot of time.
Again, what do you see as mistakes people make when trying to repurpose content?
And what do you consider best practices? What are the things you SHOULD do?
Now, I haven’t perfected this system myself, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.
You mentioned the most important consideration: doing it without investing a lot of time.
If you roll solo then you just don’t have the time to “be everywhere.”
Especially if you’re trying to be on several channels at once (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, etc.)
Remember, each channel is its own ecosystem. How you show up on Facebook is very different to how you show up on Twitter or Youtube. The medium is the message.
Instead of trying to repurpose across multiple channels, try to master one channel first. And repurpose across types of media.
That looks a little like this:
Periscope > Tweet thread > Blog > Email
Email > Blog > Tweet thread > Periscope
I prefer to start from an email and move up.
There’s less pressure on you to create a “perfect” piece. You’re able to get your ideas out quickly and then refine them as you repurpose. By the time you’re live on video, your ideas are much more polished and you can express them fluidly.
Types of media! I just had a light bulb go off in my head haha
Anyway, I can’t do an interview with Dubai’s Most Expensive Copywriter without talking about positioning and pricing.
Let’s talk about positioning first.
What made you decide to position yourself as a premium service provider?
Where did this idea come from?
This was a positioning experiment. I wanted to see what would happen if I just came out and said I’m premium.
How would that affect pre-qualification? Would I attract better quality prospects?
FYI, it’s not false advertising. I do believe I am the most expensive copywriter in Dubai. If I find someone more expensive, I’ll raise my rates.
Also, “most expensive in Dubai” doesn’t mean “most expensive in the world.” My rates are what you can expect from any U.S. copywriter worth his salt.
Just the other day I had a call from a U.S. prospect who wanted to subcontract to me, thinking he can geoarbitrage because I’m in Dubai and he’s in the U.S. He got a rude awakening.
In reality, high-quality services that get results are worth a lot more than most people charge for them.
The positioning helped build up my personal brand and “street cred.” It wasn’t helpful in attracting prospects. People weren’t lining up to book strategy calls with me (obviously I scared most of them off).
Where it does help with prospects, is when I get them on the phone and quote my price. They’re already pre-conditioned to expect a high number.
I’m probably going to change this positioning soon. It’s better to focus on a value-proposition for your prospect. I.e. What’s in it for them.
One element of positioning is polarization.
You’re very good at polarizing people to find your “1,000 True Fans.”
What’s your approach to polarization if you can summarize it in a few sentences?
I described it earlier when I spoke about congruence. The only thing I’m consciously trying to do, is express myself honestly. Who I am online is who I am in real life.
When you do this, you will inevitably end up polarizing people because there are people who resonate with you and people who don’t and won’t.
Where business owners fall short is when they try to “convert” the haters rather than embrace the fact that anyone who’s doing anything worth a damn is gonna have haters.
Plus, why wouldn’t you want haters? They’re your best unpaid marketing interns.
Keep in mind, I never came up with any of this stuff. I learned it from people like Mike Cernovich and Ben Settle.
Lemme quote some Bruce Lee again:
“To me, ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.
Now, it is very difficult to do. OK?
It is very easy for me to put on a show and be cocky, and be flooded with a cocky feeling and feel pretty cool and all that.
I can make all kinds of phoney things.
Blinded by it.
Or I can show some really fancy movement.
But to experience oneself honestly, not lying to oneself, and to express myself honestly, now that, my friend, is very hard to do.
And you have to train.
You have to keep your reflexes so that when you want it, it’s there.
When you want to move, you’re moving.
And when you move, you are determined to move.
Not taking one inch less than intended.
And if I want to punch? Man, I’m going to do it.
So that is the type of thing you have to train yourself into, to become one with the punch.”
You’re Muslim and you’ve used your religious background and beliefs as a way to further polarize your audience.
Can you expand on that? How do you use your religion as a way to market and grow your businesses?
Talking about religion and politics is the easiest way to polarize people.
In my case, it’s just more of me trying expressing myself honestly. Islam is my identity. If I tried to hide it, I wouldn’t be congruent.
There are many Christian entrepreneurs who do this too. Christianity features a lot in their content marketing.
The best example I know is copywriter Ray Edwards (he’s written for Tony Robbins). Dude has an entire segment on his podcast called “Spiritual Foundations” where he quotes Bible verses and derives lessons from them.
I believe pricing is one of the most important topics in business.
Most business owners (especially freelancers) have a poor understanding of sub-topics like value, ROI, compounding and hourly rates, so let’s discuss.
I know your typical project starts at $10,000 USD.
Did you gradually raise your prices or did you just increase them overnight?
How did you arrive at that $10K price point and what are you delivering at that price?
Most freelancers start off charging what they think the market will pay. I started off charging premium prices because at the time, I still had my 9-to-5. So I never had to sell from my heels.
Even if I didn’t have that cushion, this is how I’d set my prices. What you should do, is figure out:
- How many hours of billable client work you want to do per month,
- How much you want to pay yourself per month
- How much profit you want to put back into your business
- What your monthly operating expenses are
And calculate their effective hourly rate based on that.
This hourly rate, multiplied by the hours needed to complete the project, equals the value of the contract.
The prospect doesn’t need to know your effective hourly rate. All they see is the total cost.
A while ago, I made this video for a friend called “how to price your s***,” where I explain the calculation in more detail. Here’s the link.
As far as what I deliver at the price, it depends.
For my copywriting business, I haven’t niched down to one core offer yet.
So I write a bunch of things for a bunch of people. E.g. I recently closed a $12.5k website rewrite over the phone. I’ve also sold packages for less than $10k where I know I will bill the client more than $10k long-term.
For Dropkick Copy, we recently pivoted to only sell podcast launches + marketing for business owners. This offer starts at a $7.5k initial investment for content strategy + 2 months of content, then switches to a retainer. So the overall value of a client is more than $10k.
Obviously, $10,000 would qualify as a high-ticket offer.
What do you think are the key elements of a high-ticket offer?
First, you need to solve a big enough problem that prospects are willing to charge that kind of money. Examples of big problems:
- Reducing a business’ CPA (cost per acquisition)
- Handling prospect objections before they get on the phone with you
- Increasing “high buyer’s intent” organic traffic
Second, you need clarity on both the process and outcomes.
Confused prospects don’t buy. Your prospect needs to be 100% clear on where you’re going to take him and how you’re going to get him there. You need to be able to convey your offer in 4-5 steps max.
And you need to be able to clearly articulate his “before and after.”
Third, you need to get good at selling on the phone.
You need to learn how to lead prospects to a decision that’s in their best interests (even if it means not working with you.) If working with you is in their best interests, you need to learn to confidently make the offer and quote your price without blinking.
Let’s do the inverse.
What are the common MISTAKES you see when people try to create a high-ticket offer?
Exactly the opposite of what I just wrote:
One, they aren’t solving a big enough problem. E.g. “I write website copy.”
Two, their offer has too many moving parts. E.g. “A 12-module video course with 8 bonuses.”
Three, they don’t know how to sell on the phone.
One of the things I’ve hammered into my audience is the Rule of One.
Sam Ovens and others recommend this model, especially for beginners.
On the other hand, you’re on MANY platforms.
So at what point do you think someone should start expanding their reach to other platforms?
How do you make that decision?
Should they have a certain monthly revenue or do you have other considerations?
Man, I suck at this. I 100% agree with you and Sam Ovens. I’ma chalk it down to the fact I have multiple “businesses” and had small audiences across several platforms when I started.
I don’t have a good answer for you here. I really should focus on one platform.
When do you scale horizontally to multiple platforms? When you’ve mastered one platform and scaling up further (i.e. vertically) has diminishing returns.
You wake up tomorrow and you’re completely broke.
All your businesses are gone.
Luckily, you have all your business and marketing knowledge.
What would you do to ramp up your business FAST if you had to start for scratch?
I like this question because it forces you to focus on the essential while cutting out all the bullshit.
I would send out at least 10 cold emails a day to ecommerce businesses and offer to write them daily emails on a pay-for-performance basis.
Once you get to 5 clients/testimonials (or however many you can manage on your own,) raise your prices and subcontract the writing at a flat rate.
You could potentially scale this up to infinity.
Let’s talk about your thoughts on personal branding and your book, “Dragon Energy: The Tao of Personal Branding”
How do you define personal branding?
This is one of those marketing terms that confuses a lot of people and I’ve seen a lot of different interpretations.
Personal brand is just another way of saying “reputation.” Your personal brand is whatever people say about you when you aren’t in the room.
The problem with terms like personal brand, and this is why there’s a lot of confusion, is they’re descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s a term we use to describe a set of conditions working together to achieve an objective. The wrong way to use it, is to prescribe a set of conditions or activities to achieve an objective.
Another example of this phenomenon is the word “funnel.” It’s a word used to describe the path someone takes from stranger to customer. You can’t “prescribe” a funnel because you’re dealing with human beings. One person is ready to buy right the f*** now, while another may take years until they pull the trigger.
Another misinterpretation of personal branding, and I touched on this earlier, is they disconnect their personal brand from their person, and end up playing a caricature of themselves online.
I think the best advice I’ve seen about building a personal brand (or any brand, really) is something Mike Cernovich taught me.
“Live your life. Tell your story.”
What do you think are the key elements of a powerful personal brand?
Who do you see as the top people when it comes to personal branding?
I mentioned the 3 Ps (Preselection, Persona, Personality) and Congruence earlier. They’re essential.
And really, it comes down to this. Do people see you as credible?
It’s hard to give you specifics here because so much of personal branding depends on the individual AND their relationship with their audience.
This is a concept I talk about in my book. You are not the “Dragon.” The Dragon = You + Your Audience.
There is a conscious and continuous push-and-pull, yin-and-yang relationship going on, as you search for the sweet spot of resonance between your skills and your audience’s needs. I call this framework “Chasing the Dragon.” (Not to be confused with dope fiends chasing their first high.)
I could recommend the usual suspects from our little corner of Twitter but really, just look at folks online who are polarizing and don’t give a f***. Look especially close to the people you don’t like. People who rub you the wrong way. What are they doing to make you feel that way? Can you learn something from them?
Another thing to consider if you’re just starting out in this Game: don’t look to massive personal brands (e.g. Tim Ferris, Tony Robbins, etc.) You won’t learn much from them. And if you copy them, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Learn from folks who are a level or two above you.
I’m going to mention one name, because he’s the person who directly or indirectly taught all of us (in our corner of Twitter) our Game. Mike Cernovich. He’s one mentor I learned the most from so far.
And in fact, you can’t learn most of the lessons I’ve learned from him anymore. I’ve just followed his work so long that I’ve seen him execute multiple personal brand pivots successfully.
If your only exposure to him is now (or the past few months) you’ll still learn a lot, but you’re only seeing him in his current form. I’ve seen his personal brand adapt over 3 years. He “Chased the Dragon” and won.
That’s true. Cernovich is one of the OGs who paved the way for a lot of personal brands on Twitter, myself included.
Let’s keep moving…
I love hearing what books successful people recommend.
What are your Top 3 books and why? What’s had the biggest impact on your business and your life?
I don’t recommend books because everyone says the same s***.
I would read widely from many genres. Your best business ideas might come from a work of fiction. Or a treatise on how to bang hoes.
I don’t read as much as I should. If you want longevity in this Game, your education must never end. And that means reading every day.
What are you scared of? What do you worry about right now, either in your business or your life in general?
Do you stress out when it comes to your business?
You seem very confident and strategic in everything you do.
I’m scared of failing at business and having to go back to a regular job.
I’m scared of spending so much time working my kids aren’t raised right and turn into strippers, hoes, or crackheads.
I’m scared of not being the best husband I can be.
I’m scared of neglecting my health and turning into a low-T soyboy.
Entrepreneurship takes up so much of your bandwidth. It’s really hard to maintain balance in other areas of your life. A lot of people just aren’t cut out for it. “Maybe I’m one of them” is always on the back of my mind.
I do get stressed out but I think Muslims in particular tend to handle stress differently to non-Muslims. We worry a lot less because we believe Allah is the Provider and every human being has a set portion of sustenance we consume over the course of our lives.
Nothing and no one can decrease it. Working harder won’t increase it. And you won’t die until every last bit of it is consumed.
Our job as humans is to put in the work to the best of our ability. The outcomes are in His hands.
I’m pretty old school when it comes to men showing weakness or vulnerability. I would never show weakness in public. Especially not on social media. Any problems I encounter, I solve them myself or consult friends and mentors.
Let’s do some good old fashioned “future pacing.”
What would you like your life and business to look like 5 years from now?
I’ll share my Vision Map straight from my Morning Formula with you and your readers. I’ve never shown this to anyone before.
Nabeel Azeez is a successful and highly respected marketer & entrepreneur. He is the world’s foremost expert on Direct Response Branding™, a proprietary method he developed that merges digital media and direct marketing to help businesses grow their brand and audience while selling ethically.
Nabeel is driven by his desire to help men achieve mastery over themselves and their environments. Because of this, he specializes in helping businesses that serve men - by improving their health, wealth, or relationships - reach and change the lives of millions of men around the world...and build massive fortunes doing it.
Nabeel also owns multiple thriving businesses of his own, where he applies his mastery of marketing and sales to generate astronomical revenues his competitors can only dream of.
His debut book, Dragon Energy: The Tao Of Personal Branding™, recently crossed X million copies sold. He charges $XX,XXX to speak at the biggest marketing and entrepreneurship conferences around the world.
As a solo copywriter his promotions have made over $XXX million in sales for the biggest direct marketing companies in the world. His clients are happy to pay him $XX,XXX plus royalties to get him to write for them and his waiting list is a year long.
His boutique marketing agency, Dropkick Copy, develops bespoke marketing/sales engines for his own businesses and several global 7- and 8-figure ecommerce businesses.
Becoming the Alpha Muslim, his self-improvement blog for Muslim men, generates 7-figures in revenue every year like clockwork selling information products.
He also owns a lifestyle brand for Muslim men, MuslimMan.com, that is the highest trafficked website in the Muslim space worldwide, and generates multiple 7-figures in revenue selling lifestyle products to Muslim men.
Nabeel’s businesses make over $XXX million in annual revenue combined, $25 million net profit. His personal net worth is $XXX million.
Nabeel lives a location-independent life with his 4 wives and 16 children. He owns four homes in Dubai and spends half the year there. He splits the rest of the year between Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, and Medina. He and his wives homeschool their children. His older children have been properly indoctrinated into the “family business” and pursue their own projects in entrepreneurship.
Nabeel keeps himself in peak physical condition by living an optimized lifestyle. He has the biomarkers of men in their 20s, and a natural testosterone level of 1000 ng/dl. He is an avid martial artist and trains in striking and grappling every day.
Damn this is SO good!
I talk about Vision pretty often with my social media followers and email list and Nabeel’s Vision Map is a perfect example of how to plan your future in vivid detail.
Hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did.
Want more Nabeel? Check out his new book, “Dragon Energy: The Tao of Personal Branding”